Don Nguyen, Kim Wong, Nancy Sun, and Criena House of “Red Flamboyant”

Firebone Theatre presents Red Flamboyant, written by Don NguyenFirebone Theatre wants to tell you a story.

Weaving the tale of the Trung Sisters, who led the first national uprising of the Vietnamese against the Chinese in 40 A.D., and the modern history of Pham Thi Hue, who started the first support group for people with HIV/AIDS in Vietnam, playwright Don Nguyen‘s Red Flamboyant is a play about struggle and defiance in the face of terrible circumstances, beautifully performed and produced.

Plus: they fly.

Listen in as Don, along with actors Kim Wong, Nancy Sun, and Criena House discuss epic stage directions, playing real people onstage, and working through the pain to look awesome while flying.

“…so Don has the most epic stage direction I have ever read in my life…it’s like this living room drama…you’re going along, realism, realism…then all of a sudden it says,
‘…the ceiling cracks open and the mountains of Vietnam appear. The Trung Sisters fly down the mountain. Enter. Yes, they fly…’
…I read that and I was just like, “ok, yeah, let’s do this.”

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Chris Harcum, Lillian Rodriguez, Jason Brown, & Tammy McNeill of “East Side Stories: The Indelible”

Metropolitan Playhouse presents East Side Stories 2015Like New York City itself, the East Village is one of those places that seems mythical to anyone who’s never been there—less a location, and more an idea shaped by popular media. It could be easy to forget that people actually live & work there.

Metropolitan Playhouse is in the neighborhood, and for years they’ve been presenting the series East Side Stories, sharing tales that get at the truth of the place that inspired them, whether they be fictional or factual. Included in 2015’s series are two collections of monologues created from interviews with East Village residents, and GSAS! got out to see the evening entitled The Indelible.

Actors Lillian Rodriguez, Jason Brown, and Tammy McNeill went out and found locals whose stories intrigued them, then, under the direction of Chris Harcum, shaped those interviews into monologues: Lillian as Jonas Mekas, a filmmaker, poet, and artist who founded the Film-Makers’ Cooperative and the Film-Makers’ Cinematheque (now known as Anthology Film Archives), Jason as Jeanise Aviles, hair artist / color specialist / wigmaker / performance artist / KnitBomber, and Tammy as Jimmy Webb, manager and buyer at Trash and Vaudeville.

I sat down with the actors and director after a performance; listen in as Chris, Lillian, Jason, and Tammy discuss their relationships with their subjects, prisms, tensions, and what it means to change while maintaining authenticity.

“…there are different elements of what you get with the interview from the person, what you get from the spirit of the person, what you bring to it, because it is your body, your voice, your everything that you tweak and do different things with to be that person, and then what you’re doing in giving to the audience. So there are four or five different elements that I feel are always kind of changing, and being part of this…”

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Heather Cohn, Kia Rogers, Rachael Hip-Flores, Isaiah Tanenbaum, and Jodi M. Witherell of “Salvage”

Flux Theatre Ensemble presents Salvage, written by August Schulenburg and directed by Heather Cohn“What lives on…what’s left when someone is gone?”

The kinds of things that remain can run the gamut—music boxes, stories, ephemera, bottles of booze, memories—but they can all mean something. And exploring that meaning is at the heart of August Schulenburg’s excellent new play Salvage, presented by Flux Theatre Ensemble.

Listen in as the show’s director Heather Cohn, actors Isaiah Tanenbaum and Rachael Hip-Flores, lighting designer Kia Rogers, and stage manager Jodi M. Witherell discuss Flux’s innovative Living Ticket model, tumblr-blogging for your show, working in a non-traditional space, putting audience submissions into your set, and what we save.

“…really, it’s this love-letter to New York that Gus has written…and I love being in it.”

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Melody Bates & J. Stephen Brantley of “R & J & Z,” in conversation with Mariah MacCarthy

Hard Sparks presents R & J & Z at The New Ohio, written by Melody Bates and directed by Joan JubettIf you stop and think about it, of all the classics being overrun by zombies these days, Romeo & Juliet is kind of the most logical to receive the undead treatment.

Playwright Melody Bates was struck with just such a notion after seeing the Met’s opera of Roméo et Juliette, and the result, R & J & Z, is now playing at The New Ohio. Picking up Shakespeare’s story in Act V, Bates keeps the action going long after the dagger through her heart has turned Juliet’s white dress to crimson—and you might be surprised who the villain of the story is…

GSAS! sat down to chat with Melody (who also plays Juliet) after a performance of the show, and thanks to the brilliant suggestion of Hard Sparks Artistic Director J. Stephen Brantley (Mercutio in this production, and past podcast guest), we were joined by playwright Mariah MacCarthy, who’s also adapted Romeo & Juliet with her musical Ampersand.

Listen in as Melody, J. Stephen, and Mariah discuss their respective adaptations of Shakespeare, gender-swapping & cross-dressing, low opinions of Paris, upending the power structure of the world, and how death changes everything.

“…so frequently you have scenes in Shakespeare where the women just stop talking, and the scene continues for several more pages and the men do the talking. And that’s an interesting challenge as an actress because you’re like, ‘well, I have to figure out why I’m not talking—”

“—right, and why I’m still here, not talking—”

“—exactly. So I pointedly wanted to write a scene where that happened to a man.”

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The Cast & Playwright/Director of “Live from the Surface of the Moon”

Stable Cable Lab Co. presents Live from the Surface of the Moon, written and directed by Max BakerJuly 20, 1969 was a day that changed everything—the United States put a man on the moon.

Seen through the lens of playwright/director Max Baker’s play Live from the Surface of the Moon, the history made that day wasn’t just extra-terrestrial.

Listen in as Max, along with the entire cast (!) of Kevin GilmartinIan Patrick Poake, Kate Garfield, Brian Edelman, Breanna Foister, and Lisa Anderson discuss nostalgia, perspective on the normalcy of the past, crushing optimism, and change.

“…the themes of that moment…it feels like it resonates now…”
“…that’s what’s scary about doing this whole play, and also being a woman in this play: the gender repression might be more blatant here, but we still have it, it’s just disguised in different ways…”

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David Lawson, creator/performer of “Insomnia in Space”

David Lawson presents Insomnia in SpaceWhat do you do when you can’t fall asleep?

Performer David Lawson is an insomniac. He’s also a solo performer.

So it only makes sense that in his new show, Insomnia in Space, David shares with the audience his musings and discoveries from wakefulness in the wee small hours, reading, thinking, and fantasizing about outer space.

Listen in as David discusses the two-suit, amazing stories from the audience, Mike Daisey, “neutral-face,” and shared experiences.

(then, go and listen to David and I talk about Go See a Show!, the MTA, the League of Independent Theater, podcasts, and more on his podcast with Taylor Miller, Stipend)

“…I so much believe in one person onstage talking to many people…that medium elevates everyone’s life experience in the room…”

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Mim Granahan, Eric Chase, and Rob Brown of “Making History”

Dysfunctional Theater Company presents Making History, written by Mim Granahan, directed by Eric ChaseWhen you see time travel portrayed in popular media, no matter how noble the reason for leaping through history, it almost always ends up making things worse.

That certainly seems to be the case in Mim Granahan‘s new play Making History, but, she adds in a little family drama for an interesting and unique take on the idea. Patrick Tyler seemingly gets stuck in the past, and after mourning the loss of his old life, tries to adjust to his new one—but things get complicated when he finds a way to travel back to his original time.

When you exist in two places, which is your life? And what happens when dividing your time also seems to be destroying you?

Actor Rob Brown and friend of the podcast Eric Chase, who directed the show, joined Mim on the mic to talk about Making History over a pint, and as you’ll hear, it got a little silly, which makes sense, because it’s always a fun time (see what I did there?) catching a Dysfunctional Theatre Company jam—check out their multiple past podcast appearances!.

…and, an emphasis on Dysfunctional Theatre Company, because I accidentally say Distilled Theatre Company at the top of the interview (they’re another company you should know!) because Eric & I were reminiscing about a fun radio play we did together for DTC Radio last year; you should check it out, after you listen to this episode!

Listen in as Mim, Eric, and Rob discuss creating characters, “the player’s great medium,” learning the lines of your own script, and doing the math.

“…make it simple, make it functional, make it about the performances…”
“…we can’t build a time machine…”
“…well maybe you can’t…this is actually our 3rd time doing this interview…”
“…it’s a loop!”

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David Andrew Laws, Laura Iris Hill, Jarret Kerr, Morgan Hooper, Travis Klemm, and Brian Gillespie of “Richard III”

Hamlet Isn't Dead presents William Shakespeare's Richard III, directed by Brian GillespieThe company Hamlet Isn’t Dead is on quite a mission—to produce all of Shakespeare’s plays, in the order in which they were written.

They’re up to Richard III, and as director Brian Gillespie (with the GSAS! hat trick!) points out at the top of the interview, it’s a pretty fortuitous time to be putting up what some might call the Bard’s first “hit,” what with the real, historical Richard’s body re-buried just last week. This production takes the idea of the infamous English monarch as “master manipulator,” and “explodes that metaphor—through puppetry.” Which is really cool to watch.

Listen in as Brian and five of the nine cast members—Jarret Kerr (Richard), Laura Iris Hill (Margaret and more, and also a returning podcast guest), David Andrew Laws (Buckingham, last on GSAS! with Brian for Twelve Nights), Morgan Hooper (Richmond and more), and Travis Klemm (Hastings and more)—discuss puppet workshops, working within your constraints, playing characters you’ve always loved, and the “magic trick” that comes from streamlining your cast.

“The more that I researched the play, the more I was like, ‘which characters don’t have any agency that might be controlled by others, that could be puppets?’…or, ‘there’s a lot of references to shadows, could we explore some of these nightmares with shadow puppets?’…”

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Lisi DeHaas and Jay Stull of “Leave Me Green”

Apt 10C Productions and Kindling Theater Company present LEAVE ME GREEN, written by Lisi DeHaas and directed by Jay StullWhat scares you the most? And would you do if those worst fears were realized?

It was starting from that question that playwright Lisi DeHaas wrote her beautiful new play Leave Me Green, currently playing at The Gym at Judson.

Listen in as Lisi & the show’s director, returning podcast guest Jay Stull, discuss plays that are of the moment, grief, relatable stakes, and how it’s a miracle we don’t all fall apart.

“…I wrote it sort of to remind myself, ‘you’re ok…you’re gonna be fine. We’re all gonna be fine…'”

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Edward Einhorn, Patrice Miller, and Gyda Arber of “Money Lab”

Untitled Theater Company #61 presents MONEY LAB at HERE Arts CenterIf you’re listening to this podcast, then it’s very likely you’re all-too-familiar with the sometimes-insurmountable-seeming economic barriers to creating independent theatre in New York (for info on some of the groups that are working to make it better, go back and listen to GSAS! Episode 150, on the Crisis to Creation Town Hall event).

But what about actively exploring economic realities on stage, as part of your theatre? How would you do that?

Economists said it wouldn’t be possible, but Untitled Theater Company #61‘s Edward Einhorn has proven them wrong with Money Lab. Billed as “an economic vaudeville,” you’re in for a night of scenes, music, dance, and performance around economic themes, running in a repertory style with different bills each night, all while two economies are created for (and by) the audience, and tracked in real-time.

Listen in as Edward, along with choreographer & assistant producer Patrice Miller and co-creator of the economic game performance Gyda Arber, discuss how you find an economist to perform in your independent theatre piece, finding the meaning of abstract economic terms through dance, determining the value of an artist’s time, and bailouts after bad bets by audience-members. Continue reading