To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from abstract painter Jack Whitten to choreographer Trajal Harrell, filmmaker Tala Hadid to artist-musician C. Spencer Yeh—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2015.
“I really have barely been able to lift my head up from my own work table the entire year,” says playwright Sibyl Kempson, explaining why her year-end list is “so self-absorbed.” “I had no spare attention to give to current events, which are mostly evil—except for same-sex marriage. YAY!” Just a few of the things that consumed so much of her time this year: launching a theater company, publishing a book, premiering two plays and a dance theater work, visiting the ranch from TV’s Dallas, Bigfoot tracking in the wilderness…
A playwright based in New York City and the Pocono Mountains, Kempson’s plays have been presented all over the world, from New York to Omaha, Bonn, Germany to Skien, Norway—including Minneapolis: at the Walker with Elevator Repair Service (in the 2013 Walker-commissioned work Fondly, Collette Richland), at Red Eye Theater Company (Ich, Kürbisgeist and Potatoes of August), and in reading form at the Playwrights Center (The Securely Conferred, Vouchsafed Keepsakes of Maery S.). Below, her enthusiastic, month-by-month (almost) take on the past year.
APAP! The year started off with the many festivals, visitors to the Big Apple, and performance works to last us townies throughout the year. This year I took in the genius of Half Straddle (Ancient Lives), Royal Osiris Karaoke Ensemble (The Art of Luv), David Neumann and the Advanced Beginner Group (I Understand Everything Better—and I helped write the text!), Amanda Villalobos (Lightkeepers), and Erin Markey (A Ride on the Irish Cream). Then I joined a gym!
Creative Capital application! Workshop at Sarah Lawrence of my new play, Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag. Directed by David Neumann!
Rehearsals for Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag—and I Understand Everything Better premiers at the American Dance Institute in Rockville, Maryland. And guess who stands in for in-demand theater and dance world star Jennifer Nikki Kidwell? YOURS, TRULY!!!
I launch my very own theater company: 7 Daughters of Eve Thtr. & Perf. Co. at the Martin E. Segal Center at CUNY Grad Center! A momentous moment—like a wedding. Also: I launch my first Indiegogo campaign, for our first production: Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag, which opens on the 28th at Abrons Arts Center!
DANCENOISE exhibition and performances at the new Whitney Museum in the Meatpacking District! I am blown away by my artistic elders, recognizing an influence under which I’ve been operating all along without ever encountering it directly. Another momentous moment.
7 Daughters’ second action—an “Academic Re-Education Event” at Dixon Place, entitled Make No Mistake: These Youth Are Here To Restructure Your Mind—featuring the work of emerging women’s voices in experimental performance writing and welcoming them to the community.
After four years of work, Fondly, Collette Richland, my collaboration with Elevator Repair Service, opens at New York Theatre Workshop! It divides the NYTW audience! Half hate it, half love it, except during the SUPER BLOOD MOON TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE, when all hail broke loose, and no one could resist: subscribers headbanging in the aisles and clapping along to the “Krampus Devil Dance,” people converting to pagan feminism by the hordes, etc. Meanwhile, I continue to cherish many fond memories of our early previews at the Walker Art Center.
After 20+ years of dreaming about it, I finally flee to Norway! Robert M. Johanson (my former compadre from Nature Theater of OK) and I make a crazy translation/adaptation of the 4th act of An Enemy of the People entitled Public People’s Enemy for the Ibsen Awards and Conference in Ibsen’s hometown of Skien, Norway. I also visit the Rhineland’s Mittelrhein region for research.
Since then I’ve traveled to Dallas where I visited Southfork Ranch (of Dallas fame) and worked on a new cycle of rituals for the Whitney Museum starting in March 2016, worked on a new piece for 7 Daughters called The Securely Conferred, Vouchsafed Keepsakes of Maery S. at New Dramatists (which was also developed in the Twin Cities at the Playwrights Center!), and have continuted writing lots of grant applications.