Wednesday, 8 July 2015

The Dramaturgy of the Dagger: Daggers MacKenzie

Kaplan was first compelled to create her one-woman, lesbian circus indie pop-rock opera after playing the role of “Yitzhak” in a Boston run of the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, where The Boston Globe recognized her “rich soprano” vocals.
A working writer, she began crafting the story and songs for Daggers while on a European tour as a guitarist with The Bitchfits, the all-female tribute to the punk band The Misfits, where she performed alongside punk rock legends the US Bombs, UK Subs, and Agnostic Front.

Production: Daggers MacKenzie

Company: Melissa A. Kaplan

Venue: Spotlites, Venue 278, 22 Hanover Street, EdFringe

Dates: Sunday 16 Aug to Tuesday 31 August 2015
Time: 16:45 (50 min)
Tickets: £10 / £8 concession
Venue box office: 0131 220 5911 /

The Fringe

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
Melissa Kaplan: I began with songs. I’m a songwriter and musician and I got bored of performing music concert style. I wanted to tell the story with my body. Bring it to life. The idea for the main character came to me in a dream and everything else flowed from there.

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
The audiences come expecting something different. I want to be around people hungering for something new, willing to enter the space with an open mind. And I want to be a part of something big.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
I can’t anticipate that, but I can project my intention. At a very basic level, everyone’s going to be following a story. But somewhere between the music, characters and performance, I’m conspiring to take them with me into the moment so they can get whatever it is they need. Everyone’s going to interpret it differently.

The soundtrack for Daggers was produced and recorded by her longtime
musical mentor, Michael Eisenstein, guitarist for Melissa Etheridge and co-writer for Top 40 alternative rock band Letters to Cleo.

After years of performing, she brought her show concept to award-winning director and mime Stephanie Abrams, founder of the school and theatre Kinetic Theory Circus Arts in Los Angeles. Abrams trained Kaplan’s body deeply for the roles and directed her premiere.

Beyond the on-stage spectacles of juggling knives and personas, Kaplan leans heavily on her musical strengths in the show; she trained voice at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, and flips from soothing pop to rock-opera vibrato on a dime.

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of
dramaturgy within your work?
It was fundamental. The show wouldn’t exist without the dramaturgical guidance of Stephanie Abrams, who also directs the show. As a writer I tend to get intensely into my head, and onstage I have no idea if something will translate. 

Stephanie is a gifted mime and brilliant about physicalizing a story – everything from where you stand on stage to how the positioning of your body can reflect a character or make an audience feel. I laid out my intentions for the story -- she helped me make sense of my characters’ actions and tested and secured the logic of the show.

What particular traditions and influences would you acknowledge on your work - have any particular artists, or genres inspired you and do you see yourself within their tradition?
Circus has really inspired me. I’ve only fallen into it in recent years through my training at Kinetic Theory Circus Arts in Los Angeles, and it’s changed the way I approach my art and even the way I think.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is also a huge influence on me. I heard the music before I saw the movie back in 2001, and then I was Yitzhak in a Boston stage production in 2004. When I felt ready to expand what I did onstage, I looked to Hedwig for direction and the way it made me feel. I played with the format of just a band and one performer leading the way. 

At Edinburgh Fringe, I won’t even have a band. I do intend to see Hedwig though (I saw it front row center when it finally made it to Broadway this past February with John Cameron Mitchell. I cried).

Do you have a particular process of making that you could describe - where it begins, how you develop it, and whether there is any collaboration in the process?
I’m very much guided by music. It’s the first place for me that’ll spark a feeling, and then I’ll begin taking my cues from there. For Daggers, I first wrote the songs, and then I developed the characters, relationships and story with Stephanie. Through working with her I’ve learned to become much more physical.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
Daggers is a performer and her world is a circus, and the audience gets to become part of her world. It’s crucial for the characters to have an audience for their show, as it’s a show within a show.



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  2. The bar staff at this place was professional and their drinks ensured us a fun night in the city. I can't wait to go back. Most of the negative elements of going to a more popular place are avoided at NY venues; the staff was really mature and respectful.