A moment with Chris DEFILIPP of MYTHCOMMUNICATION.
Why did you choose PortFringe this year?
As a PortFringe local, I’ve been involved in some way or another (audience, tech volunteer, artist) since 2015, and I feel like the energy and enthusiasm that both local and visiting artists have for our not-so-little fringe festival make it a festival worth attending. Plus, PortFringe is a great way to (locally) test the waters of the unusual and non-traditional theater tactics, and for this particular interactive sort of solo piece I’m presenting this year, it’s a perfect sort of venue. I love testing new ideas, I love the creative energy, and I love the people that make PortFringe the best 8 days of theater that make up my June every year.
How was your show born?
In 2012, I saw the senior solo projects as a Freshman at Bennington College, and thought “man, that takes courage but also I really need to tell my story like this”. In 2015, I didn’t get a chance to take the class the next time it was taken, but I was encouraged to work on finding a way to present my personal story (surviving multiple domestic abusers who saw me as collateral to get to full manipulative control to my mom) because it was one people needed to hear, especially because I was a male survivor. Instead, I told a condensed version at our college’s moth-style storytelling night, Thread, when they were doing the theme “Miracles”. After graduating in 2015, I started working on the piece bit by bit, struggling to get it all written but working toward some unknown goal.
In 2017, perhaps most pivotally, Paula Vogel visited Portland Stage as part of the Dramatist’s Guild Traveling Masters program, and my brief 5 minute interaction with her resulted in her signing my copies of her work, giving me playwright/play suggestions I should read to inspire me, telling me that my story as a male domestic violence and emotional abuse survivor was important, and telling me I should find a deadline for myself to get the show written and performed. Come 2018, Fringe applications became due and I decided it was important to submit… and now I’m performing (for the first time ever) a new show (never before seen) at my first ever multi-fringe tour (Atlanta, Seacoast, and Providence are the other festivals I’ll be attending this summer)!
What about the world *right now* makes it feel important to be putting this show out into the world?
We are at a bit of a crisis moment in social relations in our culture. We’ve been there for a very long time, but with the prevalence of social media, things are being made more and more known and public opinion is growing around many socially-centered issues. One of these ways is through #metoo and sexual abusers being finally named and shunned on a public scale, or racist acts being uncovered and laid bare for the world to see almost instantaneously.
While the abuse I suffered is emotional and barely though at times physical, never sexual, I still feel like it’s a perfect time for me to add my voice to the fray, in large part because male victims (both child and adult) are often disregarded or unheard… or in this world of toxic masculinity, altogether silent. But I also feel obligated because my (and my mom’s) abuser is still out there, able to continue to do his most dastardly manipulations to new people, slimy enough to wriggle out of any and all legal implication. I don’t feel like this show will get any personal retribution or vengeance against him, but I do hope that it highlights the struggles of kids written off by their parents’ abusers, the boys who deal with being treated as less than, and the ways men can at their worst ruin hopes and dreams of the women and men and children around them.
How would you describe your show to your mother?
I’m writing a show about some of our toughest times, times where we were tested, distrusted one another, and were afraid for our safety. A time where I moved out and wouldn’t talk to you for four years because of how hurt I was. About a time long gone yet still scarring our memories and relationship. But, for my sanity and to prevent my audience from being abused themselves… I’m telling it as a dungeons and dragons fantasy campaign so that I can distance myself and the audience from it. And it’s also interactive? So things may end up better or worse in the show than they did in real life. It all depends on the audience’s decisions.
How would you describe your show to your crush?
If you didn’t know my life story and past tragedies before, you’re about to get a whole lot of it, so buckle up. Let’s play a game, though, so you get it a little better. It’s dungeons and dragons and high school tragedies. It’s a story of redemption, of perseverance. But this time, it is you, not me, who gets to persevere in the end. It all depends on how you roll the dice.
If any famous person could see your show, who would you pick?
I can’t help but think that because Paula Vogel was the one who pushed me to get this show ready for this summer fringe tour that she would be the one I’d want to see the final show. She’s done a lot for survivors of domestic/emotional/physical/sexual abuse through her work, and it is in thanks to her that this show is even making it off my hard drive and onto the stage.
Oh my! I can’t choose just one, so here are four (and of course I suggest you see all of them!):
First, I suggest you see Giant Nerd Productions’ The Sibyl of Mars. I saw Nicol’s Tidal Surge at last year’s PortFringe, and she’s an amazingly talented sci-fi storyteller, and you will no doubt be engrossed by her characters and worldbuilding. Plus she’s a visiting artist and I wholly recommend you see her work!
Second, I suggest you see Acorn Productions’ Cursed – it’s a great sort of tango between three Shakespearean couples and the power of sisterhood and witchcraft. I saw it when they first presented it back in February, and cannot recommend it more. It’s such a unique retooling of Shakespeare.
Third, I suggest The Adventures of Les Kurkendal’s Walking While Black in Moscow. He’s a PortFringe 3-timer and his storytelling about his life and experiences (last year I saw his show about a trip on a cruise in Alaska, Terror on the High Seas, and was all for the ride he was bringing me on). His Moscow trip happened since last Fringe and seeing his posts about it online make me super excited to see how he summarizes the trip in solo form!
Finally, I think you should see #BODYTALK by Kylie Groat. I’m good friends with Kylie, and this piece is a collection of stories about eating disorders and body dysmorphia that she collected and compiled a la Vagina Monologues, and I’m excited to see this piece she’s been working on for the past few months, especially because it’s a super important piece!
Write a haiku about your show!
High School Trauma™ gameified,
Things could get dicey.