In the past five years, the ubiquitous Wau Wau Sisters (pronounced vow vow), Tanya Gagne and Adrienne Truscott, have developed a cult following with their mad mix of circus, burlesque, comedy and music, wowing downtown audiences at Joes Pub, P.S. 122, CBGBs, Bowery Poetry Club, The Knitting Factory and Brooklyns Galapagos Art Space. This month theyve added uptowns Arts Nova to their schedule, and theyre psyched to bring downtown fans with them as they tackle Off Broadway. Between rehearsals recently, the duo chatted up a storm about their upcoming gig.
DS: Are you two really sisters?
TG: Were actually half-sisters. We grew up separately, and re-met in our early teens. Coincidentally, both of us did theater from childhood, majored in performing arts in college and had formal training in gymnastics, dance and circus. All three of our parents are pretty athletic, which maybe had something to do with it.
DS: Why did you decide to form a sister act?
AT: Wed been together in the same performing community-Circus Amok, Lava, etc. We formed the act because we wanted to do so many things at once. We write songs and play music, guitar and drums especially, but we dabble in other instruments, like tambourine, uke, piano, anything we can get our hands on. We do circus-both aerial and floor skills- comedy, vaudeville skits, and we make our costumes, props and set design. So what else could we do, but make an act out of it all?
DS: What exactly do you do?
TG: We have over 60 different acts we draw from. We started this repertoire with a weekly show at Galapagos from 2000 to 2003, and we didnt want to do the same act twice. It was a variety of comedy and burlesque, plus during the show we serve people food, like deviled eggs and squeeze cheese. Some of our shows are thematic, but mostly theyre free-for-alls. For music based venues, we do all music, but end with a skill act, and we do music with circus shows. Theres always something unexpected.
DS: How did you come up with Wau Wau?
AT: Its an ongoing, happy accident. Originally, a friend was talking about a Brecht play where a strong man was called Mr. Wau. People follow him around, all making merry. Linguistically, its tied to vaudeville, and we found out its the name of Merle Haggards dog. And then of course, because everyone mispronounces it.
DS: Is this show newly merry and grand?
TG: Yes, oh yes. Were trying to do as many acts as possible in an hour- a smorgasbord- with some repeated work and some original, while still keeping the off the cuff, seat-of- your- pants feel. We have real tech support here, but theres still a spontaneous spirit. The audience will see everything continuously. When we were little, we put on shows for the neighborhood-quite extravagant and often risqué. We still do that.
AG: When were together, we feel pretty invincible and give people the freedom to have fun with us. Were not going for perfection, were up there willing to be vulnerable. I think people admire and relate to that, so theyre able to embrace wherever we go, from aerobics to dog costumes. We invite them along for the ride.
DS: Any special challenges here?
TG: Costume changes in 30 to 60 seconds, and doing advanced acrobatics. Were running around for an hour, all without cocktails. Having a director (Trip Cullman) helps. Its also interesting having an outside eye for a change, and hes been sensitive to coming into an existent thing. We come from a punk rock approach, and hes brought something else, without taking away from who we are.
DS: So what will it all feel like?
TG: Youll be very much in our own world, super-heightened Wau Wau reality, and very bright colors-gaudy stuff- not much thats found in nature. We really hope downtown folks will come up here and bring some bad behavior uptown to color the room. Were tried to make the space not seem like a formal setting, so they can feel free to laugh, interact and be rowdy. And there is a bar after all, with cabaret seating.