Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Spotlight On...Aaron Feinstein

Name: Aaron Feinstein

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA (But I live in NYC)

Education: MFA Theater Directing UCLA

Favorite Credits: Next Stop- Produced by the first ever ALL IN(clusive) ALL-City Theatre Ensemble with the New York City Department of Education; Surreality TV- Produced by Actionplay; Miracle Project New York and LA - various productions.

Why theater?: I truly value the community building aspects of creating theater. For me, the rehearsal room is a place where those of us who feel we don’t quite fit the norm can have a platform to play and create. I love witnessing the amazing growth that happens when individuals create from their own passions and ideas, and tell their own stories in a devised theater process. I enjoy traditional plays and I have directed many as well, but I find a lot of this kind of theater is tremendously boring. I am always inspired to re-invigorate my love of theater through devising vital new works that are created within unique communities.

Tell us about Welcome To My World?: Welcome To My World is an original musical devised in Actionplay’s inclusive AIMS program. I founded Actionplay in 2011 to provide inclusive arts experiences to individuals with autism and related condition and disabilities. The program creates theater within an inclusive setting where neurodivergent individuals and neurotypical individuals (along with many other identities) collaborate and create together. The idea of “Welcome To My World” came from a young woman on the autism spectrum in our AIMS program who wanted to theatricalize the experiences of a young autistic woman living in NYC. Through our collaborative devising process, the idea evolved into a musical about an autistic young woman who befriends an extra-terrestrial from another planet. It’s wacky, moving, and spirited as most Actionplay productions are.

What is it like directing Welcome To My World?: Our rehearsals, which took place over 27 Sunday mornings from 10:30-noon, energize me and have been the highlight of my entire week. I think I’ve created a playful environment where our company feels comfortable in exploring their own ideas, and bringing in their passions and interests no matter how wild or bizarre others may think they are outside of the rehearsal room. It’s always tough for me to combine the diversity of ideas into a cohesive piece, but I’m proud of this show. Welcome to My World has ideas as diverse as the love of Roy Orbison’s music, Cosplay Parties, Sci Fi, and schmaltzy dad jokes – and they've all been generated by the individuals in our company. In general, when directing Actionplay shows, I love that I get to say “yes” more than I get to say “no”.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Stuff that feels vital and different than what I’ve seen before. A lot of times, this kind of groundbreaking theater is created within interesting communities, and I think many of these shows go under-the-radar because they break the rules. I like theater that breaks rules. I’m a theatrical director, but I am so inspired by music, and I am a musician as well. I love the freedom that comes from the improv tradition in music and theater, and I believe that incredibly vital work that is as serious and polished as anything can come from an improvisatory framework. I love watching things happen in the moment. They just feel more alive.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Hm…I love the English company Complicite, and their devising process is something to aspire to. I think they’ve always created work that bridges the community aspects of making theater with high-art, and I aspire to their level of theatricality.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: The new production of Oklahoma which I saw at St. Anne’s, but now is on Broadway is certainly one of the more interesting pieces I’ve seen recently, and it keeps coming up in conversation. I mean, I couldn’t have thought of a play that I never wanted to see again more than “Oklahoma” The magic of the diverse and inclusive casting, original arrangement, and just the badassnes of Ali Stroker making the role of Ado Annie into a really strong female character is enough to inspire me that these kinds of updates to old plays can be pulled off really well.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Jeff Bridges, and it would be called….”Yeah Dudes, We Made That.”

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Anything by Pina Bausch that I haven’t seen. My favorite was Nelken (Carnations), but those pieces are just beautiful and informative to how far one can go when thinking about creating work with a company.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Watching terrible morning TV like “Hot Bench” or “The Today Show” with Hoda and whomever….

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be ______?: Trying to start a punk band.

What’s up next?: Finishing up a documentary I’m directing about a single dad raising his non-speaking son and attempting to fine love in NYC. It’s been a long process, and it’s exciting to be completing it.

Actionplay’s Welcome To My World plays Saturday, May 18 at 7 pm & Sunday, May 19 at 2 pm at The Sheen Center. More info available at