NYMadness has proudly maintained a 50/50 gender lineup since our inception six years ago. For this very special edition of NYMadness at the Women’s Project we’ll be upping the game to a full 100% female playwrights and directors!
WP Theater on Broadway
at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre
2162 Broadway at 76th Street
New York City
Monday, February 22nd 8:00PM
With Opening Act Comedienne Emily Lynne
Featuring new plays by:
directed by Roxy MtJoy Cecilia Copeland
directed by Shira-Lee Shalit Libby Emmons
directed by Illana Stein Gina Femia
directed by Michele Travis Reina Hardy
directed by Lizzy Bryce Amina Henry
directed by Sash Bischoff Judith Leora
directed by Joan Kane Angela Santillo
directed by Julie Kramer
Photos: top row, L to R: Maybe Burke, Cecilia Copeland, Libby Emmons, Angela Santillo
bottom row, L to R: Gina Femia, Reina Hardey, Amina Henry, Judith Leora
Toccarra Cash,*Caitlin Cooke, Lucy DeVito*, Stephen Dexter*, Amy Gaipa*, Charles Everett, Shaun Bennet Fauntleroy*, Clinton Lowe*, Andy Lucien*, Michael Markham*, Galway McCullogh*, Celestine Rae*, Stacey Raymond*, Joel Stigliano,
What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you either in rehearsal, at an audition, or onstage?
I don’t know about embarrassing. I only get embarrassed when I make a complete ass of myself and have hurt someone in the process. That happens so much more in my personal life than on stage. But I did a play called “Giants” by the fabulous Laura Von Holt my first year out of drama school. I was playing Giant and in a moment of anger I was supposed to punch my pregnant sister (Button played by Autumn Hurlbert) in the stomach. Autumn had a basketball under her shirt to maker her look pregnant. Once in rehearsal I was really “into it” and took my eyes off of the basketball in all my acting rage and missed. My hand slipped upthe top of the ball and caught her right in the solar plexus. Now I’m a big guy and Autumn is easily described as petite. She was on the floor for several mins. And I felt quite the ass.
Photo by Joel Webber
a coveted training program and having worked with you for many years now I can understand why their actors continue to work in the industry. Although talent is a big part of it, it’s more than that… Can you tell us a little bit about the work ethic and discipline instilled at Juilliard?
Oh, goodness. This will be hard to describe. I’ve never liked the tear down an actor and build them back up from scratch idea. Richard Feldman, one of the acting faculty at Juilliard, uses the metaphor of a crucible for the training there. And it was that. It was a refining fire. It was intense and hard. Your classmates become a mirror for your work, your attitude, you person. And that’s a lot to face. I was thankful that I went to college before going to drama school because I could not have handled it when I was 18. And I couldn’t’ have handled the work. You have to work. Like anything and anywhere in life, yes, you can coast at moments but in general I felt I was consistently called out when I was coasting. In addition to the crucible, Michael Khan had a metaphor of a Tool Bag that he shared with the first years every year. All the things we learn are tools. Some times they work for one thing but not another. Some may never work for you. But learn how to use them and then keep then in your bag. You might get 5 or 10 years down the road and realize that you need it because the stuff you usually do is no longer working in some show. So between the trial by fire and the full arsenal of tools, you’ve got actors that are very adaptable and have the confidence to sit down at virtually any table and do their work.
This question often gets asked of women, but I think it’s important to know that men are fathers too and they also have to balance work and home life. How has becoming a father changed your work as an artist?
Photo by Jeff Sokolowski
I saw a video of Francis Ford Coppola talking about starting out. He said he had kids much early than most of his colleagues, so while he was struggling to make it as an artist he was also struggling to feed a family. He said that made him work harder. He said that was a key ingredient in his eventual success. I think about that often since my daughter, Claire, was born. Am I working harder? Have I changed? How? I’m not exactly sure how to define it. I don’t think I ever work hard enough. So that hasn’t changed. But I have felt a change in my desires. I want to “succeed” (whatever that means) less for my own . . . glory, and more for her benefit. It’s taken me at least a step away from myself and my selfish desires. That feels like a good thing. And on a simple level, there are some emotions I just have access to now in ways that I didn’t before. My love for has opened and made bigger parts of me that were . . . lesser . . . before.
Photo credit by Kent Meister
What projects or collaborations have come out of NYMadness for you personally?
I made a short film out of a Madness piece that Judith Leora wrote for 007 Madness. It’s currently getting rejected by every festival imaginable. And we’re screening it at the MadLab in early July. And though it didn’t come directly out of a Madness, I’m working with Mac Rogers on another film project for the fall.
Photo credit by Dan Teixeira
Who are some of your favorite playwrights/plays and why?
I’m boring at times. I’m a fan of lots of the great white men, cause . . . well . . . they wrote for me. Williams, Miller, Sam Shepard. I’m a big fan of Shakespeare. I wish I could do lots of August Wilson, but I can’t. I like stories that are about broken people desperately clawing for some way to fix themselves. I think when an artist (in this case a playwright) is striving to present or engage with a human being in a story then they are forced to reject answers and agenda. Obviously we can’t divorce from our perspective, (culturally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc) and that’s what makes diversity interesting and wonderful. But I like plays that are striving to see or understand something above our world, not just complaining from within it. Some less old white and dead people I see doing that are Mac Rogers, David Ian Lee, Ari Laura Kreith (a director/creator, not exactly a playwright), Brian Tucker, and Daniel Talbott. But I don’t read or see enough theater to give a good list. That’s one of the things I love about Madness, I am exposed to new playwrights and new plays all the time. For instance, Jan Rosenberg. I got to work with her at Werewolf Madness this year. She’s awesome and I felt she had a unique take on the theme that night. And before that night she had never crossed my radar.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing actors living in NYC?
Eating. Having a place to sleep. The economics of our business are appalling. If you are not a talent or face that is snatched up early by the industry, it seems to me the people that endup “making it” are the ones who have been Graced with a financial situation that has carried them through the “dark” times when they aren’t getting work. Now that can look a lot of different ways. As simple as a trust fund or as intricate as a web of couches on which you can crash. A lot of people work hard. I feel like Grace is the differentiator. That’s part of the reason I love Madness. I can be a part of that Grace for someone else. That chance to do work when, nothing else is coming. The connection with a collaborator who exponentially adds to your work.
Photo credit by Dan Teixeira
After a show or a madness (cuz they are intense) how do you come back to earth?
Whiskey. It really depends on the kind of intense. In the aforementioned “Giants” I was playing a character who was very intense in every way. One afternoon during run my wife, Karen, and I were going out to Shea to watch the Mets. I was so weird on the train, she turned to me and said, will you do some Alexander and clear that out, cause you are a mess right now. I had been carrying Giant around with me in an un-healthy way. So I flopped over in my seat on the train, put my hands on top of my feet, cause i’m not touching that floor, and started breathing and going through an Alexander self lesson right there.
What’s a favorite or dream role you would love to play someday?
I remember the moment when it sunk in that I would never get to play Romeo. That train had sailed so to speak.
I’d kill for Sweeney Todd.
I want to do an Iago and Othello where we swap the roles every other night.
Chance Wayne, but I think I missed that one too.
Lee, and Austin.
Lt. Ehrenberg in David Ian Lee’s The Curing Room.
I’ve always wanted to sing “Bill” from Showboat while sitting on a baby grand piano in a red velvet dress. (Don’t try to read to much into that, it doesn’t really go any deeper than it’s an awesome song and that’s really the only appropriate way to sing it.)
Vanya or the Doctor.
Should I go on?
Jamie in both Long Day’s and Moon.
Platonov was a dream role that I was lucky enough to play.
Neil LaBute, Featured Guest for Season 6 opening show, Racial Madness took some time out of his busy day to talk with us about the life of a writer.
As a fellow writer I can admit that people have confused me with my characters and made assumptions about me that were incorrect, which has been frustrating. What’s been your experience with that and what advice do you have for emerging writers who are dealing with that?
IT’S A FUNNY THING THAT YOU MENTION IN YOUR QUESTION–THE ASSOCIATION OF ARTIST WITH THEIR WORK–AND THAT’S A THING THAT JUST MAY BE INESCAPABLE FOR AN ARTIST NO MATTER WHAT THEY DO TO COMBAT IT. THE BEST REMEDY FOR IT IS TO NOT WORRY ABOUT IT AND TO MOVE FORWARD (ALTHOUGH THAT’S MY ADVICE WITH MOST THINGS, FROM BAD REVIEWS TO BAD RELATIONSHIPS TO BAD MEALS). EVER FORWARD. I THINK THOSE OF US IN PARTICULAR WHO WRITE ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS ARE MOST OPEN TO THIS ASSUMPTION/CRITICISM AND THAT’S JUST THE WAY IT GOES; HARD FOR ME TO IMAGINE THAT PEOPLE WHO DABBLE IN OUTLANDISH COMIC SITUATIONS OR HIGHLY STYLIZED WORKS OR ART WOULD FACE THE SAME SCRUTINY ABOUT BEING THE CHARACTERS THAT WE WRITE OR CREATE OR PORTRAY BUT MAYBE THAT ALSO HAPPENS. IN THE END, I JUST DON’T REALLY CARE ABOUT ALL THAT AND FEEL THAT THOSE KINDS OF THINGS ARE BEST LEFT TO THE PEOPLE WITH THAT KIND OF TIME ON THEIR HANDS TO KILL. I’D RATHER WRITE A NEW PLAY THAN SPECULATE ON WHICH CHARACTER IN TOP GIRLS CARYL CHURCHILL IS MOST LIKE. TO ME, ONE ACT IS CREATIVE WHILE THE OTHER IS A WASTE OF TIME.
You’re a writer known for taking on challenging material as well as having a facility with comedy. When you work on something what is your process deciding subject and style? I realize that can vary depending on many factors, but if so what are those factors?
I DO AS LITTLE AS I CAN TO DICTATE WHAT I WRITE AND HOW I WRITE IT. MANY OF THE MEDIUMS I WORK IN–PARTICULARLY TELEVISION AND FILM–ARE VERY DICTATORIAL IN THEIR PRESENTATION, FORCING AN AUDIENCE MEMBER TO LOOK AT THIS OR THAT (BY VIRTUE OF SHOT SELECTION AND EDITING AND VARIOUS OTHER TECHNIQUES) SO IN THE THEATRE I TRY TO BE AS REMOVED FROM THE PROCESS AS POSSIBLE. OF COURSE I’M THERE WRITING IT ALL BUT I RARELY CONSCIOUSLY SET OUT TO WRITE A ‘COMEDY’ OR A ‘DRAMA’ OR SOMETHING ABOUT SUCH-AND-SUCH THEME. I FIND PEOPLE I WANT TO SPEND TIME WITH, DOING THINGS I FIND INTERESTING, AND THEN OFF WE GO. I DO A BIT OF WORK UP FRONT AND SOMETIMES EVEN KNOW WHERE I’LL END UP BUT AS FOR HOW MANY LAUGHS THERE WILL BE ALONG THE WAY OR WHETHER OR NOT IT TAKES A DRAMATIC TURN LATE IN THE GAME IS ANYBODY’S GUESS INCLUDING MY OWN. I WANT TO SURPRISE MYSELF AS I WRITE AND I WANT TO SURPRISE AUDIENCES WHILE THEY WATCH–NOT IN A CHEAP WAY (ALTHOUGH I HAVE DONE THAT BEFORE, TOO), BUT IN THE WAY THAT LIFE SURPRISES US EVERY DAY OF OUR LIVES.
For many playwrights today we are well acquainted with the reality that being a playwright is not a viable career choice if you’re looking for financial stability. The frontiers of TV and Film call to many playwrights. Do you have any insights into collaborating in those worlds for other playwrights who are considering them?
IF YOU LOVE WRITING, THEN WRITE. FIND A WAY TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THOSE MEDIUMS AND TRY TO DO IT ON YOUR OWN TERMS (OR AS MUCH ON YOUR OWN TERMS AS YOU CAN). IF YOU’RE NOT WRITING MUSICALS, THERE’S A CHANCE THAT IT WILL ALWAYS BE HARD FOR YOU TO MAKE A LIVING AS A WRITER IN THE THEATER. I HAVE LIVED WITH THIS TRUTH FOR MOST OF MY CAREER AND TRIED TO EMBRACE IT RATHER THAN FIGHT IT. I’VE MADE MOVIES AND I’VE ADAPTED BOOKS AND I’VE RE-MADE MOVIES AND I’VE DIRECTED OTHER PEOPLES’ SCRIPTS AND CREATED MY OWN TV SERIES AND ALL THE WHILE CONTINUED TO WRITE AND DIRECT PLAYS. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE JUST ONE THING BUT IT’S ALL HARD WORK AND YOU SHOULD TRY TO DO YOUR BEST. THAT’S ABOUT ALL ONE CAN DO. THEIR VERY BEST. I LOVE WHAT I DO AND I TRY TO DO GOOD WORK AND I KNOW THAT I HAVE TO TEACH OR WORK IN OTHER MEDIUMS TO BE A FULL-TIME WRITER. IT’S A FACT FOR MOST OF US WHO DON’T WIN THE LOTTERY OR HAVE TRUST FUNDS OR DON’T MIND LIVING IN SQUALOR OR WITH SOMEONE ELSE. THERE ARE MANY LITTLE TRICKS TO LEARN IN EACH MEDIUM BUT ALL OF THEM ARE FORGIVING OF TALENT AND A GOOD SCRIPT USUALLY RISES TO THE TOP OF SOME PILE IN THE END. ‘KEEP AT IT,’ THAT’S MY ADVICE.
Very often your plays deal with intimate human relationships rather than being what some might call issue plays, but I would argue in the words of Shulamith Firestone that, “the personal is political.” Do you see yourself as being a ‘political writer’ and how do you feel about that title?
I’M INTERESTED IN HUMAN POLITICS–THE POLITICS OF ‘HE AND SHE AND WE AND THEY.’ VERY FEW OF MY PLAYS ARE PUT INTO A CONTEXT OF WORLD EVENTS OR A TIME PERIOD THAT DATES AND CONNECTS THEM TO SPECIFIC EVENTS (THE MERCY SEAT BEING ONE OF THE FEW EXCEPTIONS ON MY RESUME). I OFTEN TALK OF NOT WRITING WITH ‘THEME’ IN MIND AND YET I HAVE WRITTEN ABOUT RACE AND SEXUALITY AND GENOCIDE AND CENSORSHIP AND ALL KINDS OF THINGS THAT DON’T HAVE TO DO WITH JUST MEN AND WOMEN TRYING TO GET ALONG WITH EACH OTHER. STILL, EVEN IN THE FACE OF SOME GLOBAL CRISIS I USUALLY FIND MYSELF (AS BOTH A PERSON AND A WRITER) TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT MAKES A CERTAIN PERSON IN THAT CRISIS TICK RATHER THAN THE LARGER EVENTS THAT CAUSED THE CRISIS IN THE FIRST PLACE. THAT’S JUST MY NATURE–I’M DRAWN TO THE HUMAN SIDE OF THINGS. AS FOR TITLES, I REJECT MOST OF THEM WHETHER THEY’RE GOOD OR BAD. I JUST WANT TO WRITE A LOT AND DO MY THING. I DON’T NEED A NAME BADGE OR A TITLE OR A LITTLE CERTIFICATE THAT SAID I WAS A ‘PARTICIPANT’ WHEN THIS IS ALL OVER.
What projects do you have coming up that you are excited to tell us about?
I HAVE A NEW PLAY THAT IS BEING READ AT MCC AT THE END OF SEPTEMBER CALLED HOW TO FIGHT LONELINESS AND I’M IN THE MIDDLE OF WRITING ANOTHER TELEVISION SERIES. I HAVE A COUPLE MOVIE SCRIPTS THAT ARE FLOATING AROUND BUT I DON’T CHASE AFTER THEM LIKE I USED TO–MOVIEMAKING IS A YOUNG MAN’S GAME AND I LOVE THE STAGE MOST OF ALL SO IF I CAN DO A LITTLE OF ALL THESE THINGS THEN I’LL COUNT MYSELF A LUCKY MAN INDEED. I ALSO HAVE A NEW COLLECTION OF SHORT PLAYS AND MONOLOGUES COMING OUT BEFORE CHRISTMAS CALLED EXHIBIT ‘A’ WHICH IS VERY FUN BUT HARDLY A STOCKING STUFFER. IN FACT, IT’S PROBABLY BETTER FOR THOSE KIDS WHO USUALLY GET COAL IN THEIR STOCKINGS…
The NY Madness Acting Company has a new Head of Acting!
We are thrilled to announce our new Head of Acting Michael Markham! He’s a Juilliard trained native of Vermont who now lives in Central Harlem with his wife, three awesome cats, and their lovely daughter. Michael has been a part of NYMadness since our first season five years ago. We welcome him to his new role on the NYM Team! Michael is coordinating MadLab casting like A BOSS!
Cara Jane Francis
And Directors:Jeff Aldrich* Roberto Cambiero*
G. Warren Stiles*
Michele Travis*And Actors:
Dennis Allen II
Shaun Bennet Fauntleroy+
Sevrin Anne Mason*+
Anna Van Valin*+
*denotes NYM company member +denotes Actors’ Equity member
Angelina Fiordellisi (Founder and Producing Artistic Director, Cherry Lane Theatre) has long been a great collaborator and ally to playwrights both emerging and established. Cherry Lane Theatre is an important home for new work, and Angelina has generously opened its doors to NY Madness in the past. We are honored to be back again this season, and cannot thank her enough for her generosity to us, and the many writers whose work she has championed.
Save the Date!
Last Madness of Season 5
Sunday, April 19th 8:00pm
358 West 44th Street
New York, NYwith Featured GuestTony Glazer
and NYMadness April Writers: