Sunday, February 2, 2014

Spotlight On...Stephen Gribbin and Robert Ribar

SG: I’m Stephen Gribbin
RR: And I’m Robert Ribar. We are the co-founders of Femme Fatale Theater…
SG: …and the co-directors of Vera; Or, The Nihilists by Oscar Wilde.

SG: Williston Park, NY, on Long Island
RR: Ridgefield Park and later Allendale, New Jersey. For New Yorkers that’s near the Jersey Ikea.

SG: Vassar College, BA in Art History; University of Sydney, MA in Gender & Cultural Studies
RR: NYU, where I spent all four years studying at the Playwrights Horizons Theatre School.

Favorite Credits:

SG: I'm really proud of our production of The Bacchae, especially how much humor we and our actors found among the blood and tragedy.
RR: Our most recent show which was this outrageous parody of murder mysteries called Pickles and Hargraves and the Curse of the Tanzanian Glimmerfish. It’s by Georgia Clark and Ryan Williams, who were also in the show. After working with a couple of playwrights in a row who had been dead for hundreds if not thousands of years, it was really thrilling and a little terrifying to have authors in the room. When something didn’t work, we’d just change it on the spot!

Why theater?:
SG:  Because it's so real and so fake at the same time.
RR: In theatre there’s an immediacy inherent in performance that lacking in film but there’s an immediacy in the rehearsal process as well. You don’t need to wait for the lights and the cameras and the sound to get started. Actors can be up on their feet from day one and for me, it’s all about the actor having that sense of play.

Tell us about Vera; or, The Nihilists?:
SG: Vera is a young woman who goes to Moscow to join the revolutionary Nihilists and becomes their top assassin.  The son of the evil Czar is a Nihilist sympathizer, and of course Vera falls in love with him.
RR: In his letters, Wilde stressed that this play is about people not politics and at the heart of this play is a good old fashion love triangle.  Our hero must figure out what’s more important to her, the rights of the people or her own feelings. There’s so much dramatic tension in that situation: What do you do when what’s best for society isn’t necessarily best for you?
SG: It's about time Vera returns to the stage, the play has never been done in NYC since its original run!

What inspired you to direct Vera; or, The Nihilists?:
SG: I first came across it when we were doing Wilde's Salome.  I'm drawn to strong women characters and was immediately captivated by the character of Vera, and loved Wilde's grand rhetoric of democracy, rights, and revolution.  I also thought that the part of the corrupt, wicked Prince Paul was perfect for John Hume, one of the actors in our company.  And we kept seeing the themes of the play related to current events - Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party...
RR: And now with the Olympics and queer rights.  In both cases you have a people who are being oppressed in Russia.
SG: That’s what inspired us to have Vera be played by a man in drag, to add yet one more layer of queer to Oscar Wilde.
RR: And on a purely aesthetic level, we love plays that draw you in with humor only to hit you in the gut with tragedy when you least expect it, which this does exceedingly well. It’s become the basis for our company and it was great to see that Oscar agreed.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:

SG: I love it when something can show you exactly how it's done, show up the artifice, the act of storytelling, but still move you with that story.  My favorite example from the recent past was the revival of Angels in America at the Signature.
RR: Totally agree. You can remove a lot from theater and it would still be theater but you can’t have theater without actors. I love just watching actors act. I love theater that removes the obstacles for an actor, whether that obstacle is scenery or naturalism or something else, and just reverts theatre to that connection between audience and performer.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?:
RR: I’d love to direct a new work by Tracy Letts or Christopher Durang or Thomas Bradshaw or David Adjmi or Charles Busch. And there are so many actors I’d love to work but Michael Urie and Frank Wood jump to mind. Stephen and I will see anything that they’re in.
SG: As a fairly new theater company, there's tons of people we haven't worked with yet.  But if the sky's the limit on this question, I'll say Sigourney Weaver.

What show have you recommended to your friends?:
RR: Any time my friends’ company Theatre Reconstruction Ensemble has a show I tell everyone to go.  Stephen and I still get shivers about a new play they did called Set in a Living Room in a Small Town American Play.
SG: Waiting for Godot and No Man's Land in rep, two great and bewildering plays, and it's Gandalf, Picard, Prof. X, and Magneto on stage all at once!

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:
RR: Kelsey Grammar and David Hyde Pierce as Frasier and Niles.
SG: Ha, that's good. Or maybe Muppets.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:
SG: Reading all five huge "Game of Thrones" books, but the guilty part is reading them all a second time when I had better things to do with my time.
RR: As a native son of New Jersey, I am an unabashed Bruce Springsteen fan. Not only have I cried at his concerts, I’ve even misted up listening to him on the treadmill.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?:

SG: Recently, Neil Young's "Harvest Moon."
RR: Probably something off of "Exile on Main Street" by the Rolling Stones.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?:
SG: Indecisive, still.
RR: Doing something that paid much better. Or paid period.

What’s up next?:
SG: A full run of Pickles and Hargraves.
RR: We want to work with more new voices. Especially queer writers. Oscar is great but he’s a little dead.