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Taffety Punk Theatre Company’s suicide.chat.room—opening tonight—combines a lot of potentially cringe-worthy elements: death, modern dance, and people who seek empathy on the Web. But the new play, directed by Marcus Kyd, uses actual quotes from online suicide forums detailing last goodbyes to suicide techniques and offers a compelling synthesis of text, dialogue and dance. With a generally bare set and a cast of mostly amateur dancers, the physicality of the medium should prove to be a complementary contrast to a topic usually encumbered by words. In Taffety Punk’s rendering, the popularity and severity of suicide forums is hard to ignore.

Below the jump, an interview with artistic director Marcus Kyd.


Washington City Paper: What made you pursue this show? Where did the idea stem from?
Marcus Kyd: I read an article about these things in The Atlantic… and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I just kept thinking about it. I started doing some more research just to see how widespread it was, and I think that combined with having lost a good friend to suicide just made me start to wonder if there was a way to address this through theater.

WCP: What do you think dance gives the performance that dialogue couldn’t?
MK: There will be text, [but] it’s going to be dance-heavy because I personally don’t think that just reading a bunch of transcriptions is going to be very theatrical, nor do I think that could encompass the depths of what’s going on. I’ve always felt that dance is the deepest and… the most connected of the arts to things we have trouble talking about…. I just wanted to bring in a lot of movement and push it towards the abstract because I feel like we’re dealing with things that, very often, there just aren’t words for.

WCP: Did you personally choose the texts for the performance or was it a collaborative effort?
MK: Ultimately, I did it. I got a lot of feedback from the actors. I pulled a bunch of text off just to get started. I searched from like, 1990 on, ‘cause some of these groups have been around for a while. So I came in with like, gobs of text, maybe 30 pages of it…. I just had them lying around the rehearsal room so we could pick them up at any point and look at them and deal with them and try to create something out of it.

WCP: Do the texts in the play discuss the more physical acts that people are asking about on the chat rooms, or the more emotional ones?
MK: It runs the gamut – it’s very heavy-handed in the emotional context and the methods. A lot of people come up and ask for advice – you know, like, how many milligrams of this or that do you need or what’s the best height to fall from… but the methodology ones tend to be short bursts of information. When people start talking about how they’re feeling, it goes on and on and on…. There’s quite a few – I hate to say this, but – jokes. One of the things I’m very interested in, is that these are people…these are humans. These are people we know. There’s a crazy thing about wanting to make the connection in a virtual world, and I think that’s another thing that interested me a lot. It’s not just the suicidal element of this, it’s what is it about this community that’s not changeable that makes it a community?

Photograph by Marcus Kyd