Sunday, July 9, 2017

Spotlight On...Gemma Kaneko

Name: Gemma Kaneko

Hometown: Rochester Hills, MI

Education: NYU, BFA, Tisch School of the Arts.

Favorite Credits: This Must Be the Place (NYU/PHTS); The Goodship Appleship (NYU/PHTS)

Why theater?: Theater is a medium that allows you to communicate immediately with your audience. They’re right there! They change the performance with their reactions and feedback, and it’s inspiring and exciting. Theater also allows us to talk about complex ideas with lots of abstraction -- there’s no pressure to be realistic if you don’t want to be.

What inspired you to create True Right?: Back in 2015, I was really interested in the extremely depressing implosion of Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign. He just seemed so sad all the time, and he was supposed to be the smart, politically inclined Bush kid. And yet, his dunderheaded brother stumbled ass-over-teakettle into an eight-year presidency. I really wanted to explore the brother/rival dynamic between Jeb and George, and riffing off True West seemed like the perfect way to do that. And then, after the election, it seemed more essential than ever to explore what the True Right is. When white supremacists are thronging the White House, what is the meaning of the Bush-ian phrase “compassionate conservative”? Is there anything in that term or is it as hollow and heartless as the current regime?

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love theater that’s messy and intimate, that reaches out to the audience with both hands. And I like jokes! I think it’s important to make your audience laugh, and to be accessible and warm. Two shows that have stuck with me throughout the years are Whatever, Heaven Allows (Radiohole) and Chautauqua (The National Theater of the United States of America). They both play with traditional forms of narrative and completely eviscerate them. But in a fun way! You know, with jello shots!

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: There are so many people! Bess & George, the company my co-writer and actor Brittany K. Allen and I created, is all about bringing the stories of people who are usually relegated to the “best friend foil” role to the forefront. We want to work with women and people of color all across the theater world.

What shows have you recommended to your friends?: Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812, The Hunger Artist 

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Ha! Olivia Munn, and “Witch-President.” It’s a comedy. Probably.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Hamilton at the Public, or maybe some performance art? I didn’t stand in line for Marina Abramovic’s The Artist is Present but I probably should have.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: “The Bachelorette,” but you know what? There should be no guilty pleasures. Only pleasures! I don’t feel bad about liking it!

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: I actually have a full time job outside of theater -- I’m a baseball blogger at You can even listen to my baseball podcast, the Cut4Cast.

What’s up next?: Who knows? Brittany and I have a lot of different ideas in our back pockets. We’ll see what happens with True Right and go on from there.