Beginning Tuesday, August 14, the Neo-Political Cowgirls will be performing “Baubo,” a live, 90-minute performance that combines aerialists, dance, music, and text. The show will run nightly, at 7:30 p.m., through August 18 and will take place at the Montauk County Park.
Founder and artistic director Kate Mueth established the Neo-Political Cowgirls 11 years ago, a project she defined as “creating new content in the theater … to offer roles for women.” Mueth, a working actor who trained with Shakespeare and Company as well as Circle in the Square, was beginning to feel disillusioned by her industry. “I sunk my time and my life and my passion into the life of theater and I was like: it should be more joyous than this,” she said. “The path we choose in our life should be pleasant.” When her husband accepted the position of artistic director at East Hampton’s Guild Hall, Mueth moved to the East End and shifted her focus from acting to creating.
With a newborn in tow — her son, August, will be attending Emerson College in the fall — Mueth’s priorities changed. She brought her infant son to rehearsals and continued to commute to the city for occasional work. Eventually, however, she harnessed the desire to make something that was her own.
“As the years have gone by,” she said, “the work has become more defined. People who follow us know that what we present and what we create is unexpected, it’s not something you’re going to see anywhere else on this end of Long Island.” Performances put on by the Neo-Political Cowgirls are, indeed, unexpected, taking place in small and large spaces, multiple buildings and outdoors. Mueth refers to her theater experiences as “nature-inclusive.” With a focus both on mythology and storytelling, Mueth and the Neo-Political Cowgirls weave narratives inspired by Western thought. “A lot of what we talk about is deeply rooted in Jungian work and Joseph Campbell’s philosophy,” she said, referring to Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung and literature professor and mythology academic Joseph Campbell. “I feel that storytelling should be the great equalizer.”
As for “Baubo” itself, the performance, which will only suffer cancellations if it is raining at show time, is the theatrical manifestation of a Greek myth. Known as the Goddess of Mirth, Baubo was bawdy and outwardly sexual, a corporeal, liberated being made famous, mythologically speaking, at least, through her relationship with Demeter, Goddess of the Hearth. When Demeter’s daughter, Persephone, was abducted and brought to Hades and made queen of the underworld, Demeter mourned her loss, searching the earth for her. In this moment of great sadness, Demeter was comforted only by Baubo, who, as legend has it, told the inconsolable mother a raunchy joke. Such is the essence of “Baubo,” Mueth said. “It’s the idea of female humor … she’s like: here I am. I’m not going to apologize that I’m fat, and putrid. For me, it’s about females being truthful about who we are, and truthfully enjoying who we are. And using joy as a way to pull ourselves out of the darkness.”
The performance is both a celebration of women and a celebration of a particular brand of woman, one “who has been very, very subverted.” Of her heroine, Mueth said, “Baubo is, in some ways, while not a direct correlation in Greek mythology, generally the woman who laughs too loud, who tells the dirty joke in public.” The Neo-Political Cowgirls embraces feminism, in all its iterations. Of the name of her theater company, Mueth said that it was designed to invite conversation. If people find the name confusing, she welcomes the dialogue. To her, the Neo-Political Cowgirls signifies “new politics,” where “everyone has a seat at the table.” “I’m working toward finding authenticity,” Mueth said.
Ultimately, Mueth and the Neo-Political Cowgirls seek to push the limits of art and theater. “We love the idea of helping people to be inspired to think that art can and does happen all the time,” Mueth said. “When I make theater, it’s not so much about the zeitgeist. It’s: What’s two feet in front of the zeitgeist? It’s where we wanna be.”
The Neo-Political Cowgirls’ 15-member “Baubo” cast includes four aerialists, executing gravity-defying feats amidst nature. They will perform August 14 through August 18 at Montauk County Park. Attendees are urged to bring blankets, food for picnicking, low-slung chairs, or whatever else they desire for their experience. In lieu of a printed Playbill, Mueth and the Neo-Political Cowgirls will be going green, publishing their cast and cast notes online only. Tickets are $25 in advance ($15 for students and attendees over 68). Tickets will also be available at the door, for $30. For more information on BAUBO and other upcoming performances, please visit www.npcowgirls.org.