In Their Own Words: ‘Edward and Christine’ Creators Share Their Unconventional Take on the Series

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By Tia Shearer, Deb Sivigny and Anna Lathrop

Editor’s note: DCMTA occasionally invites artists to write about their own work. In this submission, artists Tia Shearer, Deb Sivigny and Anna Lathrop write about their five-plus-year rehearsal process for Edward and Christine, a 1996 poem-play by Kenneth Koch that the trio will present in a Zoom production for an intimate audience of active viewers from May 13 to June 17, 2022.

In the play, Edward and Christine meet, fall in love, marry, procreate, divorce. Only they do it completely out of order and with talking bunnies, hungry statues, cannibals, and a host of other real and imagined witnesses and players.

Tia Shearer in “Edward and Christine”. Screenshot courtesy of the artist.

In this version, the 100+ characters are all represented by Shearer, performing from his living room to yours (with potential appearances from his son and his cat).

Viewers will be invited to keep their cameras on…have a few of their own pre-collected items nearby and embrace the delicious mess of love, life, and Zoom/living room theater!

And now, without further ado, Anna Lathrop, Tia Shearer Bassett, and Deb Sivigny (plus guests) chat Edward and Christine…in the unconventional style of Edward and Christine.

WHAT
Tia: Edward and Christine is a poem-play by Kenneth Koch, written for an undisclosed number of actors to portray over 100 characters in over 50 locations. We got permission to do it all with an actor and a bunch of objects. And then our actor got cancer, so we did the re-vision for Zoom. But, from the start, the idea was that we would work together on this piece, when we could and wanted to, without a specific result in mind.

Tia’s cat:

WHEN
A calendar: I’m going to need more to work, please. If you mean, when is the show? It’s happening now. At least the first iteration is happening now. On a bizarre schedule that revolves around the actor’s family life and takes into account his neighbors in the apartment building.

If you mean, when did this all start? Well. Tia fell in love with the play straight out of college, when she performed at the New York premiere (directed by Chris Goodrich of Unexpected Stage). In 2015, she brought a first idea for the project to Anna, and they began to imagine the piece for 2 clowns (“bravo”, as the children say, to Séamus Miller). Then, after working on 2 wonderful solo shows, Tia had the idea to try E&C as a solo piece. In 2017, she brought this crazy idea to Deb and Anna.

WHY
Anna: I wanted to work on this project because first I was attracted by the opportunity to work with Tia, who is a really great actress, and then later by the opportunity to work with Deb, who is a creative Truly unbelievable. It’s so rare to work on a project where every artist has an equal voice – theater as we generally know it in America is normally very hierarchical and siloed. It was an opportunity to work with two artists whose voices and visions I deeply respect without the constraints of urgency and product-driven artistic creation.

Start: I’m always on the lookout for interesting projects that stretch both my design knowledge and my dramaturgical brain. When Tia and Anna approached me about joining their team, it was an automatic yes – the opportunity to work with two amazing, creative and generous people on a story that didn’t have a pre-determined outcome was exciting. By working together, it was really the first time that I experienced a project without hierarchy. We worked together as a trio where ideas and roles overlapped and complemented each other. What a dream!

Tia: There’s a reason this piece has been buzzing in my brain since I was 22. I wanted to find that reason. Or at least (and maybe more importantly), take full advantage of the pursuit. Also, these days I only want to work on projects that make me happy, with people who make me feel comfortable and welcome and safe and intellectually fired up and challenged.

OR
Tia: We worked via email, Zoom, in person, in multiple states. We met and then the months passed; Then we would have a period of concentrated work together and then we would go our separate ways again, letting the play simmer. I have to credit another dear collaborator of mine, Natasha Mirny, as well as Michelle Kozlak of Arts on the Horizon, for opening my mind to the possibility of simmering a theatrical production. I think I can pass for someone with very quick energy? Like a rabbit or a squirrel? But this rabbit-squirrel loves to work slowly. It lets a room grow, it lets you grow with it, and it creates layers of richness, like sediment.

Airbnb farm in rural Pennsylvania: Oh yeah, those artistic city girls! They stayed for a weekend. Called it a retreat. They were nice, so I gave them my sweetest silence. The squirrel started talking to my sewing kit. Another made these cute paper cutouts, and a kind of zip line for them.

Tia Shearer in “Edward and Christine”. Screenshots courtesy of the artist.

HOW? ‘OR’ WHAT
Start: I was really drawn to the look and palette of mid-20th century travel postcards, especially when hotels, cities, cruise lines, etc. were announced. The rich but muted colors, that dusty, grainy look of the print, and the blocky coloring of the graphic – all gave a dreamy, hazy quality to the story, which goes to many places in a blur of memory.

Fuzzy memory: It’s true.

Start: I was also inspired by the simplicity of a hand or an object representing an entire figure: how expressive the rotation of a finger could be, how the contraction of a muscle could convey enormous emotion . I found artists like David Leventhal and Paul Zaloom and the way they used objects and gestures in their work was particularly instructive.

Anna: Some of my inspirations were the work of José Naranja, who created The Orange Manuscript; the works of 1927, a UK-based theater company; and the rest of Kenneth Koch’s poetry. He has such an amazing poetry collection and he creates such exquisite worlds that you just want to climb and inhabit.

WHO
Anna’s biographer: Anna often puts on a skeptical face at rest, but in reality, she’s just thinking — or trying to, anyway. She currently occupies many worlds, that of research, that of the future and that of theatre, and finds that these worlds sometimes collide in the most magical way.

Deb’s biographer: Deb often has that look on her face, a look of skepticism and sadness – but she doesn’t really mean it – rather she is thinking very hard about what she has just seen or heard. She’s kind of an octopus of ideas, but sometimes her brain ties those limbs together.

Tia’s biographer: Tia is a kind of Russian doll – a squirrel inside a turtle inside a wolf inside an actor. One day, she received a grant from her local government to help bring a first iteration of Edward and Christine to the People. This work is currently playing here.

Edward: Oh hello!

Christina: I felt the excitement of a walk of which I did not know the end….

Duration: approximately 80 minutes.

Edward and Christine is playing on Zoom on select dates from May 13 through June 17, 2022. For more ticket information, go to in line. Tickets are chargeable. The show is recommended for adults 18 years and older.

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