Jennifer Kidwell. (Photograph by Ryan Collerd, courtesy of the Pew Middle for Arts & Heritage)
Jennifer Kidwell arrived for our interview sporting what can solely be described as a grey sweatshirt onesie. She kicked off her sneakers and folded her legs underneath her, prepared to speak about her new present, These With 2 Clocks, which she has co-created as a part of Tall Order, a triumvirate she types with fellow Philadelphia theatre artists Jess Conda and Mel Krodman, and which is able to launch the 2022-23 season on the Wilma Theater in October.
When requested her in regards to the present’s title, she cited the adage, “These with one clock all the time know what time it’s; these with two clocks are by no means certain.” (This makes the truth that she arrived a tad late for our discuss just a bit bit humorous.) She added one other “tangential” adage to her clarification: “Even a damaged clock is true twice a day.”
The present is described as a five-part “comedic takedown of patriarchy.” It opens with a lecture/demonstration about comedy and laughter, and can then put its concept into apply. It proceeds with a group of vignettes, adopted by what Kidwell described as a “naturalistic drag present as if we have been performing Beckett.” She instructed me that within the piece’s fourth part, “We kill that off,” and the present ends with an invite to the viewers to cross “a brand new threshold,” a second during which we will probably be “holding house with different neighborhood members: veterans, threshold choir singers, doulas, and we’re attempting to companion with a stripper coalition.”
A girl with a small chip on her sizable shoulders, Kidwell doesn’t prefer to pinned down. “Inherently in defining something,” she defined, “there’s a mandatory confinement. It’s implying that issues are spaced other than one another: ‘I’m drawing a border round this factor.’ One of many issues we’re questioning is, why do issues should be outlined on this approach? Why do we now have to know? What does it imply to be in relationship? The aim is to not show something; it’s to suggest.”
After I requested if something about making These With 2 Clocks stunned her, she thoughtfully labored by her reply, lastly providing that she was “startled, upset, shocked” by her personal participation within the patriarchy. “A number of the work is unlearning.”
My impolite query, “How do you make a dwelling?,” triggered lengthy and loud laughter.
“I’m not an extravagant particular person, and I’ve been lucky in my relationships,” she lastly replied. She prefers working collaboratively, she continued, as a result of “it’s enjoyable, it’s social.” Her stage daring is echoed by her willingness to fulfill bodily challenges: She realized to scuba dive and face her concern of the octopus when Pearl/D’Amour’s latest present Ocean Filibuster took her the Caribbean, and a sculpture undertaking took her to New Orleans, the place she discovered herself welding in 90-plus-degree warmth. Ever in debate mode, her summary arguments are crammed with geometric metaphors just like the “triangulation of life” and dismantling the “pyramid” of the social construction. She clearly doesn’t like issues with tops.
In reply to my pedestrian query, “What’s the present about?” she requested what I meant by that. On the danger of sounding hopelessly standard, I questioned: Does it have a plot? Who’re a few of its characters? She instructed me the present has many, many characters, and instructed that if somebody have been to interact with the present, they “might make a case for a lot of, many plots, or if another person discovered no plot, all these opinions can be legitimate.”
How all this can interrogate the patriarchy should stay to be seen, though it’s clear that Kidwell wouldn’t give the patriarchy the time of day. She referred typically to her “loving neighborhood,” every point out accompanied by a hand on her coronary heart. This neighborhood consists of not solely Conda and Krodman, the 2 who’re her collaborators on the present, however a crew who’re a part of her theatremaking course of, who’ve all joined forces as a collective known as Tall Order.
Whereas Kidwell had labored for years on the Wilma and with such firms as Pig Iron, it was her Philly Fringe collaboration with Scott Sheppard on the present Underground Railroad Recreation in 2016 that introduced her to a wider viewers, because the present performed to acclaim at Off-Broadway’s Ars Nova and gained an Obie. This sensible, hilarious, and fierce indictment of racism presents two middle-school academics—the viewers is forged as the scholars—who crew as much as create a recreation to make historical past come alive. Little Black dolls are hidden in varied spots across the faculty, and college students, divided between the Union and Accomplice armies, have to move the dolls to protected homes or else seize them. When a pupil writes an unsightly racist epithet on one of many recreation’s indicators, the neighborhood—apparently solely a cherished delusion—falls to items. Publish-racial America, my foot.
At my suggestion that it will need to have been gratifying to have what started as a small Fringe present acknowledged in such a big approach, Kidwell resisted, declaring that she is attempting to “wean herself from that sort of pondering,” i.e., that the aim of creating theatre is to win a prize; she stated she discovered it much more significant to have somebody backstage on the Obies ceremony inform her how the present had an influence on him.
What does These With 2 Clocks have in widespread with Underground Railroad, I ponder? Each exhibits are constructed round “disrupting,” Kidwell stated. “I believe patriarchy and racism supplied some individuals some stability, so my thought is to shake up that stability and see what is feasible. They’re each corrosive initiatives,” she stated, albeit with a constructive takeaway: “There are such a lot of different methods we could possibly be.”
Kidwell was born in Baltimore in 1978, the place she says she briefly harbored a childhood ambition to be a rubbish collector. Changing that have been a wide range of attainable careers: comic, saxophonist, photographer. After ending a level in literature at Columbia College, she stayed in New York Metropolis for 11 years, toyed with the concept of changing into a lawyer, then realized that what appealed to her in regards to the apply of regulation was the “performative facet of litigation.” She lastly realized that she would turn out to be a theatre artist and moved to Philadelphia, the place she has remained ever since as an “related theatre artist” on the Wilma.
Not that she is confined by the stage. She is presently engaged on her first self-originated sculpture undertaking, fabricated from up-cycled or reused supplies; the piece is all the time transferring due to bouyancy, because it’s sitting within the water it’s recycling.
“It’s based mostly on a dream I had of a dome fabricated from forged iron skillets; a buddy instructed me it was like cacerolazo, the Catalan ladies’s protest the place they bang on pots,” Kidwell says. “The sound of the rain hitting the dome is as if the planet is making its personal protest.”
After I ask the place I’d see this, Kidwell laughs and says she has no thought. We’ll should accept seeing her make her form-breaking artwork onstage.
Toby Zinman (she/her) is a author based mostly in Philadelphia.
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