Jody Christopherson on AMP and Greencard Wedding / by Declan Maloney Drummond

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You've got 2 upcoming shows in rep at HERE. What are they about?

AMP is my new solo work/ live horror film for the theater.  An amp is an electrical current, and a nod to A Modern Prometheus. The piece is an investigation of the discovery of “animal electricity”, the birth of modern feminism, and the monsters society creates. Mary Shelley begins the process of writing Frankenstein on stage. Mary’s monologues are interwoven with film interviews of a woman who auditions for the Boston Symphony during their first historic blind auditions; and is committed to an asylum. It’s essentially a world in which women behave badly and can be grotesque and powerful. The piece has film and projections created at abandoned asylums and also internal organs and historical props and costumes.

Greencard Wedding is inspired by a true story of my band Greencard Wedding. It’s part rock concert, part Skype film featuring notable locations in the New York indie rock scene. A multi-media indie rock musical that speaks to how we define ourselves as artists, the politics of immigration, and artist visa regulations. It’s interactive, performed in English and some Gaelic and Whiskey soaked wedding cake is served to all audience members.

You describe yourself variously as a performer, photographer, actress, spectacle creator, writer, filmmaker and generative artist. How do you balance those different professional lives and do you often find they intersect?

I actually try to avoid describing myself as an actress, though others might.  If I had to choose a word in that realm, I’d say actor as it’s non-gendered. Actors get paid the same (or they should). Actresses get paid less. What I typically say is that I’m a generative artist (performer (stage/ film actor and musician), writer (playwright and journalist), photographer and filmmaker). Sometimes I act in other people’s work but more recently I’ve been focused on creating my own body of work and touring.

Generative Artist, (and really all art is generative) is a fairly recent term. This is just a fancy way of saying that I create my own work, which I conceive, execute and perform through many mediums. It encompasses all the things I do. Actor/Playwright Erin Mallon once said to me, “a person can play tennis and also be a good cook and know how to tie their shoe.” It’s the same for artists. All my shows incorporate elements of visual art, film and theater performance to create a spectacle. I like to research and often bring that visual research to an audience. LES rock venues I’ve played and Skype film for Greencard Wedding, photos and films scavenging through abandoned asylums and historical documents for AMP. It’s also more cost effective for small shows to tour as well as feel large with portable set requirements (film and projections).

It’s very helpful as a headshot photographer and theater photographer to be an actor and also a journalist. I have the advantage of being in front of as well as behind camera, living through the type of situations I’m shooting, getting feedback from lots of different types of industry professionals and also honing ways to communicate/collaborate. I have a lot of empathy for other artists and absolutely want them to be able to determine the ways they are represented, the way their work is represented. It’s not my gaze that’s capturing them and their work. 

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Can you describe the journey of the 2 shows from conception to playing together at HERE with Goode Productions?

I’ve been working on both shows since 2012. AMP has been developed at New York Society Library (an incredible historical members library in New York whose members have included George Washington, Aaron Burr, Herman Melville, Wendy Wasserstein, Willa Cather...), underwritten by Alexander Sanger, All For One Theater's SoCo Lab with a workshop at The Bushwick Starr, Write Out Front (in the window of the Drama Bookshop), Live-Source, and a writing retreat in Rouen, France, 7 blocks from where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. To create projections and films for AMP,  I’ve been traveling to abandoned asylums in New York and Massachusetts as well as meeting with representatives from the Museum of Public Health in Tewksbury to investigate the history of electroshock therapy.

Greencard Wedding began when I could only Skype with my Dutch bandmate Michael de Roos. After his visa expired we found out we couldn’t make music via Skype (due to the delay) and we certainly couldn’t gig anymore. The piece was part music, part performance art. I recorded some calls, transcribed those, we toured to FringeNYC, The Brick, FilmGate Miami and then ultimately the distance and lack of a visa was too much. So the show went through a full page one rewrite with American/ Irish actor/ musician Ryan McCurdy (who plays about 6 instruments) and producer/ sound/projection designer Martha Goode, who suggested putting the Skype calls on film instead of doing live calls. We toured and developed the show at Carrie Morris Performing Art Center in Detroit, Dixon Place, went to APAP and The Studios of Key West brought the show as part of their season. They were really able to give it the sound support that a full concert venue would, and bring in an audience who didn’t know us at all. The response was huge and really helpful to our process.

What's next for you?

In February, AMP will be touring to Edmonton, Alberta Canada. Workshop West Playwrights Theater is bringing us out for a festival called Chinook. Vern Thiessen, who is their Artistic Director and a prolific playwright whose work I’m a huge fan of (Of Human Bondage as part of Soul Pepper’s residency at Signature Theater) has been an incredible supporter of the show.

Greencard Wedding will run November 29-December 20 in rep with AMP, December 5-19. Both shows are playing at HERE (145 Avenue of the Americas, entrance on Dominick Street, one block south of Spring Street). Tickets ($35) are available for purchase in advance at www.here.org.

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