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Tuesday
Aug012017

Call Answered: James Kiberd: "The Crusade of Connor Stephens" + "All My Children"

James KiberdI am a huge All My Children fan and I love getting to catch with AMC alum, so needless to say, it was an honor to get to interview actor James Kiberd, best known as "Trevor Dillon" on ABC's All My Children from 1989-2000 (the uncle to "Hayley Vaughn," played by Kelly Ripa). After almost 11 years of not being able to act, James Kiberd is making his triumphant stage return in the Off-Broadway play The Crusade of Connor Stephens.

In The Crusade of Connor Stephens, extreme loss shakes a Texas family as it comes to terms with a tragic act of gun violence. In the midst of widespread media attention, their story becomes an allegory for the national debate over religion, tolerance, and the seedlings of hate. With humor and resilience, they will confront the ghosts of the past and discover the brutal universal truths that define the American family in the 21st century.

The Crusade of Connor Stephens will play through August 6 only! Click here for tickets! 

There will be a special live streaming on Thursday, August 3 at 8pm! Click here for more info!

For more on The Crusade of Connor Stephens be sure to visit https://www.crusade2017.com and follow the show on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. Who or what inspired you to be an actor? Gee it’s almost 40 years ago. Grants in support of my art making (I am a Painter) had lead to some expertise in arts management and a consultation for Joe Brancato’s Penguin Repretory. He asked me to audition for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. I said to myself…Acting? Phony Baloney! But, I knew I wouldn’t get it, so why do it. Then, I imagined that some day, I could be comforting a disappointed daughter after being turned down for a role she sorely wanted. "Honey, Dad auditioned for a role once and didn’t get it. I know how you feel, you’ll be ok." Only, I got the part…and, sadly, not the daughter.  My life was forever changed.

As a painter, you spend 12-15 hours a day alone. For years on end. You are the center of that Universe. Not so as an Actor. It’s about the other person! OMG! Relationship! Something at which I was totally inept. But, my God, I needed it so! Joe Brancato kept me working as an actor and brought me into the "wild unknown," with a sure and steady hand. Over the years, I returned to Penguin to some great roles on that delicious stage.

My working relationship twixt graphic art and acting is keen. There is a solid "click" of recognition of "rightness" when working with Art’s physical materials. Not so with Acting, however, where impulses, emotions, relationships, bring ever changing moments different from every moment that came before, especially in front of an audience. My thrill is to bring the "click" to the acting and the emotion and impulse to the art. Serious Fun.

2. You are currently starring in the new Off-Broadway play, The Crusade of Connor Stephens, about a Texas family who suffers extreme loss as a result of gun violence. What made you want to be part of this show? As you may or may not know, 10/12/17 will be the 11th anniversary of the stage injury that took me out of commission for years. These past 10 years has been spent trying to find a way back to functionality through four operations. So, on May 9, 2016 (my hip replacement day), I woke up in my hospital bed to find a new play script forwarded to me by an actor I know and respect, Ben Curtis, with a request for me to read and consider the key role. I was astounded! Reticent - no terrified - to even consider it. But, I told myself, "it came to you - read it James." I read it. Enthralled, I asked my wife to bring me "Lear" - the next role I wanted. After I read it, I went back to Crusade.

Through the haze of the drugs, I found a profoundly disruptive play, lead by one of the most soulfully despicable characters ever written. A play that hangs our era in it’s own noose of contradiction and ultimately shows us a way to redemption. Though terrified of this challenge; I just had to play this part. This was worth getting out of bed for! Could I do it? I can’t even walk! Rehearsals were starting in four weeks! I started writing the producer/director/ writer, Dewey Moss to let him know I was interested. I told him I wanted to audition so we all would know what we were getting. He offered to drive out of NYC to meet & audition me in seven days - my first day out of rehab.

Saturday at 9am, I met him at the door - asked "Coffee?" "No." "Water?" "I’m good." So, I handed him the script as he came through the door and started the scenes as he found his way to a chair in the kitchen. No small talk. 20 minutes later, he was doubled over in between tears and laughter. "You have no idea how I have been trying to figure out ways to tell you how you are just not right for the role. It is such an impossible challenge…but you're perfect! Now I have to ask you - will you do it, really do it? And why? It's only a festival - three performances - and a lot of time and effort to rehearse in the city. Why would you want to do this?"

"I am doing this for me - me alone - not to get another job (as actors will do) - not for notice - not for PR. I want to see if I can still act, if I enjoy it, if I can pull off such a wickedly ambitious role.

First, my old friend, Bryan Cranston, saw the Festival Performance and compared this piece to All My Sons by Arthur Miller. "It gives us the picture of our times and the ethics, morals and values we need to live by. There is great humor, pacing, tension and passion wrapped into a compelling story."  Then, Crusade won all of the main Awards in the festival, so we were off to the races.

Dewey’s play sears a brand in the side of the times asking Americans to meet each other face-to-face in a conversation over who we love, what we do with guns, what is fact, what is belief, what is truth—what we kill for, what we live for, how and why do we pray?

James Kiberd in "The Crusade of Connor Stephens", Photo Credit: Russ Rowland3. What do you relate to most about your character? What is one characteristic of his you are glad you don't possess yourself? Strong, relentless surety and promulgation of his truths. Passion.

I am staggered how people hate him so. Perhaps because he so resonates our current leader…though "Big Jim" is much more rigorously trained in his thinking. At the same time, I have had audience members claim he changed their point of view.

West of NJ to California he could be seen as a hero. The play is so well-crafted, that the points of view could shift according to the community where it is performed.

His is a "truth not tolerance" position. Furthest from my own position.

4. Guns have been killing people for years, but it seems we hear about a massive shooting somewhere almost every day of our lives. How do you feel this show will either help someone who's been affected by one of these deadly shootings or perhaps change the way someone feels about instilling stronger gun laws? Wow! That’s an impossible question because it doesn’t involve common sense. In my experience, the only time people really take gun control seriously is when they get shot in the face. Any and all assumptions we maintain about positions on these issues only become relevant when we have direct experience of the event, its horror and the people affected. We Americans need to meet each other face-to-face in a conversation over who we love, what we do with guns, what is fact, what is belief, what is truth; what we kill for, what we live for, how and why we pray? These are not issues that merely decorate the glorious tree of America. No, No. These are the "divers-est" roots that grow that tree strong. The healthy conflict of ideas and passions that are the very roots of our Constitution. America needs the feeding of face-to-face compassion, humor and brutal talk - - that is our America. Crusade brings all these issues forward in an almost sporting event immediacy. A prize fight for the Soul of America.

James Kiberd and Ben Curtis in "The Crusade of Connor Stephens", Photo Credit: Russ Rowland5. How do you find the resilience to get through rough times in your own life? Having been disabled for the past 10 years, this is a question to which I have too many answers. Really listening to what the body is saying is both complex and simple. But of paramount importance. Having had four doctors tell me I am fine when I sure didn’t feel fine, I finally found whiz bang PT at West Side Dance in Lincoln Center who could tell me why and what was so dysfunctional. Two years of hard work, 21 exercises a day brought me a new me. Also, Alexander Training is an truly liberating process.

My wife keeps joy in my life. And she reminds me that our dogs (born in our house) have opened my heart, my garden teaches me each day (humility) and nature so soothes and inspires me. I have learned, finally, that The Dark Funk changes when I move - yes physically move.

6. In this show, the family confronts the ghosts of their past. What is one past ghost you've confronted? PTSD - always needs to be respected and tended. My father - a WWII vet never dealt with his PTSD and passed it on to his family. This is something I share with my Crusade character.

Kathleen Huber and James Kiberd in "The Crusade of Connor Stephens", Photo Credit: Russ Rowland7. From this confrontation, the family discovers the brutal truth that defines the American family of the 21st century. What is the most brutal truth you've discovered about yourself that you fought so hard not to believe? I think more than one brutal truth is discovered in the play…I‘ll say again, "We Americans need to meet each other face-to-face in a conversation over who we love, what we do with guns, what is fact, what is belief, what is truth; what we kill for, what we live for, how and why we pray?  These are not issues that merely decorate the glorious tree of America. No, No. These are the "divers-est" roots that grow that tree strong. The healthy conflict of ideas and passions that are the very roots of our Constitution. America needs the feeding of face-to-face compassion, humor and brutal talk - - that is our America. Crusade brings all these issues forward in an almost sporting event immediacy. A prize fight for the Soul of America.

I am not sure how to answer this question without sounding full of bull. But I asked my wife and she immediately said it, "Honey, for some reason, you don’t feel worthy of love." I am still working on it. My Alexander teacher, Judith Stern, noticed a couple of things immediately when we started. When she would work with me, she noticed that my eyes were always moving. This was me trying to remember and analyze the experience I was having. She suggested that I could either have the analysis or the experience but not both. That I could allow myself to just have the experience and begin to trust that. She also noticed that when she encouraged me to see, take in what was around me, that I would look. What happens when I "look" is I focus hard and tend to thrust my head a bit forward which moves the head out of alignment and breaks the easy flow of energy in the spine, triggering "fight or flight" response. This kind of "looking habit" usually arises in a child when the person who was to nurture that child was in fact dangerous to that child.

And ………………………………………

Common Sense

And …………………………………..

The parts of me that I share with Trump. He reminds me every day of the selfish, thoughtless, small minded, fatuous, un thinking, pompous, lying, lazy glutton that I could so easily become.

James Kiberd8. I can't do an interview with you without asking about your time on one of my favorite soaps, All My Children. From 1989-2000, you played "Trevor Dillon," uncle to "Hayley Vaughn," played by Kelly Ripa. First, why did you want to be part of the All My Children family? What was the best part about working with Kelly Ripa? Can you tell us one fun juicy tale from your time on the show? Kelly was an unspoiled bundle of life and joy that I wanted to play with. Whatever I could share with her was immediately soaked up and made her own. The intimacy we had was blood family in nature. Just that matter of course kind of thing. She told me right away that her dream was not so much the acting but to be a talk show host! Well Well Bang Zoom Hip Hip HoooRaaay!

Why AMC? and Juicy? Here goes! A five day gig turned into 11 years. I had been developing a character in experimental theatre from my sense that by the year 2020 America would no longer be a "White" society. That we needed to encounter other world/third world cultures—their morals and ethics. On the morning of my first day after having come home during the night from a trip, I asked my wife if she liked my "look" for the part. In her sleepiness she said "What’s with the beard and the pony tail? You look like a pirate! AMC won’t go for that! "That’s what I want!" said I. She joked, "Then you need an earring." I grabbed one of hers, poked a hole in my ear, went off to AMC with my bloody booty."  At first, they wouldn’t let me in the building - so scruffy was I. Ha!

After camera rehearsal, I got called to the the producer’s office (Felicia Behr). I walked in saying, "I know, cut the hair, shave the beard, axe the earring." "No, No, NO!" she said "Would you be interested in a three year contract?" "I have to think about it" said I. The next day I suggested that I write a background description of the character I would like to play for the writers to consider. To my surprise, she said great.  When I submitted a 22-page document detailed to costume, set, lingo, accent and music, she was surprised and then sent it to the writers. Couple of days later, she told me they loved it! And would go ahead with my character as presented. Six months was my first contract. I wasn’t sure they, AMC, would or could really do it.

Well they went along with my creation! All the names I made up for the characters on the show, the wild outfits ,the Runyonesque lingo and the other world values. At my first public appearance the first audience question asked was "What planet is this guy ("Trevor"/my character) from? I knew we all were on to something special. The shows rating went from #7 to #2 rickety split and I was having some Serious Fun!

Katherine Leask and James Kiberd in "The Crusade of Connor Stephens", Photo Credit: Russ Rowland9. Since 2001, for the most part, you have focused on stage/film work as opposed to TV. Why did you choose to focus more on the stage and film? What do you get from this work that you weren't getting from TV? Acting Chops. Bad ass scary adventures. Every day I give up what I know for what I might discover. (me). You can’t do something that you don’t know, if you keep on doing what you do know. (FM Alexander).

AND my new agents in LA gave me two pieces of advice….

1) Lose weight and whiten your teeth!

2) And if you really want to act you need to find away to do some theatre. We would love to see you acting.

Well, I invited them to come see me about four months later. I was opening as "Gabbo the Clown" in Merchant of Venice on a Friday Night , Saturday 10am was Henry IV Part I, 2pm Henry IV Part II, 8pm Henry V. They didn’t come. And told me they couldn’t work with me as I was to busy doing theater an not available for TV!

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? Joy. (which means doing what my wife, dogs and garden tell me to do) My acting. My art making. My Garden. My dogs (they are major hunters and need a lot of clean up) Spinning! House keeping, Friends…..Have you read Twyla Tharps books?

Friday
Jul212017

Call Redialed: Conference Call: Marina Tempelsman and Nicco Aeed: "Unpacking: A Ghost Story Told In The Dark" at HERE

Niccolo Aeed and Marina TempelsmanOnce again Marina & Nicco have answered my call! Their haunting comedy Unpacking: A Ghost Story Told In The Dark is returning to the stage, but this time, the run is at HERE. In an unconventional staging, the audience lends a hand by lighting the stage for a couple that is literally, and figuratively, feeling their way through the dark. Flashlights will be provided.

In Unpacking, a happy couple has just moved into their new home. 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. The newest play combines two of our biggest fears: the dark and commitment.

This production will feature Temesgen Tocruray as "Anthony," SJ Son as "Melissa," Emily Mathwich as "Serena," Jeff Solomon as "James," Monique Moses as "Lona," Odera Adimorah as "Lou," and Sarah Heveron-Smith as "Catherine."

Unpacking: A Ghost Story Told In The Dark is written & directed by Nicco Aeed, Written & Produced by Marina Tempelsman, Produced by Michelle Francesca Thomas, with Set Design by Ally Spier, & Lighting Design by Kaitlyn Cecchetti.

Unpacking: A Ghost Story Told In The Dark will play July 26-August 13 at HERE (145 6th Avenue). Click here for tickets!

For more on Marina and Nicco be sure to visit http://www.marinaandnicco.com and follow them on FacebookTwitter, and Funny or Die!

1. This summer you're show Unpacking: A Ghost Story Told In The Dark is returning for a new run a HERE! What made now the right time to bring this show back, as opposed to say, around Halloween?

Marina Tempelsman: We were particularly excited for it to go up this summer, since the Fringe is on hiatus. Our play (and the rest of HERE’s SubletSeries and other curated rental programs like it) are testaments to how independent theater will always find a way to thrive.

Nicco Aeed: I bet our ghosts would be upset if we only thought of them during Halloween when I feel like they’re putting in hard work haunting us year round. I bet something is haunting you in July, and if something is haunting you, it’s the right time to see this play.

I’m also pushing 30, and I feel like everyone’s coupling up and having babies, creating new lives and moving away from old ones. I guess maybe it’s a feeling that will be around during Halloween, but who knows if America will be around then, so why wait?

2. What did you learn from the previous run at The People's Improv that will make this run better?

Marina Tempelsman: Well, one major thing we learned is that the flashlights get dimmer as the battery power fades. The second show in our first run was probably a littttttle darker than we intended. But it still looked great!

Nicco Aeed: Yeah there were a lot of flashlight and lighting based discoveries, but I think the thing I learned that stuck with me most is that it’s a blast to watch couples watch this play. Couples definitely move closer together and further away from each other depending on the scene. There’s something voyeuristic about watching the play on the stage, but also it’s fun to be a voyeur of the audience as well.

Jeff Solomon in the original production of "Unpacking: A Ghost Story Told In The Dark", Photo Credit: Zach Kelly3. In this show, the stage is lit by the audience, who's holding flashlights throughout the show. What was the funniest thing that happened as a result of this in the show's previous run?

Marina Tempelsman: It’s funny to see the different types of flashlight holders that emerge. You get the voyeurs, who really hone in on the action of the stage, and the sleuths, who are hellbent on making sure nothing’s going to surprise them in some dark corner.

Nicco Aeed: The audience seems to mostly act like a collective group of fireflies following cast members as move off and on stage.

4. Unpacking: A Ghost Story Told in the Dark is part mystery, part romance, and part comedy. You have been working together since 2006, both in performance & writing. What part of your relationship is a mystery? What part is romantic? What part is comedic?

Marina Tempelsman: Someone recently said "You’ve been working together for 11 years? You must know EVERYTHING about each other." But I think in a good writing partnership you’re always surprising each other with new ideas and experiences, even as your minds meld in some respects.

Ours is a deep friendship and a writing partnership -- we’re not dating and never have. It’s not a romantic relationship, except in that creating worlds together and being a part of each other’s creative process is an intimate thing to do. Seeing early drafts of each other’s work is, I guess, the collaborator equivalent of seeing a significant other put in their retainer before going to bed. (Nicco thinks this is very funny and true).

Nicco Aeed: Yeah none of our relationship is romantic. People sometimes seem surprised by that or wish there was a juicier story but we disappoint them. That being said yeah, knowing someone for 11 years does NOT mean that new mysteries aren’t revealed all the time. I heard that all the cells in your body die and are replaced within seven years, so on like a cellular level I have known like at least two completely different Marina’s and she’s seen a couple different me’s. The funnest part of the mystery is seeing who we’ll be and what we’ll create in the future. (Marina loves this answer).

Temesgen Tocruray and Priya Patel in the original production of "Unpacking: A Ghost Story Told In The Dark", Photo Credit: Zach Kelly5. This show is about a couple, who shortly after moving in together, begin to see the ghosts of their past relationships in every moving box and unpainted corner. When you and Nicco write together, what ghosts do you see in each other?

Marina Tempelsman: This is a really interesting question. I think that we see ghosts in any long-standing relationship, romantic or not. Nicco and I have never dated, but we’ve written together for almost eleven years. There are times where I feel like I can feel snapshots of past-us in our meetings, though (unlike the characters in the play) I tend to react to those feelings more with a sense of security in how our writing and our process has evolved. Take any life stage, add a pinch of time and nostalgia or uncertainty, and boom! There are the ghosts.

Nicco Aeed: Yeah we wanna emphasize this is NOT a romantic relationship. It’s more like what "Marley" and "Scrooge" had in A Christmas Carol. I’d probably see Marina’s ghost before I saw the ghost of The One That Got Away, or a haunting vision of my children in the future.

But what would be our ghosts? Once in college, we did a show in Philly where there were more people on stage than in the audience, and there were like four people on stage. That’s always a little haunting. But mostly I don’t feel like I see ghosts in our relationship, because that would’ve meant something in our relationship died or ended or just went away but our relationship is immortal and undying.

6. The play is about the pieces of ourselves that we just can't (or don't want to) let go of. What pieces of yourselves can't you or don't you want to let go of?

Marina Tempelsman: This is a tough question to answer! I feel like part of growing up is just feeling safe and secure in letting go of the traits and things in your life that no longer serve you. I feel lucky that I have people around me who tend to nurture the good parts of me, and make the "letting go" process much less painful. But I’m a very nostalgic person in general, so even when I know I’m evolving past something in a good or productive way I tend to get emotional about it.

Nicco Aeed: Such personal questions, Adam! I feel like spaces are haunted for me, and that no matter if I feel like I’ve left something behind for good, if I go back to a certain place (the apartment I was a kid in and grew up in, or visit my old high school) as soon as I step through the threshold I’m brought back to the person I was when I spent time in that place.

Rasheda Crockett in the original production of "Unpacking: A Ghost Story Told In The Dark", Photo Credit: Zach Kelly7. When in your life have you felt your way through the dark?

Marina Tempelsman: When I stayed in an AirBnB that had no lamps and the lightswitch was all the way on the other side of the room opposite the bed.

But also, I think feeling your way through the dark is a pretty apt way of describing trying to pursue a life in the arts. It can be very hard to orient yourself and know when you’re making forward progress, when there’s no clearly-defined context for what a career track can or should look like.

Nicco Aeed: Good answer Marina. Yeah career is definitely a place where I’m feeling my way through the dark.

8. What is one ghost that you still have yet to unpack?

Marina Tempelsman: I think that we’re constantly making new ghosts for ourselves as we live life, make decisions, and live with the memories or the what-ifs. And I should also say not all ghosts feel bad to see -- sometimes it’s comforting to be visited by what once was or what could have been. There’s a beautiful passage in Rabbit Hole, by David Lindsay-Abaire, where a character talks about how the feeling of grief evolves.

She says "At some point it becomes bearable. It turns into something you can crawl out from under, and carry around — like a brick in your pocket. And you forget it every once in a while, but then you reach in for whatever reason and there it is: 'Oh, right. That.' Which can be awful. But not all the time. Sometimes it’s kinda...not that you like it exactly, but it’s what you have instead of your son, so you don’t wanna let go of it either. So you carry it around. And it doesn’t go away, which is…fine, actually."

Of course not all ghosts are driven by grief, but I do feel that they generally come from some sort of friction with your current reality. And sometimes bringing traces of the past or what could have been into your reality is comforting.

Nicco Aeed: I think parents (living or dead) are ghosts you have to unpack for the whole of your life. What I admire in my parents and what I see of them in me changes at every age I'm in. As you realize how many people you become as you live and grow older, it makes you realize how much of your parents you didn’t know throughout your life.

Oh yeah, maybe it’s worth talking about happy ghosts. I think anytime you experience something beautiful, something really beautiful, that you know a picture won’t do justice, that when described to friends they won’t really appreciate how awesome that moment was, those things are haunting. That beauty is passing and short and something that you have to work to keep with you in your memories.

The original production of "Unpacking: A Ghost Story Told In The Dark", Photo Credit: Zach Kelly9. What is one aspect of your life that is like an unpainted corner?

Marina Tempelsman: I just had chunks of plaster drop straight out of my ceiling a few months ago, and I FINALLY got that repainted this weekend. So that’s the only unpainted corner I have on the brain and it is officially taken care of.

Nicco Aeed: I feel like I’ve lived in a couple apartments where the bathroom ceiling has fallen in a couple times. Though it does get plastered back up there, it never gets painted. Oh but you mean metaphorically?

10. If you had to choose five "Ghost" themed songs, movies, or TV shows to describe this show, which ones would you use?

Marina Tempelsman: Oh, interesting question! So there is quite a bit of music in the show, but I’ll try to exclude those songs from this answer. I would say…

It’s not exaaaactly a ghost TV show, but I do feel like The Good Place seems related, both tonally and thematically. It’s funny and poignant, but it’s also about characters trying to overcome their circumstances by sheer force of will -- and eventually coming around to acknowledging that it takes something more profound to bring about the change they need.

And WOW I’m drawing a blank, now! I guess ghost movies tend to be scary (unlike this show, which is largely a comedy and drama), and I hate scary movies. So I don’t see a lot. Nicco, what do you think?

Nicco Aeed: Below is a weird youtube mixtape just for you Adam! It’s a bit ecclectic but all about the past:

Chris Pureka Covering Haunted

Relevant Lyrics: We are all alive but you would never know

We walk side by side like invisible ghosts

Everyone is lonely and everyone is sad

We all want the things that we have never had

I got somethin' to say but no one's here

We march on and on and we damn the fear

But we are haunted

Office Musik (Lil Wayne Hustler Music/The Office Themesong mashup)

Relevant Lyrics: See I be riding, just riding alone

With my daddy on my mind

Like you gotta be kidding

How the hell you ain't here

To see your prince do his thing

Sometimes I wanna drop a tear

But no emotions from a king

Juke Jam by Chance the Rapper

Relevant Lyrics: We never rolled at the rink

We would just go to the rink

You ain't buy tokens no more

You just hip roll at the rink

You had a man then, I couldn't stand him

But when they play "Take You Down", Chris Brown,

I am his stand-in

I mean it's just dancing

It's harmless as fuck

Then I put my waist through your hips and your legs in my arms just to harness you up

Then we hit the floor

All the kiddies stopped skating

To see grown folks do

What grown folks do

When they grown 

And they dating

Space Captain by Joe Cocker

Relevant Lyrics: Until we die, until we die

We are just learning to live together

Learning to live together

Learning to live together

Till we die

New Lover by Josh Ritter

Relevant Lyrics: Praise the water under bridges, the time they say will heal

Praise the fonder, that still grows on the absent heart and fields

Praise be to this pain, these days it's all I seem to feel.

But I will not chase your shadow as you go from room to room,

Droppin' handkerchiefs and daggers, smokin' guns and other clues

For what someone did with someone and who did what to whom.

I've got a new lover now, I hope you've got a lover too.

 

Marina TempelsmanNicco AeedMore on Marina and Nicco:

Marina and Nicco are playwrights and screenwriters based in New York, who emerged from the underground sketch comedy scene. Their most recent play, Room 4, was met with sold-out shows, standing ovations, and was listed as a New York Times Critic’s Pick in addition to receiving international coverage. Prior to Room 4, that they were playwrights-in-residence at The Peoples Improv Theater, and Marina Tempelsman’s play Simon’s Street ran at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre for eight months.

In addition to their theatrical work, their sketches and videos have been featured in The New Yorker's Shorts and Murmurs, on Comedy Central, and Funny or Die. They wrote for Morgan Spurlock’s Call Bullshit, and were finalists in the LA Film Festival Make Em LAFF competition -- in addition to their regular live shows at major comedy theaters in New York. 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 (MURDER!), and a number of original plays. They just finished a six-month playwriting residency at The PIT, and are currently developing an original web series for BRIC TV.

Monday
Jul102017

Call Redialed: Lucie Pohl: "Hi, Hitler" (NEW version) at The Cherry Lane Theatre

Lucie Pohl, Photo Credit: Mindy TuckerLucie Pohl is one of the funniest up and coming comedian/actresses/writers I have seen. I've known her for almost three years now and have seen two of her shows, both of which, left me in stitches. 

Now Lucie is revisiting her first one-woman show, with a re-worked version of Hi, Hitler, the story of Lucie finding her identity in NYC as an immigrant. Meet a German-Jew who grows up in a wild family of artists, is fascinated by the Fuehrer from age four, and is uprooted from Germany to NYC at age eight. Lucie yearns for normalcy, but being different seems to run in her bloodline and escaping her inherited high-drama-destiny might just be impossible.

Hi, Hitler will play at The Cherry Lane Theatre (38 Commerce Street) from July 11-30. Click here for tickets!

For more on Lucie be sure to visit http://www.luciepohl.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

1. This July you are bringing a re-worked version of your award winning show Hi, Hitler back to NYC. How is this version different from the 2014/2015 version of the show? The new version of Hi, Hitler has lots of new material, most of the design team is new and I am working with a new director: the absolutely amazing Kenneth Ferrone! The show is funnier, sexier and better than blueberry pie!

2. What made you want to change up the show to this new version? I have done this show over 65 times in five different countries but I always felt the show still had more to give if I would just keep digging. I always wanted to see this show on a bigger scale, with set design, proper lighting! I wrote Hi, Hitler three years ago and have learned a lot and grown as a performer so I wanted to revisit it and make a Hi, Hitler super show!

3. What excites you about debuting this updated production of Hi, Hitler? Absolutely everything! Doing a three week run of my own show at the Cherry Lane Theatre on the most beautiful street in New York City is a REAL-LIFE dream come true for me! More than anything I am excited to try out the new material, I wrote a whole new ending for the show.

Lucie Pohl, Photo Credit: Mindy Tucker4. You play over 30 characters in this show. Who's the easiest character to perform? Who's the most challenging? The easiest character to perform is my dad Klaus! He is larger than life and just like a crazy cartoon in real life so that makes it easy...The most challenging character to play is myself...Ummm, who am I? I have no idea.....

5. With all that is going on in this world over immigration and the travel ban, thanks to that moron in the White House, how do you feel your show is even more relevant than previously? Thank you for this question! I absolutely feel my show is more relevant than ever now that we have the Morange (that's what I call him - the orange moron - morange) in the White House. Him and his administration have attacked all of us immigrants! I feel angry and vulnerable and I think it's SO important to give immigrants of all kinds and backgrounds a voice right now. We are this country!

6. In this post-election life we live, how do you feel your upbringing actually prepared you for what is going on? My upbringing was intense and full of drama, in that sense I am well prepared for the ups and downs we are experiencing right now. My family has always been very political, my mother was a political prisoner in East Germany, my grandmother had to wear the yellow star, my father's parents were refugees from East Prussia, so politics was always a topic in our house growing up. I grew up with stories of speaking up and speaking out against oppressors, which makes it easier to navigate a time like this I think. When I asked my 95 year old Romanian-Jewish grandmother what she thought of Trump she said, "What do I think? I think I have already survived three mentally ill people who tried to ruin my life - Stalin, Hitler and Ceausescu and now this Trump is number four! But let me tell you something, there is always a crack you can find to live your life and speak out!"

Lucie Pohl, Photo Credit: Mindy Tucker7. During his campaign and even still now, that idiot in the White House has been compared to Hitler, some even saying, he's Hitler #2. How do you think the original Hitler would react to this new Hitler-like person? If the election were between Hitler #1 and Hitler #2, who do you think would win? Hitler is a synonym for evil. And the problem with evil is not when it's in one person, the problem is when other people enable and support that evil, normalize it. I think that's what is happening right now and that is why morange is being compared to Hitler. So, I'm not sure I can answer that question. I think it's more important to think about, educate and fight all the people who are giving someone so divisive, bigoted and dangerous, power.

8. As you say in the show, while your friends were obsessed with candy, you were obsessed with Hitler. If you could have dinner with Hitler, what would you talk about? If I could have dinner with Hitler I would poison his soup, then I would spit in his soup and then I would tell him he's a piece of shit!

9. Throughout the show, you also talk about the high-drama of your family that you feel you have inherited. What is the most dramatic thing you would say ever happened to you? The most dramatic thing that ever happened to me is when I was six years old in Hamburg, Germany and did not win a meet and greet with David Hasselhoff at his concert. That was the day I learned what real pain felt like.

10. As a German-Jew, do you ever have a dilemma with what to make for dinner? As a German-Jew everything in my life is a dilemma.

Lucie Pohl, Photo Credit: Mindy TuckerMore on Lucie:

Lucie is currently the voice of "Mercy" on Blizzard's massive hit video game Overwatch, which boasts over 30 million registered players. She has appeared in the films Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (Warner Bros.), Not Fade Away (Paramount/David Chase), and The Odd Couple (Margarethe von Trotta/Heimatfilm). She was also featured on Homeland (Showtime) and the wildly popular UK series Red Dwarf XI (Amazon).

Tuesday
Jun062017

Call Answered: Conference Call: Michael Raver & Nicholas Carriere: Death Comes for the War Poets at Sheen Center

Nicholas Carriere & Michael Raver, Photo Credit: Lloyd MulveyWe live in some crazy times. Every day that moron stays in office is another battle we have to fight for our freedom from him because we never know what that lunatic is going to do. Ever since this election, I am just grateful to wake-up everyday still alive.

When I found out about Death Comes For The War Poets, a new play by Joseph Pearce, I thought this would be a great show to highlight because it takes place on the centenary of the United States’ entry into World War One and grapples with the horror of trench warfare as experienced by the two greatest war poets, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen.

I was so excited to get to speak with the plays' two lead actors, Michael Raver and Nicholas Carriere, who play "Wilfred Owen" and "Siegfried Sassoon" respectively. It was interesting to compare the events of the past with what's happening today.

Presented by Blackfriars Repertory Theatre and The Storm Theatre Company, Death Comes For The War Poets will make it's world premiere at The Sheen Center in NYC (18 Bleecker Street) from June 9-24. Click here for tickets!

For more on Michael be sure to visit http://michaelraver.blogspot.com and follow him on Twitter!

For more on Nicholas visit http://nicholascarriere.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter!

1. This June you are starring in the world premiere of Blackfriars Repertory Theatre and The Storm Theatre Company's production of Death Comes for the War Poets by Joseph Pearce. What attracted you to this show?

Michael Raver: I didn’t actually know anything about Wilfred Owen or Siegfried Sassoon when I heard about this play. The poetry that both of these men wrote, the emotional capacity of their work and what they accomplished with it is staggering. Ultimately because plays are about relationships between people, that's the breakfast, lunch and dinner for actors, right? Sassoon and Owen had a fascinating relationship, one that was very obviously filled with a lot of love. Against the backdrop of how they met and the abiding feelings they expressed to each other suggest delicious possibilities.

Nicholas Carriere: Pure curiosity, and a dose of masochism. I’m from New England, and was raised Catholic, so if it seems difficult, I’ll probably be drawn to it.

2. What do you relate to most about your characters "Siegfried Sassoon" & "Wilfred Owen"? What is one characteristic of theirs are you glad you don't possess?

Michael Raver: I love Owen’s emotional bravery. One of his most profound gifts to the poetic landscape, particularly as it pertained to war, was a willingness to be vulnerable and blunt. There was no sarcasm or triviality in his ethos. As an actor and as a writer, my ultimate desire is to get to the bottom of complicated things. Distilling, while I wrestle with things that make no sense to me. Owen spent his short career fighting to understand violence and I can completely relate to that. I’m relieved that the jingoistic relationship with going to war isn’t on the menu for me. England, at the time of the first World War, had a propensity for nurturing young men to believe that their destinies were all on the battlefield. The might is right. I have respect for the military but I’m endlessly thankful that I’m not among them.

Nicholas Carriere: I love words, much like he (obviously) did, though the way we use them is very different. Sassoon was a fascinating man, whose life was beautiful, and tragic. The events of our respective lives couldn’t be more different; it feels unfair of me to judge any of his choices, or perceived character traits. That said, I could only wish to write as beautifully as he did.

Michael Raver, Nicholas Carriere, Sarah Naughton, Photo Credit: Lloyd Mulvey3. In preparing for the show, what kind of research did you do on your characters?

Michael Raver: Reading a lot. I’ve read and re-read his poetry. I also was in touch with the Wilfred Owen Association and they’ve been very helpful giving me some details about him that I might not have easily found in books. Because he was suffering from shell shock at the time we’re covering in the piece, I also watched some really heartbreaking documentaries about the lasting effects of war on the human body.

Nicholas Carriere: I read the first of Sassoon’s autobiographies, and reviewed my WWI history, but because there’s very little interpersonal dialogue in the play, most of the work lay in unpacking the language of his poems, because his poems serve as the narrative engine. I can’t rely on relationships, or sets, or a general audience’s working knowledge of this man. I have to find a way to create the world of this man’s life - both external and internal - with only his poetry.

4. Since you play poets and the show is about war, if you were to write a very short poem about war, how would your poem go?

Michael Raver: 

Roses are red, violets are blue
War is complete bullshit
So stay home won’t you?

Nicholas Carriere: If anyone wants to see me doing poetry, they should come see the show starting June 9th!

Michael Raver5. The show is titled Death Comes for the War Poets. If death came for you now, what would you be most grateful for that you've accomplished and what would be one or two things you were like, "Damn, I didn't get to do that yet"?

Michael Raver: I’m grateful that, in the last year particularly, I’ve stayed in the present moment more often than not. I’ve gotten to be present for some really exceptional moments in other people’s lives. Births, weddings, seminal creative moments and also a few deaths. As far as things that I haven’t done yet, I guess that since we live in a work-addicted culture, I would love to get to a point where I can soften out of that a little. In terms of my career, I’m proud of what I’ve done so far. I’m in the process of writing a book right now and I’m looking forward to seeing that through.

Nicholas Carriere: Oh, see, although I have a very bounteous life, with much to be grateful for, I try not to dwell on any of it, and hope to be present enough to not live (or die) with regrets.

6. The show deals with the horror of trench warfare, so what is the most horrific thing to happen to each of you in your life? How did you find the strength to continue after said event?

Michael Raver: My father passed away when I was eighteen and that was pretty traumatizing. Our relationship and the circumstances of it were very complicated and the situation left me with a lot of frayed edges and unresolved issues. For lack of a better way of saying it, losing a parent can feel like emotional war. Someone recently told me this really great idea that your parents give birth to you twice. Once when you’re born and then again when they die. As an adult man now, I’ve made a concerted effort to get the most out of the time I have while I have it. If something bothers me, I say something. If I have the impulse to change something about my life, I really try not to hesitate. While I appreciate that there’s a time and a place for everything, subjugating my feelings and thoughts feels like death.

Nicholas Carriere: There is poetry in the play, which deals with trench warfare, and it’s a testament to Sassoon and Owen as artists that they’re able to render such vivid, haunting accounts of a very dark time in modern history. But it’s the darkness of that time, which enables Sassoon to find a path to peace. So few of us can ever know the horror of that kind of war; mostly anything I could ever, or may ever endure seems manageable.

Nicholas Carriere7. Not only is this story told through the eyes of Siefgried & Wilfred, it's also told through the "Spirit of Death." I don't want to make every question a downer, so let's have some fun with this question. If you could come up with a cheer for the "Spirit of Death," how would you cheer go?

Michael Raver: This isn’t really a chant, but KT Tunstall has a gorgeous song about death called ‘Carried’ that would be my go-to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLNp1WROFR0

Nicholas Carriere: Sarah Naughton, who plays "Death" in the show, will be charming, and cheering audiences nightly starting 6/9. I’ll defer to her expertise.

8. We are currently living in some very trying times, especially with what's his name leading our country. What are some things you are still hopeful for in this day and age?

Michael Raver: I love those moments when communication between people gets bolstered, strengthened. I love directness. I love when I get an email or a text or a call from someone I haven’t seen in a while or even its somebody that I see on a regular basis, to get a "just saying hi" message. Little morsels of love like that can work miracles on a downtrodden mood. Celebrating what unites us rather than what breaks us up. I’m hopeful that in the coming years, people will dig deep to embrace their own vulnerability as a strength rather than labeling it a weakness.

Nicholas Carriere: My father has an infuriating way of assuring me that humanity will find its way towards whatever is best. Frustratingly, as I grow older, I am starting to see his point. I have faith.

Nicholas Carriere and Michael Raver, Photo Credit: Lloyd Mulvey9. How do you feel we can bring peace to this world we live in?

Michael Raver: Love is a huge necessity, absolutely, but I think perhaps a refined definition of what love is. To me, love has always been an action. It’s a verb. It’s so easy to toss that word off carelessly. I so want our collective consciousness to rise to the point where we can walk our own talk. If you love someone, show them if you want to tell them. If something bothers you, do something. Regarding the political circus going on at the moment, my encouragement to anyone upset by it would be to pick up a phone, call a congress person, go to a protest. Donate money. Do rather than simply complain.

Nicholas Carriere: Our collective wellspring of empathy and compassion, I think, has no bottom; we need only make better (and more frequent) use of it.

10. If you could write death a letter, what would you say to it?

Michael Raver: 

Dear sir and/or madam: 

I have a lot of things I want to do. Do me a solid and let me do them. I want to be very thoroughly used up by the time you show up looking for me.

Thanks!

xo

Nicholas Carriere: "Are you ok? You look like… Well. You know."

Michael RaverMore on Michael:

Off-Broadway: The Persians (National Actors Theatre); Vieux Carré (The Pearl); Julius Caesar, Romeo & Juliet (Aquila Theatre). Select regional: Bay Street Theater, Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Playhouse on Park, Ivoryton Playhouse, Sierra Rep. Select film/TV: How We Built the Bomb, Dark Places, Gone Away, Turn: Washington’s Spies. As a playwright: Fire on Babylon (Wild Project, Great River Shakespeare Festival, The O’Neill semifinalist), RiptideQuiet Electricity (The O’Neill semifinalist), Evening (Red Bull Theater finalist) and adaptations of The Picture of Dorian Gray (Sonnet Rep, Orlando Shakespeare Theater 
PlayFest finalist) and The Seagull (The Pearl). Contributes pieces to Classical TVNYC Monthly, Hamptons Monthly, The Huffington Post, Playbill.com, Dance Magazine and CoolHunting.com.

Nicholas CarriereMore on Nicholas:

Some New York and regional credits include Sex with Strangers (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park), My Report to the World (NY Museum of Jewish Heritage and Shakespeare Theater, DC), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Guthrie Theater), A Song at Twilight (Hartford Stage and Westport Country Playhouse), Zorro (American premiere at Alliance Theatre), Abigail/1702 (world premiere at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park), Coriolanus (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company), The Lion King (national tour/Vegas). Training: MFA, Yale School of Drama and Muhlenberg College. Thanks to his father for his support and always letting him make a mess in his kitchen.

Monday
May152017

Call Redialed: Facetime Interview: Annie Golden: Ripcord, Difficult People, Joe's Pub Concert

Annie Golden & "Call Me Adam" at The Algonquin Hotel in NYCLive from The Algonquin Hotel, in the heart of NYC's theatre district, "Call Me Adam" catches up with Broadway & Orange is the New Black star Annie Golden!

In this NEW interview, Annie & I go The Full Monty with Ripcord at Huntington Theatre, Joe's Pub in August, and her guest starring role on Difficult People! (Our Orange is the New Black interview will be released in mid-June). 

First up, we discuss Annie's role in David Lindsay-Abaire's Ripcord which will be playing Boston's Huntington Theatre from May 26-June 25! Click here for tickets!

Then we discuss Annie's return to the concert stage with Annie Golden Friends & Family on August 25 at Joe's Pub + the writing of her original song "Hard Lesson" about 9/11. Click here for tickets!

Finally, we get a sneak peak at Annie's guest starring role on the third season of Hulu's Difficult People!

For more on Annie Golden follow her on Facebook!

For more on The Algonquin Hotel visit http://www.algonquinhotel.com and follow them on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

Call Me Adam's NEW interview with Annie Golden:

Huntington Theatre Company's Ripcord Sneak Peak: