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November 2, 2021
ON WITH THE SHOW: Zoë Geltman on her new show ‘Puffy Hair’ and the acting/writing connection

As live, in-person theatre returns to the greatest city in the world, we're spotlighting the NYC theatre artists who make it all happen. Today's spotlight is on Zoë Geltman, whose new one-woman show Puffy Hair uses stand-up to send up the male gaze.

Zoë Geltman in Puffy Hair. Credit: Sammy Tunis.

What do you do in the theatre world?

I’m a performer and a writer. I think I’m an actor who writes, rather than a writer who acts. Because performing is so central to who I am. I used to tell people that I started putting myself in my plays because it was too painful to watch them from the audience, but I think that’s sort of a cop out. Really I perform in my own work because I feel this essential need to scream out the things I maybe don’t allow myself to let out in real life. I guess I need to filter it all through my own body, and not just other people’s bodies, for the catharsis to work.

What’s one part of your job that might surprise people?

That most of the time I’m doing other things. I used to be upset about “day jobs.” And of course, listen, I wouldn’t be mad about making money solely off of acting and writing—don’t get me wrong. But I now realize that the thing I do most of every week, the thing I do to support the acting and writing, is actually often what inspires my work and forces me out into the world and into interacting with people and into situations where I get the opportunity to observe people and myself.

What was the last live production you worked on before the theatre shutdown?

I performed in a workshop of Julia May Jonas’ A Woman Among Women at the beginning of February 2020 in the New Georges Room. This play was supposed to have a production in the fall of 2020, in rep with four other plays in Jonas’ cycle, All Long True American Stories, an epic play cycle that reimagines canonical American male-experience plays for other people, mainly women. I’ve been involved in the workshopping and developing of this play for almost 5 years. I am very much looking forward to finally doing it—and the whole cycle—and getting it the audience it deserves!

What was your quarantine hobby?

Oh dear. Lots of things that are not super productive and are sort of embarrassing, but that I guess kept me from drowning: Doing lots of crossword puzzles; becoming obsessed with this one YouTube pilates lady and needing to do her videos every day; walking miles and miles and miles around different Brooklyn neighborhoods; meeting up with Julia (director of PUFFY HAIR) at McCarren or Domino Park almost every other week and commiserating about the state of the world, but also getting excited about collaborations; constructing an elaborate morning ritual that consisted of at least 2 hours of reading and coffee time and sitting by my kitchen window. At one point, early on in lockdown, I made bagels and challah and lots of different cookies. I also read a lot. Madame Bovary—it’s so good! Who knew?? Just kidding. We all knew.

What was your first show back?

I saw Kaaron Briscoe’s play Lost and Found directed by Meghan Finn at this dock down by the South Street Seaport in May 2021. It was this sort of indoor-outdoor set-up with piles of New York detritus and memorabilia all over the set and this story of a person searching for a memory to save her relationship with her partner. It felt very special and extremely strange to walk through the grand, empty Wall Street streets to get to this loading dock to see a play about a memory and tentatively hug people I hadn’t seen in a year and a half. After the play, Meghan said, “Let’s talk about you doing something at The Tank” and the idea of doing PUFFY HAIR this fall sparked quietly in my heart.

What show are you working on now? 

PUFFY HAIR at The Tank, November 4th-20th!

What would you tell people to encourage them to come see it?

Have you ever felt uncomfortable in your body? Have you ever chafed against societal expectations of what you look like, or think, or feel, or do? Have you ever wanted to scream under the weight of those pressures? Have you ever clogged a toilet and panicked? Do you like sequins and/or wigs? Then this is the show for you.

What’s a new or returning show you’re not involved with that you’re excited to see?

Very excited to see Antelope Party by Eric John Mayer as well as Emily Zemba’s Superstitions. Also Peter Mills Weiss and Julia Mounsey’s while you were partying at Soho Rep and Jocelyn Bioh’s Nollywood Dreams at MCC.

What aspect of your job are you most excited to get back into?

Performing! God, I miss it so much. Striding around a stage, having full command of an audience. Having them laugh at something I say or do??! But also being part of a team! This show, PUFFY HAIR, is a one-woman show, but it’s such a collaborative effort between me and Julia and Enver, the set and costume designer, and Sarah Lurie, our lighting designer, and Lenyn, our stage manager, and The Tank, who’ve been so awesome during this whole process. It’s corny, but it really warms my heart (although it also stresses it out) to be working towards something together with a bunch of other people. 

Directed by Julia Sirna-Frest, Puffy Hair runs Nov 4-20, Thursday through Saturday, at 7pm at The Tank (312 W 36th Street, Manhattan). Tickets are now on sale at www.thetanknyc.orgWatch the teaser below.

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Written by: Erin Kahn
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