I had a theater company of artists in New York called Via Theater, originally founded by Anne Bogart and eventually taken over by me. For about a dozen years starting in 1991, we created 2 or 3 original dance theater works a year. I was commissioned by DiverseWorks to create a new work with Infernal Bridegroom Productions – what became Last Rites in 1997. I quickly referred to Infernal Bridegroom as my company away from my company.
We Have Some Planes created with the company in 2002 is the best thing I have ever done. It is significant that the thing I consider to be my best work wasn’t created with my own company. It was these guys. It was the perfect convergence of everything that I believe theater should be. It was a commentary on life using all the stuff that I do – with a message – and a brilliant company of actors whose energy was infectious and whose spirits soared.
In the couple of years that followed – we immediately made plans for a follow up piece with the company – having a gap of 5 years between Planes and Last Rites was a gap too big.
Then things happened.
I have to thank Jason Nodler. From the day Catastrophic Theatre was formed, he was asking me when I was going to come and do something.
Those things – life – got in the way. I got a couple of theater jobs for very little money where Artistic Directors would waltz in at the last minute and demand changes or sets would be built without ever showing me the designs. I had this idea that if I was not making a living from theater after 25 years, I was going to stop. I fell into a high paying day job. My mother got sick and I dropped everything to take care of her and then watched her die for 13 very long months. Pina Baush died. My therapist who helped me through that very tough time committed suicide on New Year’s Eve – complete with a New York Times article about the event.
Grief is a consuming bitch.
And without fail, Jason would hit me up at least once and year (if not more) and say, “When are you coming back to Houston?” And I would say, I’m not ready. I don’t know what I would do and not sure I have anything to say, all the while thinking if Planes was the last thing I did, I was OK with that.
TIME. I started to have ideas. I would write down every image, every thought and was compiling a theatrical arsenal for what I was calling “New Jucha Piece”. On New Year’s Eve, 2017 (the symbolism!) – I sent an email to Jason and said – “Hey, if that offer still stands, would you all want to have me come do something?” I don’t know what it is going to be and it might turn out to be some crazy variety show. But, I do know how it begins and I know how it ends.
Oh, by the way. The new piece is going to be called TOAST.
The affirmative response was overwhelming and within days we had a phone conference to make it happen. I called my longtime collaborator lighting designer Roma Flowers who has done almost every original piece I have made going back to 1987. Roma said “It’s about damn time!!!!” and quoted The Song of Mehitabel by Don Marquis;
my youth i shall never forget
but there’s nothing i really regret
there’s a dance in the old dame yet
toujours gai toujours gai
TOAST. Toast is the 3rd part in the trilogy that started with Last Rites and We Have Some Planes. It would have been really easy to make this new work around some investigatory subject that one could hook onto. Last Rites was an examination of cults with a musical theme around Stravinsky’s Rites of Spring. We Have Some Planes was about how we lived in the moments before an unthinkable catastrophic event.
Who doesn’t like a nice slice of toast when they are feeling down or their stomach is upset? It is the ultimate comfort food. We make toasts to our loved ones to celebrate life and to express our desire that everyone’s hope and dreams will come true. I’m toast. What is it about that expression and how immediately we all know what it means?
TOAST isn’t really about anything. And at the same time – oh – it is about everything. Structurally (cos’ I’m all about structure), I decided on Dante’s descent into the 9 Circles of Hell – but if you are hoping to see Dante’s Inferno, don’t get your hopes up. Other stuff happened. This artist – as always – leaves interpretation up to each individual audience member. I hope everyone who comes will have their own individual and unique experience.
It is going to be fucking nuts. There’s a dance in the old dame yet. Just don’t ask me about the flamingos.
– Brian Jucha 2019