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Farewell To Sanity And Other Irrational Constructs

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Tom Slot
May 5, 2013

What is your job on this show?
Playwright / Director.

What is your show about?
Burnt-out psychologist Dr. Henley knows crazy, but when he’s confronted by the ghost of a whaling ship captain from 1863, he questions his own sanity as he embarks on an insane adventure that could cost him his license to practice, his sanity, and his life.

What type of theater do you like most to work on?
I’m really interested in character driven pieces that don’t shy away from showing our flaws. I gravitate towards the messy side of human interaction: the near misses, the strike outs, and the moments we are tripping over ourselves. We all want to connect with other people but the majority of times it’s our own insecurities and hang ups that prevent it from occurring. Often times we can’t get out of our own way long enough to get what we really want. I love exploring that dysfunction on stage: seeing what are the forces and moments that help us transcend our own limitations. There is usually a spiritual theme or undercurrent to the theater I’m drawn to as well.

Why do you do theater (as opposed to film, or TV, or something not in the entertainment field)?
There is nothing more powerful than the exchange of energy between actors and a live audience. It’s a cathartic experience that you can’t find in film or television. On the screen you can create amazing visual effects and be transported from one remote location to the next in a few seconds. It can be breathtaking, but there is also an inherent separation between actor and audience. When you are in the theater, breathing the same air as the performers, watching them go through the full range of human emotions, you are part of the performance. The connections and shared experience are much deeper as a result. It takes us back to our primal roots as story tellers. That’s what I love about theater.

Is there a particular moment in this show that you really love or look forward to? Without giving away surprises, what happens in that moment and why does it jazz you?
I’m incredibly lucky to have an extremely talented cast that brings this play alive. The show is filled with a mix of fun twists and humor that I can’t wait to share with the audience. There are some downright hilarious moments in the show, including an angry clown performing at a child’s birthday party, that I think will have the audience rolling in the aisles. However, the moment that I’m looking forward to the most is a dramatic monologue in the second act performed by Matt Golden. It’s a very moving moment in the play and Matt knocks it out of the park. It’s a breathtakingly honest moment about loss and regret. There’s a universality in the story he shares that I think we can all connect to. He’s had us in tears in rehearsals. I can’t wait to share it with the audience.

Which famous person would you most like to get a fan letter from: Denzel Washington, Maggie Smith, Ang Lee, Jennifer Lawrence?
It would be excited to get a letter from any of the four. Connecting with the audience and having your work appreciated is always an honor. However, the famous person I’d most love to get a fan letter from is either Robin Williams or Bill Murray. Both of them do fantastic work and are funny as hell. But as gifted as they are as comedians, their dramatic work is what really moves me. It doesn’t get much better than Lost in Translation or the bench scene in Good Will Hunting. Comedy can make you laugh for a minute or two, but drama can leave an impression on your soul. While I use a lot of humor in my shows, it’s the dramatic moments that are always the heart of the work.

If you had ten million dollars that you had to spend on theatrical endeavors, how would you use the money?
One of the hardest aspects of producing theater in New York City is the cost. There are so many wonderful theater companies, playwrights, and performers out there, but many of them struggle to share their work with the public because of the expense. If I had ten million dollars I would open a theater space in the city that allowed deserving artists to rehearse and perform their work at no cost. That way they wouldn’t have to worry about the business side of art and could just focus on sharing their voice with the community at large. It would also give artists a chance to meet and share ideas. Often times we do our work in isolation and don’t get to build a larger community with each other. Having a set space to work together in would help tear down some of those walls and allow us to connect and work together in more meaningful way. Imagine how much art could be created if you didn’t have to worry about renting space or how late the rehearsal studio is open. There is a wonderful theater company Elephant Run District who’s working towards bringing indie theater artists together. Chris Harcum and Aimee Todoroff are doing amazing work over there. With that kind of money and a set space to work in, we could truly create the kind of community they have been fostering.