Saturday, November 5, 2016
Spotlight On...Sean Pollock
Hometown: Mountain Lakes, New Jersey
Education: Ithaca College, National Theatre Institute
Favorite Credits: That’s so tough! I worked on like, six shows in a row this summer that were all fantastic so I’ll just do my most recent ones so no one feels left out. I just finished up a one woman show I wrote called Jellybean Junkyard with Playlight Theatre Company at Under St. Marks directed by Colleen Hughes which was without a doubt, one of the most challenging projects I’ve done to date--and before that I designed costumes for the delightfully absurd Curse Of The Babywoman by Mike Wirsch and directed by Olivia Hartle at NYC Fringe which was pretty awesome.
Why theater?: As cliche as it is, there’s just something so thrilling about a really authentic live performance. I believe when the right moments are cultivated on stage, theatre should feel like a living painting. When an audience can tap into a magical moment happening before them, it can be utterly transformative. For me theater is kinda like pizza: even when it sucks, it’s still pretty freaking good.
Tell us about Hazelwood Jr. High: The show is based on the Shanda Sharer case in 1991 in Madison, Indiana. The plot follows Shanda, a new girl at Hazelwood Jr. High who finds herself in the middle of a love triangle between two older girls and things just go way out of control, and one girl ends up murdering Shanda out of jealousy and rage. I keep likening the play to Into The Woods. The first half is relatively light and carefree and characters making reckless decisions--and in the second half the characters are forced to grapple with the consequences of their actions. It’s essentially a heightened docu-drama, since so much of the text is pulled from real notes and diary entries the girls wrote to one another. What the play does so well is capture the essence of what its like being that age. In a weird way, going to high school in the south as a gay teen I see a lot of myself in these girls. And my actors are exceptionally smart, which comes in handy when you’re trying to bring and recreate real people like Hazelwood is. This is also the first revival of the production in NYC since the original at The New Group in 1998 which is super exciting--and we’re bringing it back in style. It’s going to be an immersive site specific production where the audience travels in between rooms (though audience interaction is discourage) and navigate themselves through the girl's’ world.
What inspired you to direct Hazelwood Jr. High?: This has been a passion project of mine for a while. Through stalking the wikipedia page of Chloe Sevigny (Sevigny played Laurie in the original production) I read the play was so disturbing it made her go back to church. So naturally the horror and true crime geek in me was like, I have to read this play. I proceeded to fall in love with it and pitched it to a billion theatre companies which all said no until Cupcake Lady Productions finally took a chance on this play that’s dark as soot. Laura, the managing director and Rich, the Artistic Director are some of the kindest most wonderful people in the biz. And they’re cute and funny, which helps. I would be remiss if I left out Sean Morris who’s my AD/SM, who has been a huge guiding hand in sculpting my vision for the piece. The original was done at PS 122 which used to be a high school auditorium, and I was so obsessed with trying to finally get my hands dirty with some new site-specific work that I refused to do it in a traditional proscenium theatre. And here we are, doing this crazy immersive thing. It’s really exciting.
What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love so many different kinds of theatre: horror theatre, science fiction theatre, musical theatre, site specific theatre...Ironically, realism in theatre tends not to interest me--and yet here I am working on this hyper realistic play. But there is also another side of me that loves true crime, non fiction and autobiographical stuff. I love it when people just straight up tell the truth. That being said I don’t believe any theatre can be as truthful as the daring, provocative, smart and sexy Neo Futurists. I’m high-key obsessed with them. They’re my favorite theatre company in the city: I’ve seen Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind like, four times--which in comparison to most diehard fans is nothing. The art of Neo Futurism is just be yourself on stage, doing what reflects you in that moment. There is no acting, only doing. It’s so simple, it’s brilliant. It’s part docu theatre, part absurdist, part dada, part touching, part sadness, part hilarious--but it's also just the naked truth. No barriers, just pure honesty. Everytime I see Too Much Light I’m so inspired and happy to be living on the same planet breathing the same air as the Neo Futurists. They’re the bomb.com. Also, I tend to be a very goofy person so I love absurdism and things that go really out there. I’m also a very dark weird person with a very dry sense of humor, so plays with gritty subject matter I’m always kinda drawn to as well. I’m also a huge fan of theatre that doesn’t revolve around straight white people having family problems or falling in love. I tend to like plays that don’t use those conventions more than I tend to like plays that do.
If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Well, the Neos are definitely up there but although he’s not a theatre artist (yet!) John Waters is my idol and I would sacrifice a finger to work with him. David Macke and Daniel Talbott are some of the coolest guys I’ve gotten to know recently, and working with at least one of them is at the tippy top of my list. Lastly my playwriting mentor/artist extraordinaire Saviana Stanescu and I have never formally worked together and she’s so talented that if she asked me to go to Mars, colonize it, leave everything behind and make plays all day I would do it without even thinking twice that’s how badly I want to work with her.
What show have you recommended to your friends?: Even though it just closed, I saw Josh Gelb’s The Black Crook and it was so much fun. So if he ever remounts it again, everyone should see it because it’s so worth it. I’ve been really trying to see more indie shows and support my fellow artists more because they deserve my money more than bigger houses do, which means a lot of the shows I see have shorter runs unfortunately.
Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: “We Gotta Work With What We Got”: The Sean Pollock Story. The tagline would be like, “The story of one man who could never get his sh*t together”. I think Amanda Bynes should play me. We act very similar.
If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: This is really, really hard. My answer on this changes on a day-to-day basis, but what I wouldn’t give to see the original production of Rocky Horror at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1973. Could you imagine how crazy that must’ve been?
What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Eavesdropping on people on the subway or on the streets like a nosey weirdo. Especially when they’re fighting. Love that raw slice-of-life kind of stuff.
If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Richer, probably. Probably a journalist of some kind. I love Lisa Ling and documentaries, so something in that realm. I have a huge amount of respect for people who go to ridiculous lengths to tell the truth.
What’s up next?: I’m co-directing a devised Theatre Of Cruelty production of Silent Night Bloody Night (based on the 1971 Christmas slasher film) with Drew Weinstein as a co production with One And Done Productions and the Blood Brothers present...on December 10th at the Hive. Hazelwood Jr. High plays November 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20 (11 & 18 at 8pm, 12, 13, 19, 20 at 7:30) at Mayday Space 2nd Floor Classrooms at 176 St. Nicholas Ave. Suggested donation of $10. Proceeds to benefit the Ali Forney Center. Hazelwood Jr. High is presented with permission from Samuel French, Inc.
For more on Sean, visit www.seanpollock.net. For more on Cupcake Lady Productions, visit www.cupcakeladyproductions.com