Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Interview - Croft Vaughn of Stinky Flowers and the Bad Banana

By Byrne Harrison

Name: Croft Vaughn
Play: Stinky Flowers and the Bad Banana

CROFT VAUGHN (Playwright) is a Company Member of Wasted Theatre Education, (WTE) which specializes in bringing new shows to International and National Fringe Festivals. WTE recently created the Multi-Media Dance- Theatre Play, SportSexDeathPorn, which premiered at the Montreal Fringe Festival. He Co-Produced and starred in Nicky Silver’s The Altruists, in the European Premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2005, to 4 and 5 star reviews. Other original works include Shepherd a classical hero myth and gay love story, Glauce or Without Fear From the Abyss, a dance theater piece inspired by the Medea myth and the Chernobyl disaster, and Flight Light, a dance meditation on the paradox of a kite’s string. He wrote and directed They Want Us Dead, We Can’t Stay Here! which saw a sold out performance in the Hot! Festival at Dixon Place. His performance venues range from P.S.122, The Duplex Cabaret, and 59 E. 59 Theaters, to Dance Space Center, Dixon Place, Blue Heron Arts Center, Galapagos, and throughout the U.S. He toured with WTE Theatre to Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival in 2003. He performed at P.S 122 in Twas the Night Before the Twelve Days of a Nutcracker Christmas Carol, directed by Ken Nintzel. singled him out as “gloomy perfection” for his role of Fritz/Ignorance. Croft is on the Advisory Board for Skybetter and Associates, the contemporary dance company helmed by Sydney Skybetter. He has worked with downtown performance artists Ken Nintzel, David Neuman, Stacey Dawson, Penny Arcade, Synaesthetic Theatre, the T.E.A.M, and Jonathan Adam Ross. Croft was the Assistant Director for the Snoopy! Benefit Concert at Symphony Space starring Broadway’s Sutton Foster. Croft earned his first off-Broadway credit as Assistant Director for Joy, at the Actor’s Playhouse, with Ben Rimalower Directing. Other Assistant Director credits include the Unity Concert for Cover the Uninsured Week,’s Benefit Concert for Broadway Cares, Equity Fights Aids, and numerous staged readings at Manhattan Theater Club, Second Stage, and others. Croft studied Clowning with Giovanni Fusetti, Chris Bayes, and Orlando Pabatoy, Commedia with The Flying Machine, and Street Theater with Steve Wangh. He enjoyed a four-month performance- internship with Big Dance Theatre, where he assisted in the creation of Plan-B, and performed the work in progress at Jacob’s Pillow. He is a proud member of The Manhattan Prairie Dogs, NYC’s Premier LGBT Country-Western Dance Performance Troupe for 2 years running. He has performed with them across the US. Croft is a graduate of NYU’s Experimental Theatre Wing at Tisch School of the Arts.

Tell me a little bit about Stinky Flowers and the Bad Banana.

Three military brats discover an audience in their attic. Clearly these quiet strangers are going to eat them, so they distract the hungry savages with their grandfather’s fairy tales. They learn how to tell the truth when you have bad news, and how the first war ever was stopped by a fox. With a child’s innocence, they discover meaning in imagination and the answer to, “Are we still loved after the person who loves us is gone?”

This production grew out of an earlier one-man version that you performed at the Edinburgh and Indianapolis Fringe Festivals. How did you go about building it out for a larger cast?

The bones of the play are the original fairy tales, and the heart of the play lies in the relationship of Sinclair with his grandfather. I like casts of five so I gave Sinclair two older siblings, and two imaginary friends. Then I placed them in front of a hungry audience and made them tell these stories.

What have you gained or lost from the original by going to an ensemble?

I’ve lost a lot of control! These kids are rambunctious and not always interested in what I want them to do! I think what I gained most is the depth that a family has. It’s hard for kids who move around a lot, and they really have to depend on each other even though they get into fights. I really love the dynamic these siblings have; they go from being at each other’s throats, to rallying together to create a new fairytale.

I understand that Stinky Flowers includes multi-media work, which seems to be a current trend, especially shows that were created for Fringe productions. What sort of multi-media are you using, and how do you feel it adds to your production?

The play is steeped in storytelling. When I began telling these tales, I used an old overhead projector, transparency paper, and a dry-erase marker. We use the OHP to enhance the storytelling. There’s a heartbreakingly beautiful and simple tale about two birds that I couldn’t bring myself to say out loud. So I wrote the text on
the projector, and let the audience read the words. It’s quite remarkable; it’s making me cry just thinking about it! Then for the finale, (SPOILER ALERT) we employ a hidden video projector. The projected image begins to move, and an animation mega mix takes over. In essence, the audience sees the children’s imagination come to life!

You've got a terrifically diverse theatrical resume. What got you started in theatre to begin with?

I was terrible at team sports. Really, I was very very bad. I would catch the baseball, and start running to tag the batter out. It didn’t help that I played outfield. When Kathy Stephan brought Nesbit and LaPurr’s Fairytale Theater to Greencastle, I was ecstatic. Stinky Flowers is an homage to my pre-professional training. I am profoundly fortunate to have worked with so many wildly talented artists, especially this cast and crew. They’ve made me a better artist for sure.

If you could give one piece of advice to a young theatre student, what would it be?

Cultivate your curiosity, protect it fiercely. Let the ‘little person inside of you that has never been told “no”’ drive your ambitions. And take up dancing. And never answer a question with only one answer.

If you could say anything to the potential Stinky Flowers and the Bad Banana audience, what would it be?

The audience is a character in the show, so I do hope you’ll join us (we need you!). This production is the culmination of a lot of hard work by many very talented artists. Sharing this show with you is an amazing feeling, one I hope you will get after seeing the show and inviting your friends to see it too.

What's next for you after this production?

Broadway, duh. Then Stinky Flowers will be turned into a Pixar feature animation film with a successful cartoon spin-off with loads of merchandise and maybe a sequel, I haven’t decided. But first, grad school! I’m writing a play triptych: The Opposite of Funny (is wrong), The Impossible Plays, and Monologues for Words that Don’t Exist. There’s an adaptation of the Medea myth in the works too. Oh, and I’ll be dancing at the Big Apple Ranch every Saturday night that I can.

Stinky Flowers and the Bad Banana
A Multi-Media Fairy Tale For All

Written by Croft Vaughn
Directed by David A. Miller

94 St. Marks Place

October 7-24
Thursday through Saturday at 8pm
Sundays at 3pm

Tickets ($18, $15 students/seniors, $10 for kids) are available by calling Smarttix at 212-868-4444 or online at

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