Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Spotlight On...Tom Slot

Name: Tom Slot

Hometown: I grew up just outside of Washington D.C. on the Maryland side, then spent about ten years in Baltimore before moving to NYC in 2006. So at this point I consider New York home.

Education: I did my undergrad work at Loyola University in Baltimore, Maryland double majoring in English and Creative Writing. I then went back and got at Masters degree in education from Loyola and an MFA in acting from Columbia University.

Favorite credits: As an actor I was lucky enough to be part of two international festivals playing Sebastian in The Tempest at the Folkwant International Shakespeare Festival in Germany and playing Nikos in Chuck Mee’s Big Love in the Setkani Encounter Festival in the Czech Republic. It was really incredible to work with actors  from across the globe and share ideas and explore the creative process together. As a writer and director, I was extremely proud of Farewell to Sanity and Other Irrational Constructs that played in the Gene Frankel Theater in June of 2013 as part of the Planet Connections Festival. It was a cocky play that mixed reincarnation, mental health, super heroes, and a 19th century whale captain. It was also the first time I got to direct David Stallings who delivered an amazing performance as a burnt-out shrink charged with righting the cosmic scales.

Why theater: Because theater is personal. The energy exchange between audience and performer is an amazingly powerful relationship. If you put in the time and work, and treat that relationship with the proper respect, it has the ability to create transformative moments of connection. And ideally calls upon performer and audience to reflect. Nothing can replace that shared experience and connection to the human experience. I know a show is good if the audience leaves the theater exploring the questions the play raises. I know the show is truly successful if they are still talking about those questions the next day.

Tell us about Macbeth (of the Oppressed): It's a new look at the classic Shakespearean tragedy that asks the question: what can be learned and unlocked in the text by changing the gender of the roles. How does a line like “unsex me” change when a man speaks it? What happens to traditional gender perceptions when women play the two greatest warriors in the play, MacDuff and Banquo? What does making Duncan an Elizabethan style Queen instead of a king help us discover? What do we learn about ourselves and society as a whole by casting the witches as minorities? When you start tinkering and playing with these elements of the play, suddenly new motivations and insights arise and the action of the play is grounded in a fresh and exciting place.

What inspired you to adapt and direct Macbeth (of the Oppressed): David and Antonio approached me with the concept at the end of 2014. I’m a big fan of both of their work and was inspired to play in this world and see what came of it. So I jumped at the invitation and started adapting Macbeth. We had talked about a few different ideas at first, including Hamlet, but Macbeth was the one that immediately got me thinking so we ran with that. Plus the thought of Hamlet scares the crap out of me.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I’m always drawn to pieces that have flawed characters and dark humor. I don’t know, I guess I like seeing characters get in their own way and then finding a way to still make it work. Or fail epically. Both are exciting to see on stage. I also like work that tackles spirituality in an honest and truthful way.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: For stage or film, I’d love to work with Bill Murray. It would be a dream come true. He’s a genius and always gives the most honest and connected performances. I’m a huge fan of his work. For a musical I’d love to work with Adam Pascal, the original Roger in Rent. He’s able to convey so much emotion in his voice.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I told all my friends to go see Once when it was still playing. I’m a big fan of musicals but there was something really special about that show: the rawness and honesty of the performances really pulled you in. You forgot you were in this gigantic theater space. It felt like just you and the actors on stage together. And I thought the set design was fantastic: using the bar on stage as a functional bar before the show and during intermission. It created an amazing sense of community.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I’d love to get Gonzo from the Muppets to play me. Or Animal. Gonzo because he’s a free spirit and Animal because he’s got the energy and likes to break things apart. It would be called "Running Theater".

If you could go back and time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I’d love to go back in time and see some Vaudeville performances. The energy of those shows must have been insane. It was the ultimate variety hour. You look at the old footage and its like anything could happen on stage – you saw elephants dancing, balancing acts, musical acts, monologues – the audience never knew what they were going to see from minute to minute. That level of surprise and wonderment excites me.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Gummy food and anything fried and covered in buffalo sauce. I’m a marathon runner so I tend to eat a pretty balanced diet. But when I’m working on a show on top of my regular teaching load, my hours get crazy and I suddenly start craving the unhealthiest food I can get my hands on. I use to live on Dr. Pepper and Gummy Worms in rehearsal. I’m a little better now, but I still get the KFC, Taco Bell, and candy cravings while working. I ate several bags of Twizzlers on this show alone.

If you weren’t working in theater you would be _____?: Empty. Sad. Unfulfilled. I’d probably have to be an English teacher.

What’s next?: I’m directing a student production of Twelve Angry Men in November. After that I’ll be workshopping a musical adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream I’ve been developing called Dream 70. It’s a rock musical that takes the classic comedy and explores its themes and story through a lens of race and social change by setting it in Athens, Georgia in the summer of 1970.