We’re back this #ThrowbackThursday with another #FeaturedFriend! Last month we began a series of interviews with past artists who have come through the Outcast Café. We are delighted to catch you up on their journeys since parting ways and to share a few of their fond memories from their time with us. If you missed our first Featured Friend, Kelsey Hogan, you can check out her interview here.
This month is a special treat as we introduce Jennifer Vargas, one of our Ministering Angels from The Dick and The Rose NYFringe tour in 2012. We are pleased to welcome Jen back to the company this fall as MA (Ministering Angel- solo that is) in our workshop of Riley Ann Visits the Outcast Café. We invite you to enjoy Jennifer’s brilliance right along with us:
OC: Welcome back, Jenny! We’re so happy to have you in the rehearsal space again. Can you take us down memory lane? Tell us a little about your initial collaboration with Outcast Café:
JV: I was attending NYU Tisch for Drama and Barbara Allen was a clowning teacher of mine. It was my favorite class and I asked her if she knew of any other clowning opportunities in the city. Barbara later reached out to me about a show she was choreographing and she told Biggs about me. I auditioned for him and the rest, as they say, is history.
OC: A history we remember fondly! It was such a joy to have you join the team. What was one of your favorite memories from the summer of 2012?
JV: I have so many! One of my favorites was just working with the Ministering Angels. I was the youngest of the four and I never felt like I was underestimated. We all took good care of each other. We also had a lot of fun behind the scenes (and beyond the drape).
OC: Indeed, we did. Getting to show you the Berkshires was a pleasure, and once we arrived on your turf, New York City, it was great for the non-NYC based members of the company to have someone who knew the ropes. We’d love to know what you’ve been working on since we last saw you. When you’re not workshopping in the Berkshires with us, we can still find you in New York, right?
JV: Right. I just graduated from NYU Tisch with my BFA in Drama. I also wrote, performed, and directed my very own piece called An Afternoon Visit; or otherwise known as Pussy. Since then, I’ve officially moved to New York City and have been auditioning. I’m also in the process of writing a web-series, which will hopefully start filming in the next couple of months.
OC: Wow! We are so proud of your hard work and accomplishments. We love collaborating with such a driven and creative artist. Are there any thoughts, feelings you want to share about diving into another show with us?
JV: I’m about to be a part of the cast for Riley Ann Visits…, which I am very excited for!! Every time I get in the room with the puppet babies, there are so many new characters to meet and stories to explore. I can’t wait to start working on the new coyote puppets and exploring the depth of the story of Riley Ann Visits The Outcast Café.
And what an exploration it is becoming! We are now a week into our process out here in the peaceful and creatively nurturing Berkshire hills and are discovering lots of new information about our story as well as developing a heightened puppetry vocabulary. Stay tuned for more tidbits and pictures from our process soon! Go ahead and follow our Facebook, twitter, and instagram accounts for frequent updates.
As we move forward in our work this year and begin to stage the second play in our trilogy, Riley Ann Visits The Outcast Café, we wanted to give you readers a chance to check in with some of the amazing folks we had the privilege of working with on the several iterations of our first piece, The Dick and The Rose.
To kick us off, here’s a few words from the radiant Kelsey Jayne Hogan:
OC: Can you tell us a little about your initial collaboration with Outcast Café?
KJH: I remember getting an email from Biggs early into the new year. I had loved working with Biggs in my freshman year improv class. He introduced me to so many new forms of theatre and I had never felt more expressive. This opened my world. I had always been a bit reserved in auditions and life in general, Biggs was the opposite. Larger than life with an ability to express the deepest emotions. I admired him as an artist, professor, and person. When I learned he wanted to work with ME, I was shocked and looked forward to getting to work.
OC: Sounds exciting! What was it like, bringing to life the work of your mentor? How was the rehearsal process? And what was the Edinburgh Fringe like?
It was hot, but magical in the Berkshires. That first summer with Gail, Emma, and Dylan as my fellow Ministering Angels was incredible. Being under a sticky sweaty parachute with puppets really does create a bond that can’t be broken easily (really the entire cast spent a lot of time under there and we loved each other in spite of our smells). There were days that felt like we were swimming through the air and I was excited to get to Edinburgh with its cooler forecast.
Traveling there was another adventure all together…I suppose this show was really entirely one huge adventure with millions of others taking place inside of it. A night spent in London’s Heathrow, an amazing flat, the pubic triangle, flirting with the coffee shop boy down the street, making friends with our venue managers, telling dead baby jokes to passersby, handing out hundreds of flyers, scotch lessons from my dad, ACDC karaoke, and performing a wildly fun, dark, and entertaining show…Edinburgh Fringe was a delight and ended way too soon.
OC: Indeed, it was. But we were lucky enough to have you with us again in 2012.
KJH: Yes, the following year I received another email from Biggs, we were going to New York. I was thrilled. The play had evolved and so had the cast and crew. I was reunited with my puppet (Bob) and introduced to our new ministering angels. It was a great evolution. We clicked again (I am convinced that parachute makes you friends for life). Bob (my puppet) often had a lot to say. One of my distinct memories was Biggs pulling me aside to tell me “You don’t even realize you are talking when you have your puppet with you, but you need to tell him to pull back a bit”. It was a realization that masks and puppets have a life of their own, it was what truly made me appreciate the art form. Bob did need to pull back and he did.
We had a great time experiencing the NY Artist lifestyle. We had a small apartment and I chose the smallest room (I could touch both walls at the same time). That summer the show really hit a stride, and we got to see other fantastic shows.Performing in the Cherry Lane Theater was an experience I will never forget.
OC: Neither will we! You were such an important part of the experience both times around. It was a pleasure to work with you and we miss your enthusiastic and collaborative presence in the rehearsal room. You’ve had a big journey since we parted ways 3 years ago (!!). Could you tell us a little about what you’ve been up to?
KJH: Of course. A lot of time has passed since then. I truly miss it everyday. It was a time in my life that I was incredibly passionate and excited to get up every morning to create something and be around and connect to other artists. Though I still perform here and there and write when I take the time for myself, I have now moved back to the west coast.
After graduating from Emerson I moved to Washington D.C. and took a year long internship in devlopment and administration with Woolly Mammoth. It was great experience and I found a way to soothe my creative mind in an office by taking on event planning. After a year there I moved back west and took a job with Berkeley Rep handling donor relations and assiting with events.
I just had a one year anniversary with this job, something I have never had! It is exciting and terrifying. I enjoy what I do, love the company and my co-workers, though it can feel a little monotonous not working under a hole-filled parachute with a 7ft penis puppet…I’m moving up in the company and starting in September will be the special events manager which I am very proud of and grateful for. I tend not to plan my life ahead of time; that must be the artist, nomadic soul in me.
OC: We, too, know that traveling spirit very well;) Congratulations on all your hard work and many accomplishments over the past few years! We are so proud of you. Anything else you’d like to treat our readers to? Big life lessons? One more laugh?
I do hope I can see Bob again…when you connect with a puppet it never really leaves you (and my non-puppeteer friends don’t get it). Having Biggs in my life, being a part of “The Dick and the Rose”, connecting with Tori, Caley, Dave, Ian, Ron, Dylan, Emma, Gail, Jenny, Jake, Evan, Barbara, Deborah (I know the list goes on, but for the sake of this sentence I’ll end it here) also will never really leave me. They pushed me to be better every day and make me who I am now. I don’t stay in a shell and won’t be reserved; my self-confidence has soared and I will be forever grateful for them.
The main lesson I learned is to take life by the 7ft. dick, if you will, and live your adventure.