Written and Performed by Kim Katzberg
Directed by Raquel Cion
Produced by Eat a Radish Productions in association with IRT Theater
Nomination Kim Katzberg is nominated for Outstanding Solo Performance
Photos by Sarah Rogers
About this Production
Set in the late 1980’s, Darkling follows Trinity, a thirteen-year-old wanna-be Goth girl from a suburban, affluent family who worships an older sister who escapes from a lock-up boarding school for troubled teens. After a failed first romance, Trinity journeys to find her fugitive sister, who is living on the streets. Trinity makes many life choices based on the idealized vision she has of her older sister, but when she finally finds her, Trinity discovers her idol isn’t the person she thought she was. When Trinity learns the truth about her sister, she must choose: follow her role model into fantasy and insanity, or stay in the world and fight to make an impact. But is making an impact even possible?
Writer and Performer Kim Katzberg and Director Raquel Cion talk about their work on this piece that looks at a thirteen-year-old girl’s artistic expressions of subversive feminism.
What attracted you to this project/subject matter?
Kim: Darkling, a semi-autobiographical solo play in which I play multiple characters, is dedicated to my sister, Jenna. One of the characters I embody is a heightened version of myself at thirteen. I began working on this show because as a girl I idolized my incredibly cool, punk older sister. Now she is missing from my life. The process of writing and then performing Darkling allowed me to live out the fantasy of being back in the late '80's, early '90's when my sister and I were very close.
Like Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill talks about in the Punk Singer, there is something radical and feminist about a girl making art in her bedroom. Girls’ bedrooms are a safe space for creativity and self-expression. Much of the creation of the characters for Darkling happened in the safety of my little bedroom of my Brooklyn apartment, and the narrative of Darkling springs from the thirteen-year-old girl, Trinity’s, bedroom. As a girl, I definitely isolated in my room and that’s when I felt like I could finally just be me.
Raquel: The answer to this is crazy easy for me, Kim Katzberg! Kim and I worked together while she was still an undergraduate at NYU's ETW, my alma mater as well, and I was always blown away by her brilliance and commitment to her work. For years we had been trying to work together again. Luckily the schedules aligned as did the material. I was a teenage punk rock/alt girl in the 80's and the work resonated deeply with me. That said, Kim's vision was both so specific and brave. Though based on her own life experience Darkling reached beyond that realistic place. Through her video work and spot on characterizations this was no ordinary teen angst story. We were able to touch on the supernatural, the ridiculous, create real relationships within a solo show, multiple narrative lines, travel and arrive at such freedom and poignant moments that, I felt, it transcended her own story. Well, that's the goal, right? To be specific, tell your story and truth and hopefully touch on things universal. I fully believe Darkling grabs that brass ring.
What was your favorite part of working on this production?
Kim: Working intensively with my director and friend, Raquel Cion, and my colleague and friend, Nora Woolley was game-changing. Years ago I saw a play that Nora Woolley wrote and acted in at PS 122 that was directed by Raquel. The piece was dark, risky, hilarious, tragic and highly original. I dreamed of one day working with Nora and Raquel because I thought their sense of humor, over-the-top tragicomic sense of characters and daring aesthetic was similar to what I was attempting in my work. Nora and I were in the same class at ETW, NYU but we weren’t in the same friend circles. In fact, Nora was a superstar at ETW and I had transferred in my junior year and was very insecure and not such a good actor then. Raquel also attended ETW, NYU some years earlier than Nora and I and had assistant directed us in Raina Von Waldenburg’s Das Kaspar Theater. Eventually, Nora and Raquel saw the first solo show that I wrote and performed and after that Nora reached out and asked if I wanted to get together in a studio to just bounce work off of each other. I was beyond thrilled! That began the creation process for Darkling and Hip. Nora and I had a shared residency at IRT Theater where we co-produced both our shows, shared director Raquel Cion, and performed our shows back to back each night of the run. Nora’s writing and acting is at such a high level that it pushed me further than I could have ever gone in my acting and writing if I were going it alone. I had to be able to hold my own if I was going to be performing right after Nora each night! Raquel’s work ethic is unmatched and the way that she deeply understood being a punk girl in the late ’80’s, coupled with her sheer brilliance as a highly innovative director, drove Darkling to a level that was beyond my wildest dreams.
I feel like Raquel and Nora are now my sisters after having gone through the insane, exhausting, gut wrenching journey that we endured to put on our plays. Nora was also nominated for "Outstanding Solo Performance" and “Outstanding Original Short Script.” Again, we are going through another part of the amazing journey together! All the intensive work was totally worth it for BOTH of our pieces to be recognized.
Raquel: Directing Kim and Nora Woolley's Hip (Nora is also nominated for Outstanding Solo Show and Outstanding Short Script) was a complete joy. These women very simply rock my world. We challenged each other, were intrinsically supportive of each other and found a shared language and way of working that well, worked. It was such an honor to share in the process and production. As we all know doing creating work here in NY, hell, anywhere isn't easy. There are those times though when even with extreme challenges, and there were some, you feel at home. A good home. A happy home. A functional home and wow, that's a rare gift.
What was the most challenging part of working on this production?
Kim: The most challenging part of working on the production was the physical, psychological and emotional rigor that it required. There were many moments when I had overwhelming self-doubt and was physically and emotionally exhausted during the creation process, rehearsals, and not to mention the three week run of the show. The whole deal spanned two years and there were unrelenting highs and lows. I just hung on, pushed through and showed up, which I could not have done without the immense support I received from my wife and the team.
Raquel: Kim and I had done a workshop production in July 2013 at IRT and naturally after that there had been some rewrites. There was one line, one little line of not even ten words that was added to the end of a pivotal scene, my favorite scene, in the show. Oh, even writing about it now my heart begins to race. Basically we butted heads over this line for weeks.
Understandably we both dug our heels in on whether or not it should be included. It was painful. There were many heated, emotionally charged conversations in rehearsal about it. Phone calls. Both of us saying, "trust me on this." We were like two bucks with their antlers locked. One line! One line but such an important fulcrum to the story we were telling. Luckily, one night at a rehearsal where we ran both shows back to back as they were to be presented Nora, in her incredible clarity and grace managed to very simply untangle the issue. We were able to finally agree and it all flew from there. I think it was so intense because the work was so risky and personal and Kim and I have the utmost respect for each other. Getting to the other side of that busted through many things for both of us and the show.
What was the craziest thing that happened during this production?
Kim: We had a few matinees where random families including adolescent kids came. I think it was because the main character in Darkling is thirteen and it was advertised as a coming of age story. However, there is an intense and fairly graphic scene where Trinity loses her virginity. It must have been really embarrassing for parents and adolescents to see together.
Raquel: Well, I ended up running the box office which felt like an I Love Lucy episode. Not my forte. So, there's that. Also, the first couple weekends we kept getting families, teen and sometimes pre-teen kids with their parents. Now, both shows are coming of age stories but I don't know if they're family friendly per se. That was a bit awkward.
What did you want the audience to come away with after watching your production?
Kim: I don’t really know what I want the audience to come away with after watching Darkling. I tried to write and perform it as if no one would ever see it. That’s the only way that I can trick myself into writing and performing honestly. I guess I want the audience to feel as if they touched a hidden part of their thirteen year old selves and are able to laugh about, celebrate and feel compassion for those inner, secret, dark parts.
Raquel: When I was studying in Paris I had a wonderful mask teacher from Le Théâtre du Soleil, Erhard Stiefel. When scenes weren't working he'd stop the actors and often say something to the effect of, "Start again. Go on a journey." Simple. Well, not always. I feel that Darkling is an epic journey for Trinity its main character. If the audience gave itself over to its wild ride then whatever they come away with is theirs and well earned. I believe we achieved that. A journey that allowed the audience to both reflect and re-experience their own awkward journeys through adolescence and to experience Kim's whirlwind tour of her experience, fantasies and huge heart.