So what's your name and where are you from?
My name is Kevin Armento and I'm originally from San Diego but I live in Bedstuy.
And what are you working on while you’re on the farm?
I'm making a play that's trying to look at a specific film genre and theatricalize it on stage. I can’t say much more than that.
Understood! What’s in store for you once you leave the farm?
I go straight from here to Poughkeepsie to start rehearsal for a production with New York Stage and Film. It's about five women who fought in the civil war disguised as men and it's punctuated by these modern pop music infused action sequences. It's a really fun, big show.
You also wrote a play about the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Is there something that draws you to writing about the experiences of strong female characters?
I'm really drawn to exploring characters whose perspectives are different from mine. That's what excites me about writing, it's the enlightenment that comes from trying to get inside a perspective different from your own. That's my starting point, and I of course have to balance that with the kinds of stories I can realistically tell. I think that tension is exciting; it's something I think about a lot.
How do you avoid simplifying or stereotyping characters with vastly different perspectives from you? It sounds like that's a big concern for you.
Collaboration. The number one thing for me is collaboration. The two things I've been working on most recently are the civil war play and a play about the birth of Jazz in New Orleans, and there's a long list of obvious reasons why I'm not the right person to tell these stories. But you have this creative impulse where you're drawn to something that, for whatever reason, no one has tackled, or been allowed to tackle, and you feel these stories should be told. In the case of the jazz one, it's about this unknown trumpeter who created the sound of jazz. If you go to New Orleans there's a little monument for him but pop culturally we don't have that narrative. It should be a giant movie that a studio pays a lot of money to make, and people of color should be making that movie. But you run into this thing as an artist where you think this story should exist, and no one else is doing it. So if you're the instigator who wants to put that story on stage, you have a responsibility to find collaborators who provide more credibility to engage those characters. I think the key is that if your starting point is "I'm going to tell people what this story is," then that's a recipe for a condescending, patronizing piece of art. But if your goal is to recreate this thing that profoundly affected you, so that others can experience it, then it takes collaboration.
Where have you been spending most of your time while here at SPACE?
I've been up here twice before with Ars Nova and I've always had a roommate so I would work outside my room a lot, but now I have this room to myself! It's like this luxury so I do a lot of work in the room. My favorite spot has always been, and remains, the table on the back porch of the Sycamores that's right in front of the kitchen window. It also seems to be Emily Simoness's favorite spot. I've never said this to her, in fact this is the first time I'm stating it publicly, but I peek out the window of my room every morning and, if I see her there, I curse her.
And, if you were to be reincarnated as a farm animal, which animal would you choose?
I'm gonna riff on the question. I've already answered the question once, you can go back in the archives and find it from last year. I think Maggie Raymond is a farm animal. She’s my farm spirit animal. I think she's one of a kind, she's just one with the earth and the land and the house. If there were ever a ghost that haunted the Sycamores it would be Maggie Raymond. Except it would be the nicest ghost, smiling and asking if you need a hand. She's the farm spirit, essentially.