Sunday, February 24, 2013

FRIGID New York Interview - Chris Harcum of "Two Lovely Black Eyes"

By Byrne Harrison

Name: Chris Harcum

Chris Harcum is an actor and playwright. His latest work, Two Lovely Black Eyes, is a solo show on America’s gun culture. He is the Executive Director of Elephant Run District and the Managing Director of the League of Independent Theater. More information at

What’s your show about?

It’s a solo show on everyday occurrences that could escalate to full-on violence and America’s gun culture. It’s done in a stand-up/storytelling style. I never become another character, through keen observers might see me slip into impressions of Mike Daisy, Eric Bogosian, Michael Feingold and Ben Brantley. There are also some thematic ties to old-fashioned Western films and I will have people play the Yippie Kai-yay Game. I kick the show off with a blues song about performing in downtown theater. 

What inspired you to write it?

I was very disturbed by the news in Aurora, CO. It made me think about how much our daily interactions are based on trust. I feel the NRA plays on certain people’s fears that they can’t trust the government or other people. A lot of this puts some people in a tailspin of not knowing what to believe. The format of this show reflects this by playing with whether it is scripted or if most of this is not planned. Also, there have been some personal incidents around gun violence in my life.

Who else is involved with the show?

Aimee Todoroff is in charge of solving problems and making magic. Heather Olmstead is our sound and light goddess. Ethan Angelica and Becca Bernard are the Theater Security Emergency Response Peeps. They are amazing people and artists.

Who is your dream audience for this show?

People who like to laugh really hard and then think about things deeply. People with a bit of an adventurous spirit. I’m also inviting Wayne LaPierre and the National Rifle Association, Mayor Bloomberg, Mayor Booker, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Donald Trump, Bruce Willis, Clint Eastwood, Ted Nugent, Chuck Norris, Harry Reid, all members of the House of Representatives, and Westboro Baptist Church. I doubt any of these folks will turn up, even though we will have Theater Security Emergency Response Peeps.

Who are your biggest influences?

This is my 11th solo show and I’ve been so under the radar that I’m under the sonar. Each one of my pieces has been really different in subject matter and style so I feel like I’m still evolving. I saw a bunch of shows in the Edinburgh Fringe last summer and wanted to do something that was close to that stand-up/storytelling thing with this piece. There are parts that are very much in the style of Louis C.K., George Carlin and Dennis Leary in this. There are also elements that could be considered Brechtian and others that have ties to the Living Theatre. All in all, I think it still has my voice in it but I try really to Zen out and not think about this. It helps when I get reviews and hear people’s feedback to know in what constellation the piece exists. I’m grateful that I’m still evolving.

What other shows are you planning to see at FRIGID?

Last year I saw 18 of the other 29 shows. I will try to top that this year. I like to see work by people from out of town as well as work I think is different from my own. Helps to keep me inspired and thinking about how I can continue to grow. I do want see shows in the Red Room since that space is closing shortly after the festival ends. Last year, I started at noon on Sunday and watched shows back to back until the end of the night. You’ll find me doing that again the first Sunday of the festival. I like showing up and being surprised at what I get to see. I try to shout out to shows I see on Facebook and Twitter. Ethan Angelica, ERD’s Managing Director, is a Twitter genius and promotes the heck out of a lot of other indie theater artists. He’s even made a page called Trumpets from the Herd, based on ERD’s Twitter feed to continue this. As Elephant Run District moves through the FRIGID, we’ll be giving people lots of attention this way.

What's next for you after FRIGID?

I’ve been working on a feature-length screenplay that will be read in May. Park Slope Films will be shooting this in the near future. I also am continuing to work on The Devil in Ms. Spelvin, a full-length play on the life of porn-chic star Georgina Spelvin. Elephant Run District is in negotiations to bring back our successful Stampede Lab series, which gives several indie theater companies a chance to share their work and contextualize current work in the sweep of Off Off Broadway’s history. ERD is also putting together plans to launch a Brecht in the Park series this July.

Lightning round

Paper or plastic? Reusable tote.

Comedy or drama? Both.

Beach or mountains? City.

Black box or proscenium? Yes. Also, thrust and in the round. I’m an omnivorous performer.

Glee or Smash? Chopped. Or Colbert Report.

Cats or dogs? Plants.

Musical or straight play? Doesn’t matter as long as the people working on it really care and have put enough time into it.

Two Lovely Black Eyes plays at UNDER St. Marks on the following dates:

Feb 27, 8:40PM
Mar 02, 3:40PM
Mar 03, 2:05PM

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