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Broke Wide Open

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Rock WILK
September 15, 2012

What is your job on this show?
Actor/Playwright/Composer.

When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?
When I was very young, my mother took me to a play called "Don't Bother Me I Can't Cope", and I was DONE. I was completely overwhelmed with the entire experience, the story, the music, but what really got me was the SPIRIT in that theater, I was sobbing for the entire play, it was as if I had been lifted out of my body and was watching myself feel things, I wanted to be able to do that, to make people feel like I was feeling, to have that type of shared experience, and so, I think that was the moment I knew I wanted my life to be in the theater. Also, I was such a sensitive kid, a real "empath", in addition to being a little social activist, and I felt like the best way for me to "speak out" was thru art, especially since I HATED school, I knew I wasn't going to wind up an attorney or anything like that. For me, it had to be something "more", and so although I was a VERY quiet kid, pretty much a loner, I think I was looking for the best way to scream for attention, to be heard, to express myself, and my gifts were my music and my storytelling, my strong understanding of people, which made me really understand characters, and so, I just felt like I needed to wind up on stage.

Complete this sentence: My show is the only one opening in NYC this fall that...?
...has a family that includes over 500 NAMES. I have been working on BROKE WIDE OPEN for almost 6 years now, and last year, after returning from London after doing the Camden Fringe Festival [which landed me smack in the middle of the riots], I knew the next thing for me to do was to do a real run of the show, but I wanted to see if the people who had been following me for the previous 5 years actually cared, if they really wanted me to continue, so I decided to do a fundraiser to see if my grassroots support would actually give me some financial support. I wrote BROKE WIDE OPEN on the subways of NYC, and developed it in the streets and parks in and around town, doing impromptu Q&A's after each performance, and so my play has really been a collaboration from the very beginning, and so, I wanted to see if this amazing process would extend where my "audience" would actually help to fund me. I asked, via social networking, for 500 people to support me, that if I could get 500 people to give me ANY amount of money, I would continue on my journey, I wanted to see what people would say, and they gave a resounding YES, I had done a cross country tour of BROKE WIDE OPEN after raising money via a kickstarter campaign and between that, my run in London and Facebook, my following was building, and as a result, I received money from all over the world, literally, from all over the US, to Israel, to Austria and Australia, France and England, South America, Africa, I am over 560 NAMES now and have raised over $23,000, mostly $10, $15, $35 at a time, I had only 2 donations of over $100, and one of those wound up being my current producer, but here's the even more beautiful part....... my list became a very spiritual moment in my life as well. People began donating in honor of deceased relatives, newborn babies, yet to be born babies, people were asking for specific numbers on the list that were meaningful to them, for example, one woman asked to secure number 426, and when I asked why that number, she told me it was the number of her sons birthday, April 26th, and he had been killed in Iraq and she wanted to honor him, that she was so inspired by BROKE WIDE OPEN and Me and 500 NAMES, things like that, and so, for me, because of 500 NAMES, BROKE WIDE OPEN, my story that began as "all about me", was CLEARY, no longer just about me, it became EVERYONE'S story, as it should be in the theater, and so, this beautiful, diverse, supportive and evolving list, or I should really say COMMUNITY, well.. FAMILY.... is one of the things I am most proud of from this process, and so GRATEFUL for.

Do you think the audience will talk about your show for 5 minutes, an hour, or way into the wee hours of the night?
This is an easy question for me, because I have tested this out for the past 6 years.... they will talk about it for a very long time. I have done Q&A's after almost every show I have done since I began this project, and usually the Q&A's wind up being as long as the play, and BROKE WIDE OPEN runs almost 2 hours. My story is about my adoption, my fostering and my complex search for my biological mother, a story of love, loss, family, relationships, questions of identity and my incessant search for a place that feels like HOME to me. If the last 6 years were a marketing research tool, I would say that everybody relates to the story, the audience always seems to feel like they KNOW my family and the other people I portray in the play, and I think that because I am so intimately revealing about my life, BROKE WIDE OPEN becomes this CONNECTION between me and the audience, they definitely get to know me, and what I have seen is that my stories are their stories, and so some of the Q&A's have been the most cathartic conversations between me and the audience and actually also the audience communicating amongst themselves, it really feels like a family. As a matter of fact, it's been quite common that after some people have seen BROKE WIDE OPEN, they have come back with their family members, there are people who have come to see my play 5, 6 times, they just keep coming back and bringing friends and family, which is, obviously, my honor. This whole experience is a privilege for me. And so, I think they will talk about it for a very long time, and I think they'll probably even come back.

Which famous New Jerseyite would like your show the best: Snooki, Bruce Springsteen, Thomas Edison?
Definitely Bruce Springsteen.

How important is diversity to you in the theater you see/make?
Perhaps the one thing that I am most proud of about BROKE WIDE OPEN is the diversity of the audience. I don't get your average theater crowd. I think it's partly from my presence in the poetry world, and perhaps in the fact that I perform in the street and in all kinds of alternative spaces, but whatever the reason, I am just so proud to see all kinds of people at my show. My INTENTION with BROKE WIDE OPEN is to bring people together, to create this "universe" where people feel they can express themselves openly. Also where they want to "listen" to one another, I feel theater is an amazing venue for this to occur. BROKE WIDE OPEN is very high energy, pretty intense, but can be very funny as well, hopefully very HUMAN, and so, HUMAN means EVERYBODY, and I am happy to say that there is no "demographic" for my play, the fact is, everybody feels that it is their story, simply because it is. I don't know of anything I can do that would be more important than bringing people together in a way where they can begin to understand one another more, and so I feel this is something that is so important in the theater.