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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Andrew Schneider of “YOUARENOWHERE”

Andrew Schneider's YOUARENOWHERE, photo by Maria BaranovaYou might have heard of Andrew Schneider‘s YOUARENOWHERE if you listen to theatre podcasts that aren’t this one (thanks for the recommendation, Maxamoo!), because the Obie-award winning piece has been on the lips of anyone who’s seen it.

Rightfully so.

But if you have heard the title, I hope you haven’t heard much else, other than, “go see this.” Because that’s how I experienced it, and I must say, it made for an incredible theatrical experience. So that’s all I’m going to give you: go see this show.

…but first, listen in to this (spoiler-free!) episode, as Andrew and I discuss the performer/audience contract, regional theatre gigs, frames, frustration with the traditional infrastructure, and destroying expectations.

“…what I wanted to do was just communicate in a room with a person […] what I’m fascinated by is moments, and experience, and curating emotion without narrative. So we’re all experiencing the same thing at the same time…”

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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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Katie Melby, Eric Powell Holm, and Kelly Klein of “Rise and Fall”

BREAD presents Rise and Fall“From the first it has been the theatre’s business to entertain people, as it also has of all the other arts. It is this business which always gives it its particular dignity; it needs no other passport than fun, but this is has got to have. We should not by any means be giving it a higher status if we were to turn it e.g. into a purveyor of morality; it would on the contrary run the risk of being debased, and this would occur at once if it failed to make its moral lesson enjoyable, and enjoyable to the senses at that: a principle, admittedly, by which morality can only gain….The theatre must in fact remain something entirely superfluous, though this indeed means that it is the superfluous for which we live. Nothing needs less justification than pleasure.” —Bertolt Brecht, A Short Organum for the Theatre (trans. John Willett)

I love Brecht.

It felt appropriate to include the quote above in the blog post about this episode—an interview with directors Eric Powell Holm and Katie Melby (who also stars as Jimmy Gallagher in the show), and producer Kelly Klein (who portrays Willie) of BREAD Arts Collective‘s Rise and Fall, their take on Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny—because in my opinion, they’ve succeeded in getting to the heart of Brecht’s moral lesson, while at the same time making a highly pleasurable, superfluous piece of theatre that’s a great way to enjoy a Sunday night on a Lower East Side bar.

Listen in as Katie, Eric, and Kelly discuss creating their production with the people in the collective around them, why this is the perfect show to do in a bar, why you might want to under-rehearse, reading the room, and what to do if someone calls the bar-phone in the middle of your bar-show.

“This shit will live or die on its punk rock spirit. We have to go fast, and hard, and truthful, and we must not give a fuck—that’s the only way this play will work.”

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Daniel Adams, Jason Aguirre, Sarah Burkhalter, and Chef Rick Martinez of “krāv”

Daniel Adams directs krāv, an immersive supper-club theatre experienceLet’s face it, the thought of a dinner-party with strangers can be anxiety-inducing.

But while dinner with strangers is exactly what you’re signing up for with 5 Senses Theatre‘s krāv experience, let go of any trepidation. You’re going to have a blast, and a great dinner to boot.

Listen in as director Daniel Adams, co-creators/actors Jason Aguirre and Sarah Burkhalter, and Chef Rick Martinez discuss uniting theatre with a supper-club, identifying audience archetypes, how to use food to contribute to the story, and what happens when you put the audience in the driver’s seat.

…plus, be sure to listen in to the end for a special summer cocktail recipe, courtesy of Chef Rick!

“The food is also the safety net. Even though it can poke at you…it can challenge you…in this form, it’s the audience’s safety net. Sarah and I have always been fascinated with danger, how do we capture danger…in New York, it’s close to impossible to scare people, we’re so ready for whatever…”
“But are we prepped to be at a table with strangers?”
“That’s the thing!”

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