"Call Me Adam" chats with Australian Film Institute award winning actress Bojana Novakovic about the New York premiere of her show The Blind Date Project which will run from January 7-17 at Parkside Lounge on New York's Lower East Side (317 East Houston Street). We also discuss the creation of her theatre company in Australia, Ride On Theatre, and many other details of her life and career. Click here for tickets!
The Blind Date Project is an event to which everyone can relate – a blind date between two people who have never met and who are desperately in need of connection. Each night a different performer joins Bojana for an entirely improvised, intensely personal interaction–including karaoke numbers–in front of a crowd of willing participants. The guest stars range from Saturday Night Live writers to stars from Netflix's Orange is the New Black and ABC's Desperate Housewives.
The special guest stars announced so far is as follows:
1/8 – Fred Weller at 9pm
1/9 – Laverne Cox at 7pm/Reggie Watts at 10pm
1/10 – Larisa Oleynik at 7pm/Pablo Schreiber at 10pm.
For more on Bojana be sure to follow her on Twitter!
1. From January 7-17, you will be starring in the New York premiere of The Blind Date Project, which you co-created with Mark Winter. How did you and Mark come to work on this project? What has been the best part about working with Mark on this project? The show was a happy accident. It started out of necessity. I had been commissioned by two major theatre companies in Australia to write a play for Tanya to direct and me to perform in. What I wrote turned into a 90 minute monologue with songs. I had not been on stage in two years so I was terrified. To ease the stress, I asked a friend, Thomas Henning (an astounding writer) to create a small work with me which I could perform in the evenings while rehearsing the big show.
I told him we could not have a script because I already had too many lines to learn. So we had to make it improvised. I told him I needed to sing in it, but I couldn’t learn any new songs. So we set it in a Karaoke Bar. I told him it had to be a two hander, because anything more was too complicated. We agreed that a date was the best kind of two-hander to create conflict from. We agreed that we wanted a different performer every night, and that he would direct it via text messages and phone calls.
We started structuring it and then Thomas went to Mexico to try a rare hallucinogen, so Mark – who is a mutual friend - came on board to officially create the piece with me and direct it. We worked on it for three weeks and then put it in front of an audience for ten days. The rest is history…
When Mark came on board, the essence of the show was born. He brought questions to the table which ultimately made the show relevant. "The idea is fun, and the form is different, but why does it matter?" The Blind Date Project exists today as an amalgamation of the initial idea (and all its fun gimmicks) and the exploration of those questions Mark asked.
We were hungry for danger and truth. We wanted to create an immediate theatre - entertaining and frightening for both audiences and performers - a work that bonds us. All of us have been in love, or sought it out. Thus, we decided to explore what it means to search for intimacy in an age where loneliness is an epidemic and internet-dating is a billion dollar industry. We sought to celebrate the unattractive and embarrassing aspects of being desperately in need. To explore the most humiliating impulses in us all: seeking approval, seeking love, saying too much, not saying enough, struggling to impress.
The best part about working on it with Mark is that he is relentlessly honest, generous and a rare creative mind. I learned a lot from him and continue to do so. And most importantly, he is now one of my closest friends in the world.
And although Mark and I created it, the work of Thomas, Tanya and Scott has been instrumental in getting the piece to where it is at. Every director brings something new, and the piece keeps evolving.
2. What excites you about having this show make it's New York premiere? Apart from the idea of going to Little Frankie’s every night for post-show debriefs (which is a regular The Blind Date Project activity) - I am excited because I think audiences are going to eat this up in NY. Everyone who has seen it has told us we have to bring it here. The style of the show – the uncontrolled, vigorous, unpredictable nature of it, the risk factor, the fact it lies somewhere between comedy, performance art, improv and theatre and that it explores all those things humans don’t really want to talk about – make it belong in NYC. It does not fit in a genre or a style. And the perfect home for anything without a categorized identity – is in New York. Also NYC has a very particular dating culture and outlook on love. I’m excited to explore that in real time, in a real place, in real ways. The show is immediate. Just like New York.
3. The Blind Date Project is being presented at Parkside Lounge in NYC's Lower East Side. What makes Parkside Lounge the perfect spot for the run of this show? It’s intimate, unpretentious and classy. It’s one of those places in NY that is still untouched by hipsters or investment bankers – the kind of place that gave NY its reputation in the first place. The space this show happens in is crucial to the experience of it - and the moment Vallejo and I walked into the Parkside Lounge, we knew it was the one.
4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing The Blind Date Project? An unexpected desire to go out and get laid or never have sex again. Honestly – I can’t answer this questions – it’s completely up to them.
5. During the run of this show, each night a different guest star will be your character's blind date, making the evening an entirely improvised evening. What do you enjoy most about improv versus having a definitive script you need to work from? I just want to clarify that this is not "improv" as one might expect. It is not theatre sports, nor a comedy act. There is no working towards a joke or gag. We are creating an experience where the danger of performing without scripts lends itself to the reality of what is being explored: fear of facing the unknown and revealing far more than we would care to admit. Mistakes are inevitable and welcome and the comedy comes from what’s real.
My greatest enjoyment in this show is that it puts you front and center with the source of your own creativity. I get frustrated having to be in "a zone" (or pretend I am in a zone) from which I am "ready" to perform (for example, say the same thing again and again whether nightly on stage or take by take on set). With this show you have no choice. You are in a zone, whether you like it or not. You are blindly stepping out on a ledge with someone, using your imagination, bouncing off their imagination and all the while exploring the most talked about subject in the history of time – LOVE. Just like love, you have to listen, make offers, participate in the immediate present and be willing to fall flat on your face. You have to relinquish ego and control. That is the kind of "zone" I like to act from.
6. What excites you about working with a rotating cast of co-stars and what makes you nervous? The excitement and terror are one and the same. Like love – the best thing about it is the worst thing about it – and that’s that you have no idea what the fuck is going to happen. I don’t even know who is coming night to night. I have hardly any control over anything. I am so fucking excited I can’t even answer this question properly.
7. The Blind Date Project is being directed by Scott Rodgers. How did you decide Scott would be the right fit to direct this project and what has been the best part about working with him as a director? I saw a film Scott directed and after meeting him I knew he was the right guy to entrust this to. From the film I could see he understood comedy, subtlety, romance and narrative. As a person he is passionate and creative, while calm and nurturing. The director of this show has the story and the actors in the palm of his hand, so all those qualities are necessary. You can’t just be a good story-teller or a good person. You have to be both. And Scott certainly is. We are blessed to have found him!
8. In 2003, you created Ride On Theatre in Australia, with one of The Blind Date Project's collaborators Tanya Goldberg. What made you and Tanya want to start your own theatre company and what has been the best part about having your own theatre company? We started it because we wanted to make work which we wanted to see, but were not seeing, in Sydney theatre. And we also wanted to play roles (we weren’t getting) and tell the stories (we weren’t hearing) that compelled us. We decided to create those opportunities for ourselves. The best part of having our own company is that we can do what we want. And we support each other in our creative choices, even if we chose not to work on the same projects. Of course the other irreplaceable gift is that I get to work and argue with one of my closest friends in the world – a woman I admire greatly, and learn from on a daily basis!
9. You have had quite are career between the stage, film and television. What do get from your theatrical endeavors that you do not get from your film/television career? Firstly there is the creative control of making my own work or participating in the works of others that I believe in. This includes collaborations like The Blind Date Project. There is a satisfaction in being able to serve a vision – which I stand behind 100%. I can be very impatient with (while also very grateful for) pretentious, superficial "creative" visions that challenge no one and say nothing new, but that actors seem to have to endure in order to make a living.
And then there is the immediacy of the experience in theatre. The presence of the audience (who really want to be there) and post show human interaction. You know if people like it, you know if they hate it! Theatre might reach less people, but the connection you make with the audience exceeds any I have experienced with screen work.
10. What's the best advice you've ever received? Don’t Google yourself. Don’t Google the guy you like. Don’t Google his girlfriend.
11. How do you want to be remembered? Hopefully as a little taller and a little less bossy than I actually am.
12. If you could have any super power which one would you choose? Flight.
13. If you could create your own signature drink, what would you call it and what ingredients would you put in it? It would be a smoothie called The Nutter. The ingredients would be top secret so I cannot tell you. But you could choose the flavor form cashew, almond, hazelnut or pecan.
Bojana Novakovic (Creator/Performer) is an actor, writer and producer. Born in Serbia, she moved to Australia when she was seven. She graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in 2002. Her international film credits include Edge of Darkness with Mel Gibson, Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell, M. Night Shyamalan’s Devil, and Generation Um opposite Keanu Reeves. Recently on the FOX series Rake with Greg Kinnear, she’s about to appear in Shameless opposite W. H. Macey. Bojana has also starred in The Hallow, Burning Man, Solo, The Monkey’s Mask, Strange Fits of Passion, Thunderstruck, Blackrock, The Little Death, Charlie’s Country, The King is Dead, and Not Suitable for Children. She is an Australian Film Institute Award recipient and has earned numerous nominations for AFI, Critics Circle and Australian Subscription Television Awards. Bojana has a repertoire of theatrical performances and has worked with Australia’s most prestigious companies - Melbourne Theatre Co., Sydney Theatre Co. and Malthouse Theatre. She is a co-founder of Ride On Theatre. Fake Porno, which she adapted, directed and produced, earned three Green Room Award nominations and her original play - The Story of Mary MacLane - By Herself was published by Currency press in 2012. Other credits include Criminology, Eldorado, Woyzek, Female of The Species and Romeo and Juliet.