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In Performance

In Performance: Matt Marks and Paul Peers, Mata Hari (Prototype Festival)

In Performance: Matt Marks and Paul Peers, Mata Hari (Prototype Festival)

Matt Marks and Paul Peers
Mata Hari

January 5-7 and 11-14 at 7pm
January 8 at 2pm

HERE Arts Center
145 6th Ave

Mata Hari tells the story of historical figure Mata Hari, a dancer/courtesan who was executed by the French during WWI for being a German spy. When we first see Mata Hari, she is decked in jewels and a beautiful gown—a dancer in full glory. But the glory lasts only a moment, as she is soon surrounded by five male soldiers who take everything away from her save a slip. She spends the rest of the opera exposed, in this slip, in a prison cell, talking to the nun who is her keeper and the captain who is set on sending her to her death. Through these exchanges and the recreations of episodes in her life that bloom from them, we learn about all of her exploits, from being abused as a young wife, to having a bevy of important people as lovers, to struggling with money, to losing her young children because of complications from syphilis.

Mata Hari, a speaking role played by a commanding Tina Mitchell, gains our sympathy with ease. It’s not clear from the opera if she is or is not the spy she’s accused of being, but that potential wrong feels minor compared to the clear injustices perpetrated against her by the male soldiers who should be on her side. Mary Mackenzie as the crass nun, and the only other female performer and only female singing voice, wins our support, too, by being the sole supporter of our persecuted hero. Every performer has moments to shine, and the stylistically mixed music by Matt Marks provides a welcome variety to the score. It lives by its own rules, just as Mata Hari did.

photo by Benjamin Heller

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Rachel Karp is a theater artist whose work challenges language, legislation, and the status quo. She has developed and directed original work through Mabou Mines, Ars Nova, Incubator Arts Project, Actors Theatre of Louisville, IRT Theater, Women Center Stage, Dixon Place, Theater for the New City, and SPACE on Ryder Farm. Rachel has also developed and directed new plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Flea Theater, Powerhouse Theater Festival, the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Festival, and Columbia University’s graduate and undergraduate schools. Rachel has associate and assistant directed productions by some of the top theater directors and ensembles working today including Les Waters, Lila Neugebauer, Young Jean Lee, Aaron Landsman, Mallory Catlett, Big Art Group, PearlDamour, The Mad Ones, and Woodshed Collective. Always wanting to be exposed to new work, Rachel has been a script reader for The Lark and the Bushwick Starr and has worked as a dramaturg at the Jewish Plays Project, a literary assistant at Second Stage, and a literary intern at Soho Rep. She is a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab, a former Resident Artist at Mabou Mines, a former Resident Director at The Flea, and a former Directing Intern at Actors Theatre of Louisville. BA, Columbia University; MFA, Carnegie Mellon University (expected 2019).

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