Thursday, August 11, 2016

Spotlight On...Holly Kristina Goldstein and Dan Rider

Name: Holly Kristina Goldstein (Director), Dan Rider (Writer)

HG: Sag Harbor, NY
DR: Hingham, MA, outside Boston

Education: NYU Tisch

Favorite Credits: 
HG: Perfect Fifths (Director) @ John Drew Theater Lab & Houseworld (Performer) in Brooklyn
DR: Hadestown @ NYTW (Assistant Music Director), Hamlet (NYU Tisch, titular role)

Why theater?: 
HG: It’s always been a huge part of my identity, since I was a kid, so when the time came to choose a path as an adult there was really no other option for me.
DR: I think we live in a world where empathy is becoming a limited resource. Because we're so bombarded by images of other peoples' suffering on a daily basis, it's very easy to feel detached, removed from the experience of your fellow humans. Theater is where we practice empathy, where we exercise the muscle of caring about other people, in the room, with us, in an immediate context.

Tell us about Thud!
HG: Thud! is about three people and their relationship to pain and to each other. I think that our cultural relationship towards violence is shifting, due to the visibility of police brutality towards people of color in particular, and I think that Thud! fits into that conversation by questioning why we have always been so entertained by violence and toeing the line of when violence stops being funny.
DR: Holly basically covered it. There's a lot of swearing, and a lot of obscure horror movie references. It's pretty bleak, but I like to think there's a little hope buried in there somewhere.

What inspired you to write/direct Thud!?:
DR: I started writing Thud! soon after a fairly debilitating mental breakdown. I had just gotten diagnosed with depression, and was trying to reconcile that diagnosis with my perception of myself as a human. And having been suicidal, I was grappling with my own relationship to pain and violence. I think the characters materialized out of that. The part of me that was desperate for approval, desperate to please, became Tad the hapless clown. And that voice of self-reproach, the bitter, caustic, irrational verbal abuser in my head became Morley, the foul-mouthed teenager. Both of them are very much parts of my personality.
HG: Dan did. He brought the script to me about a year and a half ago and asked me to direct it and at first I wasn’t sure, there was a lot of work to do, but there something, particularly in Morley, that really resonated with me and that compelled me to tell her story. A lot of her speech patterns and her mannerisms remind me of a version of myself that I wanted to give some attention to. Now, I know once you see the play that statement will probably be quite alarming, but I really do love these characters like they are a part of me. Dan’s writing is so nuanced and energized and smart that half the work is already done for me. I’ve never felt such love and ownership towards a project before and I think I would do just about anything to see it succeed.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:
HG: Theater that showcases all bodies (all races, genders, abilities), provides a platform for voices we don’t always get to hear and really challenges the audience to think about their place in the world is what speaks to me. Inspiration is a funny thing. I’m a very physical person and I learn and create by experience, not in the abstract of my mind, so I think, for me, inspiration comes when I’m in a room full of talented artists with beautiful ideas who are ready to create and discover a project with me.
DR: Holly and I are kind of opposites in this respect—I'm very much not a physical person. I think in sounds, and I'm really drawn to the verbal and auditory. Plays that use language in creative ways jazz me, or that play with the musicality of words. But I'm with Holly in that having a room full of smart, trusting, brave artists gives me the most inspiration. Writer's block hits me hardest when I isolate myself, and cultivating a community is, I find, the best cure.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?:
HG: I have a really great respect for Niegel Smith and the work he directs. I think that he’s unafraid to reach into the audience’s mind and just shake them around and let them land wherever they land and sometimes that place is scary and sometimes that place is galvanizing and inspiring, but his work (Take Care at The Flea in particular) really reflects the kind of theater I want to be making.
DR: I'd love to work with Dave Malloy. His work never fails to crack my head open and melt my brain.

What show have you recommended to your friends?:
HG: At Fringe? In the whole world forever? I recently got to see a snippet of Taylor Mac’s 24-hour song cycle that is going up in October and I think if you can afford to see it (presale tickets are $400) then 100% GO. Otherwise, I think anyone who cares about theater (and most of my friends do) should see something at Shakespeare’s Globe in London at least once in their life. It really gives you a sense of where we’ve been and how far we’ve come and how transcendent our art form is.
DR: Anyone who's had a conversation with me in the past six months knows that I can't recommend Hadestown enough. I had the good fortune of working on that gorgeous show, and I basically can't stop talking it up.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:
HG: That’s hard because I’m Non-Binary and there aren’t a ton of NB actors who are well known, but I certainly wouldn’t mind Ruby Rose stepping into my shoes. Title would have something to do with how often I get hurt (another thing that connects me with Thud!).
DR: The only cross-dressing celebrities I can think of are Jaden Smith and Eddie Izzard, so maybe they could take turns? Do it “I’m Not There”-style? And I would call the movie “Gone with the Wind,” just to mess with people.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?:
HG: Peter Brook’s Marat/Sade
DR: Susan Sontag's Waiting for Godot in Sarajevo

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: 
HG: Lost Girl - it’s a Canadian SciFi show about a bisexual succubus. Need I say more?
DR: Cupcake Wars. Mostly for the hot hipster carpenters.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?:
HG: Very bored and very sad
DR: Probably taking after my parents and going to law school. Shudder.

What’s up next?: 
Our collective, BITCRUSHER, is producing our next show, You’re Going to Hell if You Laugh, on September 16th at 10pm on the main stage at Dixon Place! It’s a hybrid burlesque/clown show about disability and sexuality.

For more on Thud!, visit and