Five Questions With Alexis Macnab
Title/Occupation: Director-Adaptor, Theater
Organization/Company: Infinite Coast
1. Where did you grow up and how did you end up where you are now?
I grew up in Evanston, Illinois, which is an idiyic place to raise cultured, liberal, yet still suburban children. Evanston is a stone’s throw from Chicago so I got to play at the Museum of Science and Industry (the hatching chicks! the mine-shaft! the mobile of sparkles!) and the Planetarium (the star show!) and the Art Institute (the miniatures room! the armory!) and still come home to quiet streets and well-funded public schools. After I graduated from Oberlin College (because when will I ever live in a cornfield again?) I went back to Chicago to live as a grown-up, foolishly suspecting that the connections to the theater community I’d been building as a kid might provide a platform for advancement. Not so: I started from square one like every other transplant. I figured, if I’m gonna be the small fish no matter what, I’d rather be in a bigger pond. I moved to New York in 2003 and never looked back. Except now I’m looking forward a bit. Europe seems like an exciting pond… I might like to stretch my fins there.
2. Which performance, song, play, movie, painting or other work of art had the biggest influence on you and why?
I saw a performance by Mummenschanz when I was too young to remember how old I was. It’s always stayed with me. I also loved Gilliam’s movie Brazil when I was in grade school, and I memorized The NeverEnding Story movie down to every jump-cut. Philippe Genty’s Voyageur Immobile changed my life – I saw that in High School – and if I’m being honest so did a touring production of HAIR I saw my senior year. I remember when I saw Zimmerman’s Eleven Rooms of Proust that I should just stop making theater altogether because she’d done it – the medium was solved for all time. I felt that way reading Anna Karenina. Why do people still write books? But, alas, we do. We still create. There must be something else out there to discover.
3. What skill, talent or attribute do you most wish you had and why?
The Hustle! How people can look at life like one giant money-making, profile-raising seminar, and then just Get It Done. The whole, Self-Promotion-It’s-Not-Personal-It’s-Politics way of thinking. I suck at that. I wish I could just make stuff in my little corner and people would come to me and exclaim “by George she’s done it, let’s give her a Grant!” Thinking like a Producer makes me literally sick to my stomach. That’s bad for business.
4. What do you do to make a living? Describe a normal day.
Hm. There is no “normal.” I’ve been a bar-maid, ticket seller, caterer, puppeteer, babysitter, data enterer, bookkeeper, secretary, receptionist, production manager, coffee gofer, movie extra, co-teacher, house manager, audiobook coordinator, and personal assistant. I quit day-jobs for a living. I’m currently without one.
5. Have you ever had to make a choice between work and art? What did you choose, why, and what was the outcome?
All the time. Sometimes I chose income over art – like when I took a steady desk-job at Simon & Schuster – because I don’t have the kind of constitution that enjoys not knowing where my next meal will come from. But I had to quit that job when I got hired to do summer stock in Ohio. No matter how supportive your corporate boss is, you just can’t leave a job for two and a half months and expect to come back unless you have a baby to show for it. When I got back this fall, I decided not to get some crap job I hated and instead to spend my nest egg making theater because I’d taken some serious psychedelics at Burning Man and in my delusion thought that was a good idea. (It’s not true about the drugs, but it is true that I blame Burning Man for my idealism and hubris. It made me believe I could live the life of my dreams. It’s a dangerous place). Anyway, I’m doing some seriously thinking – and plotting – about how my work can be simultaneously Art and Income; or at least a means from one to the other.