Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Interview - Anthony Johnston of "Tenderpits"

By Byrne Harrison

Anthony Johnston is a New York City based actor and theatre maker, originally from Canada.  He has worked across Canada for some of the country's most important theatres. Credits include; Alan in the Canadian revival of Equus (Citadel), Billy in Edward Albee's The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia? (Centaur, MTC), Brodie in Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing (MTC), Gary in the Western Canadian Premiere of Shopping & Fucking (Pi, Ruby Slipp ers) and Bill Mercer in the Dora-Award winning production of Leaving Home (Soulpepper, Toronto).

In New York, Anthony has worked with NY Theatre Experiment, Stage Left Studio, Ensemble Studio Theatre's Youngblood, 13th St Theatre, the Management Theatre Co. and HorseTrade Theater Group. His original one-man shows have been produced across Canada, in New York City and in New Jersey. Art's Heart was awarded Outstanding Solo Show at the 2009 NY Fringe Festival and Tenderpits was selected as Best Multi-Media Performance at NYC's 2010 United Solo Festival at Theatre ROW. Most recently Anthony participated in The Public Theater’s 2011 Shakespeare Lab, headed by Barry Edelstein, and played the role of ‘Ken’ opposite Joel Leffert in The Public Theatre of Maine’s production of John Logan’s Red. He is represented by The Jim Flynn Agency, NYC.

First of all, congratulations on taking your show, Tenderpits, to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. When will you be heading to Scotland?

Thanks! We're super excited to be bringing our work there for the first time. We head off on the 31st of July.  And we do the show at Underbelly for the entire festival: Aug 2-26 with just one night off! I'm gonna be exhausted! :)

For those who haven't seen Tenderpits, will you be doing any performances of it before you go?

We are! You can see Tenderpits here in NYC July 24, 25 + 26 at 9PM at 59E59 Theaters-- as part of their "East to Edinburgh Festival".

Tell me a little bit about the show.

Here's some official copy on the show, I think it sums it up pretty well:

"Tenderpits uses a unique combination of stand-up, physical theatre and performance art to spin a dazzling narrative about immigration and magic. On the back of a mystical moose, a young gay wizard journeys from the wilderness of Canada to New York City - where he buys a gun, crashes a Broadway production of Three Sisters, befriends an illegal Mexican immigrant and goes on a psycho-sexual rampage.

Tenderpits was tragically interrupted during its premiere in 2010 when writer/performer Anthony Johnston's sister suddenly passed away. What began as a comic exploration of “the powers of positive thinking” now takes on an immediacy and urgency that touched audience and performer alike. Moving with hyperkinetic speed between worlds of fact and fiction, Tenderpits is an explosive comedy possessed by bouts of unrestrained hopefulness and brutal intimacy."

You recently did a reading of your work in progress, Tenderpits 2: Revenge of the Popinjay. How is that progressing?

"Tpits 2" is kind of on the back burner at the moment as we prepare to bring the original Tenderpits to Edinburgh. But we're looking forward to getting back to work on Revenge of the Popinjay when we return to NYC in September. I'll keep you posted on when you can see more workshops!

I've seen several of your shows now, and they all seem to have an auto-biographical element to them. What is it like for you putting so much of your own story on stage?

I think with Tenderpits, and a lot of the other work me and Nathan (Schwartz; co-artistic dir. of AnimalParts) have been creating, is that we're exploring that line between truth and fiction. Asking ourselves what is true and honest in theatre, and how can we use our art to tell our story, and how can we make an honest connection with our audience...

Tenderpits especially is very autobiographical, and sometimes it's scary to reveal myself in the ways that I do in this show, but I've found that the more specific and true to myself I am - the more people can relate and connect what they see in the show back to their own lives.

You've been in New York for a while now. How is that influencing your art?

I love New York City. My relationship with this city and all of it's magic and mythologies is a big part of what originally inspired Tenderpits. I can't imagine not being greatly influenced by your surroundings- and especially a city as vibrant and diverse and exciting as this one!

In addition to seeing Tenderpits before you leave, how else can people support the show?

Our company, AnimalParts thatre, has just been incorporated and we are accepting tax deductible donations through Fractured Atlas here:

What's next for you when you get back from Scotland?
Definitely getting back into the rehearsal room with Tenderpits 2. Possibly touring the original Tenderpits (depending on how things go in Edinburgh- fingers crossed!), and creating new stuff too!

Good luck with Tenderpits. I hope you'll let us all know what your experiences are like.

Thanks again, Byrne! I will definitely keep you posted on how things are going over there!
And definitely come check out the show at 59E59 July 24-26 9PM! Would love to see you there!

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