By Byrne Harrison
Production Photo by Paul Dorfman
Andrew Rothkin most recently played Chip Chippendale in the comic short film “Channel 99” and A.J. in his 45 minute one-act, Meredith’s Ring. (The original incarnation of the play, which Andrew staged for the inaugural season of The Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, won the festival’s “Outstanding Overall Production of a One-Act Play” Award.) Other favorite roles include works by Shakespeare, Shaw, Chekhov, Moliere and Christopher Durang. Andrew won three Spotlight-On Off-Off Broadway Awards for Acting, and was nominated for his role in the piece he performed in during last year’s Planet Connections Theatre Festivity: Groder in Jonathan Wallace’s Hummingbirds. Playwriting highlights include Voice, Danny, Paved with Gold, Love Bites, tryin’ to touch the sun and LOVE & LUST, as well as numerous readings, including Strangers on Hollow Hill, Alice on the Edge, his horror screenplay All for Sara, and most recently, Hamlet Bound & Unbound for the Baltimore Playwright’s Festival. Andrew is also a director, teacher/coach, and Artistic Director of White Rabbit Theatre. www.AndrewRothkin.com
Name: Andrew Rothkin
Show: Bubby’s Shadow
Relationship to production: Playwright, Actor, Producer
How did you first get involved in theatre?
I have always wanted to be on film on and the stage, from as far back as I can remember. One of the things my parents did very right was to take me to the theatre from a very young age. It was magical, and I just knew. I took my first acting class in junior high, and then I was hooked, studying everywhere I could and auditioning as much as possible, ultimately studying theatre in college.
All the while, I was writing in my spare time – a hobby, which I never took as seriously as my laser-beam focus of being an actor. But around the time I graduated from grad school, my writing took on a major life of its own.
And I have been writing and acting (together and separately) ever since!
Who are your biggest influences?
While I enjoy contemporary influences and certainly strive for originally -- even experimentation in much of my work -- I am at heart a traditionalist in my storytelling, and I most relate the stories, characters and dialogue I write to the realms of Tennessee Williams and William Inge, with some added influence of writers such as Edward Albee, Sam Shepard and Edgar Allen Poe.
Acting-wise, my role models are many and varied, although such influences are primary actors most known for film work. I am most intrigued by chameleon-like actors who transform from role to role: Gary Oldman, Daniel Day Lewis and Meryl Streep, to name a few favorites.
The path I ultimately want to follow would be along the lines of Gary Sinise and Jeff Daniels: well-respected and known film actors who also happen to have their own theatre companies and are involved in many different aspects of the theatre.
Likewise, I am constantly blown away by the work of my friends, peers and collaborators, and am constantly raising my expectations to match the quality of the very gifted artists around me.
What is your show about?
Bubby’s Shadow is the story of a troubled, dysfunctional family who wants to connect with one another, but who feels incapable of getting beyond their anger and resentments – so much so that the supernatural world steps in to bring them together and at peace.
What inspired you to write/direct/produce it?
As is generally the case with all of my plays, the inspiration to write Bubby’s Shadow came from many different and sundry places – but the initial seed was planted when I learned of a dream a cousin and aunt had wherein they both dreamed of their deceased mother/grandmother on the same night – and the circumstances within the dual dreams were so specific and unusual, they – and most everyone who heard the tale – was convinced it was a true visitation.
Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with them?
I am greatly enjoying working several old friends on Bubby’s Shadow, including musical composer Tony Sokol, whose plays I have directed, but who I have never worked with as a composer/sound designer, and Karen Raphaeli, who I have worked with in other capacities in the past, and was so delighted when I was able to find a great fit for her as part of the Bubby’s Shadow team.
The bulk of the staff is new to me, however, and as a whole, I could not be happier with the team: their talent, work ethic and humanity.
Most importantly to me, I am enjoying the fruitful new partnership with director, Greg Cicchino. I greatly enjoy hearing him talk about the play; while he is a strong leader and has his own vision and point of view for the production, unlike MANY directors I have worked with in the past, his ideas, his concept, his direction all stem from a thorough understanding and appreciation of the script and his learned, researched understanding of the intent of the playwright.
Why was it important to you to be part of an eco-friendly theatre festival?
The theatre is of great importance to me; I more or less devoted my life to the form, and it is how I view the world and how I most readily express myself. As such, I sometimes have to remind myself that there are other much more important things in this world beyond theatre and the arts. Planet Connections Theatre Festivity helps me to keep this in check. As a great lover of nature and animals, these things are too important for me to take for granted – and I have been involved with every Planet Connections Festivity to date (year #4) as it is a joy -- and important to me -- to not only surround myself with great theatre artists, but also with people who want to make a positive difference in this world.
Planet Connections donates a portion of the box office for each show to a charity. What charity has your production chosen and why?
Bubby’s Shadow, while by no means the most autobiographical of my pieces, has long held a special place in my heart, representing many aspects of life that are important to me – including our spiritual natures and the thin veil between life and death.
This importance was greatly intensified in April 2011, when I lost my mother, who was my best friend and the greatest advocate for me and for spiritual journeys in general. Thus, I will be collecting money and raising awareness for two very important, vital hospice programs: Jewish Social Services Hospice (http://www.jssa.org/), for whom my mother worked for many years at the end of her life, comforting the sick in their last months, weeks and days of their lives, as well as their families; and Visiting Nurse Service of New York (http://www.vnsny.org/), who generously provided me with superlative, no-cost grief counseling during the first unsettling and difficult months following my mother’s death.
While I understand very well that death may not be everyone’s favorite subject, we should all be relieved that organizations such as Jewish Social Services and Visiting Nurse Service of New York are there to ease the physical, mental and emotional pain for so many people in need.
What's next for you after Planet Connections?
I have several writing projects in various stages of development, and the ones that will likely take precedence is my new comedy script, Sins of Our Fathers, and a new work I was commissioned to write for a new Los Angeles based theatre company. As an actor, it is back to class and back to the audition circuit!
If you could do one thing to change the world, what would it be?
Everyone would have their basic needs met – clothing, food and shelter – and every child would live in a safe, nurturing home that cherished him or her.
For more information about Bubby’s Shadow, visit http://www.bubbysshadow.com/ or http://planetconnections.org/bubbys-shadow/.