Jack Ferver unveils All of a Sudden at Abrons Arts Center

The witty Jack Ferver talks about his new work, All of a Sudden, a dance-theater twist on Tennessee Williams

Time Out New York: Does that relate to Suddenly Last Summer?
Jack Ferver:
Yes, and then that scene quickly corrodes into semifictitious rehearsal scenes. Josh is watching the rehearsal; Jacob and I are showing him things we’ve made, but then it starts to break apart. You’re not sure if you’re in Suddenly Last Summer, or if I’m in rehearsal with him now, or if I’m actually having a breakdown. The title is very much that—all of a sudden, you’re not sure where you are anymore. The longer I stay alive, the more that seems true: You’re not quite sure where the ground is because there never is any ground. 

Time Out New York: It’s always shifting?
Jack Ferver:
Yes. And that was what was so fun as well in our last residency. Jacob and I went first and made a ton of material in two days. And then Josh came and watched it and started to manipulate it from the outside. That’s what we were able to shape for what the show is, both inside and outside. He’s sitting stage left, so he can watch the whole show, but then he gets inserted, and I have to jump out; those riffs on reality are what we’ve been creating. I was pretty scared at some point in the process, but I’ve realized that that has happened on each one since Rumble Ghost, and it always gets more terrifying; I’ve talked to Marc Swanson, an amazing collaborator, a great friend and in many ways a mentor to me, and he has pointed out that the longer you go as an artist, the harder it gets. I certainly find that to be true. I can now feel more readily what’s not working. I used to make work so instinctively. I still have that, but now being able to see what formally works well together and having done the works and had the responses, both in and out of New York, you make something you’re so excited about and then you watch it and it’s just not right.

Time Out New York: What else are you exploring in this?
Jack Ferver:
A big part of this work is how to talk about collaboration as a metaphor for friendship. I don’t know any artist who doesn’t work in collaboration in terms of performance. There are definitely visual artists who can be alone, but in performance you’re working with bodies, and people have opinions. I don’t know of anyone who makes something that doesn’t involve a connection with their performers—whose work I like anyway. But I want this to be a piece that isn’t just for the dance or performance community. I’m abstracting that so it pulls out those references of all relationships. In the piece, we cover the working relationship; there’s the most flimsy metaphor, that of Catherine and the doctor in Suddenly Last Summer, and then the relationship of a therapist–client, and then the relationship of a dramaturge–choreographer. But then also friendship and a hunt for a romantic relationship as well because Jacob and I—I have created an onstage romance, but of course it will be clear to everyone that it’s not true, because in the very beginning he says he has to check his phone because his girlfriend texted. So what is that?

Time Out New York: Right. What does your character really believe?
Jack Ferver:
I think that’s a great question for people in the audience to feel and that ambiguity of the onscreen romance is something that happens in life between friends who feel really close, which ultimately then, underneath all of that is loneliness, and this idea of really needing someone and dependency. A lot of the work relates to that—dependency and codependency and need. And how we may bring someone in, but how we also push them away. Especially if we’re bringing them in desperately.

Time Out New York: And how things survive the long run?
Jack Ferver:
Yeah—if they can. I think the metaphor of artistic collaborations is a likewise one to friendships. The friendships and the artistic collaborations that last and those that don’t, because sometimes they don’t. Josh and I work well together. When we did our first residency and showed it to Marc, he brought up that any time Josh would suggest something, I was amicable to it. There’s not a lot of fighting over decisions. We have similar end views, though the way toward them may be different.

Time Out New York: Have you worked with someone this closely before? Is it equal authorship?
Jack Ferver:
Each piece has varied. Rumble Ghost I wrote and Josh came on as a dramaturge, but he became more than that. I think he was more of an associate director. I would say this is a collaboration, for sure. In terms of what parts of the script he’s written and I’ve written, it’s almost hard to say because there’s been so much talking around it. We’re also using found text. And there’s a section that Jacob has that comes out of an improvisation that we placed him into.

Time Out New York: What is the found text?
Jack Ferver:
We have Showgirls and Suddenly Last Summer—I’ve manipulated that script from the Gore Vidal screenplay.

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