The Playwright, Director, and Cast of “Poor People”

The Present Theatre Company presents POOR PEOPLE, written by Lavinia Roberts and directed by Irene KapustinaEven being as into independent theatre as I am, I always seem to miss most of Fringe each year.

Thankfully, I was able to get out to The Kraine with a microphone for just one show in this year’s festival, and had the pleasure of talking with some of the creative people behind this heartbreaking theatrical adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel Poor Folk, here entitled Poor People.

Listen in as the playwright Lavinia Roberts, creator/director Irene Kapustina, and actors Alan Altschuler, Jarrod Zayas, Jennifer Stepanyk, and Eric Doss discuss adaptation, perception, killer mustaches, the difference between “bad guys” and “guys who make terrible choices,” the challenges of putting up a show in a festival, and the relationship between Dostoyevsky’s 1845 St. Petersburg and our 2015 New York City.

“…I really fell in love with Dostoyevsky’s humanist lens, and how perceptive he is about people, and able to really appreciate them for who they are, even when they behave in dubious ways. He has such a beautiful understanding of humanity…it was just such a really exciting world to dive in to…” Continue reading

The Cast and Playwright/Director of “Shakespeare’s Presidential Primary”

Pulse Ensemble Theatre presents Harlem Summer, Shakespeare's Presidential Primary, written and directed by Alexa KellyNo robo-calls.

No obnoxious, omnipresent ads.

No idealistic young campaign workers knocking at your door, interrupting dinner.

Just a good, ol’ fashioned, wholesome (and of course, often antagonistic) debate between some of your favorite Shakespearean characters—Phoebe, Bottom, Malvolio, and Lady Macbeth—as they try to win your vote as candidates in Shakespeare’s Presidential Primary.

On this episode, listen in as the show’s writer/director Alexa Kelly, along with co-conceptualist Brian Richardson (who plays Malvolio), and the rest of the cast of Karim Sekou, Marcia A. Berry, Denise Marie Whalen, Samantha Osborne, Celine Havard, Colleen McGloin, Camille Mazurek, and Michael Gilpin, discuss writing your free summer Shakespeare piece to your convention-hall-like setting, how the audience affects their participatory show, the friendly competition between the candidates/actors, and Chris Christie as an actual ass.

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J. Alphonse Nicholson, Howard L. Craft, and Joseph Megel of “Freight: The Five Incarnations of Abel Green”

Freight: The Five Incarnations of Abel Green, written by Howard L. Craft, directed by Joseph Megel, and featuring J. Alphonse NicholsonPlaywright Howard L. Craft was tasked with creating a 10-minute play based on a work of art from the Ackland Art Museum’s permanent collection, and he chose Slow Down Freight Train, a painting by Rose Piper.

Actor J. Alphonse Nicholson tore into the script with the help of director Joseph Megel—and when it was over, they all wanted more.

So Craft when back to the page, and expanded a short play about a minstrel into an epic of the African American male across the 20th Century in America. That’s all I can really say to describe it: you’ve just got to see it. Seriously, you really should go see this one. It’s powerful, original theatre, and incredibly performed.

And before you go, listen in to this episode of the podcast as Alphonse, Howard, and Joseph discuss finding connections with characters across a century, old souls, chemistry with your collaborators, basketball metaphors for your team, and finding new things with every new incarnation of your production.

“…you live them. You don’t act them. You live them. And this is a piece that allows me to do that. I tell people all the time, ‘I hate acting. But I love living.'”

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Jason Marr and David Mold of Hip to Hip’s “The Merchant of Venice”

Hip to Hip Theatre Company presents Free Shakespeare in the Park 2015 in QueensSummer means free Shakespeare in the Park! But not just Central Park…

Hip to Hip Theatre Company has been bringing the Bard’s classics to parks throughout Queens for years now—and this summer, they’re expanding to the Bronx, to New Jersey, and even to the NY Fringe’s Al Fresco series.

They’re running The Merchant of Venice, which this podcast was able to catch in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, under the Unisphere, in rep with The Merry Wives of Windsor, driving their props, costumes, and modular set around in a box truck and setting up for communities to come and enjoy theatre in their local park. GSAS! tries not to editorialize too much, but I’ve got to say, free, accessible theatre for the public is undoubtedly a really, really great thing.

Listen in as Hip to Hip Artistic Director Jason Marr (who also plays Antonio in Merchant)  and Associate Artistic Director (and director of MerchantDavid Mold discuss creating your own opportunities, tackling kids (for their safety, of course), taking inspiration from your democratic principles, directing for the outdoors, and the beauty of the liveness of theatre out in the community.

“…even though we might have a significant number of people in our audiences who aren’t avid theatre-goers, I think as long as we’re presenting the story in a way that’s really clear, and really intentional, that they’re going to go along on that journey…”

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Jonathan Emerson, Chris Rivera, Serena E. Miller, Christina Sheehan, and V. Orion Delwaterman of “Julius Caesar”

What Dreams May Co and Queens Shakespeare present William Shakespeare's Julius CaesarQuestion 1: In a fallen, dangerous, post-apocalyptic world, what would you do to preserve the state from tyranny?

Question 2: In a difficult independent theatre landscape, what do you do to get a production of a Shakespeare classic mounted, and available to the broadest audience you can?

Answers: If you’re setting William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in that theoretical post-apocalyptic world…well, if you’re reading this blog and listening to this podcast, you probably have a good idea of what happens…

…and why not bring together two Shakespeare-focused companies, What Dreams May Co and Queens Shakespeare Inc., to answer the second posited query, joining forces to bring this new and unique take on the classic to audiences.

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears and listen in as director Chris Rivera, along with actors Jonathan Emerson (Mark Antony), Christina Sheehan (Caius Cassius), Serena E. Miller (Julius Caesar), and V. Orion Delwaterman (Marcus Brutus) discuss sangria, imagining New York City as the only place in the world, talking with your young fans after the show, keeping up your stamina for a longer indy theatre run, and where this play meets Highlander (hint: there can be only one).

“When we set these pieces in a modern world, sometimes there’s a lot of creative work we have to do to make it fit. Not in this case. If you look at the political landscape that we’re in, these sort of things happen all the time…”

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Marina Tempelsman and Niccolo Aeed of “MURDER!”

Marina and Nicco present MURDER! at The PITThis podcast’s affection for all things “radio drama” has been well-documented (see past episodes on All That Fall, three episodes on RadioTheatre’s Lovecraft series, and The Offering for a few examples).

But what we haven’t yet heard on the podcast is a show in that most classic of classic radio genres: the murder-mystery.

Long-time comedy-and-sketch-writing duo Marina & Nicco remedy that, as they bring their comedic sensibilities to the old “group of strangers meet at a strange house for a party, and bodies start to drop” setup—but they’ve got a lot of twists, turns, and laughs for you along the way that are anything but formulaic.

It’s written in a serial format, so there are four different nights of live radio fun, each with two episodes, but never fear if you can’t catch them all: they’re podcasting the episodes, so you can catch up on prior plot-points on your way to The PIT to see future episodes!

(and yes, you are hearing the Jurassic Park theme in the background of this episode—which means you’ve got more chances to catch Hold On to Your Butts, which is back at The PIT, so listen to the episode on that one here, and try to catch a Murder!/HOTYB double-header!)

Listen in to this episode as the Marina & Nicco themselves, Marina Tempelsman and Niccolo Aeed, discuss answering sketchy Craigslist ads, writing to the form, and exploring foley by hitting everything in the hardware store with a hammer.

“…it just lends itself so well to being serialized…”
“…it’s funny and screw-bally, but we also got excited about making people get that feeling of, ‘what comes next?!?'”

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Daniel Adams, Jason Aguirre, Sarah Burkhalter, and Chef Rick Martinez of “krāv”

Daniel Adams directs krāv, an immersive supper-club theatre experienceLet’s face it, the thought of a dinner-party with strangers can be anxiety-inducing.

But while dinner with strangers is exactly what you’re signing up for with 5 Senses Theatre‘s krāv experience, let go of any trepidation. You’re going to have a blast, and a great dinner to boot.

Listen in as director Daniel Adams, co-creators/actors Jason Aguirre and Sarah Burkhalter, and Chef Rick Martinez discuss uniting theatre with a supper-club, identifying audience archetypes, how to use food to contribute to the story, and what happens when you put the audience in the driver’s seat.

…plus, be sure to listen in to the end for a special summer cocktail recipe, courtesy of Chef Rick!

“The food is also the safety net. Even though it can poke at you…it can challenge you…in this form, it’s the audience’s safety net. Sarah and I have always been fascinated with danger, how do we capture danger…in New York, it’s close to impossible to scare people, we’re so ready for whatever…”
“But are we prepped to be at a table with strangers?”
“That’s the thing!”

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Alex Roe, Kendall Rileigh, Cliff Miller, Perri Yaniv, and Lorinne Lampert of “Injunction Granted”

Metropolitan Playhouse presents Injunction Granted, a living newspaperIt would be easy to say, “this play is important to your understanding of U.S. theatre history, and therefore you should see it”—but that sounds lame and boring.

And Metropolitan Playhouse‘s production of the Federal Theater Project’s Living Newspaper Unit‘s Injunction Granted is anything but.

Six actors take on a script originally performed by a cast of a whole lot more than that, built from primary sources to give the history of the struggle between labor and capital in the U.S. up to 1936…all while making it relevant to the U.S. of 2015.

It’s a neat trick, and great fun. And there’s a lot of hats.

Listen in as director/performer Alex Roe and actors Kendall Rileigh, Cliff Miller, Perri Yaniv, and Lorinne Lampert discuss creating your production like a sculpture, making sense of dense legalese from the 1930s, the importance of unions today, and why it might be time for a fight again.

“…this play, by touching on all those issues so strongly, so very very clearly, and coming from 80 years ago, I think is incredibly refreshing. It gives us a chance to look at it, not through the headlines that we’re almost inured to now, but through a very unusual and unfamiliar history…as well as an unfamiliar staging technique that makes it seem new…”

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Liz Thaler and Lauren Miller of “Happy”

In Extremis Theater Company presents Happy, written by Liz Thaler and directed by Lauren MillerYour ever-humble GSAS! producer is sound designing a great play that’s being produced as part of F*ckFest at The Brick in Williamsburg—and because I have editorial control over this here podcast, well, this is an episode about it.

Even if I weren’t working on the show, I’d still be excited to have playwright Liz Thaler and director Lauren Miller join me on the mic to talk about this “love story with a few kinks,” Happy. That’s because I’m extremely proud of the work everyone’s done on the show, and I think you’ll enjoy it, too. Go see this one, y’all.

Listen in as Liz and Lauren discuss how this “Shotz” piece proved itself to be the germ of a larger play, personal vs. professional BDSM, status, power, mystery, and what really makes us happy.

“…nobody’s left out of the story. Nobody has to come in and be, like, ‘oh, that’s not my kink,’ because some of the fantasies aren’t ever said out loud—so they get to fill it in with whatever’s scariest. Or whatever’s sexiest. So I think that allows the audience to identify with something that sometimes people are terrified to identify with, which is their own raw human sexuality.”

Quick point of order: the play and this podcast episode acknowledge the existence of sexual behavior among human beings, and some of that behavior might be outside the realm of what you’re used to seeing depicted in pop music videos and teen comedies; no discretion advised, but you’ve been notified.

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Katherine Sommer, Russell Sperberg, Kisky Holwerda, and Quinn Wise of “Punk as Fuck”

Everyday Inferno presents Punk as Fuck, written by Michael K. White & Dianna StarkHearing the synopsis of Everyday Inferno‘s Punk as Fuck, with its references to angry young people and garage bands, it certainly sounds like a play for anyone who secretly longs for their glory days of playing music with friends in a dirty basement or garage.

That’s what caught my attention to go see this show, currently running in rep with The Roaring Girl at Access Theater. But seeing Punk as Fuck, it’s not just about the rock—it’s a story of youthful idealism, angst, and yearning that anyone can identify with.

Listen in as director Katherine Sommer and actors Russell Sperberg, Kisky Holwerda, and Quinn Wise discuss suburban sensibilities, playing live music as part of your show, echoing consciousness, and telling a love story through a band rehearsal.

“…doing it in the space is so different because you have to be so conscious of people talking—”
“Especially playing drums, you’re playing an actual kit onstage.”
“It’s loud.”
“There was a lot of ‘Can you be a little bit quieter, just a little bit quieter…'”
“I feel like every band ever has that conversation with the drummer, right?”

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