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CHAIN REACTION

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Jonathan Alexandratos
July 13, 2012

What is your job on this show?
Playwright.

When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?
Any story that begins off, "Well I was in my friend's bathroom one afternoon in 6th Grade" can only explain one's origin in theatre. That said! I was in my friend's bathroom one afternoon in 6th grade. He dangled a model of the starship Enterprise (the "Next Generation" one, not the original...or the space shuttle...) that was attached to fishing wire before one of those camcorders that took the really small VHS cartridges that somehow fit into VCRs via a larger cartridge. See, he was doing this because I'd written a script - a "Star Trek" spoof! - and we found it necessary to film it. The feedback I got was great: "So funny!" "Great effects for being filmed in the living room!" "Why did you tape over your sister's dance recital!?" (I've been getting basically the same three responses ever since.) I love(d) writing. I love(d) playing. I love(d) "Star Trek." Through playwrighting, I could tell girls that and not get laughed at. I've been hooked ever since.

Complete this sentence: My show is the only one in FringeNYC that...?
...is a science play! Okay so I'm sure, if there are comments, some other shows might say, "Wait! Mine is too!" But I feel comfortable saying it's the only play that takes an historio-scientific (yes I made up that word) event that's usually told in an incredibly boring way and makes it hilarious/fun/charming/emotional. It's also the only play - heck maybe ever! - where scientists have sex.

Why did you want to write/direct/produce/act in/work on this show?
I wrote CHAIN REACTION because my mother's an artist and my father's a scientist and I guess, genetically, there's something in me that wants to unite the two. But of course I had to throw *me* in there, too, which is why it's funny. I can hardly ever be serious. No, really. It's why I can't attend Benny Hinn events.

Which famous New Jerseyite would like your show the best: Snooki, Bruce Springsteen, Thomas Edison?
Oh none of the above! I'd say Grover Cleveland. Our 22nd AND 24th President. He was raised in New York but he was *born* in the Garden State, when it still had gardens, maybe. In Caldwell, to be precise. Grover Cleveland would dig CHAIN REACTION because it could catch him up on some history he didn't get to see, it's so funny no one would even notice the fact that he's technically a zombie (we'd of course keep spare brains around in case he got hungry, per Equity rules), and we'd totally be fine if he came, skipped the next performance, and then attended the one after. See why? Because he was President, then took a break and let someone else run the country, and then came *back* as Number 24! Only time that's ever happened! He also believed in the gold standard and hated pensions for Civil War veterans. Okay so maybe not always the best of counsel...

Can theatre bring about societal change? Why or why not?
Of *course* it can! It can, for one thing, make people smarter, but in a way that's not just a stuffy dude lecturing. It can educate in a way that's not arrogant. That doesn't just say, "Ha-ha I'm smarter than *you* are!" It can convey knowledge via a handshake, not a slap in the face. And when people become more intelligent - whether that intelligence be cultural, academic, emotional, whatever - society changes. And that's the thing: even if a play isn't ANGELS IN AMERICA, even if it's like, a Neil Simon thing, it can still make theatregoers more emotionally aware, and therefore smarter. And that counts. Certainly, not all theatre succeeds at this, but that can also bring about societal change. Because then "society" comes together and "changes" the "theatre" from an "actual structure" to a "mound of rubble" as they all demand their money back. And then maybe all those people become friends and find that, all along, they all shared this, like, deep interest in Jungian psychology and, as a group, redefine the field and create bunches of new theories that say radical new things like "We're all actually influenced by the shifts in the electromagnetic fields of ferrets" and people *love* it and they all, in their 70s, 80s, 90s, look back on their lives and say, "Wow, can you believe it all started with that *awful* play?" (Note: Author does not necessarily endorse this outcome.)