Very excited that Taffety Punk Theatre Company's suicide.chat.room is about to open at the Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint on Thursday night. (And not just because it means that the full-length version of my play, Burn Your Bookes, is up next in the Taffety Punk queue!)
The opening of suicide.chat.room is the final crystallization of a process that has engaged Taffety Punk artistic director Marcus Kyd for almost four years now, since the public got a first taste of it at the 2006 Page-to-Stage festival at the Kennedy Center. I've been to a few rehearsals now at various points in the journey and I am finding the piece an incredibly moving and intense blend of text, movement (choreographed by company member Paulina Guerrero) and challenging music from D.C. indie stalwarts Beauty Pill as well.
There's an official press release here, but what I was interested in posting a bit on the inherent controversy involved in appropriating texts written by those who have contemplated suicide --and in some cases, succeeded in doing so.
The fears in any such undertaking, of course, boil down largely to two main concerns: (1) sensationalizing suicide; and (2) encouraging it. From what I've seen in rehearsals and in the text, Marcus and his collaborators and actors are not treading into either one of those potential pitfalls.
I am not asserting that suicide.chat.room will not excite some controversy. It is trampling any number of taboos, in particular the notion that suicide should not be discussed with candor. The piece is unflinching in its examination of the human agonies and fragilities that create a desire to end one's own life -- and to seek out a virtual community where one can learn just how to do so.
Yet there is no glamor in the suicides -- imagined and real -- that are at the heart of suicide.chat.room. Without giving anything away or spoiling the twists and surprises in the piece, I can at least attest that I found the power of suicide.chat.room resides in the way that even this most lethally-minded of communities affirms the positive power of human solidarity and the consolations found in sharing our human grief and pain.
Ironies, paradoxes and outright contradictions are the meat of suicide.chat.room. It challenges, provokes and consoles in equal measure. It promises to be a powerful event.
Previews on Tuesday, January 26 and Wednesday, January 27. Opening night is Thursday, January 28. The run ends on Saturday, February 13. Information on tickets here.