In Bushwick you’ll never hear the phrase “Stop clowning around!” It was precisely this call, or lack thereof, that brought the NYU-grad collective Tongue Honey Productions to the gallery space, Rockwall Studios, next to The Deep End for their newest show BiRDBRAINS.
The physical comedy group, made of graduates from the non-musical theater side of the New Studio on Broadway and the Experimental Theater Wing of NYU, will be premiering their new show that has been in the making for over a year.
BiRDBRAINS is not the first show created by Tongue Honey Productions, nor is it their first show in The Deep End’s space, on the cusp of Ridgewood and Bushwick’s border. After the group created Solar Plexus in 2017, a pedal-powered, environmentally-themed performance piece in the space, they were excited to return for their newest and most collaborative endeavor that built upon and expanded the ideas they had for their first piece.
“Overall one of our missions is to create work that has a transparent production practice,” Michael Galligan said, a writer, producer, and actor in the show. “We want to help people understand the process of production because it can be so mysterious. We don’t want to create a grand illusion.”
Galligan and the team have found the space at The Deep End to be especially important to creating the kind of experimental, experiential, clown-based performances that they’re interested in showing to the world.
“[The Deep End] really captures the heart of why we love working in this neighborhood,” Galligan said. “It’s off the beaten path of the mainstream theater world and allows more experimental work to happen. We wanted to create a world people can step into.”
Those experiments go beyond the narrative and physical structure of the final piece and are extended to the entire creation process of BiRDBRAINS. The Deep End, by allowing Tongue Honey Productions to work with their space, as well as in it, made the possibility of an incredibly collaborative work to come to fruition.
“By allowing these experiments to take place over time, it creates a process that is more equal,” Galligan said. “Traditional theater places so much emphasis on just the creator and the auteur. We wanted to expand that ownership to our end.”
The process that created BiRDBRAINS, a very loose adaptation of Aristophanes’ ancient comedy “Birds,” began during a residency at Irondale in Fort Greene and later in a live and work program in the Adirondacks at the Upper Jay Art Center. Being able to focus entirely on production, rather than the jobs required by almost any actor or writer in New York City, allowed the cast to create the performance in an environment so important to the play’s main theme.
“The play is about escapism,” Galligan said. “I wanted that to be a part of the process, to escape our daily lives to make the work.”
The result is something a little bit psychedelic, a little bit altered reality, and a lot of that physical comedy clowning that Tongue Honey United is so based upon — what Galligan calls “an immediate theater experience.”
“It’s kind of a spiritual path,” Galligan said of the clown work he employs in this production. “If I find myself and get good in myself I can give that to the audience.”
Tickets to BiRDBRAINS on May 23 through 26 and May 30 through June 2 are available now.
All images courtesy of Tongue Honey Productions.
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