Aaron Baker Feckles the Barnstrum

January 29, 2008

Aaron Baker

SONJA: …I just wanted to say that I’m sorry that I wasn’t around when your dad died.

AJ: Don’t worry about it….Sometimes…no, forget it.

SONJA: No, what is it?

AJ: Well, it sounds crazy, but sometimes it’s like I…I still see him, you know?

SONJA: No, that’s not crazy.

AJ: And he says “feckle the barnstrum.” And I say, “what?” And he puts his hand on my shoulder and he says again, “feckle the barnstrum.” Then he takes one of his legs off and tries to hit me with it, but he loses his balance and turns into a bunch of owls…

That’s just a sample of Aaron Baker and Frank Padellaro’s 3800 Elizabeth, a dry and irreverent new stage sitcom that follows the everyday trevails of three thirtysomethings in New York City. The Welding Club presents their 6-episode comedy in weekly installments at The Battle Ranch in Williamsburg starting on Sunday, February 3rd. Co-writer and director Aaron Baker (pictured above) answers some questions about the production, which stars Peter Handy, Iracel Rivero, and yours truly.

Let’s start by talking about what this show actually is. Because it isn’t your everyday, run-of-the-mill theater production, is it?

It’s a sitcom for the stage. We want it to be as much like a television sitcom as possible, but to have that immediacy and interaction between performer and audience that one can only get from live theatre.

Why did you decide to do the show in an episodic serial format instead of the usual full-length, one-time-only format?

Well, that’s the way sitcoms are. I was thinking about the old action serials, when people would go out to the movie theatres regularly to catch the next episode, and I was wishing that one could still do that. And the closest thing we have to that now is what people call appointment television. So I wanted to bring those two concepts together.

Why a sitcom instead of a drama?

Because I’m better at it.

Okay, let’s get more specific: what is 3800 Elizabeth about and who are the main characters?

It’s not – at least in terms of plot – really about anything. It’s just three people who happen to be very funny interacting with each other and sometimes other people in ways that I think are funny. You have AJ, the Germanophile bartender, his hypochondriac ex-girlfriend Sonja, and his childhood friend Mike, who has just moved to the big city from a slightly smaller city.

What does the title refer to, by the way?

It could be the address where Sonja and Mike (and formerly AJ) live; it could be the address of the bar where AJ works and they all hang out; it could be the name of the bar. I leave it up to the audience to draw its own conclusions. Really we just took the name from the title of the theme song, so you’d have to ask Luke Cavagnac, who wrote it.

Do you have any favorite sitcoms?

There was a show called Lookwell that ran once, I believe, that starred Adam West and was written by Conan O’Brien and Robert Smigel; that was brilliant. The first season of What I Like about You (I love Amanda). Sports Night.

So, what are the logistics of producing a show like this? Is each episode standard sitcom length? And will there be a new episode every week?

They are theoretically standard sitcom length (22 minutes, 30 with commercials), but I haven’t timed them at all, and I’m not terribly concerned about making them come out to exactly the right length. There will be new episodes almost every week. I decided to do one rerun for two reasons: A) That’s what TV sitcoms do, and B) I thought that people who missed the pilot might feel like they had missed some important plot element, so we’re doing a rerun of the pilot episode in week four – February 24 – so people can see that they didn’t really miss anything.

Dare I ask if other sitcom conventions – like commercials or opening credits – will be observed?

Yes, all of those things and more. Some of it is probably better as a surprise, so I won’t go into any more detail, but if it’s
something that TV sitcoms do, there’s a good chance that we do as well.

Do people need to come see 3800 Elizabeth from the very first episode to enjoy it fully, or can they drop in at any time?

No. Drop in any time.

What other projects have you got on the horizon after this one?

As a writer-director-producer, I’m trying to focus on 3800 Elizabeth, but I do have some acting gigs, including the next couple of episodes of Third Lows’ Penny Dreadful and Piper McKenzie‘s upcoming Babylon Babylon, both at The Brick.

A Pair of Current Happenings

January 29, 2008

The Main(e) PlayThe Ted Haggard Monologues

There are a pair of shows that opened last week that I meant to mention earlier here on the blog. They both sound cool so I thought I’d give ’em a little shout-out:

  • The Main(e) Play: This is the latest from playwright Chad Beckim (‘nami, Lights Rise on Grace) and the rest of the crew at Partial Comfort Productions (Nelson, …a matter of choice), about a pair of brothers who come to blows during a Thanksgiving holiday visit. Chad is a wonderfully talented writer who specializes in what he calls “bare-knuckle theater.” If you’ve seen anything by him or Partial Comfort, you’ll know what he means. Michael Gladis (from TV’s Mad Men) and Alexander Alioto star. The play runs at Theater Row’s Lion Theatre until February 9th.
  • The Ted Haggard Monologues: This is a new solo show written and performed by Michael Yates Crowley in which he portrays nine different characters in an hour-long fictionalization of the Ted Haggard gay sex scandal. Talk about topical. Talk about chutzpah! But it seems Crowley has what takes to pull this off, as evidenced by my buddy Martin Denton’s glowing review. For me, Martin’s word is golden, so I have no doubt this show is worth checking out. It runs until February 9th at Collective Unconscious.

Introducing New Talent to the World

January 28, 2008

Martin Denton Plays and Playwrights 2008

Since 2000, The New York Theatre Experience, Inc. (a.k.a. NYTE) – parent company to nytheatre.com – has published the Plays and Playwrights series, an annual anthology highlighting the work of new and emerging indie theater playwrights. The series, spearheaded by nytheatre.com founder, editor, and chief reviewer Martin Denton, has regularly been ahead of the curve in spotting new talent and boasts an impressive alumni list that includes such indie luminaries as Taylor Mac, Qui Nguyen, Chad Beckim, Kirk Wood Bromley, Trav S.D., Matthew Freeman, Chiori Miyagawa, Ken Urban, Marc Spitz, Kelly McAllister, Frank Cwiklik, John Jahnke, Josh Fox, Kevin Doyle, Saviana Stanescu, James Comtois, Ashlin Halfnight, and dozens more.

On the eve of the publication of NYTE’s newest installment, Plays and Playwrights 2008, I asked Martin (who is pictured above) to talk with me a bit about the new anthology, the Plays and Playwrights series, NYTE’s Play Publishing Program, and how he goes about doing it every year. Here’s what he had to say:

First of all, let’s start by talking about how you first thought up and started the Plays and Playwrights series.

I have told this story a lot, but here it is again. Sometime in 1999, Rochelle [Denton, NYTE’s Managing Director] and I saw a show called Are We There Yet? (it was at the old Synchronicity Space in SoHo, now home to The Culture Project). The playwright was Garth Wingfield. As we were leaving the show, I said to Rochelle, “This was a really terrific play, and it’s a shame that it will just disappear after its 16-performance run is over. Someone ought to publish it.” Or words to that effect. So, many months later, I suddenly remembered what I’d said, and I said to Rochelle, “We should publish a book.”

So the real impetus was, and remains, to try to capture permanently some of the great work that’s done in small theatres in NYC that would otherwise be lost.

How do you choose the plays each year? What qualities, if any, do you seek out for the book?


We did two non-series books during the last year and a half – Playing with Canons, which is a very big book of adaptations from classic literature and drama, and Unpredictable Plays, an anthology honoring Mario Fratti on his 80th birthday. Those two extra projects have kept us good and busy in the short term.

But we’re always thinking of new stuff. When something is firm, I will tell you!

Random Friday PP08 Blitz

January 25, 2008

In conjunction with NYTE‘s upcoming publication of Plays and Playwrights 2008, my interview with playwright Thomas Bradshaw has just been posted. He’s the author of Cleansed, in which a bi-racial teenage girl joins a white supremacist group. Rightly chosen by the Village Voice as their “Best Provocative Playwright of 2007.” Check out the interview.

In other news, I am once again getting my ass kicked at work – where they are actually making me work! – so I have to improvise this week’s Random Friday Top 10. If I were able to play music here at the office, and could play anything I wanted, this is what I would throw on right now:

  • “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll” – The Rolling Stones (It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll)
  • “The Shape is in a Trance” – Thurston Moore (Trees Outside the Academy)
  • “For Those About to Rock, We Salute You” – AC/DC (Who Made Who)
  • “B-Boy Bouillabaisse” – Beastie Boys (Paul’s Boutique)
  • “The Kids Are Alright” – The Who (Meaty, Beaty, Big, and Bouncy)
  • “However Much I Booze” – The Who (The Who by Numbers)
  • “Don’t Do It” – The Band (Rock of Ages)
  • “The Empty Page” – Sonic Youth (Murray Street)
  • “Looking Around” – Yes (Yes)
  • “Pictures of Lily” – The Who (Meaty, Beaty, Big, and Bouncy)

As you can see, I’m in a Who mood today. Who knew?

Happy Friday, y’all – enjoy your weekend!

hotINK Festival 2008

January 24, 2008

There’s no rest for the wicked over here at the ol’ blog. This coming Sunday, immediately following the closing performance of Merry Mount, I’ll be doing a one-night-only staged reading of Joshua William Gelb’s play, The Tragedie of Bour IV. This is part of the hotINK Festival 2008, presented by NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts (my alma mater). hotINK showcases new works from around the world: this year’s batch boasts selections from Romania, Australia, France, Canada, Belarus, the U.K., Lebanon, Guadaloupe, Sweden, and the good old U.S. of A.

The role I’m playing, Mr. Lightbulb, is described as “a theatricalized version of Thomas Edison, who’s running a sideshow on Coney Island at the turn of the century, exhibiting the dangers of Tesla’s AC current by electrocuting animals with it in front of the public. He’s part barker, part inventor, part business man, part sadist thug.” Yummy. Also featured in the cast are Alex Coppola, Akil Davis, Cherrye Davis, Kimberly Herbert Gregory, and Justin Nestor.

The reading is being directed by my old NYU chum, Tomi Tsunoda, whose work I’ve admired since back in the day. I’m glad we’re finally working together: I’ve been wanting to for about ten million years now, so I’m grateful to finally get the chance. Thanks, Tomi!

Tomi is also one of the curators of the festival. She and her colleagues have put together a good-looking program that includes new works by Mac Wellman, Eduardo Machado, Anna Ziegler, Crystal Skillman, Jason Grote, and Rob Ackerman, among others. The readings are free and take place at Tisch School of the Arts, located at 721 Broadway, between Waverly Place and Washington Place. Check out the festival’s official schedule and website for further details.

(By the by: The Tragedie of Bour IV goes up at 7:30pm on Sunday night, in the Abe Burrows Theatre at TSOA. If you’ve got a hankering for new work, or just want to see yours truly in action, then come on down.)

Writing in Restaurants

January 24, 2008

So, I was sitting in My Favorite Downtown Bistro (MFDB) last night, writing in my notebook, when a four-top sat down at the table next to mine. Two men, two women, all of them lively and a little tipsy. One of the women immediately looked at me and asked, “What are you writing?”

To which I replied, “A short story.” This happens frequently at MFDB: I sit quietly in a corner, or at the secluded end of the bar, scribbling with determined purpose into my cheap spiral notebook. Someone always wants to know what I’m writing. I have no idea why, aside from the fact that most people seem to be pleasantly surprised to see someone writing the old-fashioned way – i.e. with pen and paper – instead of with a laptop.

“What’s it about?” she continued. The woman was quickly forgetting about the rest of her party.

“Um, well…it’s about two people having an affair,” I said. True enough. I mean, I just started writing this thing, so I don’t really know what it’s about yet. But, that’s what was happening in the part I was writing last night.

The woman’s eyes lit up. “Really? Can I write part of your story?”

I’d never heard that one before, so I said, “Sure.” I handed the woman my pen and notebook, and she went to work in earnest.

After about ten minutes or so – ten minutes in which she had completely ignored her friends and dropped out of their conversation, mind you – she handed back my notebook. Double-spaced across two pages, she had written the following:

“On a night in January 2008 you meet 4 people who in your heart of hearts you could never tell who was having the affair! What defines love or an affair? An affair starts because people need an outlet to vent. They look for what they don’t have in their marriage. Many think they can find it in someone else! But the truth is people are exactly who they are. The world defines who people become – not marriage – not an affair – not a child. We live for our children – they are that matters – people live and stay together to try to make the world a better place – what defines better – if you live your life and you wake up happy in life and you touch someone everybody – whether within your own world or someone else – you win! If you have lived – you have smiled and touched a soul – you are complete – most people will never touch a soul because they care too much about others.

In other words – every day – smile or say hi someone will pass it on that defines happiness and if it takes having an affair then so be it!



And if that weren’t enough, about two minutes later one of the two men looked at me and asked, “You mind if I take a look at that?”

I certainly didn’t, but I wondered if the lady did. So I asked her: “You mind if he looks at this?”

She smiled. “Aw, that’s nice of you. No, go ahead.”

So I handed him the pages she wrote. He looked them over, then gave them back to me without so much as a “Thank you” or a glance in my direction. He sat quietly for the rest of the time – he had previously been quite talkative – and did not speak to the lady in question again.

Um, can you say, “Draw your own conclusions”?

Only in New York, people. Only in New York.

Nice Try, Wanton!

January 23, 2008

Lots going on over here at the ol’ blog this past weekend, beginning with the opening of Merry Mount on Friday night. Boy, was that rough. An absent prop, a malfunctioning costume piece, a last-minute understudy, and some poor pre-show preparation on my part all conspired to throw opening night off. Things had gone swimmingly at our final rehearsal the night before, so I wasn’t worried about anything. Ah, such brash confidence – how presumptuous of me! I forgot to take into consideration that I’d missed our tech rehearsal (on Wednesday afternoon, while I was at work) and would need to adjust to all the design elements on the fly. Yeesh. Basically, opening night was my tech rehearsal, and I felt like it showed.

To begin with, there was a prop I’d rehearsed with all throughout that I suddenly learned I wouldn’t be getting. A little thing, but it made a big difference. By doing something new in the first scene, my focus was diverted from the matter at hand (my performance) and siphoned into making sure this novel activity looked convincing. A surefire recipe for disaster, as I almost immediately blanked about three lines in and never fully recovered. I felt so sure that the audience had detected my near-miss that, for the rest of the show, I overcompensated by rushing my lines and the overall pace, and watched myself to make sure I didn’t blank again. Which, of course, only led to a couple of more almost-fluffs. Nice.

Then, there was one of my costume pieces – a top coat with a tear in the lining of one of the sleeves so huge that if you didn’t finesse it properly your arm would go straight into the lining instead of the sleeve. This, of course, happened to me onstage, despite having rehearsed with the coat numerous times before curtain that night in anticipation of such an event, and took me right out of the scene. Trying to draw as little attention to the fact that my upstage hand (the one facing away from the audience) was jutting comfortably out of one sleeve while my downstage hand (the one right in everyone’s face) was lost somewhere in the lining of my coat. Kill me now. I couldn’t get offstage fast enough.

Also, one of the lead actors (the one I play opposite the most) was absent Friday night, so our fearless director, Mr. Ian W. Hill, stepped in for one night only and did an admirable job. Despite that, he and I only had the luxury of rehearsing together as scene partners the night before, and it threw me. Like I said, Ian did a great job, but he played the part somewhat differently from my regular co-star, and I did not adjust well to the new stimuli.

So, I was not feeling too good after this performance. But, as we all know, actors are not always the best judges of their own work. Ian, Trav, and my fellow castmates were quite complimentary afterwards, as was my old friend Cathy McNelis (whom I spied in the front row at curtain call), and that was nice. It’s always great to hear good feedback, especially in circumstances like these, where it appears as if I came off looking good regardless of how I felt about it. A lesson every actor should learn.

Needless to say, I didn’t make any of those mistakes the following night. I showed up focused and ready to go, having run the script aloud once or twice on my way to the theater (that’s right, folks: more of the infamous running-my-lines-in-public). I kept all non-show related interactions to a minimum (as in: no small talk about anything), and concentrated on working those opening beats in my head and coming out of the gate strong. I refined my new activity (sans prop) in the first scene, and safety pinned the lining of my coat sleeve so my arm wouldn’t do another disappearing act.

And it all worked. I was much sharper all-around on the second night, and felt much better about my performance. Good thing, too, because there were even more people there to see me: two friends and colleagues – fellow Hawthornucopian Chris Harcum and soon-to-be-published Plays and Playwrights 2008 scribe Carolyn Raship – as well as The Companion herself, who, for all intents and purposes, was seeing me perform for the very first time. Thankfully, she was impressed, so I went home on cloud nine.

Last night’s performance (our third) also went well. I felt like we were finally out of the woods, and could relax and have some fun. I tried a couple of new things, none of which threw me off (thank God!), but none of which were a significant improvement over what I already had. Best to stick to what I’ve got and to just refine it. We’ve got one more show left, on Sunday afternoon, and I want to make sure it’s a good one.

The last several days have been a valuable reminder to never get too comfortable with what I’ve got, performance-wise, until I’ve done it in front of the crowd a couple of times. What plays well in the rehearsal room may turn into something completely different in front of a paying audience. I should never take my level of preparation for granted because it can all easily fall apart (or at least feel like it’s doing so) in a matter of moments. (Can you tell yet how much opening night spooked me?)

By the way: the title of this post is one of my lines from the show – an appropriate heading, I thought, considering the circumstances.

Merry Mount Opens Tonight

January 18, 2008

From the Department of Shameless Self-Promotion comes a formal announcement about the opening of my new show TONIGHT! As you probably know by now, this is a short 15-minute piece that is part of Metropolitan Playhouse’s Hawthornucopia festival. Read on for more details, Macduff…

Merry Mount by Trav S.D.
Directed by Ian W. Hill
With Eric Bailey, Irina Belkovskaya, Danny Bowes, Patrick Cann, Michael Criscuolo, Ian W. Hill, Doua Moua, Robert Pinnock, Brandi Robinson, Julia C. Sun, and Elizabeth Toft

At Metropolitan Playhouse, 220 East 4th Street (between Avenues A & B)

Friday, January 18 and Tuesday, January 22 at 7pm
Saturday, January 19 at 10pm
Sunday, January 27 at 1pm

Tickets are $18
$15 for seniors; $12 for students; $10 for children under 12
For tickets and reservations call 212-995-5302 or go online at http://www.metropolitanplayhouse.org.

Wish us luck tonight – more details to follow soon!

The Search for Bobby Fischer Ends

January 18, 2008

The temp job is keeping me busy today, so I’ll have to make this brief.

First, I’ll start with this week’s Random Friday Top 10. I have to admit I’m cheating a little bit: I can’t listen to music here at work, so the Top 10 was culled from my Pandora Quick Mix two nights ago. Here it is:

  • “Precious Illusions” – Alanis Morrissette (Under Rug Swept)
  • “Air” – Ben Folds (Godzilla soundtrack album)
  • “Pisces Apple Lady” – Leon Russell (Leon Russell)
  • “Hang Low” – Momus (Ocky Milk)
  • “Drown Them Out” – Viva Voce (Get Yr Blood Sucked Out)
  • “Severed Head” – Pearl Jam (Pearl Jam)
  • “The Morning Sad” – Veruca Salt (Eight Arms to Hold You)
  • “Sheep” – Pink Floyd (Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd)
  • “Rinse” – Vanessa Carlton (Be Not Nobody)
  • “Slow Like Honey” – Fiona Apple (Tidal)

Elsewhere, there’s word out of Iceland this morning that the sports world has lost one of its most bizarre, elusive, enigmatic, and legendary figures: Bobby Fischer. If the game of chess could boast a maverick outlaw, then Fischer was that guy. A jaw-droppingly non-linear life and career that, to my mind, is ripe for some sort of dramatic or literary rendering. Until that happens, you can rent this movie. It’s a freaking classic.

Hawthornucopia Roundtable Discussion

January 17, 2008

For some further insight into – and information about – Metropolitan Playhouse’s upcoming Hawthornucopia festival, I thought I would turn to some of my colleagues who are also doing shows in it. Playwrights Trav S.D. and Tony Pennino, and actors Chris Harcum and Iracel Rivero, were kind enough to convene a cyber-roundtable with me to discuss each of their respective shows, and Hawthorne and the festival in general. Here’s what they had to say: 

Okay, panel: tell us a little bit about which show you’re doing and what it’s about.

Trav: Merry Mount is an adaptation of “The May-Pole of Merry Mount”, which can be found in Twice Told Tales. It is based on a true incident, wherein an acting governor of colonial Massachusetts took it upon himself to crush another slice of English culture (besides Puritanism) which had crossed the Atlantic in those early 17-century years – the vestigal paganism that had been retained when Engalnd was first Christianized in Medieval times. In a nearby town, not far from the Puritan plantations, Anglican folks dance around a Maypole, drink and otherwise “sin”. Not to be tolerated in such proximity to the “City on a Hill”.

Tony: The name of the piece is Misty Phantoms, which is a term taken from one of Hawthorne’s texts. It is how he referred to the Native Americans/Indians. He believed that they would soon vanish from the face of the earth and leave nothing behind as monuments to their existence. My piece takes place in the 1840’s on what was then the western frontier. It concerns Evelyn, a young American woman who encounters two brothers from the Winnebago Tribe. Their encounter eventually leads to tragic results. In that way, my piece in a small way mirrors but for the most part serves as a counterpoint to the Hawthorne’s “The Dunston Family”.

Chris: The Scarlet Whale by Dan Evans. Hawthorne waits with Herman Melville at Walden Pond for Thoreau for a meeting of the minds. Bounty hunters come through looking for a slave on the Underground Railroad.

Iracel: I’m a part of House of Celestial Experiments by Jeremy X. Halpern and Irving Gregory. It is a movement piece that is being described as a theatrical chamber concert of Hawthorne text.

For the writers: how did you decide which story to adapt? And how faithful have you remained to your source material?

Trav: I’d long wanted to do a play on this theme. For ages my idea had been to wed The Bacchae to the diaries of Michael Wiiglesworth, a rather fanatical preacher and Harvard theologian. But I’d known the Merry Mount story for a good long while too – it was an obvious choice for me. Now I think I may have gotten it out of my system. The play is about 50% Hawthorne, 50% me, the biggest deviation being an ironic coda Hawthorne couldn’t have dreamt of without a crystal ball.

Tony: Usually, I do a straight and traditional adaptation as I did last year for Twainathon. This year, I tried something a little different. This one-act isn’t so much an adaptation as a response to Hawthorne. The writer was very ambivalent about the Native American. In some cases, he seems to find them to be a noble people but a doomed one. At other times, though, they come off as quite quite savage. So though we touch on “The Dunston Family,” “Rappucini’s Daughter,” “Main-Street,” and, most especially, “Young Goodman Brown,” the audience should consider this play as more of a dialogue with Hawthorne than a straight adaptation of his work.

For the actors: tell us a little bit about the part you’re playing and how it’s going so far.

Chris: It’s going well. Festival situations force you to work quickly. Coming in right after the holidays was a bit of a mind-bender. Dan’s script feels like it is a bit influenced by Beckett and Pinter. I wish I had more time to research but it’s good for me to trust my instincts and pray for creativity. Basically ask “What would Johnny Depp do?” then find my own way.

Iracel: I’m a part of an ensemble of nine that play an old woman, a servant, and a devilish boy, exchanging roles in multiple variations of a scene. It’s been really fun learning the original “choreography”, as it were, and injecting the variants. We’ve also recorded text direct from several Hawthorne manuscripts. I translated and recorded the 19th century text in Spanish! You’ll have to see how that plays into the scenes… too fun.

How is this project different from some of the others you’ve worked on recently, if at all?

Trav: In a way, it’s nearly identical (in theme) to my last play at Metropolitan, which was set in Victorian New York. Most of my work examines the dichotomy between authoritarianism and the limits of freedom, and most of it either has a historical setting, or is otherwise set in some time and place outside the ordinary. So as far as my work goes, it’s right in the mainstream!

Tony: This project is different in that I am not simply adapting material from one medium to another. I think of it as more of a conversation. And conversations like this are tricky. Obviously, I have great respect for Hawthorne. He’s one of the seminal figures in American literature. But he doesn’t get it right all of the time. So that is what I am trying to address here.

Chris: I worked with Dan and LuLu two years ago as Edgar Allen Poe. They are two of my favorite people. I hope I am still going like they are when I’m that age. LuLu does a lot great solo performance. They really support and love each other.  Recently I’ve been auditioning for commercials and casting people, which takes a chunk of one’s faith in humanity. This is a seven-man cast. All men and we don’t get naked or make puppets with our privates. Just a good play.

Iracel: There are a couple of recent projects I think of that work as a diving off point for this one: Macbeth Without Words for it’s movement and World Gone Wrong/Worth Gun Willed for it’s recorded text.  However, House of Celestial Experiments differs entirely in that the previous projects had a story to tell whereas House… deals more with process and allows for “experiments” in the technique without the concern for one specific story.

Are there any challenges or advantages that any of you face working on a period piece like this?

Trav: Only advantages. I adore this kind of language. I’m an extremist in that department. On Christmas Eve, I went to mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (high mass, two hours long) and found myself getting angry that they were no longer using the King James version of The Bible. If I could do so without getting arrested, I’d speak in antique language every moment of every day.

Tony: I think it’s a great advantage to play in something that is so ingrained into the American mythos.

Chris: I love working different styles and periods. It lets me trot out all my grad school training no one lets you use until your working for one the major theatre companies. I was a high school intern for North Carolina Shakespeare when I got the bug. I am trying to keep the text sounding like something I would actually say how I would really say it. It also makes me glad people still read books.

Iracel: It’s hard to say, since the work is based on period material, but the end product is incredibly contemporary and, dare I say it, avant-garde. So the challenges or advantages for me don’t come from the period material.

Did you ever have to read The Scarlet Letter – or any other Hawthorne – in school?

Trav: Well, “have to” would be inaccurate. I don’t remember The Scarlet Letter being assigned but “Young Goodman Brown” definitely was. But I’ve read The Scarlet Letter a couple of times by choice, and have enjoyed a couple of film versions, as well. You have to realize that these are “my people”. My mother’s ancestors came here in the 1630s…I relate to the writing of Hawthorne as Americans of other lineages might relate to Saul Bellow, Gay Talese, or Amy Tan. Strange as it may seem.

Tony: Yep.

Chris: So shortly after I caught the acting bug, we had to do projects for The Scarlet Letter in class. I was fed up with kids in high school so I decided to do something crazy. I wrote a monologue as Hester Prynne before she goes to be executed. I dressed up like her and played it straight. I remember feeling the room wanting to be let off the hook and I wouldn’t do it. This was before To Wong Foo…so it was a shock. I guess my work goes between the classical and going solo like that and giving the unexpected (when it goes well).

Iracel: Of course!

What’s up next for each of you after this?

Trav: 2008 is shaping up to be a big year. Looking at a full production of my play Family of Man at Theater for the New City, And How! Theatre Company is developing my play Jasper Jaxon, and I have a bill of two one-acts going up in London.

Tony: I’m working on an adaptation – surprise, surprise – of Washington Irving’s The Devil and Tom Walker at Metropolitan. And we are setting some of it to music. It’s going to be lot’s of fun. You should come check it out.

Chris: I’m putting up a new solo in The FRIGID Festival called American Badass (or 12 Characters in Search of a National Identity). It’s about figuring out who we are in messed up world with a government playing outside the rules.

Iracel: I’m currently in rehearsals for Night Flyer, a piece that will be part of Dixon Place’s “Page to Stage” series on January 28th. It is a poem by S.M. Dunlap that I will be performing along with two gorgeous dancers. Immediately after that is the premiere of Aaron Baker’s 3800 Elizabeth, a sitcom for the stage that includes myself, and the wonderful Michael Criscuolo and Peter Handy. This will take place every Sunday evening at The Battle Ranch for seven weeks starting February 3rd.


Well, that seems like an appropriate enough note to end on (and, no: I did not put Iracel up to giving me such a nice plug). My thanks to Trav, Tony, Chris, and Iracel for their participation. I’ll have more with Chris about his next show, American Badass, next month – as well as an interview with Aaron Baker, the writer-director of 3800 Elizabeth. Stay tuned.