WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU FORGET:Michael Domitrovich’s Artfuckers at Theater for the New City
I’m interviewing Michael Domitrovich at Di Robertis, a café on First Avenue, across the street from where his play Artfuckers will premiere at Theater for the New City on February 17th. As I stare into his almond-shaped brown eyes I have to remind myself that I am a lesbian.
Alina Troyano (Rail): Let’s start with Artfuckers. It’s quite a title. Would you say it’s fit to print?
Michael Domitrovich (Domitrovich): I don’t know about that, but Crystal Field, who runs Theater for the New City, is excited about plastering the poster all over the theater. Also we have a MySpace page to promote the show with pages for all the characters. Our flyers will have the title printed across the actors’ most attractive body parts, with the MySpace address beneath it. I chose “Artfuckers” as a title to be a little irreverent and in your face. The idea is to make it challenging to love the characters in the play. I thought maybe the audience would hate the characters in the beginning, but by the end of the play even if they didn’t love the characters they’d grow to understand them and see how they might be similar to themselves. When we did a workshop reading at INTAR I was shocked that the audience seemed to dislike the characters so much in the very beginning of the reading. I was freaked out, but then I realized this is what I’d set out to do.
Rail: What made you write this play?
Domitrovich: I grew up in New York but I went to high school in Martha’s Vineyard, and towards the end of high school I was coming to New York a lot. I was hanging out with kids who were artists, designers, writers, musicians, filmmakers, kids who at 15 and 17 years old had these huge dreams, but were doing their work to accomplish them. And one of the things they all had in common was that they had parents who were famous. They were not exactly celebrities like Paris Hilton. These parents were artists and not known in other parts of the country like Michigan, where I was born. But they had a name in the New York art world. So what I wanted to explore in this play is how do you live, how do you work when you are in the shadow of someone else, especially a parent. For example, Bella Schneider, one of the characters in this play, is known for being the daughter of a famous 1980’s abstract landscape painter. She is the quintessential downtown “It Girl” who seems to live life on the surface, but I believe her waters run way deeper. I wrote her this very honest monologue where she has the chance to tell what it’s like to become a woman living in the shadow of all the men in her life.
Rail: What was your research like for this piece?
Domitrovich: I read Harper’s Bazaar, Gotham, Vogue, W. I watched every makeover show and watched as much trash as I could. I have no bias when it comes to high and low culture, I love it all. I just watched a video of Alexander McQueen’s spring ’07 collection and he is the single most inspiring person on my radar right now. He had Edwardian-inspired clothes that were crazy modern but still focused on 1930s English tailoring. It was rebellious, and in your face, yet respectful of the form. In writing I want to do the same, rebel and respect the form.
Rail: Do you have a favorite artist who inspires you?
Domitrovich: John Waters is my favorite filmmaker. The first movie I saw of his was Polyester. The idea that something so horrifying could also be entertaining was really inspirational. Besides that, I love those big film divas, big female characters in general. It was when I worked at my family’s restaurant in my teens that some of the staff exposed me to Bette Davis and Joan Crawford and movies like Mildred Pierce. I really don’t see much of a difference between Joan Crawford and Divine.
Rail: Eduardo Machado (the director of Artfuckers) and you have a book coming out on Cuban cooking, Tastes Like Cuba: An Exile’s Hunger for Home (Gotham Press). Can you tell me about your experiences with food and the book?
Domitrovich: I was raised in restaurants. One of my parents’ first restaurants was Ham Heaven, in Tribeca. It was a breakfast and lunch place where they cooked about thirty hams a day and served different soups made with stock from hambones. Their signature dish was called heavenly hash, hash brown potatoes with peppers, onions, and chopped ham, grilled until crispy and topped with a fried egg. Now they have a restaurant in Martha’s Vineyard, a Cajun place called Lola’s. I have a deep connection to food. Everything can be expressed through food. You prepare a meal for someone and you give them an experience that stimulates all five senses, even sound. When you bite into an éclair you can hear the sound of the cream squirting in your mouth. What I find interesting about the book Eduardo and I are working on is that Eduardo is able to tell his life story through food. Memories are connected to food, where you were, what happened, what you ate. I have this idea that everyone has a perfect meal, fully formed and idealized in their heads. And if there’s a perfect meal there’s also a perfect play out there waiting for me. Whenever I write, I feel like I’m working with something that’s already formed that I’m just trying to capture. I will never get to that perfect idealized place, but I can try.
Rail: Have you had exciting experiences in the theatre lately?
Domitrovich: Yes, there’s a group called Blue Box Productions and they do a series of short plays set in bars called “Sticky”. They present their shows on the last Friday of every month at Galapagos, in Williamsburg. All the plays are unified by the bar setting, and there’s an immediacy to them, because they’re written and produced for an audience so rapidly.
Rail: Do you have a mantra you want to leave the readers of this interview with?
Domitrovich: How about a line from the play? “What happens when you forget how to live? The work. The work. You pour yourself into the work. What happens when you forget how to work? You live, and live and live….”
Artfuckers, written by Michael Domitrovich, directed by Eduardo Machado, opens at Theater for the New City on February 19th and runs thru March 4th. Show times: Wed – Sat at 8pm, Sun at 7pm. For tickets and more info: www.theaterforthenewcity.net
Troyano is INTAR Theatres new Associate Artistic Director. She is also a playwright.