The world premiere reading of Rachel Music’s Hiding In Sanity: A Tragicomedy, directed by Courtney Ulrich, is coming up on July 11 as part of Bonfire Series. Check out an interview with Rachel below to learn more about her inspiration for this project and why you don’t need “nerd cred” to get this particular narrative.
And reserve your seat now for Hiding in Sanity: A Tragicomedy, July 11, 7:30PM, South Oxford Space (138 S. Oxford St., Brooklyn.
Pipeline Theatre Company: What do you want us to know about your play?
Rachel Music: Hiding in Sanity: A Tragicomedy looks at the origin of Gotham’s craziest power couple. The Joker’s on-again, off-again, off-her-rocker girlfriend Harley Quinn used to be a psychiatrist. His psychiatrist. The show reads between the comic panels and shows a violent and darkly funny descent into the mind of a criminal and the heart of the woman who loves him.
PTC: When and where did you decide to start writing this play?
RM: About a year ago I was having some crazy writer’s block. I was broke, I was stressed, my life was like a fart. I didn’t have the bandwidth to read novels, so I picked up some of the recent Batman comics by Scott Snyder. I was pulling an all-nighter with my fiance and talking about Harley Quinn. She’s featured a lot in the comics, but her character is younger than I am, in a franchise over 75 years old. She’s still a baby! We’re talking about her history, before Dr. Harleen Quinzel became Harley Quinn, and I’m asking all these questions that I realize haven’t been answered. Here’s a brilliant doctor who is systematically broken down and reinvented by her patient. Even outside the comic book universe that story is fascinating to me; it deserved so much more than an episode of Batman: The Animated Series or a cut scene in Arkham Origins. Then he just looks at me and says, “so write that story, dummy.” The show started as fan fiction and snowballed into something a lot bigger than that. In order to paint this realistic picture, finding out what it would take for this kind of transformation in the real world, the show starts exploring all this other material — the nature of trauma, narcissism, power struggles, even the state of mental health care. It became weirdly clear that I was uniquely qualified to write this show–I studied abnormal psychology and child development, I’m a big advocate for mental health reform, and from working as a Dominatrix I have a hands-on knowledge of power exchange and sadomasochism. It was perfect to snap myself out of that funk, and it became urgent. I am aware of how melodramatic this sounds, but I felt like I had made this pact; I couldn’t abandon it and I couldn’t half-ass it because it’s precious cargo.
PTC: What excites you most about this project?
RM: I always have trouble with this. If I start I get on a roll and I come off like a reeeeal comic book nerd, which is fine, but I’m always worried that it will turn people off from the project, like I’m trying to be exclusive or write for a niche audience of mega-fans. The impetus to write the show actually came from the opposite feeling. I came to comics comparatively late and I wanted to honor this couple in their own story, in a grounded narrative that doesn’t require all this “nerd cred,” for lack of a better term. What has been consistently exciting is that I did months of research for this, and I like to think that I did this world a lot of justice, and that the interpretation is a loving one, but after all of the details and Easter eggs in there, I got to let that go and watch half the audience enjoy this story outside of any comic context without feeling left out, and the other half get really excited over a Jason Todd reference or a nod to Alan Moore.
I actually started writing the show before Suicide Squad was even announced. At first I was terrified, thinking that my perfect window had passed, but it’s really a great thing. They are taking their relationship in a justifiable but totally different direction, and the whole aesthetic is different (and divisive, if you remember that Jared Leto picture). The beauty of these universes is that they can be remarkably open to interpretation. Sometimes that means retconning a whole backstory or gender-swapping a character, but sometimes it just means that writers take a different look at a well-loved element. Amanda Connor and her husband Jimmy Palmiotti are doing some incredible things with the Harley Quinn comics–they’re set in Coney Island and they’re kooky as hell. Going back to her beginnings and taking a much darker turn, it feels like joining this community, this genre- and generation-spanning fan club.
PTC: In one sentence, tell us something strange that happens in your play.
RM: A dead cat becomes a cameo.
PTC: Are you working on anything else?
When I’m not writing or personal assistant-ing, I’m the lead singer and lyricist of Oh! Mega!, a five piece rock band. Really fun eclectic stuff. We play shows all over the city and have a new EP out. We’re actually playing a midnight show after the reading on July 11th at Desmond’s Tavern (433 Park Ave. South). Other than that I’m working on a pilot based on my time working in the dungeon and a Hipster-Western rock opera called The Billyburg Kid.
PTC: Two truths and a lie, go:
RM: My mom dated Ray Parker Jr., aka the Ghostbusters theme song guy.
I worked with a man who confessed to murdering the doctor who botched his wife’s surgery.
My dad used to be a roadie for Air Supply.
PTC: What’s next for you?
RM: Oh! Mega! is planning a tour.
The Hive NYC Collective is workshopping Obsolete Bird, my post-humanism play about robots, plastic surgery, and a love triangle.
I’m moving in with my bassist and his girlfriend and their cat and my fiancé and our French Bulldog, Beemo, where I shall perfect my recipe for sweet potato bacon hash.
About Hiding in Sanity: A Tragicomedy
by Rachel Music | directed by Courtney Ulrich
July 11, 7:30PM
138 S. Oxford St., Brooklyn
Reserve Your Seat
Over 20 years ago in Gotham City, a young doctor forged a dangerous alliance with a known killer; the rest is comic book history. Hiding In Sanity explores between the panels and reimagines the sessions of The Joker with his devoted psychologist and her inevitable transformation. 46 Grounding both characters in a stark reality, the show both asks and answers questions about their twisted affair. 64 Part origin story, part psychological thriller, and part sick romantic comedy, Hiding In Sanity paints a portrait of mad love for both avid fans and the uninitiated.