Monday, April 8, 2013

Spotlight On...James Presson

Name: James Presson

Hometown: Wilton, CT for the most part. But now I live at Less Than Rent Theatre (see what I did there?) But seriously.

Education: BA in Theatre from Fordham University. Also, a winter session at MXAT. Also, the School of Hard Knocks.

Favorite Credits: Richard 3 at FringeNYC a million years ago (2010), Little Town Blues at The Wild Project, Friends Don’t Let Friends at Walkerspace, and a really crazy production of The Crucible I directed at Fordham University (complete with heavy eyeliner, a reenactment of the carbon-freezing from The Empire Strikes Back, and a rendition of ‘Someone Like You’ as performed by Abigail Williams).

Why theater?: I don’t really love theater, but the money’s good and my family takes comfort in knowing that I have a stable career path.

Tell us about Words, Razors, and the Wounded Heart:
Words, Razors, and the Wounded Heart tells the story of two star-crossed teenagers who dream of escaping their cozy Connecticut town and moving out West. Unfortunately, their love faces many obstacles not the least of which is that they’re brother and sister. When their friends get involved, it's only a matter of time until their suburban powder keg explodes and sets the whole world on fire.

What inspired you to write Words, Razors, and the Wounded Heart?: It’s a semi-comic riff on the ‘Jacobean Revenge Tragedy’ set in my hometown. So you could say that both the content and the container inspired me equally. It’s quite a personal piece for me in terms of the events themselves, and it explores some of my favorite themes: friendship, responsibility, forbidden love, impossible hope…

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love work that’s brave, rambunctious, and heartfelt. David Cromer nailed it with Our Town and Tribes. Daniel Sullivan with Merchant of Venice. I’m also deeply inspired by great, long-lasting companies like Elevator Repair Service and Kneehigh. But, for what it’s worth (and I know it might be somewhat heretical), my favorite show I’ve seen in years is The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: There are a number of artists who I’d kill to work with. This is where I talk about a bunch of people I don’t know-- Composer Heather Christian is an absolute genius. I hope to one day just be in the same room with James Corden, who I think is the greatest. Other actors, too: Taylor Mac, Marin Ireland, Seth Numrich, Maria Dizzia, Michael Chernus, Jeremy Shamos, Thomas Sadoski. But, y’know, I like the people I’ve worked with thus far a helluva lot, too.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I once took a group of 15 of my friends to see Mission Drift by The TEAM. Right now, I’m recommending The Flick (at Playwrights Horizons) and Once (obviously). Recently, I’ve also recommended The Wild Bride (at St. Anne’s), The Good Person of Szechwan (at La MaMa), and Water by the Spoonful (at 2nd Stage).

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:
Zach Gifford (from "Friday Night Lights") would bring a lot of sensitivity  to the trials and tribulations faced by a downtown theatre artist. It would be called "Trying To Get The Air Conditioner To Work'.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: "Smash", duh. Isn’t that everyone’s? Also, Taylor Swift’s ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ and orange soda.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: I’d like to be an astronaut, but I’m afraid of flying. I also think I’d do well with guided bus tours. Then again, I don’t drive, so…

What’s up next?: First, I’m associate directing for Michael Kimmel on Play It Again at Joe’s Pub on April 8th. After that, I’m going to see Penn State University’s production of Little Town Blues. I’m directing Ben Diserens’ Beckett in Benghazi in July with Less Than Rent/Horse Trade. I’m also hoping to workshop a couple of my other plays, and there might even be a couple other things in the works that I don’t want to jinx! Also, I’m getting married in November.

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