A Theasy Interview with the artist, whose new collaborative work The Etiquette of Death plays this month at La Mama
THEASY: First, please give us a little background on your previous work and favorite past projects.
CHRIS TANNER: I have been working at La MaMa since 1979. My first show there was Night Club directed by John Vacarro. Since then I have done many shows with many people including my own productions Ravaged by Romance, Up, Up and more Up, Jack of Tarts, and One must do what one Must do. Other highlights have been working and collaborating with Penny Arcade, the Bloolips, Maria Irene Fornes, Sebastian Stuart, Cyndi Lauper, Everett Quinton, David Lynch, Julie Atlas Muz and Karen Finley. I have been performing with Ms. Finley [in] her 911 show Make Love for the last 10 years here in NYC and around the country. For the last three years I have been working with Ildiko Nemeth's New Stage Theatre Company. Where I will perform in a new world premier this fall.
THEASY: You wear many theatrical hats, as writer, director and performer depending on the project. What is your personal aesthetic like, and which of these positions do you find the most compelling?
CT: I am also a painter, sculptor and collage artist (christophertannerart.com), so I love the energy of people collaborating with each other outside of my quiet art studio. In theatrical work, my personal preference is acting and singing, and putting together the people involved in a project. I love the creating and jumping into a new reality with other people.
THEASY: What is your mission for your own work, and for New York theatre in general?
CT: To unlock all the secrets within me, to explore freely, to inspire others and most importantly: to have fun!!
THEASY: Tell us a little about your new show, The Etiquette of Death. How did it come to be?
CT: I have been living with Death around me since the AIDS crises started in 1981. I lost many friends as well as my lover Stephen Lott in 1990. Last year I lost my dear friend and collaborator Garry Hayes. Consequently, some of my dear friends and collaborators Becky Hubbert (costumes), Stephen Hammel (sets) and others started talking about the Etiquette of Death and if [there] was such a thing? Out of these contemplations, this project was born. I love bringing people together and that is what I have done here. With a team of ten writers, five composers, five designers and twenty-two actors, we are having the time of our life. We are working hard, having fun and creating something totally original.
THEASY: What can audiences expect from The Etiquette of Death?
CT: To be totally entertained, to laugh, to cry and to be sexually stimulated!!!
THEASY: What's up next for you?
Getting a new series of paintings together that I will show in 2013 sometime, and opening my new one-man theatrical show Tippy Toes Tanner that I am writing now.
Photo by Cy Karrat.