This entry is cross-posted at my personal blog.

We’re making a new dance.


We are hiring dancers to “play” us, or to “be” us (forgive the excessive scare quotes, strings of closely related nouns and verbs, and other ways of avoiding the obvious that I’m about to throw at you). We will put those dancers on headsets with their phones and one member of MKT will be instructing/guiding/influencing their performance with our voices. Beyond our vocal presence, we will never be in the room with them as they rehearse, and we won’t be there when they perform. The audience will have forgotten the dance by the time we get to see the documentation of it.

It’s a weird place to be, even for choreographers who often avoid worrying too much about exact execution. We prefer to know what is going on behind a scene and to let the dancer do the expressing, but whoa, it’s scary to JUST know the behind the scenes and not know what is actually going to happen.

I am at the very least doing my best to relinquish that which is not currently under the microscope. The microscope is this: How can we make work without ever being in the same room? How can we get around/into the insanely frustrating reality that is rehearsing every week on Google hangouts? How can Mad King Thomas live in the machine in the body in the machine?

Here are the frustrations I have with Google Hangouts:

  • It makes my computer overheat
  • It requires me to close all my tabs
  • I feel uncomfortable looking at it
  • I feel weird being looked at
  • I get distracted by my computer
  • I can’t really go anywhere because I’m stuck at my computer
  • I have to wear headphones
  • It usually fucks up part way through and we end up on the phone anyway

It’s onerous to a degree that means we don’t generally have the kinds of conversations you might have if you were idly in a room together. When one of us drops out, the other two tend to just sit there silently–in the past maybe we would have kept talking when someone goes to the bathroom, but now we just stop. It’s weird and it kind of sucks.

I feel anxious about the dancers’ experience in the piece, though the people we cast are massively competent and we’re totally relying on their charisma and intelligence to save this piece when it falls on its face.

I have no idea what this will look like to an audience–I think it’s the first time I’ve ever not known or even cared. I feel very deep in this weird process of voices: How close is the speaker to the ear of the dancer? What if the line goes dead? What can we hear/see of the other MKT members? How will I speak quickly or slowly or clearly enough? How the $*#! will the talkback work?

We could get around it somewhat with video technology, but a) that sounds even more stressful and failure-prone, and b) it doesn’t really matter. If we just want to make a good dance that Looks Nice, we could do that and send them a video tape and have Theresa appear as rehearsal director. We do not want to do that. We want to experiment with transference, with imitation, with voice and body and how they work together.

It’s gimmicky, too, and I understand that. I’ve never been shy of a good gimmick but I also try not to build my house on gimmickry. I don’t anticipate that the earpieces will be a conspicuous or important part of the work. I certainly don’t expect the piece to be About the Phone Thing. The phone thing is interesting to me, but I am hoping the audience will see something other than that: They will see dancers in relationship to one another, in service of a disembodied voice that is all powerful but utterly non-omniscient. Non-scient? Partiscient? Flawed. The controlling voice knows almost nothing about what is happening on the ground, which could be reflect in some ways on all sorts of subjects.

I want flickers of me and Monica and Theresa to manifest through them, the ghost, the avatar, the representation. I cannot know if this will happen except to be as utterly Me as I can be in rehearsal and in performance. To be as clear and strongly myself as I can manage, which I anticipate as a big challenge. I’m actually more worried about my own performance than the cast’s. They’re good performers and they are on-stage, where they excel. I do not excel at extemporaneous speaking and I sure as hell do not excel at dance-making-by-telephone.

It’s not dancing, it’s not talking, it’s not teaching, but it is all of them. And I’m excited to see how it goes.

Unearthing the Family Jewels, June 18-21

Mad King Thomas cavorts on a bridge.

Mad King Thomas presents Unearthing the Family Jewels  

A celebration of ten years of collaborative dance-making, featuring reimagined repertory and new works from our favorite inspirations  

WHEN June 18 – 21, 2015 at 7 pm (doors at 6 pm)  

TEK BOX Theater, 528 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55403  



In a two-part evening, see some of the Twin Cities’ best male-identified performers re-enact deep cuts from the Mad King Thomas back catalogue. On the flipside, see Mad King Thomas’ mentors create new works in response to the wild, sometimes vulgar history of these three women. 

Featuring work by: 
HIJACK (collaboration of Kristin Van Loon and Arwen Wilder)!
Emily Johnson!
Judith Howard collaborating with April Sellers!
Mad King Thomas (collaboration of Tara King, Theresa Madaus and Monica Thomas)!

Featuring performance by: 
Gabriel Anderson, Charles Campbell, Jim Domenick, Sam Johnson, Justin Jones, Jim Lieberthal, Nic Lincoln, Derek Phillips, Otto Ramstad, Chris Schlichting, Timmy Wagner, Gregory A. Waletski, Max Wirsing and Jeffrey Wells

It’s a celebration of the Minneapolis dance community! It’s a gender-bend ten years in the making! It’s the return of the prodigal son! And it’s one weekend only.    Email for more information!

“This activity is funded, in part, by an appropriation from the Minnesota State Legislature with money from the State’s general fund.”

9×22 Ideas.

So, in about a week, Mad King Thomas will be showing a new piece, ASS BAD ASS, at 9×22.  It’s, as yet, wholly unformed.  And here’s what I’m bringing to the table: 



EARNED IT (by the Weeknd) (though not the video component, just the song)

It’s so portentous! It’s so irrelevant! And I just…I like the vocal line. 


Because I think about the digital world/digital thinking and the physical world/physical thinking all the time. 


“Hope is a good breakfast, but a bad supper.”
-Francis Bacon


“Marketing is just telling people what you do, over and over again.” 
-C.J. Hayden

One King to Rule Them All: My experiments continue

Last time on the MKT Files, we sent in a bunch of photographs.  

Normally we bring images to rehearsal verbally, aka we describe them to each other while eating snacks. This time it was actually, you know, visual images you see with your eyes (so weird, why would you do that?)  Seeing the images this way was unexpectedly familiar-and-strange. Familiar because it wasn’t too surprising. Strange because they weren’t related to a central theme. Familiar because I could imagine Theresa or Monica explaining why they chose this image. Strange because I was just making that shit up and not actually hearing them do it–it left a bit of mystery in the process that we often don’t allow ourselves.

(Seriously, I have never been in a formal cross examination process but when you bring an idea to MKT rehearsal, you best be prepared to defend your fledging little creation to the death. BUT WHY ICE CREAM?! WHY NOT SORBET?! I HATE ICE CREAM I THINK WE SHOULD DO PORK CHOPS. And so on.)

Which brings us to the next assignment:

From the set of pictures from all 3 of us, take 2 images from each person and arrange in a harmonious way (can be a collage, can be a series/slideshow, can be whatever). Then write for 1 minute about the arrangement you made. Don’t fret over it. I have no idea how long it will take but I am guessing the actual execution should be like 30 mins or less.

Here are the results, with some variance in how the instructions were interpreted:

What I learned from this experiment:
1) There are limits to the usefulness of a bite-sized assignment. Eating a crumb is not the same as eating a bite. One minute is too short for a writing assignment unless you do thirty of them.

2) Photos are awesome.

3) It’s uncomfortable working without the tools/skills for this medium.  When we started making dances, we ran forward with a youthful enthusiasm and didn’t much care if we knew how to do something. In fact, we kinda liked it when we didn’t know how to do something. A lot. (You can tell by how often we get on stage to do something as best we can, and then fail.) But something has changed (*cough*we’rethirtyone*cough*).  We want to be better. We want to realize complicated ideas, but the tools at hand are Microsoft Paint and elbow grease.  It makes me realize how much live performance comforts us:  we can use our bodies to live-action it, to make a thing happen despite obvious limitations (e.g., we are not in outer space, but we will try our damnedest to be in space anyway).

I’m not sure where this lesson leads: Maybe we need to infuse our experiments with more real-time work? Maybe we need to infuse our experiments with more let’s-fuck-up? Maybe we need to invest in Photoshop? This question is still wriggling around. It’s like a live wire combined with the elephant in the room. It’s the electrified elephant in the room, which brings us back here: 

p.s. We picked a name for our 10th anniversary show: Unearthing the Family Jewels!  It’s perfect because a) it involves jewels, and b) it involves genitalia.

Expect more details soon. 

Here we go.

We’re in the part of the process that’s looking at a big mountain ahead of us and feeling like we didn’t pack enough food to have second breakfast on the way to Mordor.  We’re in the production phase of our Tenth Anniversary Show, which I’m just going to dub MAD KING THOMAS’ ELEMENTARY SCHOOL GRADUATION SHOW and call it a day.  We’re trying to figure out how to work together and for fuck’s sake, life just won’t get out of the damn way.  It’s been weird.    So, anyway, I’M THE KING NOW. Bow down, bitches.  

We’re in the part of the process that’s looking at a big mountain ahead of us and feeling like we didn’t pack enough food to have second breakfast on the way to Mordor. We’re in the production phase of our Tenth Anniversary Show, which I’m just going to dub MAD KING THOMAS’ ELEMENTARY SCHOOL GRADUATION SHOW and call it a day. We’re trying to figure out how to work together and for fuck’s sake, life just won’t get out of the damn way. 

So, anyway, I’M THE KING NOW. 

  <iframe src=”//” width=”480″ height=”360″ frameBorder=”0″ webkitAllowFullScreen mozallowfullscreen allowFullScreen></iframe>   Here’s the things I’m thinking about:    How do we figure out how to make work again? How do we improve our work on the internet since we are, in fact, not true Millennials but instead some aging members of Generation Catalano, aka we only sorta grew up online?  What are we even all three interested in?    What I’m interested in, mostly, is location.  I want to know where I live and I want to know where they live.  I want to create a lot of material very quickly without worrying about it.  So I made an Alec Sothian scavenger hunt for these terms: 

Here’s what I’m thinking about:

  • How do we figure out how to make work from faraway?
  • How do we share our work on the internet since we are, in fact, not true Millennials but instead some aging members of Generation Catalano, aka we only sorta grew up online, aka we ain’t no Molly Soda?
  • What are we even all three interested in?

What I’m interested in, mostly, is location. I want to know where I live and I want to know where they live. I want to create a lot of material very quickly without worrying about it. So I made an Alec Sothian scavenger hunt for these terms:

  • canals
  • precipitous
  • seven years
  • staircase
  • a missing arch
  • testimonial
  • expired authorization
  • graffiti
  • librarian
  • helpful

And here, with no credit or context, is what I got back: 

Tune in next time, for a blog post that may or may not tell you what happened next!


Mad King Thomas had our first post-mortem face-to-face meeting!  Google Hangouts has been surprisingly effective, but there’s nothing like actual face time.

We went to Hollywood, Joshua Tree National Park, Venice Beach, and the Salton Sea (the new setting for Welcome to the Shattering World). 

We schemed and planned. We talked for an obscenely long time about how we are going to improve our website.  Paul bought us a surprise pizza. 

Mostly we fought long and hard about our upcoming tenth-anniversary show.  Put the dates on your calendar now: June 18-21, 2015.  More details forthcoming!

Rehearsal report: a question.

Monica assigned us, about a month ago, something she had done in her Power, Privilege and Oppression class (What a class title!)  

The task, as summarized by me: Find your resistance. Who, if they walked into your life tomorrow, would you struggle to serve to the best of your abilities, more or less because of groundless (and perhaps unintentional) bias on your own part? Is there a group of people who you just don’t react well to? What three steps can you take to reduce your resistance to that group?  

I think, in the context of her program, this is about moderating how your perspective and place in society affects how you can help your clients.  

In the context of Mad King Thomas, I think it’s about making ourselves better people, which is a corollary of our motto, Making the World More Awesome. We’ve had a while to think on it. I think Theresa and I were meant to settle on a specific demographic, but it seems we’ve both unravelled the assignment about to the edges of usefulness.  Sorry, Mo.  

I’ve been developing little tests to figure out when that resistance is flaring up: If I feel a physical tightening in my body when I encounter someone I don’t personally know. If I find myself withdrawing into my mind and overthinking when I contact someone. If I don’t want to listen to a person, or I discount what they have to say as “illogical” or “irrelevant”, or I try to shut down the conversation as soon as possible, or I just look away like they aren’t there.  

Sometimes the test yields false positives: A guy at the grocery store tried to talk to me and I averted my eyes and walked quickly on. He called me out for “not being supportive”, which made me feel a little bad. But the reason I was avoiding this guy is because he was there as a representative of the L.A. Times, and while I have no particular beef with the L.A. Times, I don’t need to feel bad about resisting corporations. (In response, I said I support him but don’t wish to give my information out or subscribe…so it helped even in this case.)  

Anyway, once you start to notice this resistance, you also see there’s a flip side to all of this, which is the groups of people you feel comfortable around. Of course, all comfort is relative, isn’t it? A professor warned us that the end result of a postmodern education was permanent alienation, wherever you go. And maybe they were right. Postmodernism of the sort Mad King Thomas acquired at Macalester reduces the comfort level you have within what you perceive as your “own” group. It reminds you not to make assumptions, not to live so Euro/America/self-centric. It dismantles the idea that you belong in any kind of group at all.   

But! The key with this exercise is not to remember people are different from you (duh) but to make active effort toward understanding those you don’t (and in some ways can’t) understand. To make effort toward expanding outward from your own self-centered humanity to the humanity of everyone around you, and, eventually the humanity of everyone on earth. Right? You make sure you are, yourself, a human, and then you extend the courtesy to everyone else. That’s the basic deal.  

Anyway, it’s not hard to leap from there to what’s been happening in Ferguson and New York and …. It’s not that hard to leap from examining why you feel nervous around X group of people to seeing how a cop might react inappropriately to a group. And we’ve all been separately agitated about the #blacklivesmatter situation. We are sad that this shit is happening, and that it has happened for generations, and that the system is STILL failing to address it. I am sad, selfishly, because I’ve lost family to police violence, and I am sad, socially, because other people are still losing family that way.  And I am privileged because, as a white person, it’s way, way, WAY less likely to happen to me or my family than it is to a black person.  

But I feel so encouraged that people are out there, navigating this situation with more and more grace, more grace than I could really hope for, even as the system fails, even as white people overstep and fail to listen, even as people get mad that their Christmas shopping was interrupted. I want to keep noticing when my shoulders get tight and to take that as a reminder that I’m not treating someone with the most dignity that I could.   

Anyway, there’s the rehearsal report for this week. 

This may mean nothing to you, but I will share it anyway.

We’re back in rehearsal, you guys. Monica’s the boss! When we were planning out this weird year of experimental long-distance-choreography, we thought: we’ll let the person who has the biggest life change lead rehearsals! They’ll be able to make it suit them!

It turns out that big life changes are a little hard to recover from. We started a month late, but we’re here and in action (right in the middle of my own Big Life Change).

We’ve been doing exercises related to Monica’s coursework in Dance/Movement Therapy, which is great for me because it’s free!

Week One: Timelines of our art history

Announcing the plan for the rest of our lives

FIrst let me say this: Rumors of our death have been greatly exaggerated. Not only are we NOT dying, we are planning all kinds of excellent activities during our time apart. 

In case you haven’t heard the news:

Monica is moving to Boston to learn about dance/movement therapy; I’m moving to LA to learn about palm trees and radical pedestrianism; Theresa is moving to South Minneapolis to learn about pond ownership.  

Thursday (THIS Thursday) is our last we-all-still-live-in-the-same-city rehearsal. This weekend (THIS weekend) is Monica’s last as a Minnesota resident. I can’t and won’t recount the history that I feel bearing down around me every minute right now. It’s all too much. 

Which is to say I’m psyched about what’s coming up, which is good because otherwise I’d be sad, walking backward and wiping tears away. So here I am to hold your hand, turn you around to walk forward.

Let’s address the facts of the Tenth Year of Madness, a.k.a Today through July 2015. 

The King has convened himself and issued the following five edicts: 

1) We shall perform artistic experiments!

We’re taking this time apart as a hard reset on “our practice”. This is a curious thing to do, because it’s hard to say what “our practice” is exactly, as it doesn’t even look the same every time. Sometimes we make dances for the telephone or sometimes we pour flour all over a gallery and regret it deeply the next day. But usually it involves sitting together in the same room for 3 hours a week, minimum, and talking about ideas, images and movement.

We can’t sit in the same room anymore, but it turns out that the internet has been invented and can help us communicate. 

Over the next 12 months, we are trying something new:

  1. Each of us gets to be real, actual King. Whoever is King decides what Mad King Thomas does for two months.
  2. We make the other two participate in this crazy idea we have.  Maybe we meet via telephone, or maybe we write a cookbook, or maybe we set things on fire and send the ashes to each other via post. 
  3. ??? 
  4. New artistic practice!

The future feels so wide open and so different for each of us. Ain’t no reason trying to have three hour Skype rehearsals if they suck. Ain’t no reason trying to make a hard-and-fast plan when the whole is slipping and sliding beneath us.

2) We shall unleash the results of our experiments upon the unwitting public!

Rather than keeping all these experiments to ourselves, as is our selfish wont, we are going to put evidence of our wrongdoing artistic practice here on this blog.   We’ve sensed with our little tyrannical antennae that there could be a lot of internetting in support of our mission to Make Things More Awesome, but we always get busy making a stage show and all those high-falutin’ thoughts falute right out the window.

As the world’s only Virtual Dance Company (this doesn’t count ), we want to give good internet. Starting this fall you will see more blogging, more medias, more internets. 

3) We shall procure fancier digs for our experimental results!

AND we’re planning a big overhaul of this here corner of internet. It will look more like us, it will have more content about our work, it will maybe be funny. That’s all I am at liberty to say.

4) We shall celebrate our 10th Anniversary with a show!

Did you know that Mad King Thomas is about to turn ten? Did you know that ten is the last year when you can still display your age in fingers without confusing people? In any case, April 2014 is our tenth birthday, and we’re putting together a tenth anniversary show for next summer. Monica and I will fly back, there will be much dancing and rejoicing and maybe even cake with buttercream frosting (Italian or French-style frosting is not yet decided). I’m keeping all the juiciest details under my hat for now (not a comfortable place to keep juicy things) but there will be trumpet fanfares and all that stuff.

Put “Sometime in Summer 2015” in your calendars now!

5) We shall travel to the Old World and study dance-making with Julyen Hamilton!

We were awarded a Jerome Travel/Study grant to study with one of our favorites, Julyen Hamilton! WHOOO! I finally get to go to Europe. We get to trip out on dance as it pertains to the space/time continuum, mathematics or whatever and we could not be more thrilled to have this time to regroup and hang out together while working our dancer tails off.

Mad King Thomas has, in many ways, just been a vehicle for negotiating our lives via an artistic practice. Sure, it mostly results in us eating things we think are gross, but it’s a way for us to be ourselves, to investigate the things that are happening around us, and to bring all of you around us to talk about it. And it turns out when you hit thirty, some things in life start to change. Like, maybe you need to make a living wage. Maybe you need to live somewhere new.  But some things don’t change, and our desire to work with each other is one of the latter. 

If you want to keep up with Mad King Thomas’ next adventures, let us know and we’ll add you to our mailing list!

Reaaaaaach for it: Mad King Thomas’ quest for immortality

So, our Kickstarter. We’re close. Really close.   We’re at $3,215, 91%, and I can practically smell it.  I imagine that when we cross the finish line, some kind of alchemical magic will be triggered and the smell of lilacs will pour out of my laptop in celebration of a successful kickstarter.   (Is this weird fantasizing jinxing us? I hope not.)   In any case, we’ve been scheming.  You know what happens when a kickstarter succeeds, right?   THE DREADED STRETCH GOAL.  

 I mean, we’re no Potato Salad so here goes nothing.  We still have fourteen days and we hate LOVE fundraising!!   I’ve been on vacation in Washington, DC.  I came to see the cherry blossoms and crush on Thomas Jefferson, but I’ve also been going to a lot of big, imposing museums.  You know, the kind that will last forever.  I spend a lot of time thinking, “Man, when Mad King Thomas becomes president, those Kickstarter t-shirts are totally going to end up in the National Archives.”   

And then I thought, “Shit, well, that’s great, but WHAT ABOUT THE WORK, MAD KING THOMAS?! WHAT ABOUT THE ACTUAL DANCES?!”   I’m here because Mad King Thomas wants to finally create an enduring monument to itself.   

So we decided to create a DVD of our tenth anniversary show! It’s like a big, Italian marble monument, but you don’t have to schlep it around when you want to show your friends.  

We want to raise enough money to pay a professional (aka Ben McGinley) to create a mini-documentary of the show: The cast involved, our amazing mentors, us gibbering on like gibbons, the show itself, and some audience moments too.  If we hit the stretch goal, we’ll probably give everyone who kicked us kickstarted us download/streaming access and, for those who want it, we may even be able to provide a physical shiny round disc that will transfer this documentary to your television. The details aren’t quite sorted yet but the idea is solid.  

I’m so stupidly excited about this. I’m excited to have something to show people beyond the few video clips we’ve managed to upload. I’m excited to have something of Quality, not just our shitty hand-held camera in the back row.  I’m excited to have a DVD to leave secretly in museums all over the world.    I hope you’re excited, too.  KICKSTART US, YOU GUYS. WE’RE WAITING!