Jason Marr and David Mold of Hip to Hip’s “As You Like It”

Hip to Hip Theatre Company presents As You Like It and Julius CaesarFor the 10th year running, Hip to Hip Theatre Company brings free Shakespeare to Queens (and Harlem, and Brooklyn, and the Bronx, and Jersey City…check out the full schedule!).

In honor of the anniversary, they’re returning to the first show they ever produced, taking you to the Forest of Arden with As You Like It, before heading to Rome to bring the pain with the ever-so-appropriate-in-an-election-year Julius Caesar.

I won’t retread all the info about what they’re up to—instead, you should listen to last year’s episode with the fine gentlemen Jason Marr, Artistic Director and actor in the company, and David Mold, Associate Artistic Director and director of one of this year’s shows—then, come back and listen to this episode, where they expand on those ideas, and talk about this year’s productions.

Take a listen as Jason and David discuss the celebratory nature and notions of identity in As You Like It, why you should pay attention in your technical theatre classes, layers of performance, why actors are eager to work in random parks around the city, and what it takes to do what they do.

“Do it. That’s what we did…our first season we produced for $2,500. It was me with a big trunk full of the props, and I would wheel it on a little dolly into the park. If you’re heart’s in it, you’ll find a way.” Continue reading

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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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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Katie Palmer and Paul Bedard of “The Debates”

Theater in Asylum presents The DebatesTheater = Politics = Theater = Politics

If you’ve seen that equation on a t-shirt around the independent theatre world in NYC of late, then you’ve seen someone who’s worked on or seen Theater in Asylum‘s ever-changing The Debates.

It’s the perfect slogan for a project theatricalizing the Democratic Presidential Primary debates, with the intent to bring theatre people to the political process, and political people into the theater—and it sounds like the project is doing its intended work.

GSAS! sat down with the show’s director, Paul Bedard, and choreographer, Katie Palmer, to discuss how they trained their team, how to balance a scene, how to handle material that’s moving so quickly, why they’re focusing on only the Democratic Party, the actual differences between Hillary and Bernie (and how to present them fairly), and “who am I, who are you, who are we.”

I think one of the reasons people stay out is that it seems like such a big thing, that if, “I’m not in it already, it’s just too much to learn, and I don’t want to get involved.” And I think people stay away from theaters for the same reason…”I couldn’t possibly understand what’s happening in this theater”…and I think we’ve tried to take the fear and the elitism out of both of those avenues, saying that, “you can engage in both things, here’s some helpful tools…”

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Lauren Swan-Potras, Jon Riddleberger, and John Kurzynowski of “Rhinbecca, NY”

Theater Reconstruction Ensemble presents Rhinbecca, NY at The BrickDark yet humorous, absurd but vaguely political, Theatre Reconstruction Ensemble‘s Rhinbecca, NY occupies a strange place between the source material of the films of Alfred Hitchcock and the plays of Eugene Ionesco, letting the audience draw their own conclusions from the action onstage.

GSAS! correspondent Tara Gadomski took a trip out to The Brick in Brooklyn to check out a performance; listen in as she and director John Kurzynowski, who also conceived the piece, and two members of the ensemble who performed and created the show, Lauren Swan-Potras and Jon Riddleberger, discuss TRE’s mode for devising, theatrical moments as questions, the balance between source material and the entirely new, and “the strange middle ground between suspense and the absurd.”

“…what we mean by reconstruction is that we take classic and canonical works and theatricalities, and we play with it, and we say, what does that mean to us now, and how do we interact with that? So when we investigate Hitchcock…it’s our idea of what Hitchcock means. It’s staying true to that, and not trying to recreate something perfectly, but say, ‘this thing exists here, we exist over here, what’s that middle ground?’ And that’s the playing space that we inhabit when we’re creating work…”

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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

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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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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The Cast and Playwright/Director of “Shakespeare’s Presidential Primary”

Pulse Ensemble Theatre presents Harlem Summer, Shakespeare's Presidential Primary, written and directed by Alexa KellyNo robo-calls.

No obnoxious, omnipresent ads.

No idealistic young campaign workers knocking at your door, interrupting dinner.

Just a good, ol’ fashioned, wholesome (and of course, often antagonistic) debate between some of your favorite Shakespearean characters—Phoebe, Bottom, Malvolio, and Lady Macbeth—as they try to win your vote as candidates in Shakespeare’s Presidential Primary.

On this episode, listen in as the show’s writer/director Alexa Kelly, along with co-conceptualist Brian Richardson (who plays Malvolio), and the rest of the cast of Karim Sekou, Marcia A. Berry, Denise Marie Whalen, Samantha Osborne, Celine Havard, Colleen McGloin, Camille Mazurek, and Michael Gilpin, discuss writing your free summer Shakespeare piece to your convention-hall-like setting, how the audience affects their participatory show, the friendly competition between the candidates/actors, and Chris Christie as an actual ass.

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Jason Marr and David Mold of Hip to Hip’s “The Merchant of Venice”

Hip to Hip Theatre Company presents Free Shakespeare in the Park 2015 in QueensSummer means free Shakespeare in the Park! But not just Central Park…

Hip to Hip Theatre Company has been bringing the Bard’s classics to parks throughout Queens for years now—and this summer, they’re expanding to the Bronx, to New Jersey, and even to the NY Fringe’s Al Fresco series.

They’re running The Merchant of Venice, which this podcast was able to catch in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, under the Unisphere, in rep with The Merry Wives of Windsor, driving their props, costumes, and modular set around in a box truck and setting up for communities to come and enjoy theatre in their local park. GSAS! tries not to editorialize too much, but I’ve got to say, free, accessible theatre for the public is undoubtedly a really, really great thing.

Listen in as Hip to Hip Artistic Director Jason Marr (who also plays Antonio in Merchant)  and Associate Artistic Director (and director of MerchantDavid Mold discuss creating your own opportunities, tackling kids (for their safety, of course), taking inspiration from your democratic principles, directing for the outdoors, and the beauty of the liveness of theatre out in the community.

“…even though we might have a significant number of people in our audiences who aren’t avid theatre-goers, I think as long as we’re presenting the story in a way that’s really clear, and really intentional, that they’re going to go along on that journey…”

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