Each year, Mugwumpin chooses a theme that unites all the work that we create over those 12 months. We are pleased to announce this year's theme:
The Year of American Prophecy
Habitually we think of prophets as primarily foretelling the future. But listen closer. The mythological Greek prophet Tiresias most often focuses not on the future, but on what has happened, what is happening. To Oedipus, he says, “You have made this trouble on your own.” To Creon: society “is sick through your fault.” There are impending consequences, of course, but Tiresias, like many other prophets, in fact pronounces judgment more than tells fortunes. His prophecies are as much political as they are spiritual, and the mingling of these realms of prophecy has reached its pinnacle here in America.
Throughout its brief and eventful history, America has had no shortage of prophets, from Puritan John Winthrop to David Koresh. What makes America such fertile terrain for prophecy? Cultural critic Greil Marcus points out that America was the first country on Earth that was founded on the basis of promises and ideals, rather than language, culture, or religion. The role of prophets, then and now, is to pronounce the consequences of failing to keep these promises. Marcus says, “Predicting the future is soothsaying; prophecy has more to do with the past than the future.” American prophecy serves to caution us against turning our backs on the promises that we are raised on—that everyone is created equal, that the government derives its power only from the consent of citizens, that we all have unalienable rights.
Mugwumpin was formed in San Francisco in 2004 by founding member Joe Estlack and founding co-artistic directors Christopher W. White and Denmo Ibrahim, with the aim of reinvigorating live performance as a communal event. The visceral nature of Mugwumpin performances constantly reminds the audience that they are right here, right now, participating in something unique. We hope that this sense of presence spills out the theater doors, bringing a deeper awareness of our surrounding community.
Mugwumpin, currently under White’s sole directorship, is now at the forefront of young American companies interested in creating a visual experience, questioning the primacy of text and narrative in theater. We strive to embody common creative values, emphasizing collaborative creation through play, honoring our different aesthetic perspectives and recognizing the strengths to be found in bringing them together.
Since 2004, Mugwumpin has created and produced 12 full productions and many smaller scale performances. Our production of Rabbit Causes Dog was recognized as the Best Play of the San Francisco Fringe Festival in 2004. In 2008, Mugwumpin thrilled international audiences at the Cairo International Festival of Experimental Theatre with our original work super:anti:reluctant. Our 2010 piece This Is All I Need was named one of the best shows of the year by the SF Weekly and the SF Bay Guardian.
In 2010, Mugwumpin relaunched with a bold new artistic vision. We are conceiving of each year as a durational performance work consisting of modular performance pieces: each piece can stand on its own, but organizing thematic links between them allow meaning to accrue over time. Most of these performances will be conceived for non-theater spaces. These “Occurrences” will take place out in the world, with the intention of reshaping boundaries of performative space, challenging performer/audience relationships, and bringing a bit of transformative magic into the world. The year's centerpiece will be a piece for theater that takes the various strands introduced in the Occurrences and weaves them together.
In addition, the roster of Mugwumpin members has grown, introducing new vitality and energy to the company. All the work that we create is the product of the strong artistic visions of our members. Read about them below!
What We Have To Say For Ourselves
Christopher W. White, Artistic Director
I make performances for a lot of different reasons, including (but not limited to): to never stop playing; to make us (and by us I mean you and me) gasp; to make the impossible work; to share our wonder, fear, and anger; to get attention; to twist ourselves around so we don’t know ass from elbow, up from down; to collide with other makers, to crack open each others’ ideas like coconuts and drink the milk, to let it dribble down our chins; to try our patience; to see something that we haven’t seen before; to create opportunities to be brave; to feel charming; to make us laugh (nervously); to be in control; to stare down the maw of not knowing what to do next, and yet stepping forward anyway; to know that I am not jumping up and down, but rather that the rush of images is jumping me up and down; to see something that we’ve seen before but never noticed; to be called out, repeatedly; to break our habits (of being, seeing, hearing, assuming, ignoring, connecting, reacting, disconnecting).
Some things I obsess over: Awkwardness Twins and doubles Catchy, catchy music The epic, galactic struggle between rationality and irrationality The difficulty of performing oneself Food (really delicious food) and the ways it gets to our tables Déjà vu Empathy and subjectivity, balanced against each other like playing cards Unreliable narrators The old, weird America, as Greil Marcus calls it Ghosts and hauntings How to cope with or face down injustice Grammar, and the real patterns of how we speak
Liz Lisle, Associate Artistic Director
Liz has worked in theater arts production and administration with companies throughout the Bay Area. She’s been Managing Director for The Shotgun Players since 2001, and has dramaturged for SF Playhouse, Word for Word, Mugwumpin and The Bay Area Playwright’s Festival. Liz is also the Publisher of the literary magazine Watchword. Her past writing projects include EAT (Shotgun Theatre Lab, 2003), Matterless Fact (Just Theater, 2007), & Mutable Platen (Whole Story, 2008).
Joe Estlack, Founding Company Member
Joe trained in Lecoq-based Actor-Created Theater at Naropa University. He has acted and danced extensively throughout the Bay Area, including with Shotgun Players, the Magic Theatre, the ESP Project, and Golden Thread Productions. Joe is also a poet and visual artist.
Madeline H.D. Brown, Company Member
Madeline is a Texan who has found her way to San Francisco via London and hopes one day to be everywhere at once. In the Bay Area she has been lucky to play with Mugwumpin, Brava! For Women in the Arts, Golden Thread, SF Playhouse, Aurora Theatre, Shotgun Players, & Psychopomp and Circumstance Dance Theatre
Madeline trained with Theatre de l’Ange Fou’s artistic directors Corinne Soum and Steven Wasson at Ecole de Mime Corporal Dramatique and holds BFA in Theatre from the College of Santa Fe.
She has toured as a cabaret performer stirring up Edinburgh's Fringe Festival, London’s Institute of Contemporary Art, Summer in Antwerp, Stockholm’s Sodra Teatern and many, muddy, rock festivals.
She is commonly seen wearing red lipstick and contemplating trouble.
Sarah Elovich, Company Member
Sarah has been part of the Mugwumpin family since their Bay Area debut in 2004. She has played various roles in the company's unique collaborative creation process as an outside eye, company manager, documentarian, prop builder and most recently assistant lighting designer for Future Motive Power. The love affair between Sarah and Mugwumpin revolves around her playful approach to an audience's beliefs and expectations.
Denmo Ibrahim, Founding Co-Artistic Director
Denmo is an award deserving writer, actor, and eco business owner based in San Francisco, CA. She studied with Chris and Joe at Naropa University where she became a Master of the Fine Arts. After losing the bet on locale, she moved to SF with the two aforementioned and formed mugwumpin. Audiences loved them to pieces. As Co Artistic Director through 2009, you can partially blame Denmo for the slew of creative projects that came through as she partook as actor, writer, designer, prop mistress, producer, and professional stage sweeper.
Currently, she’s writing GLYPH a play inspired by the findings of the Rosetta Stone in Rashid, Egypt, generously supported by TBA’s CASH panel. This fall check her out in Crowded Fire’s rendition of the Five Lesbian Brother’s hilarious play, The Secretaries. You can also stop by EarthBody in Hayes Valley to find her healing bodies and bossing people around. www.earthbody.net firstname.lastname@example.org
Julia Lynton, Company Manager
Julia served as Mugwumpin's manager from mid-2009 through mid-2011.
We are a Member of the Intersection Incubator, a program of Intersection for the Arts providing fiscal sponsorship, incubation and consulting services to artists. Intersection is San Francisco's oldest alternative arts space, presenting groundbreaking works in the literary, performing, visual and interdisciplinary arts. Visit www.theintersection.org.