Rhubarb Profile: Suck and Blow

Director Michael Rubenfeld told me about his piece showing at this week's Rhubarb! (through Sunday the 12th)

Can you introduce yourself and your piece?

I'm Michael Rubenfeld. I'm the director and co-creator on this piece along with my other co-creators Judith Snow, Tara Beagan and Caleb Yong.

The piece is called "Suck and Blow". It's acted by Judith Snow, who is a quadriplegic woman and Caleb Yong, who spent three years as one of her personal assistance. The piece is inspired by Judith and Caleb's relationship, and through Judith's existence as an oddity in a walking world.

It is a non-traditional show, as it doesn't have the sort of narrative we come to expect from most theatre. The actors rarely speak, and the action of the piece is Caleb dressing Judith. It's an exaggeration of a routine.

Who would you say is your ideal audience?

Anyone interested in seeing something they don't see everyday.

What inspired/motivated you to create the play?

The desire to understand what it actually means to live one's life as an oddity or an inspiration--the difficulty to just "be".

How long have you been working on it?

We've been meeting with Judith on and off for two months.

Tell me about the process of writing/performing about the piece?

We spent the first part of the process filming Judith and just sitting and talking with her ... getting to know what she and the piece needed to say. The idea came very fast and quickly, as she's in no way a "victim" and is quite aware of how the world sees her. She doesn't pretend to be like everyone else.

Then, at a certain point, we realized we needed to come up with a simple structure to tell the story. And so we settled on something, and then began creating the piece. At first we worked without Judith, while Tara Beagan played her while we were forming the "script".

Once that was done, Judith joined us for rehearsal, and we started putting it on it's feet. We are not working with a set script, so every rehearsal gives us new ideas and new things to try. It's likely that the piece won't be "set" by the first show, and we'll continue to explore throughout the week, as we are hoping to move forward with a full length production.

What makes Rhubarb a good venue choice for you?

I can't imagine this piece working anywhere else. People seem to come to Rhubarb and Buddies with the interest of being surprised and challenged. Ideas being pushed.

It's also one of the very few opportunities to push our own artistic boundaries without the fear of some critic crapping all over us because we don't fit into their idea of what theatre should be. Rhubarb audiences, myself included, are actually let down if what we're seeing is just the same-old same-old.

What's next?

We've applied for grants to continue developing the piece. We'd like to find ways for the audience to be more involved with it. We've thought about creating an installation with the piece.

Essentially, we've had to put a lot of ideas aside because of time a money constraints, but we know that it's a unique piece that has the opportunity to pique a lot of people's interest.

When was the last time you saw a quadriplegic onstage? Judith is in no way a charity case, which is how a lot of people would perceive of the disabled. We've all been changed by her, and it seems necessary to share that gift.

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