Supporting creative work by women
Carrie Brown is one-half of the Animal Engine Theatre Company along with Karim Muasher. After wowing audiences with The Vindlevoss Family Circus Spectacular last year, the company returns to FRIGID New York with Petunia and Chicken, a sumptuous prairie love story inspired by the work of Willa Cather.
Carrie spoke with Works by Women about what’s next for Animal Engine and what drew her to Cather’s work.
WORKS BY WOMEN: Tell me about Animal Engine and how you create work.
CARRIE BROWN: Animal Engine is me and my husband Karim. We create original devised theatre. We start with an inspiration rather than a script, and then through improvisations and writing sessions we create a full length show.
WBW: This is your second go-round in the FRIGID Festival. What makes this event so special?
CB: FRIGID is like a small town festival, but in the big city. Horse Trade has done a phenomenal job creating a community around this event.
WBW: What inspired you to create a piece based on Willa Cather’s work? How did you develop it?
CB: I’m from Nebraska and was feeling homesick in Big ol’ NYC, so I picked up a copy of My Antonia and loved it. I told Karim to read it and he loved it too. Then we read O Pioneers!, and we were equally enamored. Then we finished off our Cather journey with Song of the Lark. We were hooked. And so we decided to make a show. We watched a lot of epic romance movies like From Here to Eternity, East of Eden, and Gone with the Wind to sort of get a sense of the melodrama we wanted to portray. We also listened to a bunch of old time music (we even took banjo and fiddle lessons) for inspiration.
WBW: How did you become interested in the studying clown work?
CB: There is only one thing that I think I’m really (like really) good at, and that’s being funny, and one thing that I think I’m really bad at and that’s being outgoing. Clown allows me to be funny while forcing me to truly connect to people. It’s good for me.
WBW: What’s next for you?
CB: We’re about to embark on a five-month high school and Fringe tour with Petunia and Chicken. During this time we will also be developing two new shows. We’re crazy.
WBW: What are the challenges facing women in American theater?
CB: I think women sometimes feel they need to prove that they are just as good as the guys. And that’s a problem because then there is this extra self conscious layer on top of everything else you’re trying to convey in your work. Just do your work and do it damn well and don’t worry if you’re a man or a woman.
WBW: What gives you hope for women in American theater?
CB: I don’t believe I ever lacked hope for women in theater. I’d be foolish to be in this business if I did.
Animal Engine performs Petunia and Chicken through March 8th at the Frigid Festival. For information and tickets, visit the Frigid Festival web site.