Margi Sharp Douglas, Rachel Murdy, Peter Szep, Joan Jubett, and Cynthia Croot of “The Millay Sisters”

Margi Sharp Douglas and Rachel Murdy of THE MILLAY SISTERS, presented by Vanderbilt RepublicIf you’ve ever wandered around Greenwich Village, you might have noticed a very tiny house at 75 1/2 Bedford Street, built on a former alley (it’s Manhattan, so if there’s land to be built on, someone’s going to try it). Stop and take a look at the facade, and you’ll notice a vermillion plaque, commemorating that this was once the home of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay.

If she’s unfamiliar to you, you’re in the fortunate position of getting to explore her work for the first time. And a great place to start would be The Millay Sisters, a cabaret/performance/play about Vincent (as she liked to be called) and her life, currently running at Gowanus Loft in Brooklyn.

GSAS! correspondent Tara Gadomski is back on the mic! Listen in as she and The Millay Sisters co-creators and performers Margi Sharp-Douglas & Rachel Murdy, musical director/musician Peter Szep, and co-directors Joan Jubett and Cynthia Croot discuss their process of development, light and dark, dramaturgy in Maine, giving your audience the opportunity to sing, and the importance of a bar at your show.

“…people are going to hear this, and think, ‘oh, it’s some sort of biopic;’ and there are a lot of facts in it. But really it’s about the emotional truth of what’s going on with her. When you see the show, you feel like you’ve met the person, not just sort of received facts from on high, and a lot of the music sets this sort of emotional world against which the poetry is then put…”

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Catrina McHugh, Cheryl Dixon, Laura Lindow, and Jessica Johnson of “Key Change”

Open Clasp Theatre Company presents Key Change, written by Catrina McHugh, directed by Laura LindowKey Change comes to New York’s 4th Street Theatre from Northern England, after a long and interesting journey. It was created by the Newcastle-based theatre company, Open Clasp, in a collaboration with women in Her Majesty’s Prison Low Newton.

It started as a theatre devising workshop with the prisoners, then, as a show developed, it toured to male prisons in the UK. The company then took Key Change to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this past summer, where it won the prestigious Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award. The prize: a fully-funded production of Key Change in New York City.

Listen in as writer Catrina McHugh, director Laura Lindow, and actors Cheryl Dixon and Jessica Johnson discuss collaboratively creating composite characters, touring their show to prisons, working with the restrictions of their performance venues, how an environment can intimidate, keeping connections open, and building trusting relationships.

“It just felt like those voices had been flown over the razor wire, and had escaped…”

(Producer’s note: as you listen to this episode, you’ll probably realize that the dulcet, sometimes-confused, yet pleasing and sonorous baritone voice that usually does the interviewing has been replaced by someone who sounds like she knows what she’s doing. That’s because she does, for while I’m away on an out-of-town gig, radio-host, writer, actor, and fellow podcaster Tara Gadomski is more-than-ably taking over interviewing duties. Big thanks to her for keeping GSAS! going while I’m out.) Continue reading

Adam Scott Mazer and Philip Gates of “The Tower”

AntiMatter Collective presents The Tower, written by Adam Scott Mazer, directed by Philip GatesWhat does it take to survive?

In AntiMatter Collective‘s show The Tower, that question, in the context of the winter in the mountains for the Donner Party in 1846-47, becomes an allegory for American individualism & imperialism. And it’s done through an immersive staging, complete with a guide, edibles, gore, and dance numbers.

It’s quite a trip, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Listen in as producer/playwright Adam Scott Mazer and producer/director Philip Gates discuss accepting offers from the performers, making assumptions, psychedelic breaks in your play, and how knowing where you’re headed can help you build your show.

“It’s like the dark side of the American Dream…what is the sacrifice that America is making, to be America?”

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Trish Harnetiaux, Katherine Brook, and Jess Barbagallo of “How to Get Into Buildings”

New Georges presents How to Get Into Buildings, a new play by Trish Harnetiaux, directed by Katherine BrookConvention halls, brunch, fish all over the highway, shoot-outs—they all come together in New Georges’ world premiere of How to Get Into Buildings, currently playing at The Brick.

Working with the structure of an “exploded view,” playwright Trish Harnetiaux has built a dark, playful, at times absurd love-story, directed by Katherine Brook and featuring Jess Barbagallo as Ethan Cambabert.

Listen in as Trish, Katherine, and Jess discuss inspiration from installation art, slippage, dialogue in the rehearsal room, and how “dark rom-com” needs to be its own genre.

“Do you know what an exploded view is?…all these parts are going to come together and form a thing, but the really cool thing is the diagram that you see that shows you each tiny bit. This play is like all those tiny bits that form a larger picture…”

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DeLisa M. White, Heather E. Cunningham, Ryan Pater, and Rebecca Gray Davis of “Good Boys and True”

Retro Productions presents Good Boys and True, written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, directed by DeLisa M. WhiteRetro Productions is back with another revival of a 20th Century play, directly in line with their mission “to broaden our own understanding of the world we live in.” Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s Good Boys and True may be set in 1988, but the issues of class, privilege, sexuality, and violence feel uncomfortably current.

Listen in as director DeLisa M. White and Producing Artistic Director of Retro Productions and actor Heather E. Cunningham, as well as fellow actors Ryan Pater and Rebecca Gray Davis, discuss high school flashbacks, the importance of punctuation, laughter from struck nerves, what happens when your mom’s in the audience, pulling from personal experience, and how this “retro” play resonates into the past, our present, and, sadly, probably into the future.

“One of the lines in the play is, ‘Everything is broken.’ That’s what happens…when you hear that headline in the news, the tentacles and roots of that problem expand far beyond what you see in the news, or even in the situation if you’re in it…”

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Lizzie Vieh, Aleisha Force, Russell Jonas, and Donny Repsher of “Barrier Islands”

Barrier Islands, written by Lizzie Vieh, directed by Zi Alikhan, featuring Aleisha Force and Russell Jonas, produced by Donny Repsher“Do your own work.”

As one of the guests on this episode notes, that’s a common suggestion to independent theatre practitioners—and the thought of it can exhaust even the most ambitious of artists.

But sometimes, you discover that the people immediately around you—classmates, coworkers, colleagues—can come together to make something awesome.

As you’ll hear in this episode, that impulse to make something brought together the collaborators of Barrier Islands, a brilliant play written by Lizzie Vieh, directed by Zi Alikhan, produced by Donny Repsher, and beautifully acted by Aleisha Force and Russell Jonas. Inspired by true crime, Barrier Islands appears at first to be a crime procedural or whodunnit, that as it unfolds actually becomes an exploration into various modes of violence against women.

Listen in as Lizzie, Aleisha, Russell, and Donny discuss the parts of ourselves that we’re hiding, dialogue that just rolls off the tongue, finding distinct characters, imposing deadlines, disovering collaborators at your day-job, and how having one more beer might make you a producer.

“…the style of restaurant in which we work has a style of service that makes us depend on one another quite frequently, so I knew that I could trust her as a person. And then I went to see her as a playwright, and you put those two things together, and you go, ‘oh!’…”
“She can write a play, and she will get that ketchup to my table.”
“She will! She won’t forget that ketchup, and she can write a play. Winner, winner.”

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Jolie Curtsinger, Zachary Clark, Jake Robards, and Kim Wong of “Promising”

InProximity Theatre presents Promising, written by Michelle ElliottThe Republican presidential primary is a clown-car with the lead clown espousing fascism, Sheldon Silver’s just been found guilty of corruption, Rahm Emmanuel’s currently in hot water with the stove turned to “high”…

I wouldn’t blame anyone for being disgusted with politics at the moment.

But the mess of the political world can certainly be excellent fodder for drama in the theatre. In Michelle Elliott’s Promising, we see a City Councilperson on the edge of re-election, who is suddenly accused of sexual assault. As he’s holed up in his fancy Manhattan apartment with his campaign manager, his speechwriter/best friend, and his half-sister against the media scrum outside, truths are revealed that shake their perceptions and relationships with the “Golden Boy” they’ve all admired for years.

Listen in as the show’s four actors—Jolie Curtsinger, Zachary Clark, Jake Robards, and Kim Wong—discuss checking your judgment, drones in the theatre, rationalizing, and just what is the right thing when your loved ones are involved.

“Everyone’s got that person who’s been kryptonite to them in their past that they can’t get away from…”
“…when you’ve made a bad choice, how does it affect others?…”

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Daria Miyeko Marinelli and Elana McKelahan of “Untamable”

Highly Impractical Theatre and The Unsoft War present Untamable, written by Daria Miyeko Marinelli and directed by Elana McKelahanEver wanted to watch as a major heist unfolds in front of your eyes? Not on film, but actually happening right in front of you?

Thanks to the magic of immersive theatre, you can. Daria Miyeko Marinelli and Elana McKelahan, the playwright and directors of Untameable, respectively, give you that opportunity in a Brooklyn church they’ve converted for the occasion.

Plus, you can see it from both sides: those trying to steal the diamond, and those trying to protect it from the thieves. And while those multiple angles come with an opportunity cost—you’re definitely going to miss some action at some point—that just gives you a great reason to meet and compare notes with your fellow theatre-goers after the show.

Listen in as Daria and Elana discuss fascination with “illegal teamwork movies,” what it takes to act in an immersive show, the opportunities for connection that this style of theatre can provide, and how to invite the audience in by breaking all the rules.

“When people leave a show and they want to talk about it, and they’re really excited about it, it is exciting to me as a creator of the show…”

“…and I love theatre that makes people talk to each other. And it’s kind of impossible to see this show with someone else, and not talk about the experience you have, because you create your own experience…”

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Jason Sofge, Serrana Gay, and Christian De Gré of “Fatty Fatty No Friends”

Mind the Art Entertainment presents Fatty Fatty No FriendsOpera tends to be pretty tragic.

And even though Mind the Art Entertainment‘s operetta Fatty Fatty No Friends is about a group of kids, it doesn’t shy away from the dark and grisly themes and action that usually goes along with the form.

But the show also grapples with some very deep, and even distressing issues that our society has been dealing with for a long time. Composer and director Christian De Gré and author Serrana Gay have done the magic of put those themes into a gorgeous, entertaining show—and Jason Sofge, who plays Tommy, leads a brilliant cast that sings and plays it to life.

Listen in as Jason, Serrana, and Christian discuss why the show was set up like a kid’s book, entertaining work with social messages, inspiration from a late-night meal, and choosing between venue-director money or actor money (please note, neither is a good get-rich-quick scheme).

“…I think it’s really interesting that it can have such a stark, different perspective: are we watching a monster piece, or are we watching a piece about a fallen hero that never was understood? Maybe it’s one and the same. I think it’s very important that people see this piece of theatre…I really think this is a conversation that we need to have right now…”

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Jake Lipman and Molly Ballerstein of “The Inn at Lake Devine”

Tongue in Cheek Theater Productions presents The Inn at Lake Devine, adapted for the stage by Jake Lipman from the novel by Elinor LipmanAt the age of 14, if someone told me I couldn’t do something, I might get pretty righteously indignant, but likely would have felt powerless to do something about it, and then moved on to the next thing to be righteously indignant about.

In Tongue in Cheek Theater Productions‘ The Inn at Lake Devine, at age 14, protagonist Natalie is so affronted when her mother receives a letter suggesting, essentially, that there are “no Jews allowed” at the titular inn…well, she finagles a way to get there herself, to see just what’s up with that. That’s the inciting incident for a pretty epic memory play of love, loss, discrimination, and acceptance between three families through the ’60s and ’70s.

Listen in as Jake Lipman, TIC Producing Artistic Director/adaptor of the play/”Natalie” and fellow metaphorical multi-hat-wearer (but literally often sporting a fedora) Associate Producer/Assistant Director/Stage Manager Molly Ballerstein discuss how personal experiences helped to bring TIC to adapting this play, what it’s like to adapt a novel to a play, teaching/practicing space work, the importance of great designers, and what’s next for Tongue in Cheek.

“…there’s that element of my experiencing something [like this] at a similar age to Natalie, and then I just love her chutzpah and her moxie…she has a flair for the dramatic which I really enjoy.”

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