Texts by John Milton, Brad Rouse, Winsome Brown
Music by John Zorn
Sound Design by Sean Hagerty
Lighting by Michael O’Connor
Video by Christine Sciulli
Set Design by Jean Kim
Directed by Winsome Brown & Brad Rouse
Press & Media: Sam Rudy Media Relations 212-575-0263
HIT THE BODY ALARM is a rich sound and text performance that explores big ideas. Freedom, incarceration, guilt, loss. With a “brilliant” and “virtuosic” performance by Obie Award winning performer Winsome Brown and an “alchemical” sound design by Sean Hagerty, as well as luminous music by the renowned John Zorn, HIT THE BODY ALARM takes you on a wild ride from Hell to Jail with a brief stop in Paradise.
HIT THE BODY ALARM presents four souls on the brink of the abyss. Milton’s Paradise Lost provides an epic structure for two contemporary jail tales. One of those tales — “Hit the Body Alarm” about a death in Brooklyn Federal Jail — lends its title to the whole show. Each character undergoes a massive and irrevocable change of status through his or her own actions. It’s a play about fucking up.
Satan’s fall from Heaven to Hell (his own personal prison) leads into the harrowing story of a prisoner in a Brooklyn Federal Lock-up who witnesses the death of one of his cellmates. Satan’s boiling desire to exact revenge on God through Man is replicated in the narrator of Hit the Body Alarm’s plea to “think twice before putting a man in a box cuz when he gets out he’ll be gunning for you,” and his promise to “spread his wealth of rage.” Satan’s jealousy against God and his victorious angels are a foil for Elaine, the subject of the second jail tale. Elaine is an actress whose jealousy and twisted relation with fame leads her to commit a heinous crime. The show ends with Eve, in a dappled Paradise, recounting her dream of eating the forbidden fruit. It’s an erotic dream, bursting with temptation. She too, is on the brink of a radical change.
With its theme of irrevocable loss and radical change, HIT THE BODY ALARM has obvious political resonance. First performed in the lead-up to the 2016 Presidential election, I always thought of it as a warning about what could happen in the worst situation: a wake-up call. In the wake of Donald Trump’s election it becomes a call to action.
The Preshow/ Live Sound Design
As the audience enters, Winsome and Sean are onstage building the sound bed for the show. Winsome records live Foley effects (rosemary burning, the sound of fire made with silk scarves, filing). These sounds will become the crackling of hellfire, the sound of a domino being filed in jail. Winsome records prison voices in Spanish, French, a Nigerian dialect, and English from all over the world. Sean manipulates the voices, taking them into a deeper male register and layering them on top of one another. Soon they will become the “mash of sound” of the Brooklyn Federal Jail. The preshow invites the audience into the process of making the dense sonic and narrative score of HIT THE BODY ALARM. During the show, Sean uses an electric violin both as instrument and also as sound controller.
John Zorn’s Gnostic Trio (Bill Frisell – guitar; Carol Emmanuel – harp; Kenny Wollesen – vibes) provide a luminous score that leads one part of the performance into another and unifies the four different characters of the show. Achingly beautiful, it opens the heart and mind to the darkness of hell and of jail – the darkness of souls in pain.
Visuals/ The Fall
The set is comprised of the audio and lighting equipment that make up the show – speakers, light stands, microphones, two tech tables.
The key set element is a 100 foot roll of industrial plastic that serves as curtain, projection screen, and landscape.
As the preshow finishes, Winsome leaves the stage, puts on a huge pair of wings, and hooks into a climbing apparatus behind the plastic screen. Sean Hagerty fires up his electric violin and lights come up on Winsome, falling from Heaven to Hell. It’s a dramatic and visually arresting beginning.
To look at photos from Hit the Body Alarm, copy and paste this link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/rc784snfq9nqp7b/IMG_1211.jpg?dl=0
A link to the full video recording is available on request.
Total Runtime: 65 minutes
Press clips for Hit the Body Alarm
“Ms. Brown is engrossing. She’s a spiky actress and an unaccommodating one, who prefers to needle audience members rather than oblige them. Confronted with forbidden fruit, you know she’d take an audacious bite.”
-The New York Times, “Hit the Body Alarm finds Satan in a Jumpsuit”
“A darkly luminous meditation on freedom, captivity, mortality, and memory.”
“Brown is just magnificent to watch.”
-New York Theater Guide
“The sound is designed in front of your eyes as Sean Hagerty creates alchemical electronic wizardry.”
-New York Theater Guide
“A harrowing account of the incarcerated.” -New York Theater Guide
“Jean Kim’s scenic design feels like the inner wiring of an underwater fiber optic cable. It’s simple but is capable of communicating at warp speed. Michael O’Connor lights up the heavens and hell with intuitive storytelling. John Zorn has given us the emotional musical underscore that will illuminate our dark corners.”-New York Theater Guide
“Beautiful, vulnerable, and terrible all at once. It’s a powerful combination.” -Exeunt
“Even if you know nothing about Milton’s 1667 poem, Brown’s delivery shows that it is surprisingly accessible.” -Tribeca Trib
“Brown is more than capable of commanding the heavens with her powerful stage presence and the ability to wield volcanic energy.” -New York Theater Guide
“This visually and aurally stunning exploration of American incarceration uses Paradise Lost as a lens, and is a great introduction to devised theater for those new to the scene.” -The Easy (Theatre is Easy)
“Deep spiritual value. Hit The Body Alarm is serious and ripe with meaning. “
“A brilliant performance.” -The Easy
“Brown explores ideas of prison, freedom and choice, … remarkably relevant to the current social climate.”
-Washington Square News
“A truly original piece of theater.”
“Hit The Body Alarm is incredibly approachable and easy to follow, especially when compared to other experimental theater offerings around town. While deeply intelligent, the performance never purports to be some heady, “holier-than-thou” experimental piece, and pairs its found texts in ways that enhance, rather than mystify or unnecessarily complicate, their meaning.” -The Easy
“How inventive to compare the current prison system with Milton’s Hell, and thereby emphasize not only the horror of the prisons, but the humanity of the prisoners. Hit The Body Alarm makes me excited to pull out my copy of Paradise Lost from high school and reexamine the text in today’s cultural climate.”
“One of the most intense encounters anyone could ever have the pleasure of experiencing.”
-Washington Square News
“The kind of piece which … leaves the audience still mulling over it in the train ride home, wondering about the choices of the characters and the clear message about the choices we make in the daily comings and goings of life.”
-Washington Square News
“Lighting Designer Michael O’Connor creates striking images, including the opening tableau of the dark angel falling from grace behind a sheer curtain.”
Winsome Brown (Creator/Performer/Writer/Co-Director) is a writer, director, and Obie-award winning performer whose work has received critical acclaim from The New York Times, The Scotsman, Variety, LA Weekly, and others. Her latest solo play This is Mary Brown debuted at La MaMa and the Edinburgh Fringe in 2015, and will travel to Los Angeles in 2017. The short film Everything I Know About Love based on the play is upcoming. The Burial at Thebes (Irish Rep); Gertrude Stein (Target Margin’s Stein Lab); Irina Brook’s Shakespeare’s Sister; Hillary Clinton in Du Yun/Paul Warner/Matthew Maguire’s opera Women: The War Within (Baryshnikov Arts Centre). André Gregory and Wallace Shawn’s The Master Builder. Heather Woodbury’s Obie award winning Tale of 2Cities: An American Joyride on Multiple Tracks, (UCLA Live/PS 122). Film/ TV: A Master Builder (dir. Jonathan Demme); Heights (Merchant/Ivory dir. Chris Terrio); Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Nightfall with David Carradine, For Your Love, Shadows Choose Their Horrors (NY FilmFest, dir. Jenn Reeves), Holy New York, Wetlands. Winsome’s essays have been featured in Salon. She was born and raised in Toronto and lives in New York. www.winsomebrown.com.
Brad Rouse (Writer/Co-Director) directed the premiere of Winsome Brown’s play THIS IS MARY BROWN (LaMama, Edinburgh Fringe). He has directed plays and musicals at the Public Theater, City Center Encores!, the Ahmanson Theater (CTG), Hartford Stage, Juilliard, Pittsburgh’s City Theater, New Dramatists, American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and NYU. This fall, he is directing the premiere of JUST ONE Q by Ellen Fitzhugh and Ted Shen (Inner Voices). Credits include new work by Billy Porter (Drama League and GLAAD award nominee), Julia Jordan, Nell Benjamin, Laurence O’Keefe, Maggie-Kate Coleman, Anna K. Jacobs, and Cusi Cram, plus workshop presentations of plays by Adam Rapp and Daniel Goldfarb. His work has been featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes II and NPR’s All Things Considered. www.bradrouse.com.
Sean Hagerty (Sound Designer) Hit the Body Alarm marks Sean’s second collaboration with Winsome Brown, along with interactive multimedia for The Lost Victrola Sessions (Hudson Opera, Player’s Club) featuring Rebecca Cherry and the music of Dave Soldier. He has performed with live electronics alongside tap dance, tabla, violin, piano, and voice at venues such as Le Poisson Rouge, Issue Project Room, Webster Hall, Galapagos Arts Space, La Mama, and the SOHO Art Parade. With immersive theater company Third Rail Projects, he created music and sound for Then She Fell (Bessie Award), The Grand Paradise, Sweet and Lucky (Denver Center for the Performing Arts), Midnight Madness, and Roadside Attraction (Brookfield Plaza). He has performed live foley for regional productions of Around the World in 80 Days (Theater Squared, Florida Rep) along with original music and sound for the off-Broadway revival (Davenport Theater). www.seanhagerty.com
John Zorn (Music) Born and raised in New York City, composer/performer John Zorn has been a central figure in the Downtown Scene since 1975, incorporating a wide variety of creative musicians into various compositional formats. His work is remarkably diverse and draws inspiration from Art, Literature, Film, Theatre, Philosophy, Alchemy and Mysticism as well as Music. He founded the Tzadik label in 1995, runs the East Village performance space The Stone and has edited and published seven volumes of musician’s writings under the title ARCANA. Honors include a MacArthur Fellowship, the Cultural Achievement Award from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture and the William Schuman Prize for composition from Columbia University. He was inducted into the Long Island Hall of Fame by Lou Reed in 2010 and has received honorary doctorates from the University of Ghent, SUNY Purchase and New England Conservatory.
A secure wall or ceiling attachment is required so that Winsome can clamp in her harness and “fall” as Satan from Heaven to Hell. At the Performing Garage, we used a strong rope tied to a truss. Winsome brought her own harness.
The set is the bare stage and all our tech equipment plus:
2 tech tables with chairs
a chair and a stool or little table
a 100 ft roll of plastic sheeting
At The Performing Garage, we used the available light rep plot.
At the Performing Garage, we used their two speakers and their sub woofer and we rented the following equipment:
Audio Processing : Meyer mono UPA1 processor 2
QSC RMX 1450 amplifier – 260wpc @ 8o, 400wpc @ 4o (1)
Crest 7001 700wpc stereo amp (1)
Chevin Q6 600wpc 4 chan. amp (1)
Loudspeakers & Rigging
Meyer UPA-1C 3/12in 90×60 (8o) 350w active spkr (2)
Meyer Yoke for UPA speaker (1)
Safety Chain (1)
EAW JF-80 1/2-6.5in. 100×80 (8o) 460w passive spk (2)
yoke for EAW JF80 (2)
Safety Chain (2)
Radian 8in. 2-way 90con (8o) 250w passive trap sp (1)
Sched40 Pipe – 2 ft. (2)
Sched40 Safer Sidearm (2)
Precise specs available on request.