About this project
In case you don't want to read everything we have written:
Help us workshop our Henry Darger-inspired play with music in New York with a work-in-progress event at the American Folk Art Museum!
Heather Britt, Peter Adams and Stacy Sims are going to New York for a week-long workshop to learn more about this collaborative work and to perform a work-in-progress first act at the American Folk Art Museum! We made it this far with our VIVIAN GIRLS project with Kickstarter love and your support. We hope you will give again at whatever amount suits you to help us take this work to the next level.
Synopsis of THE VIVIAN GIRLS:
Henry Darger, a reclusive, obsessive outsider artist, has fallen ill. It is a stormy night and the wind is menacing. Henry is terrified of twisters and often features one named Sweetie Pie as a predatory force in his work. Henry can’t get up to work and the characters he has been creating, alone, for 40 plus years, become concerned. Annie, the boldest of the girls, steps out of the collage (one of the hundreds Henry has made) and tries to take control of the story. She convinces Myrna and Beatrice, plus Bette and the 6 “stuck together” paper dolls, to head out on their own after Henry is taken to the hospital by a Lady in his building.
Once they are on their own, Annie works to control the story but realizes it is harder than she thinks; that freedom has called up the girls’ deepest wants … Myrna wants to be in love, Bea wants to be a boy and Annie wants a mom.
For a moment, the story is blissful. Each girl finding what they want: their opposite. But then Sweetie Pie, a force of nature to be sure, stirs the darkest part of desire and creates an emotional storm for the girls as Henry fights for his breath in a lonely hospital.
In early 1973, reclusive outsider artist Henry Darger became ill. Only upon his death in April of that same year did his epic body of work, focused on the odd and innocent Vivian Girls, become known to the outside world. Since then, Darger's work has mesmerized everyone who has come into contact with it.
A few years ago, I went to see the work again at the American Folk Art Museum in New York. The exhibit was entitled "Dargerism" and included the work of other contemporary artists, like Amy Cutler, who worked in and/or had been inspired by his milieu. Standing in the gallery, I could see how the work might be interpreted for stage. I understood there would be music and dance.
In short, the idea of the VIVIAN GIRLS insisted itself on me. Now, after several years and rewrites and input from smart collaborators, I understand that this play with music lives in the space between the time Henry gets sick and when he dies. This is the time the girls are left to author their own experience. They are no longer held to Henry's image of them nor subject to interpretation by the art world.
To me, this speaks to the broader questions of what happens when we are free to craft our own adolescent narrative? Are we particularly good stewards of our own story and desires? And not that I intend to make this a political piece, I am definitely influenced more and more by my work with girl survivors of trauma and neglect.
Here is how we got to this point:
Flashback to 2009. I hear Peter Adams music under a Heather Britt dance work for the Cincinnati Ballet and know that this is the artist to make the VIVIAN GIRLS sing and this is the women to make them dance.
Cut to 2010. YOU help fund a workshop version of the first act in Cincinnati, Ohio. Michael E. Haney directs an amazing cast. We learn a LOT and I rewrite the play. Here are some clips. If you struggle to open them, use the code word vivian.
Cut to 2011. We make the first round of cuts for the O'Neill National Musical Theatre Conference. We get super stoked. Although we don't proceed to the finals. Dang.
Cut to later in 2011. Thanks to my True Body colleague Liza Zapol, the work becomes known to the American Folk Art Museum and we meet and think "How cool would it be to workshop the new first act in NY and present a work-in-progress event in NY?"
Cut to even later in 2011. Sarah Cameron Sunde, director, agrees to direct/collaborate with us on our NY workshop and Amanda Feldman agrees to produce. So we pick a week to workshop the first act with NY and Cincinnati actors and agree on a date with the American Folk Art Museum.
Cut to today. We ask YOU again to help support this work. We hope you agree that we have been a good steward of your funds as we conspire to make a new and organic theatrical piece in a challenging economy.
Flash forward to May 12, 2012. Thanks to YOU, we have been able to spend a week in rehearsal in New York AND give a work-in-progress performance at the American Folk Art Museum's Lincoln Center gallery space. Hopefully, this will help the work mature and capture the attention of the organization that wishes to shepherd it to a true, real live premiere.
We hope you will join us for another round or come on board for your first round of support on our Vivian Girls adventure.
Thank you in advance.
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