Supporting creative work by women
Molly Murphy will be on stage this weekend in New York at Incubator Arts Project in her new show Molly Murphy and Neil deGrasse Tyson on Our Last Day on Earth. The piece tackles Murphy’s affection for a well known physicist as they come to terms with the final days while at the American Museum of Natural History. And there’s cabaret. Not exactly what you see on New York stages every day, and that’s what makes this new piece exciting.
Molly spoke with Works by Women about science and theater, her next project at The Public, and why she’s hopeful.
WORKS BY WOMEN: Science and theater. I’ve often heard they are at odds, but I love both. What draws you to both?
MOLLY MURPHY: We all love a great mystery, right? All trying to learn about ourselves and the our world. The kid taking apart the remote control to learn how it’s built. Waiting with bated breath to see if one Real Housewife will throw chardonnay on another. The unknowns just around the corner.
Part of Dr. Tyson’s genius is that he treats the sciences like pop culture, like a drama with surprises at every turn. All the sciences have great stories- but there is a special awe and wonderment when one looks up to consider the cosmos. I love when we concern ourselves with culture not just as one part of ourselves, but in the broadest way.
WBW: Tell me more about this piece — Molly Murphy and Neil Degrasse Tyson on Our Last Day on Earth. How does cabaret enter the picture?
MM: Molly Murphy and Neil deGrassse Tyson… is about a super famous scientist and his biggest fan-girl, a fictional character named Molly Murphy. The earth is a day away from being sucked into a black hole. Molly Murphy decides she has to fulfill her dream of meeting hero and becoming the world’s first space tourist.
The cabaret element is inspired by the man himself. Dr. Tyson is such a show man. He lectures are full of music and live demonstrations. His radio show is always stocked with celebrities. There’s such a razzle dazzle to his persona. I love that he embraces the high and low brow in one fell swoop. Cabaret often takes existing material and twists it’s meaning. While this is traditionally done with music- we are using the physics for our canvas.
We used to perform the show with lots of cover music. This time around Loren Beri and Kyle Acheson have written all original music.
WBW: What’s next for the piece?
MM: I think this residency will teach us a lot about how big the show wants to be. We hope to in the end create a full length avant garde musical-ish spectacle.
WBW: What first interested you in being a theater artist? What sparked the magic?
MM: I remember running home my my school bus stop in Galveston, Texas so I could watch the Rosie O’Donnell Show. She always had the big Broadway musicals perform and I remember being mesmerized by all the flashy showbiz and koosh balls.
WBW: You next work at The Public on Suzan-Lori Parks’ newest piece. How are rehearsals going? What excites you about this new piece?
MM: It’s wonderful to watch great artists indefatigably working to make a piece of the theatre the best it can be. That courage inspires to go to your own rehearsal and do your best imitation.
WBW: What are the challenges facing women in American theater?
MM: We’re lucky that we have the example of many great artists who have beat paths and shattered ceilings before us. I feel challenged to carry that baton forward.
Certainly there is insidious sexism in many a dark corner of our field. Certainly this is true in many fields. We solider on.
WBW: What gives you hope in American theater?
MM: American Theater is full of hope! (I hope.) We’re still working. Writing things. Going to rehearsals in nice rooms and shitty rooms alike. Still dreaming up ideas. As long as the artists keep showing up, keep digging deep to make it happen- there’s hope yet!