When I first heard that Carmelita Tropicana, Becca Blackwell, and Erin Markey were going to be in a piece called Post Plastica, conceived and written by Carmelita, and Ela Troyano, I knew that I had to find out more about it. Without knowing anything about the plot, the fact that so many rock stars of downtown New York theater were going to be in one room was enough for me.
So it was that I switched off my reviewer's hat and donned that of "traditional journalist," complete with recorder in hand, and stepped into the wooden-floored rehearsal space on Great Jones Street. It was here where I was able to see some new scenes from this intelligent and fresh piece of performance, which will be opening at El Museo del Barrio on May 31.
First of all, I love watching rehearsals. A great rehearsal takes an almost bare room filled with people in regular clothes and allows you to watch the transformation of performance occur in front of you. One minute I am talking to Carmelita, Becca, and Erin, and the next Carmelita is frozen like a statue, and Becca is punching imaginary controls on a metal stool.
Within a few seconds I was completely drawn in. The actual production will have fantastic visual effects, but for me it was more than enough to take the great performances happening in front of me and combine them with the images I'd seen of sets and costumes.
Post Plastica itself is part sci-fi, part camp, part allegory, and all entertainment. Spanning mediums from live performance to film to visual art to lecture-performance, we travel to a world where people no longer have access to free information. Hybrid human-animals work for corporations that attempt to unlock the forgotten history hidden in the memories of people in suspended animation. I laughed out loud a great deal both because of the intelligent humor and satire and the fantastic comic timing of the performers. And, as Director Ela Troyano says, "You should come for the surprise ending."
After the rehearsal, I had the chance to sit down with these talented folks and chat about the show. Carmelita said that she and Ela, who are sisters, are interested in what "I like to say, tropical and topical, things that are relevant to our society, so we started thinking of like social media. [...] And I think we were really interested in art. We've always been interested in art, we've always been interested in referencing art, pop culture, what's going on. So I think that sort of started, you know, our wanting to do this piece, and also for PS [PS 122]. We were interested in working with El Museo del Barrio, which we've worked, you know, at before, and using the idea that it is a museum is really wonderful because that could feed a lot of things."
The museum setting has also led to a design team and other collaborators who have been culled from the art world, such as Production Designer Aliza Shvarts, rather than from the theater world proper. These "intersections" as Carmelita calls them, are evident in the spirit of the piece, which maintains a theatrical structure but also wriggles out of those confines when it needs to. This innovation is obviously part of what inspired the other artists to come to the table, as Becca says, "I was working with Jennifer Miller and Circus Amok and I'd seen Carmelita perform, and of course I jumped on this, it was an exciting concept."
Erin, who plays Plastica herself, had an interesting journey to Post Plastica. In her undergraduate years, Erin studied Carmelita's Milk of Amnesia in order to "hunt for whether or not a lesbian camp can exist [...] and I figured out that it does exist. But now here we are at La Mama's rehearsal space [...] still trying to figure out if lesbian camp exists! We're gonna find out!"
Here, as well as in the title itself, the "language of recycling" as Erin says co-mingles (if you will) with academic concerns and what Carmelita terms "issues of time." This smorgasbord of a show, which includes what Erin describes as a "potluck of talent" as well as exciting concepts, pieces of art, and a fantastically innovative set-up, has my tummy rumbling for some great performance.
Post Plastica runs May 31 through June 3 at El Museo del Barrio (1230 5th Ave. at 104th St.). Doors open to a nightly pre-show event at 6 p.m., with a 7:30 p.m. performance time. Tickets are $20 ($15 for seniors and students) and can be purchased by visiting www.ps122.org or calling 212-353-3101.