Gideon Irving is one of my all time favorite theater makers and I am always a little giddy with anticipation when he announces a new show. I have had the pleasure of seeing him perform in a variety of apartments across NYC and in two theaters –the experience is always unforgettable. I also like to bring friends to see his shows who have never seen his particular brand of genius kookiness and spend half the show watching them discovering him. You can literally see their inner child awaken from a long sleep and start to come up for breath. This production had a sell out run at The Rattlestick Theater last year and is back by popular demand – but this time at The Brick Theater in Williamsburg. But you can be assured this incarnation of the show will feature “new songs, new stories, new surprises”. The production will run from November 30th through December 15th and I am sure it is probably on the precipice of being sold out. So before you read any further about this wonder man buy your $25 ticket here, now…
Press Blurb Highlight: “Irving is an unconventional theatrical home-show performer who has been biking, rollerblading, and driving from one town to the next for the past six years, performing and residing in the homes of perfect strangers in nine countries. Gideon will continue to invite audiences into his own living room on the NY stage, bringing them “Stove Top Folk” – his unique blend of songs, stories, and underwater levitation, jam-packed with curiosities and surprises.”
I sent Gideon some questions while he was in Boulder, Utah preparing for his upcoming horse tour in 2019. While learning survival skills with mentor Dave, he managed to impart some of his joyful musings on all things bright and beautiful…
When one thinks of “home performances” – it conjures up the French word “soirée” (a fancy evening affair) which has a certain snobby, pomposity about it. Your apartment shows, by contrast, are raucous, surprise filled, heart expanding, jolly making lucky packets. You are a famed neologist, a lexi-connoisseur (maker upper of new words) – could you give us a few options to replace the stiff upper lip “soirée” that better encapsulates your unique performance style?
a living room boom zoom
The Jewy Chewy
A love bingo
the lounge scrounge
The good ol’ coconut slapjack
flipstick biddle piddle
You have mentioned that you were inspired to perform in people’s living rooms after seeing saw player, Julian Koster, performing in Bayside Queens to eighteen attentive audience members. What are the most potent aspects of this kind of intimate performance and how do you retain these elements when working in a traditional theater space?
I was inspired by his authenticity. There seemed to be no outside elements of pressure asking him to be anything but himself or do anything but what he wanted. I felt privileged to be let into someone’s mind and heart in such a generous way. The show was an invitation to play, to be repeatedly surprised in different ways and to enjoy the warmth of a home.
I like that I get to see people’s faces. That’s been a great and immediate teacher in learning what does and doesn’t work. I like that people talk back, sing with me and call out. I get to ask audience members questions I like after the show like – What do you love to do? And – What are you looking forward to? And often, because I’ve given everything I can, folks really answer those questions. I like seeing people’s stuff, their old stuff, family photos, art, instruments, and heirlooms. I like seeing what’s on the fridge, even what’s in the fridge. I enjoy how families argue, get tense and resolve since they are hosting and have to play nice. I like that people often assume I’d like to hear a crazy story about their life or see a crazy treasure they have or talk to a crazy friend. They’re always right.
In a home people are smushed together in a small space. The smushing is grand. Energy and the good juju dissipate with empty space. So even when it’s a big living room I’ll try to gather the audience in a cluster. One thing that’s helped maintain that intimate feeling is playing in small theaters the size of living rooms. But above all it’s how I am in the space. I don’t emerge from behind a curtain at a dramatic cue. When people arrive I’m just kinda hangin out, setting up last minute odds and ends, saying hello and making sure no seven foot guy is sitting in front of a little kid etc. I feel at home in a theater now and through that comfort I think I get to invite my audience along with me.
You have performed in over 620 homes around the world and then stayed the night. Who served the best breakfast? Who had the best mattress? What was the best piece of advice you received from a host?
Don’t forget your raincoat!
At your sold out run at The Rattlestick last year, you totally transformed the space into your “home” – will The Brick become your studio apartment as well?
Sure. We make the home together. If we have enough fun and make enough noise by the end of the night that’s a home to me. The space will indeed be transformed. The show is routed in experiences of surprise and play through song and sound. We had a massive challenge when we set out to make the Rattlestick show tour-capable. With a lot of creatives throwing thought nuggets in the fire pit of invention we figured out how to bend trunks into slides and ladders into teleportation mechanisms. Come see the show for that last bit to make any sense!
Where do you get your inspiration for your Stove Top Folk lyrics? Which of your songs gives you the most delicious earworm?
One song came from watching my dad try to fit a roast chicken into a refrigerator drawer entirely too small for said chicken. I noticed the florescent light from the fridge reflecting off his mauve V-neck T-shirt and that began a song about space travel and the probability of the multiverse. If I stopped to ask why the two were connected it might have gotten in the way. Another song, a rebuttal of sorts, came from people assuming I like to do a lot of psychotropic drugs while wearing sequins at orgies all because I’m a performer musician type fella who meets a lot of folks. So many people have these ideas about what things are or should be, seldom are any of them correct.
No earworms! Can’t stand the thought. I’d take that worm out the ear, fry it in butter, dip it in chocolate and throw it in my belly where it belongs. Now what gives me the most tenacious ear butterfly would have the be the song of a wonderful young girl I met in my travels named Bella. She lets me sing one of her songs she conjured at the tender age of 5. That’s the song I get stuck in my head. I suppose it ain’t mine, but she’s kind enough to let me put my spin on it.
Some of the instruments you play in the show include the banjo, bouzouki, waterphone, shruti box, mbira, whirly tube, and scacciapensieri. If the Yabahar, Hornucopian dronepipe, Dan Tre, Zurna, Wired Fences, The Cheese Drums or The Hun wanted to audition to be part of your musical cast members what would you tell them they needed to prepare? And what would you expect from them on the road?
That’s my kinda question! In that I had no idea what you were talking about. Questions are too often easily understood I reckon. I had to look these eccentric interviewees up, ya know background checks and such. The Yaybahar is definitely in the band without a question, however they would need to find their own transport due to their unwieldy delicate octopus gargantuan icicle nature of their body. If there is a way the Yaybahar could dehydrate itself into a powder for touring and then reanimate with a bit of water that would be ideal. The Zurna, while compact and hardy has no place in my Stove Top Folktopia. Perhaps I’m not in the right mood, but I just listened to some recordings and it made my nipples sting and vibrate! I can’t explain it, but clearly not a good match. The Hornucopian Dronepipe while elegant is gonna have to learn to blow itself cause I wouldn’t be able to figure how to sing song with it. While I’m a fan of instrumentals I think ya need more than one note if ya can’t holler along. So….. I’m gonna waitlist the pipe of drone. I tried to find Dan Tre but all that comes up is a horticulturist outside Ames Iowa. Into the wired fences for sure. I’d expect them to come up with a new tongue twister or two every day to entertain the rest of us and the cheese drums are fabulous! Nothing like an instrument that you can gain 30 pounds from.
If you could perform in anyone in the world’s home –whose would it be and why?
I’ve always wanted to bring one of my bigger shows to a hermit’s home. I thought it would be nice to play a full out full on show for an audience of one and what better audience of one than a hermit! Thing is I’ve tried to find hermits here and there. I tried to find the north hollow hermit of Bordamshire, the Yellow Cricket hermit of East Lake Falls, and Hermit Joni in the alpine slopes of Galdle, but to no avail. Seems hermits don’t fancy being found, but I’m gonna keep on looking. If any hermits are reading this please contact me. I’ll bring my show. You don’t even have to talk to me before or after the show. I respect hermits. I think they kinda got it figured out. I think they realized something was deeply broken in the project of civilization and they made the brave calculation to retreat and submerge. Maybe I could absorb some of that hermy wisdom or be confirmed in my paths of social socially socializing. Anyway that’s a dream for sure. A hermit or …. Lady Gaga cause I like her clothing choices.
Will audience members get to wrestle/bid/raffle their way to taking you home each night after the show?
Do grizzly bears and polar bears sometimes breed together?
Does the pope have a marble collection?
Did my grandma used to make delicious brownies?
Do I look better in cool oceanic tones than reds and oranges?
Yeah wrestling. A butter pit descends from the ceiling and things get a bit…. greasy. Wrestle/bid/raffle sounds like a game in and of itself. I do indeed go home with a different audience member every night, but out of context that just sounds kinda off. Come see how not creepy it really is! Don’t worry it’s volunteer based.
You are currently preparing to embark on a 5,000-mile horse tour across the U.S. Can you divulge the route yet? How is your horse whispering going? Will you be dressed as a cowboy? Will we be able to follow you via GPS tracker when you’re on your journey?
Right now I’m working on building a route that will involve sections of The Great Western Trail, The Rocky Mountain Trail, The American Discovery Trail and The Pacific Crest Trail. Not doing too much horse whispering, but I am learning how to stay on top of the horse, not get kicked in the face and move forward. Most importantly learning how to be the horse’s friend. Much more to learn indeed before embarking next summer. No following with a tracker! I’m trying to be cool and edgy and the new cool thing is not telling people about what you’re doing all the time. I suppose these things move in cycles. I’ll be posting updates to trees every few hundred miles.
Who gives you gooseflesh when you see/hear them perform?
The legendary improv duo TJ and Dave always move me, hour long complex plays pulled out of their bloinkins. Completely brave stupendous taking me always where I cannot guess. The Ventriloquist performance artist weirdo bageirdo Nina Conti is one of my all time favorites. Raky Sastri and Josh Arnoudse of You Won’t and Nohow On are two of my all time favorite song writers. I play their albums as the before and after music at my home shows. The Academic-Song Writer Nate Sloan and co-host of Podcast Switched on Pop is a hero for sure. His voice is like drunken honey and his thoughts are like sober milk. I think Mandy Patinkin sings like an angel and I love the Swedish dude who goes by The Tallest Man On Earth. Geoff Sobelle made a show recently called “Home” that blew my mind and gave me goose flesh, swan flesh, pigeon flesh, taradactal flesh. All the winged fleshes!
Could you write a Haiku/praise poem/limerick to the team (AFO and creative team) who are the wind beneath your wings (so to speak).
These people they make-a the magic
They suffer my woes so no tragic
We laugh and we putter
While I try not to mutter
This team’s absolutely slarstasgic!
Thank you Gideon!
My Name Is Gideon: I’m Probably Going To Die, Eventually has been developed over the course of 620 performances in living rooms around the world. The resulting theatrical excursion in storytelling is rooted in song and surprise, featuring more than 15 instruments – among them, the banjo, bouzouki, waterphone, shruti box, mbira, whirly tube, and scacciapensieri. Gideon’s expedition continues as he looks for a new place to stay each night, relying on the audiences’ hospitality. Since 2012, Gideon Irving has been playing shows, amalgams of music, stories, and other theatrical curiosities in people’s homes — across England, Scotland, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Japan, Nepal, and the U.S. Using a menagerie of instruments, he describes his style as Stove Top Folk, “a bit of this and some of that.”
Find him online…right over here: