Almost A Fantasy
nytheatre.com q&a preview by John Grabowski
July 17, 2012
What is your job on this show?
I am the director..
When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?
I knew that I wanted to work in the theatre from a very young age. I had a creative and supportive family, and story-making was one of the ways I played. I am from central Illinois, and I grew up surrounded by stories about Abraham Lincoln, some mythical, some true, and many of those stories became playlets that I acted out with my Aunt Marie. I also wrote a play in second grade about George Washington and cast my girlfriend of the moment and myself in the leading roles. I guess Presidental politics was a theme in my early work. I was taken to see a summer stock production of "My Fair Lady" when I was young, and that also made a deep impression. Someone, my Aunt Marie again I think, covered my ears at the moment when Henry Higgins let loose with a string of "damns." Later I had a marionette theatre in my basement, and my friends and I would create elaborate shows for the neighborhood children. I have made theatre of one kind or another ever since I can remember.
Have you been part of FringeNYC in the past? If so, how did you particpate? (Be specific! Name shows, etc.)
My memory might be a little foggy, but I believe Chelsea Rep LAB was a part of what I remember as a precursor of the Fringe in the early 1990s. We staged a show at Theater Club Funambules on Ludlow Street. It was an original play called "The Television Anesthesia" by a playwright with whom I have fallen out of touch named Tim Ness. It was a strange and wild show. I hope Tim is out there somewhere still writing plays.
Do you think the audience will talk about your show for 5 minutes, an hour, or way into the wee hours of the night?
I certainly hope they will talk about the playand be affected by it. Since our play is about an immigrant piano teacher and her young student, music plays a large part in it. I hope they will be affected by the interactions of the characters and by the way music underlies those interactions. I also hope that the play will make the audience remember a teacher - not necessarily in a heartwarming way, but remember a teacher who took them to a hard place that is maybe a little painful to recall, a place that maybe as adults they have blocked from their consciousness.
People who like which of the following recent Broadway shows would also probably like your show: THE BOOK OF MORMON, ONCE, DEATH OF A SALESMAN, CLYBOURNE PARK?
How important is diversity to you in the theater you see/make?
Diversity is extremely important to me as a director and to Chelsea Rep LAB as a group. We were open to actors of any race when we were casting "Almost a Fantasy," and it was my job to make sure we found the best possible actors for the play. We recently did a production of Kaufman and Ferber's 1937 play "Stage Door" with The Acting Studio, Inc. It required a very large cast, and we used as many members of the LAB as we could in the production. The cast looked like David Dinkins's "gorgeous mosaic." It might not have conformed to the expectations of a 1937 audience, but I think a modern audience for the most part expects to see on stage what surrounds them in their communities. I want to see "Hedda Gabler" with a great actress, not just with the best Caucasian Norwegian that they could find for the role.