Q: Can you tell us a little bit about Theatre4thePeople’s mission statement?
A: Well our Mission statement is pretty straight forward: Firstly, we create economically accessible theatrical performances that are available to everyone. Secondly,honest, original theatre that strives to investigate and wrestle with human conflicts in an authentic manner. Finally, we are a group of courageous artists, willing to take to necessary risks to tell stories fully and experiment with the unique storytelling power of the theatre.
We really believe that theatre is a vital and necessary part of life and how we communicate and interact with each other. Since it’s a necessary part of life, we think it should be accessible to everyone. Always. I don’t have anything against people making money off of theater, we strive to pay all of our artists, but I don’t think a $100-$400 ticket to Broadway shows is something most people can actually afford. I don’t think a $50 or $20 ticket is something a lot of people can afford. So we strive to create edgy, exciting theatre that really wrestles with important human issues. We just ask that people pay what they can to watch it.
Q: What was it that lead you to create Theatre4thePeople?
A: Well I had recently stepped down from the first company I helped found in NYC, Working Man’s Clothes. WMC was doing very well, winning awards, and making a lot of great gritty, edgy theater with a blue collar feel, but I was starting to feel like I wanted to do something more with more of an idealist bent. WMC was really locked into a certain type of show and aesthetic and I wanted something that felt more free. There was a lot of concern with raising money and making money and with press and moving to the next level and I was feeling burnt out from all the pressures of that. So Dan Kitrosser and I got together and we did a huge 40 person family friendly mash up of modern adaptations of Grimm Fairy tales. It was nuts. It was a co-production with Bryant Park, it was outdoors, and it was free. It was absolutely insane. We had adaptations from all these different playwrights we had mashed into one play and 40 actors running around the park, live music, and it was a lot of messy fun. A lot of people would come and watch with their kids and their families. People would walk by and stop to watch and call their friends on the phone and tell them to come watch with them. You got the feeling that a lot of those people didn’t see a lot of theater and they were really having a grand time.
Q: What inspires you as an artist?
A: Vulnerability and courage. I think that theater or just even art in general can often just be tools of distraction or of propaganda. If you’re doing something really courageous and vulnerable then you can create this space where people can affect each other; connect. To help you remember that we are all in this together. Connection and empathy require someone to take a risk and let someone else in. If you create art that is risky and brave then it can do that, people need that. We need someone else to give us permission to drop the mask we so often wear all day to survive and to let go of the fake indifference we all use to protect ourselves and to really listen and communicate with each other. Today we have so many of our basic needs so easily fulfilled. We have lots of things in our lives designed to distract us and to dull the pains of life. What we don’t always have is community; discussions that actually challenge and provoke us, moments that challenge and inspire us. Art and theater specifically can actually do those things.
Q: What is is that initially drew you to work on KISS IT MAKE IT BETTER?
A: Erika Phoebus. She’s a wonderful actor and a wonderful writer and just an amazing all around artist. When she told me she had started writing this play about how we move on from and recover from trauma I immediately wanted to help bring it to life. As a teacher, I frequently see young men and women who get wounded by life or some awful traumatic event and then it’s like no one ever helps them recover and heal. We all feel bad and sympathetic when bad things happen at the time, but 3 months or 6 months later or even years later we get impatient and cold with them: “Just get over it already!!” Everyone comes together when something bad happens, but it’s always just to be the hero in the moment and then they just want to hush it up and make it go away. “Oh when are you gonna get over that?? Are you STILL messed up over that?” I mean do we really all think that the terrible things that happen to people just disappear? It’s really just a lack of education and fear that makes people act that way but it makes me really furious. All this uproar over trigger warnings and people actually speaking out about how hard it is for people to deal with trauma. People like to act like it’s this new generational thing, but that’s ridiculously false. You go back and read histories of real people and families and you have countless accounts of people being forever altered by traumatic events, losing their minds over the death of a loved one, being triggered by things for the rest of their life. Human beings are at the top of the food chain BECAUSE we are so incredibly sensitive. It’s what makes us so wonderfully adaptable but also so very vulnerable. It’s a false sense of perfectionism that makes people not want to admit how much life affects us. Erika’s play is about how we learn to heal and to love again after our innocence gets fractured. Despite the dark subject matter of a play about trauma and sexual assault it’s very hopeful and full of joy.
Q: As a director/actor/teacher you wear many different hats within the Entertainment industry. Has this been an easy thing for you to do or have you been met with challenges.
A: It’s the best possible thing for me. I think you should do what you do best as an artist and pursue that specifically, but I don’t believe in hard lines, categories, or boxes for artists. I make art and I try to help people communicate and understand each other better. Sometimes I do that as an actor, sometimes as a director, and sometimes as a teacher. All those methods inform each other and help me grow as an artist.
Q:Why should people come and see KISS IT MAKE IT BETTER?
Because it’s funny, beautiful, surprising, dangerous, and thrilling. And because you will leave talking about the themes and ideas in it. Working on this play has revealed so much of my own history and life to myself. It’s been wonderful and sometimes painful but necessary. We don’t talk about things like trauma, triggering, assault, healing, and recovery very well in our society. This play does. So many times in rehearsals we’ve had to take a break because we were laughing so hard we couldn’t continue or because everyone was crying so hard that we just had to take a breather. It’s a wild ride and one that I hope is authentic and truthful. Also, 10% of of our box office will be donated to RAINN which is a wonderful organization that does so much to help victims of sexual assault. It’s Pay What You Can. Always. Every time. So if you have the time, there’s really no reason not to come watch, play and talk with us afterward. We’d love to see you.
For more information on Theatre4ThePeople visit: http://theatre4thepeople.com/
For Tickets to KISS IT MAKE IT BETTER visit: https://m.ovationtix.com/pr/958987