Thursday, April 29, 2010

Nice Guy Finishes First: An Interview with Actor, Producer, Director and Writer, Daniel Talbott

"I’ve had people say to me “look, we love you as a director, but we think you need to be meaner.” I’ve literally heard that, and I’m like, “no, I don’t”."



As a theater artist, you wear a lot of hats. Where did you begin?

I think I started as an actor because it’s easier as a kid to start that way. There are a lot of acting classes for kids. I always wanted to do everything in the theater. I’ve taken tickets for friend’s theater companies. I’ll sweep the floor. I’ll do stage management. I’ve done costumes. I’ve done lighting. I just really love the theater, so the more ways I work in things, the more brave I am about other things. I feel like directing makes me a better actor, and acting makes me a better playwright. All of it makes me a better artistic director.

I never think about it in terms of wearing a hat, which is weird because I’m also OCD and anal, so it’s like I only like to direct when I’m directing because otherwise it’s hard for me to focus. I think I primarily make my living as a producer/director/actor so paying acting/directing jobs take precedent. But it’s weird because I’m almost finished with two plays this year, and it's weird because it felt like it took me nine years to write Slipping. For the first time, I actually turned down some acting jobs so I could finish these plays because I really wanted to make myself do that. I knew that if I took those acting jobs, I wouldn’t do it, so now I’m frantically looking for an acting job because the funds are dried up.

Do you work with an agent?

I have an acting agent and a literary/directing agent. I’m really lucky because I love my agents. They’re really good people.

Who are they?


Bill Timms and Peter Strain at Peter Strain and Associates are my acting agents, and Morgan Jenness is my lit/directing agent, and she’s brilliant. She’s an artist instead of an agent, and that works really well for me. They’re great about me balancing them. She’s such a huge inspiration to me as an artist so I feel very lucky. I have a very positive artistic team to help support me, and allow me to do the different things. They’ll let me turn down jobs to direct something and vice versa, and that’s rare.

It seems like you’re a very positive person. That’s something I was struck by just in corresponding with you. Is that something you’ve cultivated?

It’s something that’s really important to me. We all chose to be in this life and I don’t think any of us, if we’re smart, got into it for money, or for any other reason than we just really wanted to do theater, and it’s a really hard life. You try to raise a family. You try to make a living, and I think it’s a fucking, heart-breaker life, but we all chose it, so I don’t feel I have a right to bitch about stuff because I made the decision to do this. I grew up in it, and I knew it was going to be very hard. This is what I was doing, whether I sucked at it, or was good at it, and I definitely have sucked, and I have been good at times. There’s a lot of unfairness in it.

The work has to happen either way, so I don’t understand why people have to be assholes to get the work done. Either way, the work has to happen, and either way the work can happen. I don’t think you have to be an asshole to accomplish that. It doesn’t make sense to me, so I try to be good to everybody, and there are times I’ve been an asshole, absolutely, and there’s times I talk shit, and I call myself on it. I think we all need to be responsible for ourselves, and responsible for ourselves as artists. I think being a person and an artist is one in the same. I just don’t think you need to treat people like shit. It’s hard enough. Why would we make it harder on each other as theater people?

Sometimes, I think people act that way because they think they need to in order to be taken seriously.

Yeah, I’ve literally had people say to me “look, we love you as a director, but we think you need to be meaner.” I’ve literally heard that, and I’m like, “no, I don’t”. I still get the work done. I’ve never missed a rehearsal. I’ve never missed a performance, and I’ve never opened a show late, so I don’t need to be an asshole to get something done. But I’ve been told that literally. You know like, “Oh, we love you Daniel. We’d love to send you out on this project, but we think you’re too nice,” or “you come across too casual,” you know? And I don’t think you need to be a dick, or act like a corporate businessmen to be a theater artist.

I wouldn’t go into a meeting with someone I didn’t know and say, “hey motherfucka!” (laughing) I’m not an idiot about it, but I try very hard to be myself, and I think I can do that and get my work done. I treat you with respect whether you’re the stage manager, or the intern, or the star, and the work is better. It’s a healthier environment, so people feel safer to go to nastier places I think. And I tend to like to work on darker, weirder shit - which is different than my personality a lot of the time, but I feel like if you live in that darkness all the time, it’s hard. If there’s a lot of laughter and joy in the room, it’s easier to get to the other shit.

So you started studying acting at 16…

I think I was just about to turn 17. I was a baseball player for a long time. I was training to play baseball in college.

Wow.

Yeah. Crazy. When I get into something, I become obsessed with it so it’s like 24/7. I trained all day, and I played in five different leagues and played all year around, and a girlfriend of mine – she was in a play at A.C.T., and we’d make these crazy, horror movies together about vampires - and she said, you should take an acting class. So I went to A.C.T. because of her, and Andrew Dolan was my first acting teacher. And I just, from day one, totally quit baseball - right there on the spot. It was like I found my life, from that day forward.

It kind of blows my mind that you say when you’re working on something, you’re kind of OCD - yet you do so much. How does that work? It seems almost counter-intuitive.

I don’t know. I think a lot of theater and life is a struggle with self - in relation to society, in relation to people around you, and I have a lot of baggage –as does everybody, and it’s something I fight really hard with - a lot of problems with being worried about stuff, and fear, and stuff like that, so it’s good for me to fight against it. It can make me a little nutty sometimes, but I think I’m old enough to know that it’s me, and my shit, and not other people, so it gets you over yourself, and I think it’s really good for all of us to get over ourselves. That’s what theater’s all about. It’s about laying it bare, and here are my words, and these are my good qualities, and these are my bad qualities, and this is the grey area in between that I don’t really understand, and kind of sharing all that.

So what are you working on now?

I’ve been auditioning a lot, and I’m finishing a new play. I was doing this thing called 24Seven Lab which was founded by Sharon Freedman, Edith Freni and Sarah Hayon, and is a really awesome group of people, and my goal was to finish a full draft of the play. I’m about halfway there which is pretty good, but I was kind of bummed I didn’t finish it.

Tell me about the 24Seven Lab.


It’s this awesome thing where they commission or ask a small group of writers to get together every week, and you kind of make a goal for like two months, and it was hard because I was directing a couple things while doing it, and I’m one of three literary managers at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, with two of my best friends who also run Rising Phoenix Rep. with me, and we were doing all this stuff at Rattlestick, so I kind of bit off a tad more than I could chew. I can do that at times. So, I’m trying to finish that right now, and I have the next three weeks open before things get crazy again.

So you were working on a play for two months that is now about half-way done. It takes some people a year to do a full-length play.

Unless you’re like Adam Rapp and you write one in like a night, you know? (laughing) I’m also looking at some things I might direct, and we have stuff coming up at Rising Phoenix in August and fall. We’ll do our next off-Broadway show, and I’m going to teach for the first time ever, which I’m really excited about.

At Primary Stages?

Yeah, I’m going to teach a site-specific directing class - kind of what we do with our lab space at Rising Phoenix. We got sick of worrying about money so Denis Butkus - who helped found Rising Phoenix Rep. with me, and is also one of the literary managers at Rattlestick, found this great space called Jimmy No. 43. He found it on Playbill, and Jimmy’s kind of made us one of the resident theater companies there, so he’s been really great to us. So, we commissioned playwrights for that space, and it allowed us not to obsess about money all the time. Our kind of independent theater stuff started becoming about how to make the highest quality theater possible for as little money as possible, instead of it always being about money. So, this class is going to be a lot about working with what you get. Let’s say you’re given the Scottish Play. Your dream is to do the Scottish play, and you have no money, so can you do it in the bathroom, or at a rest stop at Grand Central? It’ll be about six to eight directors.

That’s going to be this summer?


Yeah. Their school is amazing. It’s all the people I love. I love Tessa LaNeve so much. I think she’s a fucking rock star. It’ll be on Mondays, so I can still do a show as an actor, and if I’m out of town, I can come back.

We took a break to eat but then somehow got talking about porn, which led to an interesting discussion about image versus action, which I’ll continue in Part Two...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Amoralists Have What It Takes - part 2

"...So they went to Las Vegas and were like, 'We’re going to make a bunch of money to set up a theater company!' It didn’t quite work out that way, but they started it anyway."

Producing partner of The Amoralists, Meghan Ritchie, talks about how the company started, how they keep going, and what their hopes are for the future.

(This is the second part of a two-part interview. The first is with founding playwright/director, Derek Ahonen.)


Tell me about the origins of The Amoralists.

When they first started the company, they went out to L.A. to see if they could make a go of it out there, better than they could here, but when they got there, they were turned off by it quite a bit, so they went to Las Vegas and were like “We’re going to make a bunch of money to set up a theater company!” It didn’t quite work out that way, but they started it anyway. Derek Ahonen had already been writing some plays that had been produced by other companies, so they took one of his plays, While Chasing The Fantastic, and did it at the Kraine Theatre. They just kind of did it trial by error. They got a response where they could get their friends to come out and see it. They could get people involved. They got to work with each other and then they just kept going from there.

Every year it’s gotten a little bit bigger, and now we’re to the point where we’re doing all the things that companies do in the beginning, like business plans and all those things. We’re playing catch-up and doing that now, four years in. It’s helpful to have made mistakes over time and realize that September’s not the greatest time to do a play because the dates tend to conflict with a lot of Broadway openings and holidays, or that press reps can make all the difference - like having a press rep that can get you good reviewers, and who really work hard for you so you can be seen by more people. So we’ve learned over the years all those little things that go into building a big company.

Did you start with a press rep right away or is that something that came in later?

I think they did their own press for the first play and I’m not sure if they did for the first two years or just the first year but then we found David Gibbs of Darr Publicity for Pied Pipers’ second mounting and he was fantastic. So far we’ve been working with him and have really enjoyed our relationship. He really gets the company. He’s passionate about what we do, and he does a great job, and he’s fun to work with. We also can attribute it to the fact that P.S. 122 and Theater 80 are bigger venues than the Gene Frankel. It’s easier to get them to come to these, so moving up with David and into these bigger spaces combined to kind of create a really perfect storm for starting to get noticed a bit more.

Were you all in the same class at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts?

Yeah, we started at The American Academy in 1999 and met each other there. Matt Fraley, myself – who joined the company in 2009, Matt Pilieci, James Kautz and Derek Ahonen all went to school together. A number of the actors that we work with are from The American Academy as well, mostly because, having gone to that school, we have more access to go see their showcases and we know that they work in the same sort of language that we do and in the same sort of style, so it’s definitely been a good resource for our company.

So you all graduated around 2001 and were trying to make it as actors before this company was started?

Yeah, just kind of make it and do our own things, which is great but I think part of the reason the company formed was because they felt like if they were really going to be doing work that they loved, that they believed in, and that you created yourself, you have to just jump in and do it. Nobody’s going to come and try to find you to do that kind of work, and since Derek was a playwright and we loved his work, it was a natural fit.

One of the things that I thought was interesting is that you guys have decided to stay Non-Equity. Can you talk a little about that?

I think our goal overall is to be able to be big enough to work within Equity rules. Currently, it doesn’t allow us the freedom to work the way that we do. Our shows can budget in at roughly $30,000 to $60,000 per show if we pay everybody the amount that we’d love to pay them. I mean, it’s an actor-driven company. We want to pay our actors. We want to pay the people that create it. It costs a lot of money. There are also rules with Equity. When we first started, we would have only been able to do 16 performances which means you’re not eligible for any of the awards thoughout the season. You’re not eligible for a certain amount of press. With $18 dollar tickets, which are what you have to have, it’s really hard to recoup any money, and we don’t necessarily make any money yet. We try to use any profits we make towards the next show, so we try to make as much as we can, so we can continue on with the work and Equity doesn’t necessarily help us yet. We’re all Non-Equity so you know, for now, it makes sense for us to try to stay that way as long as we can to try to build the company so that eventually we can join Equity.

In this venue, being that it’s 160 seats, we could no longer do showcase code anyway, so it would have to be like a major off-Broadway Equity contract and it gets expensive. Non-Equity means we can work with up-and-coming actors who are really hungry and want to do stuff and have the same attitude as we do, so it’s helpful for us at the moment.

So does that mean as actors within the company, you don’t necessarily get paid?

Yeah, but we try to spread the love whenever we can, if we profit enough that we can pay for the down-payment for our next show and we can take care of the expenses and the money that people have put into it. We have a bank account but we all kind of pitch in and help buy props and things, so we reimburse, and we make sure that nobody actually has to pay for anything themselves anymore. Then, if we make any money over that, we spread the love and give a bonus to the actors and just take care of people as much as we can.

Initially, Matt, Derek and James put in quite a bit of money just to start the company, so it was their investment and they bankrolled that by working in bars and doing day jobs and getting money wherever they could. It was pretty much that way up until last year where we became fiscally-sponsored which helped us to be able to ask for tax-deductible donations which was a major shift in our ability to get people to give us money who hadn’t considered it before.

We also have fund-raisers as often as we can without depleting our group of people. We had one major season-opening fundraiser, and then we’ll have little ones throughout the year that people will throw, like if someone wants to throw a Halloween party, they’ll do it with a donation at the door. Little things like that we’ll get along the way, but two or three fundraisers a year at this point. Usually, for every show, we’ll have to do a big fund-raiser. We have another show opening in June so we need to raise that money and we’ll probably have to have another to-do and then another one in September when we’ll be gearing up for the show in November.

Have you done two shows every year since you started?

Usually it has been two. Last year, we reprised Pied Piper of the Lower East Side at P.S. 122. We extended it so many times and were able to continue to let it live on so that was the only show we did in 2009. And this year we have three shows scheduled.

Happy In The Poorhouse is the first?


Yes, then we’re relaunching Amerissiah and then Adam Rapp gave us his first play and is directing that. The hope is that we’ll be able to continue with a couple plays by Derek Ahonen a year and then have a guest writer. That’s kind of the thinking on the following season at the moment. Of course, that can change depending on how the season moves, how big it gets, if we have to scale back, but that is the hope.

It’s kind of amazing that given the economic climate that you guys have done so well in such a short amount of time.


We’re amazed that we’re able to get any money, but we’ve been really lucky with generous friends and neighbors and family members and people that were really interested in Pied Pipers and wanted to continue to see the work. We’re really grateful for that so we’ll just continue on as long as we can get those same people to support it, and try to meet new people and get as much new audience as we can. Audience building has turned out to be a really interesting thing to learn about now, now that we have a bigger house, we’re kind of learning where our ceiling is. We were at P.S. 122 and we started selling out at 70 seats so then we’re like, we need a place that’s bigger. Originally, we started at Gene Frankel which is like 50 seats, then P.S. 122 with 70 seats, and then here at Theater 80 with 160 seats, and we’re still at 75%. We’ve had a few nights where we’ve had 100, 120, 140 people which has been great. We just want to continue that for the next run, where we start out at 100 people, and then at the end of Amerissiah, have close to 150 people in every audience, so that in the fall, that’s our ceiling. It’s just trying to build so we have that amount of people going in and it’s not so terrifying going in and wondering if we’re going to make rent off the back end.

Is there any advice you’d like to give anyone that wants to start their own company?

Yes, definitely. More important than anything else is that you have to be 100% committed to spending all of your time passionately working on your work, and find good work to do. Don’t get together if you just want an agent, and all of you want different things. You can probably get together and do a few shows that way and get some interest in what you’re doing, but if you want to create a company that continues on into the future years and decades, have a general goal that you are all looking towards and have it be similar, an idea about what you guys all want and be really passionate about it and just work your ass off.

Meghan Ritchie is a producing partner and actress with The Amoralists. Happy In The Poorhouse is extended thru April 26th at Theater 80 (80 St. Marks Place, NYC). Don't miss it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Amoralists' Derek Ahonen on his play Happy In The Poorhouse and other thangs - part 1

"The natural dialogue in my brain is not necessarily that funny. It’s like FUCK YOU, FUCK YOU, FUCK YOU, but I understand what they’re really saying. It’s just coming out fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, then that’s where you add in lines like 'baby duck kissing my heart'."

You studied acting at The American Academy, did you study playwriting there as well?

No, I never studied playwriting.

When did you start writing?


In ’03. I always wanted to. I like making theater in general, like all aspects of it, so I started acting, then I started writing, then I started directing two years ago so it’s just a natural progression. The writing took off a lot more than my acting career ever did, so that’s the one I’m definitely sticking to.

Were your first plays for The Amoralists?


No, that was my third play. My first play was done by a theater company that is no longer together called Wooden Eye Productions. They saw there was something about the work that they liked, that it was raw, and I spent about six months rewriting it with them and that got done in the summer of ’03.

I started sending my plays out to the major theaters and I would just either never hear back from them or it would be like a year later, and it seemed hopeless. The guys weren’t where they wanted to be in their acting career so they convinced me to go out to L.A. because they had seen some of their friends go out there and get some minor successes. We went out there and it wasn’t our thing, but we realized that our thing wasn’t really happening in New York either but we all had some good day jobs at the time that really allowed us to hunker down and put down a couple hundred dollars a week in order to start the company so that’s what we did.

How long did it take from the decision to start the company to producing your first play?

We got back in the November of ’06 and our first play was up at the Kraine in May of ’07. I had written a play that summer called While Chasing The Fantastic and they really liked it.

Did you write it with them in mind?

No, because we had no idea that the company was going to get started then. It’s funny because that play, without knowing that it was ever going to get done, is more experimental and with the deadlines that I have now with the company, where one show ends and I’ve got three months to finish the next one before casting, the shows themselves have become more manic. There has been no experimentation form-wise. It’s just lights up and lights down, simple old-school style. I was thinking about that the other day, where if I had all the time in the world to write something, would the style change dramatically or not.

So what are some of the things you guys did to get the company going? Did you have production experience?

Matt and James had worked in production at our old school and had worked with another company, and Matt and I had done a play with a company in Texas where we pretty much had to do everything ourselves, so we knew how to get a show up in seven weeks. The things that were actually difficult were learning about rentals, and spaces, and legal shit, and contracts, and how to get the word out about the show, all the marketing stuff that we had to learn on the fly. We didn’t even know you needed a press rep, we just figured you’re doing a show and everybody finds out somehow. Now we know. There are now five people doing it as opposed to three.

How long was your first run?


Three weeks and then we did the Pied Piper (the first time) for four weeks and that was written specifically for the company with a deadline. The five previous plays have been done with the same formula. When the show ends, I have two months to write it, we have two months to rehearse it, and we run for a month and a half.

So when you write it, do you have reading at all or have people come to your apartment to hear it?

No, I tell them about their characters, like James is playing a cop, he’s got a stutter, his mom left him, he’s insecure so then, when we read the play, everybody knows their characters, but they don’t necessarily know their role. It’s a pain in the ass when you start doing all these readings every ten pages because there are too many cooks, “let’s have it go in this direction”, “I don’t understand what’s going on here” and I don’t necessarily know. They sort of reveal themselves to me as I’m writing it and I can’t sit here and explain arcs and themes until the things already done. Then I can sharpen it and punch it up and make it funny. So it’s pretty much just me doing my own thing.

Do you do rewrites in rehearsal?

Yeah, well not major rewrites, but we punch it up. I always listen to my actors when they want to dirty their characters, if their character seems to clean, how can we make it more interesting, create more problems, and I never listen to them if they want to clean their character up or make them sexier. We have a good system of checks and balances when it comes to egos. We’re always in the business of making it funnier, like in this show, when Matt does that thing with the arm, that’s all him.

I was interviewing Daniel Talbot the other day and I mentioned I was going to see Happy in the Poorhouse and talk to you guys, and he told me about the first scene in The Pied Piper of The Lower East Side where the guy comes out with a huge boner. Would you say you guys have a certain aesthetic that you’re going for?

Pied Piper is similar to this in that there’s no scene changes, everything happens in the course of one day. We like to mix highs and lows. We like to mix really intelligent comedic writing with base bathroom humor and the drama - there’s a lot of emotion. We want to juggle the dramatic and the comedic at the same time, so literally if something’s funny, funny, funny then right underneath is a dramatic moment.

Did that happen naturally in your writing?

That’s the type of stuff that I always liked in seventies films and there aren’t that many actors that have that comedic eye that understand that it’s absurd and can hit both comedic and dramatic marks at the same time. I don’t know that many people that can do it so having the people that can allows me to really go after moments like that and put them in the show and make them bigger. I feel some of the work that they’re doing here – like the Ring Cycle by Wagner, only like five people on the face of the earth can sing it, so it’s never done, and I feel like some of my actors are like that too. It’s a good synergy right now.

So you have two months to write your plays. Where do you start?

We’re all heavy drinkers, and we’re always at the bars afterward and always having some kind of conversation that sparks something, like if your husband or your boyfriend couldn’t bring themselves to sleep with you. It would just destroy you emotionally because it’s what you don’t know that drives you crazy. If you know you got a womanizing husband, you know you have to keep an eye on him, or control him, or divorce him or vice versa with a woman too, but if he just couldn’t do it, your mind would start racing and you would just be in this manic state.

That was the impetus of this story, and then we decided that we wanted to make it feel like it took place in the fifties. We always like to have things take place now but feel like they’re from a different era, so you got that romantic kind of feel to it. And we started thinking about a story about dreamers, and Coney Island is kind of a carnival with a lot of crazy people, so we wanted to add in these characters where nobody’s quite made it, and then we connected that to kind of like this lost generation in America right now, where everybody’s being told to scale down their expectations, and that got carried into the story with like, maybe paradise is just a happily, married couple with a good sex life. Lower all of your expectations and maybe that’s more beautiful than your dreams were to begin with.

So it sounds like the play came out of conversations you all had and then you sort of took that and started writing.

Basically having an eye for when there’s a story. So when we’re sitting around talking, I’m looking for the thing that’s going to spark the next story. We don’t sit down collectively and write the story, or even draw out the story. It’s just that the story happens. I feel like it happens with all of us, and I’m the one who’s structuring it, and giving it words, and giving it life, and then they have to go live it. All the things that are in the show are things that we talk about anyway.

We’re all coming up on thirty – everyone’s more or less right above or below thirty, and things are a lot different than when you’re twenty-one just getting out of acting school. You think all these breaks are going to happen. You think one and one equals two. We’re not cynical or anything, but it’s been a humbling ten years, and these conversations about dreams and expectations are what we have naturally, in regards to ourselves in New York City, and it’s just basically finding a structure to make all these ideas accessible and entertaining to the audience, because that’s our problem with a lot of theater, actually - so many brilliant theater artists who are in their room, like mad scientists, that when I read it on the page, it’s genius but it doesn’t ever become accessible to an audience. Either it’s not funny enough, or it doesn’t move fast enough, there’s not enough love in it, so at the end of the day, we’re all on the same page that it’s about the audience.

So what’s the next play you’re going to write?

Our next show is Amerissiah which we did a year ago before the company got on the map, so we decided to that again. My next show with this company will be in the spring of next year at the earliest after Amerissiah, and we’re doing Adam Rapp’s play in the fall.

How did that come about?

He came and saw Pied Piper and then I went and saw Nocturne when he did a reading with Dallas Roberts, and we started talking, and he met with the boys and the rest of the company, and we started talking and drinking. We wanted to set up a formula where I did a spring and fall show and then we bring in a different guest writer each year for a summer show, and he was on the top of our list. We didn’t know if he had any material or could even do it so we sent him an email asking what he was up to and he was like, “hell yeah, I want to work with you guys” so that’s how that came about.

What’s your writing schedule like?

It’s a free for all. I’ve got my notebook on me 24/7 and it’s often five minutes on the subway, twenty minutes in the bar, when my girlfriend takes a shower and something hits me. It’s completely random. If I get a chance to go into the theater that I know we’re doing it in and just sit there and I can start to see the show happening in front of me as I’m writing, that helps. It’s never an office space. It needs to be dirty and the energy has to be high. It can’t be too calm. I need to grab it, grab the five pages of dialogue.

Has it always been that way?

It’s always how I’ve done it. I don’t have the attention span to sit for two hours
to do anything except to watch a play or a movie. I think that’s why the plays move so well is because they’re written in two minute increments, and I got to grab the next two minutes.

Do you go back?

I go back and there’s a lot of, like especially the stuff that’s really heightened, like the natural dialogue in my brain is not necessarily that funny. It’s like FUCK YOU, FUCK YOU, FUCK YOU, but I understand what they’re really saying. It’s just coming out fuck you, fuck you, fuck you then that’s where you add in lines like “baby duck kissing my heart”. You add the poetry and the humor later but on top of that fuck you energy, the emotional truth is there. We’re always looking for a funnier way to say something.

And how do you have time for a day job or is that something you have to do at this point?

Oh, well right now I guess I’m going to start looking for something. I had a job at a comedy club working on the staff and the whole thing went under, so I’m kind of looking for a job. There’s starting to be some money with this so…

Do you pay yourself as a playwright? How do you work that out?

The last two shows have been financially successful so there’s been money at the end for everyone to get a little taste. It would be enough for everyone to live on if we did seven shows a year with all the same people but as it is, it’s only three shows with some people only doing one show a year. So right now everyone’s pretty much still gotta work. But hopefully – I know that a lot of the actors are meeting with industry now and big agents.

Do you have an agent?


I have a manager and a few agents have come down over the past week and I have meetings with them over the next ten days so we’ll see what happens. I guess the best possible thing that can happen for me, you know if I don’t want to write a jingle or something like that, is to get the plays in the colleges.

What about TV?


TV, yeah…my manager doesn’t know theater as much as he knows television so he’s trying to get me on some shows that he’s connected with as a staff writer, but that’s a completely different type of writing too. It’s five people all in a room, just doing it together. Here it’s me, and then everybody tries to make it funnier, but at the end of the day, it’s this thing that I wrote alone. I can’t imagine what five people just plugging away at ten episodes together every day for eight hours would be like.

What about film?

I wrote a screenplay one time but I don’t think it’s very good. This is like cocaine for me because every time a show is over, I’m going to be clean and I’m going to focus on my career, and I’m going to write that golden movie and then it’s like yeah, I could do that for two months, or I could write a show that I can guarantee will be up on stage three months from now. There’s not a lot of money, and sometimes there’s no money or god forbid we owe money if we have a flop or something, but I can’t walk away from it. I can’t get away from it.

Two years ago if you had told me about all the press, and all the attention these shows would get, or even sitting here talking to you right now, doing an interview about the company, I woulda shit myself. I woulda been like, “that would be the greatest thing ever! I don’t give a fuck about money! Who cares about any of that shit!” and I’m still like that to a certain extent, but now, it’s scary because I thought you just do your job well in life and the money comes. Jimi Hendrix didn’t want to be Jimi Hendrix, he just wanted to play rock and roll and that made him Jimi Hendrix. That brought him all the money. So it’s kinda weird to see that we’re doing exactly what we want to do, and people are liking it, but there’s still no financial anything. I’m out here trying to do this dream, and a whole generation of my family has died off over the last ten years in Chicago, and you don’t get to go back for all the holidays and actively be part of the life. Seven or eight great aunts and uncles have kicked it that I was close to when I was a kid in the eighties and nineties and stuff, and I don’t feel like I was there for the end of it, and I just say thems the rules when you follow your dreams.

Happy In The Poorhouse, is enjoying an extended run at Theater 80 through April 26th.

This is part one of a two part interview on The Amoralists. The next installment is an interview with producing partner and actress Meghan Ritchie.