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.”

More Dance Musings – maybe for 9×22?

I have been thinking a lot about dance as a liberatory practice. I know this stems in part from my involvement with Don’t You Feel It Too?, a dance practice which touches on a lot of things, including personal liberation and social healing. (Summer sessions last week, in fact, and the next one is today! See you there?)

Photo Credit Steve Cohen

One of the results of practicing this form for me is an exploration of vulnerability and earnestness. This is something that has long terrified me. I much prefer the snarky commentary, the self-degrading humor, the tongue-in-cheek and over-the-top. To be clear, I think these are not solely a way to avoid earnestness, but are sometimes a more comfortable way of entering into authentic earnest self. (I think of exercises in Hijack’s improv class, where sometimes doing the opposite of a thing is the back-door way of accessing the thing itself.)

But I’ve been inspired by a number of things I’ve seen lately- dances that don’t shy away from the sad or serious or earnest or vulnerable; dances that don’t rely on snark or over-the-topness. (SuperGroup’s In Which ______ and Others Discover the End, Samantha Johns and Annie Enneking’s what i want now i will want later, Aniccha Arts’ Every Other.) These pieces have forayed deeply into an-all-encompassing atmospheres, embracing and completing the task of immersing the audience in something serious, steeped in feelings, evoking an echo of those feelings in the viewer. They have touched me in ways that were devoid of irony, camp, parody, or tongue-in-cheek (though some also had moments of humor or used ironic juxtapositions).

Again, I value irony and parody- I have always believed that these sometimes cynical, critical tools can illuminate an earnest truth, can be authentic, are, in fact, sometimes necessary to save earnestness from a cloying preciousness. But there is another kind of earnestness that is newly fascinating to me- the kind that is bolstered by whole-hearted vulnerability. The kind of vulnerability that can acknowledge itself, it’s flaws, it’s hopes, without laughing at them, making light of them, or excusing them.

I am suddenly thinking of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s solo show to an albumn of beloved Joni Mitchell songs. I am seeing the opening, where she stood, in stillness, looking at the audience, just looking. I did not have the same attatchment to Joni Mitchell, but Keersmaeker’s commitment, whole-hearted, honest, full and unapologetic, brought forth a gravity in her dance and in me.

And sometimes I see it in virtuosic movement- a body unafraid of revealing the wealth of personal information it houses, unafraid of intimacy, unafraid of meaning.

Chris Holman long ago commented that he would like to see Mad King Thomas do something serious. While again I defend the place of humor in seriousness, I think perhaps he was asking for this kind of bravery. The openness of earnest vulnerable dance. This still terrifies me, but maybe, maybe I am a step closer to being ready to engage in it. It means probably I will make some very bad dances, but that is part of the practice- unequivocally giving the dance with a wholeness of effort and an acceptance of humanness.

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

Fond Reminiscing

One of the most fun things about this show is that it is not only a chance to reminisce, but it’s actually an imperative part of the process. We’ve mentally gone through the last ten years of dances (and soon we’ll be going over the video footage as well!), imagining what will translate well (or strangely) onto new casts, what feels important not to miss, what we can excerpt, and how to represent the arc of that decade.

While we’ve had some arguments about which dances to include (it wouldn’t be Mad King Thomas without at least one argument) one clear answer was the very first dance we ever made: Pomo Looks Like Porno. The dance began as a drunken dream outside of Elizabeth Lostetter and Amanda Healy’s apartment in 2004, envisioned as Tara getting married to Prince with Monica and me as wedding bells. Over the course of the semester, it slowly morphed into a 10-minute performance that essentially encapsulated the last four-years of our Macalester education. (I’m sorry to report that Prince and the wedding quickly disappeared.) That dance was practically our thesis, a place to process post-modernism, gender, the Gaze, performativity, and complicity. Our very first experiment with audience participation was asking everyone to sit in their underwear.

We remounted this dance as part of our fringe show the year after graduating and haven’t really looked at it since. (It is, after all, on a VHS tape.) But the themes from that first dance still motivate our current work, and the sense of vulnerability and exploration that characterized that first piece have carried through as well, not to mention the use of dance as cultural analysis, pop references, and tongue-in-cheek vulgarity. (Not that underwear seems so vulgar now, but you have to start somewhere.)

I am so excited to see how Pomo Looks Like Porno will appear in our 10th Anniversary show. Probably it will show it’s age, and our youth, but that is perhaps part of the joy of remounting it. I have about 5 different dream casts for this dance; who indeed, can be baby-faced Mad King Thomas? In some ways, the seed for our 10th anniversary show was already in this first piece: we had a doppelganger for each of us, shadowing our young selves.

I’m also excited that we will be documenting this anniversary show in all it’s full glory, with more than a shitty camcorder on a tripod recording a VHS for posterity. Ben McGinley is the other seed for this piece. He once wrote of Mad King Thomas, “…they are their work. You couldn’t set a MKT piece on any three other women and have it work the way it should.” And so here we go, setting our work on all sort of men and seeing if it can still work the way it should. We’re stoked that Ben will be filming the show as well as some interviews with us and our mentors. If we make our stretch goal, he’ll be editing it into a fabulous mini-documentary that will be available to everyone who backed the kickstarter. My 21-year-old self doesn’t even know what vimeo is- can’t even comprehend this awesomeness!

If your current self is even half as excited as baby-Mad-King-Thomas, please help us make our goal! Back our kickstarter and be part of making the 10th Anniversary into one of those new-fangled moving pictures!

An Idle Suggestion

So, I’ve been making little sacrifices at the altar of the gods of kickstarter. I haven’t killed any lambs or anything, but I figure a few chocolate bars and copious entrepreneurial moisture (alternating sweat and tears) counts for a lot.

I’ve realized that while worshiping mystical crowdfunding has its own charm, it might be more effective to share my secret hope to the world, where actual people can help me achieve it.

Here’s the deal: I am so so so excited by the idea of doing a custom singing-dancing-telegram. Sure, it’s terrifying to show up at some stranger’s house dressed in a unicorn costume, hoping they are home and it’s an opportune time to sing an off-key rendition of Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls, but also, what could be more awesome??? Except of course showing up at a stranger’s house nearly naked except cardboard heart sandwich boards, semi-tunefully singing “Be My Lover” and fake break-dancing? (These costumes are what I always envision wearing to a telegram- I think they were what originally inspired this dream many years ago.) 

I’ll admit I’m particularly partial to customized singing telegrams because I’ve had an incredibly awesome experience with one. A few years ago I asked the indomitable Dylan Fresco to deliver a singing telegram to my girlfriend during her birthday party. Right before we were about to eat cake, he showed up in polyester with a ukelele and proceeded to sing a hilarious ditty that ranged from charming to vulgar. The looks of amazement and horrified delight on everyone’s faces were PRICELESS. My only regret is that I didn’t run after Dylan and ask him to join us for cake. He’s an amazing performer, brilliant song-writer, and all-around delight of humanity.

So here’s my thought: maybe you know someone who is about to have a birthday, or mark an anniversary, or needs a pick-me-up. You and your friends join together and get this person a custom singing-and-dancing-telegram! Maybe you are about to go to your 10-year reunion at Macalester, and you need a special way to tell an old professor how much they still mean to you, or to complain to the administration about the newest way they are letting you down. Pull together some friends, family, or fellow alums and MKT will gripe/praise/delight them in style! Make it all happen here.

We blew by Halfway There. By which I mean: you guys rock.

I was supposed to do a post about crossing the halfway mark in our Kickstarter yesterday, but here comes today and we are less then $1000 away from our goal.



WE ARE 75% THERE! You are so great! This is so great! AAAH! I’m full of all-caps and enthusiastic relief. This thing is happening! AAAAHHHHHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHHHHHHHHHH!!!11!!1!!!!
Okay, taking a deep breath and looking at the very round, very calm mourning dove outside my window. Be the dove, Monica, be the dove:

Guys!! OMG!! AAAh! Thank you thank you THANK YOU!!!

And to the rest of you: WE STILL WANT TO GIVE YOU PRIZES! So many prizes! So badly! Have a gander!

Feelings, Facebook, and Fabulous T-shirts: a Mad King Thomas Kickstarter Story

It’s wildly official: Mad King Thomas’ 10th Anniversary kickstarter is up and running! Curious to see it for yourself instead of reading about my feels? Check it out here.

Feelings! I have so many of them! It’s a mixture of relief, terror, and joy. Every article you read about how-not-to-fuck-up-your-kickstarter (and believe me, I’ve read about million now) warns you: crowdfunding is a lot of work. Pulling it together is a full-time job, so once we had it online and running, I was ready leap around with happiness and then immediately collapse onto my keyboard.

kitten on keyboard

Of course, that’s when the real work begins and the terror takes over. How many entertaining ways can we find to ask people to support us? Will we make our goal in time? Will people think our rewards are as awesome as we think they are? Will we accidentally burn dinner because we’re too busy posting about it on facebook? (This of course is the most frightening of all. Whenever food is involved the stakes are much higher.)

Despite the stress, it’s incredibly gratifying every time someone pledges. This is the lesson we learn every time we campaign- as much as money stresses us out, the tremendous support we feel each time someone donates is like a second gift. So THANK YOU to the fabulous folks who have buoyed us up so far! You are our champions, our knights in shining armor, our beloved unicorns, and then some.

The extra delight of a kickstarter is that we also get to scheme some rewards. I’m obviously stoked about the t-shirt (it’s pretty much all I’ve talked about on facebook and in the emails to MKT’s list.) Max Wirsing, dancer and designer extraordinaire, has blown us out of the water by redesigning our official seal. And by “redesigning” I mean we sent him this image that looks like a 5-year-old drew it:

and turned around this image!

I have been trying to make shirts with Mad King Thomas’ seal on it for the three of us for years, but I keep failing to because our seal looks so crappy. Now ALL OF MY DREAMS ARE COMING TRUE! No wonder it’s all I can talk about.

Speaking of the face space, not only would we appreciate your support in backing our kickstarter with your little green dead presidents, and we would also really love any broadcasting you would do on our behalf. Share our kickstarter on facebook! Invite friends, cousins, and frenemies to the event! Tweet about it via the tweeter-machine (aka Twitter)! Email your friends! Blackmail your enemies! Help us get the word out to everyone who loves to help make things more awesome!

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!