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Play Premiere to Explore Flip Side of Theater

Flip Side is the centerpiece of an international collaboration between Ellen Maddow and Paul Zimet, OBIE Award-winning cofounders of The Talking Band, Hungarian-born set designer Anna Kiraly, and BESSIE Award-winning composer and keyboardist “Blue” Gene Tyranny.

The world premiere of Flip Side will take place at Smith October 24 through 27 at 8 p.m., and October 27 and 28 at 2 p.m. in Theatre 14, Mendenhall Center. 

The team of Maddow and Zimet has delighted Pioneer Valley audiences in the past with such gems as Star Messengers, The Parrot, and last season’s sold-out comedy Delicious Rivers. With Flip Side, The Talking Band again stretches the boundaries of theatre and flips around the creative process by taking a visual space as its impulse for a new play. Inspired by designer Anna Kiraly’s visual environment, playwright Ellen Maddow developed two sets of characters whose separate worlds churn, collide, and flip upside down as if they are entangled in a giant Mobius strip.

Development of Flip Side began in December 2006 within the Talking Band’s Performance Lab with the group brainstorming for a new creative process. With the idea of starting from the set, Kiraly created two tent-like structures (gazebos) on stage. Their lightweight architecture suggests temporary shelter or makeshift homes. Because the structures are lightweight and portable it’s possible to make the entire scenic element disappear and reappear. The gazebos also became projection surfaces for shadows and videos created by Kiraly. “I began by showing Ellen and Paul a lot of drawings and ideas from my past that I found fascinating and wanted to develop,” said Kiraly of the design process for Flip Side. “It’s such a joy as a designer to create a set through dialogue instead of creating a world around finished ideas. It’s a huge inspiration.”

When asked how Kiraly’s design fueled her development of the characters and dialogue, Maddow said, “I loved Anna’s unapologetic sense of illusion, which is what theatre is all about—creating an illusion that refers to something in reality, but also twists it in such a way that it allows you to see it more deeply...It became clear in the first workshop that one of the most provocative aspects of this set was its ephemeral nature—nothing is concrete.” So she developed characters obsessed with the ephemeral, pre-occupied with events witnessed from a distance, and fascinated by that which is just out of reach or partially hidden. The audience shares the experience of the characters who try to draw conclusions from events glimpsed out of the corners of their eyes; they are not sure what is real and what is a reflection, a film, or a shadow.

Maddow, a founding member of The Talking Band and a member of New Dramatists, was awarded a prestigious NEA/TCG Theatre Residency for Playwrights to write Flip Side for The Talking Band. She is the writer and composer of numerous other music-theatre works, including Painted Snake in a Painted Chair, for which she a won a 2003 OBIE Award.

Karaly, who was born in Hungary, has designed for stages throughout Eastern Europe and has exhibited her visual work in museums and festivals worldwide. Her designs, much like The Talking Band’s work, are noted for challenging traditional aesthetics and extracting complex meanings from simple elements.

Original music for Flip Side will be composed and performed by the distinguished avant-garde composer and keyboard player “Blue” Gene Tyranny. In addition to past collaborations with The Talking Band, Tyranny has collaborated and recorded with Laurie Anderson, Robert Ashley, Peter Gordon, and John Cage. He is also the recipient of a BESSIE Award for his work in theatre and dance.

Paul Zimet, associate professor of theatre at Smith and artistic director of The Talking Band, has directed a number of acclaimed productions at Smith, including Star Messengers, The Parrot, and last season’s Delicious Rivers. He received a 2003 Village Voice OBIE Award for his direction of The Talking Band production of Painted Snake in a Painted Chair, and also three OBIE Awards for his work with the Open Theater and the Winter Project, both directed by Joseph Chaikin.

Tickets for Flip Side are $8 for general public, $5 for students and seniors. For more information or to buy tickets, call 413-585-ARTS (2787) or consult

10/19/07   Theatre Department press release
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