Supporting creative work by women
Maridee Slater continues her fruitful collaboration with playwright/performer/composer Jillie Mae Eddy this summer at the New York International Fringe Festival. She is producing Eddy’s no-holds barred play about American masculinity, The Boys Are Angry, for Maineland Productions. Maridee also holds an MFA in directing from Columbia University and has extensive experience in many theater scene shops. In other words, she’s a true theater Renaissance woman.
Here’s how Maridee describes herself in her bio: “She comes from the desert. Her name means “of the sea.” That irony is not lost on her, or wasted.” Works by Women spoke with Maridee about her collaboration with Jillie Mae Eddy, what excites her about being in FringeNYC and the inspiration behind The Boys Are Angry.
WORKS BY WOMEN: You produce. You direct. You build sets. Why theater? How do you juggle all of those hats?
MARIDEE SLATER: I always wanted to be a director. As a young artist, I worked mostly in movement and two dimensional painting and collage. Once I figured out that these two could be married, I set off to learn all languages of the theater. I wanted to be able to not only see every mechanism of the storytelling machine, but also to be able to speak from and relate to every aspect of the process from a place of understanding and compassion. I suppose I juggle all of these hats with patience and a trust that no matter the hat I’m wearing, I am wearing that hat in service of The Work. Why theater? It’s about community. It’s about that moment in a live performance when the actual temperature in the room changes. I’m chasing that moment.
WBW: Tell us about The Boys Are Angry?
MS: The Boys Are Angry calls attention to a movement that is fueling an increasing amount of violence against women in modern society. Maybe, if I am honest, not anything as new or increased as I tell myself. This play calls warns of a hate group that is in no way taken as seriously as it should be. Call them what you want: New Misogynists, Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs), Red Pill-ers, Involuntary Celibates (Incels), Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW), Pick Up Artists (PUAs); these all add up to very bad news. They are, as my collaborator and playwright of this piece (Jillie Mae Eddy) says, “the butt of a joke”, but they are a terrifying butt if left unattended. It’s like a brush fire gone straight to inferno. Unattended, this movement could grow from a tiny fire to a blazing beast. It’s easy to push aside these “trolls, teenagers, and outsiders” when we aren’t asked to actively engage with their rhetoric. There are some scary ideas being tossed around on the internet, and they lead to incidents like what we had with Elliot Rodger.
Of course, naturally, this play is hilarious. It is my kind of humor: dark, true. And it covers all sorts of benevolent misogyny—tromantic movie misogyny, for instance.
WBW: You’ve worked with playwright/actress Jillie Mae Eddy before. What makes your working relationship special?
MS: Trust. So much trust. I met Jillie Mae Eddy when I was hired to direct a workshop of her folk opera The Girl From Bare Cove through a shout out to Bowdoin alumni that my dear friend Ailsinn Curry caught wind of. I had this residency in Maine with Mohawk Arts Collective that summer, and I suggested we take Bare Cove up to the residency. Jill agreed, and surprisingly, she came up to Maine with four other musician/performers to workshop the show for two weeks in this amazing barn on the coast. That level of commitment and dive-in attitude is contagious, and Jillie Mae and I both have it. She’s been a part of everything I’ve worked on since we met. And I’ll work with her as long as she’ll have me. We have a mutual admiration that is unmatched by nothing else I’ve known in life. The Girl From Bare Cove went on to become my materials project for Columbia. Materials Projects are supposed to be in line with the kind of work you want to be making for the rest of your life. They are like the theses of your soul as a director. So, of course I worked with Jillie Mae on that. She is the thesis of my soul.
WBW: Why are you excited to be a part of the New York International Fringe Festival?
MS: Ah man, I’m all about community. I’ve done my stint at Edinburgh before, but FringeNYC has always been a dream. Up until this summer, I’ve been driving across the country in August and missed FringeNYC. I couldn’t think of a better show or family to pop my FringeNYC cherry on than this.
WBW: What’s next for you?
MS: That is the greatest question of all time. I’m currently working on a piece with Jillie Mae Eddy and The Boys Are Angry director Sam Plattus (and hopefully more of our mafia) about the 27 Club. The piece is called ‘28‘, and encompasses toxic relationships, selling your soul to the devil, and the degenerating effect of fame. There is another project we are working on that investigates what makes women angry and how they express that anger called No More Good Girls. I have a side project I’ve been stewing on called Bogart (a solo show conjuring the philosophies of Anne Bogart). I’m also trying to navigate my way through the world post grad school. I’ve had this structure and mentorship for the past three years through Columbia University (and before that SITI Company), and now I’m out on my own again. It feels nice. Next for me? I’m spreading my wings and riding the wind.
WBW: What are the challenges facing women in American theater?
MS: Everything. When I interviewed to be the scenic carpentry apprentice at a major regional theater, they asked me to go into the shop and find the jig-saw and, once I was hired, I was constantly reminded of how surprised everyone was at my physical strength. And sometimes I felt like the big question was whether or not they should date me, fuck me, or collaborate with me. So that’s a bit on me and them, social conditioning gets in the way. This morning, while trying to prepare for a class I am assisting at Columbia, I was yelled at by a janitor for trying to help him set up chairs because he didn’t want me to “hurt myself”. SETTING UP CHAIRS. And that’s just my personal back and forth on a day-to-day. Women in American theater? We have to be fucking warriors. It’s a full contact sport, this industry.
WBW: What gives you hope for women in American theater?
MS: Women in American Theater. They give me hope.
The Boys Are Angry will premiere at the New York International Fringe Festival in August 2016. For more information and tickets, visit www.fringenyc.org.