There is a myth of the indescribable, off-the-beaten path New York experience—the kind that’s happening in a gritty basement known only through word-of-mouth from New Yorkers in the know. A seeming lore of the old days when Manhattan was edgier, Say Something Bunny! proves that those theatrical experiences still exist. It may be in a second-story loft instead of an underground dive, but the true story of Newburges and Tanenbaums unfolds like a true crime podcast—minus the crime—come to life.
Creator and performer Alison S.M. Kobayashi inherited an antique wire recorder years ago. Press play and a blaring, garbled recording of a family talking over one another erupts. Kobayashi decided to transcribe the conversation through the noise. Through sheer willpower she sussed out every word, every character (even those who don’t speak!) for her script. Based on pop culture references she discovered the time period of her story; based on a fleeting mention in the recording and a quest through microfiched newspaper articles, she discovered the setting. Together with co-creator Christopher Allen, she turned case files into a riveting night of theatre.
But more than digging through census archives, newspaper articles, and ship manifests, the creation of Say Something Bunny! is only half of Kobayashi’s magic. She also inhabits over a dozen characters—without ever actually reciting their lines.
“Say Something Bunny! not only tells the story but also shows the process behind how I came to my conclusions,” says Kobayashi of the piece described as “New York’s hottest indie theatre show.” “Seeing the seams is part of that.” The piece just extended for a fourth time through July 28, 2019, with discussions for a possible tour on the horizon, Playbill has learned exclusively.
Name: Alison S.M. Kobayashi
What you’ll know her from now: Say Something Bunny! Off-Off-Broadway independently produced in a space she made
Her character: Archivist, Guide, as well as all of the Newburges and Tanenbaums
What her co-creator has to say about her: “Alison has an incredible visual memory and is attuned to details that others don’t register. She sees significance and humanity in what others might see as everyday or banal. She’s not technically trained as a performer, but is a virtuoso personality contortionist in the comic characters she can play,” says Allen. “A big part of her work in Say Something Bunny! is about relating individuality to audience members. She has to look people in their eyes and it is remarkable to see her shift and make micro-gestures that communicate differently with different people.”
What separates this experience from others for Kobayashi: The people. The collaborators and dear friends who made this piece with me, the operators who I get to see each week, the audience members I chat with after the show. So many interesting people come to this performance, brilliant people. I feel connected to them because through the performance we spend this precious time together. There’s something about the energy of New York City that opens people up to a strange and memorable experience, makes them seek such things out.”
Say Something Bunny! plays at 511 W 20th Street New York, New York. Click here for tickets and more information.
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