Throughout history artists created works that were inspired by personal events, situations or tragedies. Carol Katz is a theatre maker, writer, director and performer who has drawn from life to create an innovative movement/theatre piece titled Daedalus’ Daughter opening on September 21st at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles. Per her press release: “I have created this story, Daedalus’ Daughter, as a way to talk about madness and suicide that can run through family lines; its survivors, its legacy, its gifts, its ghosts…”

Carol Katz – Photo courtesy of the artist

Born in Philadelphia, PA, Katz was a longtime member of the renowned Rachel Rosenthal Company. She was co-founder of the Los Angeles-based movement theatre company,Gärung, and performed in the Ovation Award-winning production of Zoo District’s The Submission by Eugene Ionesco and Home by Steven Haworth. Her work has been presented at The New York International Fringe Festival, REDCAT, Bootleg Theater, and Highways Performance Space. She is co-founder, along with Elizabeth Watt, of Paloma Street Studio.

For the interview, I met up with Carol Katz and Rosanna Gamson at the Casa Chocolate Café in Los Angeles. Gamson, Artistic Director of Rosanna Gamson/World Wide and dance faculty member at CalArts University, first met Katz when she applied for the 2016 Terra Nova series founded by Gamson. It was through this laboratory workshop that Katz created and presented the first section of Daedalus’ Daughter.

In Greek mythology, Daedalus was a craftsman and artist, and the father of Icarus. In mythos, Daedalus did not have a daughter. Katz “made up this character to tell the story, as a metaphor, for her life-long struggle with bipolar disorder.” She felt that the “language of flying and falling” spoke to her both poetically and metaphorically, and used the Greek myth as the main metaphor to tell her story.

Katz explained how she first came upon this idea many years ago when asked to create a fifteen-minute thesis project for her MFA in Contemporary Performance at Naropa University. It was at Naropa where she studied and performed with many New York Post-Modern Dance and Performance Art pioneers, including Barbara Dilley and Wendell Beavers.

“I’ve been making it, dreaming it and writing about it on and off for nine or ten years!” Katz said about Daedalus’ Daughter.

“Daedalus’ Daughter” in rehearsal – Photo: Heather Rebecca

Gamson related how she was not impressed at first with Katz’s idea, but that she became more interested as Katz explained that she had been working on this her entire life, and learning the saga of Daedalus’ imprisonment because he was an inventor. Gamson became intrigued with the idea of one carrying on the curse or myth of one’s family, i.e. with Daedalus’ Daughter. Once the first section was completed, Gamson knew that this story contained many complex layers and resonance of Katz’s life journey. Not long after that Terra Nova experience, Katz invited Gamson to come aboard as Dramaturge and that she felt that she needed support with the structures for movement. She used to dance, but it was either set on her or it was Barbara Dilley style improvisation.

“I think that I’m there mainly to support Carol when she says, ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do this’.” Gamson mused. “I then say, ok! Now, let’s go forward.”

“She’s my knight in shining armor!” Katz answered fondly.

Because of Katz’s history, Gamson knew that this was the perfect piece for Katz to debut an evening length work. Gamson was adamant, however, that she was strictly there as the Dramaturge, not as a choreographer.

After Terra Nova, they worked together figuring out how the sections fit together to make them flow. Next came a workshop with performers to create the base material. In describing their working process,  both Katz and Gamson were very animated while describing their collaboration with prop master, Tom E. Kelley. Kelley has designed and built three-dimensional props that dancers can also wear. I promised not to give away any secrets in this article, but I will admit that I became very excited listening to them describe Kelley’s creations.

“There’s also a written script in Daedalus’ Daughter”, Katz said. “that is interwoven with anecdotal memory pieces from my personal family history.”

Katz wrote the script, but added that there are excerpts from a book titled Suicide Index by Joan Wickersham. She used these as a springboard because “the language was so simple, but lyrical and piercingly honest.” She found that it helped her clarify the description of her personal history, and how to approach the sensitive subjects of madness, suicide and family.

Kirk Wilson in rehearsal for “Daedalus’ Daughter – Photo: Heather Rebecca

This brought the discussion around to the mythical Daedalus’ invention of the labyrinth. She described how her life had been a series of episodes about getting lost, finding a way out and discovering certain family legacies. A legacy that she had been unknowingly following in the footsteps of her grandfather. She admitted that discovering this information from her cousins, not her parents, was a huge turning point in her life and helped to make sense of her struggles.

“This is an ongoing question in the piece.” Katz said. “Did you not tell me because I was following this path, or did you think that you were protecting me?”

As is true with most things in life, Katz admitted that her parents’ omission caused more pain. She said that it was the reverse of the adage, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you.” She explained that having a name for her disorder helped set her in a direction of thinking that perhaps she was not “crazy, crazy”, but that she was “crazy creative!”

Katz had a beautiful way of explaining this epiphany. “I discovered that knowing this information led me out of the maze of crazy and into the world of creativity.” After pausing, she said, “Going back a bit. I know that I said that I had been working on this piece for nine or ten years, when actually, it’s been my whole life. Working on this piece, I didn’t know what it was, but I always knew that there was something in me knocking on the walls to get out!”

One of the questions I posed was why now? Why create this work now? Her above statement answered part of that question. The work was waiting for her to catch up. She had to reach this level of awareness; to live these experiences before creating this piece.

Lavinia Findikoglu, Kirk Wilson in rehearsal for “Daedalus’ Daughter” – Photo: Heather Rebecca

Katz has always enjoyed creating new works with artists from a range of disciplines, especially dance. With Daedalus’ Daughter, she is working with Rosanna Gamson, Creative Producer & Dramaturge; Mallory Fabian, Associate Creative Producer; Darius Gangei, Lighting Designer; Tanya Orellana, Set Designer; Tom E. Kelley, Props & Set Construction; and Simon Greenberg, Sound Designer. The cast members are Kirk Wilson, Clementine Gamson, Lavinia Findikoglu, Sean Spann, and Kearian Giertz.

I end with what Carol Katz wrote about the work. “Icarus had a sister. She flew too close to the sun and fell into the sea. She survived. This her story.”

Daedalus’ Daughter appears at the Bootleg Theater Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, September 21 – 30 at 7:30pm. Tickets: $20, Student/Senior $15. At the door: $25, Student/Senior $20. To purchase tickets, click here.

Feature Photo by Heather Rebecca.