Saturday, February 25, 2012

FRIGID Festival Interview - Chris Harcum of "Rabbit Island"

By Byrne Harrison
Photo by Cathryn Lynne

Chris Harcum is one of NYTheatre's People of the Year and his play, "Green," was published in the Indie Theatre Now Best of 2011 Collection. His full-length plays include "G. Dot’s Revenge," "Trading Lunches," "Rabbit Island," "Milk & Shelter," "Instant Gratification" and "The Devil in Ms. Spelvin." Chris co-adapted and played the title role in a modern version of Moliere’s "The Hypochondriac." As a solo performer, he has created and performed "Green," "Some Kind of Pink Breakfast," "Gotham Standards," "Anhedonia Road," "Mahamudra," "The Monster and the City," "Weight and Weightlessness" and "American Badass (0r 12 Characters in Search of a National Identity)." Along with his play "We Haven't Told Anyone About This," these pieces have been published on Indie Theatre Now. "American Badass" was also published in the Plays and Playwrights 2009 anthology and The Best of the Frigid Collection. His writing has also appeared in The New York Times and NYTheatre. He is co-writing the screenplay for Meet the Hammernickys, a feature-length comedy, with the director Jason Cusato. Chris is a member of Actors’ Equity, Dramatists Guild and the League of Independent Theater.

Show: "Rabbit Island"

How did you first get involved in theatre?

I did school plays and a few local productions growing up. When I was 14, I didn’t get cast in community theater productions of "You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown" or "On Golden Pond" so I thought I was washed up. I couldn’t bring myself to audition at my high school the rest of the year and focused on playing electric guitar. My teacher, Teresa Fowler, wrote in my year book how she hoped I would try out for things my sophomore year because the drama club needed “more handsome leading men.” How do you say no to that?

Who are your biggest influences?

As an actor I feel a kinship to Gary Oldman and Bill Irwin. As a playwright, I connect with Moliere, Pinter, O’Neil, and Williams. Jazz and rock music also swirl into my influences. I like things to have punch, humor, some darkness, and really be about something.

Tell me a little bit about "Rabbit Island."

It’s a comedy about a Canadian who wants to become a real New Yorker. I think a lot of people who come to the city can relate to the experience of identifying one’s self as a New Yorker for the first time. He has an aggressive therapist and relationships with women who have been made a little nutty from being here too long.

What inspired you to write it?

I had a character from a solo show who kept whispering to me after it closed. The opening of this play is based on actual experience of seeing a guy do something kind of impolite one evening on 52nd Street. It led me to ask bigger questions about how we function as people on several levels. The more I watch rehearsals, the more I see where the play echoes moments from my life. But everything is turned on its ear.

Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with them?

This production has a mix of people I’ve worked with several times and some new collaborators. This is Elephant Run District’s third production. It’s my seventh work with the director Aimee Todoroff; my fifth with Carrie Heitman (actor); my third with Joel Nagle (actor); my second with Heather Olmstead (stage manager), Scott Garapolo (original music) Ethan Angelica (actor) and Mel House (actor); and my first with Laura Butler and Mariko Iwasa (actors). Maryvel Firda (lighting design) and I have worked together five times. It’s really beneficial to have a mix of people who get what you do and others who come in with fresh questions. You don’t want to re-invent the wheel but you don’t want to get complacent.

What's next for you after FRIGID?

We’re working on making Elephant Run District a non-profit. I’m working on a feature-length screenplay with Jason Cusato for Park Slope Films. I have two plays that are on their way and a solo piece that’s poking me in the brain.

And finally, if you could say anything to your potential audience, what would it be?

The cast is first-rate and the show has been directed with a lot of care. We’ve worked hard to bring you something that will make you laugh and think a bit about life. We’re really proud of what we’re putting in front of you and hope that you will enjoy it. We want you to come back to our next production and bring a few more people. We hope to keep seeing you over the next five years and beyond. Keep in touch with us through our web site

"Rabbit Island"
Written by Chris Harcum
Company: Elephant Run District
Directed by: Aimee Todoroff

The Kraine Theater
85 E. 4th Street

Feb 25, 8:30PM
Feb 27, 7:30PM
Mar 01, 6:00PM
Mar 03, 5:30PM

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