Jason Sofge, Dustin Charles, Kristin Wetherington, Dereks Thomas, and Tony Del Bono of “Anonymous, Anonymous”

Pogue Mahone Productions presents ANONYMOUS, ANONYMOUS by Jason Sofge, part of FringeNYC 2016This episode’s going up on a Saturday, which is a little weird, I know, but it’s Fringe-time, y’all, and I wanted to be sure you had a couple chances to catch this lovely show.

Jason Sofge, last heard on the podcast while performing in the excellent Fatty Fatty No Friends, presents his first full-length play, Anonymous, Anonymous, which he wrote, co-directed, and produced. Time in the play shifts a lot, and the structure is unusual (the playwright himself describes it as “metaphysical”), but as the story unfolds and reveals itself, there’s a ton of humor, heart, and truth to the piece.

Listen in as Jason and several members of the cast—Dustin Charles, Kristin Wetherington, Dereks Thomas, and Tony Del Bono—discuss developing your first play, “the one that got away,” breaking the rules to “defy the commercial construct of the modern theatre,” surprising your audience, and why we do this crazy theatre thing at all.

“…I think, as artists, when we have to deal with something that’s really painful, we have to use it, we have to make something productive out of it…”

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Michael Paul Wirsch, Olivia Hartle, and Sarah Misch of “The Curse of the Babywoman!”

BIG Theatre presents The Curse of the Babywoman! as part of Fringe NYC 2016If you head out to see anything at the 2016 FringeNYC Festival, you’re likely going to run into a ton of crazy, catchy titles for the shows being offered. One that caught my eye was The Curse of the Babywoman! because of my penchant for horror—and this promised to be a fun, campy, theatrical romp.

And it kept its promise.

Michael Paul Wirsh‘s script is zany enough to keep you laughing, while layered in allegory that keeps your mind engaged saying, “wait, what?” And when you leave the theater and start to unravel the wild tapestry painted for you by director Olivia Hartle and the delightful cast, including the fabulous Sarah Misch as Philomena, you begin to develop a real appreciation for the levels in this show.

Listen in as Mike, Olivia, and Sarah discuss finding humor and leaning into your rehearsal mistakes, denying the obvious, embracing simplicity, mob mentality, how to put baby horses onstage, and finding social relevance in a play about a giant baby.

“If you’re going to convince people to change their minds and their hearts, you have to do it subversively, and that’s ultimately what I hope this does. And if not, it’s a good time, so that’s important, too.”

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Matthew Freeman, Kyle Ancowitz, Moira Stone, David DelGrosso, and Mick O’Brien of “That Which Isn’t”

Theater Accident presents Matthew Freeman's THAT WHICH ISN'T at The Brick, directed by Kyle AncowitzThat Which Isn’t is not an easy play to describe—but it is one that will make you lean forward in your chair. Through two acts, each featuring just two characters, mostly only talking, this brilliant production will draw you in with it’s beautiful simplicity.

Playwright Matthew Freeman and director Kyle Ancowitz, last heard together on GSAS! when they discussed their collaboration on Why We Left Brooklyn, provide all the tools needed for the wonderful actors Moira Stone, David DelGrosso, and Mick O’Brien to take you on a journey that I think will get you the way it got me. Or, as David says in the interview, they will “catch you feeling,” like they did me.

Listen in as the team discusses misdirection vs. tricks, the feeling of being cast out into space while onstage, individualized receptions by the audience, helpful stage directions, and “the distance between what we hope is true and what is true.”

“…as conventional of a structure as the play has…what to me is exciting about it is that it’s not a play that tells you what to feel about people. It leaves a lot of room for people to be inconsistent within their own characters, to have moments that are out of character for them, to do things that surprise themselves. It doesn’t make it easy on the audience to always know if there’s a side, or what side to pick, or…how to judge someone moment to moment…”

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Jason Marr and David Mold of Hip to Hip’s “As You Like It”

Hip to Hip Theatre Company presents As You Like It and Julius CaesarFor the 10th year running, Hip to Hip Theatre Company brings free Shakespeare to Queens (and Harlem, and Brooklyn, and the Bronx, and Jersey City…check out the full schedule!).

In honor of the anniversary, they’re returning to the first show they ever produced, taking you to the Forest of Arden with As You Like It, before heading to Rome to bring the pain with the ever-so-appropriate-in-an-election-year Julius Caesar.

I won’t retread all the info about what they’re up to—instead, you should listen to last year’s episode with the fine gentlemen Jason Marr, Artistic Director and actor in the company, and David Mold, Associate Artistic Director and director of one of this year’s shows—then, come back and listen to this episode, where they expand on those ideas, and talk about this year’s productions.

Take a listen as Jason and David discuss the celebratory nature and notions of identity in As You Like It, why you should pay attention in your technical theatre classes, layers of performance, why actors are eager to work in random parks around the city, and what it takes to do what they do.

“Do it. That’s what we did…our first season we produced for $2,500. It was me with a big trunk full of the props, and I would wheel it on a little dolly into the park. If you’re heart’s in it, you’ll find a way.” Continue reading

Joshua Young, Lucia Bellini, Phillip Christian, Alex Teachey, and John Carhart of “Who Mourns for Bob the Goon?”

The Playwrighting Collective presents Who Mourns for Bob the Goon at HERE Arts CenterLook, I’m just going to come out and say it: I love Batman. I have since I was a kid, and nothing—not adulthood, not weird story arcs in the comics, not even Zack Snyder’s terrible Batman V Superman—can diminish my love for the stories surrounding this brilliant modern myth.

So even though GSAS! has been on a little hiatus due to the pre-Fringe summertime lull, when I got a press release for a play about a man convinced that he was The Joker’s right-hand man from Tim Burton’s seminal 1989 film Batman, you better believe I figured out a way to get over to HERE Arts Center to see this show.

But this isn’t just a fanboy pastiche (though it’s got those elements). The Playwrighting Collective‘s Who Mourns for Bob the Goon? follows a series of group chats, dream sequences, and strange private therapy sessions in a magical world (with phenomenal puppets!), as we discover not only the identities of Bob and his fellow third-tier comic book characters, but also that all those characters actually suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder after military service, and this is a coping mechanism. As it unfolds, the play becomes about PTSD, how some people deal with it, and the civilian relationship to the people who suffer from it—and hence, the title of the show.

Listen in as playwright Joshua Young, director Lucia Bellini, and actors Phillip Christian, Alex Teachey, and John Carhart discuss playing in and shifting between multiple worlds, what The Playwrighting Collective is all about, coming back to indie theatre (even from astrophysics), and how Batman inspired so many of us.

“We just really are interested in telling stories that have not been told…there seems to be not an interest in hearing stories of people who are not at the country club, or are not living this middle class life, this Desperate Housewives life. There are dramatic stories and there are funny stories of people who are living dollar to dollar, and paycheck to paycheck…”

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Jake Lipman, Molly Ballerstein, and Jennifer Teska of “Women Playing Hamlet”

Tongue in Cheek Theater Productions presents Women Playing Hamlet, written by William Missouri Downs and directed by Molly BallersteinTheatre in the United States is in the midst of a deep, important and ground-breaking conversation about gender and racial equality on stage. Can actors play historical figures of a different race? (Answer: YES.) Can women play roles originally written for men (Answer: YES.) And while this evolution in the theatre is a positive step, it’s curious to think about how an individual actor might process being cast in a non-traditional way.

In Women Playing Hamlet, a young female actor, Jessica, is cast as Hamlet. The rehearsal process leads to a breakdown of sorts with a brutal and and hysterically funny examination of Jessica’s life as Midwestern Millennial woman who shed her accent during her MFA training and now survives in New York as a barista and occasional soap-opera star. Jessica, with the help of a rotating cast of outrageous characters from her life, try to figure out if the iconic Shakespearean role can be played by a young woman, and, if indeed, Hamlet might actually be female.

Literature scholars will appreciate the sharp debate in the script, but you really don’t have to know anything about the Bard to laugh out loud at this Mel Brooks-esque comedy, presented by Tongue in Cheek Theatre Productions.

Go See a Show! correspondent Tara Gadomski sat down with TIC Artistic Director & actor Jake Lipman, the show’d director Molly Ballerstein, and actor Jen Teska—listen in as they discuss the progression of their own thinking on Shakespeare, where to source six prop skulls, why Tongue in Cheek has thrived for the past eleven years, and the central question of the play: can a woman play Hamlet?

“Hamlet is one of those iconic roles. I’ve heard—usually ac-TORS—say that there is ‘before Hamlet’ and ‘after Hamlet’ in their career…When I was younger I struggled with the idea of a female Hamlet because I was trying to figure out how it would work in the context of the rest of the play. Gender politics are such a part of the play that when I was younger I couldn’t wrap my head around how it would work. But the more I’ve studied the play, and looked at the role, the more interested I am in seeing a female Hamlet…Hamlet as a woman. I think with the right director and right actress, I would love to see that.”

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Mac Rogers and Sean Williams of “Universal Robots”

Gideon Productions and The Sheen Center present Universal Robots, written by Mac Rogers, directed by Jordana WilliamsGideon Productions has been on the podcast before with the excellent shows Ligature Marks and Asymmetric, and the company’s continually been on the rise since I’ve met them, garnering more well-deserved press and accolades.

Now, playwright Mac Rogers is being featured in The New York Times, and the company is collaborating with larger venues to bring past-produced epics like The Honeycomb Trilogy and the now-running Universal Robots back to New York audiences.

But these aren’t simple re-mounts—as producer Sean Williams notes in the interview, the world has changed since the first production of the show. By bringing back hits from their catalogue, not only is Gideon giving audiences what they’ve been asking for (in Mac’s words, “You have to have a good reason to think it’s a show anybody wants to come back…There are some plays people have never stopped talking to me about…”), the company can also bring them to more audiences, do them on the grand scale they deserve, and the plays can now talk to a different world.

Listen in as Mac and Sean discuss how Universal Robots isn’t an adaptation of R.U.R., the freedom of now vs. even just ten years ago, life imitating art imitating life, the end of a play’s natural life, and the next steps for the evolution of a highly-successful indy theatre company.

“One of the characters sort of sneers at the idea that theater’s supposed to be fun. [Another] says, ‘Of course theatre’s supposed to be fun! Why have rigging above the stage if you’re not going to dangle a god?’

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Erika Phoebus and Isaac Byrne of “Kiss It, Make It Better”

Theatre 4the People presents KISS IT, MAKE IT BETTER at The New OhioWho really gets you? How well do you actually know yourself? And when your innocence is shattered, what can you do, who can you turn to, and where can you go?

For the characters in actress Erika Phoebus‘s Kiss It, Make It Better, the place to run away to is an abandoned roller coaster—but the real world has a way of encroaching in on the planned utopia of two runaway kids.

Starting with a bit of old slam poetry, Erika worked with director Isaac Byrne (whom you might remember from the second go-round of The Other Mozart) to develop the play, currently receiving its world premiere as produced by Theatre 4the People at The New Ohio.

Listen in as Erika and Isaac discuss lost innocence, being both playwright and actor in the rehearsal room, creating your own Neverland, why you shouldn’t rely on your box office, and why you should go wait in Central Park for “Shakespeare in the Park” tickets (hint: you might start a collaboration with others in the queue).

“I just kind of came to the realization that…you can’t really make money off theatre until it reaches a certain level…”
“…and even then…”
“…and even then! So unless you’re really coming in with a lot of capital, what’s the point? […] I just wanted people to come. […] And it’s actually been great…”
“I think it’s also really important to respect the community of artists that we’re a part of…and recognize that it’s our job to see theatre, and it’s our job to be a part of the theatre. It’s an exchange…”

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Jason Tseng, Emily Hartford, Alisha Spielmann, and Kia Rogers of “Rizing”

Flux Theatre Ensemble presents RIZING by Jason Tseng, directed by Emily HartfordPodcast regulars (and favorites) Flux Theatre Ensemble are back with a new show, from a new playwright, developed in-house and featuring a lot of ensemble regulars that you’ll recognize.

Rizing, by Jason Tseng, is a modern and unique take on the zombie trope. Here, however, those with a taste for brains live and work among the other remaining survivors of the zombie apocalypse, though those who are “Z-positive” are highly medicated, and de-facto segregated. But the old drugs are starting to lose the effect of keeping down the flesh-cravings, and a revolt is beginning to stir…

Flux is once again offering tickets with their incredible and brilliantly innovative Living Ticket model, so you can get to the show without a barrier to entry—but you can also have the chance to help the company out with a pay-what-you-will model. And they show you where that money’s going!

Listen in to this episode as Jason, along with director Emily Hartford, actor Alisha Spielmann, and lighting designer Kia Rogers discuss “The Walking Dead meets Octavia Butler,” class battles, thanking St. Judith Butler, how to make a world breathe, and how we are shaped by our reactions to the impossible decisions the world presents us with.

“…a big part of the play is memory, and what that does to a person when you don’t have a history, what that does for the Z-negative characters to have lived through this enormously violent and destructive history, and the choices that they’ve had to make. So there is this balance between who you are as your actions, and who you are as this past that sort of haunts you…”

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Kayla Jackmon, Meredith Owens, Kara Ayn Napolitano, and Rosie Kolbo of “Rubbermatch”

Red Caravan presents Paz Pardo's RUBBERMATCH, directed by Andrew Willis-WoodwardWhen an old friend from college arrives to visit after so many years apart, what do you want to do? Maybe get drunk, have a dance party to records you both used to love, reminisce about friends and that crazy party…

That’s just what happens for Nina and Ceci in Red Caravan‘s Rubbermatch—but through those moments of reconnection, wounds from the past are re-opened, and new truths behind a tragedy are revealed.

Listen in as actors Kayla Jackmon (Ceci) and Meredith Owens (Nina), along with producers/Red Caravan company members Kara Ayn Napolitano and Rosie Kolbo, discuss trusting the awkward pauses, how to name your new company, gauging how drunk you should be through your show, and how you can do more stuff with your run (and do it for a good cause).

“Our tag line is, ‘when can a friend’s help become an act of violence?’…it’s hard to describe what the show is, because there is a story that is told, but it’s more feelings, experience and feelings…”

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