Theatre of a Two-Headed Calf

As an auteur director I devise and develop work under the auspices of The Theater of a Two-headed Calf (co-founded in 1999 with composer Brendan Connelly) and the Dyke Division.

In our early work we have been invested in a practice that makes use of classic texts with the precise aim to generate dynamic dialogues between distinct cultural moments and theatrical forms.

In selecting particular texts, traditions and theatrical forms, we worked directly with the immediate cultural and political contexts of both our contemporary audience and the historically specific authors of each text.  In our 2007 Obie award-winning production of Drum of the Waves of Horikawa (Chikamatsu 1706), which was the first performance of the text in English, I grounded the actors’ movements and vocal patterns in a vocabulary culled from the American punk rock scene of the 70s, 80s, 90s and from Preston Sturges movies.

In 2008 my work took a radical turn. In a departure from my previous strategies of making work that demanded intense research and lengthy development periods I decided to make a serial drama that had minimal rehearsals and operated as individual performance events instead of a fully realized production. I created an independent wing of Two-headed Calf with Jess Barbagallo, Laryssa Husiak, and Laura Berlin-Stinger called the Dyke Division to develop Room for Cream, a live lesbian serial that ran for three seasons from 2008-10. It follows a wild, sweet, perverse group of lesbians of diverse ages, gender expressions and politics living in a fantastical town called Sappho. Twenty-five episodes of Room for Cream were performed over three seasons. The project had a core cast of about 10 characters and involved over 35 performers in total.

In 2010, the midst of working on the Room for Cream series, I conceived of a production of Trifles (Glaspell, 1912), where I used the much published and discussed but rarely staged play as an austere historic counterpoint to our so-called post-feminist moment to raise contemporary questions about women, psychic space and constrained emotion. Trifles represented a significant departure from the large epic work we were doing with non-American texts, as the production explored the quiet, intimate and vulnerable history of an American female experience. Glaspell’s female characters subvert the assumptions of patriarchy by using them to their advantage — their unknowing is knowing, their trifles are clues to a murder and secrets to be protected.

In 2012 we premiered an opera project You, My Mother. You, My Mother addresses head-on that most weighty of historical forms, opera. This grassroots investigation seeks to unearth new perspectives and undermine our assumptions about opera’s often grandiose form by challenging ourselves to find an intimacy and restraint in both the storytelling and the music. We commissioned playwrights Kristen Kosmas and Karinne Keithly-Syers and composers Rick Burkhardt and Brendan Connelly (2HC) to write words and music in response to personal narratives (generated by three core members of the company.)



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