Friday, March 6, 2015

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

By Byrne Harrison

Show: The Crook of Your Arm
Website: www.somotheatre.com
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 www.toddbrianbackus.com; 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.

FRIGID New York Interview - John Patrick Bray of "Erik"

By Byrne Harrison

Show: Erik
Photo credit: Kisha Peart

John Patrick Bray (Ph.D., Theatre, LSU; MFA, Playwriting, Actors Studio Drama School at New School University) has written plays under grants from The National Endowment for the Arts and the Acadiana Center for the Arts, and he has earned commissions from organizations in Louisiana and the Off-Off Broadway. He is a Resident Playwright with Rising Sun Performance Company (NYC/Off-Off Broadway), a member and moderator of the Athens Playwrights’ Workshop, director of Rose of Athens No Shame Play Reading Series. He has been a Finalist for the 2013 Ingram Playwriting Fellowship at Tennessee Repertory Theatre and a Finalist for the 2010 Playwriting Residency at The Hangar Theatre. John’s works have been produced Off-Off Broadway (including productions with the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Festival and Planet Connections Theatre Festivity), and in venues around the country. He has publications with Next Stage Press, Smith and Kraus, Applause, JACPublishing, Heartland Plays, Indie Theatre Now and The Riant Theatre. John is a member of The Dramatists’ Guild of America, Inc., and he is an Equity Membership Candidate.  John’s scholarship focuses on new play development and production, and geek theatre. He has essays in Theatre Topics, New England Theatre Journal, Theatre Symposium, Texas Theatre Journal, and Platform (UK), as well as a book review in Journal of Screenwriting. His textbook, Inciting Incidents: Creating Your Own Theatre from Page to Performance is available with Kendall Hunt Publishing. Currently, John is a Lecturer in the Department of Theatre and Film Studies at UGA and will begin as Assistant Professor of Dramatic Writing this fall. For more, visit: http://johnpatrickbray.webs.com/

Tell me a little about your show.

The Phantom of the Opera with puppets and madness! Sculpted for a downtown NYC audience, and those who love their theatre with a side of iron bars and irony. 
  
What inspired you to create it?

I am absolutely in love with the various versions of the story that already exist. It's so deliciously melodramatic, so over-the-top. My favorite adaptation (and one of my favorite films since age 8) is the Lon Chaney silent movie. It haunts me to this day. I hope to add a new dimension to the story, to help usher it into the 21st century by paying homage to the myriad of adaptations out there while problematizing (there's a PoMo word!) inequality of the sexes. 

Who else is helping you bring the show to FRIGID?

Jerrod Bogard, director; Akia Squitieri, producer; Rising Sun Performance Company, a wonderful family of artists!

Who would be your dream audience for this show?

Folks who embrace theatricality, absurdism, first-wave avant-garde, Phantom of the Opera; all kinds of folks (but, uh, leave the kids at home ;))

As a theatre artist, who are your biggest influences?

Robert Wilson, Sam Shepard, Conor McPherson, Lucy Thurber, Crystal Skillman, Qui Nguyen, Maria Irene Fornes, Rachel Klein, Tom Waits, Edward Hopper, Velvet Underground, Suzanne Vega, PJ Harvey, Leonard Cohen, Jack Kerouac, Suzan-Lori Parks, Neal Bell, Jack Gelber, Jeffrey Sweet, Jim Ryan, Leslie A. Wade, Jill Dolan; of course, Jerrod, Akia, and all involved with RSPC over the years! And I have to mention my students at UGA. I learn so much from them all - truly great people. 

What shows are you planning to see at FRIGID?

Whatever I can when I'm in town!

What is next for you in 2015?

I'm moving from lecturer to assistant professor of dramatic writing and theatre appreciation at the University of Georgia. I have a new play I'm hoping to develop in Athens and in NY. Hopefully, second unit shooting will be wrapped for LINER NOTES, a screenplay based on my stage play co-written with my brother which he is also directing. And I'm writing a book chapter on Hank Azaria's portrayal of Marc Blitzstein in Cradle Will Rock, the 1999 Tim Robbins film. Also in April, I'm hosting a Playwrights' Weekend with the Rose of Athens Theatre and Athens Playwrights' Workshop in Athens, GA.  So, a bunch of stuff on the horizon!

Lightning round

Favorite theatre professional? Too many to list! See "influences".

Current show you would love to be involved with? What's Rachel Klein got going on?

Your dream show to be involved with? I would love to have another NYC production of my play HOUND. It's available for licensing with Next Stage Press, and you can read it on Indie Theatre Now. 

Who would you most like to have a chance to work with? Robert Wilson. 

Your best theatre experience? My own? Too many to list. As an audience member? Robert Wilson's production of A Dream Play at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2000. 

Your worst theatre experience? I've had a couple of misses, and I've seen a couple of misses. But everything's a learning process ;) 

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



To find out more about Erik, visit the FRIGID New York website.


FRIGID New York Interview - Samantha DeSimone of "Erik"

By Byrne Harrison

Show: Erik
Photo credit: Kisha Peart

Samantha DeSimone is a New Jersey native who graduated from Wagner College with a B.A in Theatre in 2012.  Samantha has been working with Rising Sun Performance Company since 2012. Shows with RSP include Hotel Suite/Room 128, Erik Staged Reading, Donkey, Henry’s Wives and Hellcab (2013).  Past non RSP credits include Jesus Christ Superstar (Soul Sister), Lysistrata (Lampito) and The Magic Tower (Mrs. O’Fallon) all at Wagner College.  Other favorite credits Bare: A Pop Opera (student), Straphangers: An Original Musical (Sarah) and Rent (Mrs. Davis).  Samantha is also a volunteer with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids, helping to produce and direct numbers cabarets including “Laughter is the Best Medicine I and II”, “All You Need is Love: A Beatles Revue” and “Blackout.”

Tell me a little about your show.

Erik (with a K!) is a satirical look at The Phantom of the Opera as told through the rag tag members of a traveling freak show.  It's highly stylized and highly hilarious--plus there are puppets.  Plenty of puppets!
  
How did you become involved with it?

I was lucky enough to be a part of the initial reading of Erik in October, from then I was hooked.  When I heard that we were going to get the chance to produce a full production of the show I could not contain my excitement.

Who else is helping you bring the show to FRIGID?

Rising Sun Performance ensemble has been home base for all things Erik.  Rising Sun has an outstanding reputation in the off-off Broadway community and has been a nurturing home for this avant-garde piece. 

Who would be your dream audience for this show?

Anyone with an open mind.  There are tons of laughs to be mined in this show--but if you walk through those doors expecting a conventional show you have come to the wrong place.  But if you're willing to suspend reality for an hour or so then we have a show for you---oh and Meryl Streep.  Meryl you're always welcome.

As a theatre artist, who are your biggest influences?

When Mark Rylance is in a piece I try not to miss it.  He has such freedom on stage as well as overall courage when tackling a role.

What shows are you planning to see at FRIGID?

As many as I can.  I get free passes--why on Earth would I not go to as many as humanly possible.  Even without the passes I would go.  This festival is an amazing opportunity for artists to get their work seen on a level that may not have been possible before.

What is next for you in 2015?

Next up I am in an interactive, immersive theatre piece called Phantasm that will be premiering later this year Off Broadway in the same venue as 50 Shades: The Musical Parody!

Lightning round

Favorite theatre professional? Julie Taymor (I'll forgive you for Spider-Man)

Current show you would love to be involved with? Sleep No More

Your dream show to be involved with?  Does Saturday Night Live count?

Who would you most like to have a chance to work with? Alan Cumming

Your best theatre experience? Last year working with Rising Sun Performance ensemble again I was in the Planet Connections Theatre festivity in a show called Donkey, and that experience changed my life.  Oh, and the time I played a tree in the second grade.

Person you’d most like to thank for getting you where you are today?  My parents, my sister and Lucille Ball.  All of whom taught me that laughing at yourself is the best form of comedy.


To find out more about Erik, visit the FRIGID New York website.



FRIGID New York Interview - Keenan M. Scott II of "Thoughts of a COLORED MAN on a day when the sun set too early"

By Byrne Harrison

Show:  Thoughts of a COLORED MAN on a day when the sun set too early
Website: www.toacm.com
Photo credit: Headshot by Lauren E. Banks

Keenan M. Scott II, a native of Queens, New York, completed his theater training at Frostburg State University (2009). Some of his theater credits include Of Mice and Men, ALMOST, Maine, Lysistrata and Othello.

Tell me a little about your show. 

It’s a great production. It explores the lives of eight young men as they navigate through society. They all find themselves in situations battling feelings a lot of us have. The twist is all of the characters are emotions themselves. The name of my characters are love, lust, passion, anger, happiness, despair, depression and wisdom. So they don’t embody ideas…they are the idea.

What inspired you to create it?

When I was a sophomore in college I saw the made for TV special For Colored Girls who considered suicide and was blown away by the words. Being a spoken word artist as well, it inspired me to start writing this piece. After researching the play more and realizing it was written during the feminist movement of the '70s, I wanted to write something for the young black male of the 21st century.

Who else is helping you bring the show to FRIGID?

My production team Noisy Tenants, LLC. It’s a company I help form with my partners Nick Mitchel and Chris Landrum.

Who would be your dream audience for this show?

To be honest, everyone. Depending on who attends will depend on how the play affects them. But I think this piece would be and can be important for inner city youth. I was once an inner city youth, so this is where the spirit of this play comes from. 

As a theatre artist, who are your biggest influences? 

I’m affected by a lot of mediums in art, but currently I love the work of Katori Hall.

What shows are you planning to see at FRIGID?

I want to see them all. We have badges so I want to take advantage of that.

What is next for you in 2015? 

I plan to get into Fringe NY this summer with my one-man show Black Cotton and tour it for the 2015-2016 college school year. As well as bring this production to the DC/Baltimore area this summer as well.

Lightning round

Favorite theatre professional? Katori Hall

Current show you would love to be involved with? Anything that involves great writing.

Your dream show to be involved with? A David Mamet play.

Who would you most like to have a chance to work with? Spike Lee (I would love for him to produce my work)

Your best theatre experience? Producing my play for the first time in 2009 when I was a senior in college.

Your worst theatre experience? The audition I had in college for A Raisin in the Sun. I was horrible (laughs)

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


For more about Thoughts of a COLORED MAN on a day when the sun set too early, visit the FRIGID New York website.


FRIGID New York Interview - Antonia Lassar of "Post Traumatic Super Delightful"

By Byrne Harrison

Show: Post Traumatic Super Delightful
Website: PTSDtheplay.com
Photo credit: Angela Dumlao

Antonia Lassar is first and foremost a Beyoncé enthusiast. She is also an actor, poet, playwright, and musician. Antonia spends some of her time touring her other one-woman show God Box around the country to engage great people in interfaith dialogue. As a playwright, Antonia believes that silence is the food of oppression, and her projects aim to dismantle hatred with communication, humor, and understanding. Past work includes Tina and Amy (Frigid Festival 2014), Pair of Animals (Edmonton Fringe 2014), and On the Tracks (Boston University). Antonia has a BFA from Boston University and is based in Jersey City with her super hot boyfriend and her Netflix account. antonialassar.com

Tell me a little about your show.

Post Traumatic Super Delightful is a one-woman, half clown, half monologue, all feminist critique of the sexual assault crisis on college campuses. It focuses on how there is no “good” survivor narrative, and how an entire community is hurt by sexual assault. Most of all, PTSD looks at what kind of role laughter can play when helping survivors and their communities heal. 

What inspired you to create it?

When I first came out as a survivor of sexual assault, I felt intense pressure to fit an identity that people expected of me. Trying to meet those expectations was incredibly painful. So I started to interview other survivors and was struck by how, while there is no single survivor narrative, everyone struggles under the expectation that there is one. I noticed that laughter was largely absent in most survivors’ healing processes. While every healing process is different, I do think that laughter’s overwhelming absence is a red flag. Laughter is a sign of acknowledging common humanity, of healing as a community.  So because I’m a clown, I wanted to use theatrical clowning to experiment playfully with the absurdity of being a survivor. 

Who else is helping you bring the show to FRIGID?

I have an ARMY! I am so proud to say that PTSD is produced by an entirely woman-identified legion of mini-Beyoncés! Angela Dumlao (Sea Wife) is directing; Kati Frazier (ART/NY, Random Access Theatre 2015) is dramaturging; Sam Garcia (Target Margin Theatre Lab) is both costume and set designing; Darielle Shandler (The Civilians) is light designing; Olivia Hull (New Dramatists) is stage managing; Lindsey Yadon (lindseyyadon.com) is graphic designing; and Molly Jones is our amazing production assistant!

Who would be your dream audience for this show?

We want current college students at this play! PTSD brings up a discussion of sexual assault, consent, and college adjudication policies- a discussion every student needs to have! If you are a current college student, we really want you at the show! If you need help affording the ticket, please email us! 

I also would love to see an audience of survivors and their communities. Unfortunately, because sexual assault is so common, we are more than likely to have this without trying. We believe that laughing together as a community is a first step towards greater healing. 

As a theatre artist, who are your biggest influences?

I love the work of brilliant female solo performers before me! Sarah Jones, Anna Deavere Smith, Lily Tomlin. I also love the radical feminist reclamation of pop music happening right now with Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Janelle Monae, and so many more. And Buffy. Buffy. Buffy. Buffy. Slaying vampires and the patriarchy. 

What shows are you planning to see at FRIGID?

I have incredibly good information that “It Ain’t Going To Be Normal” is the best thing to ever hit the FRIGID ever. (I also might be in love with one half of the show.) I’m also really looking forward to another story of badass survivorhood from Gillian English in “Get Around Me”!

What is next for you in 2015?

My other one-woman show “God Box” (Frigid ‘13) is going to have a month long run at the New Repertory Theatre in Boston. And then PTSD is going on tour! We’ll be travelling to colleges and crisis centers nationwide! 

Lightning round

Favorite theatre professional? Meryl. Deal with it. I love her. 

Current show you would love to be involved with? Orange Is The New Black

Your dream show to be involved with? Orange Is The New Black: The Musical

Who would you most like to have a chance to work with? Sarah Ruhl

Your best theatre experience? God Box is how I met my BF!

Your worst theatre experience? Once my costume was only post it notes. Not even that many. 

Person you’d most like to thank for getting you where you are today? God! Barbra Streisand before I found God.


For more information on Post Traumatic Super Delightful, visit the FRIGID New York website.


FRIGID New York Interview - Jeremy Cone of "The Field: A Musical Myth"

By Byrne Harrison


Show: The Field: A Musical Myth
Photo credit: Jane Clausen

Jeremy Cone mixes words, music, stories, and photography to create a unique theatrical experience. He’s produced and performed The Field in New York (Dixon Place, Under St. Marks, and Muchmore’s) and Los Angeles (Beyond Baroque). He lives in New York and continues to grow The Field every day.

Tell me a little about your show.

The Field is modern musical myth about growing life. It’s a universal story told through a unique blend of poetry, music, and singing. The plot follows Man In The Field setting forth to grow something where there is nothing. He sees visions of the enchanting Harvest Woman who will only be real when his crops have grown. There’s a Thief who steals from him and must be stopped. The myth mixes with reality as People Of The Field work to grow in modern times. Dreams, life, stories, and memories collide in The Field which begins with these words:

Go on my friend.
Don’t be afraid.
Go forth to The Field
Where all the lives are made.
Pour your soul into that land
And see what it will yield.
The past is in the womb.
The future’s in The Field.

What inspired you to create it?

I wanted to write something that people could relate to that was also uplifting. I was in LA trying to grow a life as a person and as an artist. I put those feelings into words that I shared through spoken word poetry at open mics to see if they resonated with people.  They did because I believe everyone’s working to grow something. Whether it’s a career, a relationship, or a project, there’s a growth process that requires work. So the idea of someone literally working in an open Field intrigued me. It was a good metaphor for the work I’ve seen and see many people do in various Fields. I’ve always been interested in stories and myths and how they shape and impact reality. This is a story I’m telling, but also one that I’m living as I’ve been working to grow The Field from 3-10 minute open mic sets to a full production with singers, actors, and musicians here in New York. Some of the writing has come from experiences of executing past productions so the work, words, and music all feed each other. The Field has more to go and grow, but I’m excited to present it in the FRIGID Festival.

Who else is helping you bring the show to FRIGID?

I’m fortunate to have a wonderful cast and crew for FRIGID made possible by the kind supporters of our Kickstarter campaign. Lucian Smith (music director, arranger, conductor, and master of the keys) has been working with me for over a year on the project. The wonderful production team is Chelsea Owens (Stage Manager) Emily Naylor (Assistant Director) Jane Clausen (Art Director) Emily Craver (Choreographer) and Danielle Santos (Production Assistant).

The cast has Rosie Sowa (Harvest Woman) Gregory Levine (Thief) Jasmine Thomas (Mother Goddess) Julie Congress (Storyteller). Tucker Bryan (Man In The Field Understudy), Briana Gibson, Matt Magrath, Clare Rea, and Dennis Williams are People Of The Field. They sound great!

Who would be your dream audience for this show?

My dream audience is as many people as possible. I hope that everyone who sees The Field can relate to some part of it, and walk away with something. I like to think of the story as a seed that people can take with them. Hopefully they keep growing.

As a theatre artist, who are your biggest influences?

My parents loved musicals and played soundtracks on car rides. I memorized a lot of the songs and would imagine what was going on onstage. They encouraged me to pursue writing and performing. My high school drama teacher Jen Yolles directed plays that the student cast collaboratively wrote. It was a great outlet and rewarding experience writing and performing something with and for my peers. My college directing professor Alma Becker had a deep love for theater and the people who made it. She directed Strindberg’s “A Dream Play” in 2006 and some sequences still stick with me.

Other influences are Stephen Sondheim for his lyrics. Julie Taymor for her vision.  Lin-Manuel Miranda for his ability to make modern musicals. Ellen Stewart for her dedication and contributions to independent theater and the people who make it. It means a lot to present The Field on East 4th street aka Ellen Stewart Way.

What shows are you planning to see at FRIGID?

As many as I can but definitely Heart Of Oak, It Ain’t Going To Be Normal, Hey '90s Kids, You’re Old, Post Traumatic Super Delightful, Erik, 300 to 1, An Evening Of Not So Quiet Despair With Satan, Whiskey Pants, Thoughts Of A Colored Man on a Day When The Sun Set Too Early, and Where I’m From.

What is next for you in 2015?

I’ll be recording some songs from The Field and making some videos. I’ll do some public performances of The Field in New York once it gets nice out. I’ll also be doing a hometown show of The Field in Boston in June.
  
Lightning round

Favorite theatre professional? Stephen Sondheim

Current show you would love to be involved with? Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind

Your dream show to be involved with? West Side Story’s original production just to see Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Robbins, Arthur Laurents and Hal Prince work together.

Who would you most like to have a chance to work with? Alex Timbers

Your best theatre experience? When I was 8, I was in “Fiddler On The Roof” with my dad and brother.  

Your worst theatre experience? Doing a show with a 3 person audience.

Person you’d most like to thank for getting you where you are today? My mom. Though it’s many more than one.  


For more information on The Field: A Musical Myth, visit the FRIGID New York website.


FRIGID New York - "Cootie Catcher" - Circle, circle, dot, dot, now I've got my cootie shot

By Byrne Harrison

While it is one of my favorite NYC festivals, the fates conspired to keep me away from much of this year's FRIGID New York Festival.  I did, however, carve out time to see the latest production of Lucas Brooks' one-man comedy, Cootie Catcher. In this funny, clever, and at times touching show, Brooks takes the audience on a little journey through his brushes with sexually transmitted infections.

The show features several of Brooks' hot sexual encounters, each with an anxiety-laden twist--brushes with gonorrhea, syphilis, HPV, HIV, and herpes (though the last is essentially an opportunity for Brooks to humblebrag about hooking up with a good looking straight guy… but it's still a great story).  Brooks is a sex-educator and vocal proponent of safe sex, so most of these encounters were merely embarrassing for him or good learning experiences.

I've seen the show several times, from its initial workshop in director David Drake's solo show class to two full productions.  Each production has been tighter than the previous, with some new material and a lot of polishing.  Certain moments--dance breaks between scenes, for instance--have Drake's fingerprints on them.  This collaboration between Brooks and Drake is a particularly strong one, since they really seem to understand each other's style.

Brooks is an attractive and charming guy.  He's a fixture in the NYC burlesque scene, and his previous show, VGL 5'4" Top, describes him to a T.  But this isn't a vapid, eye candy show; he has the looks and the fierce intellect to back it up.  Brooks is insightful, a good storyteller, and funny.  His message includes loving and accepting yourself, being true to who you are, and not letting anyone attempt to shame you for that truth.  The fact that he can do that in an hour, and with a lot of laughter, makes this show a don't miss.

Cootie Catcher plays its final performance Friday, March 6th at 5:30 PM.  For more information, visit the FRIGID New York website.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

FRIGID New York Interview - Mark Bentley Cohen of "Bi, Hung, Fit… and Married"

By Byrne Harrison

Show: Bi, Hung, Fit… and Married
Website: www.bihungfit.ca
Production stills: Sean Cummings
Standing in the Alley: Rita Ivanauskis

Mark Bentley Cohen is a writer, performer, counsellor, workshop facilitator, public presenter, and outdoor enthusiast living in Vancouver.  “Bi, Hung, Fit … and Married” is based on his revealing autobiographical book, “Confessions of a Bisexual Husband”. 

Mark has always been interested in sexual identity issues. He began experimenting with bisexuality at the age of 13, and continues to this day. Mark believes there is an inherent need for continued sexual growth and exploration throughout one's life, and modern partnerships are slowly evolving to accommodate those needs. After speaking with and meeting hundreds of bisexual men and women, Mark has discovered that the vast majority of them are deep within the closet, living secret double lives. 

He hopes that his work and ground-breaking relationship with Lianna Walden, his partner of over 20 years, will help them - and others - to take the first small steps toward accepting themselves and their unique sexuality. 

Tell me a little about Bi, Hung, Fit and Married.

The show is about my process of coming to terms with being bisexual within the confines of marriage and fatherhood, and the changes my partner and I made to our marriage after coming out to her. 

The truth is we were in a bad place before I came out. What the show demonstrates is that we needed something new. In our case it was my need to be authentic about my sexuality, but in other cases it's a matter of finding ways to revitalize your relationship. Quite often this revolves around issues of sex and sexuality. 

Long-term monogamous unions tend to stagnate because the two people involved are not allowed to grow, change, and express desire outside of their monogamy. This can become stifling in many ways. Allowing for dialogue and exploration around sex and sexuality often brings fresh energy into the people, and therefore their relationship. 

What we've come to learn is, this is a good thing, and far better than the "dangers" espoused by partaking in these activities. 

What inspired you to create it?

Once my wife and I could see that this sexual exploration and newly-found openness in our relationship
was actually very salubrious, we knew we had to tell everyone about our findings, which fly smack in the face of conventional "wisdom". 

The show is my way of discussing issues around sex, relationships, authenticity, which is why the focus of it is sex. So many other stories leave the sex out, because it's sex, and therefore personal/dirty/not important/secondary, etc. 

What we've found is that many others also want to discuss these things – as no one else seems to want to. The personal voice of the play makes the material honest, and therefore powerful. You may not agree with what I'm saying, but you will at the very least acknowledge that this has been our experience, and as such needs to be recognized as valid, if for no one else than us, although most people can relate to the work, regardless of orientation or relationship status. 

Who else is helping you bring the show to FRIGID?

I could not do this without my partner, Lianna Walden. When we met over 20 years ago she was to be the producer in our company and I was to be the writer. We've never strayed from that paradigm, and it still works for us to this day. 

We're also running an Indiegogo campaign to raise the funds necessary to pay for the production, so all those who have contributed are also a part of this. Thanks to all who have shown their support!

Who would be your dream audience for this show?

Besides highly influential theatre people who can take this show on a world tour, I'd like to see potential publishers for my book too, upon which the play is based. It's currently being shopped around the city by my literary agent, Lucas Hunt. 

As for non-industry people, the surprising thing is that straight, married people get the most from this show. There are very few other works out there which portray couples successfully crossing the monogamy boundary. Pretty much every other song, TV show, movie, play, book, advertisement speaks of the utter and immediate death to any relationship when people cross the monogamy line. 

As a theatre artist, who are your biggest influences?

I love David Mammet. I'm a bit of a "Glengarry Glen Ross" groupie, asking everyone I meet if they've ever seen it. I also love Spalding Gray. He's been a big influence, and I was deeply disturbed by his suicide years ago. I also love Michelle Tremblay's work. 

What shows are you planning to see at FRIGID?

All of them! We're huge Fringe fans. Lianna has run the Vancouver Fringe for a few years, has been a board member for many years, and we're both regular attendees at the festival. 

What is next for you in 2015?

Vancouver is the kind of city where you have to leave to make it, and then come back to show everyone how well you've done. When we return from New York we're planning a run of the show at a local club called "8x6". We're hoping the cachet of coming from New York will grab peoples' attention. It already has. When we tell people we're going to New York, they all get glass-eyed and mesmerized by the idea. 

Lightning round

Favorite theatre professional? David Mammet

Your best theatre experience? Performing my show at UC Berkeley as part of their "International Conference on the Future of Monogamy and Nonmonogamy". This audience really got my work, and showed their overwhelming appreciation for it afterward. It was a very special moment. They were all so moved to have seen "their story" being told for the first time. 

Person you’d most like to thank for getting you where you are today? My life-partner, Lianna Walden. There is no doubt in my mind I would not be doing this without her, in every way you can imagine. 


To find out more about Bi, Hung, Fit and Married, visit the FRIGID New York website.



FRIGID New York Interview - Dandy Darkly of "Dandy Darkly's Pussy Panic!"

By Byrne Harrison

Show: Dandy Darkly’s Pussy Panic!
Photo credit: Laura Pardo 2014

Dandy Darkly is an internationally acclaimed cabaret showman and ribald raconteur of supernatural, sentimental, sleazy ghost stories. He’s a Southern gothic sissy with a penchant for pop culture and the paranormal. “How ghost stories should be told.” The Stage “A decidedly wicked storyteller.” The New York Times Dandy Darkly is the new painted face of New York storytelling.

Tell me a little about your show.

“Dandy Darkly’s Pussy Panic!” is a delightful, frightful fistful of fables with a focus on the classical interpretations of womanhood, the maiden, the mother, the crone, and also homosexual misogyny – how some gay men build women up, only to tear them back down. My style of storytelling is poetic and lyrical, also chilling and hilarious. Time Out called it - “Unlike anything else at the Fringe, or indeed elsewhere.”

What inspired you to create it? 

At the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe I had a post-show encounter with a young woman, an audience member, who accused me of misogyny and “celebrating the murder of women” in one of my highly wrought, satiric stories. I explained to her that I, actually, celebrate the murder of everyone – men, women, children, even pets – but she was unconvinced and we left it at that. However her accusation lingered with me, so I began to explore the notion of “Pussy Panic!” – the irrational fear gay men have of the vagina – and the show developed from there.

Who else is helping you bring the show to FRIGID?

"Dandy Darkly’s Pussy Panic!" was written initially for the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe, but I’d be amiss not to thank Dixon Place HOT! Festival and The Celebration of Whimsy Theater where the show had two incredible NYC runs. Ian Bjorklund is my wonderful director. He’s been so helpful in guiding my focus. And I’m also blessed to work with some amazing musicians on this show: Adam Tendler (88x50), Rachel Blumberg (Arch Cape, Death Vessel) and Bryce Edwards (Boy Crazy, The Isotoners). And Laura Pardo for her exquisite photographs.

Who would be your dream audience for this show?

Apart from a room of Broadway producers, fighting over me like feral cats for a can of tuna – I suppose Dandy Darkly’s ideal audience is one with a love of truly immersive story telling – an audience eager to have their expectations absolutely turned upside down. I think contemporary audiences have a pre-conceived idea of “storytelling” as this sort of Moth-style anecdotal navel gazing. I’m ready to lead the storytelling revolution.

As a theatre artist, who are your biggest influences?

Elvira Mistress of the Dark. Wayland Flowers and Madame. William Castle. Bret Somers. Leslie Jordan. Alf.

What shows are you planning to see at FRIGID?

I’m very eager to see “300 to 1” starring Matt Panesh. He’s a phenomenal UK storyteller who I know from the Edinburgh Fringe. Likewise “Cootie Catcher” is such a great show. Its written by and stars the talented Lucas Brooks and directed by David Drake. Other shows on my list include “ERIK”, “The ChristmApocalypse” and “An Evening of Not-So-Quiet Despair with Satan.” I enjoy work that's both horrific and comedic.
What is next for you in 2015?
After the Frigid Festival I’m putting “Pussy Panic!” to bed for a while and I’m returning to the Edinburgh Fringe with a brand new show. It’s called “Dandy Darkly’s Trigger Happy!” and themes will explore hypersensitivity, PTSD, gun violence and the good ole U. S. of A. Can’t wait!

Lightning round

Favorite theatre professional? John Cameron Mitchell

Current show you would love to be involved with? La Soirée

Your dream show to be involved with? Broadway debut of Showgirls

Who would you most like to have a chance to work with? Peaches Christ

Your best theatre experience? Fun Home

Your worst theatre experience? High school senior year... The Crucible

Person you’d most like to thank for getting you where you are today? Grandpappy Darkly who told me my first Georgia ghost stories. I sure miss him.


To find out more about Dandy Darkly's Pussy Panic!, visit the FRIGID New York website.