Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Spotlight On...James Rutherford

Eileen Meny Photography
Name: James Rutherford

Hometown: Downtown Manhattan

Education: MFA in Directing: Columbia University

Favorite Credits: The Importance of Being Ernest Hemingway (Access Theater), All That Dies And Rises (IATI), 4.48 Psychosis (Magic Futurebox)

Why theater?: Because they generally discourage fart jokes, screaming and somersaults in art galleries and churches.

Tell us about Sweat & Tears: In theater you see a lot of crying (usually by women) and fighting (usually by men). There’s an extraordinary amount of work and training that goes into doing both—how to make a fight “look real” without being dangerous; how to cry convincingly on cue. And as audiences we’re always skeptical: looking for the knaps in fight choreography, judging actors (mostly actresses, sadly) for being too facile with their tears. In this piece, we’re encouraging audiences to look for the seams, to pry apart what we read as “real” or “fake” in these gendered performances of grief and pain.

What inspired you to create Sweat & Tears?: It was almost an accident. A little less than a year ago, Jess Goldschmidt and I were moving in together—painting, arguing over furniture—and at the same time we were developing our own performance pieces: mine was called This Is Going To Hurt and featured two men; hers was Tears For Fears with two women. Pretty quickly we joked that they were a woman-show about crying and a man-show about fighting, but once we attended each other’s showings, we saw that the similarities ran deeper. Both had a circus-y structure; both featured extreme acts of gendered labor; both pulled from a broad swath of performance styles and cultural practices connected to public displays of physical suffering. It became clear that we had been invisibly collaborating for months. So despite our rule to keep our art-making out of our home life, we decided to merge our disparate efforts into a single sprawling piece.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Anne Carson! Anne Carson!

What show have you recommended to your friends?: The Scandinavian double-bill of Strindberg’s The Father and Ibsen’s A Doll’s House at Theater for a New Audience. They took two (more or less) old misogynist plays and instead of apologizing for them, pointed them at each other and let them fire away.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Tilda Swinton, “How Did I Get Here and What Am I Doing?”

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Eleonora Duse’s Hamlet.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Pattern-mixing.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Quieter. Moodier.

What’s up next?: Along with composer David Skeist and choreographer Laura Butler Rivera, I’m in year two of adapting Timothy Donnelly’s panegyric on extinction Hymn to Life into a choral opera.