Posts Tagged ‘Whit MacLaughlin’

Making Art in 2017: Whit MacLaughlin on Hello Blackout

Posted August 30th, 2017

Whit MacLaughlin

Name: Whit MacLaughlin

Company: New Paradise Laboratories

Show in 2017 Festival: Hello Blackout! also screenings of O Monsters.

Past Festival shows: Curated shows: O Monsters, The Adults, 27, Freedom Club, Extremely Public Displays of Privacy, Fatebook, Batch: An American Bachelor/ette Party, Planetary Enzyme Blues, Rrose Selavy Takes a Lover in Philadelphia, The Fab 4 Reach the Pearly Gates, This Mansion is a Hole. Self-produced: Gold Russian Finger Love.

FringeArtsTell us about your show. 

Whit MacLaughlin: As a company, we have been drawn to big questions from the beginning: Why is there something instead of nothing? What is the big system we’re all a part of? What does Philadelphia, as a city, as a concept, really mean? Why do we die? Questions that don’t have answers. NPL takes delight in asking unanswerable questions. It’s an obsession. Now we ask: why do we have something called a “future” that is so hard to predict? Seems like a fundamental question, but one that’s almost pure nonsense. One might be tempted to say: “What a stupid question!” Of course we have a future, but we can’t tell what it’s going to be because it’s not here yet. There’s no answer. Yet. Maybe tomorrow.

Nevertheless, almost everything we do in daily life involves searching for a way to predict what’s going to happen. What’s going to come in the mail today? Should I take that job? Am I going to be diagnosed with something bad? Who am I going to marry? We say: the fun is in the finding out! But still, it’s perplexing and frustrating, this issue of the future. Almost all Greek drama is about trying to see the future. Tiresias, the blind oracle, is in many of the plays. A BLIND ORACLE. Drama, from the beginning, has always been about the problem of a future that’s unforeseeable. Like Hamlet trying to figure out what to do to remedy his father’s murder. We’re paying close attention to a newly developing school of thought, a philosophy, called Speculative Realism. It suggests that the only absolute in the world, the only thing that must exist, is “contingency.” The world weaves itself out of a chaotic state and the things that happen don’t necessarily have a reason. May seem obvious, but we think it’s worth considering a bit more deeply, especially now that technology seems to move faster than we can, that our political life seems off the rails, that we live in a “quantum universe.” What does any of that actually mean for us on a daily basis? NPL takes big questions and blends them into a big question cocktail, then gets everybody drunk on it.

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The Unprecedented Universe of O Monsters First Draft

Posted April 20th, 2016

Whit MacLaughlin is on his way to a tech rehearsal for his company’s latest production, O Monsters First Draft (tickets/info), yet has graciously taken the time to talk with me despite only being able to hear me through one headphone. “The world makes itself up as it goes along, it’s self-generated,” the artistic director of New Paradise Laboratories asserts.

Over the course of his commute MacLaughlin broke down some of the headier ideas that have fueled the production. Though they may be lofty ideas that are difficult to pin down, O Monsters First Draft is not a lecture or a philosophical treatise. “I’m not a philosopher, but I enjoy the stuff and enjoy thinking about all this crazy wonderfully cosmic stuff,” MacLaughlin tells me. “That’s why we make this, to blow our own minds.”


NPL’s Whit MacLaughlin 

O Monsters First Draft invites audiences to imagine the world separate from our human understanding of it—and proposes how humans might exist in such a world. The Kissimmee family at the center of the show may seem recognizable, but they are fundamentally—perhaps biologically—different from us.

In searching for this idea of non-human perspectives, NPL drew inspiration from speculative fiction and the contemporary philosophical movement speculative realism, which in turn led them to explore examples of contingency and the unprecedented. They welcomed elements of chance to intrude into their creative processes, and the humanly indefinable result is a fitting show for the experimental theater company’s twentieth year of existence.

Below are some introductions to the concepts we discussed. Let these metaphysical musings set your creative gears turning.

Speculative Realism

“The universe in speculative realism is not a box of laws according to which everything behaved in lockstep. It’s a thing that makes itself up as it goes along, and though the laws of the universe seem stable to us now we have to admit that they probably evolve,” MacLaughlin explains. Speculative realism seeks to overturn previously held philosophical notions that favor human perspective. It posits that we as humans cannot logically deduce with one hundred percent certainty that something is going to happen simply based on our sense of precedent. Our sense of probability inevitably falls short of possibility.


Photo by Plate3


A term from philosopher Quentin Meillassoux, ancestrality describes everything that occurred before the emergence of the human species. What MacLaughlin finds interesting about this concept comes from thinking about and anticipating mutation: “If you had been standing around watching human beings develop back in the day—hominids moving towards Cro-Magnon—you probably wouldn’t have been able to predict the advent of consciousness,” he asserts, paraphrasing Meillasoux. “It was happening, but it appeared as an unprecedented thing and something deep in the problem of consciousness makes it impossible to predict the unprecedented.”

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Artists & Their Coffee: Whit MacLaughlin

Posted March 28th, 2012

Name: Whit MacLaughlin

Company: New Paradise Laboratories

Artistic occupation: Artistic director

First experience with coffee that made you understand coffee: Coffee crept inexorably into my life. One day I turned around and I was married to it.

Coffee you drink at home: Whole Foods 365 brand. French Roast. Very reliable and it used to be pretty cheap.

How do you like your coffee? Naked.

Average no. of cups per day? Um between 3 and 30 cups.

Fave coffee shop: My house.

Fave fancy coffee drink: I don’t have one. No offense. On occasion I’ll drink a coffee boilermaker–black coffee with an espresso shot. But that’s just ridiculous.  In Japan they sell a “tonic” from vending machines: a sweet base with triple caffeine, nicotine, and a completely weird snort of full strength menthol. It’s compelling.

What’s the most inappropriate thing a barista has ever said to you? I still don’t always remember the NYC “black-but-no-cream-OR-sugar” coffee culture aberration. Also remember that coffee is now bonified medicine. Prevents depression, reduces suicide, provides deterrent to cancer in general, drastically reduces prostate cancer. Insurance companies should institute financial incentive to consume.  [Ed. note: neither of these answers really responds to the question, but that’s the artistic privilege.]

Enough about coffee, what are you doing now? The Poet Laureate of Capitalism with the Riot Group in NYC; Etched in Skin on a Sunlit Night—new play by Kara Lee Corthron at Interact Theatre; and 27, the new NPL piece at this year’s Live Arts. Also FATEBOOK in Prague and a crazy app delivered all-city performance piece in Kansas City, Missouri.

[Ed note: Check out this nice article on mashable.com about NPL and creating online performance spaces.]