Go Deeper

daDAda: Dada? Q&A with Thomas Choinacky of the Anthology Project

Posted September 8th, 2009

daDAda opened at Philly Fringe on Saturday, with two shows at the Northern Liberties Community Center. I caught up with Thomas Choinacky of the Anthology Project to see how the group’s piece reimagines the early 20th century (anti-) art and literary movement.

How is daDAda different than the original Dada movement?
Really there isn’t much of a difference because the performance is based off the same ideas of the earlier movement. My interpretation is influenced by the cabarets that they would put on in Zurich. A lot of their work was very improvisational and certainly not plot driven. For instance, one performer could be reciting a poet while another is lying on the floor and screaming nonsense. In short, I like to think of this production as a “mash up” of how Dada progressed and eventually came to an end.

What is Dada and what isn’t Dada?
It’s hard to describe because Dada is the inverse of itself. Most people consider Marchel Duchamp’s readymades, or a Tristan Tzara poem to be representative of Dada work. It’s much easier to say that this object is Dada while this piece is not. That was the challenge in putting onto this piece. Often a friend would say that’s too Surrealist, which came after. Really, my goal for this production is to revive the spirit of Dada by bringing it to the stage. I think it’s a shame the movement had to end and I think it’s time we bring it back.

Do you think Dada is relevant today?

I think Dada can be the Twitter account for theatrical performances. It’ll definitely appeal to the ADD crowd.

How are your going to translate your interpretation of Dadaism to the stage?
At the beginning of the show, we’re going to distribute playing cards from the game Apples to Apples to members of the audience. We want to include them in the show because their role will help influence our performance. If someone hands me a card that says “Depression,” I might break out in an interpretative dance based on that word. Because a Dada production lacks a traditional narrative, the focus of the show will be directed toward the character’s movement.

As an actor, you really have to get into a different mindset. There’s not the same level of self-reflection that goes into a character’s development. And you have to realize that not all members of the audience will understand or respond positively to what you are doing.

How many performers will we see on stage?

There will be two actors on the stage, but the audience is also a performer. In fact, before the show begins, anyone can get a discount on the ticket price if they recite a poem, sing a song, or perform an absurd act. As I’ve said before, they’re also driving the content of the show. Also, the props we will use, our location at the Northern Liberties Communty Center, and our costumes are important actors to consider. For instance, I’m definitely going to hold interesting conversations with a cardboard box.

Tell me more about the costumes.

I would say that the costumes are over the top. I’ll be wearing a very brightly colored suit with suspenders and a wig. Let’s just say there’s not going to be a natural look to anything.

What’s the story behind the Anthology Project?

We’re a group of three theater professionals that formed when we were apprentices at the Arden Theater. We come from different professional backgrounds; I am involved with production while Carla Emanuele does costumes and Rachel Robbins comes from a development angle. Together we want to offer a new voice to performance art and experimental theater. We’ve performed Gas in last year’s Philly Fringe festival as well as put on one man shows in apartments and food stores.

After daDAda’s run at the fringe, will we expect more productions from the Anthology Project?

We hope to take daDAda to Fringe festivals in other cities. We also want to perform a series of experimental one man shows and somehow carry the spirit of the Philly Fringe festival throughout the year. It’s shame there aren’t more venues for experimental theater year round, but our goal is to expand more opportunities on a grander scale.

daDAda continues at Philly Fringe on September 9, 12, and 19. Two shows each night, 7:00 and 9:00 pm. $15, at the Northern Liberties Community Center, 700 N. 3rd St., Philadelphia.

–Spencer Silverthorne

Photo credit: Thomas Choinacky.