Written by Thaddeus Phillips and directed by Tatiana Mallarino, Theatre Exile’s “Zoo Motel” takes you on a fantastic voyage without leaving the room.
Broadcast from a studio apartment in Cajica, Colombia, and co-starring boldly toned worlds imaginable and not so easily imaginable (mostly the inner vision and interior monologue of its creator and designer) Philadelphians Thaddeus Phillips and Steven Dufala’s Zoo Motel is one fantastic voyage. Though you never leave the Zoom-based Zoo Motel’s one solitary room, its visions are vivid and its possibilities are endless and endearing. Tickets will be available HERE.
You know that, already, if you have long been a fan of one-time South Philadelphian, Phillips, locally produced performance art programs such as 1996’s “Shakespeare’s Storms”. Or his Latin-flavored comic travelogues like “17 Border Crossings”. “Flamingo/Winnebago,” and “¡El Conquistador!”. Spare, spooky locally-themed enterprises such as the Edgar Allan Poe death trip “Red-Eye to Havre de Grace”. Hypnotically moody interplanetary ruminations such as “A Billion Nights on Earth”. Dueling takes on the most notorious drug smuggler in U.S. history with “The Incredibly Dangerous Astonishing Lucrative and Potentially TRUE Adventures of Barry Seal”. And the splashily-costumed “Alias Ellis Mackenzie.”
You can get a sense of Zoo Motel’s mischievousness if you’ve been a fan of Steven Dufala’s musical ruminations with Man Man, or his mad, muscular sculptural work with his brother, Billy Dufala.
Theatre Exile’s Zoo Motel’s live cinematic theatre, as presented online and designed by Dufala, is still a different story altogether with its magic (literally, there are tricks), card games, room keys and interactivity with an online audience.
“It’s funny, but it’s never been like going from a thing to a thing, moving from music to designing for performing artists, as I started off doing both at once,” Dufala told me.
An early designer for Pig Iron Theatre in the late 90s, Dufala got “happily gobbled up, and put to work on a handful of different things from poster graphics to set design. That was a crazy introduction, and I was hooked.”
Though he does not consider himself a designer with a capital D, Dufala does think of himself as a puzzle do-er, a problem solver and a keen collaborator. “Any project that seems cool is a great way of spending time. I’ll find my way through a thing as well as my place even if I have to create a role or some room.”
Dufala got to know Phillips through the Philadelphia performance art and theater scene of the 90s, a tight one where all of us knew the other, just by reputation, if not bumping into them at the Acme. “I probably first met Thaddeus working with Geoff Sobelle while working on a show called Machines Machines Machines Machines Machines. Thaddeus’ mom lived near this digital print shop I worked at in Old City. So we would talk when he was in town. And eventually, we just created a work for us to do as an excuse to work together: A Billion Nights on Earth.”
Calling Thaddeus Phillips unlike “any artist I have ever worked with,” Dufala and Thaddeus started 2019 with a series of cryptic texts and Fellini movie references. Drive-in theater signs and other such images until an island of related things formed into one vision. All of which used the camera in unique ways. And that is Zoo Motel.
Get there. Book early.