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Entries in Actor (128)


Call Answered: Michael Raver: Fire on Babylon Fresh Fruit Festival

Michael Raver, Photo Credit: Paul GregoryAs much as I love getting to interview my idols, I equally enjoy interviewing new talent. It's exciting to talk to them about early projects and learn about their hopes and dreams. Michael Raver is a playwright and actor on the rise. This past April, his play Riptide, received an industry reading in New York city. His latest play, Fire on Babylon, was nominated for The Robert Chesley/Victor Bumbalo Foundation Award for Playwriting, as well as being named a semifinalist for The O'Neill Conference in 2015. Now, Fire on Babylon is making its New York City premiere in the Fresh Fruit Festival from July 12-17 at The Wild Project (195 East 3rd Street). Click here for tickets!

Prior to it's New York premiere Fire on Babylon will perform for the company and invited guests at Winona Minnesota's Great River Shakespeare Festival. 

Like the interview, take the extra step and help Fire on Babylon cover their production costs for this run by donating to Indiegogo campaign!

1. Your latest play, Fire on Babylon, is getting ready to be workshopped in the Fresh Fruit Festival this July. What excites you about having Fire on Babylon in the Fresh Fruit Festival? I’ve been working on this play since 2012. After the years of pushing this play uphill, it’s exciting to get it on a proper stage. There’s something magical that happens between the process of doing a reading and fully staging something that is pretty indescribable and I’m so happy that we’ve finally moved the play to that point.

2. Fire on Babylon tells the story of two New Yorkers each locked in personal crisis, while the city is having one of its own: the 2003 blackout. What made you want to set this show in the confines of 2003 blackout? Someone asked me that a few days ago and I honestly can’t even remember. Isn’t that terrible? I do vividly remember that blackout and how, when it first happened, everyone panicked that we were being attacked again. But as soon as the word spread that it was an outage, it became this huge out-breath for everyone. People’s lives paused. Everyone, particularly in New York, got to take a pause from the chaos for a hot second. The two characters in Fire on Babylon are afforded that same opportunity. I’m someone who sometimes needs to be derailed in order to see clearly. It’s uncomfortable, but it can be so revitalizing.

Michael Raver and Jeffrey Hayenga in "Fire on Babylon", Photo Credit: Lloyd Mulvey3. What do you relate to most about your character, "Christian"? T hat he’s manipulative. I’m kidding. And I’m not (laughs) Seriously though, I think he’s got a questionable value system, which is something I at one time could identify with. Thankfully these days, life has me in a much more discerning place with what I spend time thinking about and doing. He sticks his foot in his mouth, which I can absolutely relate to. I have a propensity for letting my emotions take the driver’s seat sometimes, which "Christian" definitely does. But I try not to judge him too much because it’d make the task of playing him impossible. I’d be winking and nodding to the audience rather than letting Jeffrey honestly rake me over the coals.

4. In this show, your character get into a psychosexual situation with an older man (a couggay if you will). Has there been a time in your life when you've been involved with an older man? If so, what did you learn from that experience? I’ve never exclusively dated someone who was as far away in age as "Hugo" is from "Christian." When I’ve spent any time with someone older than me, regardless of the circumstances, the second that there’s some kind of parenting happening on the older person’s part, I want to run for the door. It can feel patronizing. I’m all about being a student to someone else’s teacher, but romantically, I get the itch to step away as soon as I’m being placed into a surrogate child role. I get that the father/son roles are easy to recognize in Babylon but the play isn’t really about daddy issues. The same way that it isn’t about a midlife crisis either, despite it centering on a middle-aged person in crisis.

Michael Raver and Jeffrey Hayenga in "Fire on Babylon", Photo Credit: Lloyd Mulvey5. How do you feel the generation gap of these two characters comes into play? The play feels, in some ways, like a pendulum swinging back and forth. The "cat and mouse" thing that’s going on is fun because at any given moment, the roles switch back and forth. Sometimes really quickly. They start the play off in very quintessential behaviors that are indicative of stereotypes for their age. "Hugo" is the rambling older man archetype. A bit of an absent-minded professor. "Christian" is a quiet, potentially simple younger man. But they spend the entirety of the story playing against what might be the obvious behavior for someone of their respective ages. When things get physical, when things get verbal, when things slow down or when things speed up between them, the instigator isn’t always the person who you might assume it’d be. The age gap also proves a really important point: no matter our age, life still can happen to us. At any time and without warning. We can always be embarrassed, feel lust, get confused, lost and also be found and feel love.

6. As the play unfolds and the blackout happens, press notes, say secrets are revealed. What is one secret you have been holding onto that you would like to let go of and finally reveal? Oh shit. I have no idea. I’m a pretty terrible liar so secrets are actually kind of hard for me to keep. I draw a pretty distinct difference between secrecy and privacy though. Privacy is great because I see it as a loving and protective concept. Secrecy is awful because it denotes that there’s some shame somewhere. Shame is harrowing and I’m not into it. Not at all.

Michael Raver and Jeffrey Hayenga in "Fire on Babylon", Photo Credit: Lloyd Mulvey7. Press notes also state that the character of "Hugo Thomas" is a recluse. Was there ever a period when you were a recluse and if so, how did you emerge back into the world? When I was about fifteen or so I was dealing with a lot of things and stayed in the house for most of the summer of that year. Wasn’t eating much either. My poor family didn’t know what to do. I’ve had plenty of moments where I’ve wanted to drop off the radar. It’s a hard thing for us to do, right? We’re addicted to our phones and our computers. And I get it. We like feeling connected to each other. Communication is one of the great advantages to being human. I’m also temperamentally highly sensitive so the idea of being without connection to other people can totally freak me out. I do also need the balance of alone time and as surprising as it might seem to people who see me as extremely talkative, I have plenty of long stretches where I don’t open my mouth at all except to eat or brush my teeth.

8. In addition to writing this play, you are also starring in it. How do you divide actor/playwright when rehearsing and performing the show? Do you ever blur the lines or are you able to keep things pretty separate? I think the only thing I need is a clear picture about the story I’m trying to tell and to be directed by someone who wants to tell that same story. And trust. Respect also goes a long way on both parties. Thankfully, I have a truckload of respect for Paul Mason Barnes and I’m greatly relieved that he’s trusting me to wear both hats. I’ve taken the "kill your darlings" concept to heart as a writer and am not precious about any one, single line. I check for accuracy as opposed to better-ness. As long as the text in the script is accurately telling the story, then I’m all for it. As a castmate, Jeff Hayenga has been super helpful with that too. Neither of them are afraid to tell me that they don’t like a certain line or that something needs to get cut. At the end of the day, my job as a writer and an actor still have to deal with one very important bottom line: is this the truth?

Michael Raver and Jeffrey Hayenga in "Fire on Babylon", Photo Credit: Lloyd Mulvey9. Who or what inspired you to become a playwright/performer? I love this question. I never thought there was anything odd about wanting to do more than one thing. It wasn’t until I got out of school that I was ever given a "should" or a "you can’t" by anyone about it. For some reason, culturally, we celebrate Bob Dylan, Sting, Alanis Morissette and Lady Gaga for writing and performing their own material. Richard Pryor wrote his own jokes. The performers on Saturday Night Live are expected to write sketches. But there has long been a stigma against actors writing work that they perform. Shakespeare did it. And thankfully, the multi-hyphenate thing is starting to normalize a little more. Thank you Lin-Manuel Miranda. Thank you Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen. Thanks Kate Hamill. Renaissance people. I respect when playwrights don’t want to perform their own work. But I think to dogmatically say that it’s not possible to be in my own play is a bummer. Trust can go a long way.

10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? Staying in the present moment as much as possible. I think I’ve got my head up my own ass a little more than I need it to be. I have moments of being an ostrich and I’d be willing to let some of that go. I’m down for it.

Michael Raver, Photo Credit: Paul GregoryMore on Michael:

Michael Raver is an actor, playwright and journalist. His performance as a young "Richard Feynman" in the film How We Built the Bomb received rave reviews. His Off-Broadway debut was in Ellen McLaughlin's adaptation of The Persians with Tony Randall's National Actor's Theater. His most recent television appearance was on TURN: Washington's Spies. As a playwright, his adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray was produced by Sonnet Repertory Theatre at the Signature Theatre Center in 2012, and a reading of his pre-WWII adaptation of Chekhov's The Seagull was seen at the Pearl Theatre Company. He has also served, for three years, as a judge for the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction. He regularly contributes cultural arts journalism for Classical TV, as well as pieces for Hamptons York Monthly, Dance Magazine, Cool Hunting and Nature's Post.


Call Answered: Sven Ratzke "Starman" at Joe's Pub

David Bowie was an icon on so many levels from his music to his impact on society! Everyone has a story as to what David Bowie meant to them. Sven Ratzke, transgressive European Entertainer Extraordinaire, is no exception to people who have been inspired by David Bowie. In fact, Sven is presenting the New York premiere of his internationally acclaimed show Starman at Joe's Pub from May 23-26! Click here for tickets!

Inspired by the iconic musician and songwriter David Bowie, the program combines many of the artist’s famous numbers such as "Space Oddity," "Rebel Rebel," "Heroes," and "Rock and Roll Suicide" with album deep cuts and inspired original songs by Sven and Rachelle Garniez. More than a mere tribute show, Starman is a one-man rock musical with unique characters and bold reinventions of glam rock classics!

For more on Sven be sure to visit and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube!

Sven Ratzke as "Starman"1. By the time your new one-man show Starman hits Joe’s Pub, you will have already performed it in 30 cities worldwide. What has it been like to perform this show? How has the show evolved over this tour so far? It's a triumph! It's so great to see that we've found a great balance with this show to make people laugh, cry, dance and just think and listen. The show makes me very happy because it makes other people happy. We've put so much hard work into it and it's payed off. And it’s evolved also. In the beginning, for example, I was wearing a wig because I wanted to transform into this character, but as we went further I became more and more myself in this show. So the wig is gone!

2. What was it about David Bowie and his music that influenced your own style so much? Bowie was always present but I was never a mega fan. I was intrigued and I admired him. But as I did all this research on him I discovered a new Bowie: he's a theatre maker. His whole life is like an opera. He was always in charge. I mean, look at his almost-staged death, the last album and all these clips. It's so amazing that somebody had his total artistic control.

Sven Ratzke3. What excites you about bringing this show to New York? How do you feel New York audiences will react to it over other audiences you’ve played for? The show will be different because in Europe we play in big venues with my own band and there is a light show. Now we have the intimacy of Joe’s Pub. You can only perform on a stage like that when you know your shit, and especially in New York City. You better kill it. But since the first time I was on a stage in New York, the audience gave me so much love and understanding. They just know what I'm talking about and what I'm doing. I have to come to New York at least twice a year to perform because it gives me a lot of inspiration.

4. If you had the chance to perform this show for David Bowie, how do you think he would have liked the show? Which song would you have wanted "Starman" and David Bowie to collaborate on? I think he would have loved the show. He got the CD just a month before he died. But I know a lot of people who knew him and they told me also that he would have loved the show because it's not a tribute show. I’m not just singing his songs, it’s almost a re-invention that utilizes fiction and fantasy. His name is not even mentioned, but his soul is there and his great songwriting is the basis of this show.

I never ever thought an actual collaboration with Bowie. That’s not what this is about for me: this show is meant to bring his music to life. I also think that he would have laughed a lot at our show. Bowie had a great sense of humor and he would have loved all the bizarre and wicked thoughts in this show.

Sven Ratzke5. Which songs do you think he would have wished you put in the show that you did not? Mmmh, I think he just would be happy. Maybe he would have said: "I have a song that I never used, it's in my safe. I'm gonna give it to you." But I'm just dreaming now.

6. How is Starman similar and different from David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust? I take you on a trip…a journey where fantasy and my life mingle with the magic of Bowie. The journey is told through his songs from the seventies, from London, NYC and finally Berlin. It's sometimes really funny and sometimes the songs themselves can move you to tears. And we meet characters like Andy Warhol, who is a white rabbit, and Liz Taylor, who's a wax figure of a child star. We start in the stinking streets of London and end up in a drag club in Berlin, so it's quit a fun night. And filled with rock 'n' roll of course.

Sven Ratzke7. You are internationally recognized for starring in the first-ever Berlin production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. What was it like to premiere this show in Berlin? How did you make the role your own, after so many other actors have performed that role in other productions around the world? First off all, to get the blessing of the creator John Cameron Mitchell helped a lot. But I'm also a bit torn like "Hedwig" because I'm am both an entertainer and half from Berlin. It's the strangest and hardest show I’ve ever done. People are so in love with it. But it's also hard to explain what the show is to people that never heard of Hedwig. As "Hedwig" you have to win them over, you have to be authentic - you have to BE "Hedwig!" We are bringing the show back to Berlin this fall, but also to Hamburg for the first time. That's really exciting.

8. What was it like when John Cameron Mitchell declared you were the best "Hedwig" he had ever seen? How does something like that influence future performances? Oh it made me so happy because I know it's John’s baby. And he was so amazing. You can't top that. It's makes me so incredibly proud that he's so fond of it.

9. Besides David Bowie, who were some of your other influences that made you want to be a performer? Well I've already worked with some amazing people and it's always; just watch and learn like Nina Hagen. She's crazy, but she's amazing. I work with so many different people like classical and jazz musicians. With New York City legends Joey Arias and Justin Vivian Bond. They are such beauties! And The Tiger Lillies – they’re so great! I really love my job and I am looking forward to meeting more people. I hope I get to meet Liza soon.

Sven RatzkeMore on Sven:

Sven Ratzke crosses musical genres and traverses decades with panache and a unique style that blends high culture with elements of glam rock, classic Weimar cabaret with vaudeville. The Netherlands-based entertainer tours the world’s biggest theaters, festivals and nightclubs from sold-out shows at Lincoln Center in New York and the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam to the famous Berliner Ensemble in Berlin. He has released five albums and has worked with legends of the European arts world such as Nina Hagen, Hanna Schygulla, and The Tiger Lilies. Sven is internationally-recognized for the title role in the first-ever Berlin production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. John Cameron Mitchell, the musical’s creator and the original star, declared "Sven is the best "Hedwig" I’ve ever seen." After its smash run in Berlin at the Admiralspalast, Sven brought the show to Utrecht and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Basel and Vienna. Ratzke’s Hedwig returns to Berlin in October and travels to Hamburg in November.


Call Redialed: Jinkx Monsoon: Jinkx Sings Everything at The Laurie Beechman

Jinkx MonsoonI've interviewed Jinkx Monsoon several times as part of The Vaudevillians, but this time around, we are going at it one-on-one as Jinkx and I talk about everything Broadway for her new show Jinkx Sings Everything which will be at the Laurie Beechman Theatre from May 20-22 (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue inside the West Bank Cafe). Click here for tickets!

In Jinkx Sings Everything, the audience will be able to suggest and request their favorite Broadway songs to be performed on-the-spot by this boozy chanteuse -- accompanied on the piano by Joshua Stephen Kartas. Her improv skills and memory will be put to the test as she stumbles her way through this unforgettable show. No two performances will be the same!

For more on Jinkx be sure to visit and follow her on Facebook and Twitter!

Jinkx Monsoon1. This May you are premiering a brand new solo show at The Laurie Beechman Theatre called Jinkx Sings Everything. I have to ask, what made you want to do this show without Major Scales? Well, trust me, it's not that I didn't WANT to do the show with Major, this show just requires a slightly different skill set. Major is the best accompanist a queen can have, and he knows how to hold his own on stage with the obnoxious likes of me; and while he's an amazing improv pianist, this show concept requires someone who has an almost robotic memory catalogue of countless musical theater songs. Major and I do mostly original arrangements, so for this show to go as planned, I teamed up with the frighteningly talented Josh Kartas, who is an amazing sight reader and has a wealth of musical theater programmed into his brain. In fact, it was through playing around with Josh at multiple Broadway Sessions shows at the Laurie Beechman, that I even had the idea.

But don't worry! Major is not being replaced! He's just sitting this one out.

Jinkx Monsoon, Photo Credit: josuegrotesco.tumblr.com2. Jinkx Sings Everything is very different than any of your previous shows. This show is all show-tunes, all requested by the audience, so no two shows will be alike. Since you have no idea what songs will be requested, how do you prepare yourself for a show like this? I mean, what if someone asks you to sing "Are You Ready for Tonight" from the very short-lived Broadway musical Glory Days? While the set list will be by request, I will have ground rules, and at the end of the day, I call the shots. No one is going to make me sing something I don't wanna sing, or don't even know. What I plan is that through improvised conversations with the audience, we will arrive at songs together. I will talk a little bit about what I like about certain musicals. I'll poll the audience to see if they have a favorite song from said musical, and bang! There's a request. Or I may tell a sad story, and then ask if anyone has a favorite sad ballad, and see what gets generated that way. Even while opening up to requests, I will always be in control. Because I am the queen!

3. How does a show like this play to your performing strengths and weaknesses? Well, I am fairly proud of my ability to improvise with an audience. It's actually one of my favorite aspects of my drag performance style. I think doing the show this way will result in a lot of golden, fleeting moments of genius, and an abundance of stupidity on my part. All of which should be entertaining. I'm also a karaoke addict. If I go to karaoke with friends, I will be buried in the song book all night, setting up a play list of all my favorite songs to sing, and I can easily dominate the evening. That's what gave me the idea to do a show like this. I just love to sing! There are so many roles in musical theatre I'll probably never play, but I LOVE the songs these characters sing so much...I figured, why wait to be cast in the role? Why not just create a show where I do it all!

Jinkx Monsoon4. If you or someone were to write a musical about yourself, what do you think it would be called? What might some of the song titles be? If you weren't able to play you, who would? Hmm. That's tough. Of course, I think about these things all the time, but I never come to a conclusion. I've always thought a musical about my life might be called something like: Family Curse. My family has a long standing myth about a Family Curse. All the members of my family believe in it in some form or another. It's basically Murphy's Law; anything that can go wrong, will go wrong...And it'll happen to us, specifically. 

I think Jinkx and Jerick would have to be played by two actors. Maybe a feminine boy to play me out of drag, and a more brassy, blunt, manic woman to play me in drag. Maybe the combo of Noah Galvin as Jerick and Megan Mullally as Jinkx? Hell. I'd watch that.

Some of the song titles might be:

-Little Red Blanket (as I used to have a red blanket I wore as a dress around the house).

-Art School Janitor

-Grandma's Wig

-My Mom, The Bottle, and Me

-Death Becomes Her

And maybe the show stopper, "Monsoon Season"

Jinkx Monsoon5. What is one aspect of your life that you would not want to be in the show and what part of your life would shock people the most? I think the part of my life that always shocks people the most, are my sex stories. I'm a very sexually adventurous person, but since I'm often labeled as "sweet" and "nice," people don't often think of me as being very sexual. The part I would leave out is my Ballet years. They aren't that interesting and looking back on my attempts at being a ballet dancer just leave me shaking my head.

6. If you could perform in concert with any musical theatre performer, who would you choose? Better Midler. Without her, I wouldn't be half of the performer I am today. I know she's more of a movie girl, but honestly, it would be my dream double billing.

7. What are your top 5 favorite musicals?

5) Grey Gardens

4) Gypsy

3) Hedwig and the Angry Inch

2) Into the Woods

1) Sweeney Todd

Jinkx Monsoon as "Little Edie" from "Grey Gardens"8. If you were to release an album of show tunes, what songs would you include on it?

To name a few essentials:

-Rose's Turn

-Mama Who Bore Me

-You Could Drive a person Crazy

-Maybe This Time

-The Last Midnight

9. Of the musicals currently playing, which ones would you want to be part of? You know, I don't think most people would think of me for this role, but I would LOVE to play "Elder Cunningham" in Book of Mormon. I think I could bring great things to that role, and the music is absolutely genius in that show. I'm a huge Trey Parker/Matt Stone fan, and have been for years.

10.  What shows of the past would you like to see revived? I have always had this dream, of playing "Mrs. Lovett" in a revival of Sweeney Todd. Where instead of being set in The Victorian Era, it was set in a post apocalyptic, dystopian society. Where all the buildings are all but destroyed from nuclear fallout, and it's every man for himself. It would be a short leap to cannibalism, I think.

I also think Bye Bye Birdie could be done in a really funny way nowadays. I think we could use it as a satirical look at hero worship and social media culture today. Social media has turned everyone into assholes, and I think through some clever staging, we could see a really funny look at that with that show. I would also do some cross gender casting. Like "Mr. McAfee" would be a gruff, butch lesbian. And "Ursula" could be a "Conrad Birdie" obsessed gay boy. Just to update it a little and make it a little more applicable to today.

Jinkx MonsoonMore on Jinkx:

Jinkx Monsoon is the alter ego of Jerick Hoffer, who graduated with a degree in theatrical performance from Cornish College in Seattle. With ten years experience on stage, Hoffer is a seasoned Portland-born entertainer who has captured the attention of his native northwest region. As early as 2006, Hoffer appeared as the lead dancer in the world's largest drag queen chorus line, which made the Guinness Book of World Records. By 2012, he had advanced to roles in Seattle theaters, playing "Moritz" in Spring Awakening,(produced by Balagan Theatre) and "Angel" in Rent (produced by The 5th Avenue Theatre). Earlier this year, Hoffer played "Hedwig" in Hedwig and the Angry Inch (produced by Balagan Theatre and Seattle Theatre Group) and co-starred with Peaches Christ in the much-buzzed-about Return to Grey Gardens.


Call Answered: Lukas Raphael: TRYST Movie

Lukas RaphaelI love independent films because I get to see who's on the up and up. When Lukas Raphael's movie TRYST came to my attention, I couldn't wait to watch this film about dating in today's society. Gone are the days of going out to meet people. Today it's meeting from the comfort of your own home via the numerous dating apps available. No matter what your sexual orientation, this film is for you!

Lukas and I had so much fun discussing TRYST, the filmmaking process, dating, and dancing. 

TRYST is going to be in the Manhattan Film Festival on Thursday, April 21 at 7pm at Cinema Village (22 East 12th Street). Click here for tickets!

For more on TRYST visit: and follow the film on Twitter @TrystMovie!

For more on Lukas be sure to visit and follow him on Twitter @lraphaelactor!

Call Me Adam interview with Lukas Raphael:


Call Answered: Conference Call with Marina Tempelsman and Nicco Aeed

Marina Tempelsman and Nicco AeedThere is something great about creating your own work. When it was brought to my attention that Marina Tempelsman and Nicco Aeed were doing a six-month residency at The People's Improv Theater (The PIT) creating a different play each month, I knew I had to call them to find out more. Well, luckily, Marina and Nicco answered my call and filled me in on this great project!

This month's show, Unpacking: A Ghost Story Told in the Dark, takes place in the dark, with the audience lighting the stage with flashlights. With Marina and Nicco's unique brand of humor, Unpacking: A Ghost Story Told In The Dark, focuses on the common fears of being in the dark and commitment with a newlywed couple moving into a new home together, but the novelty of homeownership quickly fades as they face a sea of boxes, a major blackout, and, shortly thereafter, the ghosts of all their past relationships.

Unpacking: A Ghost Story Told in the Dark plays at The PIT (123 East 24th Street, between Park and Lexington) from February 21-26! Click the date of the show to purchase tickets: February 21 at 7pm, February 25 at 9:30pm, and February 26 at 9:30pm!

For more on Marina and Nicco be sure to visit and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Funny or Die!

For more on The People's Improv (The PIT) visit and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube!

Nicco Aeed and Marina Tempelsman1. You are in the midst of your 6-month residency with The People's Improv Theater (The PIT) where you develop a new play every month. How did this residency come to be? 

Marina Tempelsman: Over the summer, Nicco and I did a two-week run of our eight-episode murder-mystery comedy radioplay (MURDER!) at The PIT. We’ve written sketch together for ten years, so prioritizing a more narrative project felt really exciting to us. Once the run ended, we met with Kevin Laibson (the Artistic Director at The PIT) to talk about more ways we could explore longer narrative projects, and he offered us the opportunity to do monthly one-act plays in the form of a residency. The PIT has been increasingly supportive of longer narrative pieces (including Puffs, Hold Onto Yout Butts, and Kapow-I GoGo), so offering us a residency was very much in line with the direction they’ve been moving in.

2. Let's go back to the beginning for a moment. How did you two come to work together? What do you like most about this collaboration and what challenges do you face?

Marina Tempelsman: Nicco and I met our freshman year at Swarthmore College, where we were put on the college sketch comedy team (Boy Meets Tractor) together. We both grew up in New York, and over the breaks we would meet up and keep writing. I think that’s where our joint writing voice started to take shape.

It’s funny, because we’ve always clicked writing and comedy-wise and made each other laugh a ton, but our sensibilities are really very different. After ten years of writing together, our voices mesh extremely naturally, but I think the end result is special because we’re coming from such different places. Nicco’s a black man. I’m a white woman. The experiences we’ve had and that we bring to the table when we write together are all filtered through those identities. We are genuinely interested in and care about the other’s lived experience, and I really think it fuels the kinds of things we write about and want to explore.

Our partnership feels like such an essential part of me that it’s hard to really say what I like most about it -- it’s almost like trying to describe why I like having arms and a torso. I love having arms and a torso. They bring me enormous joy, and I can’t imagine not having them.

Nicco Aeed: We had an arranged comedy marriage. It is hard to actually remember the time when we started always working together, because we were always working together. It works pretty great.

Oh man, Marina and I are writing our answers to this on a shared google doc, and I just read Marina’s answer and my heart melted, my answer is good enough but I feel the same as Marina. We’re the same person. We once jointly played Condoleeza Rice.

3. This month, the focus of your show is a ghost story about a newlywed couple that moves into a new home together, but the novelty of homeownership quickly fades as they face a sea of boxes, a major blackout, and, shortly thereafter, the ghosts of all their past relationships. What made you want to tackle this kind of story?

Nicco Aeed: The guy in the couple would be quick to point out they are NOT in fact married, they just bought a house together. Which, for some reason, he sees as a less of a commitment. Don’t make things more awkward for him. Be cool.

I think actually the first thing we thought was it would be cool to do a play that was lit by the audience, that was in the dark. There’s something spooky about being in a theater during blackouts, and having the audience use flashlights to see what’s coming at them seemed like a great way to tell a story. The spookiness and flashlights led us to think of ghost stories. And I think the most real ghosts we deal with often come up when we’re in relationships. Not just that we’re often haunted by our exes, but also that after a certain point in your relationship you find yourself acting like your parents or playing out things you never thought you would, and it feels like you’re possessed or something came over you. Relationships that last a long time seem to always be riddled with past lives or visions of your future, and it all seemed like it fit with ghostliness.

4. I love the set up of this month's show. The theatre will be dark, while the audience provides the lighting through the use of flashlights. What's it like to have the audience such a part of the show? What challenges does this present?

Nicco Aeed: I think we often try to create whatever story we’re telling for the medium that we’re telling it in, meaning that if it’s a live show we really wanna be sure that it’s an experience that could only be told live. And I think having the audience actually in the dark for this ghost story makes the whole thing feel much more present, and feel hopefully like campfire stories.

Marina Tempelsman: So much of this play is also about the things we project onto the environment around us as we’re grappling with our own minds; so having it lit in ways that will vary completely from one night to another at the whim of our audience feels really right.

Marina Tempelsman and Nicco Aeed5. Since this show forces the audience to face two big fears, the dark and commitment, when was a time you were afraid of the dark? When were you afraid of commitment?

Marina Tempelsman:  I am afraid of the dark most of the time. When I was little I used to sleep backwards in my bed so I could keep an eye on the window of our 12th-floor apartment, JUST in case anything managed to crawl all the way up there. As for a fear of commitment: I don’t think I have ever been so afraid of that as I felt when trying to buy a new pair of glasses last month.

Nicco Aeed: Yeah as a kid I used to hate to go to sleep alone. I shared a room with my brother and if he went to sleep later than me because he had to do homework or something I’d freak out and just wait till he got to the room before I could sleep. I’d have these night terrors where I thought people were watching me from inside my room, and I was nervous that just as I got sleepy and started to close my eyes a hand would grab my ankle and drag me somewhere. I dunno if I fear commitment, more like maybe I’m excited by the idea of bailing on all of my commitments. Everytime I walk by a Chinatown Bus or Penn Station I think "I could leave right now, start a new life and no one would ever find me." That’s normal right?

6. What else do you fear? How do you overcome them?

Marina Tempelsman: I am so scared of flying. But with a little bit of Xanax and a whole lot of Captain Tom’s Fear of Flying program, I’m doing much better on that front! (He’s a pilot AND a therapist!)

Nicco Aeed: People say I’m scared of coins. I have never overcome it. I don’t wanna talk about it.

Marina Tempelsman: Not just "people." Everyone. Nicco, you are definitely scared of coins. Seriously, this sounds like a joke but it’s actually 100% true. Nicco will not eat on a table that has a coin on it, and if you try to hand him change at a restaurant or bodega he will look at you as though you just tried to stab him in the throat.

Nicco Aeed: I don’t wanna talk about it.

Marina Tempelsman and Nicco Aeed7. In this show, the couple has to face ghosts of their past relationships. If you could bring back anyone from a past relationship to give it another go, who would you bring back?

Marina Tempelsman:  My first crush was on "Leonardo" the Ninja Turtle, and I’d really love to know what he thinks of my work. So I’d probably choose him.

Nicco Aeed: I like Marina’s answer too much to come up with my own.

8. If you could have any ghost come watch this show, who would you choose to do so?

Marina Tempelsman: Such a cool question! I would probably pick Maurice Sendak. I feel like so much of his writing is about making worlds and landscapes out of the things we love and fear as children that never quite leave us as adults, and I do think this play picks up on a lot of those same themes. And then maybe we could get a drink with him after the show!

Nicco Aeed: Yeah that’d be awesome. I love watching Maurice Sendak Youtube clips on writing. I think someone asked him once why he wrote for children and he said something like "I’ve always wanted to know how to prevent being eaten or mauled by a monster. I still worry about it." And I think that’s a great reason to write.

Nicco Aeed and Marina Tempelsman, Photo Credit: Neil Holroyde9. What are some of the other topics you'll be writing about during this residency?

Marina Tempelsman: We have four more plays after this one, and we’re tackling quite a broad range of topics. Our next play is about a couple trying to find themselves after the boyfriend loses his part on a hit TV show. Our third play is about a night club where the comedians try to rebel against the mafia members that own the club. After that, we have a kind of surreal, existential-crisis comedy about six black actors who realize that they’ve been auditioning for the same token role over and over and over. So it’s a range of topics and tones that we’re taking, but all of them are extremely personal to us and hit really close to home -- even when they’re a little zany.

10. On "Call Me Adam," I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent everyday. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent everyday?

Marina Tempelsman: Having the deadlines and requirements of this residency has been incredible, but it’s also reminded me of the importance of cozy-writing. Like where you just carve out a calm little time and space, and let yourself be playful in it and just enjoy it. I love, love, love the physical feeling of putting pen to paper, so I’m trying to get better about just sitting myself down and writing in a notebook before I get bogged down in planning or logistics.

Nicco Aeed: I like Marina’s answer. I’m gonna copy it:

Having the deadlines and requirements of this residency has been incredible, but it’s also reminded me of the importance of cozy-writing. Like where you just carve out a calm little time and space, and let yourself be playful in it and just enjoy it. I love, love, love the physical feeling of putting pen to paper, so I’m trying to get better about just sitting myself down and writing in a notebook before I get bogged down in planning or logistics.

Marina Tempelsman: Nicco is 100% great at copying and pasting -- no room for improvement there!

Nicco Aeed and Marina TempelsmanMore on Marina and Nicco:

Marina Tempelsman and Niccolo Aeed have written and performed together since 2006. As the duo "Marina & Nicco" they've been featured on Comedy Central and Funny or Die, and were recently finalists in the LA Film Festival Make Em LAFF competition. They perform regularly at major New York comedy theaters, having had runs at The PIT and The Treehouse Theater, as well as several shows at The UCB, and have appeared at many other venues across around the East Coast. They co-wrote the feature film Delusions of Guinevere, which was called "a surprisingly dark satire of modern celebrity" by The Village Voice and "sly and smart" by The New York Times. They have also written several pilots, a radio play series, and a number of one-act plays. They recently wrote for Morgan Spurlock's Call Bullshit series about the presidential debates, and are currently working on videos for The New Yorker. In 2016 they will begin a 6-month writing residency at The People's Improv Theater.

Prior to becoming a duo, they wrote and performed for the sketch comedy group Boy Meets Tractor (featured on MTVU and winners of Helium Comedy Club's college sketch competition) and The Disappointments (featured in the Philly Fringe Festival 2009, finalists in the Creek and the Cave's Arena Sketch Competition 2011).

Niccolo AeedNiccolo Aeed is a writer and director. Nicco has directed numerous plays across the city including, Abraham's Daughters, The ToyMaker, and W.R.E.X. He wrote and directed the short film How People Die and is currently developing the feature film Where Did You Go on Saturdays? He also writes and develops educational video games for Amplify Education which have been featured in The New York Times.

Marina TempelsmanMarina Tempelsman, a New York based writer and performer, has co-written several original pilots and a feature screenplay with Niccolo Aeed. In the summer of 2010 Marina was a Guest Artist at the Kennedy Center Summer Playwriting Intensive, where she studied with Theresa Rebeck, Marsha Norman, David Ives, Jason Robert Brown, Gary Garrison, and Heather McDonald, among others. She currently writes for the UCBT Maude team Lover, as well as the critically-acclaimed Livia Scott Sketch Program (also at The UCBT).