Tag Archives: Every Fold Matters

Every Fold Matters

Directed by Lynne Sachs and Lizzie Olesker

Go directly to our website at:   www.everyfoldmatters.com

A hybrid experimental film and live performance that looks into the charged intimacy of washing clothes in a neighborhood laundromat.

Every Fold Matters Ching Valdes Aran eyes closed

EVERY FOLD MATTERS is a live performance and a film project that looks at the charged, intimate space of the neighborhood laundromat and the people who work there. Set at the crossroads of a Brooklyn neighborhood, we meet four characters in a real laundromat — a uniquely social and public space that is slowly disappearing from our changing urban landscape. Based on interviews with New York City laundry workers, the project combines narrative and documentary elements as it explores personal stories of immigration, identity, money, stains and dirt.

“The legacy of domestic work, the issues surrounding power, and the exchange of money for services are all potent themes which rise to the surface and bubble over in dramatic, thrilling escalations of the everyday.” (Brooklyn Rail)

“Spotlights the often-invisible workers who fold the clothes, maintain the machines and know your secrets.” (In These Times)

The intersection of film and performance, reality and imagination, employee and customer, historical fact and personal anecdote…You made us rethink the laundromat as a site of urban convergence, where strangers (of different races, religions, languages and classes) make ritualistic visits to a public space that’s also a functional extension of their own homes.”               Alan Berliner, filmmaker

EVERY FOLD MATTERS has received support from New York State Council on the Arts, Brooklyn Arts Council, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (through Dirty Laundry/Loads of Prose), Women and Media Coalition, and Fandor FIX Filmmakers.

Our collaborators include acclaimed downtown actors Ching Valdes-Aran, Jasmine Holloway, Veraalba Santa, and Tony Torn, film editor Amanda Katz, cinematographer Sean Hanley and sound artist Stephen Vitiiello.

EVERY FOLD MATTERS began as a site specific performance with film presented by Loads of Prose at the New Lucky Laundromat in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn in early 2015. The Workers Unite! Film Festival later hosted a performance and awarded us the Best Feature Narrative prize. We are now developing our performance into a film, and recently received support from the New York State Council on the Arts and the Women and Media Coalition. This summer Fandor.com awarded us a $5,000 matching grant for the creation and distribution of the film.

“I remember each and every face of every customer.”

We are excited to bring EVERY FOLD MATTERS into a more purely cinematic realm by weaving together additional documentary material collected in interviews, original text, and both raw and impressionistic images.

You can read press on our EVERY FOLD MATTERS live film performance here:

THE NEW YORKER

IN THESE TIMES

THE BROOKLYN RAIL

Our Performers

Jasmine Holloway is a singer and actress who has performed in productions at the Harlem Repertory Theatre as well as in the highly acclaimed Generations at Soho Rep. Jasmine was nominated for the Richard Maltby Jr. Award for Musical Theatre Excellence during the 2013 Kennedy Center College Theatre Festival.

Veraalba Santa is an actress and dancer and a member of Caborca Theater. She has degrees in Theater and Dance from the University of Puerto Rico and the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater. In New York City, Veraalba has worked with Sally Silvers, Rojo Robles, Viveca Vazquez and Rosa Luisa Marquez.

Tony Torn was last seen on stage in the title role of Ubu Sings Ubu at The Slipper Room, a rock opera adaptation of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi which he created and co-directed. An actor and director known for his extensive work with Reza Abdoh and Richard Foreman, Tony recently made his Broadway debut in Breakfast At Tiffany’s.

Ching Valdes-Aran is an Obie award-winning actor who has appeared on and off Broadway, including The Public Theater, New York Theater Workshop, La Mama, Women’s Project, CSC, Mabou Mines, Ma-Yi Theater Company, La Jolla, Center Stage, Yale Rep, and ACT. Her film work includes roles in Lav Diaz’s From What is Before (Golden Leopard Award, Locarno Int’l Festival) and Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe.

Our Collaborative Team

Lynne Sachs is a co-director. She makes films, performances, installations and web projects that explore the intricate relationship between personal observations and broader historical experiences by weaving together poetry, collage, painting, politics and layered sound design. Supported by fellowships from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller and Jerome Foundations and the New York State Council on the Arts, Lynne’s films have screened at the New York Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival and Toronto’s Images Festival. Lynne teaches experimental film and video at NYU and lives in Brooklyn. www.lynnesachs.com

Lizzie Olesker is a co-director. She is a playwright, director and performer. Her plays have been developed and presented at New Georges, Invisible Dog, Ohio Theater, Dixon Place, HERE, Cherry Lane, and Public Theater. Her work has received support from the Brooklyn Council for the Arts, the Dramatists Guild, and New York Foundation for the Arts. Her writing has been published by Heinemann Press and in the Brooklyn Rail. She teaches playwriting at NYU and the New School, and lives in Brooklyn.

Sean Hanley is our Cinematographer. He is a non-fiction filmmaker based in Brooklyn, New York. His short works have screened at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the New Orleans Film Festival. Sean teaches cinematography at Hunter College and was a cinematographer and co-producer on Lynne Sachs’s Your Day is My Night (2013). He is the Assistant Director of Mono No Aware.

Amanda Katz is our Associate Producer and Editor. She works professionally as a Film Editor, and is currently working with Lynne Sachs to craft her latest feature film. Her own work has screened at The Ann Arbor Film Festival, Doc NYC, Encuentros del Otros Cine Festival International, and Microscope Gallery. Her most recent film received funding from the New York State Council On The Arts and The Austrian Cultural Forum in New York. Amanda is a MFA candidate in Integrated Media Arts at Hunter College.

Stephen Vitiello is our composer, an electronic musician and media artist. Vitiello’s sound installations have been presented at MoMA, MASS MoCA, the Whitney Biennial, and on the High Line in NYC. Vitiello has collaborated with numerous artists including Pauline Oliveros, Tony Oursler, Julie Mehretu, Scanner, Steve Roden, Taylor Deupree and Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Interns and web design:  Christine Dickerson, Mars Marson, Boyd Chayanon

 

 

 

The Peculiar Intimacy of a NYC Laundromat

Pixel Magazine Logo

When it was a reading series staged in laundromats around the country, The New Yorker described “Every Fold Matters” as a “collaborative, site-specific performance exploring the strange intimacy of the everyday ritual.” The series used performers to act out themes of gendered work, gentrification, and the intermittent weirdness of city life. Playwright and director Lizzie Olesker and filmmaker Lynne Sachs are reuniting to turn the live performance into a film. For Polarr, Emily von Hoffmann spoke with them to find out more.

https://medium.com/@pixelmagazine/the-peculiar-intimacy-of-a-nyc-laundromat-871e454a7ead#.ngqfqtz19

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Emily von Hoffmann: How did the live performance of ‘Every Fold Matters’ evolve into the idea for this film?

Lizzie Olesker & Lynne Sachs: When we began our site-specific collaboration EVERY FOLD MATTERS, we knew that we wanted to incorporate moments of film into the live performances. The text for the piece was developed through conversations with laundromat workers in different neighborhoods of NYC. This was a challenging process as people were often reluctant to speak about their experiences for fear of repercussions, language barriers, etc. We did shoot one conversation with a laundromat owner in Manhattan’s Chinatown.

This filmed segment opened our performance at New Lucky Laundromat in Brooklyn and we felt it expressed something texturally and conceptually revealing. We also filmed some of the actors’ monologues and found these to have a particular intimacy reflecting the subject of laundry and caring for other people’s clothes. During the run of the performances, we decided that we’d like to adapt the entire piece to film, taking the material we’d developed in a different direction. We adapted the text into a shooting script and spent time thinking about new images and ways of exploring the physical space of a working laundromat for film.

EvH: You became interested in a particular laundromat because of its unique neighborhood & demographics. Can you describe the laundromat from the film, and what is special about it?

LO & LS: Super Suds Laundromat is located in Boerum Hill very close to where we both have lived for many years. On the corner of Nevins and Bergen streets, it is an urban crossroads between different Brooklyn neighborhoods where people of varied backgrounds and economic classes come together to do their wash. In an area that is rapidly changing and becoming further gentrified, Super Suds is one of the few laundromats left.

Ironically, another larger laundromat where we did an early performance of EVERY FOLD MATTERS has since closed, to make way for a high-rise apartment building/development. Super Suds is warm, bustling, with typical waves of hectic energy followed by a quiet sense of calm.

When we approached Super Suds about shooting our film there, the owner was very excited and supportive about bringing cultural work into his laundromat.

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EvH: This could be a story about gentrification (as laundromats dwindle in number), gendered work and invisible workers, the periodic strangeness of life in New York, or the taboo of airing one’s actual dirty laundry in public. The laundry workers perform a private task in a public space, and therefore are allowed to observe private details of their customers’ lives. Because of this, it seems like you decided to frame this story primarily as one about intimacy. Would you say that’s accurate, and can you elaborate more on how these themes will manifest in the film?

LO & LS: Clearly you are really connecting to the core of what we are trying to do. The array of quotidian experiences that each of us has as city dwellers is astonishing. Restaurant customers walk into French bistros or Japanese sushi bars and expect to be transported by the tastes of the food, the unfamiliar music and the exotic objects on the walls.

But still, there remains a quality of distance between the cook and the person who eats her food. In a nail salon, a woman bows down to color and file her customer’s toes. These experiences are an inherent aspect of the social contract that structures city life. In a laundromat, there is also a very specific and precise closeness that develops. When you bring your shirts and pants to the store to have them cleaned by someone, you are literally sharing your “dirty secrets.”

The fabric is like a new epidermal layer that connects you to a total stranger who becomes responsible for this extension of your body. We are trying to convey something about this link between total strangers through the abstracted textures, the choreographed movements and, of course, the texts of “Every Fold Matters.”

Our research for the original performance and now the film, began with a year long series of informal interviews with Spanish, Chinese (we worked with a wonderful translator) and sometimes English speaking workers in laundries in Brooklyn and Manhattan. This immersive documentary-style engagement also revealed to us how precarious this service industry has really become. Several of the stores where we have performed our piece have closed — to be replaced by more lucrative, less personal apartment buildings or businesses.

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EvH: You describe this as a hybrid work of experimental cinema that combines narrative and documentary elements. What does that mean exactly?

LO & LS: There are so many ways that EVERY FOLD MATTERS is creating really interesting artistic convergences and clashes. Lizzie’s background is in playwriting and live performance. Lynne’s is in experimental and documentary film. By making a “hybrid” work, we are not expecting to concoct the proverbial “melting pot” of these distinct sensibilities, but rather to build a discursive, charged confrontation of the real and fictional, the abstract and the natural. We want our audience to be aware of the collage nature of the piece. We love the performative monologues of David and Albert Maysles’ classic documentary “Grey Gardens”, but we are also very inspired by the inventive austerity of Andy Warhol or Chantal Akerman.

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EvH: Can you share some of your inspirations, for this project or in general, of any medium?

LO: I was very inspired by Lynne’s project YOUR DAY IS MY NIGHT. I loved the way she handled the performance aspect of it — there was a beautiful, simple directness and richly specific sense of detail in its form and content. The visual artist Anne Mourier has done amazing work involving laundry- her work has definitely inspired me. I’m on Book 3 of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, and have recently read her other fiction. I greatly admire her fearless, passionate writing and way of dealing with the often unrecognized details of her female characters’ lives.

LS: When we were looking for performers to be in EVERY FOLD MATTERS, I was able to see Jasmine Holloway sing in Soho Rep’s GENERATIONS, which transformed the entire theater into a South African village, including the seats of the audience. This immersive connection between the performance and the viewing of it was extraordinary. Tony Torn’s bawdy yet vulnerable interpretation of Pere Ubu in UBU ROI in a Downtown cabaret was one of the most daring performances I have ever seen. We invited both of these actors to be in our live performance and now our film. In addition to becoming cast members, they have also contributed two of the most important personal stories of our piece. This integrated way of working is critical to the EVERY FOLD MATTERS process.

EvH: Can you describe whether and how the themes in this work complement or depart from your previous work? When did you become interested in these themes?

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LS: As an experimental documentary filmmaker, I have been fascinated by the way that people perform their lives. In 2013, I worked with Chinese immigrants who live or have lived in “shift bed houses” in Chinatown to make YOUR DAY IS MY NIGHT a series of live performances and then a film which I premiered at the Museum of Moderns Art and then screened in the US and abroad. We collaborated on a live performance that brought stories from their lives into a space where they were able to reveal and invent. I relish the moment when my “subjects” become collaborators, bringing their own sense of play to the project. I think EVERY FOLD MATTERS pushes this creative exploration even further. Lizzie has an uncanny way of listening to conversation and turning it into poetry.

LO: In my previous works for theater, I’ve wanted to open up the experience of invisibility, particularly as it relates to domestic labor. I often use historical and contemporary research about work issues to inspire characters, images and stories. My most recent play, EMBROIDERED PAST was about a family who obsessively keeps things. It began by looking at the way objects can function in our lives, leading to a kind of everyday, ordinary hoarding. Caretaking, another “invisible” form of work, is a theme I investigate through drama. This all seems related to laundry and the way we must find ways of caring for the things we keep closest to our bodies.

Interview by Emily von Hoffmann and Polarr — Pro Photo Editor Made for Everyone. Follow Polarr on Twitter and try our products.

All photos by Sean Hanley.

Fandor’s Keyframe Interviews Lynne Sachs and Lizzie Olesker

FIXshorts: Lynne Sachs and Lizzie Olesker

‘We really did not want to say goodbye to this brilliant, imaginative and totally committed group of actors and media artists.’

September 19, 2015

Editor’s note: Fandor recently announced the expansion of its FIXshorts film initiative, featuring four original short film projects as well as a short created from Tombstone Rashomon, to be directed by legendary filmmaker Alex Cox. Fandor is again partnering with crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, contributing half of the initial budget and providing reward benefits for the Kickstarter campaigns. Here, we introduce two of those filmmakers, Lynne Sachs and Lizzie Olesker, who are raising funds for Every Fold Matters, a hybrid experimental film that looks into the charged intimacy of washing clothes in a neighborhood laundromat.

Keyframe: What first inspired you to make films?

Lynne Sachs: What other medium could allow me to throw together my love of poetry, investigative reporting, musique concrète, street theater and abstraction?

Lizzie Olesker:  I come from a theater background, and this is actually my first experience making film, though I’ve worked in film a bit as an actor (and stuntwoman) on independent and larger commercial films. I never thought I would direct a film but now that I have, I feel more inspired about this process.

Keyframe: What inspired you to make this (FIXshorts)​ film?

Sachs:  There was an incredible collective spirit that was part of our series of live performances.  We really did not want to say goodbye to this brilliant, imaginative and totally committed group of actors and media artists.  So we said, ‘Let’s make a movie!’

Olesker:  It’s because of Lynne who brought her singular cinematic sensibility to our theatrical collaboration. The film segments she made for the performance were particularly rich and evocative. It made me want to explore in a more purely visual way, moving into places that are very different from what can happen in live performance.

Keyframe: How are you going to film it?

Sachs:  Sometimes we shoot in a laundry using a documentarian’s observant eye. Other times we integrate our script into a wildly expressive sliver of fiction. We are working with cinematographer Sean Hanley, editor Amanda Katz and composer Stephen Vitiello to create an edgy, impressionistic work of hybrid cinema.

Olesker:  When we started shooting, I was amazed at the intense combination of high organization and playful spontaneity that making film demands. There’s a sense of performing and not performing that I really loved.  Decisions and changes can really evolve as you go, with the creative imagination happening in a very collective way. One needs to have a strong vision and at the same time, a willingness to shift and let go of things that aren’t working.

Keyframe: What three directors or artists have most influenced you (and why)​?

Sachs:  I have been deeply moved by the intuitive observations of Chris Marker, the hard-hitting clash of images in the collage films of Bruce Conner and the very personal cutting of Gunvor Nelson.  Over the course of my life as a filmmaker, I was able to work with each of these artists.

Olesker:  Because my background is in theater and playwriting, I’ve been inspired by people like Anton Chekhov, Euripides, Bertolt Brecht, Suzan-Lori Parks, Adrienne Kennedy and Caryl Churchill. But there are artists who also inspired me like Louise Bourgeois and the pioneering portraitist Alice Neel. Film directors like Jean-Luc Godard, Chantal Akerman and Mike Leigh are among my favorites.

Keyframe: What was the last film you saw in a theater?

Sachs:  Last Tuesday afternoon, I went to the IFC theater in Manhattan to watch Wim WendersThe American Friend.  I want to savor cinematographer Robby Müller’s sense of color for a long, long time.

Olesker:  My eighty-seven-year old mother really wanted to see Trainwreck, with Amy Schumer, and so we did at her local neighborhood theater.

Laundromat Workers Air New York’s Dirty Laundry

Laundromat Workers Air New York’s Dirty Laundry in Performance Piece

A new film/performance spotlights the often-invisible workers who fold the clothes, maintain the machines and know your secrets.

BY Michelle Chen

Paradoxically, though the coin-operated laundromat is designed to replace the labor of hand-washing, as with many other modern conveniences, the workers remain necessary, though erased.

Nestled in the crevices between corner bodegas and twisted alleys, the corner laundromat is the town square of the postmodern city. It’s where neighbors gather to gossip and strangers gather to check help-wanted ads as their dirty underthings mingle. And nowhere is the laundromat a more central institution than in New York City, where the premium on urban space makes it difficult to fit washing machines inside apartments that are barely big enough for the tenant to turn around in, much less a spin cycle.

It’s in this churning admixture of the personal and public that filmmaker Lynne Sachs and playwright Lizzie Olesker stage their documentary-fiction-performance piece, Every Fold Matters.

The project foregrounds the often-ignored workers who wash drop-off loads and manage the self-service machines. Paradoxically, though the coin-operated laundromat is designed to replace the labor of hand-washing, as with many other modern conveniences, the workers remain necessary, though erased (just as vacuum cleaners are still operated by housekeepers, and mechanized agriculture still relies on “stoop labor”).

Sachs, who has also chronicled the lives of migrant workers and Vietnam War protesters, tends to explore the overlooked corners of civilization, and the people who fold your sheets are among the least visible in the city. Still, the stories of laundry workers can’t be done justice just by depicting them as exploited laborers; they speak before the camera about both what they love and what they hate about their jobs. And often the workers emerge as spectators of the quotidian drama of the city, as they seek to scrub out people’s hidden stains.

Sachs and Olesker constructed the script out of real interviews with laundry workers in New York over a period of months. In one scene, performers act out the methodical steps of shirt-folding in a percussive drum-dance ensemble. In another, an actor playing a laundry worker reflects on how she falls into an imaginative trance as she fingers strangers’ sordid secrets:

All you get is their name and their bag of dirty stuff—you write it on a tag—a tag for all that sweat, coffee, period stains, and… whatever. … you can tell someone’s story just by what they’ve worn, how it’s dirty—you know?

The actors “playing” customers among the machines and countertops may elicit confused double-takes and chuckles from passersby (The production was originally commissioned as part of “Dirty Laundry: Loads of Prose,” a series of laundromat readings and performances organized by Emily Rubin, now in its tenth year.)

Sachs has arranged with local laundry businesses to stage and screen the show during business hours. “Ideally,” Sachs says, “the laundromat doesn’t even close, so we catch people as they’re doing their personal domestic work, cleaning their clothes. But then we have other people come in intentionally to see it. I kind of like the ambiguity around what’s a spectator.”

But finding a willing venue is a challenge; Sachs notes that some owners are uncomfortable about possibly disrupting business by hosting a seated audience among the regular launderers.

As documentary-fiction, Every Fold’s actors voice narratives composed from interviews with workers, in actual laundry settings, blending real and fictional scenes to evoke the common experiences of urban laundering: Between the clicks of quarters, quiet courtships are sparked in shy tussles over misplaced lingerie. Ethical dilemmas spiral out of a dryer that drops a carelessly crumpled $20 bill into an anonymous fist. The workers’ stories mediate between the public aspect of the business—serving impatient, sometimes mentally unstable customers—and the private realm as they poke through snatches of strangers’ lives, from loose change to bloodstained tank tops.

I attended a performance in May as part of the Workers Unite! Film Festival. Held at the old lithographic workers’ union hall in New York, it had a different feel, since it was set in a real auditorium with no washing machines. But the setting allowed the labor ethos of the project to shine through. In one scene, performer Jasmine Holloway recites the manifesto of the 1881 Atlanta washer woman’s strike in the voice of a black 19th-century laundress: “We will have full control of the city’s washing at our own prices, as the city has control of our husbands’ work at their prices. Don’t forget this!”

Cut to another scene, generations removed from the barrels sloshing with lye and starch: Holloway plays a contemporary laundry workers, recalling tenderly how her mother taught her how to fold, pressing each crease with care, even knowing it will be soiled again in minutes: “Take your time. Make every fold matter. Put yourself into it. Like you mean it.”

Holloway, whose grandmother worked in a laundry center, exudes proud rage when channeling the protesting washer woman, but puts just as much passion into the hypnotically rote folding of a simple swatch: the same pair of hands, reaching across generations and between the screen and real life.

For the last scene, the actors speak in their own voices about their own memories of doing laundry—or not being able to, as when one man discovered one day that his old neighborhood laundromat had closed:

But when I got to the corner, the laundromat was gone… It was one of the only places where you still can talk to strangers. 

Laundromats are shuttering across the city, following the trend of gentrification and the growing prevalence of laundry facilities in building basements or apartments. But Every Fold Matters drives home why such community spaces remain irreplaceable: As they mill through the liminal space between machines and aisles, customers become both spectators and performers—just as on any given day at a laundromat, the collapse of public and personal space creates the perfect stage.

Sachs’s last film shone light on a different crack in the cityscape: the shift-bed apartments in Chinatown where men share a mattress with strangers. Every Fold continues to rub its nose in the seams of the urban landscape, exploring how scarce space in a Malthusian social crucible draws us together in a statically charged bond.

Every Fold Matters is a work in progress, and the filmmakers are planning to schedule more on-site performances and complete a film version.

Michelle Chen is a contributing editor at In These Times, a contributor to Working In These Times, and an editor at CultureStrike. She is also a co-producer of Asia Pacific Forum on Pacifica’s WBAI. Her work has appeared on Alternet, Colorlines.com, Ms., and The Nation, Newsday, and her old zine, cain. Follow her on Twitter at @meeshellchen or reach her at michellechen [at] inthesetimes [dot] com.

Every Fold Matters

EVERY FOLD MATTERS
a site-specific performance about working in a laundry
by Lizzie Olesker and Lynne Sachs

“All you get is their name and their bag of dirty stuff- you write it on a tag. A tag for all the sweat, blood, food, coffee stains, and whatever….”

EVERY FOLD MATTERS is a collaborative, site-specific performance with film about the work of doing laundry by playwright/director Lizzie Olesker and experimental filmmaker Lynne Sachs. With text developed from interviews with NYC neighborhood laundromat workers, EVERY FOLD MATTERS looks at the charged, intimate experience of cleaning other people’s clothes in a public workspace. Presented by Emily Rubin’s Wash and Dry Productions, performances of EVERY FOLD MATTERS unfolded at the New Lucky Laundromat on Lafayette Avenue in Clinton Hill Brooklyn, February 12-14, 2015.  The Manhattan Community Arts Fund and the Brooklyn Arts Council awarded initial support for EVERY FOLD MATTERS, After the New Lucky Laundry performances, we will produce an EVERY FOLD MATTERS film, a hybrid work that will incorporate both our performance and documentary materials.

“Sometimes they hide the stains. They’ll put it in a bag and won’t tell you. Maybe they think you won’t take it?”

EVERY FOLD MATTERS looks at the seemingly mundane, everyday world of laundry through a personal and social lens, providing new insight into the way we take care of the things most close to our bodies.  Stories around intimacy, clothes, dirt/stains, money, and time are revealed through heightened dialogue and gestural, choreographed sequences — all set amidst the washers and dryers of a working laundromat.  EVERY FOLD MATTERS provides an opening into a historic form of domestic work which is mostly unseen, or at least unnoticed, tended to by those who go unrecognized and undervalued.

“My customers count on me. They think we do magic.”

EVERY FOLD MATTERS was originally commissioned by Emily Rubin as part of Wash and Dry Productions’ Dirty Laundry: Loads of Prose series, with support from the Manhattan Community Arts Fund, and presented on the Lower East Side at Gentle Wash Laundromat. In 2014, Lizzie Olesker was awarded $2200 from the Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC) to further develop and perform EVERY FOLD MATTERS. Lizzie then invited Lynne Sachs to collaborate on the project, bringing her innovative approach in creating hybrid documentary work. After early showings in Brooklyn at the Old Stone House and Atlantis Superwash Laundromat, Lizzie and Lynne continued developing the piece through further interviews and collaborating on a new script.  Emily recently secured a new site-specific venue at the Lucky Laundromat in Brooklyn.  Acclaimed, multi-talented performers Veraalba Santa, Ching Valdes-Aran and Jasmine Holloway have joined the production.  Musician and sound artist Stephen Vitiello will create a responsive sound design for the upcoming performance and film.

 “My mother in Hong Kong, she showed me … no dryers. We would just hang them. I helped her with the easiest stuff, like folding underwear. And then you practice, practice, practice…”

Lead collaborating artists Lynne Sachs and Lizzie Olesker have long admired one another’s work. Each has over 30 years experience making original performances and films, following their own path in making their projects happen. Taking the chance to bring a hybrid, experimental performance into a surprising, real-world environment inspires both artists and their audience.

“I remember each and every face of every customer.”

Through local press, social media, online publicity, and neighborhood flyers, the EVERY FOLD MATTERS team reached out to both NYC audiences at large and the Clinton Hill community.

“The laundromat is one of those places you think will be there forever. It’s one of the only places where you still talk to strangers.”

Emily Rubin’s Wash and Dry Productions has been producing Dirty Laundry: Loads of Prose since 2005 when it started as an experiment in a laundromat in the East Village. Since that time, Rubin has presented more than 150 emerging and established writers and performers amidst the washers and dryers of neighborhood laundromats throughout NYC.  EVERY FOLD MATTERS will be Wash and Dry Productions’ first event in the year-long 10th Anniversary Celebration of Loads of Prose.

Link to Brooklyn Rail article:  http://www.brooklynrail.org/2015/02/theater/laundromat-theater-where-every-fold-matters

Link to New York article: http://www.newyorker.com/goings-on-about-town/above-and-beyond/dirty-laundry-loads-prose

Link to Every Fold Matters Full Dress Rehearsal:
https://vimeo.com/119853367
password:  everyfoldmatters

Our Directors, Producer and Production Team

Lizzie Olesker (co-director, writer) is a playwright, director, and performer whose work focuses on finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. Plays and performances have been developed and presented at New Georges, HERE, the Ohio Theatre, Invisible Dog, Dixon Place, Old Stone House, Cherry Lane Theater, Clubbed Thumb, Intiman (Seattle) and Public Theater.

Emily Rubin (producer) founded Wash and Dry Productions in 2005 to produce Dirty Laundry: Loads of Prose, a reading and performance series that takes place in laundromats around the country.  Rubin is the author of the novel STALINA (Mariner Books) and is at work on another novel and memoir about urban homesteading.  www.emilyrubin.net

Lynne Sachs (co-director, writer) is fascinated by the intersection between documentary film explorations and live performance. Her hybrid film works have screened at the New York Film Festival, Sundance, Punto de Vista, the China Women’s Film Festival and the Vancouver Film Festival. She is a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow in the Arts. www.lynnesachs.com

Stephen Vitiello (music) is an electronic musician and media artist. Vitiello’s sound installations have been presented at MoMA, MASS MoCA, the Whitney Biennial, and on the High Line in NYC. Vitiello has collaborated with numerous artists including Pauline Oliveros, Tony Oursler, Julie Mehretu, Scanner, Steve Roden, Taylor Deupree and Ryuichi Sakamoto. www.stephenvitiello.com

Sean Hanley (film production), Amanda Katz (performance and film assistance) and Luo Xiauyuan (research and translation).

Our Performers

Jasmine Holloway (performer) is a singer and actress who has performed in productions at the Harlem Repertory Theatre as well as in the highly acclaimed GENERATIONS at Soho Rep. Jasmine was nominated for the Richard Maltby Jr. Award for Musical Theatre Excellence during the 2013 Kennedy Center College Theatre Festival.

Veraalba Santa is an actress and dancer and a member of Caborca Theater. She has degrees in Theater and Dance from the University of Puerto Rico and the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater. In New York City, Veraalba has worked with Sally Silvers, Rojo Robles, Viveca Vazquez and Rosa Luisa Marquez.

Tony Torn was last seen on stage in the title role of Ubu Sings Ubu at The Slipper Room, a rock opera adaptation of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi which he created and co-directed. An actor and director known for his extensive work with Reza Abdoh and Richard Foreman, Tony recently made his Broadway debut Breakfast At Tiffany’s.

Ching Valdes-Aran (performer) is an Obie award-winning actor who has appeared on and off Broadway, including The Public Theater, New York Theater Workshop, La Mama, Women’s Project, CSC, Mabou Mines, Ma-Yi Theater Company, La Jolla, Center Stage, Yale Rep, and ACT.   Her film work includes roles in Lav Diaz’s FROM WHAT IS BEFORE (Golden Leopard Award, Locarno Int’l Festival) and Julie Taymor’s ACROSS THE UNIVERSE.

 

The New Yorker on Every Fold Matters

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Above and Beyond

Dirty Laundry: Loads of Prose

This reading series, which started in New York City and is held at laundromats around the country, celebrates its tenth anniversary with “Every Fold Matters,” a collaborative, site-specific performance exploring the strange intimacy of the everyday ritual. The piece, created by the playwright and director Lizzie Olesker and the filmmaker Lynne Sachs, highlights the perspective of laundry workers. It’s playing for three nights at a Brooklyn laundromat, performed by the singer and actress Jasmine Holloway, the actress and dancer Veraalba Santa, and the actors Ching Valdes-Aran and Tony Torn. Produced by the series’ founder, Emily Rubin. (New Lucky Laundromat, 323 Lafayette Ave., at Grand Ave., Clinton Hill. dirtylaundryreadings.com. Feb. 12-14.)

The Brooklyn Rail: “Laundromat-Theater: Where Every Fold Matters”

The Brooklyn Rail

 

 

by Ginny Mohler  

http://www.brooklynrail.org/2015/02/theater/laundromat-theater-where-every-fold-matters

A woman folds clothes by rote, eyes fixed to a soap opera muted on the laundromat’s TV. As she weeps over a tragic plot twist, her hands never stop folding, pounding the table in an unceasing metronome of productivity.

Laundress Ching Valdes Aran in Every Fold Matters.

This moment, lifted from life and transcribed to performance by playwright/director Lizzie Olesker and experimental filmmaker Lynne Sachs, becomes one of many striking, reality-based images in Every Fold Matters, a new site specific performance with film that premieres in a Clinton Hill, Brooklyn laundromat this month.

Exploring the intimacies that emerge between strangers through their clothes, the 40-minute theater piece is based on interviews conducted by Olesker and Sachs with laundromat workers throughout NYC during the past year. Originally intending to film the interviews for a hybrid documentary-theater piece, the work is now a compilation of fiction and reality, the script drawing largely on true anecdotes which they heard but were not permitted to record.

The project began nearly two years ago, when Olesker was commissioned by producer Emily Rubin to create what would become Every Fold Matters as part of the 10 year anniversary of Emily Rubin’s reading series “Dirty Laundry: Loads of Prose” by Wash and Dry Productions. Originally inspired by Rubin’s desire to find a non-traditional public space for creative workshops, the series has now successfully hosted more than 30 readings in laundromats, showcasing more than 100 writers over the past 10 years. In 2014, Olesker received a grant from the Brooklyn Arts Council to further develop and produce Every Fold Matters.

It wasn’t long before the hybrid documentary partnership with Sachs organically emerged; the two women live within a block of each other and have a number of mutual friends in the arts, but had never collaborated before. Sachs, currently a Guggenheim Fellow, usually works as an adjunct professor at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, where Olesker also teaches. The piece now incorporates elements of documentary film, contemporary dance and movement, and sound design by musician and aural artist Stephen Vitiello.

Although its form—as well as content—is still evolving, the play has already come far from the initial conception of basing the script on documentary interviews with laundry workers. “Initially we hoped to record video interviews with them, all over the city,” remarked Olesker. But this quickly proved difficult. Many workers refused to speak to them at all—adding a camera into the equation was even more off-putting. There was a language barrier, too. Many of the workers they spoke with had limited English vocabularies, often restricted to terminology surrounding laundry. A conversation about a broken machine is more possible than candid conversations about their past, their most bizarre experiences on the job, and general reflections on the work they do and the people whose clothes they wash. Bringing in a Chinese translator allowed Olesker and Sachs new levels of access at some laundromats, establishing trust and eliciting stories. But it still wasn’t enough to get more than a handful of laundry workers to go on tape.

Even with full communication possible, the majority of the workers were tight lipped. Whether for fear of repercussions from management, mistrust of how their stories would be used, or reticence as a code of conduct, the reluctance was so widespread it was itself indicative of something about the job. This spirit of refusal is wound throughout the piece in recurring sequences of chaos, in which the denials are spoken simultaneously by multiple actors, in three languages; one doesn’t need a translator to understand they’re saying no.

Olesker and Sachs decided to continue pursuing the interviews, but without the camera. “We couldn’t record the interviews, but we could listen,” said Sachs. Their notes and impressions fueled the hybrid documentary-fiction nature of the script—a visceral compilation of the human stories which unfold during the minutiae of domestic work, in which there is no shortage of conflict.

Customers are displeased with a worker’s ability to get out a tough stain. They make a scene and refuse to pay. Others accuse the laundress of theft. And the infighting doesn’t end between customer and worker. The customer versus customer interactions are equally fraught and can escalate quickly. The play opens on two customers battling over the use of a dryer: Customer ONE’s clothes were removed by Customer TWO. Unacceptable. Customer ONE retakes the dryer, hauling out the offending load, still dripping wet. The dryer is still contested. “It doesn’t belong to you!” cries Customer TWO. “Or you!” retorts the first.

Instead of having discrete characters, the four actors each inhabit multiple characters and are named with numbers: ONE, TWO, THREE, and FOUR, to be played by acclaimed performers Ching Valdes-Aran, Veraalba Santa, Tony Torn, and Jasmine Holloway, respectively. As co-directors, Sachs and Olesker are working with the four to build a vocabulary of movement and gesture for the work with clothing. Beginning with the routine of folding clothes, their movements swell into the theatrical—and then shrink back into realism.

As the actors inhabit the language of the piece, they bring their own experiences to it—and to the script. Jasmine Holloway, who plays FOUR, recollected during the process that her grandmother worked as a washerwoman. Encouraged by Sachs and Olesker to ask her about her experiences, and despite her grandmother’s initial reluctance, Holloway learns that her grandmother is a third generation washerwoman—her great-great grandmother was a member of a groundbreaking movement in Atlanta during the summer of 1881 by African-American women to unionize the underpaid, overworked washerwomen, organizing as “The Washing Society.” They wouldn’t have the vote for another 40 years, but their strike was a success; it would become a seminal moment in labor history. Primary sources describing their efforts are now incorporated into the script and, as FOUR, Holloway portrays the ghost of a washerwoman past for much of the show.

The ghost of “The Washing Society” provides a historical context for the piece, balancing it against the absurd, often cruel, altercations which take place inside the present-day laundromat. The legacy of domestic work, the issues surrounding power, and the exchange of money for services are all potent themes which rise to the surface and bubble over in dramatic, thrilling escalations of the everyday. A laundromat is a public space where something private occurs; it is the opposite of a typical theater, a private space in which a public event occurs. Nearly every element of Every Fold Matters pushes the boundaries of what is private and what is public, what is real and what is fiction, and where we find narrative fulfillment in any of the above.

There is an undeniable intimacy forged between strangers in the process of the clothes being cleaned, but it’s not often acknowledged. “All you get is their name and their bag of dirty stuff” says TWO, in reflection. “It’s a personal thing, if you think about it. […] You can tell someone’s story just by what they’ve worn, how it’s dirty—you know?” And more revelations abound in the clothing designated as “special” by customers—endowed with emotional meaning for whatever reason. “I wonder what special really means?” TWO muses. “It’s really special,’ they’ll say. It means be careful with it or else.” But the feats of the laundry workers do not always go unappreciated.“My customers count on me,” says another worker. “They think we do magic.”

That magic is present throughout Every Fold Matters, from the clothesline peppered with miniature garments, pulled out of an actor’s pocket, to the collisions of printed words on clothing in a magnetic poetry-esque sequence, created by local painter Jessica Weiss. As FOUR says, no longer a ghost, but as herself remembering her grandmother’s words: Listen! I am passing this down to you. […] Take your time. Make every fold matter.” These are words to live by at the laundromat and perhaps everywhere beyond: It matters. Every single fold.

Every Fold Matters, created by Lizzie Olesker and Lynne Sachs, produced by Emily Rubin, will be performed Feb 12 – 14 at 8:30 pm, at New Lucky Laundromat (323 Lafayette Ave, at Grand Ave in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn). Suggested donation $10. Seating will be limited.

Contributor

Ginny Mohler GINNY MOLHER is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker, writer and archival researcher. With creative partner Brittany Shaw, she is currently developing Radium Girls, a Sloan award-winning feature film about radical teenage sisters in 1925