Welcome to the 2nd profile in our new blog & podcast series by Artistic Associate Mariah Freda!
Allow me to introduce you to our next collaborator.
Marissa Joyce Stamps
She, Her, Hers
Cancer sun, Scorpio moon, Leo rising (more than just a sun sign, but necessary info).
Crop top with high waisted jeans. (pajama bottom adaptation for that quarantine life)
Road Trip Snack of Choice:
Double Stuffed Oreos
LISTEN TO THE MICRO-PODCAST VERSION ON PATREON!
Marissa is a college student. She is a college student and I had no idea she was a student until we were casually chatting about high school and she mentioned the year she graduated. Let’s just say it was a lot more recently than me. I remember being absolutely blown away.
I don’t know what the opposite color to green is, but Marissa holds the professionalism and wisdom of a seasoned actor twice her age. She is one for the record books. She will do big things. When she does I will gushingly proclaim, “I knew her when!”
When we began this latest devising round for No Pants in Tucson, we were firmly in the grips of stay at home orders and knew that in order to move forward with this project, we would have to take it to the digital universe. Marissa was also keeping a full University schedule via Zoom. I asked her how she was able to navigate adding rehearsals to an already packed schedule.
“When we started in March, I think I had zoom fatigue by the end of the first week. Just sitting in front of the computer for extended periods of time and for the most part my classes stuck to the same schedule so it would be like basically 9-6 for studio 3 days a week with like maybe an hour break here and there. It's just hard to keep attention. But what I did find interesting, and I’m not just saying this, but bringing rehearsal to Zoom, I think was refreshing for me. The fatigue wasn’t there and it hasn’t been there for me on Saturdays and Mondays when we meet. It's a new creating process that everyone is learning at the same time--whether you are a veteran in the field or someone just young like me--we are all trying to figure this out. That’s what’s interesting and exciting about this new platform for theater artists. Creating an individual place while being “connected” with everyone is just something that I’m learning but appreciating that everyone is still as dedicated as they were in person.”
"It's a new creating process that everyone is learning at the same time--whether you are a veteran in the field or someone just young like me--we are all trying to figure this out."
It has been absolutely humbling trying to learn how to digitally create. I have struggled trying to portray ideas I wanted to express, lacking the technological skill set to realize them fully. I found myself, on more than one occasion, wishing I had the pop culture sophistication to make a TikTok without having to bug my younger cousins to teach me. I had watched as Marissa “arrived” at our virtual rehearsals with content that was surprising and fun and natural to her. I wondered if she could feel the ease that I believed I was witnessing as I watched her adapt to these digital platforms seemingly seamlessly.
“I do feel like me and my generation have a leg up. I was directing my first show at NYC before this all happened and this is along with maybe around 40 other directors in my program, but we still had to be graded on something at the end of the semester. So we had to revisit our projects and either continue working on them fully, in a different context or just doing something totally different. I think my studio was the first digital theater festival for a University. It was just this weekend of people presenting live performances and digital uploads. My dance piece wound up turning into a sub project of me interviewing black womxn during self quarantine. Taking pictures of my sister and my mother and seeing if social distancing and avoiding in-person contact has in any way contributed to Black womxn’s self care. This project for me is a character study for a character in the dance piece. And it's on Instagram. So it’s just reframing what we’re doing, learning the mediums that you already use but in a different way. Someone was using a streaming service like Twitch to do a live theater piece. Like, I would have never thought of that. But it happened.”
And then Marissa added on this, and it has been sticking with me. She said:
“It makes me think about access a lot. Access for the arts and how all these big art organizations are doing these free or discounted things that they could have been doing before. Giving to the communities that don't really get to partake in art year round. I just have my eye on these organizations now and see what will happen after this quarantine.”
It's been almost five months since we shut down our theaters. Our institutions have been forced to adapt to a new world and though we are missing the unmatched experience of live performance, we have been given space to evaluate what we believed to be true then and what we know to be true now. One of my acting teachers used to say something along the lines of, “our boundaries will set us free.” I hope the theater will be set free. We are lucky that those who emerge from the ashes will be the ones who sprung into action and created something new when it seemed like it would be impossible to do so.
We say live theater because it’s living.
Marissa and I chatted about No Pants in Tucson and what brought her to the project and what keeps her with the project. She spoke of urgency then and urgency now. We say live theater because it’s living. Our devising process is the same. Each round of development we gather and we find something new today that matches something old from before. She said something that I hadn’t thought of before and it’s sticking with me,
“All the devising that we’ve done has sort of broadened in sense and allowed us to get more specific.”
We began exploring laws and ordinances that were policing dress code and more often than not, women’s dress, but as we’ve pulled the lens farther and farther back on that notion, inviting more narrative in the room, we’ve been able to see that it’s not really always about the pants.
“Being a need versus want. Identifying more as a man or doing because you need it to escape slavery. Different paths from these women and looking at that was very interesting at this time. It was very urgent at the time and it still is I think. Especially for our cultural climate.”
When I asked Marissa what aspect of this process thus far is sticking with her she evoked our beloved, imaginary and yet oh-so-very-real character, Stacy. (You may know her descendants, Becky and Karen. However, I can’t tell you anymore about that because it would be a spoiler and we can’t have that now, can we?)
We also chatted about Catholic school and those dreadful little dress code detentions we have both received.
“Our principal would come around with a ruler in the hall and stop and measure us. It didn’t matter if you were a freshman or senior. And one time I got stopped, and the skirt was literally fine, I think our Principals and Deans just had to fill a quota. So I definitely got stopped for that. And then this is more like me, my body, I dyed my hair a red that was borderline brown and I ended up getting detention for that because it was an unnatural color. But what is unnatural? I mean I know what they meant but at the same time I was like, “Really? Really??” You can’t tell it's red, but that happened.”
This brings me back to what Marissa said about urgency and how this story that we are attempting to tell exists through time and space. We begin in the 1800s with womxn, for one reason or another, trying to wear a pair of pants and now we find ourselves in 2020 where young girls are being punished for wearing skirts deemed to be too short. We’ve been socialized to believe that policing womxn’s bodies and attire is normal, but if you give yourself a half of second to really think about it, it starts to feel like a joke that’s not funny at all.
We’ve been socialized to believe that policing womxn’s bodies and attire is normal, but if you give yourself a half of second to really think about it, it starts to feel like a joke that’s not funny at all.
But for now I will leave you with something that is funny and I can tell you about it because Marissa, my collaborator who has been working on a show dealing with heaps of historical research, voluntarily shared this information with me.
“So I have this very weird phobia of old things: old photographs, old audio recordings, old film, old songs. I don’t know why, but I’ve always had this fear. Example, during my time in AP World history, I would go through the chapter before I had to read it and cover up each picture with post-it notes and then start from the beginning. So this project I think is really helping me overcome it. But I will only watch historical footage during the daytime for research.
(Insert me giggling uncontrollably, knowing how many hours we’ve spent looking at old-timey photos...)
"I think I’m making so much progress with No Pants in Tucson. But my mom said I have to eventually get over this fear as I enter adulthood.”
God, I hope our production photos look like old photographs.
LISTEN TO THE MICRO-PODCAST VERSION ON PATREON!
Interviewer Mariah Freda is the Artistic Associate of The Anthropologists. Marissa Joyce Stamps is a member of the devising ensemble for No Pants In Tucson, currently in development and slated for a World Premiere in 2021. Learn more about the project here.
You can meet Marissa at our next Zoom & Tell on Monday, June 29 @ 8:30PM.
It's just one of our many Patreon perks!
More info: www.patreon.com/TheAnthropologists