Who the hell is Annie La Ganga?
She's not Josh Meyer or Matt Hislope: They're the artistic directors of Rubber Repertory, the company behind Biography of Physical Sensation and The Casket of Passing Fancy and Wallace Shawn's X-rated, never-before-produced-in-America A Thought in Three Parts. But Meyer and Hislope – that adventurous Mutt and Jeff duo who also brought clever Dial-a-Tune songster Dick Price back into the limelight – are friends of La Ganga's. Producers of hers. They're doing a show with her – but not in any way that this town's seen before.
This is unsurprising if you know Rubber Rep's work. Meyer and Hislope don't like to take the usual route to anything, and the destination is often some freakishly brilliant combination of performance and direct audience engagement. That's no less true of this show, which takes place in 12 different secret venues over 12 nights with 12 different performances from (and cakes baked by) Annie La Ganga.
But again, who the hell is she?
Annie La Ganga is "a writer, a stand-up comic, a spoken word artist, an improvisational monologist, and one of our all-time favorite Austin performers," explains the Surprise Annie press release. Yes, she's the author of Stoners and Self-Appointed Saints, and her one-woman show at this year's FronteraFest Long Fringe was a riotous success. ("I laughed, often uproariously, once or twice uncontrollably, for close to an hour," reported the Chronicle's Barry Pineo.) But to find out for ourselves, we paid a visit to the woman in the Hyde Park home she shares with a bibliophilic beau and a nettlesome orange tabby.
La Ganga told us, over cupcakes: "I went through a long period in my life of 'What am I? What am I doing? Should I be this thing or that thing? Should I draw? Should I write? Should I act?' I just never knew, so I'd do all these different things. And I kept fantasizing about the kinds of shows I wanted to do. Like, 'I'll save all my trash for a year, and then bring it onstage' – those kinds of things. And all the while I was in AA and recovery stuff and therapy, and that's, you know, that's a storytelling kind of world, an improv monologue kind of world. And all the time I was thinking about what kind of shows I could do, I was also going to things like, oh, lesbian drum circles, and participating in trance dance and painting and all kinds of workshops. Which are also performance-based things."
We should mention: La Ganga made the cupcakes herself.
"I call myself a recovering slam poet," she says. "I did that, like, 15 years ago. And I was in plays in my college years. But a lot of what I love to do is write and tell stories."
We should also mention: The cupcakes were damned good.
"I kept hearing about people who had one-person shows. And I like being funny, so I went through a period of trying to do stand-up comedy – which is just fucking nightmarish. I hated being around comedians, and I hated their work, and they hated me."
We'd better further mention: The show's called Surprise Annie because La Ganga won't know where she'll be performing. She'll be brought blindfolded and taken to each location. She'll bring a cake, which the partiers will eat; then she'll perform.
"Matt and Josh are providing these fucking weird venues for me, and I have no idea what those places are. But coming from my childhood being so traumatic and chaotic, I'm good under fire, you know? I could probably do a show in ICU and stay with the story and be appropriate. So I feel up to the challenge. I guess it's site-specific. Like when you go to an improv show and they take suggestions, and it's 'You're at a hot dog stand – on Mars – and you're Dracula – go!'"
"Go" is the final thing we should mention: What we recommend you do, dear reader, for a night of definitely unique and potentially hilarious performance.
Surprise Annie will be performed Oct. 6-29, Thursday-Saturday, 8pm, at 12 surprise locations. For more information, visit www.rubberrep.org.