I’ve written before about the upcoming sci-fi flick HEAVEN IS NOW (dir. Audrey Lorea) and how it is a herald of the “new New Hollywood” movement. Lorea has created a distinct brand in the way she fuses neon bright colors, retro fashion sense, electric music, theatrical camp, ass-kicking action scenes, and feminist ideology. Now some of that sensibility has spilled over into theatre. Today’s artist cannot be contained in one medium anymore; art-forms are crossing over into one another.
Philippe “Keb” Blanchard‘s play BITE YOUR TONGUE, currently playing in New York’s Theater For the New City, is an enjoyable tapestry of sexual liberation. Directed by Ted Mornell, it is an adaptation of nineteen short stories by Canadian playwright Etienne Lepage. It premiered in Quebec before being translated and adapted for American audiences. Yet, there are three incredible women without whom the play would not have been possible. The first is associate producer/stage manager Lauren Cahn, who is responsible for all of BITE YOUR TONGUE’s publicity, marketing, fundraising, props, PR consulting, and scheduling. The second is award-winning playwright Lissa Moira who, in addition to also acting in the show, was directly responsible for the production being able to get the Theater For the New City for free! The third is Lorea herself, as co-producer and method actress. Lorea throws herself into the tragic role of Melanie, a maniac who goes from violent outbursts to tears and anguish in a very short span. Like a ballerina playing Giselle, the performance is heartbreaking and psychologically draining. Yet she is a performer willing to sacrifice it all for her art.
The collection of monologues and vignettes features a great ensemble cast, but the strongest performance is given by David Zen Mansley, known for his voice-work on the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES 2003 animated series. Also featured is Ben Curtis, best known as Steven the Dell Dude from those colorful TV commercials of the early 2000’s (Dude, he’d totally dig the fact that I’m currently writing this blog on a Dell laptop!), the versatile Moira, veteran theatre actress Wendy Callard-Booz, Blanchard himself, and HEAVEN IS NOW cast-members Thomas Wesson and Tali Custer.
Custer was the biggest surprise of all for me; I had seen in several other productions, including the TV pilot HEY THERE STRANGER (dir. Julian Klepper), but this is the best performance I’ve ever seen her in, playing the sexy Popsicle-sucking Felicia who flirts directly with the audience before dropping said Popsicle. BITE YOUR TONGUE is a daring, provocative, raw look at who we are and our kinks.
But, again in true fashion of the current indie movement, BITE YOUR TONGUE shared its mystique beyond theatre and spilled into other media with an online promo video you may view here featuring three pin-up girls (Christine Marquet, Tali Custer, and Sarah Seeds). Conceptualized and written by Cahn and Blanchard and directed and edited by Lorea, the result feels like a scene right out of HEAVEN IS NOW.
Furthermore, last Wednesday a VIP dinner/fundraiser was held in SoHo, hosted by Lorea’s “pin-up girls” embodying her unique sense of fashion. The event was a very warm and inclusive gathering, and it served as an obvious promotion for both BITE YOUR TONGUE and HEAVEN IS NOW, yet it also was subtextually a celebration of this incredible movement all these artists share. The guests in attendance were a virtual “who’s who” of the indie scene, including:
-Talkshow host Diana Montford, whose interview program on Manhattan Neighborhood Network has aired for close to twenty years.
-Journalist Nick Gauthier, who over the past year has profiled many members of the indie movement for Examiner, and become marketing manager for the indie horror flick APEX RISING (dir. James Terriaca).
-Actress-turned-talkshow host Lucy Jade Norris, producer of the web-series ON DECK WITH LUCY, and, as I soon observed, one hell of a dancer!
-Filmmaker Jack Gattanella, whose film GREEN EYES, again featuring Wesson, Lorea, and Custer, premieres this week at The Queens World Film Festival!
-Cinematographer and director Clarke Mayer, one of the founders of Killer Goose Films, which I’ve referred to as the United Artists Studio of the “new New Hollywood.”
But the biggest surprise of that particular evening was actress Sarah Seeds, who has a diverse background across many media platforms, and who at one point approached me directly and commented on how we had run in the same circles for so long but not yet met. I realized this was a very true statement that applies to so many rising artists out there who are all coming together in the “indie melting pot.”
BITE YOUR TONGUE is a controversial look at the things we think but don’t say. When Seeds heard this description, she responded: “What people don’t say is exactly what I want to hear.” Well, in true Seedsian fashion, the indie scene may currently be what mainstream cinema “thinks but doesn’t say,” yet is feeding audiences something new that is satisfying. The concept of “high art” isn’t just for high-brow audiences anymore. Art is democratic, free-flowing, and inclusive of all. Indie is the future.
And so, as Steven the Dell Dude would say: “Dude, go see BITE YOUR TONGUE! You’ll experience a great work of art, and a hot girl might just drop a Popsicle in front of you!”