Beauty Pill’s ‘Sorry You’re Here’ LP marked a great aesthetic turning point for the band—the long awaited official release coincided with the 2020 remount of Taffety Punk Theatre Company’s original dance play suicide.chat.room for which the music was written. On the the two-year anniversary of the release, and the twelve-year anniversary of the original production, Taffety Punk has created a new video for At a Loss, the third track on the album, featuring performances by cast members from the show Safi Harriott and Kathryn Zoerb under the guidance of choreographer Erin Mitchell Nelson. Watch the video clip for At A Loss via YouTube below.
When the project began, Taffety Punk’s goal, as ever, was to bring musicians, actors, and dancers into the same space and build a show from scratch. The source material for this project was to be taken directly from Internet groups devoted to suicide. Reviewing the original production, D.C. Theatre Scene proclaimed the music “fabulous” and “inspired,” and went on to say the show was “unquestionably one of the most successful efforts . . . to put dance at the service of the story.” Since the inception of the show, there have been three casts, three different spaces for performance, multiple designers, the full-length album, and now this new video. The constant in all of this has been the music of Beauty Pill.
Taffety Punk and Beauty Pill have a long history of collaboration, yet neither are interested in nostalgia. Artistic Director Marcus Kyd says, “We don’t look back. We look forward. We try to build from what has come before.” He adds, “There is something about this show that never changes, but each time we pick it up, there is also no end to discovery.”
Collaborating with filmmaker Emily Marquet of Mudroom Films, the new video pushes the exploration of the show’s themes into yet another medium. Marquet embraced the complexities of abstract storytelling saying, “The music was our script. I spent a long time in pre-production trying to decipher how the music made me feel. It felt impenetrable at times: hazy, upsetting, melancholic, intelligent and layered. Informed by these emotions, I decided to go with handheld camera movements to breathe with and interact with the dancers. The simple act of turning the camera lens onto our performers introduced layers and layers of being seen. As a female camerawoman, I felt a push and pull with the dancers and relied on intuition to know when to move in or out, when to keep looking and when to look away.”
Nelson adds, “Watching while she was filming, it looked like a dance between the cast and Emily. And I love that we see glimpses of Emily in this.” Kyd welcomes the new vision saying, “Emily is now part of this experience. This piece has become so multi-faceted; you can now look at it or listen to it from so many different angles.”
The company had to overcome the inherent challenges of the pandemic to make the video shoot happen. There were up to six weeks of rehearsals where Nelson reviewed the choreography and opened doors to new phrases. She took on the job of ensuring that cast and crew were tested before filming began, and again during the shoot. Initially there were three dancers rehearsing for the video, but two days before the first day on set company member Omar Cruz tested positive for Covid-19 and had to quarantine himself at home. (This took him out of the video, but the company are very happy that Cruz recovered and remains healthy.) The loss of Cruz as a dancer in the video put more work on the shoulders of Harriott and Zoerb. Both dancers worked with Nelson and Marquet to achieve the filmmaker and choreographer’s joint vision for the piece. Harriott says, “At first I wasn’t sure what we were going to be doing. Am I showing up to do my part? Am I showing up as something something entirely different? And how is this movement character meeting the new medium? With this new level of abstraction, making new material, finding what it has to say now — that was lovely to feel.”
Sorry You’re Here can be seen as Beauty Pill’s marriage of high art and pop sensibility. Since its creation, the band has continued to push the boundaries of what their founder imagined for them. While Beauty Pill continues to compose highly stylized and genre-bending songs, the Clark finds himself being commissioned for more and more scoring projects: notably a recent project for HBO, soundscapes for NPR, and a play at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, DC.
Beauty Pill’s ‘Sorry You’re Here’ LP is available to order from taffetypunk.bandcamp.com, and also available on most digital and streaming platforms.
Beauty Pill, founded by Chad Clark, is a wonderfully difficult-to-categorize band. Beauty Pill’s mercurial nature was a built-in feature right from the start, allowing Clark to call on musicians beyond his immediate bandmates for sonic contributions where needed. After several records and tours, the band began decentralizing guitar in their music, principally because that’s what the songs wanted. But for Chad Clark, this shift was also a deliberate way to distance himself from “rock dude culture.” At that time, as Clark remembers, “indie-rock dude culture was pervasive, largely male and largely white, parochial and anhedonic.” The band continued experimenting, but took a long hiatus in 2008 and 2009 when Clark was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. During his recovery, Marcus Kyd approached him about making the music for suicide.chat.room, the music that is featured on the 2020 album, ‘Sorry You’re Here’. The creation of this music, for a very different purpose than the band was used to playing, paved the way for the band, and for Clark in particular, to further question everything about the music they made, and how they made it, and how they performed it. In 2015 the band released their highly praised 2015 album Beauty Pill ‘Describes Things as They Are’. In 2018, Nelson joined the band and 2020 saw the release of two EPs, ‘Please Advise’ and ‘Instant Night’. The music video released for thier single Pardon Our Dust, featuring the dance performance of Nelson and directed by filmmaker Meredith Bragg, is another earmark in Beauty Pill’s continued foray into multidisciplinary collaborations.
Taffety Punk Theatre Company is the resident company at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop in Washington, DC. Taffety Punk’s mission is to maintain a dynamic ensemble of actors, dancers, and musicians who ignite a public passion for theatre by making the classical and the contemporary exciting, meaningful, and affordable. The company won the very first John Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company at the Helen Hayes Awards. More recently, the company received two Helen Hayes nominations for original choreography in both Phaeton and An Iliad.
Mudroom Films is Emily Marquet’s creative brainchild. A Washington, D.C. native daughter, Emily has a background in advertising and acting. She has designed, shot and directed films that have screened in film festivals all over the world. Mudroom Films and Emily are both currently based in London, UK and regularly work across the UK, US and Europe.