nytheatre.com q&a preview by Philip Mutz
July 12, 2012
What is your job on this show?
Co-Author and Actor.
What was the last show you saw that really excited you, and why?
I get really REALLY excited by brave theater. That's why the performances in Venus in Fur completely floored me. The play is good - sure. But the performances - man - how freaking brave! Nina Arianda and Hugh Dancy were unbelievable to watch. These two performers didn't try to be 'flawless' - and that's what made them so great. They were messy and daring and bold and sensual and full and imaginative. When Nina Arianda burst through the door at the top of the show, I immediately sat on the edge of my seat (and I don't think I sat back until it was over). Exciting theater is balls-to-the-wall theater - that's the kind of theater I strive to make, and that's the kind of theater I love to watch. Nina Arianda and Hugh Dancy did this masterfully. There is just no fear in them - they approach each moment like "if this fails, at least it fails enormously" and, as a result, they never fail. This is the approach I've taken with my co-author in writing Gay Camp - I'm not going to be afraid to tackle an issue head-on. And I'm not going to be afraid to say, 'Hey people! It's 2012! If you don't believe in complete equality for ALL people, then you are out of your freaking mind!' In my writing and in my performances, I strive to let bravery dictate my choices, rather than fear. And I love watching artists who do the same.
Why did you want to be part of FringeNYC?
I wanted to be a part of FringeNYC because Fringe audiences are different than your typical theater goers. Fringe audiences go to see shows to be challenged, to be excited, to be inspired. Sure, plenty of mainstream audiences have these desires as well, but Fringe audiences are special. They say, 'Hey, I'm going to take a risk and see a show without a big budget, without a big star, in a small downtown space, because I know it might be the best thing I see all year'. It's risky to see something that is 'untested' and I love that Fringe audiences are excited enough by theater in order to take that risk. I believe that Gay Camp is written for any audience - I think it speaks to people on a very human level, using comedy as its primary tool to deliver its message. But your average theater goer likes things to be tested first. They want to know someone who went to see Sleep No More or Silence! The Musical before they spend the money. I'm so excited that Fringe audiences get to be the ones to test the theatrical waters. They get to tell everyone - 'I saw Gay Camp and MAN you better get down to that theater right away!'
What was the most memorable/funny/unusual thing that has happened during the development and rehearsal process for this show?
Oh my gosh. We did a production of Gay Camp in 2011 at the Peoples' Improv Theatre in NYC. During rehearsals, the actor playing June (our camp's sexually-repressed guidance counselor) was doing a scene with the actor playing her best friend Martha (our flannel-wearing head of security). The scene just wasn't working. It was very exposition-y and not very funny. So as a group we all started brainstorming. Now brainstorming is my favorite process because you come up with some of the most insane and ridiculous ideas, many of which you end up using. So, naturally, the idea was tossed out that perhaps June is using a vibrator when Martha is about to walk in and, unable to turn it off, has to spend the scene trying to hide it from Martha. I don't know if I've spent an afternoon laughing harder than this one - experimenting with the actor playing June with how to keep Martha from seeing and hearing the vibrator, while trying to keep the action of the scene going. The result - as you will see - is absolutely hilarious.
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?
Our show is very much in the Book of Mormon category. Our audiences will laugh and groan and laugh again. Like Book of Mormon, Gay Camp uses comedy to get its message across. Its like this little magic trick. If you keep them laughing, they might not realize that they are actually learning something about an important social issue. I've always been a big proponent of using laughter as a tool. Laughter brings people together. When you laugh with the rest of an audience, you are sharing in something communal. You are experiencing something enormously powerful with other people. That's a really exciting thing - one that Gay Camp promises to deliver.
Can theatre bring about societal change? Why or why not?
I wouldn't do theater if I didn't think it could. Theater has provoked protests. Theater has provoked riots. Do I think Gay Camp will provoke riots? I certainly hope so! Do I think protesters will stand out front of our theater and shout at us? Nothing would make me happier! Societal change occurs when people start to notice that something is wrong - something is unfair or something is amiss or something is unjust. Protesters started Occupy Wall Street when a handful of individuals stopped and said 'Wait a minute. Something is really wrong here. What can we do about it?' Theater points these injustices out. Theater (ideally in a very clever and subtle way...ahem...go see Gay Camp) makes you look at what is wrong with the world - and that's the first step - awareness. Theater is eye-opening and enlightening in such an important way. I wish theater didn't have to bring about societal change. I wish people were just inherently good and that life was always fair and that everyone was treated equally. But life ain't like that. And so theater has a responsibility - a very EXCITING responsibility. And I feel very grateful for the chance to be a part of that.