Five Questions with Sarah Hughes, McFeely Sam Goodman, and Lucy Kaminsky
Culturebot asked three members (Sarah Hughes, McFeely Sam Goodman, and Lucy Kaminsky) of the Limited Liability Theater Company, whose show THE DRINKING BIRD is at the Ice Factory from July 3-6, five questions. These are their responses, listed in order of who responded first.
1. Where did you grow up and how did you end up where you are now?
McFeely Sam Goodman: I was born in New Jersey and then lived in the Boston area and then back in New Jersey before my family landed in NYC where I’ve been more or less ever since.
Sarah Hughes: I was born more than a month early so instead of beginning life in a leafy suburb of NYC as my parents had intended, I spent the very early months of my life in Manhattan. I grew up in Ossining, about an hour outside of New York, but my family moved to Boulder CO during my middle school years (highly recommend spending awkward pre-teen time around mountains). We moved back to the east coast for high school, to a beach town in CT where some people thought Boston was a city, and I guess that was when I realized that unless I became a kayaking instructor in some wonderful outdoorsy town out West, I would definitely end up back in New York. I’ve been here 12 years.
Lucy Kaminsky: I grew up in Brooklyn and more or less stayed here.
2. Which performance, song, play, movie, painting or other work of art had the biggest influence on you and why?
MSG: It’s never just one, but I have seen the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera at least 20 times (I don’t think that’s hyperbole and it might be an underestimate), starting when I very young. The process of coming to understand that film on more and more levels is probably foundational to my sense of humor, my writing, and my idea of what an opera is.
SH: It’s not surprising, probably, but Elevator Repair Service’s Gatz. I encountered ERS right after college and had the strange good fortune to begin working with them almost immediately. Gatz was the first theater piece I had ever seen that so fully accomplished a thing that I find so incredible in art: the sense of inevitability, that this work by this person or group of people is unique to them and the moment they made it in (and in the case of performance, the people receiving it too) and could only be this exact way. And it achieved this in such a seemingly straightforward way, without making me feel I had been manipulated by plot or “great acting” or fancy set changes into believing in it. It made me feel like anything was possible and was also the first time I understood that the container for something could be wildly different than its content. Runners-up: Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried for its clear articulation of the difference between truth and reality and Sibyl Kempson’s work in general for its embrace of virtuosic chaos.
LK: My first year in college I ran lights for a workshop performance devised by the seniors in an acting class led by Jim Calder. For 4 days I felt like a fly on the wall among real genius. That or Don’t Eat the Pictures, the Sesame Street movie where they get locked in the Met overnight. It’s a toss-up.
3: What skill, talent or attribute do you most wish you had and why?
MSG: I wish I spoke every language. And I wish I spoke the languages I do speak with more confidence. I think I am a writer because I’m never satisfied with the ability to communicate myself in words. And I feel that way in English, which is my native language. And so I’m always envious when someone can communicate themselves clearly and confidently in multiple languages.
SH: I wish I could play an instrument and read music. Basically I wish I had a stronger relationship with music. I work with so many musicians and on so many projects heavily involving music, and while I can lead those processes I miss the technical ability and deeper understanding of how music works that comes with actually playing an instrument like I did in middle/high school. Recently I’ve found that I have more facility with singing than I had thought (at least for the purposes of trying to lead a room of actors collaborating on a song) and it has brought me great joy. I’m curious what it would be like to have music be more central to my art practice and to my life.
LK: I wish I could speed read. Just to see what it’s like. Though I wonder if anyone can really successfully do it…
4: What has been either your most favorite or your most pointless job (in life) thus far? Let’s assume, for this question, that a “job” is something that you do for someone else and have received some degree of compensation for.
MSG: The worst job I ever had was handing out flyers for a radio station. But I don’t know if that counts because I wasn’t getting paid and in fact I wasn’t getting anything out of the internship at all except for something to keep me busy for a summer during college. I did get a good story out of it, in which I explained how I figured out the strategy of how to get people to take flyers and also the demographics of who takes flyers. I told the story at a luncheon at the end of the internship and the executive who sponsored the internship program got a big kick out of it. But I wasn’t really looking to go into a career in radio or tv so that connection didn’t really go anywhere.
SH: It’s a tie between cleaning yachts for rich people, which I did for a few weeks one summer before I basically got sun poisoning from being out on the bright white deck of a boat in the midday sun, and the time I was hired to perform as a sort of Vanna White car model at an auto show in New Hampshire. I had to memorize 2 pages of facts about a new model of Subaru, which I repeated over and over into a mic in an alluring manner while walking around gesturing at the car. A few hours into the gig the people running the auto show decided this sales tactic somehow violated their rules against soliciting and I was sent home. I think I did still get $100.
LK: My most favorite AND pointless job was as a “featured extra” on the 30 Rock episode “My Whole Life is Thunder”. The scene was cut. If you pause the episode at the right spot you can catch my blurred form dashing across the screen as a cater waiter carrying a tray full of champagne flutes.
5: Have you ever met someone with a 9-5 job who is totally satisfied? What did they do? What about it made them happy?
MSG: I really like the job I’ve had for the past 3 years, which was as a high school English teacher. It’s the most challenging and intellectually and emotionally stimulating job I’ve ever had and I felt like I was making a difference. I think totally satisfying is the wrong way to put it, though, especially in the context of a “9-5 job” for a couple of reasons. First, I think it’s been scientifically proven that working from 9am to 5pm five days a week is bad for your health, so while there was nothing about my job itself that would have made it more “satisfying” it was exhausting and I think if I had been less exhausted I would have done a better job and been more satisfied with the work I was doing. So when I think of other people I know who I would describe as being “totally satisfied” by their jobs, they’re people like my dad, who is a tenured college professor and a writer and so while he spends a lot of his time working, he has a lot of flexibility in how he goes about it and so he’s able to do it in a way that is a lot more sustainable.
And second, I don’t believe that a “job” as defined in the last question can possibly satisfy the totality of human needs. At the risk of getting too deep into the economics of it, if you’re receiving compensation for it from someone then by definition there is a deficit between the needs you’re satisfying for someone else and the needs you’re satisfying for yourself and the compensation you’re receiving is in recognition of that, to settle the accounts, so to speak. But assuming that the compensation is in money, money is a debt instrument, which has to be redeemed before your own needs are met. If your needs are being fully and reciprocally met by the person or people you’re working for, then there would be no monetary compensation and it probably wouldn’t be called a job.
SH: The word satisfied! What does it mean? I think it’s antithetical to human tendencies, and most especially to humans living under capitalism, to ever be “satisfied”. That’s the whole lie of it – if you keep growing, grasping, expanding, just around the next corner you’ll get there, you’ll finally be happy. I think this play would argue that by its nature a paid job is not able to provide the kind of satisfaction this question refers to, because if it did the person doing it wouldn’t need to receive financial compensation to make it worth their while (this assumes a lot of things about how this person’s needs for food, shelter, healthcare and education are met – which we’ll get into if you come see the show!)
But in answer to your question, the closest I suppose I’ve seen anyone come to this are my friends who work in education or social justice or environmental advocacy or suicide prevention or green energy engineering – while I think they feel frustrated with bureaucracy and the often glacial pace of change, they can see their daily work as part of a larger project that they would likely find ways to engage in whether or not they were actually being paid for it. And so that’s the kind of work that we should enable more people to be doing.
LK: Probably my mother who is an elementary school teacher or my grandmother who was a school nurse or my other grandmother who raised 7 children and basically ran a semi-urban homestead (that’s more like a 24 hours/day job).