Monday, August 10, 2015

Spotlight On...Leanora Lange

Name: Leanora Lange. But I go by Lea. Like the princess. No, I was not named after the princess. I was named after Beethoven’s overture. (Booyah).

Hometown: Newton Falls, Ohio, which proudly announces that it “has zip 44444” on a highway sign. (http://www.nfaca.net/images/8/ctynewtonfallszip.jpg)

Education: Circuitous. I studied theater and German at a little college in Ohio (Baldwin-Wallace). While studying abroad, I saw European director’s theater for the first time and became deeply disillusioned with what I knew of American theater at the time, thinking it unadventurous. I broke away from theater for a while as I got an M.A. in Germanic Languages and Literatures from the University of Illinois and the Freie Universität Berlin. The financial crisis led me to an M.S. in Library and Information Science from the Pratt Institute, which got me my current job as an archivist. Working as an archivist made me realize that life is extremely short. The ephemera of one life can fit in a small box. I asked myself what I wanted in my box. I’ve been directing theater ever since.

Favorite Credits: My current show at FringeNYC 2015 Chop-Chop-Zig-Zag-Woyzeck.

Why theater?: Because every single performance has the potential to combine all the signification of language with all the signification of space, sound, gesture, and movement in one marvelously coordinated swan song to itself. Because it is the only activity that gives me energy instead of taking it away. Because it is the best way to rise out of the pain and boredom of life. Because I refuse to die without having done it.

Tell us about Chop-Chop-Zig-Zag-Woyzeck: Run like a razor blade through this show! This fresh take on Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck has you determine the scene order. Shout out the scene you want to see next (“Astronomical Horse!,” “I'm a man!,” or maybe “Pissing on the Wall”) and cut up the storyline as a murderous lover becomes overwhelmed by passion, indifference, and madness in a swirl of non-stop non-linear action. It features a great cast, and it's a blast to cut up the play a different way every night. This time a huge roll of paper will be involved. Paper will be cut. Paper will fly.

What inspired you to create Chop-Chop-Zig-Zag-Woyzeck?: The main source of inspiration was one editor’s claim that Büchner’s Woyzeck could only be printed and performed in the chronological narrative order that scholars and editors have imposed upon the text. I read this and thought, oh really? I trust audiences to understand and even sometimes prefer non-linear narratives. Audience members are smart, and they like to have something to figure out. So I decided to stage the show as if we were encountering the scenes as Büchner left them: fragmentary and in a jumble. I knew that if I were to stage Woyzeck, I wanted it to feel immediate, raw, and contemporary. Büchner was writing some wild and crazy material for 1836/7, so I would not allow it to sound old fashioned. I also didn’t want to deal with copyright of any existing translations, so I just translated and adapted it myself. I updated it to contemporary language, got rid of the racist and anti-Semitic parts, changed around the so-called “astronomical horse” pretty radically, and made the situation between Woyzeck and Maria more morally ambiguous. So even if you think you know Woyzeck, or if you don’t know Woyzeck at all, this show should be surprising and entertaining.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Any work of art that self-consciously works on several levels of signification. For theater, this tends to be European director’s theater and the more daring works of the last 50 years or so. I also get a big kick out of variety shows, sideshows, and circus acts. Some fabulous works can combine these things.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I’ve already got a binder ready for when I direct Alan Cumming and Benedict Cumberbatch as Didi and Gogo. The agents just won’t return my calls. But seriously now, there are many amazing artists out there. I’ll be fortunate if I have the chance to learn from people who are great mentors, or if I just continue to make theater with people who become as obsessed with a project as I am.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Most recently, Cheek by Jowl’s Ubu Roi.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Why in the world would anyone make a movie about me?

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Paradise Now in 1968. At BAM or at Yale or both. And then I’d just stay in the ‘60s in New York. That or the Great Dionysia. Not sure if I’d stay in ancient Greece. Maybe just long enough to transcribe as many dramas as possible, find Aristotle’s theory of comedy, and time travel back to the now.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Chocolate to wake up in the morning.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Bored. I’ll change the question: if I were living in medieval times and miraculously did not die and kill my mother as a breech birth and was somehow allowed to pursue a profession as a woman, I would be a baker.

What’s up next?: I’m directing part of one of my works-in-progress called The Wrath of Juno at Dixon Place on October 10th as part of an evening called “Nymphs, the Devil, and the Most Famous Transsexual You Never Knew.” It features Roman gods acting despicably and the story behind how Tiresias went blind. Check it out!

For more on Chop-Chop-Zig-Zag Woyzeck, visit www.chopchopzigzagwoyzeck.net

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