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Entries in Theatre (318)

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?

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).

Thursday
Apr272017

Call Answered: Emily Kratter: Dead End at Axis Theatre 

Emily Kratter, Photo Credit: David PerlmanAnother rising actress that has recently come to my attention is Emily Kratter. From theatre to film to TV, Emily is appearing everywhere! She's currently starring in Axis Theatre Company's revival of Sidney Kingsley's Dead End, a Broadway hit in 1936, which was later turned into a film starring Humphrey Bogart which included the first appearance of "The Bowery Boys" who went on to become the iconic "kid gang" of American movies.

Dead End takes place in a New York where tenement houses and luxury apartments stand side by side and extreme wealth and abject poverty intersect every day. Gangsters and bankers, prostitutes and lost children, failure and dreams of the future all live on this street. Axis Theatre Company illuminates these stark contrasts with an understanding of their mythology as well as their contemporary mirror in the city of today.

Dead End plays at Axis Theatre (1 Sheridan Square) through May 20. Click here for tickets!

For more on Emily be sure to visit http://www.emilykratter.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? My earliest memory is seeing Peter Pan...I must have been four or five. "Peter" took off and started flying and it was magic. So, I guess at the time you can say I just wanted to fly? But now, I can tell you for sure that I am inspired every single day to stay a performer by my brilliant friends and collaborators and fellow artists. The theatre community in New York City inspires me.

2. This spring you are starring in Axis Company's production of Sidney Kingsley's Dead End, about the legendary kid gang, "The Bowery Boys" who grew up on the streets of NYC during the Great Depression. What made you want to be part of this show? Well, for one the Axis Company is a group of fearless artists who march to beat of their own drum and create stunning work that is unlike anything I've seen elsewhere. Their artistry is only matched by their hearts and overall awesomeness as humans whom I genuinely always want to be around...So there's that. Working with wonderful people is a huge factor. But also -- immediately when I read this script, I was so taken with the characters, particularly the kids. There is this raw energy that excited me. Their emotions live entirely on their sleeves. They are silly, and scared, and yearning, and manipulative, and just trying to survive. The piece has so much going on. Our director, Randy Sharp has said, "It's like there is one miracle after the next" and I feel that to be true. There's not one moment in the play that does not propel us forward and nobody is ever on even ground. I felt that potential in my first read.

3. What do you relate to most about your character? What is one trait of theirs, you are glad you, yourself, don't have? Hmm well, "Milty" is hilarious. I think I definitely see elements of myself as a kid in him...He has a wild imagination that I know I had, and hope I still do. He is not self-conscious, and fully self-expressed and I love that, and it's a thrill to play. He also looks up to the gang leader, "Tommy" with such fierce admiration. I DEFINITELY did that as a kid. I had a group of older friends that I thought were the coolest. I upped my "cool" cred, just by being around them. As far as one trait I don't have? He is a SPAZ. And honestly, I guess I am too...but he takes it to a new level. I think I can say I'm not quite that bad...(I hope).

Cast of "Dead End", Photo Credit: Pavel Antonov4. How do you feel "The Bowery Boys" story resonates in today's world? Dead End takes place in the 1930s where luxury apartments and tenement housing stand side by side. It examines the intersection of wealth and poverty and at the heart of it is the impact on this gang of kids. It's astonishing how much and how little has changed since that time. I live on the west side of Manhattan where buildings of grandeur are going up every day, and at it's base lay homeless men and women. It is our hope that while these characters might have once been labeled as archetypes, "gangster," "prostitute," "lost boy" etc, that we are examining the humanity underneath. And that humanity, I think will resonate forever.

And one more point of note: While "The Bowery Boys" are certainly a pillar in this play, there are 14 ACTORS making up this ensemble. I'll repeat: This is a downtown theater that hired 14 ACTORS to produce this baby. I think that's awesome and worth emphasizing.

5. What is something you learned about "The Bowery Boys" in preparing for this show that made you go, "Oh wow, I wonder how I would have faired or what would I have done in this situation? Hmm...I'm not sure how to answer this question without giving too much away. But there is a theme regarding "survival of the fittest." How far are you willing to go to build the life you've dreamed of? Or how far are you willing to go to for love? For a friend who's in trouble? And what is that point when one makes the decision to do what's best for him/herself despite everything else?

Cast of "Dead End", Photo Credit: Pavel Antonov6. Since this story focuses on a kid gang, growing up, did you have your own gang or posse? Oh, I DID indeed. I was so lucky to have the most amazing friends growing up. Most of them are still my best friends today. I had a group of friends that I met doing theatre together, and now they are running the world -- they became attorneys and doctors and entrepreneurs and social workers and parents. Some have become successful actors too! And in school, I was in a group of five girls that were inseparable. We even had a name...We called ourselves, "PENT" because there were five of us. They are going to die a little when they read this. We are bonded for life...well, four of us...(long story).

7. In Dead End, gangsters and bankers, prostitutes and lost children, failure and dreams of the future all live on this street. If we break each of these categories down, when have you felt like a gangster, a banker, a prostitute, and a lost child? WOW. I guess I could most relate to the lost child... given these choices, I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing. I'm holding on to a hopefulness that I'm not going to let this world take from me. As for gangster? I'd be terrible...When I was in high school, my friend and I went through the turnstile together for the subway. A policeman grabbed us and told us not to do it again, and I think I had a panic attack. A banker? I think my soul would die if I worked in a cubicle. They work in cubicles right? or desks? I think I would die at a desk all day too. And prostitute? Yikes. Luckily things haven't gotten that rough yet...Ask me in a few years ;)

Emily Kratter, Photo Credit: David Perlman8. What are some of your dreams of the future? What are some of your failures of the past? I have had so much fun working on this show. It hasn't felt like work for one second. That's what I dream of...To have a fulfilling career "working" and never feeling the labor. To do what I love with the people I love. To tell stories that move people...to laughter or tears, whatever. To make some kind of impact and affect people by sharing these tales of flawed, broken, beautiful humans. I think at one point I told my parents I was going to double major when I was at NYU, have some sort of a "back up plan"...I failed at that promise. I'm not sure I even really tried, but shhh!

9. Let's play with the title of Dead End for a moment. What is a path or an idea you started out on, but unfortunately hit a "Dead End," with nowhere to go? I have gone through so many periods where I have wracked my brain and tried to trick myself into believing that perhaps I could be satisfied doing something else with my life. Something with more security, with structure. It's a dead end for sure. I think this crazy business is stuck with me for the long run.

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? That's amazing!! I love this!! There are SO many things!! But to keep things light, I need to sharpen my cooking skills. I have a crock pot I bought off of Amazon last year that's still in the box....well, it's actually out of the box, but that's as far as I got :( Terrible....Shameless plug: Our director Randy Sharp actually has a BRILLIANT cooking show on youtube called DINNER PARTY TONIGHT - One day I'll make her proud and replicate one of her to-die-for recipes. Ina Garten better watch out.

Emily Kratter, Photo Credit: David PerlmanMore on Emily:

Emily Kratter Favorite credits: Axis: Dead EndEvening – 1910, The Groundling and Solitary Light. Other Select NYC theatre/workshops: Confederates (LAByrinth Theater Co, The Lark/Workshop); Be More Chill (workshop/Dir. Scott Ellis); Death For Sydney Black (TerraNOVA Collective/Dir. Kip Fagan); Boomer's Millenial Hero StoryBelieber (TerraNOVA Collective/Groundbreakers); The Austerity of Hope (The Barrow Group); Greenwood (NYMF); Progress In Flying (The New Group/New Works); Pooka (Dramatists Guild/Playwrights Horizons); Five Second Chances (The Playwright's Realm/INK'D); The Physicists (Williamstown); The Holy Ghostly (Williamstown/workshop), The Children's Hour (APAC). Film:  Adelaide, Half Brother (Amazon/Itunes) TV: Unforgettable (CBS). Web: Fomo Daily NYU Tisch. 

Friday
Apr072017

Call Answered: Wyatt Fenner: The War Boys at The Access Theater

Wyatt FennerEver since I interviewed Ben Rimalower for "Call Me Adam," he has gone ahead and referred several of his friends my way! Each one has been a joy to talk to and get to know. That brings me to Wyatt Fenner. Ben suggested Wyatt call and I answered!

Wyatt stars in Naomi Wallace's The War Boys, about three vigilantes, childhood friends, enjoy patrolling the U.S./Mexican border. But these youths soon learn that even the most guarded borders are permeable. When the lines between fantasy and reality become dangerously blurred, these young men are forced to decide what it means to be an American, and who has the right to belong.

The timeliness of this play couldn't be more perfect. I'm thrilled to get to chat with Wyatt as this early stage in his career. It will be great to watch what he does next!

The War Boys plays at The Access Theater in NYC (380 Broadway, 4th Floor) through April 16! Click here for tickets!

For more on The War Boys visit https://www.thewarboysnyc.com and follow the show on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

For more on Wyatt, follow him on Twitter and Instagram!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? Stories inspired me to become a performer. When I was little reading with Dad before bed was my favorite part of my day, so I always had a really active imagination. At recess in school I'd lead pretend games; Peter Pan, 101 Dalmatians, The Little Mermaid, anything to get the whole group running around pretending to be seagulls or trolls or whatever - but around third grade, for all of my classmates except for me, recess shifted from being about time for playing pretend to being about everyone playing kickball, and it was like something died for me. When my classmates were so unceremoniously over it with the pretend games I remember being like "Well...what the fuck am I supposed to do with life now.." there was no purpose anymore in my little seven year old existence.

Then shortly thereafter I was at the local library with Mom and we saw a poster for a Children's Theatre production of The Velveteen Rabbit and I realized there was this almost secret society of other kids who liked to play pretend as well and I could go and audition and maybe I'd get to put on some fairytale stories with them. So I went to try out for the company and I got cast as one of the fairies in Sleeping Beauty - then in the next production which was Jack and the Beanstalk I was cast as the cow's bottom, and I just never stopped doing plays because it gave me an opportunity to express what using my imagination to share any kind of stories has always meant to me.

2. You are currently making your NY stage debut in Naomi Wallace's The War Boys. What made you want to be part of this show? When I read the script I realized how timely this play is and I also saw how challenging an opportunity it would be to work on this project so that was really exciting to me. This is a play about three men who are each questioning what it means to be men, to be seen, and to have responsibility in a world where maybe those feelings are eroding for them - and that seems relevant right now.

Sea McHale, Wyatt Fenner, and Gabriel Sloyer in "The War Boys"3. Does the reality of your NY stage debut live up to the fantasy you had in your head? Working on a challenging play like this in my underpants in a tiny theatre four stories above a knock off sneaker factory is as downtown theatre as you can get - and I'm into it.

When I first moved to NY last year I got work right away that took me back out of town. Those jobs were incredible projects with wonderful directors and companies, which I'm really proud of, and grateful to have done, but I knew that to get a foothold here in the city I'd need to begin to turn down opportunities that would take me out of the city and as soon as I made that decision for myself this opportunity came up, so that is exciting, to get to continue to work towards that goal, specifically to get to make cool theatre that people will see and have conversations with one another about in this incredible city. This play is hard work, but everything worth having in life takes hard work and I'm really proud of all that this experience has helped me discover so far. Plus nothing nothing nothing beats riding the train home after a good show. I never knew that specific joy of being an actor in NY before and now I do.

4. What do you relate to most about your character "David"? What is one quality of his you are glad you, yourself don't possess? I relate to "David's" need for friendship and some level of acceptance. I am glad that I resolved my feelings about my own sexuality in a healthy way when I was growing up. "David" had a very different experience regarding his self acceptance - so I'm glad I don't share that with him.

Wyatt Fenner as "David" in "The War Boys"5. Your character literally gets stripped down in this show, all the way to his underwear. When you found out you were going to have to perform in your underwear, what are some thoughts that went through your head? What is it like to be so exposed to an audience like this night after night? As a person there is a lot that scares me but as an actor there isn't much that I'm afraid of doing. I've been entirely naked on stage several times before and as long as it makes sense for the story I believe in going there. It takes a lot to expose yourself night after night like we do in the play - clothes on or off, but I commit to it and go there every night. Otherwise, what's the point?

6. Part of the shows description is "Even the most guarded borders are permeable." What is something that you have kept guarded, but realize it's time to let the world in on it? That is a tough one, because I am really open as a person. I can understand people who have the inclination to hold things back because we all do that to different degrees day to day but what this play celebrates is allowing oneself to really strip down and be exposed - literally in my case - which is a rare and worthwhile experience for everyone to have, even if it's just for one night in the theatre.

7. The show also asks what it means to be an American. What does it mean to you, to be an American? I have such a hard time with how "us" and "them" the world is right now. We are all people. Countries, genders, religions, I suppose all of these labels can be useful but we've created them ourselves and in a lot of cases they do more harm than good. What matters so much more than what team you root for or where you go to the bathroom is what is in your heart. As a person what is most important to me is that other people feel some sense of happiness or brightness when they've encountered me and that somehow I can make even a simple difference for others in that regard. Smiling, helping the lady with the stroller up the stairs, being kind is what matters most because, no matter how bad your day is, if you lead with kindness you will feel better for it - and so will the people around you - even if you never see them again.

Sea McHale and Wyatt Fenner in "The War Boys"8. The timeliness of the show couldn't be more perfect with that wall that man wants to build. What are some stories you've heard from audience members about the show? Everyone's experience of the play is completely different! It is so cool because this type of theatre really operates like a dreamscape. The play is relentless and bizarre and irreverent and it doesn't allow for a lazy audience. People who come to see what we are doing down here have to make several of their own connections as far as why certain turns occur in the play, what that means to them individually - but everything we do has integrity - so if the audience sticks with us they get a good full meal of ideas, images, and questions to take home with them.

9. The story blurs the lines between reality and fantasy. When has there been a time in your life when you walked that fine line between what was real and what you had imagined? I don't think I've ever confused the two things.

10. Let's play with the show's title a bit, The War Boys. What is one war you feel you are fighting right now? I think we are all always looking for kindness and connection with one another. Right now people seem much less willing to connect outside of our screens and little hand held internets and I think I'm always looking for opportunities to actually connect - eye to eye and face to face - with other people. Being new to the city and discovering who is going to be a part of my tribe is exciting and challenging. The efforts continue to pay off so I'm happy to keep on that road.

More on Wyatt:

NY Debut. Recent Regional Theatre: Michael Kahn's production of Cloud 9 (Studio Theatre), Darko Tresnjak's production of Romeo and Juliet (Hartford Stage), Moisés Kaufman's production of Bent (Mark Taper Forum), as well as the West Coast Premiers of Dog Sees GodThe WhaleNext Fall, Rest, and Slipping. Television: BonesVeronica Mars.

Tuesday
Feb282017

Call Answered: Conference Call: J. Stephen Brantley and Todd Flaherty: BAREBACK INK

J. Stephen Brantley, Photo Credit: Roberto AraujoTodd Flaherty, Photo Credit: Luke FontanaI interviewed J. Stephen Brantley and David Drake in 2014 for their collaboration on J. Stephen's show Fried-Chicken Ciccone. I was so moved by that show that when I heard they were going to work together again, I knew I needed to do a new interview. Then I found out Todd Flaherty was also going to star in this show and I was like, bam, let's talk with everyone!

Bareback Ink, written by Bob Bartlett and directed by Obie Award winner David Drake, tells the story of a beautiful boy who is forcibly tattooed in this erotic new plays at IRT (154 Christopher Street) from March 4-18. Click here for tickets!

For more on J. Stephen be sure to visit http://www.jstephenbrantley.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

For more on Todd visit http://www.toddflaherty.com and follow him on Facebook and Instagram!

1. This March you are all part of Bob Bartlett's Bareback Ink. J. Stephen and Todd, you are starring in the show and David, you are directing. What made each of you want to be part of this production?

J. Stephen Brantley: I put out a call for plays last year when Hard Sparks was awarded this residency at IRT, asking for a "sinister two-hander." I was hoping for a vehicle for Todd and myself, one that would fit in that raw dark cinder-blocked space. In Bareback Ink, I got it. It haunted me, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Todd and I have done…five shows together? - two directed by David Drake - but it seems like we never really have much interaction. In Pirira, we were both onstage the entire show and never spoke a word to one another. This time we do. I’m all over him!

Todd Flaherty: I would follow J. Stephen Brantley to the ends of the earth. As a writer and artist, he is redefining what American Theatre is and can be and I trust his taste in other writers’ work. Coupled with the fact the David Drake was on board to direct…I didn’t even have to read the script before saying yes. It could have been about toilet water and I knew it would be brilliant. Icing on the cake was reading Bob Bartlett’s poetic story. I jumped at the opportunity.

J. Stephen Brantley and Todd Flaherty in "The Jamb", Photo Credit: Hunter Canning2. While based upon the Greek myth The Rape and Abduction of Ganymede, how do you feel this story relates to the times we are living in today?

J. Stephen Brantley: The play wrestles with some uncomfortable stuff. Bob (Bartlett) wrote it in an effort to make sense of the legacy of a story about kidnapping, basically, and a trove of art that celebrates it. This production is unapologetically queer, so we are mainly looking at the ways gay men pursue and eroticize youth. But it’s cross-cultural. Young people are sexualized. They are rewarded for being servile, and punished for taking power and, often, made to feel irrelevant past a certain "sell-by" date. We’re taking a hard look at that, through the lens of myth, but also pushing it aside to find some love underneath. The relationship of the two guys in Bareback Ink may not be quite as it first seems.

Todd Flaherty: Bareback is incredibly nuanced and layered so there’s actually quite a lot to glean from Bob’s story in relation to our modern times. The play’s nature is very homo-erotically charged, so naturally we are connecting the myth to modern intergenerational gay relationships, daddy fantasies and the journey to manhood, particularly for boys who have no father figures due to displacement from the home. Other times in the rehearsal room, we speak in jest about Melania, but there is some real relevance to our story there as well. Surviving an abusive relationship using tools of beauty and youth…and what happens when those tools are no longer available. Another layer entirely focuses on the outcast in society being controlled and manipulated by unseen powers that be, and the daily struggle for freedom in a world where the cards are stacked against you.

Todd Flaherty and J. Stephen Brantley, Photo Credit: Jody Christopherson3. Bareback Ink is an erotic tale of the struggle between comfortable corruption and the cost of true freedom. This description seems perfect for the post-election climate we live in. How do you feel Trump is using his power under the guise of true freedom, but everyone else views it as corruption?

J. Stephen Brantley: Let me count the ways! Aside from the ban that isn’t a ban? There’s FADA, which hasn’t happened on a Federal level yet, but may still. These "First Amendment Defense" and "religious freedom" laws have nothing to do with liberty, of course, they’re a license to discriminate and the ripple effect of such measures could be catastrophic for LGBT Americans. It’s easy for most people to look the other way, to think that "bathroom bills" have only to do with whether and where trans folks pee – which should be where they want - forgetting that these same laws strip away protections for all sexual minorities. My mother recently wrote her governor voicing her opposition to such a proposed law. It’s not something she’s used to doing, and she was outraged by the condescending, sexist form-letter reply – some bullshit about "protecting her privacy." It pissed me off too, but I was also delighted to have her in the trenches! Even if it’s an uphill battle, it’s infinitely better to be on the side of justice. There’s freedom in the fight. But for anyone joining the fray, you have to know, it’s uncomfortable. All the time.

Todd Flaherty and J. Stephen Brantley, Photo Credit: Jody Christopherson4. Some tattoos are removable, while others are more permanent. Based upon Trump's first few weeks in office, what decisions do you feel he has made that could be considered a removable tattoo and which ones do you think are a more permanent tattoo?

J. Stephen Brantley: All tattoos are removable, I should know. But it’s an expensive, time-consuming, painful process. I still believe that we will, eventually, create a world in which everyone is treated with human dignity. I have to believe that. But I also think the events of the last several weeks have set us way back, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. The President has angered world leaders, alienated our allies, and emboldened terrorists both foreign and domestic. He’s lifted all the wrong restrictions from law enforcement and appointed to top-level posts the very people who would dismantle the agencies they now head. We’re headed for disaster. Truthfully, I don’t really expect to survive this administration. But I am certain the damage that’s about to be done can, and will, be reversed someday. The marks may not be removed entirely, and maybe they shouldn’t be: we have a bad habit of ignoring the uglier parts of our collective history. Bareback Ink is a sort of trial by fire. It’s about discovering that the very thing that’s kept you down is actually your ticket to freedom. I hope that we as a nation learn from this moment, use this opportunity to become better informed, fully engaged, more compassionate people. Maybe next time more than half the population will actually vote.

Todd Flaherty: The most permanent tattoo being inked into the fabric of our nation is actually a very beautiful one…however painful the process of receiving it. I did not vote for Trump, but I think he is the president America deserves at this tipping point in our history. As a millennial having grown up with a father in politics and an activist mother, I know all too well just how fragile our democracy is and always has been. But (not unlike our character "Artist") I know many people who have lived comfortably enough, wanting more but never asking for it, for fear of loosing what they already have and ignorant to the plight of those who have even less. Trumps agenda is ruthless and those with half a brain are finally being called to action. The permanent tattoo I’m speaking of is intersectionality. No longer are we dealing with women’s rights, black rights, queer rights, gender rights, etc…we’re dealing with human rights.

J. Stephen Brantley, Photo Credit: Jody Christopherson5. Bareback Ink tells the story of a beautiful young man who enters a purgatory-like tattoo shop where an isolated and withdrawn artist forcibly inks the boy’s back over the course of several months. Has there been a time in your life when you were forced to do something you didn't want to? If so, when/what was it?

J. Stephen Brantley: Not really. I’ve chosen to do a lot of things I didn’t really want to. Everyone does. But I’ve been incredibly fortunate that I’ve never endured the kind of brutality and coercion that so many queer people do.

6. Bob Bartlett has taken The Rape and Abduction of Ganymede and brought it into a modern-day world, touching on the subjects of one being rejected by family, community, and culture. Have you ever been rejected by your family, community, and/or culture? If so, how did you initially react to the rejection, but ultimately find your own family, community, and/or culture?

J. Stephen Brantley: Again, I didn’t have it too bad. But growing up in Texas during the '80s I was surrounded by the message that gay was definitely not okay. A lot of kids don’t survive that. A lot. Those who do, we develop a thick skin and a quick mind, and we use what we’ve got. Todd’s character in Bareback uses his beauty like so many boys do – being objectified is better than rejection, and there is power in sex. If we’re lucky, we have a mentor, a teacher, who doesn’t take advantage. And perhaps we become that person for someone else someday. In that, Bareback Ink is really about family, about finding home.

Todd Flaherty: Luckily I have been blessed to be born into one of the most loving families ever. As an artist, however, I face rejection everyday. Every. Fucking. Day. Sometimes multiple times a day. That rejection used to leave me completely incapacitated. Not because of some idea that the work I was creating was bad, per se, but because the work I was creating was irrelevant. I was irrelevant. My presence wasn’t necessary to the growth of our community. That’s a tough pill to swallow for anyone. A few years ago, I changed my outlook on rejection and started thinking of it as an opportunity. You can’t grow if you're not making mistakes and if you’re not growing, you’re not living. I began to act more fearlessly and I found new friends and communities who felt/worked the same way. That’s how I began working with J. Stephen and David.

Todd Flaherty and J. Stephen Brantley, Photo Credit: Jody Christopherson7. The show is also described as being about desire, possession, and the perversion of power. What is something you desire? What is one of your most cherished possessions? When have you altered/distorted your own power over someone?

J. Stephen Brantley: I did some escorting for a while. This is no secret, I talked about it in Chicken-Fried Ciccone. There was actually very little sex involved, it was mostly Dom-sub role play. It’s a weird dynamic, being paid an hourly wage to humiliate the very person who’s hired you. In the back of your mind, you know you’re not in charge. At the same time, you do wield power or at least it feels like you do and it feels good. That’s why I always said it was essentially site-specific theatre, "living truthfully under imaginary circumstances." But like any acting gig, it can turn into a mind-fuck real quick. If sense-of-self can be possessed, I cherish that. And freedom. At one time in my life I almost lost it. My character in Bareback has given up on ever having it, until this boy comes into his cell. More than anything I fear a loss of control over my own well-being.

Todd Flaherty: I desire water-front property, be it a lake, river, or ocean. I cherish none of my possessions because I can’t take anything with me when I leave this earth. All relationships are a delicate balance of power…I can’t recall any instance where I have unfairly asserted mine, but maybe that’s something I should delve into in therapy.

Todd Flaherty and J. Stephen Brantley, , Photo Credit: Jody Christopherson8. Bareback Ink casts a raw, voyeuristic gaze at the intergenerational homoerotics of Greek myth through a decidedly contemporary and surprisingly sociopolitical lens. Between all of the shows you have either starred in or directed, which one do you feel cast you at your rawest and most vulnerable?

J. Stephen Brantley: Well, I’m was completely naked onstage six nights in Mope at EST, so that’s raw and vulnerable. But actually, once you get used to it, it’s not a big deal. The last show I did with David and Todd, my play The Jamb, was scarier. I was close to that character. And there have been others where I appeared to be transformed – "Doc" in The Night Alive, or "Saul" in Church Of Why Not – but I felt completely laid bare.

Todd Flaherty: I recently wrote and acted in a web series called Undetectable (www.undetectabletheseries.com). The story follows a young gay man navigating personal and romantic relationships with the stigma of being HIV positive. It was one of the most horrifying and rewarding experiences I have ever had, showing up to set every day, saying words I wrote, constantly questioning whether or not they were good enough, and trusting that my need to tell the story was greater than any one person’s reaction to it…good, bad or otherwise.

9. Bareback Ink is an erotic play, but with an underlying horror. What has been your most pleasurable erotic encounter? What has been an erotic encounter you wish to forget?

J. Stephen Brantley: I have never had an erotic encounter that was as pleasurable as what I’m imagining right now. And there are none I wish to forget. Actually, I wish I could remember more.

Todd Flaherty: Adam, they’re all so pleasurable…I couldn’t possible pick just one. One that I wish to forget involves a barely 17-year-old me, two high school girlfriends, the back seat of my car, a mall parking lot, and a security guard nearly calling the cops on us for public lewdness and indecent exposure.

10. Since the show is called Bareback Ink, if you could tattoo your back, what would you get drawn on it? 

J. Stephen Brantley: I’ve long wanted a big bird of prey on my back. I have songbirds on my forearms, and I love them, but I’m feeling more falcon than sparrow these days. Of course, for the price of such a piece one could produce Bareback Ink so, for now anyway, I’m going with that.

Todd Flaherty: A watercolor-like scene of the dunes leading to the secret beach in Provincetown.

J. Stephen Brantley, Photo Credit: Roberto AraujoMore on J. Stephen Brantley:

Off-Broadway: Mope (Ensemble Studio Theatre), Murder In The First (The Directors Co. at 59E59), and Theatre 167’s Pirira (West End Theater). Regional: The Night Alive (Guild Hall), Of Mice And Men (Bay Street), Slap & Tickle (Provincetown Theater), and Romeo And Juliet with its zombie sequel R & J & Z at Stonington Opera House. J. Brantley has also worked with Big Dance, Blessed Unrest, CapsLock, and Jewish Plays Project, and at venues including Queens Theatre, LaMaMa, Metropolitan Playhouse, The New Ohio, and P.S.122. J. Brantley is an eight-time New York Innovative Theatre Award nominee, and winner of the Micheál MacLiammóir Award for Best Actor at the 2013 Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival. He is the Producing Artistic Director of Hard Sparks and a member of the Indie Theatre Hall Of Fame.

Todd Flaherty, Photo Credit: Luke FontanaMore on Todd:

Off-Broadway: Pirira (NYIT Nom) also by J.Stephen Brantley, Fresh Kills (59E59). Other New York credits include: Sleep No More (Punchdrunk/ Emursive), Dead Letter Office, I Like To Be Here (Theater167), We Are Nebenienander (American Laboratory) and Hard Sparks’ The Jamb. Regional: Slap & Tickle, also directed by David Drake. Film/New Media: Pretty Girls, The Fuzz, Tracy&Cal. Todd wrote, produced, co-directed and appears in Undetectable, recently nominated for seven Indie Series Awards.