Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Spotlight On...Andrew Farmer

Name: Andrew Farmer

Hometown: Between Laconia, NH and Palm Beach Gardens, FL

Education: Tisch School of The Arts, NYU (Playwrights Horizons Theater School)

Favorite Credits: Oh man. Nearly impossible question. But the most fun I have as a writer is when I'm building with a director, actors and designers from the ground up. Some recent favorites include I Heard Sex Noises (with Annie Tippe, Ryann Weir and Claire Rothrock) and Boats And (with Nate Weida and Andrew Neisler) both at Ars Nova.

Why theater?: Well, I've always loved storytelling. Even before I could talk, I would babble plots of "Fraggle Rock" episodes to my family. Actually, that's still kind of what I'm doing. But the reason I've applied it to theater specifically is probably due to the ludicrously supportive drama teachers I had from 6th grade through college. They taught me how exciting the obstacles of creating a story in a room with an audience can be and I find that challenge really energizing.

Tell us about The Gray Man: It's a ghost story play about the bogeyman, New York at the turn of the century and what lengths people go to avoid being alone. I think the best ghost stories are about characters you grow to care about. The more invested you are in someone, the more terrifying it is to see a shadow sneak up on them.

What inspired you to write The Gray Man?: It began when the director Andrew Neisler and I wanting to make a "haunted play." Something that wasn't about jump scares or body horror, or blood and gore, but rather a story that people would hopefully keep with them for a while afterwards. Ideally right after they turn out the light before bed. So he read "It" by Stephen King and I began researching the bogeyman. Its first incarnation was me reading a story by lamp-light to a group of people in an empty, dark warehouse, then later that year we took a bunch of great actors into a remote house in the woods and began experimenting.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Stuff that has to be theater. Stuff that takes into consideration that there a living, breathing, people in the space who are there to share an experience. And stuff that balances plenty of spectacle with characters I can fall in love with. Oh and risks! Lots and lots of risks! For that reason, I'm most inspired by artists who go for broke; who try tackling impossible things and seeing if they work and learning from them if they do or don't. Actually, I won't even limit that to artists. People in general who do stuff like that.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Too many. But first folks that came to mind; Dave Malloy and The Debate Society. In very separate ways, their work somehow juggles being funny, human and full of gasp-inducing surprises, perfectly. I've left every show of theirs absolutely spent and desperate to talk about it with friends. Oh, also I'd work with Catherine O'Hara in any capacity, even if we're just making a salad together or something.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Recently? Men on Boats by Jaclyn Scoville through Clubbed Thumb's series. I would see it again and again. And it still wouldn't be enough viewings for me. It should be produced everywhere and often.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I'm told I bear a strong resemblance to the T.V. alien A.L.F. but I'm going to indulge myself here and say Meryl in a beard. And the film would be called "I Broke My Back On The Brooklyn Cyclone" and it would be very true to life.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Hands down, An Octoroon. It physically pains me to have missed it, but now it lives forever in my mind through people describing it to me which is also pretty wonderful.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: "America's Funniest Home Videos." I will stop everything I'm doing to watch it. Always. It happens a lot in airports.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: A historian. Or at least somebody who works in the witch trial recreations in at museum in Salem.

What’s up next?: A bunch of weird disparate things! My sketch and improv group "Gentlemen Party" is doing a show at MoMA followed by a run at The PIT. I'm working on a couple new musicals with composer Andrew Butler; a Theatreworks USA commission and a folk-story musical about Florida called Finn The Fearless that has a workshop showing at Ars Nova this December. Also, this Christmas will be the third year (in a 40 year project!) that I'll be doing a two-hander Christmas Carol with Andrew Neisler and Ryann Weir. For updates, shoot me an email at!