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Curtain Goes Up on Punk Theater

By Jonathan Padget
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 23, 2004; Page C01

It's an odd intersection of passions -- punk rock and classical theater. And Marcus Kyd's credentials in both are equally impressive: seven years as a guitarist and singer in local band the Most Secret Method, and an MFA from the Shakespeare Theatre's Academy for Classical Acting at George Washington University.

So when Kyd describes his vision for Taffety Punk Theatre Company, a new ensemble he's launched, it's intriguing.

Marcus Kyd in "The Devil in His Own Words," a production by his new theater company, Taffety Punk. (Jay Westcott)

"I wanted to bring what I learned in punk rock to the theater," says Kyd, 33, who grew up in Suitland. "The energy in a punk show can be overwhelming. I've only experienced that a few times in the theater, and it shouldn't have to be exclusive. I want to bring those two worlds together."

Taffety Punk (more on the name later) made its debut this month at Artomatic, and followed up Monday at the Black Cat with a staged reading of "The Devil in His Own Words," an exploration of the nature of Satan using texts from different centuries. Kyd, balancing Taffety Punk with other acting gigs -- he's fresh off a critically acclaimed run in "One Good Marriage" at MetroStage -- compiled the "Devil" script and portrayed the title role.

The company's next project gets punkier, if you will: staged readings next month of three plays with live rock music. Sam Shepard's "The Tooth of Crime" and Adam Rapp's "Finer Noble Gases" feature characters who are rock performers, while Kyd intends to transform the king's band of men in Shakespeare's "Love's Labour's Lost" into, well, a band.

An audience of about 50 turned out for Taffety Punk's performance Monday in the Black Cat's intimate Backstage venue.

"I don't usually go to theater," Coburn Dukehart said after the show. "It's an interesting change of pace." Dukehart, 29, said she heard about Taffety Punk by word of mouth and found Monday's event appealing because it was in a venue she associates with punk music.

Lawrence Biemiller, 46, often searches out alternative theater. "Theater demographics in this town are terrifying," he said. "You go to Arena Stage and it's people on walkers. If theater is going to survive, it better be something like this at Black Cat."

Oh, and what about that funky name?

"Taffety punk" appears in Shakespeare's "All's Well That Ends Well" and means, as Kyd puts it, "a well-dressed whore." He once read that famed acting teacher Uta Hagen lamented that actors have become whores pimping themselves to producers.

"When I found out the word 'punk' was that old, I got really excited."

To learn more about Taffety Punk Theatre Company, call 202-261-6612 or visit www.taffetypunk.com.

Chestnuts, Roasting

"E-B-E-N-E-Z-E-R. Ebenezer!"

Well, whaddya know. There are indeed the same number of letters in "Ebenezer" and "Oklahoma," and by golly you can switch the words right out in the famous show tune of the latter name if you're so inclined.

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