Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Spotlight On...Jeremy Kehoe

Name: Jeremy Kehoe

Hometown: Smithtown, NY

Education: BA, Journalism, Boston University

Favorite Credits: Killing Russell Crowe, Ammo, Existential Magic Eight Ball

Why theater?: Theater is immersive, it’s intimate, it’s intense, and it is a chance to transport an audience by creating an entirely new reality in a 20-foot by 20-foot space. Theater is live and occasionally raw, and sets the nearly impossible standard of demanding perfection on every take — from everyone: from the actors to the director to the light and sound operators to the stage manager — they all must work together in that moment to drive the story forward and tell a compelling tale that impacts that individual audience during that particular performance. And, selfishly, as a writer I love theater because dialogue dominates. There are no helicopter crashes, no car chases, no CGI tomfoolery to distract the eye. It’s terrifying and mortifying, but I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Tell us about Movin’ On Up?: Movin’ On Up is funny-or-die in the graveyard — an absurdist comedy where three characters (who may be dead or alive) bumble and stumble, and thrust and parry, and block and stymie, and quiz and question one another as they try to puzzle out why they’re there and what path they are supposed to take next. These three characters have their own reasons for winding up in the graveyard — Daniel watches over it all, Lewis wakes up there, and Joan dazedly wanders in — yet they all must squeeze into the same E-Z Pass lane of existence to try and make sense of it all (except none of them own an E-Z Pass, and none of them have enough cash to pay the toll. At a macro level, Movin' On Up is a play about self-determination: Who do you decide who the boss of you is? Who do we allow to set the rules for ourselves? Where do we search for purpose and meaning and who do we put our faith in to find order in the chaos? But, you know, in a hah-hah funny kind of way.

What inspired you to write Movin’ On Up?: The seed for Movin’ On Up was planted in a jury waiting room, of all places. The room was stacked with more than 100 prospective jurors, yet what immediately struck me was the silence. Despite being stacked together like chickens in an industrial farm, there was nary a peep beyond an occasional greeting or a murmured “Bless you” after a sneeze. Then, slowly, the room began to fill with noise — that silence had given way to a cacophony of conversation — and that got me thinking about language and communication and interaction: why did humans and animals begin communicating? Did birds begin chirping at each other because they needed to — because their survival depended on it — or because they wanted to (“Poo-tee-weet”)? I concluded that noise is a necessary ingredient for life (although the growing ranks of the face-down-in-the-phone crowd offers a persuasive counterargument). Since we are creatures who choose to make noise, that led to another question: what is the point of making noise, and what do we do with the noise being created around us? What is our individual purpose?. That’s what Movin’ On Up is about — a group of characters making noise who stumble upon each other while trying to determine their purpose, their reason for being, while searching for the path to take to get where they need to go (all in good fun, of course).

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I’m inspired by writers who experiment with language, who challenge accepted norms, who make us feel sympathy for the unsympathetic, who can take me out of my comfort zone and force me to defend my position or upend my attitude and point of view. Every writer writes like himself/herself, which is the transformative aspect of all art: the power to change minds.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: If I could harness the power of 1.21 gigawatts while piloting a DeLorean at 88 mph, I would pilot my way back in time to the four writers have had the greatest influence on my writing: Kurt Vonnegut, for bearing witness to the horror of war and creating humanity and humor and hope from its ashes; George Orwell, for his prescient commitment to speak truth to power and his “lack of purple prose”; J.D. Salinger, for his ability to capture and convey a cultural and generational malaise; and Charles Bukowski, who was a master of finding beauty and creating poetry from an underbelly of society who had been cast aside and forgotten.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Eugene Levy: "Citizen Eyebrows".

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I would see any play where the proprietors encouraged the audience to hurl fetid produce at the stage. I imagine the sound of a spongy tomato splattering against a scrim would be rapturous. And, it would give us a reason to hang on to our overripe tomatoes. We tell ourselves we’ll use them to make homemade tomato sauce, but we never do.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Kit Kats.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Standing on a corner somewhere holding a cardboard sign containing some wryly humorous message in barely decipherable handwriting.

What’s up next?: I am close to birthing a new creation I’m calling, This Ain’t the DMV. All of the characters are living in an abandoned house — homeless and with few or no outside connections. They exist only within the space they are in. The idea is to use these homeless characters as mirrors to reflect back on ourselves. We’re living in a time where fear and paranoia are the dominant motivators — emotions preyed upon by supposed leaders who cater to the fearful’s basest instincts. One outgrowth of this uncertainty and angst is the disturbing number of people have become all too eager to lash out — whether in the guise of self-protection or the righting of perceived wrongs — and demonize the “other”. Many times these “others” are different colors or religions, as well as those one rung down the economic ladder. It’s easier to strike out against the powerless than take on the powerful — and easier to dehumanize. At the bottom of the economic ladder are the homeless, and this piece is aimed at humanizing a group of people who but for the grace of god go I.

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