Saturday, July 12, 2014

Spotlight On...Aaron Ricciardi

Name: Aaron Ricciardi

Hometown: Coral Springs, Florida

Education: Northwestern University (B.A. in Theatre with a Certificate in Music Theatre), L'Ecole Philipe Gaulier (Bouffon), The BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop (Lyricist).

Favorite Credits: I was proud of a lot of my acting performances in college (roles like Uncle Ernie in The Who's Tommy, Dr. Neville Craven in The Secret Garden, and Greta in Bent). I'm very, very proud to be in the BMI Workshop. I've wanted to be a member of the BMI community since I saw A Class Act on Broadway when I was a kid, and I'm really proud of the work I've done in class there. Also, I'm working on a dance-theatre piece right now that I'm quite excited about.

Why theater?: Because I go through life seeing the world as stories. "Why does that person I passed on the street look like that? Did someone just break their heart? Why is this country doing this to its people? What's funny about that sad thing? What's sad about that funny thing?" I'm constantly asking questions like that in my head. Also, because I wouldn't know what else to do. I geek out about theatre the way sports people geek out at bars during playoffs, and I always have. Watching theatre and making theatre and cast albums and published plays on my bookshelf helped me get through adolescence, which was a real doozy.

Tell us about The Travels:
The Travels is a play, written by me, with songs by me (lyrics) and Kelly Hoppenjans (music). It will premiere this July at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, at the Signature Center in Manhattan. The play is set in a future U.S. of A., which enjoys its status as the greatest place on Earth, as the rest of the world suffers biblical consequences for its Wrongness ways. At least that's what Mr. Travel tells his fellow citizens every morning on the country's only television show, Travelbration! This trippy tale is about Teeny, Mr. Travel's daughter, who, in a place where even Pretty Woman is considered Wrongness, learns to see past the smoke and mirrors...and she starts a revolution. Mashing up styles that range from Brecht to dystopian fiction to South Park, this show turns the genre of musical theatre on its ear.

What inspired you to write The Travels?: I was a hardcore disciple of Laura Schellhardt, who ran (and still does run) the Playwriting program at Northwestern University. By the time I was a senior, I had taken every class that she offered, so all that was left for me was to take an independent study with her. I went in intending to write a one-person play, and she encouraged me to write something epic and political. So I remembered a dream that I had had, about an über famous family called the Travels. I channeled my frustrations about the political climate at the time. I read a lot of Brecht and dystopian fiction. And this play was born. That was four years ago, and it's changed a lot since then, but it all started with Laura telling me I should write something political and epic. I'm glad I listened.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:
I once heard John Guare speak, and he said, "I think the theatre should be a place of poetry." That has stuck with me like Crazy Glue, and it's kind of become my mantra. I'm attracted to theatre that takes full advantage of the fact that it is on a stage, live in front of an audience. It will never be "real" in the same way a movie is. Even though it is live and fleeting and more present than a film, stage events will always be slightly artificial--we're all in on it, we see the mechanics--and I appreciate plays that take advantage of that. My favorite plays are Caroline, or Change, and The Long Christmas Ride Home. Works like those inspire me.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I'm a huge Steven Hoggett fan. I wrote my undergraduate honors thesis partly based on the book he co-wrote with the other person with whom he started the Frantic Assembly theatre company in London. Whenever I see that something has choreography or movement by Steven Hoggett, it immediately makes me excited to see it.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I am a gigantic fan of A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder. I'm thrilled and amazed that a show that classy and modest won Best Musical, but not at all surprised, because I think that it's the best thing on Broadway. In the past few seasons, my other favorite shows have probably been I'll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers, The Flick, and The Big Meal.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:
"A Very Busy Jewish Man On The Phone With His Mother", starring the lovechild of Julie Delpy, Bryan Greenberg, and Taylor Mac.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: "Big Brother", hands down.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: "Chelsea Hotel No. 2" by Leonard Cohen, covered by Rufus Wainwright, which is followed closely by an illegal recording of a little-known William Finn gem called "I Do, I Do, I Do."

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Probably in law school? I think it's telling that I don't really have (or want to have) an answer to this question.

What’s up next?: I'm working on an original play about Jewish mothers and tennis, and then I'm putting the pieces together to start working on a dance-theatre piece based on the life of a couple with whom you're probably all familiar. I have high hopes for that one.