Supporting creative work by women
Kristin McCarthy Parker is a director known for bringing inventive parodies to life. Soon, she will have two shows–Puffs, featuring the most famous wizard in the world, and KEVIN!!!!!, a new take on the one of the biggest comedy films of all time–on the boards. The latter piece opens at The PIT in December and is the brainchild of Parker’s company Recent Cutbacks.
Parker spoke to Works by Women about Recent Cutbacks’ creative process, how to approach directing a parody and what is her dream directing project.
WORKS BY WOMEN: How does Recent Cutbacks select which movies to refashion as parody theater?
KRISTIN MCCARTHY PARKER: We pick something that complements the aesthetic/medium we’re interested in exploring. With KEVIN!!!!!, we knew we were interested in exploring puppets and projections, and that toys-come-to-life aesthetic fit well with the Christmas theme. Fly, You Fools! was us wanting to do a more sophisticated, pared-down, physical theater piece. We take what we love and explore it in a way that challenges us.
WBW: How do you devise the new pieces? What is your process?
KMP: We spend months brainstorming and researching ideas that we can bring into the rehearsal room. From there, we tackle it piece by piece… come in with a lots of ideas and the best one wins, often with a bunch of tweaking and honing. We trust each other, and know when to take the lead or give the floor. No one’s precious about their ideas, we all work to find a balance of ingenuity, humor, and technique, all with an eye towards how we’re engaging the audience in each and every moment of the show. There’s our fair share of agonizing over the project and getting existential about what we’re doing with our lives in week three, but it’s all a part of the process. We take big risks to find something new.
WBW: Tell me about KEVIN!!!!! How is it like other Recent Cutbacks shows and different from them?
KMP: Similar in approach, but very different in execution. We still want people to be reminded of why they love this film as well as lifting it up to poke fun at it, but we are doing so with a bunch of materials that we haven’t used before, such as puppets and live projections. It’s really important to us that the company continues to grow in terms of our aesthetic and artistry, so the ambition of this project is the logical next step up for us. We’re also very excited to showcase the holiday music with a live four-person choir.
WBW: What are your favorite films? And why?
KMP: I love the Lord of the Rings trilogy, so doing Fly, You Fools! was a treat for me. My favorites are big action and fantasy movies, like Mad Max… so thrilling, empowering, and beautifully done.
WBW: You’ve directed a number of parodies, including Puffs. Any advice or strategy for directing parodies?
KMP: Find a balance of humor and heart. There are so many parodies that feel concerned with only poking fun at something, but that’s just one layer of it. Puffs is rooted in the audience empathizing with the characters on stage. Recent Cutbacks is more deeply rooted in nostalgia, but also inventiveness. It’s not just parodying something we know and love, but using the stage and our limited resources to engage the audience’s imagination. We want to continually outpace and subvert the audience’s expectations, not just to entertain but to spark creativity.
WBW: What’s a project you dream of directing?
KMP: A musical! I’m dying to direct one!
WBW: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
KMP: Don’t compare yourself to others. I’ve found a weird and wonderful niche in the directing world that allows me to do my best work. Trying to follow someone else’s path or a more “traditional” path almost derailed me when I was new to the city. Letting go of others’ accomplishments and expectations gave me the freedom to start Recent Cutbacks, and so much of what I’m doing now has stemmed from there.
KEVIN!!!!! runs at The PIT (123 E 24th Street) December 1 – January 7. Puffs is at The Elektra Theatre (300 West 43rd) through January 1.