What is one of your greatest challenges as the managing and artistic director at Monster box Theatre?
One of the greatest challenges of directing a live performance theater is always funding. Finding funds to support the arts is especially difficult in today’s political climate. There is the fact that grants are few and so then the theater must rely on audiences and attendance. This can create a dilemma between creating art and simply entertaining the masses. We have tried very hard to keep the art at the forefront and challenge our audience, but an audience often will choose to put their dollars into soft and easy, light experiences rather than the exert the effort that is required to expand or educate oneself. This delicate balance is always at play when deciding on a season of performances.
What can theater-goers expect from the upcoming Monster Box Theatre season?
The upcoming Monster Box Theatre season, just announced, has met with very favorable response and we are very excited for it. The fall and winter season is the first half of our theatrical year and we hope all agree that is has a strong variety of offerings. Performances begin in October through November with the edgy, controversial and five time Tony Award-nominated “Hand to God” by Robert Askins, which is a very adult comedy about a religious teen and his psychotic puppet. December brings a slightly lighter, very witty send-up of religion with “The Book of Liz” by Amy and David Sedaris. In January, we have two hilarious farces that run concurrently: “The Real Inspector Hound” by Tom Stoppard which is a murder within a play about a murder within a play about a play, and “Black Comedy” by Peter Shaffer — five Tony nominations — which takes place entirely in the dark. In February, “Crunchy Water” is an original comedy written and performed by The Monster Box Improv Company along with an artistic historical comedy/drama “Men on Boats” by Jaclyn Backhaus. The “men” are played by an all-gender cast telling the “mostly” true story of the explorers that “discovered” the Grand Canyon. Finally March through April concludes the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “Glengarry Glen Ross” by David Mamet.
Considering our current political climate, how important is it for our community to come together through art to support different cultural experiences and perspectives?
Given today’s political climate, what we do in the arts has never been more important. While our government is performing its duties, it is most certainly not concerned with creativity, freedom of expression, beauty, tolerance or the humanities in general. And given this situation, those of us who have a venue for it, may not have an obligation but certainly have an opportunity to keep the arts alive through cultural experiences and expression through the pulpit of performance. It is so very important to realize this opportunity into tangible artistic productions that not only bring art and beauty to the public but also challenge and educate through the medium. Theater, as an art form is powerful, and it speaks to its audience in a way that can change attitudes and lives. The power of art should never be taken lightly and it is as important a vehicle of expression as it has ever been.
Discuss the importance of theaters incorporating queer-themed plays or characters in their performance lineup.
It is an important thing for theatres to present diversity in all aspects of their seasons and characters wherever possible. Queer themed shows and characters as well as racial and gender diversity are important because it reflects the reality of today. The opportunity for individuals to openly express themselves as they really are is relatively new but is such a large and important part of our current daily lives. Many of the plays that we present were written in a time when people could not speak openly and freely and it sheds new light when a play is presented from this more modern viewpoint. I have personally observed actual transformations in audience members from watching a single performance of a show such as “Bare.” Individuals don’t always give themselves the chance to be open to caring about characters that are different than themselves in their outside lives. Theater gives us an opportunity for communication that is unique and can allow for better understanding through a story being told or a song being sung.
What advice would you give to young actors or industry professionals who fear their sexuality may hold them back or present a block in a highly competitive industry?
My advice to all actors regarding fear of anything is don’t be afraid to be yourself. My experience is that the theatre community is one of the most tolerant and welcoming places anywhere. I have never worked a director worth his salt that is going to judge you for who you are. They are going to judge how well they feel you can portray a character or sing a song in character. The director will be judged on the finished product they mount to the stage and if you contribute to that in a positive way then you have value to the show. This has nothing to do with anything that happens off the stage and most people know this very well. Also being unique is almost always a plus because you will stand out. And this is good in a competitive situation. So, go and be your unique amazing self and don’t be afraid.
The Monster Box Theatre at 2529 Elizabeth Lake Road in Waterford Township opened its doors five years ago with the one-woman show “Please Give Me Your Money So I Can Buy a Vagina.” Since then, they have shown their support for the LGBTQ community through performance choices like “bare,” “365 Women Festival,” “Now. Here. This.,” “The Book of Liz,” and “Men on Boats.” For more information about upcoming performances, visit monsterboxtheatre.com.