Friday, March 6, 2015

FRIGID New York Interview - Todd Brian Backus of "Let's Play Play"

By Byrne Harrison

Show: Let’s Play Play
Photo credit: The cast of Let’s Play Play (Zachary Clarence, Brittany K Allen, and Emeka Nwafor) photographed by Todd Brian Backus. Headshot by Shannon Stockwell.

Todd Brian Backus is a director/producer/illustrator/photographer and someday he'll finish adapting a play or two. Directing credits include: The Shadow by Shannon Stockwell, For the Lulz by Ben Ferber, Bystanders by Shannon Stockwell, and three installments of the staged reading series StageWhispers(PowerOut); and Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde by Moises Kaufman (SUNY Oswego).  Todd co-curated and produced two seasons of StageWhispers in Portland and is looking to bring the series to NYC. He has designed for LCT3, The NY Neo Futurists, and Portland Stage Company. Online Todd can be found on his website; at PlayPerDay, where he reads and reviews scripts ; and Hot Pepper Theater, where he eats habaneros and talks about shows.

Tell me a little about your show.

Let’s Play Play is an unapologetic look at the intersection of Internet and gamer culture. It’s focused on two YouTube critics (Flood and Dresher) who decide to start a Let’s Play together (a show where people play video games and react to them) they rise to YouTube stardom and make some compromises along the way. After a falling out about artistic integrity they hire an editor (Bayes) to serve as an intermediary. When she starts appearing on the show their fans lash out, unsatisfied with the “fake geek girl” that they assume her to be. Things spin out of control as Gamergate takes hold in the community and all three artists wonder whether they can continue.

How did you become involved with it?

Ben Ferber (the playwright) and I have worked together for years. The last project we staged together was his play about hackers and hacktivists called For the Lulz. Ben likes examining our constantly changing lives on the internet and he and I have both been avid gamers since before we can remember. I was excited to work on a play that highlighted my love for gaming culture while presenting it in an honest light.

Who else is helping you bring the show to FRIGID?

Our company, PowerOut, is a small collective of artists that met in Portland, Maine, and a lot of us are in NYC right now working together. The playwright, producer, costume designer, and I are all members and we’ve reached out to our friends and colleagues to make this show a reality. It’s been a lot of late nights and we’d like to give shoutouts to our lighting designer Mary Heatwole, our AD/SM Nicholas Orvis, and, of course, our stellar cast: Brittany K. Allen, Zachary Clarence, and Emeka Nwafor.

Who would be your dream audience for this show?

We’d love to see other gamers in the audience. They’re the ones this show was built for. But it’s also exciting as an outside observer.

As a theatre artist, who are your biggest influences?

I really started directing after seeing how Sarah Ruhl explored content and form and narrative in her play Eurydice. Her work instilled in me the belief that realism wasn’t ever the goal. She also comes at plays from a visual standpoint (she was trained as a visual artist) and so she spoke to me on a deeper level. I find that the scripts I’m attracted to are ones I imagine she’d like visually as well.

What shows are you planning to see at FRIGID?

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Animal Engine (the folks doing Dog Show) and I also want to catch The Untitled Sam Mullins Project.

What is next for you in 2015?

PowerOut’s launching a developmental series of workshops to see what our next mainstage piece’ll be. I’m pushing for No Exit performed on an abandoned subway platform.

Lightning round

Favorite theatre professional? Sarah Ruhl.

Current show you would love to be involved with? Fun Home.

Your dream show to be involved with? Angels in America: Millenium Approaches Perestroika

Who would you most like to have a chance to work with? Moises Kaufman.

Your best theatre experience? Recently: A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes.

Your worst theatre experience? An all-white production of The Wiz.

Person you’d most like to thank for getting you where you are today? Dr. Jessica Hester, dramaturg and mentor extraordinaire.

For more information about "Let's Play Play," visit the FRIGID New York website.

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