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Jo Firestone and Dylan Marron dont mind making you uncomfortable.
Depending on your name tag, your character might have misbehaved yesterday, and if so you will be chastised.
Thats Firestone, describing the experience of walking into Meagan & Davids Original Low Cost Creativity Workshop, GoHorses’ new exercise in audience participation, discomfort, and general hilarity playing though July 23 at The Shop at Fort Fringe. Marron and Firestone, the duo behind the 2010 Director’s Award-winning Ridgefield Middle School Talent Nite have returned with a darker show that intentionally pushes the audiences buttons. I asked the pair to describe the set-up.
Marron: Well it is a husband-and-wife team, really a partner-and-partner team. They have a creativity workshop. Actually, its Davids Creativity Workshop.
Firestone: But the show takes place on Day 2.
Marron: Were coming in after Day 1. And things have not gone so well.
Firestone: David didnt feel respected.
Marron: So David has brought in his partner Meagan. Meagan is a gym teacher.
Firestone: At a middle school. Burke Middle School. And so the story is theyre trying to have this workshop to get the non-creative people to be creative but really they get very caught up in their own relationship issues and it kind of…
Firestone: …and makes Day 2 a disaster. Neither of these people want to be where they are. Like, theyre both in a place and I think with a lot of people with this economy, you know, theyre in a place where they dont want to be. And it’s the story of two people who, in the grand scope things, only have each other and they are trying to work through where theyre going and what they have now and what they will have the rest of their lives.
This all begs the question, how much do Meagan and Davids on-stage troubles reflect Firestone and Marrons off-stage relationship and collaborative process? Marron and Firestone met as students at Wesleyan University and were soon inseparable. That friendship became the foundation of what would become GoHorses, Ridgefield, and now Meagan & David.
Marron: We wanted to write from a place we knew about. It really helped with Ridgefield because wed experienced middle school. We havent experienced being an open married couple leading a workshop, but its semi-autobiographical in that its about how working together in a partnership isnt always the easiest thing.
Firestone: Were trying to connect how we feel about each other with these characters that are kind of made up and kind of truthful and its interesting to see because in the collaborative process. Like, you get frustrated with each other because you both have work through a lot of your ideas and theyre ideas and like marry them in a way.
One trimmed scene that D.C. audiences will not experience sheds some light into the GoHorses process.
Marron: So, there is a point where David performs a piece that he has been working on for a few years and its called Richard the Third, Dreamscapes in New Media. This is something that David cares a lot about, hes put a lot of thought into it. And this is first time hes shared it. Hes reached his breaking point. He says Well, all I can do now to regain the lead of this workshop is perform this piece. So Meagan, because shes there, shell play the supporting role. So what were were doing for a while is that Meagan, in the middle of the piece, became fed up with being second fiddle to David so she started stripping.
Firestone: This was my idea! And Dylan, as a person with opinions, said I dont love it, I doesnt make much sense and I was adamant and I said No, its really great. Because shes kind of this slutty character. And Dylan said Ok, I trust you. Well do it. And we did it two times for live audiences. And both times was just like… silence. No one was on board. Everybody was like Oh God, why is she stripping? Why is she taking off her clothes? I finally got the sense to realize this is not working. Its a funny bit but it doesnt work in the context of the characters. But it was an example of where Dylan and patience and trust in me. And we fixed it with a solution we came up with together.
Marron: Now Meagan binge eats. I think in our collaboration there is always a Meagan and there is always a David, you know? And sometimes Im Meagan and sometimes Jo is Meagan. But there are a lot of times when it matches up and we feel equal to each other. Even with someone you feel so safe with, there is insecurity about putting your ideas out there. You want them to like your idea and you want them to go for it and you want them to help you realize it.
That sort of high-wire honesty and its dangers extends to Marron and Firestones relationship to the audience. Firestone and Marron know from experience when an audience member is set to recoil in horror at the prospect of being pulled through the fourth wall for one of Davids many exercises in creativity. But such is their commitment to concept, that Marron and Firestone may just press on. Says Firestone, were human, we realize when people are like I dont want to do this and depending on our mood we may let up or we may press it more. But for the most part if people really dont want to be a part of it they will make it known and we will move on.
As for whats ahead, Firestone and Marron will continue to tinker with Meagan & David, and also look forward to a New York City run of Ridgefield this August. Neither has an interest to work in show biz full-time. Says Firestone, We both want to keep working, to keep our day jobs. To think that well ever make a living out of this… its unthinkable. Both of us work in coffee shops. I think having a job thats not in theater keeps you grounded.
But we shouldnt expect a new show about bickering baristas anytime soon. Explains Marron, that would be too close to home!