Party in the USA
nytheatre.com q&a preview by David McGee (and Joshua William Gelb)
July 3, 2013
What is your job on this show?
Playwright and Director, respectively..
What is your show about?
Party in the USA is a sensory overload; a frantic race to the edge of the fiscal cliff... for this is the way the world ends: not with a bang, but with a handful of psychedelic drugs and a 12 oz. bottle of Bud Light Lime.
What do you do when you’re not working on a play?
JOSH: I'll start, but fact is, I'm mostly here to moderate Dave's thoughts. He's the playwright. I'm the director. Well, I'm also the inspiration. You see, when I'm not directing, I'm usually temping. For money. That's sort of the whole reason this play is happening. Because once in 2008 I was stupid enough to take a job a Deutsche Bank, where I witnessed first-hand the mortgage crisis that began the so called Great Recession. / DAVE: Right. Josh approached me with this insane real-life story about the week Lehman collapsed and said "I think you should write a play about this" and I said "I think you're right. It sort of seems like what would happen if Chuck Mee wrote an Aaron Sorkin play." Dreamlike stage directions explaining how to walk boldly down hallways! No, but our talks led to weekly sessions sitting in a Washington Heights bar on Saturday mornings drinking coffee until it was time to switch to bloody marys and then bloody marys until that wouldn't be a good idea anymore. Thus was born PitUSA! / JOSH: So, Dave, what do you do when you're not working on Party in the USA? / DAVE: Go to the Hungarian Pastry Shop and try to read all the books that exist.
Complete this sentence: My show is the only one opening in NYC this summer that...?
DAVE: ...is at the Incubator in mid July? / JOSH: Wow. / DAVE: Just being deadly literal here. / JOSH: That doesn't really help enlighten people about the show. / DAVE: It's the only one in which the main character, stoned out of his mind, wakes up to find himself at the headquarters of a German bank, needing to save the world through the strategic use of Russian folktales. / JOSH: That's better. Plus there's free beer. Bud Light Lime. I'd go so far as to say we're the only downtown theater piece sponsored by Bud Light Lime. / DAVE: Wait. I thought you said "beer".
Do you think the audience will talk about your show for 5 minutes, an hour, or way into the wee hours of the night?
JOSH: I don't really know how to answer this one. / DAVE: It's perfect. The audience has so many options. They can talk about economic policy or how stupid the jokes were. Or drugs. / JOSH: Preferably economic policy. / DAVE: Or how all theater should have free beer. That ought to be an essential part of the social contract. / JOSH: True. They will be pretty drunk by the end. / DAVE: WITH POWER. And Bud Light Lime.
Which character from a Shakespeare play would like your show the best: King Lear, Puck, Rosalind, or Lady Macbeth -- and why?
DAVE: Going off the board here: Falstaff. I mean, I haven't read Taming of the Shrew, but I just assume. / JOSH: King Lear would get a kick out of it. But that guy was senile. / DAVE: Rosalind is from...? / JOSH: As You Like It. / DAVE: Well, *she'd* like it. That's basically her entire job description. God, I love Marlowe.
Can theater bring about societal change? Why or why not?
DAVE: Good grief, how much space do we have? / JOSH: I don't think there's a limit. / DAVE: I'm actually hyperventilating. The short answer is "probably" and the long answer is a doctoral thesis. This show is a screamlaugh of shock at the state of the world and the manic fallacy of our financial system. To the extent that it might get people thinking about our societal/financial construct I suppose it might spur thinking that might spur action that might ultimately spur "change" (which is a slippery term, anyway), but I think this show in particular is unlikely to spark revolution. / JOSH: Okay, sure. But this play is based on something of a true story after all, and working on it with you has been in some way the most accurate method for me to articulate the frustration and anxiety I was experiencing while ostensibly redacting emails from a major bank's subprime mortgage department. So... does theater have to bring about societal change? Can't it be a place to uncover terrifying truths about the human experience in a theatrically evocative context? / DAVE: Sure, and to that extent I think we're nailing it. There's a line in the play when the characters are trying to calm the world down from mass panic, and our drug dealer/economic prophet says "What do we possibly have to be calm about? Our society as currently constructed is a Ponzi scheme. We should all be terrified all of the time." And we should! Because it is! Before writing this play, I set out to become a lay expert on the financial system and the more I read the less I understood, because it's actually crazy. Which can be overwhelming. So, you know, sometimes it's important to go into a dark room and laugh and drink Bud Light Lime. Maybe. I don't know, come see it. You tell me.