Stacy Makishi’s talks about her new performance ‘The Falsettos’ (24th and 25th of May as part of the SACRED season at www.chelseatheatre.co) and the act of turning fifty.
You turned 50 this year! Congratulations. First of all how did you celebrate?
We celebrated with a bunch of lesbians, trannies, gays, misfits and outlaws all together in a Unitarian Church. The evening began with a baptism. My atheist minister, Rev Andy Pakula gave a brief sermon-riff on Rumi: ‘it’s not our task to seek love but rather to remove the obstacles and walls that we’ve built to keep love out.’ The baptism was comprised of a water balloon that was held between two people. People were asked to focus on whatever obstacles or beliefs they held between themselves and love. Their task was to squeeze and burst the balloon held between them and the other person on the other side of the balloon. It was the best way to turn 50 ever!
‘The falsettos’ is inspired about thoughts of your ‘ancient’ and geographically distant mum. Do you think that being older has forced you to change your perception of her?
I don’t know if my perception of her has changed… But the perception of myself has changed a lot. The thing is, I’m short. 5ft and a half… (at this height, that half inch is very important!). I’m short so I always thought I had time to grow up. But one must never mistake size for age. I suddenly found myself old! And when my mom dies, who’s gonna be responsible? Me? How can I be someone’s mom when I feel like a pre-teen still wearing a training bra! Dang! Turning 50 is both shocking and horrific. It’s also the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I love being 50. It’s like hello kitty turning into a killer tiger!
Does your mum know about this performance?
My poor mother. She wishes that I didn’t love her and fixate on her so much, seriously.
She’s very shy and very normal. Except that she is my mom and in many ways, even more strange than me! She was raised as a professional classical musician. She was an opera singer. She really was a Soprano! My mother appreciates composition, structure and rigour. This piece is very much a fugue with many variations on the same themes. It’s psychological and musical in that we return, over and over again to the same dreams, failures, hopes and desires. I hope that it is an opera, filled with Sopranos and Falsettos.
I know another influence for the performance and insight into the concept of ‘family’ is The Sopranos. Who is your favourite Sopranos character and why?
Family is another word for the mob. The tag line in the Sopranos is, ‘If one family doesn’t kill you, the other one will.’ I think ‘family’ is such rich and dangerous territory because it’s both familiar and unknown. ‘They say if you get far enough away, you’ll be on your way back home’. I love Tony because in some ways he is everything that I am not and yet, I identify with him a lot. He is a muscular, almost beastly figure. He is a ganster-family man, struggling to do the best he can. My idea of minotaur. “We are less than gods, more than beasts, yet somehow both.”
And as for the guys in the mob, I find Paulie Walnuts very entertaining. He’s the one who has the white stripes on his sideburns. He looks like a skunk or like a badger. I have a soft spot for the stubborn and the stink.
Is the performance all scripted?
No. I’m trying a bit of both. I’m shooting for something very ‘scored’ and compositional and at the same time I want to have moments of sheer chaos.
How long did it take you to write?
I’ve been working on this for 2 years, but the ending came to me in a dream about 10 days ago. I’ve written half the show in 10 days. It’s been a nightmare and a dream come true.
What was the first sentence you committed to paper in the conception for this new performance?
Let’s start this to end it.
This piece is about looking the end in its eye.
There seems an impulse in your work to shock. Is that ever the case, or is it just the consequence of brutal honesty?
Honest?!? I’m full of bullshit. If there is any ‘brutality’ in my honesty, it comes from great love. I would love to bludgeon the audience with hope and to wake them up. Like the song goes, “Woke up this morning, and got myself a gun.” I mean, would you live differently if someone woke you up with a gun up to your head and asked you, “Whatcha gonna do with your one wild and crazy life?”
Your play has threads of autobiography. Would you ever consider doing collaboration? Because getting you and Bryony Kimmings in a room could be magical.
There’s a wink to Bryony in this show. I’ve mentored Bryony (which really means I’m old and I speak honestly to her), and she was telling me about the pressure of making a second show. My show is a sequel and it does express the horror of living up to your own work. How does an artist resist gimmicks or formulae while at the same time remaining true to their own ‘artistic signature’? Especially when you hear ‘Make it like the other one, but make it better’!
In one sentence what do you want to achieve in this performance?
Don’t stop believing…. You, know that Journey song? Tony Soprano dies to that song.
And what do you make of the mantra ‘Make it like the last one, only make it better’?
This is my last one ever! Seriously. No bullshit here, folks.