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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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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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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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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Allyson Morgan and Mara Kassin of “The Spring Fling: Crush”

F*It Club presents Spring Fling: CrushLooking for your big break? Auditioning over and over again? Sending out tons of feeler e-mails? Feel like you’re spinning your wheels, waiting for someone to notice your talent?

F*** it. Go out and make something yourself.

That’s the motto, and of course the inspiration for the name, of F*It Club. And it’s the kind of motto that GSAS! can get behind. The company is currently producing their annual Spring Fling of new short plays, this year around the theme of Crush.

Listen in as the company’s Executive Director and festival producer (as well as actor in the show) Allyson Morgan and Associate Producer/fellow actor Mara Kassin discuss audacity, finding themes, finding collaborators, finding solutions to last-minute casting issues, and treating short form work with respect.

“…what F*It Club was founded on is this idea of, ‘why are we waiting for people to give us work? Eff it, let’s make our own work,’ of being audacious and asking people whose work we really admired, whose work we really wanted to be a part of, to work with us…”

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William Steinberger, Marisa Brau, Andreas Damm, Michael Calciano, and Melissa Cesarano of “Gregor”

InVersion Theatre Company presents Gregor, freely adapted from Kafka's The Metamorphosis, directed by William SteinbergerWe’ve all felt like an outsider at some point. But imagine how much more divorced from the world you’d feel if you woke up one day to discover you’ve turned into an insect.

That is, of course, the premise of Franz Kafka’s century-old absurd novella on alienation, The Metamorphosis. For GregorInVersion Theatre‘s stage adaptation of the story, the company adds theatrical movement and storytelling to give it a contemporary spin.

Plus, they add inter-dimensional actor-bureaucrats to tell us the story. And it totally works.

Listen in as director William Steinberger, along with the full cast, Marisa Brau, Andreas Damm, Michael Calciano, and Melissa Cesarano, discuss hearing Bond villains in your head, the inability to speak linearly, what happens when you lose language, and Kafka’s character of Gregor as a “proto-millennial.”

“…there’s this really fascinating triad: there’s Kafka who wrote it, there’s the speaker of The Metamorphosis, and then there’s Gregor…and I felt as though the novella was incredibly ripe for theatrical adaptation, because…a good way to [recreate that triad] was through breaking the fourth wall…I thought theatre could do it really well.”

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Cave Theatre Company’s “Gruesome Playground Injuries”

Cave Theatre Company presents Rajiv Joseph's GRUESOME PLAYGROUND INJURIESLove hurts.

In Rajiv Joseph’s Gruesome Playground Injuries, it hurts a whole lot. Like face-split-open, teeth-knocked-out, razor-blade-cut, horrible-fireworks-accident maims. And the scars it leaves aren’t only on the bodies of protagonists Doug & Kayleen.

Cave Theatre Company, rounding out their first year of productions, is staging Joseph’s dark relationship dramedy at Under St. Mark’s as part of their residency with Frigid New York; listen in as director James Masciovecchio, actors Kiley Caughey and Alex Etling, and their fellow Cave crew, co-producers Josh Triplett and Cassie Wood, discuss getting rights to your favorite play in a nail-biting photo-finish, inspiration from podcasts (really!), leaning into theatricality, making bad Tinder dating stories into theatre, and why you should just get your friends together and make something.

…we want to see real stories on stage. We want to see honest stories, and try not to sugar-coat things, and try not to show things for what they aren’t…

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