A Partial Who's Who at MoMFest 2000
The Dirigo GroupAccepting the B. Iden Payne awards last week for Outstanding Actor and Actress in a Drama, respectively, Judson L. Jones and wife Christa Kimlicko Jones both gushed over their fellow Dirigo Group members. In their acceptance speeches, both also took the opportunity to publicly, affectionately, pay tribute to their director, Laura Somers: "Laura, you are a bitch," both said into the microphone.
Somers, director of the Dirigo debut desire (which won Outstanding Production of a Drama), with her high energy and signature pigtails, took the slur as a compliment. According to Somers, the actors' resentment/gratitude comes out of the fact that she is "relentless in the pursuit of truth and passion."
The actors are apt to agree. "She makes it safe to do anything," says Kimlicko Jones. When Somers went up later in the evening to accept her own B. Iden Payne for Outstanding Director of a Drama, she was coached vociferously on the way by another Dirigo member, the exuberant Corey Gagne. The result was short but heartfelt: "Say what you mean and mean what you say," she told the crowd. The line represents, Somers says, the troupe's commitment to never doing anything half-assed. Rather anticlimactic to an audience braced for dramatic revelations, but it was true to Dirigo's form, honesty being their forte.
Make that honesty and blood-curdling screams. While rehearsing desire, Somers worked the cast hard, making them scream so loud that at one point they managed to disturb the neighbors, this despite the fact that the show was being rehearsed and performed on a farm in the middle of nowhere. Priding themselves on the internal challenge, Dirigo aims for "rawness," as Kimlicko Jones puts it. What they've come up with so far are three very intense (and loud) plays about incest.
Having heard a rumor or two about the romantic entanglements of the troupe (Gagne and Somers dated for three years; actor Greg Gondek and stage manager extraordinaire Tammy Whitehead, no one's telling), I asked if the incest topic hit, at least metaphorically, close to home. Why, in other words, have all three shows the group has staged in the past year been about the ultimate taboo?
According to Gondek, "It just worked out that way." While at one point, most of the clan was indeed dating internally, Kimlicko Jones wants it clear that there is no correlation between that and Dirigo's choice of subject matter. The day after our interview, she even e-mailed me to say: "For the record ... we are NOT all dating or sleeping together!!!"
If the Dirigo members are something of a clique, Somers says it's because doing desire was such an intense situation -- the storyline combined with a production experience akin to boot camp, "out on this cold-ass farm, getting sick together."
Regardless of the relevance or lack thereof to their private lives, Somers, Gagne, Gondek, the Joneses, and Whitehead have done an unnervingly impressive job of portraying doomed inter-family pairings: stepmother-stepson in desire; brother-sister in both Sam Shepard's Fool for Love and a piece inspired by Lanford Wilson's 1964 play Home Free, which Gondek and Kimlicko Jones are co-directing and starring in for MoMFest. Though only the two of them are participating in this project, it is expected to combine the troupe's gifts for "reconsidering" classical works and for getting completely and convincingly keyed-up. Somers will be doing an as-yet-unfinished show (an "e-mail experiment") with an outside collaborator October 6-7.
Dirigo Group performs Home Free Sunday, Oct. 1, 7pm, at The Hideout, 617 Congress, and Friday, Oct. 6, 8pm, at The Vortex, 2307 Manor.