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FRIGID New York Festival 2011 – Five Questions For: Mendacity

by Karen Tortora-Lee on February 16, 2011

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Welcome back to another installment of FRIGID New York Festival 2011 Q&A!  We’ll be running these throughout February until the Festival starts, so be sure to check back to read all about the great shows that will be taking part in the festival.  Also – don’t miss the winner-take-all game of Rock Paper Scissors! Today’s Q&A is with Lauren Rayner who is the Writer/Director/Producer of Mendacity.

Through the integration of dynamic multi-media installations, Mendacity, a solo word-collage, takes you deep inside the mind of a splintering personality wrought with self-loathing and denial over sexual assault. Join us in a rebellious journey of fragmented transcendence and the offering of hope.

Ali Kresch in Mendacity (Photo by Lauren Rayner)

Ali Kresch in Mendacity (Photo by Lauren Rayner)

answers by Lauren Rayner - Writer/Director/ Producer

Antonio Asks: What makes FRIGID such a warm and welcoming experience for your production?

As a producer, it is my priority to make productions affordable and accessible through pay-what-you-can tickets and grassroots outreach to many cultural communities and student populations… FRIGID does just that. It is such a wonderful festival because HorseTrade does not pass judgment on the participants; everyone involved is here because they absolutely want to be and they feel as if they have an important story to tell. Or they may just want to have a crazy time with their company downtown for a few weeks! Either way, I am so thrilled to bring this intense and inspiring piece to the festival. We have moved from readings in Los Angeles to readings and a workshop here in New York and FRIGID feels like the perfect next step for Mendacity’s evolution.

Diánna Asks: What about this play do you feel most drawn to personally, and because of that, what message do you hope the audience walks away with?

MENDACITY is a solo word collage performance piece detailing a young woman’s harmful sexual experiences, mostly surrounding two rapes by close friends, and the aftermath that ensues with her friends, family, and fragmented/unsettled mentality. This young woman does not have a name or identity, which is explored as she realizes “I have been possessed for years years I have been possessed other people voices parts selves have lived inside me no wonder I don’t know who I am I don’t know who I am I have never known” MENDACITY uses various performance mediums, such as vocal performance, experimental sound and visuals, and precise physical movement to relay her story.

It is important to note that this show is not about seeing someone get raped or re-living sexual assaults in any way. The piece examines the reactions of friends, family, lovers and how the community views a victim of sexual assault. At a reading in Los Angeles, we had two women stand up and share their stories for the first time. It was a moment that I will never forget – something that I thought could only occur at events like Take Back the Night or support groups. At every presentation of this piece, there has always been a strong sense of community and openness in the room. This piece has a jarring and painful way of opening up a dialogue about very uncomfortable topics and sends the audience a strong message that it is okay to talk about it. Plus, the integration of all of the multi-media components just makes it fascinating to watch this woman on her rebellious journey to finding hope.

Karen Asks: That’s some title.  How did you come up with it – and what does it mean?

For me, MENDACITY has an almost darkly romantic connotation of a ‘cheap lie’ – the solo performer in this piece battles with that notion in regards to her life following the patterns of abuse that others inflict on her and her self-destructive behavior. The piece approaches lies in ways that we all do; if we tell these cheap little lies to ourselves over and over again, they possibly become a part of all our realities. In the show, we explore this disconnect.

Stephen Asks: You must have a favorite part of your show.  What makes it your favorite?

Honestly, my favorite part of working on this project has been bringing all of the collaborators together. Yes, it’s a solo show. But we have been working since 2008 with over 15 creative collaborators to shape the piece into what it is today. And it has become a dynamic multi-media extravanganza (video projections, gestural choreography, an original soundscape…) and a mind-boggling view directly into a splintered mind.

Due to the sensitive nature of the piece, it is imperative that all artists involved harbor a personal connection to the subject. All of the producers individually signed on to the project after a private reading. Many of the other artistic contributors are those that I have worked with before, for example, the sound designer Jonathan Hull and his band Momentary Prophets collaborated on a song for a flash-mob that I produced in Washington Square Park. However, producer Benjamin Mack recommended video designer Jay Kilachand from his work with Jay’s company RedLabelFilms. Jay Kilachand then recommended Luke Kanter, a recent graduate of Yale’s film and sound engineering department who has worked directly with Sarath Patel (the sound designer for Theatre C’s 3-time NY Innovative Theatre Award Winner ‘Jesse Zaritt’s BINDING’, which I associate produced). Producer Rachel Kerry brought on choreographer Shiloh Goodin, a passionate dancer who brings immeasurable life to the piece with movement. Ali Kresch is a performer that I have directed before in a movement-piece in Central Park. All of above are emerging New York City artists (and not necessarily just in theatre!)

The amount of love, hope and dedication that has gone into creating this piece has been absolutely awe-inspiring. And I hope that passion shows through to the audience every night!

Lina Asks: How much of your show was inspired by true events?

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, about 80% of rape cases in the United States are women aged 24 and under, and that statistic becomes even more staggering when we realize that most rapes of young women go unreported out of fear, disgust, shame, and denial. This woman’s story was inspired by personal experiences and other stories shared by young women around the United States. I spoke to women at support groups, Take Back the Night, performances of The Vagina Monologues, women on the subway, etc and their words unfolded into the word-collage that the piece is now.

THM Bonus Question: If you could play a virtual game of Rock, Paper, Scissors with another FRIGID Show which show would you take on?  And what would you throw?

I would totally take on the Oregon Trail Show! Only because actor MAX SCHNELLER (who texted me when upon seeing the shows released on the FRIGID website) is set to perform in it and I directed him in my thesis show at USC in Los Angeles – HAH… a ROCK is coming for you buddy :)

Thanks Mendacity – for participating in The Happiest Medium’s FRIGID New York Festival 2011 Q&A.  And for playing our game!  You’re officially ROCK.  So you may win TWICE.  Or, not at all.  This is how it works in the crazy world of the VIRTUAL ROCK PAPER SCISSORS TOURNAMENT!

Meanwhile, for the rest of you – don’t forget to check out Mendacity!

Written & Directed by Written & Directed by Lauren Rayner New York, NY
Presented by Blame Your Fate Productions New York, NY
The Kraine Theater (85 East 4th Street) $15
Thu 2/24 @ 9pm, Sat 2/26 @ 8:30pm, Mon 2/28 @ 9pm, Thu 3/3 @ 6pm, & Sat 3/5 @ 5:30pm

FRIGID New York Festival 2011 will run February 23-March 6 at The Kraine Theater & The Red Room (85 East 4th Street between 2nd Ave and Bowery) and UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place between 1sr Ave and Ave A). Tickets ($10-$16) may be purchased online at or by calling Smarttix at 212-868-4444. All shows will run 60 minutes long or less.

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