RadioTheatre's 5th H.P. Lovecraft Festival
nytheatre.com q&a preview by Dan Bianchi
April 30, 2013
What is your job on this show?
writer/director/composer/set and sound designer/graphics.
What is your show about?
Horse Trade and Radiotheatre are proud to present THE 5th H.P.LOVECRAFT FESTIVAL which includes REANIMATOR and THE SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH, two cult terror tales by the Grand Master of 20th Century Horror enacted by members of the legendary LIGHTS OUT CLUB and accompanied by award-winning sound design and original orchestral scores.
What type of theater do you like most to work on?
I like to strive to create pure theatre...that is, something in which one can't find its equal in any other medium. Most plays I see these days are just as viable as films or TV sitcoms...and that's because a great many playwrights are hoping to move on to Hollywood rather than remain in the stagnant and staid professional commercial Theatre World. So, basically, they've stopped creating pure theatre pieces. Small budget productions try to compete with the big shows or against films or even with bigger budgeted shows they had been in back in college. Most often, they fail to entertain or enlighten the public because their tiny budgets and lack of ingenuity fail them. I prefer to create shows that, in presentational format, Broadway or even a $200 mil movie can't reproduce...and yet my entire budget is not even a day's lunch allotment for them. The objective is to give the public what they can't get at those other productions ...participation. And, so, after 45 yrs of theater going and producing, I've grown to dislike 4th wall theatre...I prefer for audiences to join in on the creativity by enticing their imaginations back to work, rather than allowing them to sit back and let the film or play do all the work for them. This way, their imaginations can create the visuals far better than anything I can give them...from King Kong to The Common Macbeth to our X-Rated Naughty Victorians! I don't know what they're "seeing" but, 9 yrs and 60 shows later, it must be something entertaining and challenging enough for them to return over and over again to Radiotheatre. As for the content...I grew up with movies, not theatre, and my favorite genres are horror, sci fi, crime and mystery...all genres generally neglected or treated poorly by the Theatre World. If anything, they are usually mocked and turned into musical farces. Again, that's because the theatre creators only want to reproduce what they've seen in movies... and they can't. So, it's easier for them to turn the horror story, or noir tale, or even an old time radio show into a joke and make fun of it. I prefer to take the live theatre medium and use it for its unique advantage over big movies, TV and Broadway shows in order to present horrifying tales and hair-raising adventures in what may be the simplest and cheapest format...story telling around the campfire.
Why do you do theater (as opposed to film, or TV, or something not in the entertainment field)?
As stated above, I love the genres of Horror, Sci Fi, Adventure, Crime and Mystery...both serious works and pulp fiction. All of these genres are exploited to the max in literature, TV and film, even radio. BUT, as stated, the Theatre World has, for the most part, ignored them. If I want to work in these genres, should I go into film, TV, etc,, along with a million other creators in these fields? OR, can I stand alone and try to do something even more challenging...to break new ground in the Theatre World by offering the greatest of these works in serious live stage adaptations, as well as, my own original works specially created for Radiotheatre? I'm probably the only writer/director who has worked on KING KONG, DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN, WAR OF THE WORLDS, THE INVISIBLE MAN, THE TIME MACHINE, THE ISLAND OF DR.MOREAU and now, adapting for the stage over two dozen stories by the Master Of 20th Century Horror, H.P.LOVECRAFT. Currently, we're producing for the 3rd time the cult story REANIMATOR which, out of 60 Radiotheatre shows, has proven to be our biggest hit, yet. We've just finished presenting 8 classic Alfred HITCHCOCK films adapted for stage. Coming up, CASABLANCA, SUNSET BOULEVARD, THE MALTESE FALCON, THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, MILDRED PIERCE... Where else might one direct all of the above in one's lifetime? Not only that...I'm able to experiment using unique sound software that turns a low budget show into a magnificent audio experience. I'm able to experiment in low budget theatre unlike my peers in film and big budget stage shows. And, I'm able to fail.
What is one specific thing that you hope audiences will realize you’ve contributed to the production?
Aside from my written adaptations for the stage of H.P.LOVECRAFT stories...this time out we are producing REANIMATOR and THE SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH...I'd like for audiences, as well as, theatre critics, to realize that the audio accompaniment they are hearing which truly enhances the storytelling a thousand fold and sounds like a major motion picture...is original orchestral music specifically designed and edited for a particular work. It is not music I removed from someone else's movie soundtrack album as other productions are forced to do. Obviously, we cannot afford an orchestra to play live, nor on a studio recording. Actually, we can't even afford a pianist! I utilize a special award-winning software that was created for motion pictures and TV. Even its genius creators had no idea that one might use it to create fully orchestrated sound tracks for LIVE plays...not musicals, but straight dramas. Now, while I'd like for audiences and critics to realize that we are dealing with something that might revolutionize the world of low budget theatre...it is also nice to know that my music tracks and sound effects do not overwhelm the work. Most people accept the audio enhancement as a natural element which is necessary to the work...without even thinking about where it came from or how it came to be! I suppose that's a good thing, too.
Which “S” word best describes your show: SMOOTH, SEXY, SMART, SURPRISING?
SPOOKY and SCARY (these words are missing from the list, which just goes to show how much they are missing from Theatre, itself)
Can theater bring about societal change? Why or why not?
HAHAHA! Don't be ridiculous. Having spent a good portion of my 40 yrs in Theatre creating the kind of stage works that hoped to motivate social change by posing challenging questions, while purposefully disturbing theatregoers with not just a dialectical approach to what may seem inarguable theses...but, presenting these works in a non-traditional manner, as well...I can now say that Theatre in America is usually 5-10 years behind the times compared to other arts media when it comes to social and political issues. Yes, when I was young as so many other hot-blooded young politically motivated theatre makers today, I read about past European arts movements and all sorts of plays and authors who once changed their society, etc. And, of course, we want to emulate them by producing those works here, or, creating our own new works in the same vein as those earlier works. That kind of thinking had only minor success on the commercial stage during the 30s here in NYC. BUT, that was before TV took over our lives. Now, today's society is not interested in plays that will indoctrinate us with specific agendas by political activists...we can see any manner of those works any night of the week for free (almost) on TV from an HBO doc to a Lifetime movie of the week. From the war on AIDS to child rape or an expose on the female slave trade in Mexico...from maniac killers to celebrity wackos on drugs. Anything controversial, sensational, mind numbing or totally shocking in the comfort of our home. Why pay $60-120 a seat for 2 hrs of the same thing on Broadway...and probably more censored than anything on cable TV? Why pay such outrageous prices? Because of the serious issue a particular drama might present? No, it's because a Hollywood star or two are moonlighting on the stage for a couple of months and who cares what the play is about? Who cares how it's presented? I just want to see Katie Holmes or Julia Roberts or Kelsey Grammer. I was once known as the only American playwright/director who truly mastered the Epic theatre techniques of Bertolt Brecht and my company traveled far and wide with such monumental productions. Merely by presenting such works, some reviews and articles called me Leftist, or Socialist, or Liberal. I've also been labeled a blasphemer and a Satanist! One of my plays NIGHT AND FOG was shut down because the White Democratic Party (Nazis) threatened to blow up the theater on opening night. At the same time, the right wing Jewish Defense League offered to do the same thing...to the same play! My producers were scared and bent to their demands to change certain portions of my script. I sued, etc. I don't think that might happen these days...then again, who is writing a play that might stir up violent reactions from both ends of the political spectrum? Of course, Brecht lived in a different time and place. Back when the workers of the world had no recourse but to unite to create stage works which benefitted their agenda to change their society. Further back, a play by Ibsen might stir up social and political debate and eventually move his country to great change in personal viewpoints, as well as, changes in the law. But, who can honestly put on a play regarding poverty in America these days during an economical downturn...and, meanwhile, charge these exorbitant ticket prices at the same time? It's no secret that, out of all the media, American Theatre since the 1940s, but mostly since the 1980s, has been for the upscale white collar white person. Now, there are quite a number of plays by and about African Americans on Broadway stages...which is seen as a great step forward, no? Only, the rest of the media in America have crossed that bridge decades ago. Here in NYC, we'd like to think that our beloved Theatre World is a most important vehicle to enact change...but, in reality, it's not. It'a about as motivational as a Saturday afternoon televised game of golf. Must one be rich to even go to theatre here in NYC? Well, you don't have to be Donald Trump, but, it's certainly not for the blue collar class...and if they do attend ...you can bet they are only going to one show a year, or, in their entire life...and it won't be a play that requires much thought. Sure, there are all kinds of theatre, big and small, but, generally, the world sees American theatre as Broadway. Even David Mamet can no longer survive more than a week on the Broadway stage...in his latest outing, no matter what celeb was in his cast, no one cared to plunk down big bucks to be taught a lesson. Even the smallest of theatre companies do not fit the "societal change" plays' niche, these days, because, they are often made up of graduates from expensive colleges...not workers from the fields. Do workers from the fields want to be taught by such dramatists what life is all about? No, they want to be entertained. And so, we have Disney as our chief contributer to American theatre on the local scene and that is what we have to offer the world. A good thing? Just sing and dance and make me laugh and don't tell me how to live...if I want that, I'll watch Oprah and Drs.Phil and Oz and Judge Judy and any number of crime shows and TV docs any night of the week...etc. (I remember when I was a young theater maker and all those old cynical bastards who damned and negated all those youthful dreams of making the live stage a platform for social change. Even members of the Berliner Ensemble who attended my shows would often shake their heads and chuckle at the mere thought that theatre in today's world might make a difference. Now, I find myself in agreement with those old bastards...I am now an old bastard. I have learned that there is no shame in merely attempting to entertain people. Even Brecht agreed in the end. That is my lot in life. I am not a prophet, i am an entertainer. Send in the clowns...