Labor Day special quick Q&A! Thaddeus Phillips and friends have been documenting their work on RED-EYE to HAVRE de GRACE on the tumblr. After the jump, Thaddeus explains the importance of production documentation, dislikes Poe, and talks about working with Teller.
Why bother with production documentation? On one hand, it seems like it could undermine the magic of your shows; on the other, it could kind of enhance the audience experience. I gather you lean towards the latter—so what do you hope audiences get through that documentation?
I always love to see production documentation. There are a few shows going up now at the Live Arts and Fringe that I would love to know more about and there is nothing—and for me it takes away from the monumental task of how a show is made. With RED-EYE to HAVRE de GRACE, there is so much great source material on our online journal. We put up the complete text of Poe’s Eureka, his theory of the Universe, poems and letters we have turned into songs, design models, rehearsal photos, and maps of where Poe what seen when in his last days. I think it does not give any surprises away but greatly enhances the viewing experience. We’ve now curated the production documentation into a selection of images, texts and ideas that are now like an online program to accompany the show, like interactive program notes.
What was it like working with Teller?
Three weeks ago I flew to Las Vegas and worked intensively with Teller for two days in the desert. He thinks exactly as I do, so is able to see the whole picture and ending up actually becoming a creative consultant on the show. Most of what we did together was working on the structure and ideas than just places to put magic. He was like a theatrical guru asking hard questions about the show that I had to defend, fight for, or transform with him into something better. Mainly, he served as an outside eye looking at the show with distance and pointing out things my team and I had overlooked.
Finally, why Poe in the first place?
My work on Poe is such an odd thing. I am not a Poe fan. But somehow I started working on “The Raven” as a theatrical project then that expanded into a readers’ theater version of Poe texts, then two experimental works based on Poe, then the working version of RED-EYE. It was in the creation of RED-EYE to HAVRE de GRACE that we really started to explore Poe’s death. Jeremy Wilhelm, of Wilhelm Bros. & Co., found the letters Poe wrote to his mother-in-law, Muddy. They’re insane and make up most of the songs for the show. The mystery of Poe’s death and the image of him on a train, together with his writing on the universe, Eureka are our main influences now. We didn’t work on the earlier version of RED_EYE very long due to lack of funds, so it always felt unfinished. Now we’re finally doing what we wanted with the show, and have added a fantastic choreographer, Sophie Bortolussi (who just finished playing Lady M in SLEEP NO MOREin New York) to play the role of Virginia. Finally, Poe is a great example of an artist in the USA trying to really expand ideas but getting pegged to his greatest hits by a capitalist society. He wrote a really interesting theory of all life in the Universe that pre-dates but foresees the big bang theory, but people just wanted him to recite “The Raven.”
The online journal for RED-EYE to HAVRE de GRACE can be found here: http://redeyetohavredegrace.tumblr.com/. The show runs September 7 through 9 and September 11 through 16 at the Suzanne Roberts Theater, 480 S. Broad Street, Center City. Times vary, $28-$35.