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Tango Palace - An Inside Look with Georgia Dedolph and Allison Blakeslee

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

Photo Captured By Corin Carpenter

Co-Editor for the SmART Commons Blog, Mannie McBride, sat down with the director, Georgia Dedolph and one of the lead actors, Alison Blakeslee to help promote their student led play – Tango Palace. 

M: Georgia, what caught your eye about this play that made you want to direct it in the first place?  

G: Well, I got a research grant to study Maria Irene Fornés, who's the playwright.  So, I did a really deep dive into her work and had done a lot of work around her before. It was only natural that I would choose one of her plays because I love her work. What attracted me to Tango Palace in particular? A lot of things, it was her first published work, which is interesting. So, it sets up her whole future work in this really interesting way. 

G: It has a lot of the themes that she continues to use. It's only been produced several times; I think seven times professionally. Which is so interesting, and something that no one really knows about it. No one knows what this is, which is also really interesting. And the content of the play itself also really attracted me. The sort of absurdist, Avant Garde, totally anti realism, ridiculous clowningness. That really attracted me. And it's only 17 pages so it's short. But it contains so much on every page. It is so detail rich and difficult. I really liked the idea of being able to sort of puzzle out how to do all this stuff. 

M: So, for both of you, what's it like to take part in such an influential play? And a queer play at that.  

Photo Captured By Corin Carpenter

A: It feels like one of the most important projects I have ever worked on. No pressure. And that's a lot of pressure on me too sometimes. Of feeling that I hope that I have the capacity to portray this character Leopold. In a way that honors Marie Irene Fornés, that honors Tango Palace, that honors MCLA Theater.  

G: Yeah, and because of all the research that I've done on this, I hold this so near and dear to my heart that it's precious to me, and it's been so fun to be able to move it onto its feet. And a play that, nobody has worked on. And so I think that's why.  

M: And did you stick with the characters genders or you switched their genders to fit the casting?  

A: We must. My costar Rachel and I are both women and we're playing men.  

G: The whole play is about masculinity and femininity. And so, playing with the idea of having these feminine people playing masculine roles, it's the whole tension of the play - masculinity.  

A: Because the character Isidore, who Rachel plays, is an androgynous clown. So, he can be woman but his whole crux is being dominating. Violent and aggressive in character traits that we typically associate with men. And then my character, Leopold, is much more masculine presenting, but he has character traits that are more associated with womanhood. Of being sensitive, caring, tender, being in a more submissive role also. It's very cool to look at how these characters are presented versus how they're acting.  

Photo Captured By Corin Carpenter

M: I've heard people say to me when I ask what is Tango Palace about? They always end up saying “it's all fair in love and war.” Do you think that is a good way to sum it up?  

G: That's a great way to sum it up. There's this quote in one of the books about Fornés that I read that said all of her plays defy description. It's really hard to specify what this is about because it's about everything. It's about humanity, gender and relationships, and abuse. 

M: Is the play about older people? What is the age range were looking at? 

A:  Okay, I have a good answer for this. Leopold in the script is described as a twenty something youth. Isidore, there is no description of age. Which Isidore seems to me like this being that exists beyond the realms of time.  

G: The play exists in what I've been calling a theatrical void. There's no time or place or anything to anchor it. There's the two characters that are trapped in a room together.  

M: Is it a one scene play?  

G: There are three scenes but it takes place in only one location. You would never know that it was three scenes, because it just really flows continuously together. 

M: And did you add stuff to the play or did you just leave it as it was?  

J: It's paired with another short play, Dr. Kheal. Which was written by the same playwright so both of them together is the length of a play. No, we didn't add anything and honestly, you'll be able to see how it will be long because it contains so much and it's so detail packed that it won't be like bang bang bang. It'll be longer than you anticipated it being. We didn't add anything. I'm really interested in being very true to the script and really doing it the way that the playwright intended.  

Photo Captured By Corin Carpenter

A: Especially because Maria Irene Fornés is so specific with her stage directions. We have been having to research certain things that she includes in her scripts. Because she's so specific. There are objects and dance moves, bullfighting moves. We had to research a lot while trying to be as true to the script as possible.  

G: It's a lot of problem solving. 

A: It's been intense trying to figure out exactly what she wanted, especially because so much happens at once. Someone is saying a long monologue while also dancing, while also chasing. It's insane. It's amazing. There's just a lot going on. 

G: And these two performers, Rachel Lamarre and Alison Blakeslee, are just so game to do this weird thing that we're doing. And it's really exciting because these are two really talented people who I'm privileged to be in a room with. 

M: So, both of you, what's your favorite part of being able to be part of this experience? 

A: It is nothing like I have ever done before. I feel like I'm growing as an actor. In a way that I haven't been able to, because this role is uncomfortable, and it's pushing me to do so much stuff that I've never done. My favorite part about being in this space is that we are a small group of queer people. There's only four or five of us in a room at a time. You get to know the people. There's Rory DiVenuto, who is our stage manager, who is a first year, and they're just so wonderful. 

A: So professional and kind. Dr. Standley comes in sometimes, she's like our mentor and advisor, Laura Standley, who's a professor here of theater, and she's incredible. So, it's just this small group of queer people. And I feel very safe. I feel very respected in the process. 

A: We talk a lot about how we feel. We talk a lot about how to problem solve through some of the roadblocks and we have fun together. My favorite part about acting is that I get to just be really absurd and do really absurd things like deliver a monologue about dirt while I am dancing while I'm doing the bump and grind on my knees. And it's just so weird. It's so fun though. I love it. It's so fun. That's my favorite part of it. 

Photo Captured By Corin Carpenter

G: I was going to say, my favorite part is truly the community we've been able to make. But also... It's been really fun. This is only my second directing project. And so, being able to run up against roadblocks and realize what I had in my head wouldn't quite work and having to figure that out and being able to really practice what I've been preaching and so figuring out how that works in practice and just really being able to dig my teeth into it has been so great. Interesting, and fun, and hard. Yeah, it has been very hard.  

M: Okay, last question. So, for those who don't really know what Tango Palace is about, can you give a short summary? Without giving anything too major away.  

G: What I've been sort of saying is that these two characters are trapped in a room together. One of them is Isidore and has brought or found the other character and is sort of torturing him, trying to get him to obey. In a very short way that's what the play is. But it's comedy, truly, it has a lot of comedy. It's a dance piece. There's so much.  

A: It's about power dynamics. Power and control.  

M: Any last thoughts?  

G: Starting November 17th , the Fornés Festival starts. Come to all those events. It's going to be so fun!  

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