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Posts Tagged ‘I Promised Myself to Live Faster’

How to Live Faster: Interview with Dito van Reigersberg of Pig Iron

Posted May 19th, 2015

141005_PIG_IRON_LIVE_FASTER19118Pig Iron Theatre Company’s latest wild theatrical creation opens this week at FringeArts. I Promised Myself to Live Faster is an absurdist sci-fi epic and wild allegory about gayness in 2015, and inspired by the life and works of theater legend Charles Ludlam. We caught up earlier this year with co-creator Dito van Reigersberg while Live Faster was still in development to give us some insight.

FringeArts: How did the idea for I Promised Myself To Live Faster come about?

Dito van Reigersberg: It was a strange and circuitous route to the sci-fi world. Mainly we began with the idea of a Pig Iron piece instigated by me/Martha Graham Cracker, my drag alter-ego. Originally it was called The Melodrama Project and I was interested in going for high-stakes drama but in a kind of camp or ridiculous setting. One exercise we did early on was create characters based on silly voices that we liked and then we tried to retain these goofy voices/characters but play a serious, dramatic scene, with no comment or laughing on the part of the performers. I guess it was a version of what Martha is, a hairy-chested drag queen who is sometimes playing for laughs, sometimes quite unexpectedly serious and sincere.

Then I was doing Irma Vep at Act II, this crazy quick-change romp of a play by Charles Ludlam. And I was reading a biography of Ludlam at the same time. He was also a hairy-chested drag queen, like me! He led an insanely talented and wild group of ragtag performers and made a huge mark on the downtown New York City theater scene. He was one of our director Dan Rothenberg’s heroes; Dan knew all the anecdotes about Ludlam via his High School drama teacher Bill Sweeney.

141005_PIG_IRON_LIVE_FASTER19466Then we thought about making a kind of biopic about Ludlam. His life story is kind of incredible. He was an outcast, a precocious teen—he staged Japanese Noh dramas with his High School friends. In acting school he was told that his acting style was “too enormous” and that he was to be strictly “a character actor,” and then he created this theater company in which he was the star performer, playwright, director, and impresario. His most famous performance was Camille, in which he tragically dies in hairy-chested drag in a performance that also blended the dramatic and the ridiculous; his company in fact was named the Ridiculous Theatrical Company. His real-life death of AIDS at the age of forty-four is the chilling counter to all of the silly joy of his life. And it is haunting, the fact that he played Camille, a character dying of consumption, over and over, as his most famed role.

But eventually, although a biopic did seem possible and exciting, we decided to set ourselves free from the truth and the real history and give ourselves permission to do something as silly and frolicsome as Ludlam, in a Ludlamesque way, sprayed with an Essence du Ludlam.

FringeArts: And the title is from . . . ?

Dito van Reigersberg: Our title comes from a line from Camille. She says: “I knew I would not live as long as the others so I promised myself to live more quickly.”

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