Spotlight on the Artist: Mitch Stripling

Could you talk about yourself as an artist?

Well mostly what I do is put on all black clothes, stare into a roaring fire, and stay up night after night after night vomiting on myself, until the next creative idea strikes me.

Oh, lovely. How did the conception of Jubilee come about?

It started many years ago when I was a senior in high school. I came across this dusty old newspaper clipping about why raves were illegal in some states. And this eventually became part of the dialogue of Jubilee. So then I just wanted to do a show with a big party in it for a long time. And then I started looking into interactive theatre and researching it. Directing Jubilee was really easy because the show is all about letting your actors have free rein. I wish I could work on it forever with these people. Maybe if someone out there gives me several million dollars then I’ll be fine. Those rich alums out there. (Editor’s note: Those rich alums out there should donate money to Mitch Stripling.)

Can you talk about what else you’ve done?

I do lots of acting. Last year I wrote my first multiple character play, it was called “Sans Culottes.” It was about people with guns and stuff. I have a gun fetish. Right now I’m doing an independent study and I’m writing a one person show about the crucifixion. I’m putting it on in May. So, I’m trying to always have another show.

Tell me about your one person show.

The one I’m writing now is about the crucifixion. It’s gonna be like the third person story; I’m just gonna see if I can tell a story for an hour and a half, and keep people entertained. If I can’t, then that’ll be really bad. If I can, then it’ll be good. It’ll be funny.

So what are the challenges of being an artist?

As a theatre artist I guess. . .(facetiously) ‘as a theatre artist.’

Wearing black.

Yes, and vomiting on myself. The hardest part is really sensing what the audiences expectations are gonna be. I feel like the point of art is just take the audience from wherever it is, wherever it might be and then to take it someplace else. I guess someplace better, however you say better in this day and age, after it’s over with. And so, from the start I always have to think, how is my audience going to react to what I do. Are they gonna laugh here, are they gonna cry here, are they gonna think I’m just really stupid here? The challenge for me is always trying to sink them where they are, so you can hold up a mirror to them. And then, which a lot of people just stop there, the second part is to move them, and take them somewhere else, which is highly manipulative. But art is manipulative by nature. And so is preaching, and I’m kind of into both of those. . . So they end up creating their own story in the course of it, which is what I think art’s about. Like, you encounter the piece, and you create the story, and that’s what makes the arts something that really can change lives, or affect things.

What other artistic endeavors could you see yourself doing?

You mean like in my life? I don’t know, I like talking. I’ve written some fiction, I’ve done some visual arts stuff, I’ve done some radio dramas, I’ve done some live talk shows, I’ve done some recorded stuff, video work, I don’t know. But nothing thrills me like being on stage in front of an audience. Or being with an audience. I guess ideally I’d like to reach the point of being with an audience without being on stage, without the protection that that offers, but still be able to go with them someplace.

Isn’t that what it’s like to be an artist? To have that drive?

I don’t know. That’s such a weird thing. I have no idea what it’s like to be an artist. All I know is what it’s like to be a Mitch, and I only know that like half the time.

Do you view yourself as an artist?

I think artist is too loaded of a term nowadays. I think people say artist, and immediately you’re sectioned off. It’s like artist versus pop culture, and I think that’s bad. I would rather not be an artist, and be a person who does stuff that people like. If people call me an artist, okay, and if they don’t it’s probably better. Being called an artist is dangerous, and it leads to stuff I just don’t want

Is there anything that you prefer to be called?

I always wanted to be called a bard. I thought that had a nice Celtic ring to it, but they just don’t have those anymore. So just call me Mitch and I’ll probably be happy.