“Kiss Me or Cut Off My Head” will play a three week limited engagement at the Soho Photo Gallery (15 White Street, New York, NY 10013). Performances begin Thursday, August 20th and continue through Saturday, September 5th, 2015 . Opening Night is Thursday, August 20th at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $30.00 with 35% of ticket sales going to Margaret’s Safe Place. Tickets are available at www.kissmetheplay.com
Review Fix: What was the inspiration for this production?
Brooke M. Haney: Initially, years ago, it was Sheryl St. Germain’s gorgeous poetry, from her collection titled, “The Mask of Medusa.” But more recently, it was my trip to Kibera, Kenya exactly a year ago where I interviewed women who were survivors of sexual assault, and spent time with the girls of Margaret’s Safe House. At the end of her interview, one of the women asked me, “what will you do to help me?” I’d say that’s the thing that has kept me moving forward.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Haney: Adapting the play involved many nights of cutting up the poems, laying them all over the floor of my apartment, and piecing them back together. Over and over again. Interviews happened everywhere from my apartment, rented rehearsal rooms in the Opera America building, to a small room at the Kibera School for Girls in Kenya.
In rehearsal, Tracy Bersley (the director) will say things to me like: “Okay, I’m going to play some music, here are the rules… you have to keep moving, you have to deal with every inch of the space, you have to pursue your objective, you can’t stop.” And I do that. Then, the music stops and gasping for breath, I hear her say – “now speak the words…” This is one example of our process. Often we just talk it out.
Review Fix: What makes you different from other playwrights and performers?
Haney: Well, I think everyone is unique, so I’m not quite sure how to answer. I think we each have an individual voice that comes from our personal experiences, beliefs, choices and the way in which we view the world.
Review Fix: What makes this production special?
Haney: One of the most thrilling parts of this production to me is the partnership with RE:ARTISTE. They have connected us with Kate Goltseva and curated a beautiful collection of her photography that we are using in the show. It isn’t simply a play being performed in an art gallery, it’s a wonderful collaboration between a visual artist and theatrical artists.
Review Fix: How is the cast unique?
Haney: This cast is incredible! It’s a wonderfully talented group of actors. I often have a difficult time explaining the show. Sometimes people experience it as a one-person show, because I am the only actor on stage. However, there are an additional 18 actors in either video projection or voice-over – and I think this is a testament to their authenticity. With the exception of Giorgio Panetta (who plays Poseidon) and Madyson Pellegrino (the voice of the snake), the rest of the cast plays real people, survivors or others I interviewed. The do such a wonderfully truthful job that the audience seems to forget they are actors and just identifies with them as people.
Additionally, I’d like to say that this cast, crew and design team, as well as our previous workshop casts, have all worked for much less money then they are worth. They believe in the project and I am incredibly grateful to them for their time and talent. A couple of actors even donated their paycheck back to the production, because they were so invested in it.
Review Fix: What did you learn about yourself through this process?
Haney: This is incredibly difficult to answer, because I feel so much like I’m still in the midst of it. I vacillate between feeling terrified and thrilled most of the time. The play says “these streets are full of people like me…” One of the things I’m learning is that I have everything inside of me, every feeling, every experience – I simply need to find the place in me that it exists and allow myself to reveal it.
Review Fix: What are your goals for the production?
Haney: I hope that this production will raise money and awareness for Margaret’s Safe Place (35% of the proceeds go there). I hope that survivors of sexual assault who see the play will feel less alone. I hope that the play encourage friends and family of survivors to feel more equipped to support their loved ones and more comfortable hearing disclosure about sexual assault.
I’d also like it to be visually stunning, magically theatrical and at times fun.
Review Fix: Who do you think will enjoy it the most?
Haney: My mother.
But, aside from her, I think people who like to see inventive theatre in non-traditional spaces will get a huge kick out of this. Also, anyone who feels excited by different art forms coming together – theatre, poetry, photography.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Haney: We are releasing a short film once the play has closed called Becoming Medusa.It distills the themes of the play into a 2ish minute short, directed by Chris Carcione, the DP is Joshua Paul Johnson, and it features Giorgio Panetta as the Man, I play the woman, with Paula Rossman and Jon Sprik in voice-over.
Additionally, there is an amazing book coming out in October about the beginnings of Shining Hope for Communities written by the founders and my good friends Jessica Posner and Kennedy Odede. It’s called Find Me Unafraid.I’ve had the privilege of reading the first 98 pages, and I can say without hesitation, for anyone who has seen this play and desires more, pre-order this book. It’s the book I’ve most looked forward to since book 7 of Harry Potter.