Guest blog: The Hot Seat (Andi Ipaktchi)

What of life after Undiscovered Voices? Previous Finalist, Andi Ipaktchi (UV2016), takes a wry look at her journey from illustrator and printmaker to comedy writer and performer in our latest guest blog post.

The Hot Seat

“What are you working on?”

With those five words, our entire dinner table full of artists, writers, actors, and composers fell silent, not just me. Seconds before the question, I was chattering away like a chipmunk. Now I was staring down at my dish. Perhaps a good answer would appear inscribed in the log rings of my roasted parsnips. I could hear someone pouring himself a very, tall glass of wine.

“Well?” the blockhead insisted. He was looking straight at me. He would have addressed me by name, if he had known it, but I was new. I was here to reunite with my friend. We had made plans months ago to and now she was seated right next to me.

I waved my napkin to my mouth to feign a mouth full of food and looked at the actors. Surely, they would be happy to talk about themselves? But they just stared back. My friend tapped my boot heel with hers.  She was on to me. I didn’t have a good answer for the blockhead and she knew it.

The truth was that we had shown up at the arts residency together because we brought out the best in each other. We liked volleying stories back and forth while the other diners fueled us with their laughter. In fact, they were the ones who encouraged us to return to write it all down.

She is a short story writer; I’m an illustrator and printmaker. We had returned to create a comedy of some kind, or another. Maybe a scripted sketch for Youtube. Or a podcast. Or a cartoon strip. Or why not a play? Or a live performance for kids.. or a Tiktok dance for old people. But definitely not a book. (Or maybe a book.) We had no idea, but we were there to figure that part out.

It had felt like a pretty solid plan, but now I felt exposed. Naïve. Foolish.

Being asked too soon into the creative process, “what are you working on?”  can feel like a stranglehold on a newborn’s neck. I wanted to give him a simple but satisfying answer so he would move on. Being too vague might sound coy and incite even morequestions. I stopped chewing and put my napkin down on my lap.

“My partner and I are taking a leap of faith that our combined creative energies will transform into something artistically viable.” But I didn’t say that because only a twit would talk like that.

Instead, my partner piped in. She blew across her green tea and said, “We’re working on something together.” (She has such a way with words, doesn’t she?)

“Like a creative collaboration?” asked the blockhead.

“Yes. A creative collaboration.” And that was enough. He was satisfied. He stabbed a small potato with his knife and popped it into his mouth.

Each evening at dinner, our collaboration process drew more interest than the project itself. We became a two-headed monster novelty. Our project began to take form.  Our stories began to volley back and forth across the table once again. (Even the blockhead laughed.)

A year later, we have written Season 1 of our audio comedy about a house full of international guests and staff at an arts residency in rural Ireland. But you probably want to know more about the collaboration. I’d tell you, but I can’t. There is no way to explain it, without sounding like a twit.

So, tell me… What are you working on?

Andi Ipaktchi is an American illustrator, printmaker, comedy writer and performer. She is an illustration graduate from Parsons School of Design. Since Undiscovered Voices 2016, she continues to exhibit her prints and paint. In 2021, she co-wrote and co-directed a scripted, audio comedy with Aoibheann McCannn called: RETREAT (Another Painful Irish Family History) due out in the autumn.  She encourages the UV community to contact her when travelling to Paris to take her famous Deux Centime, French, kid-lit tour. Her family really doesn’t mind.

Photos of Andi Ipatchi thanks to Noura Gauper.