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…”
Continue reading

Michael Paul Wirsch, Olivia Hartle, and Sarah Misch of “The Curse of the Babywoman!”

BIG Theatre presents The Curse of the Babywoman! as part of Fringe NYC 2016If you head out to see anything at the 2016 FringeNYC Festival, you’re likely going to run into a ton of crazy, catchy titles for the shows being offered. One that caught my eye was The Curse of the Babywoman! because of my penchant for horror—and this promised to be a fun, campy, theatrical romp.

And it kept its promise.

Michael Paul Wirsh‘s script is zany enough to keep you laughing, while layered in allegory that keeps your mind engaged saying, “wait, what?” And when you leave the theater and start to unravel the wild tapestry painted for you by director Olivia Hartle and the delightful cast, including the fabulous Sarah Misch as Philomena, you begin to develop a real appreciation for the levels in this show.

Listen in as Mike, Olivia, and Sarah discuss finding humor and leaning into your rehearsal mistakes, denying the obvious, embracing simplicity, mob mentality, how to put baby horses onstage, and finding social relevance in a play about a giant baby.

“If you’re going to convince people to change their minds and their hearts, you have to do it subversively, and that’s ultimately what I hope this does. And if not, it’s a good time, so that’s important, too.”

Continue reading

Matthew Freeman, Kyle Ancowitz, Moira Stone, David DelGrosso, and Mick O’Brien of “That Which Isn’t”

Theater Accident presents Matthew Freeman's THAT WHICH ISN'T at The Brick, directed by Kyle AncowitzThat Which Isn’t is not an easy play to describe—but it is one that will make you lean forward in your chair. Through two acts, each featuring just two characters, mostly only talking, this brilliant production will draw you in with it’s beautiful simplicity.

Playwright Matthew Freeman and director Kyle Ancowitz, last heard together on GSAS! when they discussed their collaboration on Why We Left Brooklyn, provide all the tools needed for the wonderful actors Moira Stone, David DelGrosso, and Mick O’Brien to take you on a journey that I think will get you the way it got me. Or, as David says in the interview, they will “catch you feeling,” like they did me.

Listen in as the team discusses misdirection vs. tricks, the feeling of being cast out into space while onstage, individualized receptions by the audience, helpful stage directions, and “the distance between what we hope is true and what is true.”

“…as conventional of a structure as the play has…what to me is exciting about it is that it’s not a play that tells you what to feel about people. It leaves a lot of room for people to be inconsistent within their own characters, to have moments that are out of character for them, to do things that surprise themselves. It doesn’t make it easy on the audience to always know if there’s a side, or what side to pick, or…how to judge someone moment to moment…”

Continue reading

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…”

Continue reading

Mac Rogers and Sean Williams of “Universal Robots”

Gideon Productions and The Sheen Center present Universal Robots, written by Mac Rogers, directed by Jordana WilliamsGideon Productions has been on the podcast before with the excellent shows Ligature Marks and Asymmetric, and the company’s continually been on the rise since I’ve met them, garnering more well-deserved press and accolades.

Now, playwright Mac Rogers is being featured in The New York Times, and the company is collaborating with larger venues to bring past-produced epics like The Honeycomb Trilogy and the now-running Universal Robots back to New York audiences.

But these aren’t simple re-mounts—as producer Sean Williams notes in the interview, the world has changed since the first production of the show. By bringing back hits from their catalogue, not only is Gideon giving audiences what they’ve been asking for (in Mac’s words, “You have to have a good reason to think it’s a show anybody wants to come back…There are some plays people have never stopped talking to me about…”), the company can also bring them to more audiences, do them on the grand scale they deserve, and the plays can now talk to a different world.

Listen in as Mac and Sean discuss how Universal Robots isn’t an adaptation of R.U.R., the freedom of now vs. even just ten years ago, life imitating art imitating life, the end of a play’s natural life, and the next steps for the evolution of a highly-successful indy theatre company.

“One of the characters sort of sneers at the idea that theater’s supposed to be fun. [Another] says, ‘Of course theatre’s supposed to be fun! Why have rigging above the stage if you’re not going to dangle a god?’

Continue reading

Erika Phoebus and Isaac Byrne of “Kiss It, Make It Better”

Theatre 4the People presents KISS IT, MAKE IT BETTER at The New OhioWho really gets you? How well do you actually know yourself? And when your innocence is shattered, what can you do, who can you turn to, and where can you go?

For the characters in actress Erika Phoebus‘s Kiss It, Make It Better, the place to run away to is an abandoned roller coaster—but the real world has a way of encroaching in on the planned utopia of two runaway kids.

Starting with a bit of old slam poetry, Erika worked with director Isaac Byrne (whom you might remember from the second go-round of The Other Mozart) to develop the play, currently receiving its world premiere as produced by Theatre 4the People at The New Ohio.

Listen in as Erika and Isaac discuss lost innocence, being both playwright and actor in the rehearsal room, creating your own Neverland, why you shouldn’t rely on your box office, and why you should go wait in Central Park for “Shakespeare in the Park” tickets (hint: you might start a collaboration with others in the queue).

“I just kind of came to the realization that…you can’t really make money off theatre until it reaches a certain level…”
“…and even then…”
“…and even then! So unless you’re really coming in with a lot of capital, what’s the point? […] I just wanted people to come. […] And it’s actually been great…”
“I think it’s also really important to respect the community of artists that we’re a part of…and recognize that it’s our job to see theatre, and it’s our job to be a part of the theatre. It’s an exchange…”

Continue reading

Jason Tseng, Emily Hartford, Alisha Spielmann, and Kia Rogers of “Rizing”

Flux Theatre Ensemble presents RIZING by Jason Tseng, directed by Emily HartfordPodcast regulars (and favorites) Flux Theatre Ensemble are back with a new show, from a new playwright, developed in-house and featuring a lot of ensemble regulars that you’ll recognize.

Rizing, by Jason Tseng, is a modern and unique take on the zombie trope. Here, however, those with a taste for brains live and work among the other remaining survivors of the zombie apocalypse, though those who are “Z-positive” are highly medicated, and de-facto segregated. But the old drugs are starting to lose the effect of keeping down the flesh-cravings, and a revolt is beginning to stir…

Flux is once again offering tickets with their incredible and brilliantly innovative Living Ticket model, so you can get to the show without a barrier to entry—but you can also have the chance to help the company out with a pay-what-you-will model. And they show you where that money’s going!

Listen in to this episode as Jason, along with director Emily Hartford, actor Alisha Spielmann, and lighting designer Kia Rogers discuss “The Walking Dead meets Octavia Butler,” class battles, thanking St. Judith Butler, how to make a world breathe, and how we are shaped by our reactions to the impossible decisions the world presents us with.

“…a big part of the play is memory, and what that does to a person when you don’t have a history, what that does for the Z-negative characters to have lived through this enormously violent and destructive history, and the choices that they’ve had to make. So there is this balance between who you are as your actions, and who you are as this past that sort of haunts you…”

Continue reading

Yolanda K. Wilkinson and Joey Rizzolo of “Bible Study for Heathens”

The New York Neo-Futurists present Bible Study for Heathens, written and performed by Yolanda K. WilkinsonIt takes moxie to critique religion while performing in a church. But for Yolanda K. Wilkinson, Judson Memorial Church Loft is exactly the right place to premiere her new solo show: Bible Study for Heathens.

The show is presented by The New York Neo-Futurists and, like everything this ground-breaking theatre company does, Bible Studes for Heathens defies definition and pushes theatrical boundaries.

With hilarious visual aids, fantastically-produced videos, sock-puppets, graphics, and sometimes intense audience participation, Yolanda chronicles her personal life quest to find some kind of meaning, attachment or even divine inspiration in ten different religions she has taken part in, since her childhood. Along the way, she hones in on some disturbing truths about the American religious experience, but in the end, she—and the audience—find hope through basic, affirming, human communion.

Go See A Show! correspondent Tara Gadomski sat down after a recent performance—in the cavernous church—to speak to writer and performer Yolanda K. Wilkinson and director Joey Rizzolo. Listen in as they discuss avoiding “therapy” on stage, how to interact with audience members who may strongly disagree with you, and why religion and theatre intersect.

“We think about artistic media as having a relationship with one another, but theatre has a really close relationship with religion and it’s unique that way. And you can say that theatre has a closer relationship with religion than it does with any other storytelling medium. Because it’s the only one that requires people being in a room at the same time.”

Continue reading

Emily Claire Schmitt, Ria T. DiLullo, Miranda Poett, Claire Buckingham, Charlotte Pines, and Courtney McClellan of “Whatchamacallit: A Play About Jesus”

Whatchamacallit A Play About Jesus, written by Emily Claire Schmitt, directed by Ria T. DiLulloNuns & prophets. Lost faith & lost love. A virgin conception & a horde of condoms.

And, observing it all, a bemused Jesus.

If that doesn’t intrigue you to check out Emily Claire Schmitt‘s excellent play Whatchamacallit: A Play About Jesus, then this interview certainly will.

Listen in as Emily, along with director Ria T. DiLullo, and cast members Miranda Poett, Claire Buckingham, Charlotte Pines, and Courtney McClellan, discuss the hero’s journey, embodying third wave feminism, Catholic education, a play and rehearsal process mostly free from the male gaze, and how songs can sometimes sing you.

“…when I wrote the script, one of the intentions was, ‘how are we going to deal with issues that people don’t like talking about, but in a way that’s fun and comfortable…can we talk about religion, and can we talk about women, without judging religion…can we actually deal with these things in a human way, without destroying ourselves…”

Continue reading

Heather Litteer and Elena Heyman of “Lemonade”

LEMONADE by Heather Litteer at La MaMaWhat to do when you’ve been typecast by the film and TV industry?

If you are actor, poet, writer and performance artist Heather Litteer, you embrace it, work it, and try to enjoy the process, no matter how difficult…AND you continue to make theatre that explores ALL the complex layers of your humanity—not just the ones that Hollywood knows you for.

This journey has culminated in Lemonade, a one-woman autobiographical show, by and about Heather Litteer, currently playing in The Club at La Mama. In the show, she explores her screen career, playing prostitutes, junkies and strippers, her real life in New York as an independent woman in the 1990’s downtown theatre scene and her relationship with her traditional, “Steel Magnolia” mother in the South.

GSAS! correspondent Tara Gadomski went downtown to see the show, which she called “a really cool party.” Listen in as she talks with Heather and director Elena Heyman about the conception of the show, how it became possible through a fellowship at La Mama from The William & Eva Fox Foundation and Theatre Communications Group, the current state of “downtown theatre,” the importance of wafting glitter on stage, and advice for young female actors.

“Work extremely hard. I think that young actresses could benefit from understanding how hard you have to work to make what you want happen.”

Continue reading