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February 9, 2017
FRIGID Festival 2017: A Q&A with this Year’s Artists – Part 3

Now in its 11th season, the FRIGID Festival will bring 30 shows to UNDER St. Marks and the Kraine Theater, February 13 through March 5. We had the opportunity to ask several of this year's participants about their work. Below are responses from ten of them -- read Part 1 and Part 2!

Buyer'sRemorseProductionPhoto_2Writer/Performer Mara Gannon, "Buyer's Remorse":


Tell us about your show.

Sex, regret, and a road trip. Buyer's Remorse is about sexual liberation, isolation, and my inability to connect with people on an intimate level. I open up about a relationship that landed me in a mental clinic, my fear of driving over mountains, and countless one night stands.

What have been the most exciting things about seeing your show jump from the page to the stage?

The act of doing it! I've been writing this for a while now, so actually DOING the thing has been outrageously exciting!

Who are your favorite playwrights, past and present?

Well, shoot. That's like asking me to pick my favorite kind of pizza. In terms of what would be considered classical-- Shakespeare, of course. Shaw. Wilson. Wilde. O'Casey. For more modern playwrights, Sarah Kane. Albee. Kushner. Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. Tarell Alvin McCraney's writing makes me weak in the knees. Above all I love complexity of character -- someone who makes seemingly bad decisions for good reasons. Rationalizations are great equalizers.

What would you change about the current state of theater?

I want what most of us artists want -- MORE DIVERSITY. Not just in writers and actors, but subject matter as well. All of it. I want everything to be diverse -- colors, genders, disabilities, orientations, etc. Give me all of it. If we truly want to reflect society back to itself, we have to be a mirror. And that means showing EVERYTHING.


 

Photo credit: Craig Schober
Photo credit: Craig Schober

Kelly Dwyer, "Not Showbusiness":

 

Tell us about your show.

Connecting with intimate anecdotes and improvised music dictated by audience choices throughout, piece by piece, YOU choose where Kelly takes inspiration from. Whether it’s an impromptu, true story, an improvised song, or some multimedia mastery, this time it’s personal and a one of a kind show each night, created with you, for you. Expect the unexpected…

What have been the most exciting things about seeing your show jump from the page to the stage?

I’m most excited that there is no real written page. There are snippets, notes, journals, diaries and melodies and that never found their way to lyrics from years past (some as far back as my early teens!), but no script. I’m combining all my skills, experience and magic, leaping with confidence and using the audience as a guide, knowing that the net will appear. What happens if I crash and burn? Entertainment! Not to worry, I am the BEST at failing!

What would you change about the current state of theater?

I’d like to make it easier and more lucrative for indie shows to tour far and wide. That’s what the CAFF is doing right: Providing the map for underground shows with unique perspectives to tunnel their way to the light in far away lands. More of that please!


Photo credit: Sullivan O'Connor
Photo credit: Sullivan O'Connor

Writer/Performer Bree O’Connor, "SAHM’s Club":

 

Tell us about your show.

If you are a parent, SAHM's Club is hysterical. If you are not a parent, SAHM's Club is hysterical...and terrifying. If you are a woman, SAHM's Club will make you want to both hug and smack all of your friends.

What have been the most exciting things about seeing your show jump from the page to the stage?

Our director, Jill DeArmon, is insightful and twisted. She understands the layers to the story and is a maestro when it comes to conducting the action and allowing so many things to happen at once and yet still having the entire story being reflected in every small moment. The cast is sharp, brave and inventive and they are willing to take the deep dive into lunacy while still investing some love into the Mommies (and Dad) of SAHM's Club.

Who are your favorite playwrights, past and present?

I have deep affection for the works of Mae West. Her stories aren't particularly inventive, they are really just vehicles for her body and wit, but they are so incredibly specific that you cannot read them without hearing her voice. I love Arthur Miller, Federico García Lorca, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Suzan-Lori Parks, to name a few.

What would you change about the current state of theater?

Fewer stories with protagonists who are really artists wringing their hands about whether or not their art is important.


Scientist Turned Comedian with Tim X. LeeWriter/Performer Tim Lee, "Scientist Turned Comedian":

 

Tell us about your show.

Science Comedy.

What have been the most exciting things about seeing your show jump from the page to the stage?

I love to see how different people react to the show. Some people clearly love it while others hate it so much they insult the people who like it. The material hasn't changed only the interpretation.

You are coming to us from California. What is something you are looking forward to doing while you're in NYC?

I'm looking forward to taking a morning jog along the Hudson River. New York is beautiful in the morning light.


Sienna's MantramWriter Zach Stephens, "Sienna's Mantram":

 

Tell us about your show.

Sienna's Mantram is a new dark comedy by writer/actor Zach Stephens and centers on a mysterious meditational B&B located on a former nuclear testing site in the Mojave Desert. A Hollywood production filming nearby rains chaos onto five guests, threatening to derail their peaceful getaway and expose sinister secrets of the B&B's past. In an era of "post truth" and "alternative" facts, Sienna's Mantram explores the dangerous effects of paranoia and mistrust.

Who are your favorite playwrights, past and present?

Some of my favorite playwrights, past and present, would have to be Nicky Silver, Christopher Durang, Annie Baker, Edward Albee, and Anton Chekhov.

What would you change about the current state of theater?

I think, currently, theater is way too expensive. In college I always used to find ways to rush shows, and TKTS, but even those lowest prices are getting high. It seems to me that there are so many people who would like to stay attuned, but simply can't afford it.


The Chronic Single's Handbook featuring Randy RossWriter/Performer Randy Ross, "The Chronic Single’s Handbook":

 

Tell us about your show.

The Chronic Single's Handbook is about a chronically single guy who takes a trip around the world hoping to change his luck with love. It's an unflinching look at how men feel about sex, love, marriage, and message parlors. The controversial show features adult situations, adult language, and more adult situations including a visit to The Curious Finger body spa.

What have been the most exciting things about seeing your show jump from the page to the stage?

Exciting thing number one: My show is based on a novel that was recently purchased by a small press specializing in literary fiction.
Exciting thing number two: A novel is about 12 hours of material. Distilling the novel down to a one-hour show was challenging and exciting.
Exciting thing number three: The extreme reactions of reviewers -- some love it, some are really offended by the material. (My mother and girlfriend have seen the show numerous times, so as long as they're not offended, that's what matters most.)

You are coming to us from Massachusetts. What is something you are looking forward to doing while you're in NYC?

Spending time in the Village, visiting the Frick, spending time with my brothers and family that live in Manhattan.


Photo credit: Ben Trivett
Photo credit: Ben Trivett

Writer/Performer Brad Lawrence, "The Idaho Jackson Action Playset":

 

Tell us about your show.

If you were ever a child, you will relate to this show and laugh out loud. Unless you were one of those annoying happy children. This is for people who had normal, terrifying childhoods, not unholy freaks like you.

What have been the most exciting things about seeing your show jump from the page to the stage?

I develop my material on stage before it ever ends up on a page, so the whole process is infused with the excitement of live performance right from the start.

What would you change about the current state of theater?

More small to midsize theaters where creative weirdos can do original stuff on a shoestring budget.


Photo credit: Kevin McNair
Photo credit: Kevin McNair

Writer/Performer Clara Elser, The Love Song of Tonya Harding

 

Tell us about your show.

The piece explores the life of Tonya Harding, one of the most notorious figures in sports history. What's it like to be so good at something, but not in the right way? How do you move forward when your entire life is defined by a single event?

What have been the most exciting things about seeing your show jump from the page to the stage?

It's been really interesting and gratifying to talk to people after the show and hear "I didn't know that about her".

What would you change about the current state of theater?

More monetary support available for people trying to create work.


static1.squarespaceWriter Charles Gershman, "The Refugee Plays":

Tell us about your show.

Five short plays about refugees. We did NOT know how fucked-up the world was going to be today when we were planning this, but there you have it. Come and connect.

What have been the most exciting things about seeing your show jump from the page to the stage?

Some of these short plays are extremely theatrical. Our actors, directors, designers, and musicians are INSANELY talented. I'm so thrilled by what these artists are assembling.

Who are your favorite playwrights, past and present?

I like anyone who's pushing boundaries -- formal, thematic, or otherwise. Sarah Kane. Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. Caryl Churchill.

What would you change about the current state of theater?

I'd prioritize public funding of the arts and work to get people who aren't currently seeing theatre to see it. It can change minds and hearts, and that's what we need today.


 

Photo credit: Alexis Ruiseco
Photo credit: Alexis Ruiseco

Director G.J. Dowding, "Woolgathers":

 

Tell us about your show.

Woolgatherers is inspired by Patti Smith’s artistry and performed as a multi-media re-imagined concert. Traveling through various realms of time, the woolgatherers seek to understand the root of their existence and resolve the oppression of their cyclical reality. This fantasy performance piece explores complex layers of identity, gender, displacement and loss, and belongs to a trilogy devised by Asylos.

What have been the most exciting things about seeing your show jump from the page to the stage?

Inspired by Patti Smith and the tradition of punk rock, all company members had a hand in writing sections of this devised work, stemming from their own charged identity. Putting all the pieces together, we collaboratively sculpted the text into what it is now. A good amount of the text is more linear language than we usually use so it's been such a joy seeing the words come into action; to experience how we have fused our unique voices together using both heightened poetic language, which is typical in the Asylos arena, and more tangible dialogue in a way that is vibrating around the spirit of Patti Smith.

Who are your favorite playwrights, past and present?

Tennessee Williams, Nicky Silver, Gertrude Stein, Sara Kane, Sarah Ruhl.

What would you change about the current state of theater?

More than to change the current state of theater, I would like to see it continue to evolve and to align with the current times and the people in it. I think rules and convention are a bit stuffy and outdated and shouldn't apply to the experience of live theater. I'm very invested in the world of immersive and interactive theater, mixing both audience and performers together, allowing participants from both sides to have a genuine experience with the other that influences the shape of the performance. In this very scary political time, I would like to see theater further tackle diversity, in both a celebration and fight for its safety and value in this world. Art should relentlessly comment on society and politics and insist on social justice for all.

FRIGID Festival 2017 is February 13-March 5 at UNDER St. Marks and the Kraine Theater.

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