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Entries in Playwright (82)

Friday
Jun162017

Call Answered: Doug DeVita: The Phillie Trilogy at Fresh Fruit Festival

Doug DeVitaI first came to know Doug DeVita when he was the Marketing Director of the Abingdon Theatre Company. He invited to me Abingdon's production of Marathon '33 where I met special guest Lane Bradbury, the original "Dainty June" in Gypsy starring Ethel Merman. Lane seemed to be the thread that kept us going, reuniting us for Lane Bradbury: Let Me Entertain You, Again which Doug wrote. I loved that show and am so excited to see Doug's latest play The Phillie Trilogy which will be part of this year's Fresh Fruit Festival July 19-23.

The Phillie Trilogy is about Phillie growing up gay in the "fabulous" 70s which was no picnic for the precocious "Phillie McDougal." Through nuns, priests, bullying classmates, parents – and years later the realization his best friend may not be the person he thought she was – he lived to tell the tales, with results no one bargained for. Including him.

The Phillie Trilogy will play in the 2017 Fresh Fruit Festival at The Wild Project (195 East 3rd Street, between Avenue A & B) on July 19 at 6:30pm, July 22 at 4:30pm, and July 23 at 3:30pm. Click here for tickets!

For more on Doug be sure to visit https://www.dougdevitaplays.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter!

1. I first came to know you when you worked at Abingdon Theatre Company as their Director of Marketing, but now you have switched gears and started writing more plays. Who or what inspired you to become a playwright? There were many roads I took to becoming a playwright; in addition to my career in the advertising world – which paid the bills – I was always concurrently involved in theatre. I’ve acted, I’ve directed, I was Artistic Director of the now-defunct Westside Repertory Theatre for a brief stint, and I even wrote reviews for OOBR (Off-Off Broadway Review) for a few years (until I realized I hated the person it was turning me into). It was while I was writing for OOBR that I developed a friendship with Carrie Libling, the head of Vital Children’s Theater, and she’s the one who cajoled, prodded, and pushed me into writing my first produced play – I wrote the book for a musical based on the enchanting Charles and Mary Lamb prose version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest; in the early 19th century, the Lambs wrote adaptations for children of most of the Bard’s plays, and they’re truly delightful. After the success of The Tempest, Vital commissioned another one from me (As You Like It), which was another success for them. I was then invited by another writer to collaborate on some more "adult" fare; I haven’t stopped writing since.

2. Your latest play, The Phillie Trilogy is going to be part of the 2017 Fresh Fruit Festival. Why did you want this show to be part of this festival? I’ve generally avoided festivals in the past; they’re a lot of work, they cost a lot of money, and I hate, loathe, and despise self-producing. But I’m a submission junkie, and last year I sent Fresh Fruit the script for my play The Fierce Urgency Of Now, not expecting anything. Well, it was accepted into the festival, and after a lot of hemming and hawing on my part (and some more prodding, this time from my friend Bob Ost, who’d done the Fresh Fruit Festival already and had a very positive experience) I decided, "What the hell, let’s do it." And it was a dream experience. They’re a smaller festival, so there’s a lot of attention paid to details, they’re a wonderfully warm, human group of people to work with, and the tone set by Executive Director Louis Lopardi and Artistic Director Liz Thaler invites you to really feel like you’re a part of something magical. There was no question in my mind – or in the mind of my brilliant director, Dennis Corsi ­– that we would submit The Phillie Trilogy this year. After several readings, and having won Scrap Mettle Arts Emerging Playwrights Program’s inaugural competition last year, Dennis and I felt it was time to see Phillie on his feet, and Fresh Fruit was the perfect place for this first steps. Again, there were no expectations we’d even be accepted, but we’re thrilled that we were.

"The Phillie Trilogy" 2017 Fresh Fruit Festival cast, Front: Maeve Press (Barbie), Daniel G. Cunningham (Keith/Jude), Bonale Fambrini (Phillie). Back: Carole Monferdini (Older Grace/Lina), Karen Irwin (Younger Grace/Barbara), Terri Kelsey (Veronica/Sheila), David Sabella (Pete/Philip).3. The Phillie Trilogy tells the tale of budding writer "Phillie McDougal" and the struggles he went through growing up gay in the "fabulous" 70s including the realization his best friend may not be the person he thought she was. How do you think "Phillie's" realization about his friend will affect his future friendships? Not a clue. The play ends with that question, actually; I’ve been asked many times what happens to "Philip" and "Barbara," and my answer is always the same: "Not a clue. What’s your fantasy?"

4. What do you think made "Phillie" able to survive all the hurt he encountered throughout his life to keep going as opposed to giving up? His wit. And his ability to realize that even though he had a contentious relationship with his parents – who definitely raised him with a barrage of mixed signals – they ultimately gave him, albeit reluctantly on the part of his father, the freedom to become who he was meant to become.

5. What were some struggles you went through growing up gay? I was bullied mercilessly in high school; I had lit cigarettes tossed at me, I was locked into lockers, I was followed on the street by schoolmates shouting taunts at me, the gym teacher called me a tub of shit in front of the entire school during an assembly…After I graduated, I left that school and never looked back. It’s interesting to me that I have a lot of friends from grammar school – kids I haven’t seen in over 40 years – who’ve looked me up on Facebook and we’ve reconnected, but very few from high school have sought me out, nor I them. And I’m absolutely fine with that.

"The Phillie Trilogy" ​Scrap Mettle Arts Reading, October 2016 Front: Zachary Clarence as "Phillie McDougal," and Kevin Ligon as "Pete McDougal" Back: Diane Chen as "Barbie," Karen Irwin as "Veronica McDougal"6. What was the most "fabulous" thing about growing up in the 70s? The Broadway shows and performers I got to see: the original casts of A Chorus Line and Chicago, Angela Lansbury in Gypsy and Sweeney Todd, The Andrews Sisters in Over Here!, Madeline Kahn in On The Twentieth Century, Irene Worth and a very young Meryl Streep in The Cherry Orchard, Frank Langella in Dracula, George C. Scott and the brilliant Jack Gilford in Sly Fox...so many wonderful experiences! (Such a gay answer! HAHAHA!) I also loved the grittiness of New York City; many of my relatives were shocked my mother allowed a 14 year old to go into Manhattan by himself, but she understood that the city, and seeing Broadway shows, was my refuge. Being a Manhattan native herself (she was born and spent her early childhood in Hell’s Kitchen), she passed on her street smarts to me, and was confident I could take care of myself. I miss that city. Mostly I miss being able to navigate quickly through Times Square. But there was something about the scrappy, dirty, slightly dangerous New York City of the 70s that was giddily exciting, something that’s sadly missing in the somewhat sanitized yet far more dangerous version we’re living in now. New York in the 70s was like one of those seedy but entertaining carnivals: you had to be careful but if you knew how to negotiate around some of the smarmier aspects, you were fine; today it feels more like that candy-coated, brightly-colored, but terrifying island "Pinocchio" barely escapes from in Disney’s animated classic.

7. If Doug today could tell Doug of his youth three pieces of advice, what would they be? You’re better than you realize, you’re smarter than you realize, and listen to your mother. Yes, she’s a pain in the ass, but you’re more like her than you want to admit, and deep down you know she’s right, dammit.

Doug DeVita, director James Phillip Gates, and the 2017 staged-reading cast of "The Phillie Trilogy" produced by The Great Griffon / Seeking The Queer Voice Reading Series at 13th St. Rep 8. If this show is based upon any of your life events, what would you say today to those you bullied you in school? How do you react now to someone who may say an off comment about being gay? 

1: Yes, that’s you in the play. [Gives a "Bronx Cheer"]

2: Fuck off. (My husband is convinced I’m going to be shot some day).

9. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing The Phillie Trilogy? Since this has the word trilogy in the title, will there be two more plays after this? Second question first: It’s actually not a "trilogy" in the strictest sense; although I wrote the play in a traditional three-act structure, only the first part, titled Checking The Basement For Leaks, can stand alone as a short play; indeed, in that format it has had productions in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Washington State. The title actually refers to the books the adult "Philip" has written; in order to clarify this (and inspired by the inspired graphic design created by Christina D’Angelo), I’m mulling a title change to Phillie’s Trilogy after this production closes. So no, there won’t be any more plays with these characters.…For the time being, at least.

What do I hope audiences come away with? I hate this question.…I want them to be entertained, first and foremost…I want them to laugh their asses off one minute and then gasp in recognition the next…I want them to have a theatrical experience that allows for a spirited post-show discussion about what they’ve just seen, perhaps over a few martinis or beers...that’s the best answer I can give without falling down that rabbit hole of self-important playwright pretension.

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? I try every day to be a little less judgmental, a little more forgiving, and a little less controlling. Coming from a long line of judgmental Catholic control freaks, let me tell you: It’s a bitch.

Doug DeVitaMore on Doug:

A member of the Dramatists Guild of America, Doug’s play The Fierce Urgency Of Now was produced at the 2016 Fresh Fruit festival, where it won four Fresh Fruit Awards of Distinction, including Outstanding Play, Outstanding Production for director Dennis Corsi, and two Outstanding Supporting Performance awards. Other work includes The Phillie Trilogy, which won Scrap Mettle Arts Inaugural Emerging Playwrights Program competition, and was chosen to inaugurate Great Griffon’s Seeking The Queer Voice reading series in January 2017; The Gruesomely Merry Adventures of NELL DASH, An Irrepressibly Sensible Capitalist With A Vengeance (Winner of two Winterfest Competition ’17 Awards: Best Set Design, and a Best Director nod to Dennis Corsi); and Just A Rumor (co-written with Gary Lyons) which was a semi-finalist at the Eugene O’Neill Playwright’s Conference and has had readings at New York’s Abingdon Theatre Company and London’s Menier Chocolate Factory. His ten-minute play, Checking The Basement for Leaks (the first play in The Phillie Trilogy) has been performed at the Gallery Players Black Box Festival in New York, The Driftwood Players Short Works Festival in Seattle, Ramapo College in New Jersey, and The Warner International Playwrights Festival in Connecticut. He has also collaborated with actress Lane Bradbury (the original "Dainty June" in Gypsy, starring Ethel Merman) on her one-woman show Lane Bradbury: Let Me Entertain You, Again, which was performed at the Strasberg Institute in Los Angeles, and at Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York.

Doug belongs to both The 9th Floor Playwrights Collaborative and The 36th Street Writers Block (formerly Abingdon Theatre Playwrights Group 1) in Manhattan.

He has also worked as an Art director/Copywriter for such advertising agencies as Grey Global Group, J. Walter Thompson, and N.W. Ayer, and was the marketing director for Abingdon Theatre Company for four years. He is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Advertising Design Department at F.I.T. in New York. Please produce his work so this part of his life can become a (sometimes) pleasant memory.

Tuesday
May302017

Call Answered: Crystal Skillman: GREAT AGAIN: "The Test"

Crystal SkillmanWhen I saw that Crystal Skillman had a show in the 2nd Annual Women in Theatre Festival, I called and was over the moon that she answered! You see Crystal is working on two separate shows with award-winning composer Bobby Cronin, Mary & Max and The Cover (written for Glee's Ali Stroker), and anyone who reads "Call Me Adam," knows my love for Bobby! But more than her connection to Bobby, I was quite taken by the subject of Crystal's play The Test which is the show in Project Y Theatre Company's evening of plays entitled Great Again.

In The Test, an English teacher in a struggling high school readies her junior students for the most important test of their lives. But when a symbol of hate appears in her classroom, she and two students on either side of the recent election find their lives forever changed.

The Test will play at the Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre at the A.R.T./New York Theatres (502 West 53rd Street, off 10th Avenue) from June 1-24. Click here for tickets!

For more on Cyrstal be sure to visit http://www.crystalskillman.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter!

1. Who or what inspired you to be a playwright? While I was in a lot of plays (acting in various groups growing up - where I was always in the back row - clearly acting wasn’t my thing…!), I loved the visual arts, and found I had a talent for photography. So I went to the Hartford Art School, then Parsons School of Design. But I took an elective playwriting class (with playwright Edward Allan Baker) and man I was hooked.

2. What made you want to write The Test? After the election, we all woke up in a new, scary world. And perhaps the scariest realization is the hate, this backwards thinking we’re seeing is more rampant and normal than we could have ever imagined. It was always around us. But now it has a voice and platform. The first thing I noticed was how all the teachers I knew (full time or as Teaching Artists) flooded my Facebook feed, or when I walked into the classroom, with the same question: Why Teach? A man who is unqualified to hold office is now President.

Why work hard? Why learn? That is the point of school to prepare you for a world that is worth being a part of. What has meaning in this new world? What has value? The day after I went into teach playwriting at a high school as guest artist. There were students there on either side of the election. Two sweet boys tried to convince me that I was lucky Trump was president. I was being protected as a woman as Hillary had "killed" people. I saw this teenage energy swirling around, struggling to understand, and processing information in such a different way. Two days later a swastika was drawn in the "Beasties Boy" park by me in Boreum Hill. We rallied, we protested, it was painted over, but can something like that ever be taken away?

Crystal Skillman and Chiori Miyagawa3. Your play, The Test is just one of two plays in Project Y Theatre Company's double bill of new plays, GREAT AGAIN, that they commissioned written as a response to the November 2016 election and presented as the centerpiece of the 2nd Annual Women in Theatre Festival dedicated to broadening opportunities for women playwrights. What went through your head when you found out The Test was going to be part of run? Chiori Miyagawa and I got that lucky call last summer. The call was about the commission. Which was cool enough, but when I realized Project Y was also going to produce the plays, I thought that was special. Scary too! I mean…that’s a fast timeline! This time around, I wrote this play a lot in my head. When I sat down to write, the words flowed. I really love this play, and the struggle "Ada" has in this play. Chiori was an integral part of reminding us to wait and see what would happen (we had entertained writing them pre-election), and to write these plays from where we are at. This place of truth. She and I became close friends through the process. I’m so happy with how imaginative the plays are. To write a play knowing it will be produced creates the best work. That is the truth. Many creators wished that theatre worked more from this system, as opposed to picking plays for slots.

4. As a female playwright, why do you feel it's important to have a theatre festival dedicated to woman writers? There are so, so many great playwrights now - and so, so many are women. These festivals are important as I find theatre systems geared to season planning are overlooking many writers who are responding to the moment, or simply the overspill from this amount of writers. Project Y saw a need, and also was interested in politics, and created a space for this kind of work. In general, the DIY culture provides us much of the meaningful theatrical experiences in this city. Sometimes they are just here briefly, sometimes they transfer, but I hope they can become more than just a product. In this new world more than ever I believe we’re looking for experiences, not just something to sell or buy. I’ve said this in a few interviews - I believe it’s this frenzy for consumerism that got us Trump.

Crystal Skillman5. In The Test, an English teacher in a struggling high school readies her junior students for the most important test of their lives. What has been the most important test of your life so far? I think being a female writer, having a love of theatre, and trying to be sure your plays see the light of day in this world, tests you every day. It is an on-going test. I get through it more now by writing in other mediums: TV, comics. For tests I can see the outcome of, I’ve been doing a half marathon in the spring and fall. It is great to cross the finish line, it fills you with hope.

6. What is something you struggled with in high school that now you look back on and are like, "Why was that such a struggle for me?" Actually I think the things I’ve always been good at I got even better at, and those things that I wasn’t so good at stayed the same…I would say I’m better about identifying a bully, and feeling confident in how I deal with those that are trying to be manipulative, even if they aren’t being that way. I’m a really trusting person, but I’ve learned to be careful with my trust. It’s a gift. It should be earned.

Crystal Skillman7. How do you feel the outcome of this election has changed you? The balance of activism every day and writing. That day after I woke up, and before I went to teach, I decided to put my energy into working out pretty early. A van passed me and two guys shouted out the window "Hillary lost, bitch." There was nothing to identify any of my political feelings other than I was a woman. Something in me clicked. My eyes were opened in a new way. I’d been so kind, and overlooked so many misogynisitc encounters. By doing that, I allowed this kind of energy to fester. In terms of putting it in the work, that morning, that sad, sad satisfaction of "gloating victory," comes up in a climatic moment in my play.

8. With so much hate in this world, how do you think your work helps fight the hate? All creative work does. Fiction or non-fiction. By creating art, you are presenting a story or experience you must sit and live in. In theatre it’s especially effective, as you are going through your own feelings and revelations in a story the reflects today. How do we keep that going when the lights come up? That’s the question. There is a very judgmental, give-it-to-me-now culture that I’m not sure how to change. Recently I saw the revival of Fiddler on the Roof. After the moving image of those forced to leave their homeland, which the director clearly chose to highlight the plight of refugees going on right now, and after thunderous applause, and practically singing along to the songs they knew, the lights went up and the whole audience in mezzanine (a lot tipsy actually from drinking during a three hour show) started arguing with each other, pushing to get out
of there, get to their cars, etc. The work, and the sense of creating a community, or kindness has to go hand in hand. All I know is if you lead by example things do change. A homeless woman, her pre-teen child
leaning on her lap, was crying on my street in Brooklyn the other day. People walked by, walked by, walked by until a couple stopped and sat with her. Then one by one everyone on the street did the same. Lead. Lead in writing, lead by action, lead by teaching, lead by sharing.

Bobby Cronin and Crystal Skillman9. I can't do an interview with you without asking about working with the one and only Bobby Cronin. You are currently working on two different shows with him, Mary & Max and The Cover. First, what was it about Bobby that made you go, "Oh, I need to work with him. His music compositions and my book writing would just gel so perfectly."? Secondly, in The Cover there is a song called "Sleeping Sideways." What is something in your life that made you "sleep sideways"? Bobby and I have been good friends for ten years! I find his music so moving and electric. And I’ve always loved writing for musicals. Songs always creep into my plays. About four or so years ago, we began to work together as a writing team. It is such a joy. What we can create in the marriage between dialogue, lyric, and song I think is really special. We’re so excited to keep sharing our work. We’re also drawn to theatrical stories with heart, meat, and ones that are unique. The Cover is being written for the incredible Ali Stroker. It’s so fun and so meaningful to me. I love "Sleeping Sideways." It’s an extraordinary song, and really is "Abby," the character Ali plays. That song is the heart of her character. Before I met my hubby Fred it was a rough time. I have no doubt I was "Sleeping Sideways" every night!

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? Patience. I try to do Yoga…but….I’m a runner at heart. Running has taught me patience. In the play, "Ada" is a runner as well. Her job is to have patience, but in her situation, as the school presses her to pick who she think did this act…time is running out. Maybe when patience breaks, it is a good thing. It makes us stand up….and as we
know, we’re going to need a great deal of that in the coming years…but in terms of my day to day I do wish I had the ability to be cool! A Zen-Master!

Crystal Skillman after finishing the 2016 Airbnb Brooklyn HalfMore on Crystal:

Award-winning playwright Crystal Skillman is the author of the plays Geek, Cut, and King Kirby (co-written with Fred Van Lente), all New York Times Critics Picks. Her new plays include: Rain and Zoe Save the World (2017 Blue Ink Award Finalist, 2017 O’Neill Semi-Finalist, 2016 New Harmony Project, 2016 Oregon Performance Lab), Pulp Vérité (2017 Judson’s Magic Time Series, 2016 BAPF Finalist, 2015 Clifford Odets Ensemble Play Commission), and Another Kind of Love, a punk rock play (Chopin Theater with InFusion Theatre Co., 2015, Chicago). She is the musical theater book writer of Mary and Max, and The Cover written for Glee’s Ali Stroker, both with award winning ASCAP Composer/Lyricist Bobby Cronin. Wild was just published by Chicago Dramaworks, following sold out runs in Chicago and New York (at Off-Broadway's Lucille Lortel). She is also the author of The Vigil or The Guided Cradle, winner of the 2010 New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Full-Length Script. She is a proud member of EST, Women’s Project Lab and the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab. Her work can be found at her publisher Samuel French, as well as Chicago Dramaworks. She just finished the original TV pilot for her series Paper Heroes, co-created and written with Fred Van Lente.

Monday
May152017

Call Redialed: Marshall Pailet: Baghaddy at St. Luke's Theatre

Marshall PailetIt's so great to catch up with playwright Marshall Pailet, who I first got to interview in 2015. This time around we get talk about the remounting of his show, Baghdaddy, co-written with A.D. Penedo, a new musical based upon the true story of the Iraqi defector whose false intelligence was passed all the way through the CIA to become the justification for the Iraq War, which continues today. 

Baghdaddy plays St. Luke's Theatre (308 West 46th Street) through June 25 only. Click here for tickets!

For more on Marshall be sure to visit http://www.marshallpailet.com and follow him on Twitter and Instagram!

For more on Baghdaddy visit http://baghdaddymusical.com and follow the show on Facebook and Twitter!

1. It's so great to get to finally get to interview you about Baghdaddy! The show is coming back around after a sold-out run in 2015. What made now the right time to remount this show? I wish we could say we were inspired by the current state of the country, the fact that this administration's foibles and reliance on alternative facts makes our story about one of the most significant alternative facts in modern history all-too relevant. But the truth is we've been planning this production since we closed the 2015 production. It takes a long time to put these things up.

2. Let's go back to the beginning. How did you decide to write Baghdaddy? Baghdaddy was a commission from our then and current producer, Charlie Fink. Doing a show about the intelligence blunder around Curveball (Rafid Ahmed Alwan) was his idea, and it was his idea to make it a musical comedy.

Cast of "Baghdaddy"3. Baghdaddy is based upon the true story of the Iraqi defector whose false intelligence was passed all the way through the CIA to become the justification for the Iraq War, which continues today. What was it about this time in history that made you go, "This would make a great musical as opposed to a play?" Again, that was Charlie's idea. Our challenge was to find the why of it. We found the comedy in the actions of the people involved - their negligence was almost farcical. But they were grounded and real because they were motivated by such human things - wanting to be loved, respected, finally getting what they deserved. The music comes both from the comedy and the emotion - this story has both, so musical comedy felt like a perfect (if unexpected) fit.

4. After the show's initial run and prior to this one did you revise/rework the script at all? If so, what was the easiest revision to make and what was the most challenging? Yeah, for sure. Our biggest re-write came between the first version and the 2015 version - the script is almost unrecognizable from that first draft. But for the 2017 production we've made a bunch of changes - some new songs, dialogue. But the story and structure remains the same.

Cast of "Baghdaddy"5. In Baghdaddy, characters are contending with their own ambitions, rash decisions, inflexible bosses, unrequited affections and unremitting boredom, until a fax arrives from Germany, with it a golden opportunity. Let's break these down over the next few questions. When has there been a time you contended with your own ambitions? I struggle with that a lot. There's thousands of years of literature proving that when we follow our ambitions blindly, it leads to unhappiness and lack of fulfillment. I know that's true, but I still want that stuff. I've gotten better over the past couple of years - when I get jealous of a fellow artist, I admit it, say it out loud to myself, realize I sound like a douchebag, then the jealousy slips away. It's made me a calmer person.

6. What is one rash decision you made that you now wish you didn't? I dunno - I tend to game out decisions - think through all the possible outcomes to an annoying extent. I made a couple rash decisions in college (and a lot more in high school) that I wish I could take back though.

Cast of "Baghdaddy"7. Have you ever had an inflexible boss? If so, what were they most inflexible about? Honestly, I've had some pretty boss bosses. The producers and executives I've worked for have all been great. Not sucking up - I've just gotten lucky that way.

8. If you ever had unrequited affections for someone, how did you finally make yourself understand, they were just not that into you? Haha. Um, yeah. What I learned is that when it's meant to be, it's obvious for both parties. If you have to convince someone they love you, they're probably (definitely) not your soulmate.

9. How do you cure your unremitting boredom? Podcasts. And X-Box.

10. What is a golden opportunity to happened to you? The day I met my future wife. (Cue violin)

11. 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? To not need a screen in my face at all times of the day.

Marshall PailetMore on Marshall:

Marshall Pailet is a director, writer and composer for musical theater, plays, animated films, and is the proud owner of a wildly untrained, but ultimately well-meaning terrier-mix. He directed, composed, and co-wrote the Off Broadway musicals Who’s Your Baghdaddy (New York Times Critics’ Pick) and the now internationally licensed Triassic Parq (Chance ’13; Ovation Award, Best Musical; Ovation Nom, Best Director). Other Theater: Claudio Quest (Chance ’17); Loch Ness (Chance ’15; Best Musical, OC Weekly); Shrek the Halls (DreamWorks Theatricals). Film: VeggieTales: Noah’s Ark starring Wayne Brady (Original Songs). As Director Only: Nikola Tesla Drops the Beat (Adirondack Theater Festival); Wonderland (Atlantic Theater Company); EudaemoniaUncle Pirate; Stuck; The 49 Project; Thursday; With Kings in the Back; Bat Boy; Escape Artists; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He is also on faculty at Molly College, Cap 21, and the Broadway Dreams Foundation. Graduate Yale University.

Thursday
Apr272017

Call Answered: Christina Franklin: "New York, New Year: A New Musical," at TADA!

Christina FranklinIn Sunset Boulevard, "Norma Desmond" sings "I've come home at last!" and that is what I loved about Christina Franklin's journey with TADA! Youth Theater. She started out in TADA's! Youth Ensemble and now has come back as the writer and director of their latest production, New York, New Year

New York, New Year tells the story of "Tess" who moves to NYC in the middle of the school year from her hometown of Missouri and wonders how she will fit in. Will she make friends at her new school? Tess has the months of the year to help guide her, but she misses Sarah, her best friend from back home. When she tells 3 NYC kids that she's going to take a bus tour to really get to know NY, they tell her you don't get to know the real NYC through a bus tour, so she asks them to show her things they each love about the city & they become her new friends. Tess thinks that she needs to change herself to be liked, but who does she become? And will she still be friends with Sarah? Can she be the Tess from Missouri with Sarah & the NYC Tess with her new friends? What happens when they all get together for New Year's Eve as a surprise for Tess? Can the “months” save the day?

New York, New Year plays at TADA! Youth Theater (15 West 28th Street) from April 29-May 21. Click here for tickets!

For more on TADA! be sure to visit http://www.tadatheater.com and follow them Facebook and Twitter!

1. This May you are presenting New York, New Year: A New Musical, at TADA!, based upon the original concept by Gary Bagley. What made you want to write the book for this show and direct it? When I was six years old, my older brother Norman, was in the original production of New York, New Year at TADA! I saw the show many times and I loved it. The show takes place over the course of a year and each month is played by an actor. I was very drawn to this concept; it’s so unique and fun. TADA! usually revives show every five-six seasons, but New York New York hasn’t been done since 1999. The script needed more development time. In the summer of 2016, our artistic director Nina Trevens, proposed that I rewrite the book and direct the new production in the next season. I got in touch with the original writers and began rewriting the book. Fast forward 10 months and here we are!

2. One interesting fact I found out is that for 10 years you were a member of the TADA! Youth Ensemble, but while you were a sophomore at Professional Performing Arts School, you found a love for the production aspect of theatre. What was it about the production side that made you go, this is the part of theatre I want to pursue over acting? I discovered that I have a love for creating stories and devising interesting ways to tell those stories. Also, I am admittedly a control freak, so the older I got, the harder it was to let myself be free and vulnerable as an actor.

Janine Nina Trevens (TADA! Artistic Director) and Christina Franklin3. What is it like being back at TADA! after being away from it for a few years? The thing is, I haven’t been away from TADA! very much. Even during my college years, I came back to work on productions when I was on break from school. It’s always great to come home. I particularly love staying in touch with the ensemble and watching them grow and learn.

4.  In New York, New Year, "Tess" moves to NYC in the middle of the school year from her hometown of Missouri and wonders how she will fit in. When did you ever wonder if you would fit in somewhere? I have similar worries and doubts every time I enter a new experience, particularly college. Like "Tess," I was in a new city (Philadelphia), starting a new school year, and feeling very lonely. Fortunately, it was a new beginning for everyone, whereas "Tess" jumps into an environment where everyone is already acclimated, which makes it even harder for her to find her place.

Christina Franklin and Ben Vereen5. "Tess" tells her new friends she's going to get to know NYC via a bus tour, who in turn, tell her, you can't get to know NYC from a bus tour. What have you learned about NYC from living here that you wouldn't have had you taken a bus tour? I think the best things about the city are the non-commercial features. Organized NYC tours tend to hit the standard things the city is already famous for. I value the hole-in-the-wall restaurants, the quaintness of various neighborhoods, and more importantly the character and essence of the city that changes every 10 blocks or so.

6. This show has so many great themes for kids, like how "Tess" feels she needs to change herself to be liked." Have you ever felt like you needed to change to be liked or fit in somewhere? Yes - middle school was particularly tough for me. My new classmates made fun of how I spoke and the way I looked. I was not confident enough to hold my own and stay true to myself so to avoid bullying, I tried to assimilate myself to how they all acted. I was somewhat successful, but 8th grade graduation couldn’t have come soon enough. This was a time that TADA! was vital in my life. Although I had to change myself during the school day, I was able to let go and be free when I got to rehearsal.

Christina Franklin7. Since the show is called New York, New Year. What is something you are going to do or have done in NYC that is new this year? There are always new restaurants to try, so I plan to check some out. Although it isn’t new, I do want to get to the Highline once the weather gets warm again.

8. What are your top five favorite things to do in NYC? I love seeing new shows, walking the Brooklyn Bridge, shopping in the Christmas Villages that pop up in Union Square, Columbus Circle, and Bryant Park, checking out various farmers markets in the spring and fall, and going to free outdoor movie screenings in the summer.

9. After being part of TADA! Youth Ensemble and now being back as a playwright/director, why would you recommend someone to be part of TADA!? I would recommend it because there’s always something to be gained. Nina always says it; an 8 year old can learn from an 18 year old and vice versa. It’s the same thing when working on the production side. I’ve learned so much from the kids in the cast and I hope I’ve been able to teach them some things too!

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? I love this idea! I definitely need to improve my patience skills. New Yorkers are always on the go, thinking about the next thing. When things aren’t swift and efficient, we tend to get agitated. I can definitely stand to slow down and enjoy the ride.

Christina FranklinMore on Christina:

Christina Franklin is a theatre artist, born & raised in NYC & has been a part of the TADA! family since she was four years old. As a member of the TADA! Youth Ensemble for 10 years, she performed in 17 main stage musicals in addition to many workshops & readings. Christina found a love for the production aspect of theatre when she was a sophomore at Professional Performing Arts School. She went on to earn a BFA in Directing, Playwriting & Production from The University of the Arts. During her time at UArts, she stage managed multiple productions, wrote plays, produced student work & directed many projects. Shortly after graduation, she began an internship at The Public Theater, which led to working on multiple projects including The Total Bent & Eclipsed on Broadway. Since becoming a TADA! Alumna, she has worked on many TADA! shows as a stage manager & assistant director. New York, New Year marks Christina’s NYC directorial debut as well as her 26th production with TADA! Youth Theater. 

Wednesday
Apr262017

Call Answered: Part 2: Facetime Interview with Michael Zam, writer of "Feud: Bette and Joan"

"Call Me Adam" and Michael Zam live at The Algonquin HotelIf you loved the finale of Feud: Bette and Joan, then be sure to check out the second part of my interview with Feud writer Michael Zam, who gives us the backstage stories that didn't make it into the show as well as some insight to Bette Davis and Joan Crawford!

Live from The Algonquin Hotel, Michael Zam and I go at it again with even more tales from Feud: Bette and Joan!

Click here to watch Part 1 of our interview!

For more on Feud: Bette and Joan be sure to visit http://www.fxnetworks.com/shows/feud and follow the show on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

Part 2 of "Call Me Adam's" Facetime interview with Feud: Bette and Joan writer Michael Zam:

Michael ZamMore on Michael:

Michael Zam, BFA/MFA, author of the Black-Listed screenplay, Best Actress, has been developed into the hugely popular and highly-acclaimed 8-part miniseries, Feud, for FX, starring Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford and Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis. He has also written scripts for DreamWorks, Plan B, and many others. Michael wrote the book for the Off-Broadway musical The Kid, based on Dan Savage’s memoir, which won the Jerry Bock Award for Excellence in Musical Theatre and the Outer Critics Circle Award. The musical was nominated for a Drama Desk Award, Lucille Lortel Awards, and GLAAD Media Awards. Michael has been honored twice with the SPS Award for Teaching Excellence. He teaches screenwriting, film, and television writing at NYUSPS in the Center for Applied Liberal Arts.