Sunday, August 14, 2011

Spotlight On...Olli Haaskivi and A.J. Shively

Olli Haaskivi
A.J. Shively

Olli: Born in Cleveland, Ohio, but Bradenton, Florida feels much more like my hometown - my family moved there when I was eight.
A.J.: Dublin, Ohio.

Olli: I got my B.F.A. in Musical Theatre from the University of Michigan. Just like A.J. did!
A.J. I got my B.F.A. in Musical Theatre from the University of Michigan. I think Olli went there too?
Select Credits:
Olli: Since moving to New York three years ago, I've mainly worked on new plays and musicals. Some of my favorites have been last year's Fringe Festival Best Musical award winner JURASSIC PARQ: THE BROADWAY MUSICAL wherein I played a pterodactyl as well as Samuel L. Jackson; playing Quentin in a workshop of the new ROCKET BOYS musical for Universal Pictures; and Adam Gwon and Julia Jordan's awesome BERNICE BOBS HER HAIR at Irish Rep... also featuring the estimable A.J. Shively.
A.J.: I was in - wait, I don't know what to do cause I'm not sure what will be funny or not. Wait, don't transcribe this, this is brainstorming. (Olli continues to type). Well, select credits. My first play ever, I played Charlie Bucket in CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. My most recent play before THE BARDY BUNCH, I played Jean-Michel in LA CAGE AUX FOLLES. The last time I was in the Fringe, I played Daniel in A CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN'S GUIDE TO A SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE, COPYWRIGHT 1959. I also did a reading of Adam Gwon and Julia Jordan's BERNICE BOBS HER HAIR. Olli Haaskivi and I did not have any onstage contact in that show either.

Why theater?:
Olli: I'm so intimidated by this question! But here's my attempt at an answer... Theatre has the potential to be a magical, communal experience that's unlike anything else in the whole world. It doesn't always reach that potential, but I really do believe that at it's best, theatre can be powerful, thrilling and nothing short of life changing. As a participant, I believe in the theatre so deeply - it teaches you everything you need to know about life - teamwork, acceptance, creativity, community... I don't know where I'd be without it and I consider myself lucky to be a part of this awesome community of people.
A.J.: Because I wasn't good at soccer. Should I give a real answer for this one?
Olli: I gave a real answer.
A.J.: Okay, I'll give a real answer. I was really shy when I was little, so my mom put me into a theatre daycare where you'd read a story and act it out hoping I'd come out of my shell and the acting bug bit when I was about four years old. But I didn't do my first play until I was ten.

Tell us about The Bardy Bunch:
Olli: THE BARDY BUNCH tells the story of the Brady Bunch and Partridge Family coming together in an all out fight to the death of Shakespearean proportions. Each character's subplot parallels a Shakespeare play, so we've got some ROMEO AND JULIET, OTHELLO, MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING... We cover a lot of territory in 85 minutes.
A.J.: Wow, that sounded really professional. And you get to hear some sure fire hit songs like such as "Sunshine Day", "Time To Change" and of course, "I Think I Love You". Lots of ba ba ba's and sha na na na's.

What is it like to be a part of The Bardy Bunch?
Olli: It's been a fun experience - I think the company is fantastic and it's been really cool trying to figure out the proper tone for the show.
A.J.: Yeah.
Olli: We're juggling an old timey sitcom feel with some hardcore Shakespeare, so it's been cool to experiment with all the different ways it could go. I play a diabolical evil genius and that's really been a blast and a nice change of pace for me.
A.J.: (Laughs). It sounds like you're used to playing dumb people.
Olli: No comment. I also have an incredible scene partner, Elizabeth Wharton, who plays my sister, and I've loved working with her and figuring out the right dynamic for Chris and Tracy Partridge, partners in crime.
A.J.: Our cast has really been great and we have a lot of people in the room with active imaginations, so we can try and figure out - like Olli said - what the tone should be or what's funniest.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:
Olli: I don't necessarily have a specific type of theatre I'm most attracted to, but I know it when I see it. Some of my favorite things I've ever seen are the original company of AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, the Royal Shakespeare Company's ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE, CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION and most recently THE BOOK OF MORMON.
A.J.: Yes to all of those.
Olli: Obviously they're all so different, but I guess the common thread there would be that they were all fantastic, exciting, juicy stories told extraordinarily well. In terms of inspiration, nothing comes close to seeing my friends onstage or on screen. There are tons of actors that I look up to and could talk about for hours and hours about like Laura Linney, Mark Rylance, Marin Ireland, Harriet Walter, Edward Norton, or anybody that's ever been on DAMAGES, but nothing gets me quite as inspired as watching my awesome friends be awesome.
A.J.: Hear hear! Part of the reason this friendship and roommateship has gone so well is because we literally have the exact same taste. Right now, we're watching a lot of IN TREATMENT and feeling plenty inspired by that. Because film and TV are more readily available, you can see Stanley Tucci or Gabriel Byrne's entire canon, but when you see a great actor in person lose themselves in a role like Mark Rylance or Kevin Kline, it's unforgettable. That might be "Why theatre?"

So I hear you’re college best friends and roommates. What’s it like working AND living together?:
A.J.: You heard wrong.
Olli: The funny thing is that AJ and I hardly see each other at all during the course of the play. We don't speak to each other at all onstage and the only moment of interaction we have exists because I changed my blocking to stare him down for a second. That being said, AJ is one of my very best friends in the whole world and it's been a blast. Hopefully one day we'll get to work together in a situation wherein we can actually act together. We are the same height and build, so.... SIDE SHOW?
A.J.: Olli told me about this project and he was the first audition appointment of the day and I was one of the last and we told the team we were to be cast in tandem. Thankfully, they acquiesced to our demands. Is that the right word? What do you say to a terrorist?
Olli: That's about right.

Any role you’re dying to play?:
A.J.: I would love to be able to create a role that hasn't been written yet through the reading process and workshop process to whatever the final incarnation is. I think that would be an unforgettable experience, but to answer your question, Coalhouse Walker Jr. in RAGTIME.
Olli: I have heard A.J.'s stirring rendition of "Make Them Hear You". It's pretty good. For me, having done so many readings and workshops at this point, my mind goes more to the people I'd like to work with on new projects as opposed to the roles I want to play. It would be my dream come true to work with people like Annie Baker, Michael John LaChuisa, Kyle Jarrow, Alex Timbers, Bill Finn, Liz Meriwether, Sam Gold... I could keep talking... But! To answer your question.... I'd love to play Finch in HOW TO SUCCEED..., Pippin in PIPPIN, Evan in THE ALIENS, Jared in BODY AWARENESS (What can I say? I'm serious about Annie Baker) and I'm concerned that I'm getting too old for Posner in THE HISTORY BOYS. And when I'm a little older, I'd love to be Bobby in COMPANY and Edmund in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT.
A.J.: Down the road, I would love to play SWEENEY TODD. Also, Greg Brady in THE BARDY BUNCH parallels Benedick's story in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING and I would love to play that role. And Iago. I guess I want to be evil.
Olli: You've always been jealous of me! I knew it! Is there anything we could do together?
A.J.: Well, SIDE SHOW.
Olli: I'm hoping we can guest star on television together. Mark Saks - are you reading this?

What show have you recommended to your friends?:
Olli: None of my friends can afford to see THE BOOK OF MORMON, so...
Olli: Oh yeah, that was so awesome. Oh, and I can't wait to see Sam Waterston's KING LEAR in the fall. I'm pre-recommending that.

What’s up next?:
Olli: So far, I'm working a little bit with my buddy Clancy O'Connor on a webseries called THE INBETWEENS next month as well as doing a concert for the awesome Eli Bolin and Sam Forman at the Laurie Beechman. I have a theatre job out of town at the end of the year, but I'm not sure I'm allowed to say what it is... We'll see how it all pans out, but there are a few irons in the fire I'm very excited about.
A.J.: I have a short that's coming out on in the fall.
Olli: Do you know what it's called?
A.J.: No. It's for Zazoom, the iPhone app. I also just got a job that I'm not sure I'm allowed to announce, but it should be fun.
Olli: We're very mysterious.

For more information on Olli, A.J., and the whole gang at The Bardy Bunch, visit