Sunday, January 22, 2017

Spotlight On...Holly Payne-Strange

Name: Holly Payne-Strange

Hometown: London, UK

Education: Aberystwyth University, Harvard extension

Favorite Credits: Five Flights at the  Davenport Theater, for the amazing, dedicated and talented cast and crew. In only two weeks we threw together an incredibly good show, which I'm still immensely proud of.  The time constraint could have made this production stressful, but it didn't really. It pushed us forward and we had full immersion in one play- a rare opportunity. Cafe Playa Moon a performance/documentary. A strange one to pick as my favorite perhaps, as I only had four days for this. But it helped me grow in unexpected ways. I was able to play, not only as a director, but as a producer. I worked with a wonderful company called World Ocean Arts, but as they are not based in NYC I was allowed full creative reign.

Why theater?: Theater takes real issues and gives them a space. It examines them and relates to them, giving us a shared experience. And I don't just mean the thorny political issues, I mean the personal, profound ones too. Even things as small as “will they ask me out?” Theater brings us together.  A director has a curious position, at once in charge and dependent upon the rest of the cast and crew. Theater is born from interaction with others, without that there would be no performance and no story.

Tell us about I,con:  The question at the heart of this play is: “how much should we tolerate intolerance? Where does standing up for what we believe end, and bigotry begin?”  And that's incredibly personal to me. In these changing times I'm working hard not to become so entrenched in my views that I can't see the other side. It's very difficult.

What inspired you to write I,con: This play is a blend of fact and fiction. All of the basic ideas and plot points have some basis in truth, but I've manipulated and exaggerated them to bring a strong narrative into focus. I was inspired to write a lot of this because of my conversations with a friend who is in supermax prison, and the reaction that those around have me had to that relationship. Though he is not directly portrayed on stage, the debates I've had with him have heavily influenced my art. As for my direction, I was helped enormously by my collaboration with David Beris, our choreographer. Through movement he's been able to bring a very different side of this production alive and for that I've very grateful.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Anything.  At the moment, I'm very drawn to scripts that relate to justice, both the justice system and the bigger idea of personal ethics. I like heartwarming stories of people rising above a bad situation, or terrible ones of villains getting away with it! For me there's a central issue at the center of every story, and as long as I relate to that, I love it.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Oh man there are so many options! But if I had to pick one, I'd have to say Vivian Westwood. She has such an amazing body of work and has been able to truly marry art, fashion and politics together. She's doing a lot of good in his world.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Ghost Stories which ran in London. One of the only shows that truly terrified me. I saw it three times and there still a section I haven't seen because I kept flinching.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Nicole Kidman and it would be called “Relentless”

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: An original Shakespeare production! Any, really, but ideally The Tempest. I would love to see the choices they made and experience the shock of a crowd seeing the play for the first time.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Dipping cookies in water- it's surprisingly good! Try it.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: A marine biologist!

What’s up next?: I actually have various funding and grants and with them I hope to move I, Con forward, but of course, nothing's happened until it's happened! Apart form that, the next concrete thing is called “ A Circle of Voices” a poetry recording. I'm very excited about this, as it's another one that I will also be producing. However, since it's a recording and not a live performance, I will be able to take my time with it and perfect it- a rare gift!

For more on I,Con, visit and For more on Holly, visit