Willem Dafoe Recalls ‘Strippergram’ Experimental Theater Performance: It Was a ‘Gag’
ManOfTheCenturyMovie News Willem Dafoe Recalls ‘Strippergram’ Experimental Theater Performance: It Was a ‘Gag’

Willem Dafoe Recalls ‘Strippergram’ Experimental Theater Performance: It Was a ‘Gag’



Willem Dafoe Recalls ‘Strippergram’ Experimental Theater Performance: It Was a ‘Gag’

Willem Dafoe once got down and dirty for the sake of art.

The “Inside” and “Poor Things” actor recalled during the “Smartless” podcast an experimental theater piece titled “Hula” that he performed with New York City’s The Wooster Group troupe in 1982.

Dafoe explained that the group “needed to do something light and easy” after director Elizabeth LeCompte lost her father. Dafoe and his co-stars “took an old Hawaiian record from the ’50s — really corny, y’know, Hawaiian music — and we got some grass skirts and some leis, and someone painted a backdrop, and we invented these dances, we just made them up, and we’d do the dances to this music, you know?”

He continued, “The gag was, to make it stick, under our grass skirts, we weren’t wearing anything, so it was two men and a woman, and she was also not wearing anything, and bare-breasted. So we did this show, it was very popular, it was a little chamber piece, but very popular.”

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So popular, in fact, that Dafoe received a request for a custom private performance.

“They offered us, like, I can’t remember, like a thousand bucks apiece, and at that time, we were all really poor, (so) that was like ‘Wow! Yeah, we can do that,’” he said. “So we went to this party. We got dressed in the toilet, and then we came out without the set, only with the music, and with our non-costumes, and we did this dance. And at the end, people started coming up and saying, ‘OK, let’s go! Come with me!’”

Dafoe added, “They thought we were, like, a strippergram and then some!”

And decades later, Dafoe is still opting for experimental techniques for his film roles. The star went to mortician school for Yorgos Lanthimos’ Frankenstein-inspired “Poor Things” and even let co-star Emma Stone slap him 20 times for Lanthimos’ “AND.”

Dafoe’s “Gonzo Girl” co-star Camila Morrone recently revealed that she and Dafoe were encouraged to do “trust exercises and crazy experimental rehearsals” by first-time feature director Patricia Arquette.

“Willem is such an experienced artist. I just thought, ‘How the hell am I going to show up with these professionals and make them proud?’” Morrone said. “I saw them both the first day and said, ‘You guys, I’m so terrified and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing so please just bear with me while I figure it out.’ Patricia put me and Willem in a rehearsal room and we did trust exercises and crazy experimental rehearsals.”

Morrone added, “We broke the ice on the first day. I walked into rehearsal and she was like, ‘Will and Cami, let’s do this.’ And we just started doing the hardest scenes in the movie, screaming, chasing each other around to loosen up and get comfortable. I learned just by watching Willem. It’s freak-of-nature how good that man is at connecting.”

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