Potatoes of August
Science Drama/Comedy with songs
Potatoes of August is a theatricalist fugue wherein four retirees encounter a sack of sentient potatoes, and find their outworn belief systems forcibly confronted by the challenges of a highly integrated, enlightened metaphysics. These potatoes have brains, have read their Swedenborg, and don't always play fair. Parts kitchen sink drama, musical comedy, intimate biographical portraiture, museum educational presentation, opera, Renaissance fair, science fiction, science fair, and phenomenological debate, it is a fugue in both the musical and psychiatric sense, and also a swarm. A flight is tracked from comprehensible identity and habitual perception into an unknowable environment of vastness, multiplicity, and high, high entropy. Source texts include, The Mabinogion (the Welsh version of the Arthurian legends), August Strindberg's high-strung metabolization of the work of Emmanuel Swedenborg in his autobiographical novel, Inferno (that's where the 'August' in the title is coming from), and the writings of Barnard astrophysicist, Janna Levin. The piece also represents a certain amount of research into hive mind and behavior, looking in particular at studies by biologists Iain Couzin and Daniel Grunbaum. For both dramatic text and music, Johannes Kepler's 1619 work Harmonies of the Spheres. Research has focused on places in history where nature, science, religion and art were not disparate or conflicting, were not at war, but lived all happily together. The roots of that time reach now forward into our own dark age. Their tendrils feel their way up pantlegs and into ear canals, seeking audience and refuge so to develop buds and tubers of strange cognizance, and remembrance. The questions and confusions raised in Potatoes of August are rooted in the hope that a second Enlightenment could save us humans, where the forces of understanding in art, science, religion and nature can safely merge and guide us toward better choices.
2 women (cross-gender casting encouraged)
1 gender neutral potato wrangler and/or puppeteer
hundreds of potatoes
“Kempson splices avant-weirdness (are her potatoes escapees from Richard Foreman’s Potatoland?) to thrilling runs of everyday speech, thus forestalling the trance that poetically adventurous work can create. Her characters have bite and humor, which helps her lyricism maintain point and thrust. Want something impeccably julienned? Look elsewhere. But if you want to see the new Fornes (or Churchill or Kennedy) before she’s even peeled, get thee downtown.”
—Helen Shaw, Time Out New York
Production and Development History
Production: Dixon Place (December 2008/January 2009).