One can only imagine Jamie Sneider's mix of joy and dread when she told her parents that her solo show would be playing in the New York International Fringe Festival this past summer. "That's wonderful, dear," they likely responded. "What character do you play?"
Actually, Jamie Sneider plays nearly a dozen characters in Brown and Blue. Nearly all of them, however, are variations on excrement. A press release lists such personae as "Princess Poopy Raisinette, Evil/Satin Shit" and "The Mad-Toilet Seat." In fact, one of the more visible promotional photos for the Fringe Fest featured Sneider as "Mr. Shit," smiling and wrapped in a brown towel.
Questions of taste aside, Sneider must be doing something right: Brown and Blue proved so popular at the Fest, it will now get a four-week run at Off-Off-Broadway's Red Room Theatre, at 85 East 4th Street, Jan. 22- Feb. 13, 1999. Both the playwright and producer anticipate an extension.
Shivri Avrahampour directs Brown and Blue, which uses "puppets, costumes and humor" to comment on women's issues, as well as social taboos. Producer Russell Dobular told Playbill On-Line that although Brown and Blue crossed Sneider's "scatalogical views with eating disorders," he didn't want to pigeonhole the piece by linking it to specific themes or causes. "It's bigger than that." Asked how the idea for Brown and Blue came about, Sneider told Playbill On-Line (Jan. 21), "At New York University, I took a writing class with Deb Margolin. We were told to write every day for 30 minutes, free flow writing. After looking things over, I'd realize, `Oh my god, why am I writing about poop all the time?' I'm a pretty shy person; I don't usually have bathroom humor, I don't think it's so funny... But I'd have these awful experiences. I got gum stuck to me on the first day of school. I once took a laxative in the middle of class and went to the bathroom all over myself. It made me ask, `why does this keep happening to me?"
Brown and Blue became Sneider's final project for NYU's Experimental Theatre Wing. "A playwright writes a lot of similar characters under different guises," Sneider explained, "but these are people. They're charming characters. Some are mean, but most are friendly and fluffy (I have a brown, fluffy suit). They're only personified as poop; charming, not gross. And that's the level that pulls people in. The people behind the characters. So personal issues come up, and parts are messy -- involving domestic abuse, eating disorders, family violence -- but they allow me to do very naughty things. At the very end, the audience should feel...`oh that's what it was.'"
An NYU Tisch School of the Arts grad, Sneider's other works include The 24-Hour Plays and Missing Objects. She's worked at Dixon Place and with the Living Theatre, and will bring a different solo to P.S. 122 in April 1999. That ten-minute excerpt from a longer, as-yet-untitled piece will concern four different family members "who transition in and out of each other, with the audience acting as a sort of character as well," Sneider says.
For tickets ($8-$10) and information on Brown and Blue call (212) 777-6088.
-- By David Lefkowitz