Sunday, June 16, 2013

Planet Connections Interview - Christopher Leidenfrost of "The Greatest Pirate Story (N)Ever Told!"

By Byrne Harrison
Headshot by Alan Kaplan
Production photos by Deborah Grossmark

Name: Christopher Leidenfrost
Show: The Greatest Pirate Story (N)Ever Told!

Relationship to production: Writer/Director/Performer

How did you first get involved in theatre?

I took a community school theatre class at age 8 instructed by the venerable Ms. Fritze.  I had such a great time, and met my best childhood friend.  We started putting on shows in our backyards for our parents and making short films with the family camcorder... and I basically just haven't stopped.

Who are your biggest influences?

Everything and everyone... I feel that every show- bad or good- helps influence my work as a director, writer and performer.  If I had to pick a few performer favorites, I'd say Meryl Streep, Angela Lansbury, Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Ian McKellan and Johnny Depp.

What is your show about?

"Greatest Pirate Story" is about a rag-tag crew of pirates who are sent into the future by a sea witch to put on a show and to prove their worth. (Why? Treasure, of course!)  The pirates then spin a story out of suggestions given to them by the audience-- so it's never the same show twice!
What inspired you to write it?

I've always loved the romanticized idea of pirates, and have worked in the genre as an event producer for almost a decade. During that time, I was also working as an improv performer, and the notion to really marry the two gave birth to this show. 

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

I've been really fortunate to have gotten the chance to develop this piece over the last year with an amazing collective of improvisers.  The original script was basically a mashup of scenes and concepts for characters and various short-form improv styles we could work in.  Each incarnation has had some cast changes, but Rebeca Diaz and Daniel Pivovar have been at my side through the show's inception.  Each cast helped shape the show a little more, and each time the script took on a more solid form and structure. Also, my amazing husband, Rick, who has helped guide me directorially (especially since I'm on stage a lot in this show!)

Planet Connections donates a portion of the box office for each show to a charity.  What charity has your production chosen and why?  

We are supporting the RESCU Foundation, a non-profit organization established to promote and maintain the health and medical well-being of the participants of Renaissance Faires, historical performances and other artistic events through financial assistance, advocacy, education and preventative programs.  Because the show was developed at both the "New York Renaissance Faire" and  Historic Hudson Valley's "Pirates of the Hudson" festival, it was a perfect fit.  It's also a community I'm proud to be a part of and so glad to have a chance to give back to.

What's next for you after Planet Connections?

We are touring with "Greatest Pirate Story" through September, first to Provincetown, MA, and then back to the New York Renaissance Faire in Tuxedo Park, NY.

If you could work with any famous actor, living or dead, who would it be?

Angela Lansbury!! No question.  I loved her as a child... she was hands down my favorite performer from "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" to "Sweeney Todd" to "Murder, She Wrote!"  I loved them all, and have always dreamed of getting to work with her. 

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