Matt Steiner and Stan Richardson of “Private Manning Goes to Washington”

The Representatives present Private Manning Goes to WashingtonInformation is power. But information often comes with a price tag.

What do you do if you believe at your core that information must be made available to all who seek it?

And how do you mitigate the possible effects of opening up information, when it has the potential to cause harm—perhaps to a loved one, perhaps to the state? Maybe, through your efforts at sunlight, you could make the world a better place, but at what cost?

And, just what can theatre do about all of this?

These questions, and more, are at the heart of The RepresentativesPrivate Manning Goes to Washington, a play that opens with internet and political activist Aaron Swartz and a childhood friend, and eventually explores a secret meeting between whistle-blower Chelsea Manning and President Barack Obama on the last day of Obama’s presidency…

Listen in as the collaborators who form The Representatives, Stan Richardson and Matt Steiner (both co-direct, Richardson wrote the script, and Steiner plays Swartz), discuss the radical intimacy of producing in apartments, imagining how one activist could try to help another activist while actively under investigation, the benefits of getting the artists and audience in closer proximity, throwing post-show parties, and why we don’t need more martyrs: we need everyone.

“We have a strong sense of occasion. It’s enormously meaningful for a group of people to get together and sit and watch something. An so often in traditional theatre, there’s obviously a separation between the artist and the audience that becomes almost hierarchical…”

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Melissa Moschitto, Malini Singh McDonald, Alex Randrup, Brian Demar Jones, Jean Goto, Mariah Freda, and Michael Ables of “No Man’s Land”

The Anthropologists present NO MAN'S LAND, photo by Victoria Medina PhotographyWhat do you do if your daughter wants to be a real-life princess?

If you’re Jeremiah Heaton, you buy a plot of land in Africa, call it North Sudan, and make your little girl’s dream come true.

But as the poster, at left, for The Anthropologists’ No Man’s Land attests, fantasy endings like this can become something else entirely once your eyes are opened to the realities of life in the 21st Century. The very real, very complicated issues of colonialism, racism, capitalism, gender, and more come to the fore of the fairy tale in this devised show, currently playing at TheaterLab in Manhattan.

Listen in as director/writer Melissa Moschitto, assistant director/assistant producer Alex Randrup, producer Malini Singh McDonald, and actors Brian Demar Jones, Jean Goto, Mariah Freda, and Michael Ables discuss their devising process, a nice suit that doesn’t quite fit you, finding a way to get 99.9% of what you want while producing without an off-Broadway budget, and finding the play through failing to find the way to tell the story.

“…those are the parts that resonate the most, when suddenly we’re just having a conversation. And it allows you to kind of have those thoughts performed for you by people…I feel like a lot of people, when it comes to the issues of this country […] you start just echoing the same thoughts, the first round of arguments. And I think what’s so great about this show is that it lets you kind of get past that…”

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Yuriy Pavlish and Mitch McCoy of “Coriolanus: From Man to Dragon”

Coriolanus: From Man to Dragon, adapted from William Shakespeare by Omri Kadim, presented by Combative Theatre Company and Shakespeare in the SquareThere’s some pretty intense fighting in many of Shakespeare’s works—intense fighting that, in most productions, gets pared down to a couple of sword-clinks in the absence of a skilled fight choreographer, actors prepared to follow said choreography, and the budget and space to make that choreography come to life. Sadly, this is especially true in the independent theatre…

In the case of Combative Theatre, and their partners in Shakespeare in the Square, however, the fight is put front and center. For their show Coriolanus: From Man to Dragon, Omri Kadim adapts the tragedy to really get to its combative core. And as you’ll hear from the background noise in this interview, there’s more than just a few sword-and-shield hits to be seen…

Listen in as director Yuriy Pavlish and fight director Mitch McCoy discuss how they fill in what’s missing from most productions of Coriolanus, finding the right actors for your fight-heavy show, bringing together theatre companies, resonance with current events, and when you should hold on to a production.

“…my belief is that if you just tell the story that Shakespeare put down, and not try to twist it to an agenda, and really ask yourself, ‘what was Shakespeare trying to say?’ and just do it, you will find all of the connections you need to current events, and a thousand years ago, and a thousand years from now…”

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Jake Lipman, Molly Ballerstein, and Brittany Anikka Liu of “Rapture, Blister, Burn”

Tongue in Cheek Theater presents Rapture Blister Burn by Gina GionfriddoWhen choosing the plays to be presented this season by Tongue in Cheek Theater Productions, artistic director Jake Lipman had remarkable foresight. The company’s mission is to produce thought-provoking comedies, and the shows usually have a woman at the center of the story. But they don’t always reflect a VERY current debate in American politics.

The company didn’t mean to produce a political play the week before the US presidential election. But because their current show, Rapture, Blister, Burn examines how women are often validated (or not) based solely on their societal roles as mother, wife or career-woman, one can’t help but see parallels in the current election. When Hillary Clinton is criticized for not baking cookies and also criticized for bragging about her grandchild, it’s easy to see that feminism still has a long hill to climb in America.

Rapture, Blister, Burn, written by Gina Gionfriddo (and a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Drama), is a deeply-moving story about feminism, choices, family, love and unfulfilled dreams. It also examines why people don’t always practice the beliefs and theories they say they support. Does the show “play the woman card?” If getting audiences to understand that women can be respected for whatever life choice they make is playing the woman card, then Tongue in Cheek has dealt a beautiful hand.

Listen in as GSAS! correspondent Tara Gadomski talks with Artistic Director and actor Jake Lipman, director Molly Ballerstein, and actor Brittany Anikka Liu to discuss diving deep into feminism to prepare for your show, the eerie prescience of the play, the role of music in TIC’s production, gendered and non-gendered audience responses to the show, actors’ perspectives between generations, what it means to make your own work, and shows that stay with you long after you’ve seen them.

“It’s extremely rare to find something that feels so topical and fresh that is a revival. All of it felt very close to the surface for me. And right now, we’re all on edge.”

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Eric Striffler of “Nyctophobia”

Synthetic NYC presents NyctophobiaIf you head to their website, Synthetic NYC has an F.A.Q. section with the question, “What is Nyctophobia?”

Their answer? “Correct.”

That’s about all you need to know about this immersive performance experience, currently running at an undisclosed location in Manhattan. I won’t disclose any more…but in this episode, you’ll get a bit more of an idea of just what’s going on here…

Listen in as the experience’s director/creator Eric Striffler discusses defying expectations, how to prepare your actors for performing in immersive shows, safe-words, how to create and manage multiple storyline threads through your performance, and how the best part of something like this can be the ride home with your friends.

“…if you know any aspect of it going in, it’s going to take away from it a little bit…it’s whatever, I don’t want to ruin it! […] There’s all kinds of different types of immersive experiences, and this is not one of those ones that’s hardcore, super-scary…this is definitely more fun.”

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Dan Bianchi and R. Patrick Alberty of RadioTheatre’s 8th Annual H. P. Lovecraft Festival

RadioTheatre presents The 8th Annual H. P. Lovecraft Festival at The Kraine TheaterThis is now the fourth time I’ve done a podcast about RadioTheatre‘s annual H. P. Lovecraft Festival (now in its 8th year!)—and as long as they keep doing Lovecraft, I’m going to keep going to see their shows.

Fans of radio drama and/or horror fiction will definitely find something to love, as creator/director Dan Bianchi dramatizes 8 different stories from Lovecraft’s deep catalogue of weird tales, enlisting the vocal talents of actors like R. Patrick Alberty to bring them to life for your ears, live, onstage.

Listen in as Dan and Patrick discuss the company’s adaptation process, how the festival has changed through 8 editions, what can happen when you exceed audience expectations, why we need horror tales, and how this is the kind of experience only RadioTheatre can bring you.

“…we’re asking the audience to participate, to use your imagination…back in the days of radio, everyone sat around the radio in the living room in the dark…and they had to use their imagination to provide the visuals. And here we are, going back to that, the simplest form of theatre there was, sitting around the campfire in the dark, telling stories…” Continue reading

Winsome Brown and Sean Hagerty of “Hit the Body Alarm”

HIT THE BODY ALARM created and performed by Winsome BrownPerformer Winsome Brown weaves text from Paradise Lost with original monologues from herself and co-director Brad Rouse to create an original work “about fucking up,” as she puts it, with her wild and affecting solo show Hit the Body Alarm.

Scored with music by downtown legend John Zorn, plus original, live sound-design by Sean Hagerty, the performance moves from Heaven to Brooklyn to Los Angels to the Garden of Eden, distilling prime points of Milton’s epic into a kind of performance that can resonate with the world we’re in today.

Listen in as Winsome and Sean discuss their collaboration in creating as well as performing the show, feelings of loss, not hiding before (or during) your show, borrowing props from your daughter, designing for your space, and how to show the devil falling from heaven onstage.

“…it’s a show about people who’ve done dreadful things by their own acts…and on a grander scale…I kind of feel that it’s about our world, that we are on the verge of fucking up, fucking up very dreadfully…” Continue reading

Marina Tempelsman, Niccolo Aeed, & Temesgen Tocruray of “Room 4”

Marina and Nicco present ROOM 4 at The PIT, graphic by Chris KalbWaiting in the room for your audition can be brutal—it can start to feel like you’re living in Groundhog Day, seeing the same folks who play the same types that you do, waiting for the same similar roles, on the same similar kinds of projects, audition after audition, day after day…

Marina & Nicco‘s new show Room 4 takes that familiar actor struggle and makes it an actor hell, creating a No Exit kind of scenario where four actors realize that, indeed, the same audition call is starting to repeat itself. But, what starts as a brilliant concept for a fun, funny show becomes an incredible commentary on the state of the entertainment business (and, by extension, the United States) by adding in the fact that these are four black actors, all vying for the same stereotypical role in a standard crime procedural.

Biting, incisive, wonderfully-performed, and tears-streaming-down-your-face funny, Room 4 is a show that, as I say at the top of this interview, anyone listening to this podcast should go and see. You’ll have a blast in the room—and then you should have a great conversation at The PIT‘s bar afterward about what you’ve seen.

Listen in as the creators, Marina Tempelsman and Niccolo Aeed, and actor Temesgen Tocruray, discuss what stories you’re telling (and who you’re telling them for), writing for and with the actors in the ensemble, performing race in the theatre and for the people around you, using specificity to talk about universal issues, and how the arts can spark conversation and, eventually, change.

“I don’t know if we have a direct solution, I mean, other than ‘hire more black actors, directors, and writers.’ Give stage time to more diverse things, and don’t write necessarily for a white audience, write for your truth and honesty. But other than than, I think we wanted to really live in the moment, more than necessarily provide an answer…”
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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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