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DEREK AHONEN and the theater company he founded, The Amoralists, have brought a brash, independent spirit to the New York theater scene over the past decade.

 

Borrowing a page from filmmaker John Cassavetes’ book, Ahonen has gathered around him a loyal crew of actors who connect with the profane, slice-of-life comedy of “The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side,” “The Bad and the Better,” and “The Cheater’s Club,” to name a few of the shows that have played to a fiercely loyal downtown audience.

 

If Ahonen sat around and waited for other people to produce his plays, he might not have been able to take such big risks in style and subject matter with each new script.

 

With the support of The Amoralists behind him, Ahonen has created plays with the knowledge — rare for an American playwright — that they will be produced by people on his own wavelength.

 

For audiences, this open theatrical channel between a writer and a production company has meant shows that feel up-to-the-minute and unbound by the critic- and audience-pleasing reality of play production in other companies in New York. - J.M.

Few theatre artists have endured the highs and lows of playwright JONATHAN TOLINS’ experience with his first major play “The Twilight of the Golds.”

 

The family comedy-drama about homophobia and genetics was a smash hit in its Los Angeles debut in 1993 — a major studio snapped up the movie rights almost immediately — but when the play reached Broadway a few months later, the New York critics turned their thumbs down and “Twilight” became a 29-performance flop.

 

Tolins kept writing plays — underwritten by regular TV and film jobs — with one of them, “The Last Sunday in June,” about a gathering of friends during Pride Week in New York, finding limited success on the gay theatre circuit.

 

Bolstered by hearing established playwright Robert Anderson (of “Tea and Sympathy” fame) talking about some of his problems getting a play produced, Tolins persisted because theatre writing has always been his first love.

 

Two decades of struggle had a happy ending in 2013 when Tolins turned a rejected New Yorker story, about a man working in the basement of Barbra Streisand’s home, into a hit off Broadway comedy.

 

The same New York Times critic who roasted Tolins’ 1993 Broadway debut wrote a love letter to “Buyer and Cellar” and a limited run turned into one of the most popular plays of the season.

 

Finally, Tolins was off and running.  - J.M.

"I was always doing anything I could to be a part of the theatre."

"I just know that I didn't have any other decisions."

HEAR EPISODE 2: JONATHAN TOLINS

HEAR EPISODE 1: DEREK AHONEN

Los Angeles Times: Michael Urie and Jonathan Tolins rummage around in Streisand's cellar

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New York Times: People Who Need Famous People -

Creating Barbra Streisand in ‘Buyer & Cellar’

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Read more about Jonathan Tolins

Read more about Derek Ahonen

HEAR EPISODE 3: CHARLOTTE BOOKER

"I wanted very badly to be Lucille Ball."

CHARLOTTE BOOKER is part of a theatrical line of succession that goes back to her teachers Uta Hagen, Geraldine Page and Shelley Winters.

 

Very much a part of today’s scene — on Broadway and off, and at regional theaters around the country — Charlotte also has a strong sense of the history of her art form.

 

Just listen to Charlotte talk about what she learned from her legendary acting teachers and what she tries to pass along from them to her students today.

 

On stage and screen, the actress has the ability to disappear completely into a role, whether she is giving a "winning" (New York Times) performance as Ann Landers in David Rambo's "The Lady with all the Answers," tackling “Steel Magnolias” at the Alley Theatre in Houston, doing “Born Yesterday” on Broadway, or playing the helpless Oklahoma mother in Emily Shwend’s powerful off Broadway drama “Take Me Back” (a performance the New York Times called “terrific”).

 

Charlotte attributes some of her striking morphing ability — and her fascination with what makes people tick — to a childhood as a military brat, moving around the United States. Movies entertained and inspired her.

 

Little did Charlotte know, when she fell under the spell of Geraldine Page in the 1961 film version of “Summer and Smoke,” that she would become a student, and friend, of the great actress.

In recent years, Charlotte has taken a more pro-active approach to working in show business, by writing plays as well as acting in them.

 

She has too much energy and talent to sit around waiting for someone else to give her a job.  - J.M.

Read more about Charlotte Booker

HEAR EPISODE 4: DANIEL J. WATTS

"Sammy Davis Jr. was in 'Alice in Wonderland' playing the caterpillar and he was tap dancing, and Savion Glover was on Sesame Street. That was when the want and the need kicked in. The idea that I had to do this was 9/11."

Considering how much time he's spent in theatre since launching his impressive career on Broadway, it seems only fitting that this interview with DANIEL J. WATTS is underscored by the buzzing ambiance of the rehearsal studio we recorded it in.

 

When Watts was a sophomore at Elon College his decision to pursue a career as a performer was reaffirmed when he saw a traveling Shakespeare troupe perform "As You Like It" on the night of September 11, 2001.

 

In the years since that landmark moment in the young actor/dancer's career, Watts has amassed an impressive theatre resume covering bases that most performers would only dream to accomplish in a lifetime: a range of regional theatre credits, seven Broadway shows under his belt, including an acclaimed turn in the Tony Award winning "After Midnight," numerous developmental readings, workshops and pre-Broadway try-outs.

 

While the abundance of work afforded Watts the chance to collaborate with leading creatives in the business, he had always had his sights set beyond "the ensemble." So while on breaks from developing a role that was eventually cut in Disney's "Aladdin," Watts began putting pen to paper, eventually bringing the spoken word poetry that had been brewing in his head to life in his one-man slam experience "The Jam."

 

Since launching his production company WattsWords Productions, and discovering his distinct and inspired voice as a spoken word artist, Watts has emerged as one of the nations leading storytellers, using the healing, unifying power of storytelling to build communities. His powerful work has been profiled in Newsweek, gone viral on YouTube, and was the subject of a 2015 TEDxBroadway talk. - S.H.

 

 

 

Newsweek: Fighting With Guerrilla Theater After the Death of Eric Garner  Click here for more

 

Dance Magazine: Daniel J. Watts Why I Dance

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Read more about Daniel J. Watts

We have to rethink our theatrical star system when we talk about actors like ANNALEE JEFFERIES.

 

Jefferies has been a part of notable stage hits in New York City — most recently the epic 9-hour production of Horton Foote’s “The Orphans Home Cycle” at Signature Theatre — but she has spent most of her career working in regional theater.

 

In Houston, Hartford, Dallas, Washington, D.C. and other cities around the country, the performer has amazed audiences and dazzled critics in everything from “Angels in America” to “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

 

The performer has collaborated with some of the greatest directors in contemporary theater — including David Cromer and Robert Wilson — but because those productions never played Broadway, they didn’t always make it on to the Manhattan media radar.

 

The Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout did travel to the Kansas City Repertory Theatre to see Cromer and Jefferies’ “The Glass Menagerie” which the critic cited as one of the 10 finest U.S. stage productions of 2009. Of Jefferies’ Amanda he wrote, “(She) is not a broad-brush caricature of Southern gentility but a wholly believable older woman who finds herself whipsawed between fantasy and fear.”

 

Jefferies was also a member of the ensemble of Peter Hall’s epic production of “Tantalus” that toured internationally and was the subject of a widely discussed behind-the-scenes documentary.

 

The Texas native doesn’t believe in arbitrary boundaries on the American theater that start and end in New York City. She knows that if she had decided to stay in Manhattan in the early 1980s she wouldn’t have enjoyed all of the opportunities that have come her way at great regional venues like Arena Stage, the Alley Theater, and Hartford Stage.    

 

Working with director Michael Wilson in Houston and Hartford, Jefferies established a reputation as one of the finest interpreters of Tennessee Williams in this country.

 

Connecticut became a second home to Jefferies in the 1990s and the ‘00s because of her many collaborations with Wilson after he was named artistic director at Hartford Stage. From Blanche in “Streetcar” to Hannah in “Night of the Iguana” to the whole menagerie of characters she played in “Eight by Tenn,” Jefferies earned extravagant critical praise.

 

Jefferies has a beautiful farm in Brenham, Texas, where she is part of a vibrant artistic community halfway between Houston and Austin. After she completed a prize-winning run as the paranoid Violet Venable in a Connecticut production of “Suddenly Last Summer,” the actor re-staged the play on one of her porches.

 

The performer doesn’t divide the characters she plays into heroines and villains.

 

She says the magic of Tennessee Williams’ art, in particular, is that all of his people are painfully human, whether we “like” them or not. “Just to be at the helm of those words is such a privilege.”

- J.M.

HEAR EPISODE 5:  ANNALEE JEFFERIES

"It was a natural progression coming out of a ballooned imagination being brought up on a cattle ranch."

Read more about Annalee Jefferies

HEAR EPISODE 6:  DAVID GRIMM

"I think the why is a combination of masochism and insanity."

Like a virtuoso actor who defies type-casting, playwright DAVID GRIMM has been creating a fantastic, far-ranging body of work over the past three decades.

 

Being a fan of the writer means being constantly surprised by the different directions he takes in plays like “Kit Marlowe,” “The Learned Ladies of Park Avenue,” “Measure for Pleasure” and “Steve & Idi.”

 

That cliche, expect the unexpected, turns out to be true in the case of this playwright.

 

Grimm respects audiences by trusting them to keep up with his rapid fire wit and to follow dramatic situations that race past conventional notions of morality.

 

History is sexy rather than musty in the writer’s plays set in the past. Grimm’s characters tend to be brilliant, but always up for romantic adventures, too.

 

As one critic put it, “For most of his career. Grimm has used his typically bawdy comedies to unzip the patriarchal and heterosexist veneer of our cultural past, permitting his characters to fight for the right to be themselves, and letting deeper moral and erotic impulses, common to all time periods, out to play.”

 

In other words, Grimm’s people always make time to get it on.

 

In an era in which economic restrictions often result in small plays with small casts (and small ideas), Grimm refuses to cut his imagination down to a size that is convenient for the book-keepers at the non-profit New York companies and adventurous regional theaters that have been seduced by his vision.

 

Actors love the opportunities the playwright gives them to play truly theatrical characters who are constantly testing their boundaries. After they’ve been fed a fairly steady diet of neo-kitchen sink realism, it is quite something to watch a company of actors tear into Grimm’s rich material.

 

The playwright loves opera as much as he loves theater which explains Grimm’s large canvasses and outsized emotions.

 

Grimm’s Off Book chat provides ample evidence of his intelligence and his wit as he talks about what inspires him; the challenges of working in a medium where a single published opinion carries frightening weight; and the unique experience of playing a version of himself in the hallucinatory comedy, “Steve & Idi.” - J.M.

Playbill.com: Strong Damsels in Grimm Times - Nina Arianda and Kathleen Chalfant on David Grimm's "Tales From Red Vienna"

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American Theatre Wing: From New Dramatists (Video)

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More about David Grimm

HEAR EPISODE 7:  ANNETTE MEYERS

"It became very exciting to me, the idea of the collaboration."

ANNETTE MEYERS was present at the creation of some of the greatest musicals of the modern era.

 

As personal assistant to Harold Prince, during his peak years, Annette saw “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Cabaret,” “Company,” “Follies,” “A Little Night Music,” “Pacific Overtures” and other classics take shape in out of town try-outs — many of them turbulent — before the shows came into New York and changed prevailing notions of what a musical could be.

 

The former teacher got into show business on a fluke when she was asked to assist with some of the research for a Prince-produced musical.

 

Next thing Annette knew she was by Prince’s side as he turned musical theater upside down with one innovation after another. She was also hanging out with great stage figures like Lotte Lenya and Elaine Stritch.

 

In this podcast, we get to hear all sorts of juicy inside stuff, from the unexpected problem Zero Mostel posed after “Fiddler on the Roof” opened (his shtick was wrecking the show and driving the other actors crazy) to the cost overruns that plagued “Pacific Overtures.”

 

Annette was there at the start of one of the greatest collaborations in musical theater history — Prince’s partnership with Stephen Sondheim. Within a year’s time in the early 1970s, the two men came up with two legendary shows, “Company” and “Follies,” both of which flew in the face of Broadway musical conventions.

 

Our chat barely skims the surface of what Annette saw and heard during her two decades with Prince, but it’s a terrific overview of a great, fervant period in the lives of many theater artists.  

 

She didn’t know it at the time, but Annette was gaining knowledge about the workings of Broadway that she would eventually use in a series of New York mysteries, starting with “The Big Killing” and going on to include the must-read “Murder: The Musical,” which can be read as a very juicy fictonalized memoir.  - J.M.

 

Forbes.com: The Mystery Novelist

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CBS Sunday Morning: The Meyers: At Work, At Play

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More about Annette Meyers

HEAR EPISODE 8: CAROL OSTROW

"It's in my blood."

Lots of people talk about building new, young audiences for theater in New York City, but the Flea Theater has been doing just that for the past two decades.

 

Under the leadership of artistic director Jim Simpson and producing director CAROL OSTROW, the Flea found a formula that seems simple but that hasn’t yet been copied by other non-profits in the city — i.e. putting on plays that deal with the lives of young people, performed by fresh new actors who make up a resident company known as The Bats.

 

The Flea has attracted stars to some of its productions and it became a second home for the veteran playwright A.R. Gurney, but the foundation of the institution rests on young actors who can’t wait to tell new stories that they know will mean something to a like-minded audience.

 

The Bats have performed in everything from Biblical epics (“The Mysteries”) to examinations of the changing morality of the city (“Smoke”) and the country (“American Sexy”), but what the productions all have in common is the excitement of actors and audiences who are on the same page.

 

We spoke with Carol Ostrow about many things, including the great challenges the Flea faced in the wake of 9/11 — when the Tribeca neighborhood was first shut down and then suffered for months from the after-shocks of the worst disaster in the city’s history. Carol decided to help fellow Yalie Jim Simpson turn things around by producing a new play, “The Guys,” that put into words what nearly everyone in the city was feeling during the recovery effort.

 

Since then, it has been onward and upward, as Carol has produced dozens of plays with Jim and carefully managed a $1.3 million budget that has kept two stages in the White Street venue buzzing with activity.

 

The Flea is entering a period of change — with new artistic director Niegel Jason Smith taking over for Jim Simpson this year — and a move into a permanent home at 20 Thomas Street set for next year.

 

In this interview, Carol talks about the importance of a theater company having its own real estate. She believes a sense of place is both comforting and inspiring in a city famous for its instability. The shift to Thomas Street will turn renters into owners for the first time, assuring artists and audiences that the Flea will be able to build on its vibrant history.   J.M.

New York Times: Flea Theater Names Niegel Smith as Next Artistic Director

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Woman Around Town: Carol Ostrow - Many Lives

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More about Carol Ostrow & The Flea

HEAR EPISODE 9: HOWARD SHERMAN

"When I was at The Wing there was a situation in Connecticut."

After a long career working for such regional theaters as Hartford Stage and the Goodspeed Opera House — and another important stint in New York City leading the American Theater Wing — HOWARD SHERMAN took on a new role as one of the foremost opponents of theater censorship in this country.  

 

Working behind the scenes, and through his widely read blog and social networking, Sherman became an important advocate of high school theater programs.

 

It was Sherman who mobilized stage professionals when a Connecticut high school production of “Rent” was cancelled in 2013. He helped to secure the Goodspeed Opera House’s agreement to present the show when it was still in limbo, a move that was key to the school administration reconsidering its ban and allowing the Jonathan Larson musical to proceed.

The national attention Sherman received for his efforts has led him to partner with Manhattan’s New School on an Arts Integrity Initiative that formalizes his growing role as an anti-censorship watchdog.

 

We cover many bases in this podcast, from Sherman’s work in regional theater and with the Manhattan organization that administers the annual Tony Awards, to his early adoption of social media which has made him one of the most widely read theater people in the country.

 

Sherman talks about his early personal connection to the anti-censorship cause — the distress he felt when a play by August Wilson was threatened with cancellation at a Connecticut school. Wilson’s plays were developed in Sherman’s native Connecticut — at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center and Yale Repertory Theatre — so he felt personally affronted by the attempt to stop a production of “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.”    

   

The importance of high school play productions can be undervalued in sophisticated New York theater circles, but Sherman points out that 50 million people across the country see those shows every year — a number twice as high as the annual audience for Broadway and national road tours.    

 

It is a pleasure to add this culture hero to the Off Book family. J.M.                  

American Theatre Magazine: Who Cares About Censorship on School Stages

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Washington Post: The Battle of 'Rent' in Trumbull, CT

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New York Times: The New School Announces Efford to Defend 'Arts Integrity'

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More about Howard Sherman:

HEAR EPISODE 10: JAMIE DEROY

"I opened my first night at the LA Improv, Joan Rivers said 'just go for it.'"

You can’t pin down Jamie deRoy to just one aspect of show business.

 

She has worked as an actress, singer, comic, and talk show host.

deRoy will be celebrating 25 years of her New York nightlife fixture -- the award-winning cabaret variety show, “Jamie deRoy & Friends” -- with a November 10 shindig at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater that will include celebrated theater pals Tommy Tune and Michele Lee, among others.

 

But this benefit for the Actors Fund – which will also mark deRoy’s ”40th annual 30th birthday” -- deals with only one aspect of her long and varied career.

 

Behind the scenes, the “hyphenate” has added Broadway producer to her packed resume. deRoy’s wide-ranging taste is illustrated by the shows her name has been on – from mainstream musicals such as “Nice Work If You Can Get It” to edgier plays like “The Motherfucker with the Hat” that have expanded the notion of what constitutes Broadway fare.  

 

In this podcast, deRoy talks about New York City in the good old/bad old 1970s; the seemingly mundane job choices that can change the course of a career; and the challenge of being one of the first funny ladies to open for the late great Joan Rivers.

deRoy takes us back to an especially colorful time in the world of Manhattan cabaret – the 1970s and 1980s – when such beloved but long-vanished small clubs as Reno Sweeney on West 13th Street thrived, and unknown performers like Ellen Greene and Bette Midler could make a name for themselves in out of the way nightspots.

 

OFF BOOK is thrilled to add deRoy to its growing roster of smart and funny talkers.  J.M.  

Broadway World: Jamie deRoy Honored with 2014 "Dedication & Devotion to the Art of Cabaret" Award

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Backstage: Tyne Daly, Jamie deRoy and Ted Snowdon to be honored by Primary Stages

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Theatremania: The Lion's Benjamin Scheuer Receives the ASCAP Foundtion's Jamie deRoy & Friends Songwriting Award

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More about Jamie deRoy

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HEAR EPISODE 11: JAMES GRISSOM

The theater community has been buzzing about JAMES GRISSOM’s book “Follies of God” (Knopf) since it was published last March because of its fresh insights into the life of Tennessee Williams and the actresses who inspired him.

 

The project began more than 30 years ago when Grissom wrote a fan letter to the playwright. He was invited to join Williams in New Orleans and then given an assignment — to convey the dramatist’s gratitude to the great performers such as Maureen Stapleton, Kim Stanley, Jessica Tandy and Katharine Hepburn who helped Tennessee create many of his most indelible characters.

 

Judging by the intimacy and depth of the interview material in the book, Grissom established immediate trust in the actresses Williams sent him to. And as word got out about the project, other major figures, such as Marlon Brando, reached out to Grissom and spoke frankly about acting, Williams, the Actors Studio and many other theater topics with remarkable candor.

 

Williams spent a lot of time at the Studio and spoke at length with Grissom about the way he thought it damaged Marilyn Monroe: “Lee Strasberg...specialized in adopting sexually confused, physically abused women and becoming the seemingly gentle father figure they desired. Strasberg lied to her and told her she was the new Duse; he told her she should play Nina; he told her to investigate O’Neill and Shakespeare. This was all folly, because Marilyn had no talent and no understanding, and it was folly because Strasberg only wanted access to and withdrawal privileges from fame...It was an evil extended con game, and there were many witnesses.”

 

The first production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” is presented in a whole light in "Follies of God" thanks to Grissom’s connections with Jessica Tandy, Kim Hunter and Brando. Tandy was not Williams' first choice for the role of Blanche DuBois and she told Grissom how much she struggled with the titanic part before she met with the approval of its creator (and satisfied herself).

 

In this OffBook podcast, Grissom talks about his long journey putting the book together, what it was like to convince theater greats to talk with him candidly, and the crucial help he received along the way from Marian Seldes, Lois Smith, and Frances Sternhagen, who became powerful advocates of the project.  - J.M.

"One night, around two in the morning, my phone rings and it's Marlon Brando and he wants to talk."

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Blog: Follies Of God by James Grissom Alfred A. Knopf/March 2015

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Kirkus: Interview with "Follies of God" Author James Grissom

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More about James Grissom

HEAR EPISODE 12: LIV ROOTH

"Whether or not I think I can do it, I've gotta go in there and do it. I will always want to give it 1000% percent."

When LIV ROOTH is scared by a role something wonderful usually happens.

 

"It's kind of interesting to interact with your fears and doubts. I think that's important and that it makes you better," she says of the series of challenging New York and regional theater roles that have made her a favorite of critics, audiences and her fellow stage artists.

 

She is one of playwright David Ives’ go-to actors for his wild mixtures of comedy and drama, the real and the surreal.

 

Liv has stood up to the challenge of Ives’ evenings of short plays, like “All in the Timing” and “Lives of the Saints,” where she has had to enact several wildly different characters in the course of a few hours. She also starred in his enormously popular two-character erotic drama “Venus in Fur” (a role she says she would like to take another crack at).

 

"It is so important as an actor to bring yourself to the work, but not limit the work to you," the actor says of her efforts to elude the notion of a “Liv Rooth role.”

 

Liv has been especially daring in her regular work, away from New York City, at the Westport Country Playhouse, where in the space of a few seasons, she went from playing the traumatized witness to cannibalism in Tennessee Williams’ horror drama "Suddenly Last Summer" to the possibly homicidal nurse in the Joe Orton black comedy "Loot" to the feminist revolutionary in Ingmar Bergman’s take on “A Doll’s House.”

 

It was only the actor’s trust in director David Kennedy that convinced Liv to play Ibsen’s rebel housewife in “Nora” -- "When David asked me to do it I made a terrible face. Most actresses want to do it, but I think I was afraid of it."

   

 

In her Off Book podcast, Liv talks about the unexpected joy to be found in working outside of your comfort zone, the challenge of understudying rising star Nina Arianda in “Born Yesterday” and David Ives’ “Venus in Fur” and why she refuses to distinguish between “comedy” and “drama” when she is searching for a new role.

Broadway.com: Liv Rooth talks about the hilarious search for love in Beyond Therapy

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Labyrinth Theatre Company: 5 Questions for Liv Rooth

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More about Liv Rooth

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HEAR EPISODE 13: AARON MEIER

"My show might be the same play night after night, but the world around it changes, how can you plug into the world around it?"

AARON MEIER arrived in New York – and began working as a theatrical publicist – just a few weeks before 9/11 plunged the stage community and the city into some of its darkest days.

 

Would anyone want to see a show in such a moment of terrible personal anxiety?

 

When would tourists return to a city that was bracing itself for another possible attack?

 

Luckily for all of us, Broadway bounced back quicker than anyone anticipated and Aaron found himself working in the theater during a period of tremendous change. The traditional media that his company Boneau/Bryan-Brown served was being radically downsized, and a new world of Broadway blogs and social media was quickly rising online.

 

Since 2001, the “fabulous invalid” has seen the opening of some of the biggest hits in New York theater history but publicists like Aaron have had to find new means to tout shows in an ever-changing media world.

 

Aaron has worked on more than 140 Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, with his current clients including Manhattan Theatre Club, Cirque du Soleil’s first Broadway show “Paramour,” and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

 

In addition to his role as vice president of account services, Aaron also serves as the director of digital communications for BBB, spearheading the agency’s expansion into new digital platforms and creating and implementing the agency’s social media strategy.

 

In his Off Book interview, Aaron talks about the chance encounter in the Hill Country of Texas that would open doors in New York, and what it was like to be part of the enormous publicity effort that kept the New York theater going in the months after 9/11.

He also discusses the unique challenge of simultaneously handling a new limited run off off Broadway show featuring cult legend Charles Busch and a multi-million dollar Broadway musical that will have to run for years to turn a profit. - J.M.

BroadwayWorld: Aaron Meier and Heath Schwartz Named VPs of Boneau/Bryan-Brown

 

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More about Aaron Meier

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HEAR EPISODE 14: ADAM RAPP

“The spell that’s created in a space with minds and bodies and voices is incredibly powerful when it’s done right."

Playwright and director ADAM RAPP works in a form of heightened realism that is electrifying and also a tad unsettling.

 

”Whether you love or hate this play, I’m glad you were here to witness it,” Rapp wrote in a Playbill note for one of his shows. Part of the unique excitement in his work is the guarantee of a highly charged audience.    

 

A Pulitzer Prize nominee for “Red Light Winter” Rapp likes to remove as many barriers as possible between his stories and the audience. There are no innocent bystanders at plays such as “Ghosts in the Cottonwoods,” “Animals and Plants” or the current Flea Theater hit “Wolf in the River.”

 

Rapp writes about extreme emotional states that demand brave actors and adventurous audiences who are willing to go down some very dark roads.

 

Working with such off off Broadway troupes as The Amoralists and The Bats, Rapp has preferred the intimacy of small spaces where actors are just a few feet away from theatergoers. At “Animals and Plants” only 20 people were admitted to each performance – in a hotel room -- and the seating was scattered in such a way as to maximize a feeling of being in the middle of the same mystical and horrifying experiences as the characters.

 

In “Wolf in the River,” the playwright discards the notion of a fixed, beginning, middle and end for what the Flea Theater rightly calls an “impressionistic” experience that we are left to sort out afterwards. For some theatergoers such an unmoored night in the theater is beyond the pale. Others find it refreshing, in this age of canned entertainment, to be in the presence of a theater artist who respects his audience enough to allow them their own individual reactions to his work. - J.M.

 

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Theatre Communications Group: Cutting Loose with Adam Rapp 

 

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BOMB Magazine: Adam Rapp by Marsha Norman

 

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Time Out New York: Billy Crudup Finds a Kindred Spirit, teaming with Adam Rapp for "The Metal Children"

 

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HEAR EPISODE 15: MAXWELL WILLIAMS

"The best way for theatre companies to support new works is to invest in the artists who are making them."

After a decade of working at Hartford Stage, where his outstanding shows included the world premiere of Matthew Lopez’s “Reverberation,” and work as that theater's Associate Artistic Director, Maxwell Williams has taken the big leap to running his own theater.

 

Since the fall of 2015, Williams has been artistic director of La Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre, located in the heart of New Orleans’ historic French Quarter. During his inaugural season, he invited his longtime Hartford Stage collaborator, actress Annalee Jefferies, to star as Amanda in a very well-received production of “The Glass Menagerie.”

 

The director has many ideas he wants to bring to life in NOLA, but he is particularly excited about putting on Tennessee Williams plays in the heart of the city where the playwright spent so much time and found so much inspiration.

 

In Hartford, Williams found a perfect mentor in director Michael Wilson, who had him work as associate director on the mammoth nine-play Horton Foote project, “The Orphans Home Cycle,” which moved on to New York City’s Signature Theatre where it received sensational reviews.

 

Williams proved himself to be a remarkably versatile director at Hartford Stage, shifting from high energy comedies such as “Boeing Boeing” and “Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike” to powerful dramas like “Dying City” and “Reverberation.”

 

In his OffBook interview, Williams talks about the challenge all artistic directors face in finding plays that excite them while pleasing subscribers and other supporters of regional theater. He talks about the changing demographics of theatergoers and the nagging question of who will be supporting regional theaters a decade from now. The pull between artist and manager is a strong one for every artistic director, but Williams believes he can make La Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre an essential part of NOLA’s cultural life for years to come.. - J.M.

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Playbill: Hartford Stage's Maxwell Williams Tapped to Run New Orleans' Le Petit Théâtre Click here for more

 

New Orleans Magazine: People to Watch Class of 2015 - Maxwell Williams Click here for more

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HEAR EPISODE 16: TONY MARION

"It's figuring out how to captivate a generation"

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be

 

Convinced that today’s New York theater scene is every bit as glamorous and as exciting as the so-called Golden Age of the 1950s and 1960s, actor and producer TONY MARION created a website that proves his point.

 

Broadway Style Guide has demonstrated that today’s batch of stars – from Idina and Kristin to Sutton and Audra – are fast becoming the equals of such fabled personalities of yesteryear as Ethel Merman and Mary Martin. And, their huge talents on stage are matched by their highly creative personal styles off stage.

Through its gorgeous photography and in-depth interviews, BSG pulls back the curtain on Broadway, but not in a gossipy way. Thanks to social media we might feel closer than ever to our favorite stars, but Tony Marion shows us that they are still dazzling personalities.

 

Whether it’s accompanying Kyle Dean Massey on a European vacation, or exploring the charms of the “American Psycho” cast, BSG proves that the movies and television have nothing on Broadway when it comes to sex appeal based on talent as well as looks.

 

As you will hear in this OffBook chat with Tony Marion, it isn’t easy to produce a high style Broadway website without advertising support, or a ticket-sales component, but BSG is building a large and loyal audience based on solid content rather than hype (or, God forbid, click bait).

 

With the monster hit “Hamilton” putting New York theater at the center of pop culture for the first time in decades, Tony Marion and BSG seem perfectly positioned to prove that Broadway is in a Golden Age once again.    

NY1: Theater Meets High Fashion with Broadway Style Guide Click here for more

 

CMD RADIO: Tony Marion Interview talks how to get a play on broadway and more Click here for more

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