Friday, February 24, 2012

FRIGID Festival Interview - Slash Coleman of "Big Plastic Heroes"

By Byrne Harrison

Slash Coleman is New York writer and performer best known for his award-winning PBS special, "The Neon Man and Me." Over the past decade his performance work has been featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, American Theatre Magazine, Backstage Magazine and most recently on the NPR series, “How Artists Make Money.” As a performer, he's been featured at: The International Storytelling Center, Pete Seeger’s Clearwater Festival and The National Storytelling Festival. Currently at work on his 2nd PBS special which is about the re-birth of storytelling in America, Slash is featured blogger at Psychology Today his recent writing has appeared in the following anthologies: Unstuck and Robot Hearts.

Show: "Big Plastic Heroes"

How did you first get involved in theatre?

I started performing as a musician on stage as a kid. As the most social of all my musician friends I was always the person nominated to introduce the songs. What started with short introductions eventually turned into longer monologues with costumes. As I got older, my bandmates were finally like, "You need to get your own show, bro."

Who are your biggest influences?

In the theater world, Tyler Perry. In the music world, Eminem. They both use their art to mirror and reflect the challenges within their personal worlds and as artists seem to hold fast to their creative ideals in an entertainment world that is built on compromise.

Tell me a little bit about your show.

Set against the backdrop of bicentennial fever, the white man perm and twin sisters who speak a rare, alien-like language my solo-performance chronicles my obsession with my childhood hero, Evel Knievel, how I attempted to make sense of a family with 8 artists, and what happens when a crush on my third grade teacher lands me in the hospital.

What inspired you to write it?

As the writer and performer of "Big Plastic Heroes" I was most inspired by my family.

My grandfather was a dancer at the Moulin Rouge, my grandmother was a prolific watercolorist and my father is a sculptor. I grew up in my father's art studio in an environment where creativity and artistic expression came as natural as breathing and eating. I was surrounded by a sort of "get up, eat and make art," mentality.

Yet, on my mom's side there was this huge secret and silence surrounding the fact that she's a Holocaust survivor. Getting any information from her or my grandparents about their life during this time period was like pulling teeth. From her, there was a "don't tell anyone, anything about yourself," vibe. And so, I grew up in this dichotomy - the freedom to express existed beside the silence, shame and guilt around this secret. It took me until I was nearly 40 years old to understand how to use my artistic gifts as a writer and performer to shape the silence in a way so others could understand it.

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

Jules Moorhouse - Director. I met her just a few months ago during the Portland, OR premiere of "Big Plastic Heroes." In just one month she's taken my show to a totally new level because she really understands how I'm trying to stay true to my roots as a professional storyteller while embracing the realm of theatre.

Lynne Duddy and Lawrence Howard - Workshop directors. I began workshopping this piece in early 2011 with the two founders of Portland Story Theater during a solo performance residency called Singlehandedly! They've been integral in helping me develop the storyline.

Becca Bernard - Actor. We've been working together for 4 years. She's opening the show with a physical comedy piece. As a collaborator with a strong background in clown and theater pedagogy, she's been invaluable in helping the story-line "pop." It also helps that I'm in love with her and as a couple we love nothing more than creating creative mischief.

What's next for you after FRIGID?

I'm re-launching my solo show, "The Neon Man and Me," in New York which toured the fringe festival circuit for 5 years and became a PBS special. I'm currently coordinating the launch with the release of my book under the same name. Since this production is perfect for television we're also seeking to steer this project in that direction.

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

I hope my show will help you recognize the hero within yourself and also the ordinary heroes that surround you everyday.

"Big Plastic Heroes"
Written and performed by Slash Coleman
Company: Plastic Thunder

UNDER St.Marks
94 St. Marks Place

Feb 25, 2:30PM
Feb 29, 10:30PM
Mar 01, 10:30PM
Mar 03, 5:30PM
Mar 04, 2:30PM


Anonymous said...

I saw this show last night and was really impressed. It was funny, but also was really deep too.

Anonymous said...

Love , love anything Slash Coleman does. Do your life a favor and go see this show. He speaks to all of us.

Anonymous said...

Slash Coleman is one of the most brilliant performers I have ever seen and this story is the perfect blend of funny and poignant, hip and heartfelt. Don't miss it!! Your life will be enriched by seeing this show.