Samantha Johns usually knows what she wants in a title. For example, the remount of her recent performance piece SNOWFUCK, created with longtime collaborator George McConnell, is no longer simply called SNOWFUCK. It's now titled SNOWFUCK: performed by Emily Gastineau and Billy Mullaney of Fire Drill, originally devised by Samantha Johns, George McConnell, Emma Barber, Erkki Paunonen, Haley Houck, Tom Lloyd, and Billy Mullaney of Fire Drill. Yes, that is the what it's called, and please don’t mess it up.
However, the title for Johns’ newest creation evades her (she’s taking suggestions). The premise of the piece is fairly simple: Johns is writing a letter to everyone she’s ever known, or, at least, able to recall. “I’m using multiple sources to remember everyone,” says Johns. “Of course I’m using Facebook, but I also got out yearbooks and church directories.”
Johns spent all of last year making the exhaustive list of everyone she knows. For a person to get on the list, Johns had to feel she had some level of engagement with the person. This could be defined as anything from a short, meaningful conversation to a decade-long relationship.
In September of this year, Johns began the laborsome journey of writing the letters. Four months into the project, she has written 321 letters, which averages out to between two to three letters a day. Still, Johns says she’s behind. Her goal was to write seven each day. It's a daunting task, but one she considers carefully. “I’m trying to sign all of them ‘With Love,' but I have not signed all of them ‘With Love,'” says Johns.
The ultimate goal is for all of the letters to be displayed in a gallery. Letters will be exhibited on the walls of the space, and each recipient’s name will be handwritten and include a signature from Johns. Ideally, the display will be open to the public for a month. However, the gallery has not been finalized. (If you happen to be in charge of a gallery, Johns would like to talk with you.)
“Writing a really sincere letter takes a lot of energy,” says Johns. “I’ll sometimes think, ‘I don’t need to give this person that much time!’ And then I think, ‘That’s not a good way to live in this world. I should give this person time.’ [The end product] is not gonna be how I want it to be. Ideally, all of the letters will be incredibly sincere, but that’s not humanly possible. Maybe it is? I’m not sure.”
Johns aims for the project to be completed next fall, but in the meantime she’s busy remounting SNOWFUCK, which is being performed this weekend. The show is described in press material as "a theatrical performance that explores desire in all of its manifestations and the longing associated with winter."
George McConnell, Johns’ collaborator, flew in from Chicago to remount the piece. “The first [SNOWFUCK] was entirely collaborative, generated with five other people,” says McConnell. “The seven of us made that. It already exists, so now Sam and I are setting it on Fire Drill.”
Fire Drill, an artistic collaboration of Emily Gastineau and Billy Mullaney, create physically extreme theater that often mines contemporary conundrums. The group has the challenging task of taking a performance piece built for five people and reconfiguring it for two. Naturally, this adjusts themes within the piece, but that’s part of the experiment.
“There’s a huge difference between the original piece and this piece,” says McConnell, “mostly in the way this one’s made. This process is in no way like the original, and we are trying to deliberately bring some of that forward in the piece.”
“We’ve never come in with a script,” says Johns, “and, in a way, we did this time. It was fine and easy.”
IF YOU GO:
SNOWFUCK: performed by Emily Gastineau and Billy Mullaney of Fire Drill, originally devised by Samantha Johns, George McConnell, Emma Barber, Erkki Paunonen, Haley Houck, Tom Lloyd, and Billy Mullaney of Fire Drill.
8 p.m. Friday and Saturday December 18-19
Fresh Oysters Performance Research
512 E. 24th St., Minneapolis
$10-$15, cash at the door only. Seating is limited.
For more information, check out the Facebook event page.