Friday, January 16, 2015

Piehole to present the World Premiere of Old Paper Houses 2/27-3/14 @ Irondale Center

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Photo credit Jeff Alan Wood 

The theater collective Piehole will present the World Premiere of Old Paper Houses, an original performance piece with texts by poet Bernadette Mayer (Winner of the 2014 Shelley Memorial Award), directed by Tara Ahmadinejad (New York Theatre Workshop "2050 Fellow") February 27-March 14 at the historic Irondale Center (85 South Oxford Street between Fulton Street and Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn). Performances will be 2/27 at 8pm, 2/28, 3/2, 3/3, 3/5, 3/6, 3/7, 3/11, 3/12, 3/13 & 3/14 at 7:30pm, and 3/14 at 3pm, with special post-show events happening after select performances. Tickets ($18; $15 students) are available at or by calling 1-800-838-3006. Runtime is 75 minutes, without an intermission. 

In New England, the winter is five months long. Everybody eats beans, the pipes always freeze, and everything's buried under six feet of snow. Moving from dreary 1970s New England to an 1840s Transcendental utopia and beyond, Old Paper Houses follows a group of wavering idealists searching for meaning and purpose in all the wrong places. Combining paper dioramas, ecstatic small-town parades, live feed projection and poetry by Bernadette Mayer, Old Paper Houses cycles through faith and doubt to ask: how do we continue to find things to believe in, even when it's really, really cold?

Drawing from Mayer's The Golden Book of Words and Midwinter Day, along with research on 1840s Transcendentalist communes, Piehole has been developing Old Paper Houses since 2013 with Collaborating Writer Jessie Renee Hopkins and Dramaturg Elliot B. Quick. Performers will include Nora Fox*, Allison LaPlatney, Benoit Johnson, Alexandra Panzer, Emilie Soffe, Ben Vigus, and Jeff Wood. The creative team will include Set Design by Kristen Robinson, Costume Design by Nikki Delhomme, Projection Design by Paul Piekarz, Lighting Design by Serena Wong, Sound Design by Joseph Wolfslau, and Original Compositions by Jason Sigal. The production Stage Manager will be Hannah Spratt. 
*Appearing courtesy of the Actors' Equity Association. 

Piehole has been developing Old Paper Houses since the particularly brutal winter of 2013. After finding solace in Bernadette Mayer's struggle through the New England winter in The Golden Book of Words, which references Nathaniel Hawthorne, they found themselves enmeshed in Hawthorne's satire on Transcendental utopian angst, The Blithedale Romance. Through workshops over the course of 2013 and early 2014, Piehole delved more deeply into research on Brook Farm, the 19th century commune on which the novella was based, and incorporated more text from Mayer's Midwinter Day, to create an exploration of the American utopian pursuit in its many forms—past, present, and potential; artistic, political, and social. A workshop of Old Paper Houses was presented at the Connelly Theater in March 2014, and a selection of it was curated into Prelude14 at CUNY Graduate Center.

During the Irondale run of Old Paper Houses, Piehole will host events following each performance in the show's final location, a "Post-Utopianist Hang Out Space." The events will feature performances and exhibitions by local artists. Check for updates on the programming for these events.

Bernadette Mayer (Author, source material) has been a key figure in the NYC poetry scene for over four decades, authoring more than two dozen volumes of poetry including Midwinter Day, Sonnets, The Desires of Mothers to Please Others in Letters, and Poetry State Forest. Her recently published works include, The Helens of Troy, NYStudying Hunger Journals; and Ethics of Sleep. She served as director of the Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church in the early 80s, and was co-editor of the conceptual magazine 0 to 9 with Vito Acconci. Praised by John Ashberry as "magnificent" and by Brenda Colts for her "devastating wit," Mayer has received grants and awards from PEN American Center, Foundation for Contemporary Performing Art, The NEA, The Academy for American Poets, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Shelley Memorial Award. Mayer continues to write from her home in East Nassau, NY, and her latest anthology, Eating the Colors of a Lineup of Words: The First Books of Bernadette Mayer will be published by Station Hill of Barrytown this spring. 

Piehole is a laboratory of theater artists who investigate the process of collaboration and collective authorship to create live events. They draw from a shared fascination with objects and media, and continually reimagine their process, driven by an ongoing pursuit of surprise, delight and beauty in unexpected places. They invite audiences into this pursuit to encourage agency in one's thinking, perceiving, and feeling, as well as an expanded sense of potential realities. 
Piehole's work has performed at art galleries, theaters, warehouses, and hotel rooms, in NYC, Philly, and Prague. They have received grants from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, BAX, the Mental Insight Foundation, and Puppeteers of America. Recent works have included The Fizzles (based on the collaborative book by Jasper Johns and Samuel Beckett), which performed at Triple Canopy in Greenpoint and is slated to perform at JACK in Clinton Hill, and 2 Stories that End in Suicide, which performed at HERE Arts Center and The Brick Theater. Piehole's current core group includes Tara Ahmadinejad, Allison LaPlatney, Alexandra Panzer, Elliot B. Quick, and Jeff Wood.

Tara Ahmadinejad (Director) is a NY director, originally from Philadelphia. She is a core-founding member of Piehole, with whom she has directed/co-created work since 2008. She  recently graduated from the MFA Directing program at Columbia, during which she worked with Anne Bogart, Brian Kulick, Robert Woodruff, and Tina Landau, and assisted Dan Rothenberg, Jay Scheib and Kristin Marting. Ahmadinejad has served on the selection committee for Puppeteers of America, and is a current 2050 Fellow at New York Theatre Workshop.

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