Saturday, February 18, 2012

Nicole Pandolfo's LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHLAMYDIA Will Warm the Cockles of Your Heart.

"One woman’s search for love in a world full of absent father’s, premature ejaculators, alcohol, and venereal disease..."
-Nicole Pandolfo
playwright, actress


It’s a mostly comic take on some of the awkward parts of growing up, especially if you’re someone who was looking for love with a lot of people. But at it’s heart, it’s really a story about growing up, having fun, screwing up, (screwing around), drinking a lot, and trying to figure it out.

Are solo shows your thang?

I like solo shows! I love really great solo shows! I love John Leguizamo and have seen most of his stuff and Mike Daisey is doing some killer monologue work. I’m a huge fan of Spalding Gray. That being said, in general I haven’t seen as much solo work as I wish I had. I wish there was more around that I knew about. So solo shows are my thang, but not my only thang.

With this piece, I definitely didn’t set out to write a solo show. I’ve mostly written traditional plays. I also just completed a television pilot and am currently working on a novel, which is really fun. I’ve been writing plays for 5 years and it’s been fun to dip into screenwriting and straight-up fiction. Fiction writing is great because you can just say a character’s inner-thoughts. Just right out there like in the middle of action. It’s awesome. Not that you can’t do that with some type of soliloquy or monologue in a play, but fiction writing is designed for it.

And that’s probably why I had so much fun writing LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHLAMYDIA. The solo form leaves room for some of that same inner-monologue.

What was the inspiration for LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHLAMYDIA?

It started out originally as monologues from the perspective of multiple prostitutes who had seen really weird stuff go down on the job, and it was called “Five Fucked Up Fetishes.” Then I realized I was using a lot of back story from my own real life and then it kind of forced itself onto me as a solo show based on myself. I started writing it on the train from NYC to NJ where I grew up. A lot of great story ideas come to me when I take that ride on the North East Corridor, I guess maybe for obvious thematic reasons.

What was your process in developing it?

I wrote the first draft in a playwriting seminar at HB Studio with Julie McKee, where Julie and many wonderful playwrights really helped shape and inspire my progress on the draft. Then in spring of 2009, I presented an early version for the script as part of Emerging Artist Theatre’s One Woman Standing, which was a great space for developing it further. In the fall of 2009, I presented a slightly tweaked script at Manhattan Theatre Source’s Estrogenius Sola Voce. Which was also a really great part of the development. And then I sent it out places here and there, but nothing really materialized with it and I had kind of put it on a shelf until J.Stephen Brantley approached me last year about doing a full production of it, which was just an amazing. Luckily J.Stephen had been in the audience at Estrogenius and when he started his company Hard Sparks, he had it in mind.How did you meet JSB and Hard Sparks?

I met J.Stephen in the summer of 2009 at the first annual Stony Brook Southampton Writers Conference. We were in a seminar with Craig Lucas, who is just the biggest sweetheart and an amazing guy, not to mention an incredibly talented playwright. I instantly connected to J.Stephen’s work, but he really won my heart over when he threw an awesome house party! It was my first ever Hamptons party, and it was full of writers and actors and was so much fun. I’m sure I probably drank too much white wine, but we became colleagues and buddies and both still keep in touch with some other folks we met there. I highly recommend that conference to anyone! But that’s really where it started, we kept in touch, and he was in the audience at Estrogenius that fall and that’s how it happened.

What has the process been like in working with your director Jonathan Warman?

It became a living, breathing organism and as we got it on its feet, J.Stephen, Jonathan, and I all kind of went through it to tighten it up. As I worked on it, I realized some lines were worded weirdly, or gave things away too soon, or were better left unsaid. That type of thing. So as the actor, I’ve definitely made some changes. It’s nice to sort of have the authority to do that, versus when you’re saying someone else’s lines, you’d typically have to confer with them and that could be scary.

Working with Jonathan has been great. Not having anyone else in the cast with me I’ve had to put a lot of trust in him and vice versa, I’m sure. It’s been a new experience having no other human on stage with me from which to draw energy from and having to rely on myself for that.

How did you come to playwriting?

I’ve always been a writer since I was a teen– short stories, poetry, and I did a little screenwriting in college at NYU, but I came to playwriting at HB Studio. My dear friend and comic book great Kevin Maguire, who I work with on sketch, improv projects, and various other comedy projects way back in 2007, mentioned he was going to signup for a playwriting class at HB, and I was like “Hey, I’ll do that with you.” So I signed up, and he actually never did, but I ended up really finding a passion in that room.

What's next?

I’ve got a few projects in the works, but I’m kinda superstitious about blabbing about them before they actually materialize, so things I will say are that I have a play in Australia right now called I THOUGHT I LIKED GIRLS as part of Short+Sweet Sydney. Check it out if you happen to be on the other side of the globe. It’s also coming out in print soon in the 2011 BEST TEN-MINUTE PLAYS, SMITH & KRAUS.

I’ve got screenwriting on the brain, and my novel, which I still am not sure what it is about, but I hope to spend a lot of my time working on movies, television, and my book in the coming months and hopefully touring LOVE. But the crazy thing about this business is anything can come out of anywhere, so I’m hoping for something really good!

What artists/theater co's/novels/etc are exciting you right now?

Hardsparks and Theaterspeak obviously! The East 11th Street Renegades. I’m really inspired by the writing of Richard Price. I’ve been thinking about the 90s a lot- I don’t know what that means, but I have. I think I’ve been placing a nostalgia on it. I suppose there’s some sort of craving in me for a “pre-September 11th, facebook, no jobs around” time.

I find my family and friends in New Jersey endlessly inspiring. Sometimes in Manhattan you forget that people do things in a totally different way other places. In my opinion the people I grew up around behave in a more visceral and sincere way. It just seems more simple, less complicated by career and money than the people I’m around in New York- so I look to my home state and hometown for inspiration and connection.

Chelsea Handler and Louis C.K. are both doing some really interesting work on TV. I like their 'do it my way' attitude and trusting their own artistic vision. And it’s been working for them both. What I’m learning more and more is that the theme of our current artistic state seems to be you gotta do it yourself. Which maybe has always been the case. But that’s really what I’ve been thinking about. 'How can I make this happen?' rather than 'how can I get someone else to make this happen?'. Obviously, some things you really do need other people for, but I’m trying to take control of what I can and make IT happen.

Anything you'd like to add?

There are a few tickets on TDF for LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHLAMYDIA for $9 or you can head to my website for more information: Hope to see you there!

LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHLAMYDIA is part of Horse Trade's Frigid Festival which begins February 22nd thru March 4th. For more information, stay cool here.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Daniel Talbott on His Powerful New Play YOSEMITE

"I think of the structure of the play like a giant wave, or the structure of drowning – falling down hard and then trying to fight upwards towards the surface and air..."

Daniel Talbott
What was the inspiration for Yosemite?

It was commissioned by the wonderful ladies of the 24Seven Lab (Sharon Freedman, Edith Freni, and Sarah Hayon) who I love, and it literally wouldn’t exist without them and all their love and support. It’s also a play that I wrote for one of my best friends and one of the greatest actors and people and I know, Seth Numrich.

This play is so much for my family, who I love deeply, and who I have been through a lot with, and it's especially for my brothers and sisters and my mom. There was a time that we lived in a place that was full of so many people, and especially their kids, who had such great intentions and tons of heart and imagination, but were absolutely crushed and destroyed by poverty and drugs and loss. Life can be really, really tough, but through each other, and with each other, I feel so many of us were able to crawl out of that pit, and I couldn't be more thankful for that - and this play is about that for me.How would you describe the play?

It’s a really different play for me, and unlike anything I’ve written before. I think of the structure of the play like a giant wave, or the structure of drowning – falling down hard and then trying to fight upwards towards the surface and air. It’s a long, singular movement that hopefully burns deep and hard and forward til the lights ghost out at the end of the play. I love this play and am so proud of the work we all did on it.

I wanted to try to write something you couldn’t coast on or hide in and that doesn’t work unless everyone sits inside it and lives it fresh and new each night, and that goes for the audience as much as the actors. I was trying to write a play that forces collaboration. The play for me is about vulnerability and empathy and you have to really be willing to come forward and sit inside it and with the characters and not expect the play to come to you and do all the work.What was the writing process like?

I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to write about or where I was going to start when I was lucky enough to be asked to do 24Seven with everybody, and I felt pretty freaked out and stupid because of that. And then, I was sitting in the middle of a reading for Rattlestick at the Barrow Street one day, and the theatre was in the three-quarter thrust configuration for Our Town, and I don’t know why but I started just seeing a snowy clearing in a forest with snow falling, and then I started seeing these kids who I knew were siblings, scattered around the stage, alone, trapped and freezing and digging. It reminded me a lot of my brothers and sisters and when we were living up in Sonora CA, and I started thinking about them, and just trying to start writing it and not judging it in any way.

It was wonderful in the 24Seven Lab because we had the structure where we had to come in with new pages every week, and that really helped me. I was surrounded by brilliant writers, actors, dramaturges, and friends, and with their love and support, and talent, I kept creeping forward slowly, turtle-like.
What has the development process been like after you had a draft, or some scenes, or a semblance of an idea?

I think I got about sixty pages or so in during the lab, and then thank god they asked me to come up and do their equally wonderful retreat, cause it was up there in these haunted ass woods in this huge retreat center that I got to finish the first draft of the play. I remember sitting outside by myself on this hill working on the end, and I know it’s stupid, but just crying and feeling like I was letting go of something and turning it into something I loved, into work. This play really just kind of fell out. I don’t intellectualize a lot of stuff like this. I just try to stay open as much as I can and share it the best I can. I don’t mean that to sound airy fairy, but I just try to open to a situation and write it the way it comes to me and really work hard not to judge it. I owe so much to all the 24Seven folks and it was an incredible experience, and again I feel so lucky to have gotten to work with them I can’t even say.

Once I had a decent draft of the play, we did a reading of it at Rattlestick and a bunch of friends who I love came, and gave me a lot of great feedback on it, and I can’t remember when David said he wanted to do it, but when he did, it really was a dream come true for me, and I didn’t touch it a lot after that til we got into rehearsal with the wonderful Pedro Pascal and the brilliant brilliant cast--Seth, Libby, Noah, and Katie. Once we were in rehearsal it was such a collaboration in every way. I feel like everyone who worked on this production has such a piece of themselves in this play and I love that, and for me that’s how it should be.I love writing plays so much and I find it really hard to call myself a playwright yet just because there are so many people out there who I love and look up to, and I just don’t think I’m there yet, but I’m working hard. And it was a really big deal for me that David wanted to do my second play too. I think someone once said to me anyone can write one play, but it’s the folks who keep going, especially when they have nobody really telling them they should or have to, who get to call themselves playwrights in the end. You just have to keep writing the good and the bad, and creating plays and theater, no matter what.

What is it like being a director and an actor but being the writer in the room?

I don’t think about it very much. I really just try to focus on the work and go as far into it as possible. I think everything I’m lucky enough to do and be a part of helps me grow and deepen and expand. Theater to me is all about saying yes, possibility, expanse, and bravery. I feel there’s too much “no”, and making ourselves small, and not enough just jumping into the fucking void and swimming. There’s too much judgment and cowardice and hiding behind coolness, bullshit power lists, reviews, awards, cliques, and smugness. It really doesn’t mean anything and it gets in the way of the work, and I feel like the more I can do in the theatre, the further I can push myself to be braver and to take more risks – the further I can go into stuff.What's next?

I’m working on two Off-Broadway plays right now with Rising Phoenix Rep and our producing partner Piece By Piece Productions, both of which I love, and are by brilliant, brilliant playwrights, and we have our Cino Night series going on through June. And I’m also working on trying to write a couple new plays, a few directing projects, trying to figure out some possibilities and jobs out of town to run around some, hopefully starting a film company with one of my best friends Aria, and getting to work on Much Ado About Nothing again right now with the wonderful Boomerang folks. I’m also trying to find time to get my booty back on stage and keep doing TV and film work as an actor. Just keep working and spending time with my family and friends, and get to the ocean and mountains as much as possible.

YOSEMITE, written by Daniel Talbott, directed by Pedro Pascal with Kathryn Erbe, Noah Galvin, Seth Numrich, and Libby Woodbridge is running at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater now through February 26th, Wed-Fri at 8PM, Sat at 2PM and 8PM, Sun at 3PM.