FLOATONES" REVIVED MAY 1-10, 2015 AT LA MAMA
"Very nearly unclassifiable and
utterly delightful, “The Floatones,” Jim Neu’s
fantastical, irrational Zen koan of a musical, returns to La MaMa
about 20 years after its premiere there." (Alexis Soloski,
New York Times) READ
THE ORIGINAL IN NYTIMES.COM
FLOATONES 2015-- From far left, Larissa Velez-Jackson, Greg
Zuccolo, Jess Barbagallo and Joshua William Gelb at La MaMa.
Photo by Rosalie Baijer.
WHERE AND WHEN:
May 1 to 10, 2015
La MaMa E.T.C. (The Club), 74A East Fourth Street
Presented by La MaMa E.T.C.
Fridays and Saturday at 10:00 PM, Sundays at 6:00 PM
$18 gen. Adm., $13 seniors and students
Ten $10 tickets will be available to every performance on a first-come,
Running time: one hour.
Box office (646) 430-5374, www.lamama.org
In Jim Neu's musical "The Floatones," four rather strange
characters meet at their encounter group and decide the best way
to get better is through show business. They form a vocal quartet
on the cutting edge of a new fusion between entertainment and self-help.
Their night club act shares their group insights in speech and song,
interweaving their individual stories, creating a post-Chorus Line.
"The Floatones" debuted in 1995 and will be revived by
La MaMa E.T.C. on the play's 20th anniversary, March 1 to 10, 2015
co-directed by Catherine Galasso and Keith McDermott. It is the
first production of a Jim Neu play since his death in 2010.
Playwright Jim Neu (1943-2010) was a major voice in Downtown Theater
who specialized in an elliptical take on language. His plays and
musicals ride on a wry, cool humor that is intelligently zany. "The
Floatones" stands out in his body of work for its unique abundance
of bon mots and intellectual calisthenics. While the characters
claim to be "coherency-neutral," their observations about
themselves and their world often make a strange sense ("I identified
with people who didn't remember me," "I've never seen
one thing lead to another so graphically before," "Have
you ever seen a mob standing in line? Quite a sight. Losing control
without losing your place."). Their reality is in the crack
between what you know and what you think you know. The pleasure
is the logic of the word play that supports this, as when the foursome
We're past reason
We're post plot
We're coherency neutral
We mean it not
Claiming to be "motivation-free," the characters are
obsessed with identity, personal positioning and post-communication,
uttering such confessions as "I've pursued my career with a
monomentality, and it was beginning to show" and "I've
been on a role, but in the wrong direction." They reassure
each other with such mottos as "relaxity works," "You're
only as good as you make yourself sound" and "every moment
is always what's left of the rest of your future." The creative
challenge in Neu's musicals was to adapt such mind-twisters to song
The original production was directed by Rocky Bornstein (of Otrabanda
Company) and was performed by Bill Rice, Mary Shultz, Keith McDermott
and Jim Neu. When it debuted, it was Neu's second musical and the
successor to his first tuner, "Dark Pocket," which had
been presented by The Club at La MaMa in 1994 to approving reviews.
The Native (L.C. Cole) wrote, "It was minimalist writing and
acting at one of the best performance levels around....This was
controlled chaos, manipulated madness, intellectual idiocy, from
which a lot of deconstruction-minded performers and writers could
well learn....The fun of course was entirely in the stylish ride
and the ideas it took us by." "The Floatones" received
no reviews, but the show fortified Neu's brand among a growing cadre
of Neu-philes. It also brought Keith McDermott into the cadre of
Neu-performers when he replaced John Nesci in the cast. McDermott
had met Neu in Robert Wilson's company and went on to direct all
nine of Neu's subsequent plays.
This revival is an inter-generational project for directors Keith
McDermott and Catherine Galasso. The pair originally teamed up to
mount scenes from Neu plays for the YANS RETO Performance art festival
at Anthology Film Archives. That fest's name is an acronym for "Young
And Not Stupid, Radical Even Though Old." It pairs up artists
who are under 30 and over 60; McDermott was the elder and Galasso
the younger. She is the daughter of composer Michael Galasso and
dancer Liz Pasquale, who were original members of Robert Wilson's
School of Byrds with Neu. Michael Galasso had scored Neu's
play "Echo Ranch" in 1979. Reviving "The Floatones"
provided a way for Catherine to feel close to her father by connecting
with his creative community.
This is the first time a Jim Neu play has been performed by a company
of performers who have dance chops. The performers are Jess Barbagallo,
Joshua William, Gelb Larissa Velez-Jackson and Greg Zuccolo. Each
of them is uniquely distinguished in the NY experimental worlds
of dance and theater. Choreography by Galasso will replace dances
by Rocky Bornstein in the original production. The 1995 production
had melodies by Harry Mann and Neal Kirkwood. In this revival, the
ensemble is writing its own music and putting even more songs in,
which are described as "appropriated from Doo-Wop."
Jim Neu wrote over 25 plays and was an important figure in Downtown
New York theater from the late 1970s until his death in 2010. In
works ranging from monologues and one-act dialogues to full-length
plays and dance/text collaborations with major choreographers, his
style and sound are instantly recognizable. Neu's humor was subtle
and his touch was light; his own underplaying once reminded a critic
of Groucho Marx on medication. His plays often depicted identity
crises in cowboys, spies and media-smitten urban professionals.
He began a long relationship with Ellen Stewart and La MaMa in 1991
and most of his subsequent work originated there. His last play,
"Gang of Seven" (2008), was his tenth play at La MaMa.
His plays were also presented at Dixon Place, PS122, Danspace Project,
Soho Rep and Westbeth Theater Center. His archives, including hand-written
manuscripts, are preserved in the Fales Library at NYU. He married
the noted lighting designer Carol Mullins in 1998; she had been
his partner for 40 years at the time of his death. Biographical
info and a chronology of his works are found in his website, www.jimneu.com.
Catherine Galasso is a choreographer and media artist based in
Brooklyn. Her works have been performed at the San Francisco
Museum of Modern Art, the Bibliotheque National de France in Paris,
Harvard University’s Carpenter Center, the Museum of Contemporary
Art Santa Barbara, Joyce SoHo, Danspace Project, Movement Research
at the Judson Church, Dixon Place, BAX, Dance New Amsterdam and
the International Theater Festival in Pristina, Kosovo. While based
in San Francisco from 2006-09, Galasso was offered a three-year
residency at ODC Theater by then artistic director Rob Bailis. During
her time at ODC, she was the first choreographer to be commissioned
by the San Francisco Film Society (2009), and the youngest commissioned
by the San Francisco Foundation (2011). She is a participant
in Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's Extended Life Dance Development
program made possible in part by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Keith McDermott began his professional career at the Shakespeare
Festival in Stratford, Connecticut. On Broadway, he starred opposite
Richard Burton in Equus, played Harold in "Harold and Maude"
and Tom in the Christopher Isherwood play "Meeting by the River."
He has acted at many Off Broadway theaters, including Playwrights
Horizons, Manhattan Theatre Club and The Roundabout. He has worked
in New York, Europe, Russia and Japan with the avant garde director
Robert Wilson. For fifteen years, he directed the plays of Jim Neu,
most of them at La MaMa. Mr. McDermott is also a writer. His novel,
"Acqua Calda," was shortlisted for a Lambda Award and
a Gay & Lesbian National Book Award. An article on his "Equus"
experience, "The Boy In Burton’s Shadow," has been
optioned for film.
|THE FLOATONES -- L-R: Greg Zuccolo, Larissa
Velez-Jackson, Joshua William Gelb, Jess Barbagallo. Photo by
Jess Barbagallo has collaborated with Big Dance Theater,
Julia May Jonas/Nellie Tinder, Theatre of a Two-Headed Calf, The
Builders Association, Hoi Polloi, The Drunkard's Wife, Casey Llewellyn,
Katherine Brook/Tele-Violet and Andrea Geyer. Barbagallo is a founding
member of Half Straddle, Red Terror Squad, and the Dyke Division
of 2HC. Other credits include Man in a Case(Annie-B Parson/Paul
Lazar/Mikhail Baryshnikov), House of Dance (Tina Satter/NYC Players),
Fiabe Italiane (John Turturro), An Oresteia (Paul Lazar/Brian Kulick),
and MilkMilkLemonade(Josh Conkel). Barbagallo has been a guest artist/teacher
at Brown, Princeton and New York University, is a 2014 New York
Live Arts Context Notes Writer-in-Residence, and currently curates
for the Little Theater performance series at Dixon Place. MFA: Brooklyn
College. (www.homoflix.wordpress.com )
Joshua William Gelb is a New York based performer, director, and
librettist. He has performed with Little Lord, Tele-Violet, Moe
Yousuf & Allison Lyman, Designated Movement, Prelude, Other
Forces, Incubator Arts, Dixon Place, Ars Nova, and in several Target
Margin Labs. (www.joshuawilliamgelb.com)
Larissa Velez-Jackson is a Brooklyn-based choreographer and multimedia
artist. She has presented work at Roulette, New Museum of Contemporary
Art, DTW, Danspace, Abrons Arts Center and Chocolate Factory Theater.
In 2011, she launched a song-and-dance collaboration with her husband,
Jon Velez-Jackson, called Yackez, "The World's Most Loveable
Hip Hop Duo." She was a Movement Research Artist in Residence
'12-'13, a SPARC resident '13 with the LMCC and most recently an
El Museo Del Barrio Artist in Residence ‘14. (www.larissavelez.com)
Greg Zuccolo trained with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and danced with
the company before moving to Belgium to appear with Les Operettes
Royale de Wallonie. In NYC, he has danced with Stanley Love, Tere
O’Connor, John Jasperse and Sarah Michelson and won a Bessie
Award. In Europe, he has also appeared with Baryshnikov’s
White Oak, Michael Laub and Remote Control Productions. He has performed
in films by Ilya Chaiken, Matthew Barney and Nicholas Elliot and
plays by Tina Satter and Sibyl Kempson. His own writings include
the dance-theater works "Calvin Klein by Greg Zuccolo"
with Hilary Clark, "Busy Nights" and "Too Much Too
Cool video: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thefloatones/the-floatones-2015-at-la-mama