TM: I was curious when I read a description of The Long, Slow Death of Lila Remy that called it a "comedie object theatre piece". I didn't know what that meant, until I saw the show. How did your use of objects evolve?
Schlesinger: Well for two reasons. One is, when I first came to New York I used to do these little pieces--I had this one, The Space Ship Glue is Mine, and it's about someone who's on a space ship and the space ship glue is missing, so I kind of visualizes it as this can of spaceship glue, and I found myself doing that a lot. I evolved this other piece where there're these two high heels, with ice skates on them, and they're talking. So I seem to gravitate towards objects. Though I'm not a puppeteer, and I never use that word--I don't because there's a whole tradition of puppeteering that I'm not part of...but I so love the world of those people. It's a highly inventive world. And I also crave seeing a lot of visuals on stage. When I go to theater, I go to the most visual things...
I started working at the Lab [at St. Ann's Art Center in Brooklyn], and I started working on this toy theater, which really couldn't be as toy-like as I wanted it to, because I had an opportunity to perform at the Kitchen and I needed people to be able to see it. It's about a 20-foot proscenium [stage], and I had all these objects that would drop down into it as I told the story. And I did it with someone else. And then we had these panels that moved, they were the set, that are similar to what I do on the easel.
Dan Hurlin is running the Lab this year and now it's by selection, and so applied and I got in. And then I decided, OK, I'm just going to go full force with this. And so what happened was that I was evolving the story, working with those [old postcard] images, but I didn't just want to have images, because I was working surrounded by people who were doing all these three-dimensional things. So I thought, OK, I'll have objects, but then I thought, it takes so much commotion to get other people to work objects on stage and so--
TM: You just decided to make it a solo show?
Schlesinger: Yeah. And then I realized that I didn't want everyone to see everything right off. And I'm also not a master carpenter, nor did I want a big set, so I evolved these boxes. And so then I decided, OK, I'll reveal things from these mysterious noir boxes and then I'll put them back. Then when I did the piece maybe a year ago, people said, oh, when you leave them out, it ends up looking like a still life.
TM: It's visually really wonderful by the end.
Schlesinger: So, I really by accident created this thing. And now people say to me, well, why would that character have all of those things? And I can't answer that question. All I know is that Toni Schlesinger needed to have them, because I didn't want to just get up there and talk. But if I had a big budget, I'd have great huge projections, and I'd have--like in The Green Bird, did you see that?
Schlesinger: When the three women drop down with those apples on their heads? Ah, I'm so in love with that image. Anyway, I'd probably do all sorts of things. And I also invented the term "object theatre" because people would say, oh are you doing a puppet show? But my images are rarely figurative--because I'm up there talking away.