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…”

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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?”

Continue reading

Jeremy Bloom, Brian Rady, & Catherine Brookman of “The Upper Room”

Rady & Bloom present The Upper Room at The New OhioStart creating a new work of theatre from a classic fairy tale, and you might find yourself taking a detour through the “back to the land” movement, and wind up with a movement play full of original music, lovely light projections, and a manatee mask.

That’s an oversimplified way to describe Rady & Bloom‘s The Upper Room, currently playing at The New Ohio—but it’s a whole lot more than that.

Listen in as the Rady & Bloom, Brian Rady and Jeremy Bloom, along with composer/performer Catherine Brookman, discuss collaboration between song-writer and directors/creators, post-show parties, The Little Mermaid, working with your spouse, and the long haul.

“…there’s a thrust, there is a story, but we’re trying to express the inexpressible, we’re trying to express the feeling of, ‘what will happen next to me,’ or ‘what will happen to US…'”

Continue reading

Ben Schnickel, Alisha Spielmann, Heather E. Cunningham, and Ricardo Rust of “The Butter and Egg Man”

Retro Productions presents The Butter and Egg Man, written by George S. Kaufman, directed by Ricardo RustProducing independent theatre is a difficult game.

So a play about producing theatre, where the title is slang for a sucker who puts a lot of money into a theatrical venture he doesn’t truly understand…it might hit a little too close to home.

But Retro Productions is always a safe bet, which is what brought this microphone & podcast man to see their production of George S. Kaufman’s The Butter and Egg Man—and I found out that it did hit, in all the right places.

Listen in as director Ricardo Rust and cast members Ben Schnickel, Alisha Spielmann, and Heather E. Cunningham (Retro’s Producing Artistic Director, and past podcast guest!) discuss going back to the 1920s, choreographing your scene changes, how to deal with the unexpected onstage, and producing plays about producing plays.

“‘…it’s so fun to watch what’s happening onstage just like I’m the audience, and laugh at it…whether it be the actual play I’m laughing at, or whether it be scenery falling down, it’s funny, and you get to laugh at it…’
‘That’s kind of what’s so great about theatre…'”

Continue reading

Gretchen Van Lente & Meghan Williams of “Blood Red Roses”

Drama of Works presents Blood Red Roses, The Female Pirate ProjectHow do you tell a tale about famous female pirates through the ages?

Obviously, for starters, you’ve gotta do it on a boat.

Not so obviously, you make the stories of high adventure come alive with creative & fun shadow puppets on said boat while singing modified sea shanties—and that’s just what Drama of Works does with their new show Blood Red Roses: The Female Pirate Project.

Listen in as Gretchen Van Lente, the show’s director and lead deviser, and collaborator/performer Meghan Williams, discuss collaborative dramaturgy, shadow puppets, using your rehearsal studio, how to get your show on a boat, and all the lady pirates.

“…people always wanted to come backstage and see the show…we started thinking, what if we took that, and brought it in front…there are no real secrets…we’re just trying to make simple, elegant solutions to storytelling problems…”

Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading

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…”

Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading