For a relatively young theater company, Working Man’s Clothes has garnered a sizable amount of attention for its daring productions and strong work ethic. Culturebot spoke to Maggie Hamilton, the Managing Director of Working Man’s Clothes, about the origins of the company and its production of Anthony Nielson’s Penetrator, which opens at the end of the month.
For our readers unfamiliar with Working Man’s Clothes, how did the company start?
Well it goes something like this- A man walks into an Irish bar…actually two friends, Jared Culverhouse and Isaac Byrne, decided over drinks one night to start a theatre company. They happened to hang out at an Irish Pub in the West Village – The Four Faced Liar- the same pub I hung out in, so we met, combined resources and started producing theatre along with a hand full of truly dedicated writers, actors and designers. I am convinced that the Four Faced Liar is the hub of the universe, one of those places where you can run into anyone from anywhere and find something or someone in common with them.
Or at least that’s that short version…the long one has something to do with us being tired of waiting for other companies to produce the work we wanted to do and see. Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Common Sense is Genius dressed in Working Man’s Clothes.” hence the name but I think it’s funny he also said “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
In your mission statement, you talk about “combining the theatre arts with the spirit of American entrepreneurship.” How exactly does that work? How does it inform your vision?
It works by not being obstinate about what we do…we produce art and it doesn’t have to be about art for arts sake it can be about self sustaining work. It can be about making money and making a living doing what we love and not compromising art for commerce but rather finding ways to make them co-exist. We think of entrepreneurship as looking at things in a different way and finding new solutions to problems inherent to producing theatre in NYC. We don’t believe in raising 20 thousand dollars for a show and throwing it down and never seeing a return on that…our idea of finding ways to produce theatre with self created opportunities and sustained resources is what sets us apart from some companies. As for informing our vision- it keeps us real- the writing, acting and directing become paramount. We like it this way.
While you state that WMC operates without political or social agenda, your upcoming show, Penetrator, deals with soldier who has gone AWOL from Iraq. What are you hoping to accomplish with the production?
Our point in making that statement is to say that we will not pigeonhole ourselves into producing only works that forward our own agendas or social/political views but rather we will tell great stories about human experiences, if a social or political theme is touched upon it will be secondary to the goal of producing works that reflect human elements. Penetrator is about male intimacy, what defines friendship and the male-psyche in turmoil. The crisis in the piece that brings the action about is one characters experience in Iraq but it’s not about the Iraq war itself. We are telling a story of three friends at a period in their lives that is interesting, caustic and possibly so intimate it’s uncomfortable on many levels. We are hoping to show albeit maybe not a pleasant side but another side nonetheless of male friendship.
For the production, British playwright Anthony Nielsen’s script, written in 1993, has been updated by WMC company member Bekah Brunstetter (To Nineveh). What changes were needed to make the play work in 2007? How involved was Nielsen in the changes to his script?
The play itself is still intact as Anthony wrote it but there were very specific cultural references that were definitively British that simply would not read well to an American audience as told from an American perspective. Bekah changed some British slang and made a few adjustments to cultural icons, made the inside jokes for the characters our own and updated any political references. Nielson himself adds a footnote to the script suggesting that anyone producing the work actually do this and our changes were submitted to him for approval. It’s actually been an interesting process and while the changes may seem slight, Bekah did an amazing amount of work on getting this piece Americanized.
Working Man’s Clothes won six IT (Innovative Theatre) Awards for the production of To Nineveh. Has the recognition helped you in expanding your visibility in the New York theater community?
Tremendously, you just asked the question so case in point. In all seriousness we just considered it a real honor to be nominated much less to have won six of them. We probably have not used that ‘recognition’ to its fullest potential, maybe one day we’ll figure that out but for now we are content to just keep our heads down and produce as much ‘good’ theatre as possible.
- Amanda “Maggie” Hamilton is Managing Director and a founding member of Working Man’s Clothes. She began performing and working in theater at the age of 12 and by the age of 22 had some 52 shows to her credit in all capacities of the theater from performing and directing to stage management, lighting design, stage design, costuming and assistant directing. As an actor she was a finalist in the Walter Trumbauer Theatre Festival and co-starred in the Working Man’s Clothes Production of Men Eat Mars Bars…as lead producer on the production of To Nineveh she won a New York Innovative Theatre Award for Best Production of 2006. Maggie studied theater at select colleges in the South East and has most recently been a student at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
Playstation, pornography and drug-use are the modus-operandi for two
struggling urban roommates, Max and Alan, stereotypes of 20-something
American bachelors, whose discussions revolve around pop culture, girls and
the ongoing war as seen on TV. When their old friend Bone arrives
unexpectedly at their doorstep with nowhere to sleep, their world is turned
on its head as they learn that Bone has abandoned his duties as a soldier in
Iraq. Max and Alan’s friendship is put to the test as they sort out the
bizarre stories of Bone’s experiences with violent rape and boyhood
Penetrator plays at The American Place Theatre – 520 8 Ave. (22 Floor) between 36 &
37 Streets in NYC from May 31 to June 23, 2007. Previews
begin 5/31 for a 6/2 opening. Thursdays-Saturdays @8pm. Tickets: $15. To
purchase call 212-868-4444 or visit Smarttix.com.