The Lily's Revenge: Concept and Context

By Nina Mankin (Dramaturg)

Red Tide Blooming and The Lily’s Revenge: The Armageddon Coupling

The Lily’s Revenge is the second in a pair of plays that Taylor calls “Armageddon Coupling.” The first part, Red Tide Blooming (or R.T.B, which premiered at PS122 in 2006) is a high-jinx musical – with nudity - about the imminent “revitalization” (real estate euphemism for obliteration) of Coney Island. In R.T.B. the Collective Conscious (the villain, manifested as a green Gap-like sweater puppet) wants to eradicate all things that make it uncomfortable. All freaks and Olukan, the hero of R.T.B., a hemaphrodite sea creature (played by Taylor Mac) make the Collective Conscious very uncomfortable as they challenge the rationality of the “Collective Conscious visualization of the Armageddon” that has all the “cool kids” and other posers mesmerized into a state of passive homogeneity. Olukan’s quest is to vanquish the Collective Conscious and bring back the fabulousness of difference. If you’re reading this after seeing the first and second acts of The Lily’s Revenge, this will all sound somewhat familiar – both plays in the Armageddon Coupling are allegories structured as heroes tales. Both share themes about the tyranny of cultural homogenization and “group-think,” both feature fairytale-like characters, fabulous costumes (and lack thereof) and moments of – occasionally annoying — audience participation. But when Taylor conceived of Lily he was looking to expand on the themes he’d explored with R.T.B. and go beyond allegory that talks about culture and community to create an event that is, in itself, an experience of community.

Taylor started thinking about extended theatrical structures because, I think, he felt that in our sound-bite culture, the commitment to spend that much time in the theatre is itself a statement of community and because he was looking for a frame that could encompass as large and fabulous a mass of divergent performers as he could hold in one piece. After Morgan Jenness introduced him to Eric Ehn’s work on Noh theatre, he decided to use this five-act structure (rarely performed anymore in contemporary Japan where the five parts are usually split into individual programs or are condensed into one shorter performance.) Thus, the names, and underpinning concept, of the five parts of Lily - “Deity,” “Ghost Warrior,” “Love”, “Living Person,” and “Mad Demon” – come directly from the Noh. Taylor played with a number of different structures to encourage the most community participation possible. He thought about having each act performed by a different theatre collective, having each song composed by a different songwriter; he finally settled on the present structure (for this iteration): each of the five acts having distinct performance styles with five different directors and a company of nearly 40 with nearly 40 more people giving their time, talent and love to bring you a theatre experience unique to this present moment.

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