If you’ve ever dreamt of visiting an island paradise with Amazon beauties, then dream no more – Frank Cwiklik will take you there. The theatrical visionary (he’s a writer, a director, a producer, a designer, and an actor) conjures such a world in his latest extravaganza The Wild, Wild Women of Wakki-Nunu. Produced by Frank’s theater company, Do What Now Media, and filled with many holdovers from the cast of his previous show – the dark and apocalyptic Bitch Macbeth – Wakki-Nunu serves as yet another prime example of what Frank does best: create a totally immersive multimedia experience.
With the show successfully up and running at HorseTrade‘s The Red Room (down on East 4th Street), Frank took a minute to visit the ol’ blog and talk more about the show, his company, his background, and his aesthetic. Here’s what he told us…
Your new show like it’s quite a departure from your last one, Bitch Macbeth. What’s The Wild, Wild Women of Wakki-Nunu about, and where’d you get the idea for it?
It’s about a womanizing, over-the-hill TV actor who seeks to fake a voyage to a mythical island of Amazons, which turns out to be not so mythical, and not quite what he expected. I had the idea a couple of years ago, and it was originally going to be a simpler burlesque show, but the idea grew and I realized the potential for a big, over-the-top sex farce and gender satire was more interesting than a simple gag show. It also gives me an excuse to indulge my shameless love for old-fashioned comedy routines and general high-concept silliness. The kernel of the idea was my amusement at the island-of-women concept, and how it relates to gender roles: frankly, if there were an island of women, wouldn’t at least some, if not all of them, adopt male characteristics, including the worst of it? There would certainly be Alpha Males — in this case, they’re basically all Alpha Males.
Was it a conscious decision on your part to do something so seemingly different from your last show?
Yes and no. I wanted to do something lighter after Bitch Macbeth, as I never like to do the same thing twice in a row, but this show was originally slated for last year, until I bumped it in favor of Bitch, then came back to it. It’s a party show, which I haven’t done in a while, and which are draining to do, but satisfying when they come off right.
This is your first original comedy since Sugarbaby! Why so long in-between new works?
I just didn’t have any ideas. I wish I was the type to churn out stuff on a regular basis, but the concepts come to me, not the other way around. I’ve had ideas for a couple of other original comedies between then and now, but nothing that I could get nailed down to any satisfying degree. I also really, really hate the writing process — I hate sitting alone and staring at a blank screen trying to get words to come out, it bores the hell out of me, but I do it because, otherwise, I have no script. Which can be a problem.
The Wild, Wild Women of Wakki-Nunu features two of your signature trademarks: sexual content and multimedia technology. What interests you about both?
I’ve always been girl-crazy and always will be because women are interesting and sexy and awesome, and we guys are, usually, kind of dorky and lame. I also tend to be more comfortable writing for and working with women, which is why my male characters tend to be less interesting than the female characters. I’m also fascinated by people’s response to and reaction to sex itself — cultural responses to the horizontal mambo tend to swing wildly in one direction or another, sometimes in rapid succession, and the level of hysteria, panic, and concern over it is something I find baffling and intriguing. On the one hand, you have the pornofication of modern culture, where no one bats an eye at hooker-style tweener clothing being sold at the local Target (Bitch Macbeth was about this, to some extent); while, on the other hand, you have the terrified, paranoid horror of sex pounded into us by both the puritanical, rigid right and the hysterical, paranoid left, with the real joy and pleasure of our sex being trampled in their wake. I like pushing those buttons and exploring those ideas, because everyone can relate to them, and I don’t think any of us really have a grip on how something so simple can mess us up so badly.
As for multimedia, it’s another tool, like lighting, sound, performance, space, setting, even tickets and playbills — they’re all part of the experience, and I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t take full advantage of those tools to tell their story. I love when place and mood can be set quickly and efficiently with the use of sound, lights, and video, freeing up the performers to concentrate solely on the emotional and story content, which is the meat of the thing. People can see a lovely show or get a simple story on TV any night of the week — the entire point of theater should be immersion, being transported to another place, and anything less is a complete waste of potential.
You frequently collaborate with your wife, Michele Schlossberg. What’s your key to having both a successful personal and professional relationship together?
We both love entertaining audiences, and neither of us has any time for bullshit.
You are making a rare on-stage appearance in this show. To what do we owe the pleasure?
I couldn’t find anyone who was willing, capable and available to do the part, as it’s a monster. Trust me, I’m looking forward to climbing back into my little tech booth and punching buttons on the next show.
You formerly helmed DMTheatrics, which disbanded several years ago, and have now started Do What Now Media. What led you to end one company and start another?
I got burnt out and needed a break — I thought I was done, but realized after a while that I just needed to make a change, rather than quit entirely. The new company started when I got bored. I am no longer bored, so it must have worked. The name change is to reflect the fact that I was uncertain of what my next steps would be upon returning. Now, it’s because it amuses me to think of a secretary or receptionist one day answering the phone, “Do What Now”, and confusing the hell out of people.
You’re back working at HorseTrade, which was DMTheatrics’ home base for many years. What keeps you coming back there?
They haven’t kicked me out yet. Plus, the backrubs are awesome.
Also, The Red Room is a perfect room for what I do: with a simple shift in lights, I can transform it from an intimate, tiny playing space into a huge, cavernous tunnel. Those stairs are a bitch, though.
Any more plans once this show is finished?
I’m likely bringing back Nevada Territory, which is the spaghetti western for the stage we did some years ago. I’m bringing it back because I was entertained by it and want to see it again. There are also a few other projects I have in mind, but I’m trying to figure out which are most feasible and least likely to bankrupt me, as I have a hard time thinking in miniature anymore. I do know that, now that I’ve started again, I have no intention of stopping.