Monday, August 17, 2015
Spotlight On...Britton Buttrill and Ria T. DiLullo
BB: McDonough, GA (about 45 minutes outside of Atlanta)
RTD: NYC (Yup, a local!)
BB: Oglethorpe University -B.A. in English Literature. The New School for Drama - MFA in Playwriting
RTD: Education: Brown University - Graduated Cum Laude with a degree in American Civilization. Theatrical education includes (but is not limited to) work in Noh, Kyogen, Lecoq, and Alexander Technique.
BB: Juggalicious at NY Fringe Festival. (A play about fans of the Insane Clown Posse). My thesis play Temporal at NSD. Also my play Scratching, which premiered at Pinch n’ Ouch Theatre in Atlanta back in 2013, before going on to receive staged readings at HERE Arts Center and then at The Flea. Ria brought it to The Flea, which is how we started working together.
RTD: We Are Samurai by Daria Marinelli from my first company, Marrow’s Edge. It’s an immersive revenge narrative and we built a maze in a warehouse. Madhouse at The Flea, because a needle-wielding nun is awesome. And Beatrice by Elijah Guo, also produced through Marrow’s Edge. It’s a big, beautiful 3-act play imagining the life of Beatrice, Dante’s muse, as she grows up in late 13th century Florence.
BB: I grew up in the South where storytelling is an integral part of the culture. I grew up in the South where storytelling is an integral part of the culture. When I was a kid, my grandfather, who grew up in rural Appalachia, used to tell me ghost stories about the the mountains. These stories were so fantastic, but there was always a poignant humanity to them. Those experiences caused me to realize that stories are essential to the human experience, so I guess that’s why I became a writer. I find live theatre to be the most palpable and vibrant form of storytelling; the form of storytelling that is most likely to inspire a dialogue. That’s why I write plays.
RTD: I love theater because performance uses the majority of our senses to bring people together to tell a story. I grew up an athlete, so being able to move your body is important to me. But I also studied Latin, love classics, and enjoy Myth. And, being from NYC can get you addicted to going to performances from an early age. (I used to see how many of the shows I had seen at the back of the Playbill.) Theater is how I can see all the things that inspire me and influenced me while growing up coming together into something cohesive that I can then share with others. The process of breaking down something that exists on paper and putting it into the world to experience brings me a strong sensation of accomplishment and creativity.
Tell us about AWAKE & LOVE:
Awake & Love is a movement play adapted from the Biblical Song of Solomon, re-interpreted as a love story set in late 70s NYC. It utilizes Greek choral structure, dance, and heightened language to tell the story of Lilith and Solomon as they try to find one another amidst an increasingly violent New York City.
What inspired you to write Awake & Love?:
BB: I am an ex-Evangelical, so my complex relationship with Christianity has always had a profound influence of my writing. The Bible is a library full of inspiring and beautiful narratives, and I think Song of Solomon is one of the most important love poems ever written. It’s an erotic poem of seduction, longing, and spiritual union exemplary of Ancient Hebrew literature. To me, that’s worth dramatizing. I wrote this piece specifically for Ria’s vision as a director, her work in movement theatre, and her emerging actor training technique (Theatre of the Articulate). Ultimately, I wanted to take Judeo-Christian literature couple it with Greek Classicism and turn it into a contemporary movement play. I believe that we have accomplished that.
What inspired you to direct Awake & Love?:
RTD: It’s hard to turn down a play written specifically for you and your developing aesthetic. I also am interested in how to take ancient, classic, and otherwise “cannon” stories and apply them to the different partd of the America narrative. This society is special because it is a construct of everything and everyone that has touched this soil, so I believe that that allows us as Americans the special privilege of using different elements from the span of time and space to create something new. Awake & Love is allowing me to do just that, and the play was written to that end as well.
What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:
BB: Theater that makes me uncomfortable. Theater that makes me joyous. Theater that makes me nauseous. Theater that makes me forget that I probably have to go to the bathroom during the first act. The contemporary writers who speak to me the most include (among many) Shelia Callaghan, Lucy Thurber, Adam Rapp, Tracy Letts, and Robert Askins. My younger emerging colleagues Sam Byron and Emily Schmitt are both amazing writers and have supported me to no end. My amazing professors: Jon Robin Baitz, Laura Maria Censabella, Stephen Karam, Lucy Thurber, and Nicole Burdette who pushed me to be my best. As my former professor, Nicole Burdette, said, “Every writer has their ‘North Stars’.” My North Stars are Tennessee Williams and Sam Shepherd. Not only were they fantastic playwrights, they were prolific storytellers who knew how to spin a good yarn. Non-theater artists include the Romantic Poets and modern writers such as Bukowski. As far as music goes, I love Ryan Adams. Visual artists include Rothko, Pollock, and Eric Fishl.
RTD: I find myself most drawn to two ends of a spectrum: incredibly well-done 3-5 act plays that pull me through a journey, or 1-hour impact theater (my term) - something that you are not necessarily able to articulate in the immediate aftermath of the show, but something that has an impact on you - usually on an emotional level. I am inspired by the patience and gestural language of Japanese performance styles, particularly Noh. I think there are lessons to be learned from their discipline that can be applied to the spectrum of realism to impact theater, and I want to mine it for all the worth I can realize. I also love reading… anything. Lately, I have been delving into more non-fiction, like the “The Revolution was Televised,” “Color: A Natural History of the Palate,” and “Kissing the Mask.” I can also look at the photographs of Cindy Sherman any time and get lost.
If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?:
BB: I would say that I would love to work with either Kip Fagan or Trip Cullman. I think they’re both intelligent and deft directors who could delve into my work and bring it to life in a really amazing way. I loved Kip’s work on how to make friends and then kill them by Halley Feiffer at Rattlestick as well as Trip’s work on Substance of Fire by Jon Robin Baitz at Second Stage.
RTD: I am addicted to the plays of Sheila Callaghan and would cherish the opportunity to work on a new play of hers, ideally as a director, but even just to observe that room would be fulfilling. I also love the work of Jason Grote, although he is less prolific as a playwright.
What show have you recommended to your friends?:
RTD & BB: For God’s sake, see Hand to God! It’s one of the best plays to come about in the last decade. It’s not just a play about a foul mouthed puppet. Also, the story of how that show went to Broadway should inspire every artist trying to climb the ladder of theatrical success. And, Kitchen Sink Experiments by Colby Day, produced by Crashbox. It’s a kitchen sink play set in an actual kitchen. YES. We love it.
Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:
BB: My friend Scott Thomas in “South in Your Mouth.”
RTD: A unknown tall strong blond (I am not a waifish woman) in “Either End of the Train.”
If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?:
BB: The 1906 premiere of Wedekind’s Spring Awakening. That play caused riots.
RTD: The various stages of production from 1980 - 1984 of Arthur Miller’s The American Clock. It is an intense desire of mine to direct that play, but it’s so massive that I would love to see the original conceptions to build upon.
What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:
BB: I LOVE the Aliens films! I’m also a HUGE fan of rap/hip-hop, but I don’t really feel guilty about that.
RTD: I am a massive Doctor Who fan. And I also do not feel guilty about that.
If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?:
BB: A fashion designer specializing suits for short men (“Swag for Shorties”).
RTD: Studying the Cult of Mithras and traveling the world to find mithraeum.
What’s up next?:
BB & RTD: We are hard at work building The Skeleton Rep.We’re looking to build a core company of actors, to revitalize the Salon Series that originated with Marrow’s Edge, to start a writer’s retreat, and ideally to fundraise to support an entire season of performance.
BB: On my end, I’m waiting on results from play submissions, fellowships, and residencies. Also, I’ll be starting work as a research assistant for a playwright/screenwriter who has a television pilot in the works. In the meantime, I’ll be working on adapting the gnostic Book of Enoch and the Book of Revelation for the stage. Eventually, Awake & Love will be the middle part of a trilogy of Biblical movement plays, which we have the goal of producing as one production next year.
RTD: For me, I am intending to dive into another bout of training that includes furthering my Lecoq studies, my Alexander Technique training, and deepening my understanding of Japanese performance, hopefully with Ume Group’s new training program combining Butoh, acrobatics, and yoga. I am doing this with the intention of furthering my ability to create my own aesthetic, which I am calling the Theater of the Articulate (which you can read more about on skeletonrep.org/staff.html). I have also been working on adapting a series of Grimm’s Fairy Tales into a mask/puppet play as a journey across America with Sean Devare and Andrew Murdock. I also just might apply to graduate schools for directing.
For more on Awake & Love, visit awakeandlove.bpt.me and www.skeletonrep.org. For more on Britton, visit www.brittonbuttrill.com