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Arts Watch: Chris Tanner’s ‘Etiquette of Death’ Premiers at La MaMa

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La MaMa closes its 50th Anniversary season with a show about death. Death you say? Yes. Well, the topic is still fresh in the minds of all who know and love La Mama, since it was only last year that the famed ‘Mama’ of La Mama, Ellen Stewart, passed away at the age of 91. Her golden touch is felt in every corner of the place, and in fitting tribute to her influence on generations of artists that have graced La MaMa’s stages these past fifty years, they have chosen to present the world premier of Chris Tanner’s The Etiquette of Death.

Tanner has been part of the La MaMa family since 1979 and according to him, “Death is a messy and terrifying horror. Or, it can be a quiet, unapologetic thief in the night.” He became obsessed with how the dying, and those who love them, behave in the face of death, while living in the East Village during the AIDS crisis.

His obsession led him to ask a group of artists he admires—starting with co-directors Everett Quinton and Julie Atlas Muz (who is also credited as choreographer) to help put together a collage of scenes, songs, poetry, music and dance that explores the “Etiquette of Death.” He notes on his indiegogo fundraising page (you can contribute to the production here), “My idea is that when you add the artifice of etiquette and beauty to this unavoidable journey, comedy will ensue.”

Contributing writers and composers read like a venerable Who’s Who of the downtown theater scene: Penny Arcade, Lance Cruce, Angela DiCarlo, Martha Girdler, Jeremy Halpern, John Jesurun, Beena Kamlani, Taylor Mac, Stephen McCauley, Edgar Oliver, Brandon Olson, Greta Jane Pedersen, Jon Ritter, Penny Rockwell, and Tony Stavick.

“When you explore the artifice and manners that surround this unruly journey…” says Tanner, “the outcome can be absurd, paradoxical, wrenching, and at times, hilarious.” Let’s hope he is right.

The Etiquette of Death. Part of the Queer New York International Arts Festival / June 7–15 / queerny.org

Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 5:30pm with the exception of the Sunday, June 24 performance, which will be at 2:30pm.  June 14 – July 1 $18;  $13 students and seniors.

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