Interview | Faye Driscoll

The Brooklyn-based choreographer on roles as costumes, and on bringing methods and questions back from her work in theater.

Faye Driscoll, left, and Jesse Zaritt in rehearsal

Faye Driscoll, left, and Jesse Zaritt in rehearsal Photograph: Kate Ryan


Local dancegoers may recognize NYC choreographer Faye Driscoll’s name from two works of hers in repertoire at [node:70917 link=Same Planet Different World;]: Cold Blooded Old Times and Hearts on Fire. Her name may also ring a bell with theatergoers who caught Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company in The Shipment [node:96885 link=last spring at MCA Stage;]: Driscoll, 35, choreographed an unforgettable, tone-setting sequence referencing minstrel shows for the controversial play. In 2009, I had the great fortune of catching Taylor Mac’s five-hour theatrical extravaganza, The Lily’s Revenge, at HERE in New York City, for which Driscoll made a third-act “dream ballet” of sorts, performed by dancer doppelgängers of some of its central characters.

On Wednesday 24, Driscoll and Jesse Zaritt perform excerpts from a duet from not…not at [node:14776273 link=the 2011 Chicago Dancing Festival;], part of an homage to long-running variety night Martha @ Mother, hosted by [node:14895257 link=Richard Move in the guise of Martha Graham;]. I caught up with Driscoll by phone from her Brooklyn apartment.

What was the genesis of not…not? What seeded it?
The very, very original idea in it was exploring ideas around beauty, which was this really broad, really Faye, big, big thing, that I was interested in: what beauty is to me. My original question was, What does it mean? How does beauty function in my life? But then it quickly went into these ideas of desire, and around the performance of gender. I think that that just had to do with [Zaritt and me] being a man and a woman, you know? From there, we got really into forcing a lot of material from creation myths that we were looking into, like, these ideas around “original man” and “original woman,” and since then…we’re playing a lot with trying to both satisfy and debunk expectations that you might have around a man and a woman on the stage. It’s actually the first section of what will be an evening-length duet. Right now, I’m imagining that we’ll have three sections, and that it’ll premiere in its entirety in April at the Kitchen. This section’s subtitle is, If you pretend you are drowning I'll pretend I am saving you.

That’s a very Miranda July kind of title.
Yeah, it kind of is. [Laughs] It’s from this children’s book that my girlfriend gave me. What’s the book? I’ll have to look for it.… I Like You, by Sandol Stoddard Warburg. I switched around the quote. The book actually says, “If I pretend I am drowning you pretend you are saving me.”

And not…not? Where did that title come from?
It’s this description of the impossible, of something that cannot be described. I think that a theme in my work is this problem of being someone in the world, the constant question of, Am I doing it right? And, particularly because [Zaritt and I] talked about roles in relationships, Am I performing myself right? Am I performing my gender right? Am I performing, you know, my love for you right? All of that and, also, imagining, How else can human beings be? How could we become third things? A gender that we’ve never imagined, that we’ve never heard of? A third kind of creature that’s more than human? Those are some of the questions that are coming up in this [process. People] always describe ourselves in reference to relationship, in relation to each other, like, I’m a man because you’re a woman, that kind of thing. So, What is the “not-not”? Starting that conversation.

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