The Super Cool Sluuts of America : Interview By Kent Brown
Inconspicuously on the Northwest edge of Chicago, the Prop Theatre assembles avant-garde, underground artists every season during the Rhino Festival. New scripts, staged readings, and performance artists typically highlight the Rhino Fest –and this year was no different.
I ventured out to the Prop September 13th to take a look at a performance art troupe called the Super Cool Sluuts, (pronounced Sloots), of America. Even as a theatre artist myself, it’s certainly beyond me to attempt an effort towards describing performance art with some sort of text book definition. Some would say that performance art is not theatre, but to that assertion I would have to disagree. Performance art, especially when done in an actual theatre space, uses almost every aspect of theatre during a performance – lights, sound, props, choreography and somewhat scripted performances, actors and other elements depending on the show itself. Although performance art certainly does not toe the line of the well-made-play, the shows are typically scripted, most of the time by those in the actual performance. The Super Cool Sluuts’ show I Left My Birth Control in Baltimore is indeed an extremely tight, put together show that admirably incorporates live and recorded music, dance, mask, and comedy to make poignant points on numerous female and human issues.
I was lucky enough to sit down with the Super Cool Sluuts and speak to them about the show and their lives.
I’m here with the Super Cool Sluuts of America in Chicago, Illinois at the Prop Theatre on Addison and Elston. I just got done watching their terrific show I Left My Birth Control in Baltimore, and we’re going to have a little round table discussion. First of all, you guys, I had a bunch of questions coming into the show, written up, and now I have a lot more after seeing the show – so congratulations because that’s, in a sense, what theatre is supposed to accomplish anyway, right?
As opposed to a lot of other performance art that I’ve seen and experienced, sometimes it tends to get scattered and not focused and hard for an audience, often times to even follow – your show didn’t do that. Your show was very well crafted; very well put together. It seemed very much more specific than a lot of performance art often tends to be. Talk a little bit about the process that you have, and how you harness your ideas.
Yeah, that’s the hardest part.
We spent five months sitting, and talking, and smoking weed, and drinking.
Well, when we started the show, we had no idea what we wanted to do. We were basically just out of school for a couple of months, Kat a year.
Kate wrote stuff. She was pretty good about coming in and writing.
We just thought about what’s important to us at this point in our lives, being truthful,
to sort of “slice of life it," put who we are onstage and just be honest about that, because that’s the riskiest thing, to be that vulnerable, and it’s something that we all struggle with.
Especially at this point in our lives, just out of school, we’re just trying to figure out who we are, and to do that onstage is somewhat therapeutic, and hopefully therapeutic to other people watching – that they can explore that – in front of people – because I think a lot of that exploration is really hidden.
That’s great. You actually beat me to my next question. It’s a very revealing show. You guys expose yourselves in a lot of ways in front of people – complete strangers for the most part. That’s a challenge, yes?
That’s the easy part, doing it in front of people we know.
I think the hard part is doing it in front of the people we know.
That’s something we wanted to do from the beginning is make sure that we’re always feeling challenged. I think that’s a difference between doing straight theatre. With straight theatre you have a script to work from, you have a director who tells you exactly what to do. I think with this – it’s a lot scarier and riskier. When we get tired of doing Birth Control, and it doesn’t feel urgent anymore, we’ll stop. We started writing a new show because of that, actually, because we needed a new challenge.
We always want to be confronting fears and to always, whatever we’re doing onstage at that exact moment, be the people we are at that moment. That’s why our show is changing all the time, too. It’s constantly evolving, moving in a different direction and we need to keep it fresh.
However in the beginning, the whole show was incredibly challenging. We’ll cry when trying to do things and it was incredibly challenging putting the show together, to be working on the same show for a year, and we’re starting to be different people after a year. It’s been a year since we’ve been these people, which is why we’re starting on another show.
It shows. It shows that you’ve put a hell of a lot of time into this process. It’s very well put together. Kate, you said that it’s therapeutic for you. I’ve seen you guys in musicals, Shakespeare… Is that true for all you guys? That it’s more exhilarating than doing straight theatre?
Definitely, and more empowering, too, because it’s our work.
We’re control freaks.
It’s also scarier. I’m scared to invite people to this. I can invite somebody to a Shakespeare show, and if they like it that’s fine, but with your own work, you’re completely responsible for everything they see.
You can always blame somebody else (with straight theatre). “Oh, it’s the playwright, oh it’s the director.”
I think that the most stage-worthy thing is to watch somebody express their fears onstage, to take risks in front of the audience, which is why we always try to challenge ourselves and come up with new risks for ourselves.
Which is why we drink onstage! (laughter)
Well, we can. We can create our own form of theatre. It’s more exciting for people our age. I sort of miss doing straight plays. I hope to again at some point.
We drink on stage, take pills, (which are) M&M’s. We take M&M’s.
This kind of art, and people that start theatre companies who want to produce their own art, seems like the Anti-Christ for the mainstream in the entertainment world. In this sense, you’re in control of every thing you do.
It’s a completely different world. Playing that regular actor game feels completely degrading. t doesn’t feel like art at all.
They speak for themselves. I still love regular theatre and I love to direct regular theatre, and that’s still a passion for me. This is also a passion of mine, but I’m not done with regular theatre.
We’re of different minds, sort of. We’re all going to try to do different stuff once we take our hiatus.
But I think it’s important to strike out and find your own path. Because we were always taught “here’s the path that you take." I’ve never been the type of person who has been able to exist on a normal path, and I think these girls have similar experiences, which is why you create your own.
On the other hand, I think our theatre training has really come in handy, and that’s why you can follow our shows, we know how to put it together. It’s the difference between approaching performance art from a theatrical standpoint as opposed from an artistic standpoint, because a lot of performance artists are visual artists first and I think they have a slightly more difficult time verbally communicating. Having that training – it’s something we utilize, obviously, I mean, a lot of our show is staged and blocked.
Performance art has a relatively short history. What do you hope to accomplish with these kind of shows? Do you want to go down in the annals of time alongside Dada and the Futurists?
I feel like, my goal, this is an ambiguous answer to an ambiguous question, is to revolutionize art in some way. I don’t know if we’re doing it with the Super Cool Sluuts. Who knows.
We all approach it in different ways. This is just a piece of what we’ll end up being. Not like “We want to be this in the history books," because who knows, but I think we all want to make theatre that we would enjoy seeing. Most of the theatre I see, within the first whatever, it doesn’t hold our attention, but we have different standards for theatre. We want to make something that’s interesting to us. It’s not going to be fun for the audience if it’s not fun for us.
Talk a little bit about the Rhino Fest, the Prop Theatre, what’s your relationship with them.
We love them!
They are angels, they’ve been amazing to us. They’ve taken us under their wing and been so incredibly supportive.
We were recently a part of another festival and did not get as fantastic treatment, with the degree of professionalism that we get here.
They’ve been absolutely fabulous, and have some great insight for us after our shows. They actually care about the art that we’re producing, not the money that we’re bringing in.
What’s the response been like in the Chicago arts community?
We don’t know if we’ve made a dent yet, but we have gotten a good response, a surprising response from the people who’ve seen it. We picked a name like Super Cool Sluuts of America, and I think people come in expecting a lot of fluff.
Some of our friends that have come to see it have been moved to tears, and that means so much to us.
So you’re really cognizant of audience response?
When it’s good! (laughter)
I think the reactions we get from specific people - with women, they’re like, “wow, that’s exactly what I’ve been thinking and feeling,” and it’s nice to be able to put that onstage, and with men, it’s like, “Oh, that’s what’s going on!”
When we wrote the show, it was from ourselves, it wasn’t meant to be a universal piece, and it’s turned out to be, which makes us feel slightly crazy, when all of these women are like, “I know exactly what you’re talking about.” I think everyone’s pretty fucking crazy. Hopefully it will help people talk about their craziness.
What’s up with the name Super Cool Sluuts of America?
We actually did a couple of shows and didn't have a name and then when we started doing more shows we were like, "shit, we need a name." And we couldn't think of anything else, we went through some other things, we'll just be the Super Cool Sluuts of America because that's the one thing we already call ourselves. So that actually started out as sort of a joke group name. And there you have it!
What’s next for you guys?
We’re doing two more shows then we’re taking a break.
But we’re going to do Bam Bam Suck It some more.
Which is a fifteen-minute rock-musical about Samuel Beckett and his alter-ego, Bam Bam Suck It, who takes over.
We all wrote it. We all write all of our material.
That’s why it takes so long. Nobody’s the director. We all fight for every detail of our show, which is why our shows come together in the end because we all have a huge piece of ourselves in there.
But it’s because we strive to agree as much as possible on every single detail so that everybody’s happy, so everyone’s doing the theatre that they want to be doing. As a result, we’re all the actors, we’re all the directors, we’re all the everything and so we all have to give notes on everything to every person.
We gripe for hours about whether to wear glitter belts or not.
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