Guest blogger, Zach, our Programming Coordinator, gives us an inside look at Martha Graham Cracker’s new work Lashed But Not Leashed, born from the Kimmel Center’s Theater Residency.
If you have been onstage long enough, there’s a likely chance that you’ve wondered why… or at the very least, dreamt about a more mundane life as a CPA or a postal worker. Disappointed by one too many deficient love interests, Ms. Martha Graham Cracker announces that she is retiring from the stage at the top of the world premiere of Lashed but not Leashed. She will pursue a career in the deliciously-dry field of library science, flat shoes and all, but is this dissatisfaction really just about the biz?
Lashed but not Leashed, directed by Joanna Settle and starring Dito Van Reigersberg as the Notorious M.G.C., has been gestating for nearly two years, developed through the Kimmel Center’s Theater Residency program in partnership with Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater. Snippets and snatches of this show have floated around moody cabaret rooms from PTown to New York City since the summer of 2015, and the final product is an audience-tested romp.
The opening ballad, “Farewell Song”, presents a version of Ms. Graham Cracker staring wistfully into the rear-view mirror:
All the music begins to spin out there
And a supernova starts to form
It falls straight through the atmosphere
With a song to blow your mind
And that’s how a new star is born
The ballad works on a couple of different levels. Early in the show, it becomes clear that Martha’s departure from the stage isn’t entirely organic. Martha is a spurned lover, and the red-handed, heartbreaking culprit may or may not be in the audience with you. But I think it goes even deeper than that. I think the Beyoncé-Lemonade-meta-take here is that some new version of Dito is being birthed from the metaphorical supernova here—an incredibly-gifted songwriter.
This is Martha’s first stage show made up entirely of original music composed by Dito van Reigersberg, Dave Sweeney, Vince Federici, and Eliza Hardy Jones, a veritable songwriting supergroup. Their onstage chemistry is contagious, and the double and triple meanings in the lyrics speak to their shared comedic sensibilities.
Lashed but not Leashed perfectly skirted the line between Martha’s freewheeling monthly cabaret at L’Etage and Dito’s scripted work as a founding member of Pig Iron Theatre Company. Planned bits like a sassy cameo from the stage manager, Melody Wong, were augmented and tenderized by Martha’s penchant for bawdy improve. The fortuitously-timed pop of a champagne cork or the clatter of ice from a spilled drink all provided openings for the kind of wink-wink-nudge-nudge moments that codify a Martha Graham Cracker show while the original score illuminated new facets of the mythology of Martha.
SEI Innovation Studio
300 S. Broad St.
Philadelphia, PA 19102
With Dito van Reigersberg as Martha Graham Cracker
Directed by Joanna Settle
Costume Design by Max Brown
Lighting Design by Oona Curley
Stage Managed by Melody Wong
With collaborating songcrafters and performers:
Vince Federici, Eliza Hardy Jones, and David Sweeny
Andrew Nelson on bass and Kanako Omae Neale on percussion