New Play ‘The Momentum’ Explores the World of Self-Help

Guild Hall and The Watermill Center will present CollaborationTown’s The Momentum on Saturday, September 21 at 8 p.m. CollaborationTown, an ensemble-driven theater company based in Manhattan, has worked with the Watermill Center before and is looking forward to performing at Guild Hall. Dan’s Papers got in touch with “Collaborators” and co-creators Geoffrey Decas and Lee Sunday Evans to discuss their experience at the Center and learn just what The Momentum is about.

What is the premise of The Momentum?

Geoffrey Decas: Well, we had applied for a Watermill residency to develop new work, and the idea was taking the old medieval mystery plays that explored The New Testament and seeing if we could make something inspired by that and explore it through parody. The more we researched, we realized a parody wasn’t what we wanted. So we thought of current things that were kind of modern-day [mystery plays] and discovered self-help.

Lee Sunday Evans: There is a kind of slippery satire in the material, but there’s also a real compassion for people who are seeking answers to questions and life experiences that our culture doesn’t know how to handle gracefully. The show walks this line between heartfelt and dry humor that you’d
see on The Office.

How is The Momentum structured?

Decas: It’s structured like a self-help show. We share stories and play games [with the audience]. When we were at Watermill, there was a lot of improvisation and some of that made it into parts of the show.

What is the history of CollaborationTown?

Decas: [The group] studied at Boston University together and were in ensemble-based classes together and clicked as a group. We moved to New York because one of our members had a play in the Fringe Festival, and then we decided to move here. We were the class of 2003; the prior theater program policy had a cut system where the majority of students got cut after sophomore year. But then they developed a “theater studies” major and we were the pilot program. There was the focus on the whole world of theater—stagecraft, writing, directing.

Evans: I had a great, great experience there. It really broadened my horizons and I learned a lot about ensemble-driven work. I think it’s kind of…for lack of a better term, it’s “coming into vogue,” which sounds superficial, but it is recognized more and more as [a viable form of theater
development].

What’s the Watermill Center experience like?

Decas: Watermill is wonderful. They care about our needs and are able to just create. One day [of development] at Watermill equals a week in the city. We worked with the program director, we’d brief them on what we’re up to. The only thing they keep on you about is the community involvement and open rehearsals, but they are respectful and
so supportive.

Do you bring personal experience to the show?

Evans: One thing we learned, was that there’s such a strong history of people giving testimonials for self help, it really struck me to see regular people get up and talk about their stories and share their stories, these in some ways very “regular” things that people deal with, we felt like it was our responsibility to be vulnerable as people.

For more information on The Momentum, go to guildhall.org or collaborationtown.org. The one-night performance is Saturday, September 21 at 8 p.m. at Guild Hall in East Hampton.

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