BY DEBBIE TUMA & CARTER RANDOLPH TYLER
June 24, 2018
Kate Mueth’s Neo-Political Cowgirls and other inspired programs are injecting east end kids with theatre, and confidence
The Neo-Political Cowgirls is a not-for-profit, professional dance theater company in its 11th year performing throughout Montauk, the Hamptons, off-Broadway, and internationally. Its founder and creative director, Kate Mueth, is on a mission to educate and enlighten people through the arts. She’s succeeding, and Montauk is fortunate to have her stationed locally.
When asked what “Neo-Political Cowgirls” means, she explained, “It means a kind of new politics—getting everyone’s voice at the table. We like to dig deep and explore the faces of humanity that people don’t want to look at. Our group is provocative, honest, fearless, free, wildly visual, and unapologetically sensual.”
Kate also created and runs several education programs focused on empowering young people, especially girls. Her Young Cowgirls workshops for 8-12-year-old girls run for 10 weeks and are rooted in theater and movement. “We help girls find their voices, giving them courage to develop their passions so they can serve their communities,” says Mueth. “Young girls are sometimes either internalized or bombastic, the extremes…we try to help them become better listeners and communicators, and to find empathy.”
Mueth, who hails originally from Illinois but has lived in the east end for 18 years, says that her philosophy of how to educate young girls is “very process-based, focusing on the process-making of the work, rather than the end product. It’s devised theater, meaning you create it in the rehearsal process,” she explained.
Georgia Flight, of Montauk, had her two daughters, Scarlett and Bea, attend recent Young Cowgirls workshops. “The experience was very empowering for my daughters. Kate’s lightness on the reigns might seem unorthodox for some adults but the kids really need it. Rather than being told what to do, the girls learn that their thoughts and ideas are powerful and valid, which really builds confidence.”
Kate recently created another program, for boys, called Dudes Eye View, where East Hampton High School boys are guided through group exercises in writing, conversations, and creative thought that culminates in each participant creating a video of their ideas stemming from their time together. “I created this pilot program because I was getting emails from various people asking what workshops and programs we had for boys. As the mother of a teenage son, I know the challenges and fears held by parents in searching for a place for their son to grow confident, feel out-in-the-world support, and to further strengthen his voice.”
Dudes Eye View debuted last May in collaboration with the Hamptons International Film Festival and Guild Hall to great fanfare, including a Q&A session afterwards hosted by Sawyer Spielberg (Yes, Steven’s son) and a chat with the workshop participants about their films.
Kate has a hyperlocal focus on the east end, a place she truly loves, despite occasional travel abroad to sow her passion. Indeed, this summer, the Neo-Political Cowgirls are doing a production called “Baubo” at 3rd House in Montauk, August 14-18. Kate says it is “very music-driven, featuring silk aerialists and color guard flags as part of the moving scenery. It encompasses text, the spoken word, gymnastics, dance and whatever we need to tell the story. All the dancers are seated on the ground, as the story happens all around you.”
She also has a production every winter called Zima, which is a sort of theatrical scavenger hunt, most recently held in Montauk on 3rd House’s expansive grounds and previously throughout the businesses and landmarks of downtown Montauk. It is open to anyone who wants to participate. Everyone bundles up and, with clues in hand, searches for extravagantly clad, well-hidden actors and actresses, ultimately solving a clever riddle.
“We’re always looking for new ways for audiences to experience our theatrical productions,” said Mueth. “We love the unpredictable, and with the Cowgirls you can expect the unexpected.” For example, in a recent production she used a barn, around which the audience moved from window to window to watch the scenes progress—in what Mueth calls “voyeur.”
Mueth, who has taken her plays to Helsinki, Berlin, and off-Broadway, said her work is about understanding that art can pop up anywhere, something that “keeps our imagination fluid and active,” she proclaims.
“We’re also very social justice-focused,” said Mueth. “We had our annual fundraiser on June 28 at Guild Hall in East Hampton, which helped bring more attention to charitable organizations that serve women and families.” It included a garden party and evening performances of one-act plays written by women. Mueth pulled in some high profile performers this year, including Aida Turturo from the Sopranos, Cathy Curtin from “Orange is the New Black”, “Stranger Things” and “Homeland”, and Ellen Dolan, daytime soap star on “As the World Turns” and “Guiding Light.”
For more information, check out npcowgirls.org.