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Arnold J. Kemp: 3 Plays

January 12 7:00 pm January 14 9:00 pm

Tickets are free of charge. Reserve a spot by clicking on the appropriate link: Friday, January 12th / Saturday, January 13th / Sunday, January 14th

A three night survey of plays, written and directed by Arnold J. Kemp.

Featuring an all star cast including: Carolyn Castaño, Laura Heyman, Chelsea Gaspard, Paloma Barhaugh-Bordas, Anna Sew Hoy, John Birtle, Anna Betbeze, Evan Jourden, Dan Wang, Amy Chiao, Julie Tolentino, Nathaniel Whitfield, Izzi Rojas, Nikki Darling, Wesleigh Gates, Sophia Cleary, Munro Galloway, Wes Larios, John Tain, Vardui Sharapkhanyan, and more.

Arnold J. Kemp is an artist and writer who constructs performative social sculpture that reveals language as a material of who we could be. Kemp’s attention to language — as play, as performance, as poetry, as politics — challenges expectations of theater, plot narrative, and social critique.

In the tradition of Poets Theater, a term that applies to plays written by poets and artists and staged informally in the midst of an arts community, Kemp’s plays have a makeshift, let’s-do-the-show-right-here aesthetic. There’s a wildness to them that makes one feel like almost anything can happen including rediscovered family members, insane coincidences, incest, abjection, celebrity, and wicked glee.

Kemp’s plays unfold in a world of damage that brings people together and mixes the local community with characters across time and space. One of his plays, February 14, was written at ACRE Residency where Kemp was a visiting artist. The residents did a staged reading there. Then the play was translated into Spanish and presented as part of a show of Kemp’s work (Aug-Sept 2017) at Biqiini Wax EPS, a space in Mexico City run by radicals: artists, philosophers and economists. Kemp met the actors two hours before the performance, which is par for the course for Poet’s Theater. He borrowed the title of his show, When the Sick Rule the World, from Dodie Bellamy’s book of the same name. The bed-sculpture-stage on which the play was performed — a replica of the bed of an artist Kemp used to work for — remained part of the exhibit.

Kemp’s dramatis personae mix real and invented persons, putting pressure on the permeability of fiction and—what?–reality? Kemp demonstrates that both are true and both are inventions. He further complicates this proposition by having some of the “real” people played by themselves and some not.

Along with February 14, Kemp will present an earlier play IN ARMS, and will premiere The Otherists, which takes on the not so delicate negotiation between the rational and the dying. The trio provides a good answer to the question about the consequence of art posed by one of Kemp’s characters, the fictional art star Lilliana Bautista: “We all talked about distance, but that distance is what separated being in an illustrated reality from being in a reality that could kill you, or could hurt you, or can please you. So how do we make a virtual space that is consequential?”

Arnold J. Kemp has mounted solos show recently at Joan, Los Angeles; The Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society at the University of Chicago; M. LeBlanc, Chicago; and Martos Gallery, New York. He has also been in recent groups shows at the Drawing Center, NY, NY. His writing has appeared in Callaloo, Three Rivers Poetry Journal, Agni Review, MIRAGE #4 Period(ical), River Styx, Nocturnes, Art Journal, Tripwire and in From Our Hearts to Yours: New Narrative as Contemporary Practice. Kemp’s critical writing has appeared recently in Texte zur Kunst, October and Spike Art Magazine. He is the recipient of awards from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Joan Mitchell Foundation, and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation. In 2020 he received The Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant. Kemp lives and works in Chicago, Illinois.