Listen in as Phoenix Theatre Ensemble Artistic Director Craig Smith, who directs & plays “Pontius Pilate” in the company’s new production of Robert Patrick’s Judas, along with fellow cast-member Elise Stone (“Mary”), discuss giving equal weight to both sides, the drama of philosophical arguments, the challenge of living a good life, “blasphemy,” libertarianism and faith, communication breakdowns between mothers and sons, what happens when we see our heroes as humans, and how to answer the big question: “what are we supposed to do?”
“…I think that’s a dilemma for anyone who’s trying to live some kind of ethical, humane life in a really messed up world. And the world is really messed up for Judas, and the world is really messed up for all of us right now. So when I listen to Judas’s struggle, I feel like it’s so human. There’s all these wonderful words, and all this wonderful language…and then there’s this real human-ness…”
Listen in as Mark Plesent, Producing Artistic Director of Working Theater, and Adam Kraar, the playwright of Alternating Currents, the company’s new show in their “Five Boroughs/One City Initiative,” discuss inspiration from the unique place of Electchester, Queens, discovering your main characters, putting an audience’s own story onstage, “wonderment,” advice for new indie theatre artists, and what it takes to live in a community.
“…what quickly gripped me…was the multiplicity of voices that seemed to contradict each other, about everything from the politics of the street fair, to how nice it is to live here, to what race relationships are like. And everybody was very heartfelt and sincere, but there were a lot of contradictions, some disturbing things, some really inspiring things. So the initial impulse for the piece was really to write a play for a multiplicity of voices…”
Listen in as Retro Productions Producing Artistic Director (and “Joan” in the show) Heather E. Cunningham, along with fellow performers Chad Anthony Miller & Ben Schnickel and playwright Gina Femia of We Are a Masterpiece, discuss multiple lenses, levity in the midst of suffering, what makes a play “aggressively contemporary” (and where that fits into the “retro” of Retro Productions), “the cyclical nature of prejudice,” healing through art, universality through specificity, what we’re capable of, and making the choice of love.
“…there’s always hope. Hope is always the way through tragedy, and despair. Yes, this is a very sad story, and yes, you will cry, and we cry. But there are beautiful things that happen when people, in the face of adversity, step up to the plate and do what’s best for their fellow human beings…”
Listen in as Love Trade writer/director/performer Elizabeth Hess, along with collaborators/performers Katie Palmer and Lucas Tahiruzzaman Syed, discuss their collaborative process, feminist revenge fantasies, integrating and playing with the audience, fetishization of race, balloons, lived text, and performance poetry.
“…it’s a very hybrid approach to performance, and I am a magpie. I am thrilled that Lucas is foremost a musician…Katie is also herself an artistic director, and she’s got an incredibly strong dance background. I beg, borrow, and steal from that […] create [your] own hybrid approach that really resonates with [your] own voice and vision…”
Listen in as Blessed Unrest Artistic Director and director of Platanov, or, A Play with No Name, Jessica Burr, discusses the company’s staging process for the round, adapting early Chekhov, finding the humanity in “dreadful” people, putting the audience in the world of the characters, sleepless nights thanks to blocking, and the similarities between this 140-year-old play and our current world.
“…I guess for me, ultimately, I don’t go to the theatre to see Platonov, or to see Hamlet. I go to the theatre to see actors, to see human beings being exposed…that’s really what I want to see. Of course it’s story, it’s narrative, it’s context, but it’s really about the humans, we put these humans in this situation, and we watch and see what they do. And hopefully we learn from them.”
Listen in as director Emma Miller and the full cast of Athena—Abby Awe, Julia Greer, and Eva Ravenal—discuss learning how to fence for the show, script development in the room, “navigating how to be a person,” shocking rarity, working from the inside out, tapping into the extremities of being a teenager, and the simply radical.
“…we are enthusiastic about plays that take seriously what it feels like to grow up in a female body. I think this play takes really seriously what it feels like to make friends, and what it feels like to navigate the world as a young woman…”
Listen in as the team behind the world premiere of Pete Rex—playwright Alexander V. Thompson, director Brad Raimondo, and performers Greg Carere, Simon Winheld, and Rosie Sowa—discuss the uses & dangers of fantasy, making your hometown a central character in your script, eerie resonance with the political moment, fun actor challenges, familiarity with the characters and situations onstage, loving someone while hating their inaction, crossing Ionesco with Albee, and, of course, dinosaurs.
“…this place that had been something, and turned into kind of a ‘non-place’ through the loss of industry, and the loss of jobs, and the economy. And we were all, ‘that feels like it should be in here now’…I think that’s something that we really want people to take away…the experience of these places…that have gone from thriving, to nowhere, and what that does to people…”
Listen in as director Lynnea Benson and performers Marcus Watson, Amy Frances Quint, Erick Gonzalez, Kyle Primack, and Kevin Hauver of Frog & Peach Theatre Company‘s new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, discuss why the company returned to the forest outside of Athens, bucket-list roles, the politics of Midsummer, playing different roles in the same play after six years, trusting collaborators to push you in new and exciting directions, and how to not only give the audience what they want, but what you think they might need.
“…we wanted something that could also reach out to families with children, and younger people, people who think they know Midsummer but maybe don’t know it the Frog & Peach way. Also, we never miss an opportunity with the present company to do a comedy…”
Listen in as Phoenix Theatre Ensemble‘s producing artistic director Craig Smith, along with performers Lori Parquet, Ariel Estrada, Elise Stone, Stacey Raymond, and Layan Elwazani of the company’s world premiere production of Topher Cusumano’s The Cult Play, discuss the play’s resonance with the current zeitgeist, how defense of one’s identity can put others in harm’s way, technology’s place in telling a story in the theatre, killing different characters in different drafts, surviving cults, what we believe and why we believe it, “truth” vs. “certainty,” and the responsibility of not just the leader, but of those who choose to follow them.
“…2.5 million Americans have been in cults in the past 30 or 40 years. It’s pretty widespread, and I think cults are enormously interesting. I think all of us, on some level, feel wounded, and maybe a bit fragile, and I think we’re more fragile than we think that we are, and we come under the spell of these folks like Mama Pearl […]”
“You don’t have to go political with this play. If you’re on Instagram, or Twitter, or whatever, you already follow someone…”
Listen in as three of the five company members of The Associates—director Jamal Abdunnasir, and performers Lauren Larocca & Peregrine Teng Heard—discuss their new collectively-devised “waking nightmare” Sheila, exploring the intersection of the mundane with the grotesque, the role of improvisation in their process, how they work with non-Associate associates, and why the company likes to make things just a little bit scary.
“…I think what we’ve found out about ourselves is that we write almost as much as we create in the room, that we all find a lot of value in putting down proposals on paper. Jamal happens to work a lot in stage directions, and I happen to work a lot in action, and then there’s dialogue people…the important thing is for everyone to be able to jump into all these characters…”