Just one more day until the opening night of Fringe! In fact, by this time tomorrow, we’ll be in the middle of our second show of the festival. (have I mentioned we fit 31 performances of 10 different productions into just 10 days? Fringe moves FAST!) So it’s time for one more installment of the Road to Fringe series!
Today we’re hearing from Frank Kuhn, College at Brockport professor and co-creator of Two of Mee, about the evolution of the show and the contributions of his many collaborators.
Two of Mee started seven years ago with an invitation from Andrea Vasquez, while she was a graduate student in Dance at The College at Brockport, to collaborate on a new work. I suggested some texts, and she was most excited by a short play that the playwright, Charles Mee, then called My House Was Leaning to One Side (Mee later changed its title to Life Is a Dream). We invited J.J. Kaufmann, a composer from the music staff in the Department of Dance, and Nanako Horikawa, a talented undergraduate dancer and choreographer, to join us in building and sharing an abbreviated version of the piece in spring, 2010. We so much enjoyed the collaboration, and the unfolding of the piece, that we continued meeting (in Brockport, Texas, and Iowa) over the next six years, exploring and expanding the work whenever we all four had the time, with no clear idea of the its ultimate shape, or where or when we would perform it. We also took advantage of Mr. Mee’s advice regarding his plays, to “use them freely as a resource for your own work,” and added a few other voices to those he had collected from the evening news, the internet, and his collaborators. This spring, we decided to “finish” (whatever that meant) Life Is a Dream in Decorah, Iowa, and we presented a preview performance at Luther College.
About 18 months ago, Olivia Howard and Lynea D’Aprix, Dance majors with whom I had worked in the Theatre program at Brockport, also expressed an interest in developing a performance piece. We looked at texts by Virginia Woolf, Anne Carson, Charles Mee, and others; Lynea and Olivia were attracted by the wit and insights they found in some of the women’s monologues from Mee’s plays, which he had collected under the title Love Sonnets: Things Women Say. So we we started working, more like playing really, with the text, again collaboratively and with no performance in sight. Last spring, it occurred to us to pair the selected women’s monologues, which we named “Mee & She,” with “Life Is a Dream” for the Rochester Fringe Festival.
The two parts in Two of Mee, are very different in tone, but are similar in that they deal with paradoxical pairings and challenging dualities, in our individual and collective lives. In our performance, each is split between two voices. Part I, “Life Is a Dream,” wonders, with much compassion, how we might understand the human capacity to be simultaneously capable of great love and devastating destruction. “Mee & She,” with tongue often partly in cheek, explores the urge to pair up for life, and some of its ridiculous, even comic, social manifestations, while also offering a sly look at masculine pretensions and delusions in that regard.
If you’re unfamiliar with Charles Mee’s works, I urge you to take a look at the (re)making project, where he has published his plays, free to read online. His work is poetic, witty and profound in a rare way. Mee started as a playwright in the Off-Off Broadway scene in the 1960s, where his works were presented at theatres like La Mama and Café Cino. He then took a twenty year break from theatre, writing books on international politics, like Meeting at Potsdam (a Literary Guild main selection), and contemporary American politics, such as A Visit to Haldeman and Other States of Mind (a meditation on Watergate). In the mid-1980s, Mee returned to writing for the stage with Vienna Lusthaus, a collaboration with Martha Clarke. Over the last 20 years, his works have become increasingly popular in New York and regionally.
Exploring Mee’s texts, and collaborating across disciplines with Andrea, J.J., Nanako, Lynea, and Olivia, has been for me a source of great joy and wonder. I look forward to sharing that joy and wonder with the audience at the 2017 Rochester Fringe Festival.