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In the Moment: Interviews with Flying V’s Jason Schlafstein and Sydney Moore

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With monikers like, Become Awesome and The Theatre for People Who Don’t Think They Like Theatre, Flying V burst onto the DC-metro area theater scene. In 2015, Flying V received the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Emerging Theater.

Flying V hasn’t looked back from its indie origins aimed at high impact productions as an ensemble-based company. As noted on its home page, the theater troupe is “dedicated to the development of vibrant original work and offbeat contemporary plays. Inspired by genre fiction, comic books, and other modern mythologies.”

Next up for the theater troupe is Flying V Fights: The Secret History of the Unknown World, a newly devised production exploring the history of American genre fiction. The show is expected to feature an alternate, imaginary timeline where everything has already happened.

What does that mean exactly? Well, audiences may want to ready themselves for the unexpected; say, a mad scientist who raised life out of dead tissue or nuclear bombs that awaken a giant beast from the sea, perhaps even a rocket ship carrying an infant from a dying planet landed on earth.

So let’s go to the source, Flying V’s Producing Artistic Director Jason Schlafstein, to find out more for DCMTA readers. And then let’s add Sydney Moore, costume designer for the upcoming Flying V production, to add her thoughts to the mix.

Flying V Co-Founder and Producing Artistic Director, Jason Schlafstein. Photo by Wilder Photography.

David Siegel: How would you describe a Flying V production?

Jason Schlafstein: Every Flying V production explores something really intimate and human against a big high concept backdrop, whether in content or form. All our plays are really personal – both to the artists who create them and in terms of their beating hearts, and earn moments of huge theatrical magic or spectacle as the payoff to these personal journeys. A Flying V production is meant to invigorate you, to inspire you to want to live life more and to try wring out the possibilities of every moment available to us.

What makes Flying V unique and stand out?

We do almost entirely original work, both scripted and devised, and I think we’re most known for that sense of constant creativity, as well as our aesthetic. We’re a pop-culture based theatre, which means we trade in modern mythologies and the archetypes and metaphors specifically created and relevant for the now or recent past. We take a lot of concepts that can be considered lowbrow and treat them with dignity and respect and affection, excavating what they mean and why we love them so much, as use them to tap into personal zeitgeists. We’re not bound by any form – we do musicals, movement pieces, more traditional scripts, dance, puppetry, even professional wrestling – but everything we do has a sense of heart and adventure that really defines what Flying V is all about.

How would you describe a Flying V audience?

We’re really looking to build a fan base – people who are emotionally invested in the Company itself, our Artists, and our work; people we can look to as an equal and essential part of the Flying V family as our Staff, Board, and Artists. We tend not think in terms of demographics, but in taste communities – shared interests, passions, and inspirations. A Flying V audience is energetic and an active part of the experience – they make the show come to life.

What is Flying V Fights: The Secret History of the Unknown World about?

This is by far the biggest and most ambitious show Flying V has created to date. The show is an exploration of Genre Fiction through stage combat, with an original script and completely original score. We’ve created a timeline that takes influence from everything from Sherlock Holmes to Twilight and imagines – what if it was all real? How would it all connect? And how would these incredible beings, and devices, and cultures, affect and shape the world around them? So in a play spanning close to 150 years, we see all the hidden links and connections amongst these famous pop-culture archetypes and bust open the hidden secret of the unknown world. And, of course, the choreography is incredible – visceral, impactful, and pretty epic. These actors are doing incredible things with their bodies in forms extending to burlesque, sword fighting, and puppeteering, amongst all the fisticuffs.

Sydney Moore, Costume Designer for Flying V Fights: The Secret History of the Unknown World. Photo courtesy of the artist.

David Siegel: Please tell our readers about the costume design for Flying V Fights.

Sydney Moore: The costume design for Flying V Fights is a wild ride of genre fiction riffs and references, mashups of beloved characters, and new imaginings of old tropes. It spans time from 1880 to the near-present future, so the research has been all over the place. The biggest challenge of this particular project has been in the title – whatever I design, the actors have to fight and move in it. Achieving period looks with enough mobility is a huge part of the design of the show. My goal in the design is to create a distinctive world with a traceable fashion history as well as individual styles for each vignette, since they all take place in different periods and places.

What was your inspiration for the Flying V Fights’ costume design?

Each vignette is a different story and time period, so each one comes with it’s own set of inspiration films, books, pop culture references, and cultural expectations. Our challenge is staying true to the origins and icons of our stories while creating recognizable analogues and riffs.

What are the challenges, in general, for a theater costume designer?

Always budget, always time, always hands to make the work happen. Your dreams and plans are usually bigger than your wallet and your hands can only hold so much. But that’s where the creativity comes in and you find ways to make it work. There’s a quote from Slings and Arrows that goes, “The best things happen just before the thread snaps,” and I hold that very close to my heart. In fact, it should be tattooed very close to my heart.

Please tell readers about yourself.

I’m a recent graduate of the GWU Production Design MFA program. I’ve lived in DC for three years; I’m originally from South Carolina. I have worked professionally as a costume designer, shop manager, stitcher, draper, crafts artisan, and wardrobe assistant all over the country, from Maine to Texas. I currently work at American University as the assistant costume designer/shop manager as well as a freelance designer and stitcher.

Flying V Fights: The Secret History of the Unknown World plays from June 10 to July 2, 2017, at the Writers Center – 4508 Walsh Street, in Bethesda, MD. For tickets, purchase them online.

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