Ghost Rings
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Ghost Rings

Half Straddle

A tale of friendship, and the intricacies of family-making, unfurls through a soaring pop song cycle with a mix of deadpan magical realism and feminist worldview.

Venue

Painted Bride Art Center
230 Vine St
Philadelphia, 19106
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DescriptionAbout the ArtistsInterviewsFurther Reading

“Fantastical, odd and sometimes so tender it’s raw, Ghost Rings is a pop concert with a drama inside, about trying to make sense of the hole in your soul when the person you believed would stick around forever drifts away.” The New York Times

“I was subconsciously exploring the idea of energy between pairs—I was very interested in considering that kind of deep, deep romance that exists in totally non-sexual dynamics.” Tina Satter of Half Straddle

A tale of friendship, and the intricacies of family-making, unfurls through a soaring pop song cycle with a mix of deadpan magical realism and feminist worldview. Structured and presented as a live concert, singers Erin Markey and Kristen Sieh—along with their not always trustworthy Private Inner Beings—lead a rock group that’s like a family band of yesteryear. Ghost Rings offers a tender and harrowingly funny visual and sonic experience that traverses the multiple and messy layers of romance from childhood through adolescence to adulthood. Playing with the possibilities of contemporary drama within a rock show, playwright–director Tina Satter weaves her own childhood with her sister alongside newly imagined stories that explore the powerful energy and great vulnerability of deep, personal relationships.

Written and Directed by Tina Satter Music Composed by Chris Giarmo and Erin Markey Arrangements, Music Direction and Sound Design Chris Giarmo Set Parker Lutz Lighting Chris Kuhl Puppets Amanda Villalobos Costumes Enver Chakartash Producer Nina Segal Performers Chris Giarmo, Erin Markey, Tina Satter, Amber Gray

$29 general / $20.30 member (Click here to join and save 30% on tickets to all shows!)
$15 student + 25-and-under

The Sept 9 performance of Ghost Rings at 8pm will be ASL interpreted.

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Festival Co-Producers Larry H. & Ann Rosen Spector

Photos: Maria Baranova


About Tina Satter

Tina Satter is an American writer, director, and artistic director of the Brooklyn-based, Obie-winning theater company Half Straddle. She is a recipient of a 2016 Foundation for Contemporary Arts Award; a 2014 Doris Duke Impact Award, and was named an Off-Off Broadway Innovator to Watch by Time Out New York. She has written and directed nine full-length shows and a number of smaller performances and video works with Half Straddle. Tina’s work has been presented at theaters and festivals in Europe, Asia, Australia, and throughout the United States. Her first collection of plays, Seagull (Thinking of you), was published by 53rd State Press in 2014.


Interview with Tina Satter

Abridged interview. Find the full interview at the FringeArts Blog.

FringeArts: Do you remember how the title Ghost Rings came into being?

Tina Satter: Yes, in 2011, I was at a three-day silent writing retreat in upstate New York facilitated by the incredible playwright Erik Ehn. It was through the Pataphysics Playwriting Workshops. I generated some writing there that I’d had no pre-plan for, and it was taking shape in earliest forms as a conversation between two young women, I didn’t know yet if they were sisters or friends or romantic partners – and in this early writing they were discussing basic things like borrowing a sweater, but then also asking each other these really dark existential questions—and in that first writing I remember having this thought that there was this kind of candy these girls would eat, I imagined it as pale purple circles and I called the candy Ghost Rings. And then I must have left the retreat titling all that early writing, draft, whatever it was, Ghost Rings, because when we showed the earliest versions of it at CATCH in June 2012, the whole thing is then called Ghost Rings.

FringeArts: Can you discuss the format of Ghost Rings, the rock concert that works as a play/a play that works as a rock concert?

Tina Satter: Once I was truly “joining” the band onstage to play drums—this idea of a band as the performative framework really was in motion—but we still had to figure out really what that meant, what idiom were we playing with, etc. The songs were these special, singular, quite pop-py, and beautiful songs that could have gone in a number of forms—so I started looking at footage of bands, female bands, Riot Grrrl, stuff etc. and there’s that incredible shared looseness of live rock—that’s at once totally synced and then totally, totally live aspect that felt really exciting to be this container for this emotional throughline that was hard to nail down but very evocative within text and songs.

And, then what did it mean if we kept sections dialogue and these big animal puppets within the music context? And, it kept making sense to make those work within a rock concert idea—that there are mic stands and a set highly designed but for a rock show, not some traditional theater set. And that since the show now contained these varied narratives—the romanticized friendship of the two girls, their pending queer parenthood, and then my stuff with my sister—all that could exist with way less pressure on it to tell a straightforward narrative if it existed in this song cycle format. Music engenders a feeling you can’t even name in your body, heart, and brain, and watching these people onstage not just create narratives and drama, but all this live melody just really paired with the content of the show and our holistic approach to it from the earliest stages. And, Chris Giarmo, and Erin Markey, and Kristen Sieh are rock stars!

FringeArts: Can you talk a little about the idea of pairing? Writing about you and your sister and then spinning that off into two characters who are lovers as well as two personal animal daemons?

Tina Satter: It’s funny that as obvious as that concept is, I’ve never consider the idea of “pairing” in the show, but it’s kind of the whole thing! But, yeah, I actually started with the idea of the two girls as the very first narrative line, and in the very first iterations of the piece I hadn’t yet decided if they were sisters or not—and that was several years before I added in the explicit writing about my sister—so the sister concept was haunting it I guess. But, because I just have one sibling, one sister, and we grew up so close—that relationship, dynamic, and how we communicate does inform in varying levels everything I make. And as this show developed to encase both the romanticized girls and the thread of my sister and I, I was subconsciously exploring the idea of energy between pairs—like I was very interested in considering that kind of deep, deep romance that exists in totally non-sexual dynamics, like between sisters or two platonic friends. So, once I was exploring essentially the sadness, and amazing memories of a kind of lost “romance” with my sister, then it was then also really cool to push the friendship narrative in the piece to a more sexualized romantic space, but in this very weird and holistic way that now with distance from the making of the show itself I can see weaves together a childhood version of romance; the true attempts at adolescent connection with another, both sexual and not; and then the actual real-life absurdity and beauty and devastation that exists almost minute to minute in attempting love and commitment between two people as an adult.

I also didn’t realize for a while, that even though I had read and loved A Golden Compass, that I had straight up rendered a version of daemons in this. But I can’t point to a clear intellectual reason why I added those animals – this idea of a private inner being – in that early writing.  I guess for the obvious dramatic action of actualizing an inner version of one’s self. And, the thing that was exciting the first day we rehearsed with rehearsal versions of the life-size puppets and the girls each held a microphone and would switch between their “Girl” voice and “Private Inner Being” voice—and they were doing the section where the Deer is asking Seal-y about masturbation and Chris was doing this live accompaniment—and as the animals like shyly awkwardly moved led by the girls’ hands and talked in this weird animal voice on mic, suddenly, we were like this is it! These weird DIY animals are exactly what the girls should-would make to really say things to each other. Having them rendered as these weird art animals speaking through microphones felt punk and female and so much of the essence of the piece we were trying to dig into.


Further Reading

Tina Satter Talks Half Straddle and Ghost Rings

In-depth PASTE Magazine interview with Tina Satter, covering her evolution as an artist and the creation of Ghost Rings.

Excerpt

Tina Satter: When I think about what first informed me when I first started writing plays, it was drew from that closeness I had with my sister. And that coded language you have with a sibling. And I continue to draw on it, subconsciously. I feel like I, as a human, and my feminist and art side, came from being next to my sister for so much of my life.

Read the full interview here.