Other themes that surface intermittently in the show will be domestic violence, verbally and physically abusive relationships (between humans and not), and relearning the art of human communication. I am particularly interested in working with performers and community members who come from marginalized identities who might identify with to the themes of “performing identity” also present in this work.
CAT LADY comes appropriately on the heels of my last project. In 2006 I created “Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” to address depression and suicide among Asian American women. The process of making the show was the most heartbreaking and depressing endeavor I had ever taken up. The last four years of touring alone on the road have been some of the most isolating years of my life, but simultaneously gave me a “real artist” identity I never had before. In my isolation at home and on the road, I read Neil Strauss’ “The Game” and started watching “The Pick-Up Artist” reality competition show which piqued my interest in the subculture of male pick-up artists—their trainings, conferences, their terminology and the hierarchy of respect among them. It seems that their culture and its infrastructure was as bizarrely idiosyncratic as the politics of the theater world.
There were so many parallels between my life as a lonely solo performer and that of pick-up artists. Their (morally questionable) techniques and (manipulative) seduction tools seems plucked straight from improv theater training. Like me, they used their “scripts” on audiences to escape the reality of their loneliness (theirs scripts were performed in bars, mine in theaters). Like aspiring artists are taught to “own your avatar until you become it,” I was doing my show so much, I was becoming the character from my show-- conversations from real life flowed into my real life monologues. Perhaps, it was only inside our scripts that we could achieve human connection. CAT LADY is a departure from earlier work like Cuckoo’s Nest that directly tackled social issues, and instead moves necessarily towards a more theatrical, explorative direction, spring boarding appropriately forward from where my last project left me—in complete existential crises from having tried to save the world with theater.
CAT LADY has endured a two-year research period where I’ve interviewed pick-up artists, cat psychics, learned pick-up artist technique and done a great deal of writing on the difficulties of human interaction. I created a work-in-progress at the REDCAT in 2008. I’ve also shown a work in progress at the Hothouse Residency for Artists at UCLA. The work has evolved dramatically to what I am creating now.
I am working with an ensemble of three amazing actors (Drag legend Miss Barbie Q, Clayton Shane Farris and Jabez Zuniga) who will become fluent in pick-up artist technique as part of our rehearsal process. During our community outreach activities on tour, we will train participants of all gender identifications in our own version of Pick-Up artist bootcamp (think of it as a warped reverse Drag school). We will incorporate these community members in our pre-show.
I am also working for the first time with director Shawn Sides of The Rude Mechs in Austin, TX who recently directed a play at the Humana Festival. Our cross-country collaboration has been worth Shawn’s amazing eye in directing ensemble work and her physically dynamic direction.
Raising $5000 will help me cover costs related to rehearsals before we tour, including paying for rehearsal space and offering honorariums for the dramaturg, actors, and director. If I can raise more, I will be able to pay the costume designer, lighting designer, video designer and set designer.