Sunday, March 15, 2009

9 Questions for Kelly Copper (Nature Theater of Oklahoma)

Nature Theater of Oklahoma's RAMBO SOLO opens this week at Soho Rep. RAMBO SOLO is created by Pavol Liska and Kelly Copper in conversation with (and staring) Zachary Oberzan. Off Off Blogway sent over 9 Questions to Kelly Copper and she was kind enough to send us these answers:

1. It's rare to see shared “created by” and “directed by” credits. How do you work together – are there divided responsibilities or is it totally collaborative?

We've [Kelly and partner Pavol Liska] worked together a very long time. I would say this is a murky area. It's not always "collaborative" -- that's a sort of hippie word and it sounds prettier than what it is -- it's often combative. Sometimes we have the same brain, sometimes we don't. We talk all the time. We work all the time. The one overall binding principle I would say to our working together is that I know and trust that we will never put anything on stage that we don't both wholly stand behind. And that weeds out a lot of crap.

2. How did Rambo Solo evolve?

Rambo Solo started from a leftover question from our show No Dice. In No Dice Pavol was asking everyone we knew to tell him a story. And everyone said they couldn't tell a story. And the show became what it wanted to become, finally -- and it was about something else. But we were still left with this question about story and what does a story mean to people and why do we need one.

Pavol and I knew that the novel First Blood meant a great deal to Zack, and that he had read it many times, and so that was the starting point for this particular show. Pavol called Zack and asked: "can you tell me THIS story?" What is it about THIS story? And again, as usual -- the project becomes again what it wants to become. But it did come out of this leftover preoccupation with narrative storytelling from No Dice.

3. Nature Theater of Oklahoma has been touring a lot lately. Is your work received differently in Europe and in the US?

I don't really think it's that different. No more so than every audience is different.

The only thing I really notice is when we serve sandwiches in the theater -- there's much more suspicion about that in Europe. For some reason every once in a while you have an audience that's really afraid of taking the sandwiches. People in the US are more inclined to take free food, I would say. That's not very profound, but it's true.

4. Who are some artists that inspire you?

John Cage, Alan Kaprow, Jaques Rivette.

5. Do you want some day to have a venue of your own or do you like the challenges of creating work for various locations?

I think I still have the same stupid fantasy I had when I moved to New York 15 years ago -- that somehow I will find a cool garage and live in it and work in it. I would love to have a regular place to make work and not have to cobble it together all the time. But we've also learned to embrace spacial restrictions. We made Rambo Solo in Zack's apartment. We made Romeo and Juliet in our apartment. Ultimately, we can make it productive. Something always comes out of whatever space you have -- but I also wonder what it would be like to have a home. What sort of work would I make if the space was always the same? I have no idea. Maybe it would bring out something else in the work if my main problem wasn't always always the space.

6. Can you describe a show or performance you seen in the past year that has stayed with you and why?

The most exciting thing I just recently saw was on video -- William Forsythe's One Flat Thing Reproduced. Just dancers and tables. It was beautiful and mathematical and visceral. It made me excited to work again.

7. Looking at your body of work to date, which is wildly varied, is there a general “theme” or “philosophy” that can be derived?

I'm sure there is, but it's not something you really try to track. It doesn't help me to think about how the work is generally related to a theme or philosophy. If I was too busy nailing that down, I'd be trying to make work to fit the bill.

It bothers me now that this last body of work (including Rambo Solo) has all been created orally. So now people think of us as "those people who work with ipods and record their phone conversations". That's just a certain body of work. The next thing will be different. You have to throw yourself off track or your work does become fixed. I think about that a lot -- how do you not become content with a certain kind of work.

I'm 38 -- I'm not yet ready to be a mid-career artist. I want to keep experimenting. I think Alan Kaprow said that if an experimental artist is successful -- they usually only experiment once, and then just repeat themselves. That phrase really haunts me. I'm not content to just repeat myself.

8. What is your favorite part of creating a new piece?

I like the fear of not knowing exactly what it will be.

9. What's Next?

The first episode of a serial opera Life and Times that will open in Vienna in September.

pavol liska kelly copper rambo soloSoho Rep and Nature Theater of Oklahoma
Featuring: Zachary Oberzan
Conceived & Directed: Pavol Liska & Kelly Copper
Design & Video: Peter Nigrini

Performances begin March 19th.

For Tickets & Info: CLICK HERE

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