By Nora Woolley
Directed by Raquel Cion
Produced by Eat a Radish Productions in association with IRT Theater
Nominations: Nora Woolley is nominated for Outstanding Original Short Script as well as for Outstanding Solo Performance
Photo by Sarah Rogers
About this Production
Hip is set in the early aughts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, ground zero for the modern hipster movement. Wythe, a struggling musician, is convinced his songs have been co-opted by the increasingly popular buzz-band, The Strokes. His single-minded quest for fame is diverted by three women who are also longing for their own brand of recognition. In an increasingly self-aggrandizing community, Wythe must decide what is lasting and what is simply–hip. A story for anyone who has ever wanted it so bad, they could practically fake it.
Writer Performer Nora Woolley and Director Raquel Coin talk about creating this work set in hipster Williamsburg about a musician struggling for recognition.
What attracted you to this project?
Nora: I wrote this piece in an attempt to express the longing for recognition that so many artists feel.
Raquel: When Nora approached me to direct Hip there was no way I could say no. Nora and I worked together in 2009 for her and Christine Witmer's play Selling Splitsville presented at PS 122 as part of the undergroundzero Festival. Working with Nora is a complete joy. We challenge each other, share a sense of humor and she is not afraid to dive deep into places that transcend humor to a deliciously 'should I laugh or weep' place. The subject matter of the piece was also, perhaps sadly, very resonant for me. That yearning to live life as an artist and feeling that life is just running you over.
What was your favorite part of working on this production?
Nora: Over a two year rehearsal process, I often rehearsed with Kim Katzberg (also a nominee for the Outstanding Solo Performance category) as she was simultaneously rehearsing her own piece. This process pushed me to be accountable for my work and in many ways encouraged me to move beyond my comfort zone. Kim is a very special performer and I knew that sharing a rehearsal practice with her would push me in very specific directions I had not yet allowed myself to venture. Kim is an extremely hard worker and has a brutal, raw, challenging, and moving aesthetic that opened up a new permission in me. I've learned so much about timing from Kim.
Hip was my first solo piece and I set out to make a work that included a number of narrative, physical, and emotional elements I had never previously tried on stage (i.e. slow overdose, be a young man, be sexy). Additionally, I was interested in being challenged by director Raquel Cion, who I knew would not let me get away with anything sub-par in terms of comedic and tragic elements. Raquel is an exceptionally intelligent and open person (a powerful combo), who is able to respectfully step into a multitude of diverse worlds with ease, fascination, and a specific sense of craft. I have worked with Raquel as a director on previous original projects and feel grateful that she continues to humor and mold my work.
Raquel: Nora came to the first rehearsal with such a clear vision of the work. She had developed incredibly funny and heartbreaking characters that were profound without being heavy handed. Since the piece was stepping onto the boards for the first time we really allowed ourselves to play while honing the text. It's a short piece (for which Nora is also nominated for Outstanding Original Short Script) so, we really needed to be incredibly specific with the text and find the ways into the meat of the show with immediacy. Nora is such a facile actress and brought such emotional range, risk, outlandishness and reality to each of her characters. Seeing these characters really come to life was beyond satisfying.
What was the most challenging part of working on this production?
Raquel: Hip ran side by side with Kim Katzberg's Darkling (Kim is also nominated for Outstanding Solo Performance) and both shows needed to aesthetically stand on their own. Though they do share certain themes they are very different shows. With our shoe-string budget we needed to find ways to give each show its own look and feel. Hip due to its length had to be incredibly tight technically because of the sound and video components as well. The play itself feels very much like a film in its approach. The challenge was how to establish place, character, time, without pandering or getting lost in exposition. I believe we were very successful in creating this within a half hour running time. As Nora said our technical team, Josh Iacovelli (who designed our sets and lights) and Laura Detkin our stage manager did wonders.
Kim and Nora were also so incredibly supportive and available for each other in both the process and in performance. Their dedication to the work and generosity toward each other was simply astounding. They ran each other's shows; were willing to do whatever it took to bring both their visions to life. As we all know putting up one's own work is a vulnerable, challenging experience. Nora, Kim and the whole team faced those challenges with graceful ferocity.
Nora: Hip was a demanding piece physically, vocally, and emotionally as it was only thirty minutes but included four distinct characters. But more than those acting demands (which I relish!), it was a tough evening to figure out technically in rep with Darkling (additional props to Josh Iacovelli, Designer and Laurel Detkin, SM) during a brutal winter, amidst all of our team's demanding day jobs/schedules. Hey, welcome to NYC.
What made Hip so unique?
Raquel: The films created by Nora and Marieclare Lawson really elevated Hip. What could have been a sketch or ironic nod to Williamsburg in the early aughts was turned on its head due to the quality of the work visually, the novella like quality of the script and Nora's nuanced characters. Again, the show felt very cinematic. Within IRT Theater's black box we managed to bring a breadth of the city, the sorrow and ridiculousness of its inhabitants and had beautiful close-ups of how we all yearn to make a mark or connection.
Nora: The film component was huge-- Mariclare Lawson did wonderful work creating original music videos circa 2000 in a way that would read onstage, sans any sense of cliché. I have known Mariclare since NYU days and she has an exquisite eye for detail and an innate sense of slick editing. We have collaborated a lot and I very much relate to her aesthetic view of NYC, both past and present.
During the rehearsal process, before Hip was a play per se, my brother (George Woolley) and I made a couple of short films centered around early versions of Gloria and Wythe (two characters featured in the piece). We labeled them, monologues-on-film, and have continued that work as a series. Currently we are in the process of creating more. The series is called "Les Petites Tristesses (The Little Sadnesses)". Our Dad described Wythe and Gloria as tristesse, and we thought that was apt. These early monologues-on-film enabled me to deepen my approach some of Hip's characters on stage. Both Mariclare and George changed my view of film on stage.
Hip allowed me to depict the mundane in all its complexity. Longing is a very human feeling, one that is simultaneously numbing and manic-- a feeling that is rampant and normal in NYC. I think longing is a hard feeling to express in a compelling way because it is essentially a selfish sensation. I hope Hip pulled that off.