Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Spotlight On...Danny Sharron

Name: Danny Sharron

Hometown: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Education: University of Florida (BA Theater; BS Marketing)

Favorite Credits: I thought about this question a lot, and I have to say that it was directing Bradley Cherna's The Forest of Without as part of the Drama League DirectorFest in 2013. It's now been three years since making that play and I can't shake the experience. It's one of those pieces that continue to live and breath inside of you.

Why theater?: I love making art for a live audience, and building a play around the way people are going to interact with the piece (emotionally, psychologically, and spatially). Getting to be in the space with them and experience the play through their eyes is unlike anything else - thrilling and also completely nerve-wrecking at the same time. You know when an audience is feeling it or is disconnected, there's no way around that and I find it to be an incredible challenge to face with each new project.

Tell us about UglyRhino: UglyRhino was created back in 2010 (nearly six years ago!) with a mission to make theater a social event by integrating live music, dance parties, and curated cocktails into the theatrical experience. Moreover, we set out to do that with artistic integrity, high production value, and always at low cost. In addition to producing main stage productions like OKAY, we also produce a monthly event called TinyRhino, which we have dubbed the World's First Theatrical Drinking Game. This event has been performed monthly to sold-out crowds since 2011, and has given over 3000 playwrights, directors, and actors opportunities to throw up work in a social atmosphere.

Tell us about Okay: Okay! This play was a piece that Taylor Mac wrote back in 2003 and performed as a one-man show (because Judy's remarkable like that). It takes place at a prom in 2003, in the girls' bathroom, and tells the story of seven different students who are about to graduate, enter adulthood, and inherit a post-9/11 world that they had no part in creating. Each kid is dealing with their own expectations for their prom night, and for their lives thereafter, and there might also be some alcohol and drugs and sex involved :)

What inspired you to direct Okay?: I got my hands on it a couple years ago when I was spending the summer at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. My initial reaction to it was "Wow, this is incredibly funny and heartfelt and nuanced and complicated," which was quickly followed by "I have no idea how the hell to do this." That's usually the sign for me that it's a project worth tackling. With the blessing of Laura Savia, who was running the Williamstown Professional Training Program at the time, I decided to do a workshop production where we presented it as an ensemble piece with WTF's incredible non-Equity acting company. It was a short but incredibly affecting experience for everyone involved, and as soon as it closed I knew I wanted to re-mount it in New York and actually create the prom - throw the piece in the middle of a found space, amidst decorations and a DJ booth and drinks, in true UglyRhino fashion. The challenge for me was not only how to tackle a complicated text, but also how to make it come alive in space an unexpected way.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: In terms of format and presentation, I am most moved by work that uses space in a compelling and thoughtful way (whether it's a Broadway stage or a black box or a warehouse), and that considers how the audience will experience the piece and builds the evening around the communal nature of seeing a play. In terms of content, I am deeply invested in creating work about the LGBTQ experience. OKAY really checks all of these boxes. I would also say that my biggest goal moving forward is to create more work that falls in line with this idea, and to help provide a platform from which voices of the LGBTQ community can be heard.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: George C. Wolfe, hands down. His work has consistently moved me, inspired me, and changed my life. I've seen the video of his production of Angels in America more times than I'd like to admit, and his revival of The Normal Heart remains a personally monumental and life-changing theater-going experience.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Fun Home! I think it's the best new musical in years. Not only is the writing stellar, but it's impeccably directed by Sam Gold.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Ummmmmm either Patrick Dempsey (duh) or Natalie Portman in drag (I mean, who can really resist that idea). And it would simply be called "Neuroses".

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Oh my, this is hard. I think I would say the original production of A Chorus Line at The Public Theater (before it moved to Broadway). I don't know that any subsequent cast will ever capture the magic of the original cast, or so I imagine.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Television. I watch (probably) too much of it, but damn there's just so much good storytelling happening on TV these days. It's a hugely educational experience (he tells himself to appease his Jewish guilt).

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: If my mother had her way, I'd be a Jewish doctor with a children's medical practice. In truth, I'd probably be working in LGBTQ advocacy in some capacity.

What’s up next?: This summer I'll be developing a brand new play alongside playwright Jason Kim about the lives of LGBTQ immigrants in the US, as part of the Bill Foeller Fellowship at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.

For more on Okay, visit www.OKAYThePlay.com. For more on UglyRhino, visit www.UglyRhino.com. And for more on Danny, visit www.dannysharron.com