One of the highlights of the NYC preview was a monologue from Seth Rozin’s chamber musical “A Passing Wind.” Seth Rozin is also Artistic Director of InterAct Theater, one of the many vibrant indie theater companies in Philly, and one that is close to my heart because they have paid me for my work not once, but twice! (Stories I wrote were featured in their late, lamented series, “Writers Aloud.”) If you’re an American playwright, you know (or should know) that since 1988, InterAct’s mission has been to support the creation of new plays, and one which uses “theatre as a tool to foster positive social change in the school, the workplace and the community.”
InterAct is currently in the midst of a 20-year (!) program, begun in 2007 that offers development awards and commissions for new plays each year. The playwrights who have received these awards/commissions thus far are some veteran folk (Lee Blessing) and outstanding new voices (Kara Lee Corthron) who now have a chance to create new plays with the support of a working theater. In Philadelphia.
The monologue I saw from “A Passing Wind” featured actor Tim Moyer as Sigmund Freud; Freud narrates the play, but he’s not the character the title refers to, rather, that character is a man whose talents were a bit lower down.
Once, Paris stood enthralled before (or behind) the man they called “Le Petomane” or “The Fartiste.” Joseph Pujol (1857-1945) was a man with a peculiar talent: he could suck water or air into his butt, and release it with precision control. As a performer, he usually did this with air, as I’m sure the water would have been quite messy. Pujol left his trade as a baker in Marseilles to take to the stage in 1887. With an air of confidence, he moved on to the big city (Paris), where he made it to the Show: The Moulin Rouge.
Wikipedia notes that: “Some of the highlights of his stage act involved sound effects of cannon fire and thunderstorms, as well as playing "'O Sole Mio" and "La Marseillaise" on an ocarina through a rubber tube in his anus. He could also blow out a candle from several yards away. His audience included Edward, Prince of Wales, King Leopold II of the Belgians and Sigmund Freud.” (And from such entries as this are ideas for plays born…in fact, my friend & fellow playwright Charlie Schulman is working on an off-Broadway musical, a hit at NY Fringe a couple years back, called “The Fartiste” also about Pujol. But surely there is room in the American theatre for two plays about a man who took the advice “blow it out your ass” literally).
There’s a YouTube video of Le Petomaine (which I've linked below) from a film made in the 1880s (which of course, sadly, doesn’t have a soundtrack).
Along with the grossly wonderful premise of a man who made his living by farting, is the reality that The War to End All Wars (WW I, not the sequel), drove Pujol from the stage. He found that the horror of war “left unprecedented physical and psychological devastation in its wake,” according to the description of the play. And THAT’s where plays are born.
Written and directed by Rozin, the production will feature Damon Kirsche, Ian Bedford, Maureen Torsney-Weir, Jered McLenigan, Peter Schmitz, Tim Moyer, Leah Walton and Laura Catlaw. Music direction and sound design by Daniel Perelstein; set and lighting design by Peter Whinnery; costume design by Anna Frangiosa; choreography by Karen Getz.
It premieres April 7, running through April 16, at the Innovation Studio of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, 300 S. Broad Street. Tickets are $15-$29, and available here.
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