Thursday, April 9, 2015

“The Mystery of Love and Sex”- A look at the intimacy of incompatibility

By Judd Hollander

The path to true love does not always run smooth. You always hurt the one you love. Time-worn clichés perhaps, but still quite accurate in Bathsheba Doran's penetrating The Mystery of Love and Sex, now at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater.

College roommates Charlotte (Gayle Rankin) and Jonny (Mamoudou Athie) seem a perfect match. Best friends since childhood, the two have an easygoing and comfortable chemistry, appearing to all observers, including Charlotte's parents Lucinda (Diane Lane) and Howard (Tony Shalhoub), that they've moved to a new and more romantic stage in their relationship.

However while Charlotte and Jonny may be intimate in some ways, in others they're miles apart. Jonny is a devout Baptist and a virgin, saving himself for marriage, while Charlotte is so in love with Jonny she strips her clothes off one night, begging him to take her right then and there. Though as soon becomes clear, just about all of Charlotte and Jonny's afore-mentioned certainties are untrue. Both of them carrying secrets having to do with sexual preferences, pairings and partners and what they see as acceptable and what is not.

It’s a situation Jonny refuses to admit. This refusal making him so closed off, he seems totally disengaged from everyone. An attitude Howard immediately picks up on. Charlotte on the other hand so desperately tries to deny her own feelings, she channels them in completely inappropriate directions, ones which can only lead to disaster. The only truism between Charlotte and Jonny is they are indeed soul mates and best friends who should be able to tell each other everything. Yet their attempts to deny their own personal proclivities threaten to destroy them both.

A further complication is Howard. At first he’s not at all sure Jonny is right for his daughter, but when he comes to realize how much Charlotte loves him, Howard tries to convince Jonny that he and Charlotte are meant to be together. Though unbeknownst to Howard, his own relationship with Diane may not be as rosy as it appears and thus he may not be the best  judge of Charlotte and Jonny's situation. There's also the possibility that Howard, a New York Jew and a successful writer of detective fiction, may object to Jonny simply because he's black.

For a rather intimate tale, Doran has created a sweeping canvas for her story. One spanning five years, numerous relationships and locations, as well as matters including religion, race, parental responsibility and homophobia. The latter issues coming into play when Jonny accuses Howard of perpetuating too many stereotypes in his writings; as well asking the older man if what he wrote could have been responsible for a childhood incident involving Charlotte.

A major strength of the story is that neither Charlotte nor Jonny are fully deserving of the audience's sympathy, the tale showing first one, then the other to be seemingly insensitive, uncaring or just plain obnoxious, and certainly not best friend material. Yet both characters, especially Charlotte are almost immediately so interesting, one becomes quite willing to see where the narrative will take them.

Rankin turns in a powerhouse performance as Charlotte. A girl continually wearing her emotions on her sleeve, while seeing her love for Jonny as the solution to everything. Though her best laid plans often backfire. Such as when Jonny gets involved with another girl and Charlotte gets roaring drunk and proceeds to publicly humiliate him.

Athie is good as Jonny, the character coming off as a mostly standoffish cipher; at least until his own personal issues are brought to light. Jonny's attempts to keep everything hidden eventually earning Charlotte wrath, and leading to his own personal meltdown.

Shalhoub works nicely as the deceptively quiet and very methodical Howard. Rather off-putting when first seen, the character turns out to be quite complex and intelligent; having a strength that comes from experience while going the extra mile to ensure his daughter's happiness. Though his attempts in that direction are sometimes skewed by his not knowing all the facts before diving in.

Lane is fine as Lucinda, though the character is the least defined of the four. A free sprit, she finds herself more and more constrained in Howard too-structured world, not to mention his perfunctory attitude towards sex. Yet like Charlotte and Jonny, Lucinda and Howard share a complex bond, one neither can completely break.

Sam Gold's direction is strong, quickly showing the chemistry between Charlotte and Jonny as well as nicely choreographing the various confrontational scenes between the characters. Costumes by Kaye Voyce work well, especially the outfit Charlotte wears in the final scene.

Involving and ultimately uplifting, The Mystery of Love and Sex points out the importance of being true to oneself. Not a bad message to impart and Doran has presented a very good vehicle in which to do so.

Also in the cast is Bernie Passeltiner.

Featuring  Diane Lane (Lucinda), Tony Shalhoub (Howard), Gayle Rankin (Charlotte), Mamoudou Athie (Jonny), Bernie Passeltiner (Howard's Father).

The Mystery of Love and Sex
by  Bathsheba Doran
Sets: Andrew Lieberman
Costumes: Kaye Voyce
Lighting: Jane Cox
Original Music and Sound: Daniel Kluger
Stage Manager: Janet Takami
Assistant Stage Manager: Karen Evanouskas
Casting: Daniel Swee
Director of Marketing: Linda Mason Ross
General Press Agent: Philip Rinaldi
General Manager: Jessica Niebanck
Production Manager: Paul Smithyman
Directed by Sam Gold

Lincoln Center Theater at the Mitzi E. Newhouse
150 West 65th Street
Tickets: 212-239-6200 or
Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes with one intermission
Closes: April 26, 2015

“Posterity”- A Look At What Legacy Really Means

By Judd Hollander

Every so often in the theatre there are moments when an actor can come on stage and literally suck the air right of the room, so strong is his performance. Such a moment occurs when John Noble is first seen in Doug Wright's absolutely brilliant production of Posterity, now at the Atlantic Theater Company.

Norway, 1901. Sculptor Gustav Vigeland (Hamish Linklater) is a typical temperamental artist. A man with an intense work ethic, he disdains creating portraits and preening statues, preferring instead to craft pieces of real art. Such as a tableau involving a middle aged woman and a young man in a pose indicating multiple meanings. However Gustav's somewhat rash attitudes have also made him a person with an unfortunate reputation, one that's kept him more often then not only "a few kopecks shy of bankruptcy".

A possible chance of salvation arrives when Vigeland's benefactor, Sophus Larpent (Henry Stram) offers him a commission to sculpt a bust of Henrik Ibsen (Noble), the country's most famous playwright. At first Vigeland adamantly refuses, a refusal made more definite by the fact he must first audition for the job. However when Larpent explains that by making the bust of Ibsen, it might lead to the financial backing for Vigeland's own dream project - that of creating a majestic fountain in the town's square - he finally agrees. Adding to the urgency of the situation is the fact that Ibsen has been ill and thus this will probably be the last commissioned portrait of him before his death.

This is the basic set up for the show, establishing the characters and the situation. All of which changes the moment Nobel first appears, his commanding presence as Ibsen dominating everything and everyone in the room. It's quite interesting to watch the relationship between Ibsen and Vigeland as their initial scene together progresses. Each curious about the other while also having at least begrudging appreciation for the other's work. While Ibsen and Vigeland do not develop a master/apprentice relationship, there is a definite feeling of a younger generation trying to understand the older. These moments becoming particularly clear when Vigeland is sitting on the floor with Ibsen towering over him, the sculptor listening intently to what Ibsen has to say. Though as their conversation continues, their relationship begins to change to one of dueling antagonists. Vigeland tossing continuous verbal challenges at Ibsen, the latter neatly deflecting almost all, though there are a few that do get through. Listen for one particular moment, which also comes back as a nice bit of irony later on where Wright takes a swipe at the hypocrisy of people who criticize only when it's fashionable to do so, while conveniently forgetting what they've said previously when circumstances change. Another good bit of irony occurs when Larpent comments on how he was in the audience when one of Ibsen's most famous works was first preformed, Ibsen remarking how he's heard thousands of people tell him that over the years and how strange it was that the theatre only sat a few hundred.

A running theme throughout the play is the question of a person's legacy. Ibsen is both proud of his work and determined it is through his plays that he will be remembered. Vigeland on the other hand is desperate for Ibsen to allow him to do the portrait, humbling himself in ways he probably would never do otherwise in an attempt to lay the groundwork for his own legacy. There's also Anfinn Beck (Mickey Theis), Gustav's young apprentice, determined to strike out on his own and win a prestigious art competition; while Greta (Dale Soules), Larpent's housekeeper and Vigeland's latest model is more concerned of ensuring that her husband, child and herself will always have enough food to eat, she currently being the only breadwinner in the family. Something certainly not as grand as the aspirations of the other people presented, but still quite important in its own right.

Wright's script, as well as his direction, is letter perfect, The pace of the story slowly building the tension between the two main characters, culminating in a brilliant confrontation with both gentlemen holding firm to their own particular beliefs and goals. At least until each man's vulnerabilities are revealed, particularly in regards to who they've betrayed in their lives; as they realize each is dependant on the other in regards to how their legacy will be ensured.

Noble is excellent as Ibsen, showing him to be a powerful, strong and imposing figure, yet someone with a carefully constructed veneer so as not to let anyone get too close. Linklater's strong portrayal of Vigeland is the complete opposite. Coming across as blustering and argumentative while continually feeling the frustration at being so close to his own personal goal while knowing he can't achieve it without help. Linklater and Noble's scenes together among the best to grace the stage in this or any recent theatre season. Stram is good as Larpent, part bureaucrat, part art patron and, like many of his ilk, content to help the careers of others while not so much concerned about his own place in history. Soules gets off some nice comic and sarcastic moments as Greta, while also offering some plain truths on meaning of beauty. Theis is nicely earnest as the youthful Beck.

Derek McLane's set of Vigeland's studio is very well done and the transition technique used to switch to a drawing room in Ibsen's home is nicely handled. Lighting by David Lander is strong, the effects helping to add extra layers to the story, while being especially atmospheric in the aforementioned studio.

A powerful piece about being remembered and the hurts one incurs and inflects as they struggle to get to the top, Posterity is first rate theatre from the first spoken word to the last.

Featuring: Mickey Theis (Anfinn Beck), Dale Soules (Greta Bergstrom), Hamish Linklater (Gustav Vigeland), Henry Stram (Sophus Larpent), John Noble (Henrik Ibsen).

written and directed by Doug Wright

Sets: Derek McLane
Costumes: Susan Hilferty
Lights: David Lander
Original Music & Sound: David Van Tieghem
Casting: Telsey + Company, William Cantler, CSA
Dialects: Deborah Hecht
Press: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Production Stage Manager: Samantha Watson
Production Manager: Michael Wade
Assistant Stage Manager: Danny Maly

Atlantic Theater Company
336 West 20th Street
Tickets: 866-811-4111 or
Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes, one intermission
Closed: April 5, 2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Interview with Antony Raymond and Stacey Roca of "Pretty Babies"

By Byrne Harrison
Production photo by Benjamin Bauman

Antony Raymond
Pretty Babies, a new play written and directed by Antony Raymond, had its world premiere at 13th Street Rep on February 26th. The ensemble cast is led by Stacey Roca who had a recurring role as Rachel on the UK series The Office staring Ricky Gervais; she also played Katrina Howard in Waking the Dead (BBC). Pretty Babies is being produced by the critically acclaimed Elsinore County Theater Company which previously produced the plays Elsinore County (The Lion Theatre/Theatre Row), Julio! (The Kraine Theater), and Gin & Milk (FringeNYC).

Stacey Roca
The production also features Mary Beth Albers (Lustyness/Under St. Mark's), Sara Antkowiak (Tales of Hoffmann/Metropolitan Opera), Benjamin Bauman (Elsinore County/Theatre Row), Christopher Heard (Balm in Gilead/HB Studios), and Dan McVey (Elsinore County/Theatre Row).

I spoke with Antony and Stacey about the show.

To kick things off, Antony, could you tell me a little about Pretty Babies and the characters you've created?

Antony: Pretty Babies is a play about addiction. There's alcohol and drug addiction that's heavy throughout this piece. But its main focus deals with "people" addiction, which in many cases can be the hardest one to kick. Imagine a vodka bottle that could talk back to you. The characters are young people wanting to control one another but also suffer from lack of self-control. Although flawed, they are all pretty likable. At least to me, they are. I feel for them.

Toxic relationships are always good fodder for drama.  What is it about them that seems to resonate with an audience?

Antony: It is good fodder. Taylor Swift sells a bazillion records about bad relationships. I think most of us have managed to find one or two in our lifetime. Some of us right from the get go with a parent. They are a part of life, unfortunately. Just like war is and disease and other negative aspects of life that we're all hurled into when born. And if you're one of the lucky ones, who hasn't had the pleasure of being in an unhealthy relationship, I'm sure it's just as much fun to watch people suck at life worse than you do.

Stacey, I read a review that referred to your character, Claire, as "the heart of the show."  Tell me a little about her.

Sara Antkowiak and Christopher Heard
Stacey: Claire is a young woman addicted to a poisonous man who has developed an unhealthy drug habit. It medicates the hurt of being with someone who has unraveled who she is and left nothing. She is at his disposal and the audience has to watch her go all the way to get out.

Do you have a particular approach to developing your character?

Stacey: I started by playing with a very deliberate note Antony gave me about Claire. He described her as "brand new" which in rehearsal and with the script created incredibly raw and immediate behavior. Claire also came out of my responses to Chris Heard's Jason. What he molded her into and how she fights to regain herself throughout. 

You have a significant amount of television work under your belt, including two of my favorites--The Office and Waking the Dead.  What do you like about performing onstage versus on television?

Stacey: With the stage you get to start at the beginning of the story and play right through to the end. And you get to rehearse!! It may sound silly but it’s such a bonus. It makes our job so much easier and fuller. Also, generally the characters are fuller - the scripts are better and the medium allows for more drama, I feel.

What’s tough to get to grips with again - if it's been a while - is having to recreate/ inhabit the emotion and circumstances fresh and fully over and over, every performance. But the thrill of acting live always gives you a head start.

Antony, you were an actor for several years before you started writing plays.  How does your experience as an actor inform your playwriting?

Antony: It really doesn't. It informs my directing which in turn helps my writing. I don’t know many writers that can step away from their own words the way I do. I hope that doesn’t sound cocky. I'm trying to say that I'm lucky. Being an actor taught me how to direct. So, if there is a problem with a scene, and I've exhausted ALL my options as the director, in order to serve the story, then I know there's a hole in the writing and it needs a rewrite. I hope that answers the question.

Any words of advice for budding playwrights out there?

Antony: Everybody is a different so first and foremost follow your own intuition, but I will say a few things for the sake of the interview. Don't write an autobiography. Try not to be too smart for your own good. Get drunk every once in a while and talk to a stranger. Pillow talk is usually incredible dialogue. And write every single day. Even on the day when you want to get in the bathtub and toss the computer in it with you. Especially on that day.

Stacey, any advice for young actors?

Stacey: Make sure you have talent. Watch your back. Hold onto truth and love. Always remember why you do this work. It is an incredibly tough game. Go easy on yourself.

What's coming up next for you?

Antony: I'm working on a comedy that's written in verse. Iambic Pentameter.  I'm not a poet by any means, but I wanted to take a stab at a big, modern day Shakespeare romance, with love triangles and gender misidentification, and love. Lots and lots of love.  Especially after this last one. It's called Nothing To Do About Everything or Whatever. Its takes place at a college.  It's going to be wild.

Stacey: A green card!!!

Pretty Babies runs through March 21st at 13th St. Rep Theater (50 W. 13th St.)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

FRIGID New York Interview - Noah Casey of "Playing for Advantage"

By Byrne Harrison

Show:  Playing For Advantage
Website: Playing For Advantage NYC
Photo credit: Jon Taggart, Headshot - Katie Trudeau

Noah Casey’s training began with Barb Barker in Vancouver, and continued with Kate Bligh (National Theatre School) and Phillippe Libert (Royal Shakespeare Theatre Company) Montreal. After a successful national tour in the Fringe with Black Sheep Theatre’s The Root of All Squares, he decided he should “really” learn to act, and began training privately with Matthew Harrison (Actor’s Foundry). He was admitted to an MFA program at the University of Northern Illinois where he trained with Kathryn Gately. After all of that training, he tried to quit acting, then relapsed, and has wound up back on stage.

Tell me a little about your show.

The show is a relationship play set to a tennis match, beginning at seeding and moving through love, competing to be better partners, and then finally devolving into a power struggle where each party is playing for advantage. The idea of “winning” changes at each stage of the relationship dependent on the participants and their viewpoint. 

What inspired you to create it?

I wrote the show because I’d seen two plays that I really loved, but no plays that spoke to me in an honest fashion about modern relationships. The two plays were “Toothpaste and Cigars” (now a major motion picture with Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan -- The F Word released in some countries as What If) and Never Swim Alone. Toothpaste is about a near miss relationship, and Never is about a competition between two men and it is refereed by a lifeguard, hence the ball girl in our show…except their lifeguard is a dead girl and our ball girl’s very much alive.

Who else is helping you bring the show to FRIGID?

Kirsten Kilburn (playing Beth), and Safia Karasick Southey (playing the Ball Girl)

Who would be your dream audience for this show?

Couples aged 21-85. It’s a show that easily relatable. If you’ve been in a relationship, you’ll get it, and you’ll probably recommend your friends and family see it. 

As a theatre artist, who are your biggest influences?

MacIvor, Pinter, O’Neill

What shows are you planning to see at FRIGID?

Shirley Gnome, Sam S. Mullins

What is next for you in 2015?

New show called Scapegoats about a the breakup of two male friends as their intimate relationships become more and more important.

Lightning round

Favorite theatre professional? Denis O’Hare

Current show you would love to be involved with? Iceman Cometh with Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy

Your dream show to be involved with? Glass Menagerie 

Who would you most like to have a chance to work with? Mike Leigh

Your best theatre experience? A show called The Garden 

Your worst theatre experience? A show called Big In Germany

Person you’d most like to thank for getting you where you are today? Barb Barker

FRIGID New York Interview - Gillian English of "Get Around Me"

By Byrne Harrison

Show: Get Around Me
Photo credit: Dahlia Katz

Gillian English is the Artistic Producer and founder of The Theatre Elusive. Originally from Nova Scotia, Gillian trained in theatre at Dalhousie University and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA). A Toronto based performer; Gillian has headlined the London Big Comedy Go-To, and The Spring Fever Festival. In the past, Gillian has been featured by the CBC, CTV, The National Post, and NOW! Magazine and many other media outlets for her work in the theatre and comedy. Gillian is one half of the comedy duo “Exit, Pursued by a Bear”, and is also the curator of the hilarious online-dating message blog:

Recent credits include: Paranormal Witness (TV, SyFy Network),Carmilla (Webseries), Faraway Friend (Film Short), Drag Queen Stole My Dress(The Theatre Elusive)  Love in the Time of Time Machines (The Theatre Elusive), A Woman of No Importance(Alumnae Theatre Company), Antony and Cleopatra (The Theatre Elusive), I Don’t Like You (The Theatre Elusive), Matt and Ben (The Theatre Elusive), and The Wormwood Prince (Next Stage Theatre).

Tell me a little about your show.
Four years ago, some charismatic Australians talked me into playing Aussie Rules Football. By August 2014, I was playing for the Midnight Suns in the AFL World Championship. Now I have to leave Aussie Rules behind, and I’m really not happy about it. This is a show about sports, but it’s mostly about how sports can change your life. They teach you to be tough and never apologize for playing the game.

What inspired you to create it?

I had decided over a year ago to write about my experiences in Aussie Rules. Then I went to Australia to play in the International Cup, and what happened there changed everything for me. I thought about it for a long time; whether or not I really wanted to do this show. I knew it wouldn’t be what I had intended, and I knew that it wouldn’t be easy. But Halloween day, I couldn’t stand the idea of not being in the Frigid lottery draw. That made the decision for me.

Who else is helping you bring the show to FRIGID?

I’m flying more solo than normal this year, but I’ve had help and support from Dahlia Katz, Brie Watson, Lauren Messervey and my mother. Getting this show ready was mostly about having people listen to me as I sorted out the stories, and had mini panic attacks.

Who would be your dream audience for this show?

My dream audience would be women athletes, any women really. Anyone who can relate directly, and be able to walk away from my show with a bit of fire in their belly.

I’d love to see the New York Magpies come out, I have a discount for footy players!!

As a theatre artist, who are your biggest influences?

In terms of the solo work I’m doing now, it has to be Chris Gibbs and Jon Bennett. These two guys have been so supportive and encouraging to me over the past couple of years. Plus watching either of them perform is an amazing experience. Those two are pros who know exactly what they’re doing. I love watching them work.

What shows are you planning to see at FRIGID?

Shirley Gnome: Real Mature - Shirley Gnome
The Untitled Sam Mullins Project - Sam Mullins
Dog Show- Animal Engine
Cootie Catcher - Lucas Brooks
Hey '90s Kid, You’re Old - Hole Punch Prod.

And I’m especially excited to see my dear friend Antonia Lassar’s new show “Post Traumatic Super Delightful”.

What is next for you in 2015?

I have two screenplays that I’d like to turn into actual films.  I’ll keep touring “Get Around Me” around Canada, which I’m excited about. I’m hoping to return to the Atlantic Fringe Festival this September with my improv duo “Exit Pursued by a Bear”. Other than that, I’m taking up softball this summer!

Lightning round

Favorite theatre professional? I love watching Antonia Lassar work. I still think “The God Box” was one of the best pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen.

Current show you would love to be involved with? If I could only sing and dance maybe I could be in “Cannibal: The Musical”

Your dream show to be involved with? I have a decade or so to learn to sing so I can play Diana in “Next to Normal”

Who would you most like to have a chance to work with? I’d love to work with Kat Sandler. She’s an amazing Canadian playwright who is making some of the best theatre around right now.

Your best theatre experience? My final performance as Enobarbus in my LAMDA grad show production of Antony and Cleopatra. That was the first REALLY big audience I’d ever had, and I goddamn loved every second of it.

Your worst theatre experience? The police were crawling around in the ceiling during one of my shows in Montreal this past year. It was so loud, I had to start late. Pretty much a disaster.

Person you’d most like to thank for getting you where you are today? Mindy Kaling.

FRIGID New York Interview: Molly Craven of "Whiskey Pants: The Mayor of Williamsburg"

By Byrne Harrison

Show: Whiskey Pants: The Mayor of Williamsburg
Photo credit: Ze’ Castle Photography

Originally from Austin, TX, Mollie Craven just graduated from Oklahoma City University with a Bachelor's of Fine Arts in Acting. Some of her favorite regional credits include Fiona in Shrek, Harper in Angels in America, Gloria in Damn Yankees, Brenda in Hairspray, and Queen Isobel in Richard II

Tell me a little about your show.

Where to begin?! Here’s what I tell people who don’t know anything about theatre: “Whiskey Pants is set in a post-apocalyptic Williamsburg where everyone drinks all the time. Then this new guy comes in and says ‘Hey! You should stop drinking and live your dreams!’ And we say ‘No! Bye!’” …... Very eloquent, you’re welcome. But seriously, underneath the surface of this show about a town of alcoholics, this show hits a lot of relevant issues, especially in the young artist community. The people of this community all had big dreams – to be an actor or a doctor, to have a family, to be SOMETHING important. Somewhere along the way, their lives became “a dream deferred,” and now they have all settled into this perpetual hangover to avoid the pain of their unachieved dreams. It provides a very powerful, honest commentary on this society crippled by fear and regret, and gives them the chance to become something. But will they?? 

How did you become involved with it?

I saw the audition posting on Backstage and applied on a whim for the 17-20 year old Mayor’s daughter role (because even at 5’9”, I’m still trying to work my baby cheeks as long as I can). They emailed me back and told me to “prepare a ballad and a comedic song. One as if you are drunk and one as if you are sober.” At my audition, I stumbled my way (literally, into the wall) through my drunk song, somehow got a callback, stumbled some more, and then got the part! I guess those COUNTLESS crazy nights (three) in college paid off.

Who else is helping you bring the show to FRIGID?

Our fearless team at Mind the Art Productions is taking this show to the top! Our amazing (and sleepless) producers/writers/creative team Christian De Gre, Patrick Alberty, Serrana Gay, Mariel Lowe, Aaron Butler, Joe Reese, Kate Marley, Ashley Soliman, and the rest of the cast and orchestra (and the other people that I’ve surely forgotten, I’M SORRY!) are all essential in bringing this show to FRIGID. They’re all pretty incredible artists. I’m a lucky girl to get to work with them.

Who would be your dream audience for this show?

You! BUY TICKETS!! Anyone who wants to laugh, hear really electrifying music, and maybe also shed one single, majestic tear like in the movies should be an audience member for this show. Young artists should DEFINITELY come to this show. It’s for and about us.

As a theatre artist, who are your biggest influences?

I grew up with the classics – “Oklahoma,” “Sound of Music,” “Singin’ In The Rain.” All those timeless movie/musical actors like Shirley Jones, Julie Andrews, Debbie Reynolds, and more in those timeless shows are truly the pinnacles of performing and inspiration for me. 

What shows are you planning to see at FRIGID?

As many as my eyes can handle! I know I’m going to see “Whiskey Pants” five times.

What is next for you in 2015?

Hopefully booking a summer stock job and creating some comedy work to become a YouTube sensation, or if not, draining my bank account to feed my Seamless and Breaking Bad obsession and dying where I lived – on the couch we found on the street.

Lightning round

Favorite theatre professional? I’m a Kelli O’Haraholic. She also went to OCU, she’s breathtakingly beautiful and elegant as a person and a performer, and her voice is okay too.

Current show you would love to be involved with? I know the Off-Broadway “Into the Woods” is an intentionally condensed cast, but maybe they have room for one more Sondheim geek?

Your dream show to be involved with? A show were I get to play Bernadette Peter’s granddaughter, who is also best friends with Emma Stone, and Jeremy Jordan’s love interest. Someone should write that show.

Who would you most like to have a chance to work with? My favorite girls Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett. Now would be great, or if I could turn back time, we coulda been a comedy trio!

Your best theatre experience? This summer, I got to do a regional theater production of “Shrek” where I played Fiona opposite my boyfriend as Shrek. I know, we’re gross, but it was the most fun I’ve EVER had on stage.

Your worst theatre experience? My 8th grade production of “Copacabana.” Yes, it’s a musical. Yes, it’s your worst nightmare.

Person you’d most like to thank for getting you where you are today? The Big Man upstairs. No, not my Russian landlord Ernst.

For more information about Whiskey Pants: The Mayor of Williamsburg, visit the FRIGID New York website.

FRIGID New York Interview - Mike Lemme of "Where I'm From"

By Byrne Harrison

Show: Where I'm From
Photo credit: Michael Toy
Mike Lemme was a quiet kid, because he never knew how to relate to his peers. They would talk about things Mike knew nothing about like sports, movies and video games, but if you wanted to talk about wetting the bed, low self-esteem, and visiting family in mental hospitals, Mike was your guy! Now 25, Lemme is more aware of what’s happening in the world. By mixing his cultural observations with biographical material, Mike proves there are few things comedy can’t make better.

Lemme started performing stand-up as a teenager. Since then he has been featured on PBS, written for Nickelodeon and Second City, warmed up audiences for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, and was part of the production staff for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and CONAN.  Mike can be seen performing nightly all around New York City.  

Tell me a little about your show.

It's about trying to accept what I went through as a child, understanding that I can't change the past and that I need to move on so I can tackle life's bigger obstacles like trying to go from an air mattress to a bed.

What inspired you to create it?

Watching other comedians get personal on stage, seeing someone completely open up their soul to strangers while still making them laugh.

Who else is helping you bring the show to FRIGID?

My friends Matt Comer and Samantha Friedwald have helped me out a ton. They aren't officially part of the show, but they have been helping me with social media and not going crazy.

Who would be your dream audience for this show?
Open-minded people, who don't immediately decide they will not laugh because they heard a keyword they don't like.

As a theatre artist, who are your biggest influences?

John Leguizamo, Chris Rock and Larry David.

What shows are you planning to see at FRIGID?

I'd like to see them all, but definitely Post Traumatic Super Delightful, Dandy Darkly, Christmapocalypse, Sam Mullins and more!

What is next for you in 2015?

More stand-up! Going to Detroit for a weekend of shows in April. Hopefully heading back to LA for a little bit.

Lightning round

Favorite theatre professional? Frigid is my first time being part of any type of theater, so I’m going to say all of the friendly and helpful people I have met by participating in the festival.

Current show you would love to be involved with? F
ish in The Dark

Your dream show to be involved with? I’d kill it in Chicago.

Your best theatre experience? When I interned for Conan O’Brien, he did a week of shows at the Beacon Theater. Something about being in that building felt so good. 

Your worst theatre experience? “My Baby’s Daddy.”

Person you’d most like to thank for getting you where you are today? Eminem

For more about "Where I'm From," visit the FRIGID New York website.

Friday, March 6, 2015

FRIGID New York Interview - Dipti Bramhandkar of "The Accident"

By Byrne Harrison

Show:  The Accident
Photo credit: Nelson Salis

Dipti Bramhandkar started writing at age 9 in a purple diary with a lock. As an Indian born, upstate New York-raised child she had plenty of material. She hasn’t stopped since. She studied English literature at Cornell University for her bachelor’s and received her Masters in English Literature from Cambridge in the UK.   In recent years, her prose writing has leapt from the page into readings and short performances. After participating in the 2014 Labyrinth Theater Company Intensive Ensemble, she began to write for the stage. Her short plays have been performed at the Bank Street Theater and the New York Theater Workshop.

She is thrilled to debut her new play, The Accident, at the Frigid Festival this year in collaboration with fellow Labyrinth Intensive members. By day she runs an advertising strategy practice called DB Quill.  

Tell me a little about your show.

A man suffers horrific injuries from a fall while trying to rescue other climbers. The press gets wind of his story and makes him a famous face overnight. Wealth and power soon follow. He uses his numerous platforms to raise money for other people who are in the process of rehabilitation. But things start to unravel when a journalist linked to his past doubts his story and we search for the truth through the eyes of the people closest to him, including his immigrant father, his physical therapist, a star struck fan and of course, the journalist himself.

In this docu-play, the past collides with the present as we discover what it means to be a hero in the media-obsessed 21st century.

What inspired you to create it?

"I knew I was falling,” a friend said to me when recounting a fall off of a mountain that left him with a plethora of life-altering injuries. His description of the physical trauma and dramatic rehabilitation stayed me for months after. I knew I wanted to write about it. The story of his fall unexpectedly collided with another type of fall – a fall from grace.  Every day we are confronted with revelations about famous people we once admired – Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, James Frey, and countless others. As the media firestorm builds around their stories, everything is put into question and the the public finds itself in a proverbial jury box. This play began to take shape through interviews with a physical therapist and psychologist and obsessively reading every ‘fall from grace’ autobiography.
The format of the play is inspired by documentary style filmmaking which allows us to hear multiple perspectives on the same person or situation.  

Who else is helping you bring the show to FRIGID?

The producers, Cara Yeates and Nicol Moeller, as well as several of the cast members and I met at the Labyrinth Theater Company’s Intensive Ensemble last year.   They have been partners in every sense of the word in bringing my play to Frigid. Our generous director, Courtney Wetzel, has brought her many years of experience to the show. 

Who would be your dream audience for this show?

I want to reach out to people who visit the theater infrequently. I want them to feel involved and included so that they will come out to support emerging theater artists much more often.

As a theatre artist, who are your biggest influences?

I admire playwrights like Margaret Edson and Lynn Nottage who have created complex, multi-layered work and artists around the world who make art under difficult circumstances like government censorship.  

What shows are you planning to see at FRIGID?

I Was a 6th Grade Bigfoot, Post Traumatic Super Delightful, and as many others as I can!

What is next for you in 2015?

I’m curating an evening of new short plays for Record Store Day, April 18th, 2015. 

Lightning round

Favorite theatre professional? Mark Rylance

Current show you would love to be involved with? The Audience

Your dream show to be involved with? Bringing a classic Marathi play to an English audience.

Who would you most like to have a chance to work with? Mira Nair

Your best theatre experience? Wit with Judith Light. 

Your worst theatre experience? Haven't had it yet…

Person you’d most like to thank for getting you where you are today? My mom, Alka.

If you'd like to find out more about "The Accident," visit the FRIGID New York website.

FRIGID New York Interview - Matt Panesh of "300 to 1"

By Byrne Harrison

Show: 300 to 1
Photo credit: Susie Cavill

As Monkey Poet, Matt Panesh is a regular on the fringe circuit, writing and performing solo theatre plays (Welcome to Afghanistan, Murder Mystery, LOVEhurtsACTUALLY and 300 to 1) and stand up poetry (Monkey poet, Welcome to the UK, Shit-flinging!) and has won 8 awards including an Editors' Award at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe. Mixing solo-theatre with poetry he presents double-bill shows which regularly tour the UK and North America. He's published two collections and a retrospective of his work “Tribe: Collective Monkey 2007-14” is to be published this year with Burning Eye Books.

He has directed several shows including Around the World in 8 Mistakes written and performed by Sophia Walker (BBC Slam Champion 2013) which won the Best UK Spoken Word show (Sabateur Awards).

He is currently Artistic Director of Spoken Word for PBH FreeFringe at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. 

Tell me a little about your show. 

A schoolboy re-enacts the blood & biceps epic film “300” to the ghosts of Wilfred Owen & Siegfried Sassoon, homosexual First World War poets. Audiences have backed me up by agreeing it's way funnier than it sounds, honest!  

What inspired you to create it?

First off, I got mistaken for Gerard Butler at the Edinburgh Fringe...seriously, and no, I couldn't believe it either. I've been wanting to look at how we treat veterans, and the UK and the US are very similar in the fact that we treat them like shit, if you die, you get all these services and stuff, but if you survive, you get cast aside and ignored. More veterans of the our Falklands War have committed suicide than died on the battlefield. 20% of all serving men and women will develop mental health problems. Up to 30% of the homeless in the UK are ex-servicemen and women.  The Centenary of WW1 was coming up, and I saw that as an opportunity to make this point, and I can't stress this enough, it is a comedy, it is funny, I want to entertain not beat the audience around the head with a big moral stick. Finally, I wanted to look both at the homoerotic undercurrent in action films and how we sell war and violence to kids. 

Who else is helping you bring the show to FRIGID?

On my lonesome buddy! But you're never on your own at a fringe! Dandy Darkly is here from Edinburgh Fringe, Artem Yatsunov I met last year is a lovely guy, and I'm looking forward to both their shows, so there's beers, laughs, plenty of entertainment, even professional development, and wonderful know, a fringe!

Who would be your dream audience for this show?

Any one over the age of 14. Really. I've performed for veterans, I've performed for comedy fans, I've performed for fans of the war poetry of Wilfred Owen, fans of the film 300, this is the most diversely crowd pleasing show I've ever done (and here I have to thank the Director, Gareth Armstrong, as the fact this is the best show I've done had an awful lot to do with his amazing input, and Andy McQuade, the dramaturg, who over the years we've worked together has been a constant source of inspiration and education.)

As a theatre artist, who are your biggest influences?

Dario Fo, Brecht and Stephen Berkoff.

What shows are you planning to see at FRIGID?

AS MANY AS I CAN! Last year I think I saw 29. I know I missed a couple because they were starting after I'd left, and a couple clashed, aside from that I got everything else in.  The thing with Fringe is that it's time to gorge yourself. None of this, “well I think that looks like I'll enjoy I'll agree with everything the artist it'll pamper me into a coma,”. You want the Theatre to rock your world, slap your sensibilities, shit in your bath. And that's what fringe is for. In my opinion of course.

What is next for you in 2015?

A 3-week London run of the show followed by a 2 month UK tour. Then I start work on my two new solo projects for Edinburgh, and directing 3 shows for Edinburgh. I pretty much don't have a day off till September.

Lightning round

Favorite theatre professional? Gerard Logan (actor Rape of Lucrece, the best Shakespeare I've seen...ever) 

Current show you would love to be involved with? This one. Wouldn't change a thing at the mo.

Your dream show to be involved with? Fo's Accidental Death of an Anarchist.

Who would you most like to have a chance to work with? Dario Fo

Your best theatre experience? See above, Rape of Lucrece.

Your worst theatre experience? Seeing a show that was soooooooo pisspoor I couldn't even commend the lighting. Names are irrelevant. If you're doing Theatre right, everyone should have this experience. And more than once!

Person you’d most like to thank for getting you where you are today? Mark Makin of makin projects. He mentored me for two years in tour booking and artistic sustainability (...getting cash from your art).

If you'd like to find out more about "300 to 1," visit the FRIGID New York website.

FRIGID New York Interview - Shannon Holmes of "The Crook of Your Arm"

By Byrne Harrison

Show: The Crook of Your Arm
Photo credit: Yukiko Onley

Shannon Holmes is a singer, actor, director, Doctoral Researcher, educator and artistic director of SoMo (Sound In Motion) Theatre, a multidisciplinary theatre company based in Montréal, Canada, dedicated to the creation of interdisciplinary performance that explores the intersection of singing and speech.

Shannon received her BFA in Theatre Performance with a Minor in Music from Concordia University and her MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College. She is currently pursuing a PhD at The University of Birmingham, UK, in Theatre and Drama Studies where her research includes the development of improvisational practices as a process towards performance and the theoretical exploration of the connections between the lived body and voice.

As a performer, Shannon has worked for over 30 years as both an opera singer and an actor. Shannon is currently part-time faculty in the Theatre Department at Concordia University in Montréal, having previously taught at Capilano University in North Vancouver BC. She is an associate teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework®.

Tell me a little about your show.

Intertwining the music of Kurt Weill and the personal narrative of a daughter’s mission to find her Mother’s underwear, talk about “it” and negotiate a family crisis, The Crook of Your Arm is intimate, moving and humorous theatre that lives in the cracks between opera, cabaret and music-theatre.
The story of my parents and their struggle to come to terms with my Mother’s Alzheimer’s disease emerged as I was doing some in studio research into somatic vocal methods that span the singing and speaking voice as part of my PhD studies. Writing this show was a bit of an accident.

What inspired you to create it?

I was doing some improvisational voice work at Pantheatre in Paris, France last March and using the Kurt Weill song “Je ne t’aime pas” as material.  I started to realize that this song, which on first take is about sexual betrayal was actually far more complex and could just as well be about the many forms that betrayal can take. At the time my Mother had just been moved into a care facility because she was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and I was so struck at how much she was being betrayed by her mind. Physically she was (and still is ) in good shape, but her mind has betrayed her. I went on to workshop and develop the piece further in London UK in August of 2014 during a workshop for voice teachers. In November 2014, I did a work-in-progress showing in Montréal.

Who else is helping you bring the show to FRIGID? 

I am very excited to be working with Molly Arnoson, a brilliant local (NYC) cellist. Kaitlyn Raitz the cellist I worked with in Montréal was unable to come for the festival and recommended her college roommate Molly. 

Who would be your dream audience for this show?

Anyone who has had to look after ageing parents I think will relate very well, but it speaks to anyone who has faced communication difficulties within a family unit, which seems to be quite a universal issue.

As a theatre artist, who are your biggest influences?

I trained as both an opera singer and an actor so my influences are pretty diverse. In opera I loved the Canadian soprano Teresa Stratas, and am a big fan of Dawn Upshaw as well. In theatre I see  Robert Wilson as a true visionary, Robert Lepage never ceases to amaze me, and I love Laurie Anderson- she is so inventive and fascinating on stage. I am also a huge fan of The Wooster Group and Elizabeth LeCompte.

What shows are you planning to see at FRIGID?

Whiskey Pants: The Mayor of Williamsburg, Everyday Edna Mae, Shirley Grome, Real Mature, Hey 90’s Kids, You’re Old… for starters!

What is next for you in 2015?

Besides trying to finish my PhD, I am looking to take The Crook of Your Arm to the UK.

Lightning round

Favorite theatre professional? Robert Wilson

Current show you would love to be involved with?  It hasn't oped yet but The Wooster Group’s Early Shaker Spirituals looks really cool!

Your dream show to be involved with? The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets, I mean really?! Tom Waits, William S. Burroughs AND Robert Wilson?!

Who would you most like to have a chance to work with? Meredith Monk, Laurie Anderson, Anne Bogart…

Your best theatre experience? It sounds corny but truly, there is nothing more satisfying than a rehearsal where hours have been spent playing in the studio and all sorts of lightbulbs have gone off and you feel like you might just have created something truly meaningful.

Your worst theatre experience? I was 14 years old and playing Jill (of Jack and Jill) in a community production of Babes in Toyland when the set began to fall and Jack and I had to struggle to hold it up so it would not crush Bobby Shaftoe, Simple Simon and Boy Blue.

Person you’d most like to thank for getting you where you are today? My husband, Gus. We have six children and he has to jump in and take over the running of the household solo in order for me to be doing this work. No easy task. I am grateful. 

For more about "The Crook of Your Arm," visit the FRIGID New York website.

FRIGID New York Interview - Todd Brian Backus of "Let's Play Play"

By Byrne Harrison

Show: Let’s Play Play
Photo credit: The cast of Let’s Play Play (Zachary Clarence, Brittany K Allen, and Emeka Nwafor) photographed by Todd Brian Backus. Headshot by Shannon Stockwell.

Todd Brian Backus is a director/producer/illustrator/photographer and someday he'll finish adapting a play or two. Directing credits include: The Shadow by Shannon Stockwell, For the Lulz by Ben Ferber, Bystanders by Shannon Stockwell, and three installments of the staged reading series StageWhispers(PowerOut); and Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde by Moises Kaufman (SUNY Oswego).  Todd co-curated and produced two seasons of StageWhispers in Portland and is looking to bring the series to NYC. He has designed for LCT3, The NY Neo Futurists, and Portland Stage Company. Online Todd can be found on his website; at PlayPerDay, where he reads and reviews scripts ; and Hot Pepper Theater, where he eats habaneros and talks about shows.

Tell me a little about your show.

Let’s Play Play is an unapologetic look at the intersection of Internet and gamer culture. It’s focused on two YouTube critics (Flood and Dresher) who decide to start a Let’s Play together (a show where people play video games and react to them) they rise to YouTube stardom and make some compromises along the way. After a falling out about artistic integrity they hire an editor (Bayes) to serve as an intermediary. When she starts appearing on the show their fans lash out, unsatisfied with the “fake geek girl” that they assume her to be. Things spin out of control as Gamergate takes hold in the community and all three artists wonder whether they can continue.

How did you become involved with it?

Ben Ferber (the playwright) and I have worked together for years. The last project we staged together was his play about hackers and hacktivists called For the Lulz. Ben likes examining our constantly changing lives on the internet and he and I have both been avid gamers since before we can remember. I was excited to work on a play that highlighted my love for gaming culture while presenting it in an honest light.

Who else is helping you bring the show to FRIGID?

Our company, PowerOut, is a small collective of artists that met in Portland, Maine, and a lot of us are in NYC right now working together. The playwright, producer, costume designer, and I are all members and we’ve reached out to our friends and colleagues to make this show a reality. It’s been a lot of late nights and we’d like to give shoutouts to our lighting designer Mary Heatwole, our AD/SM Nicholas Orvis, and, of course, our stellar cast: Brittany K. Allen, Zachary Clarence, and Emeka Nwafor.

Who would be your dream audience for this show?

We’d love to see other gamers in the audience. They’re the ones this show was built for. But it’s also exciting as an outside observer.

As a theatre artist, who are your biggest influences?

I really started directing after seeing how Sarah Ruhl explored content and form and narrative in her play Eurydice. Her work instilled in me the belief that realism wasn’t ever the goal. She also comes at plays from a visual standpoint (she was trained as a visual artist) and so she spoke to me on a deeper level. I find that the scripts I’m attracted to are ones I imagine she’d like visually as well.

What shows are you planning to see at FRIGID?

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Animal Engine (the folks doing Dog Show) and I also want to catch The Untitled Sam Mullins Project.

What is next for you in 2015?

PowerOut’s launching a developmental series of workshops to see what our next mainstage piece’ll be. I’m pushing for No Exit performed on an abandoned subway platform.

Lightning round

Favorite theatre professional? Sarah Ruhl.

Current show you would love to be involved with? Fun Home.

Your dream show to be involved with? Angels in America: Millenium Approaches Perestroika

Who would you most like to have a chance to work with? Moises Kaufman.

Your best theatre experience? Recently: A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes.

Your worst theatre experience? An all-white production of The Wiz.

Person you’d most like to thank for getting you where you are today? Dr. Jessica Hester, dramaturg and mentor extraordinaire.

For more information about "Let's Play Play," visit the FRIGID New York website.