Clara Tristan just wants to have fun!

Interview by JEN BUSH

Clara Tristan is an intuitive artist who is always looking to understand and expand her instrument.  She has recently found freedom in her work that she hadn’t experienced before.  “I finally feel unapologetically myself which has helped me bring all the fun and creativity to the roles that I play.”

She has plenty of opportunities to have fun in Sarah Elisabeth Brown’s  send-up of S&M mores in Sassafras & The Captain, revived for the 2022 Fresh Fruit “Return to Live” Theatre Festival for a limited run: Thursday May 5 @ 6:00 p.m.; Friday, May 6 @ 8:45 p.m.; Sunday, May 8 @ 1:00 p.m.; at The WILD PROJECT, 195 East 3rd Street, NYC.  

When Sassafras, a role-playing submissive femme dyke, decides she wants to become a top, she upends her steady relationship with teddy-bear butch Captain Lou, and brings an old flame, the roguishly handsome boundary-pushing masochist Micky Penny, into the mix for an experiment in non-monogamy. Chaos ensues as Sassafras practices new skills of dominance, faces competition from the unassuming southern belle 50’s housewife next door, and gets schooled by the supreme Goddess of been-there-done-that, Mistress Chelsea. Can this young couple grow their love big enough to include these new elements? Or will they be shipwrecked on the sea of dyke drama? It remains – to be seen! 

Sarah Brown’s uproarious play has been reworked for this new production. Sassafras was made into the award-winning 2004 film, Mango Kiss 

Clara and I chatted, and I learned more about her artistic journey and this fun and fascinating play she is currently in.

What drew you to this project? 

I was drawn to the playwright’s vision of the piece. I was fascinated with a world where the S/M role playing culture was being embraced and how it was being explored. It wasn’t just sexual. It was Emotional/Psychological power play. This involves more emphasis on words, facial expressions, body language, and other more subtle forms of dominance and submission or role play. Examples of this role playing power dynamic are “teacher-student” or “doctor-patient”; and in the case of this piece: “Captain-Princess”!

What is your creative process? 

I began this process by doing research on the time, place and specifically on the culture where this play takes place. I believe that the more research I do and the more I understand the moments of the piece, the more I can freely play when it’s ACTION time.

Do you find a sense of added responsibility when dealing with plays that tackle serious, mature, or timely subject matter? 

Absolutely. Although I truly believe that the vision for this show is to have fun with it. Sarah has a note on the style of the piece at the top of the script; she says that the moment the “playful elements of the play are ignored, the production runs the risk of becoming a droll exercise in relationship processing – which misses the point.” I connect to this.

What’s so good about off-off Broadway/indie theater? 

I love the intimacy, the strong sense of community and how raw and daring it is! They are willing to take risks that other theaters are not willing to take.

It’s obvious the world is steadily reopening. What do you feel is different now than before pandemic? Another thought: what should be different now than before pandemic? 

One of the positive things that came from the pandemic is that the obligation to be physically present changed, creating opportunities for actors to be part of projects that are happening in different places, different states and different countries. I sincerely hope that this is here to stay.

 What’s next for you? 


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