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Roundheads and Peakheads

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Joseph Hendel
August 8, 2013

What is your job on this show?
Director and Composer.

What is your show about?
The leaders of the fictional country of Yahoo recruit the efforts of a fascist dictator to quell the peasant uprising in the South in this early political musical comedy by Bertolt Brecht.

Where were you born? Where were you raised? Where did you go to school?
I was born in New York and raised in Westchester County. I grew up coming into the city to see Broadway musicals, and spent a number of summers at French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts playing in pit orchestras, performing in musicals, doing improv, etc. It was quite a good theatrical upbringing and led me (circuitously) to becoming a director. I got my B.A. from Yale where I studied music.

What are some of your previous theater credits? (Be specific! Name shows, etc.)
So far this year has been a busy one. I directed a week-long workshop and concert reading of the new musical "Shaving" at Joe's Pub (written by Alex Davis and Miranda Russo). I directed a reading of "Zero" by Tommy Smith at the LAByrinth Theater. And I also have been working as the co-book writer of a new musical with Paul Scott Goodman (Bright Lights Big City, Rooms). That and my usual gig performing improvised musicals at the Magnet Theater with my team Aquarius, performing for school kids with the Story Pirates, and taking some clown and commedia workshops with master teacher Chris Bayes, it's been a great year for me. And now I got this Brecht show!

Is there a particular moment in this show that you really love or look forward to? Without giving away surprises, what happens in that moment and why does it jazz you?
I'm really looking forward to the opening number! Without giving too much away, I'll just say that in the first couple of minutes of the show we hit on a lot of emotions: rage, beauty, irony, simplicity, stupidity. It makes me smile and laugh and gets my blood boiling at the same time. I think people will want to see where we go from there.

Groucho, Chico, Harpo, or Zeppo?
The show has a bit of all of them. Groucho for all the verbiage and verbal abuse - a lot of the show takes place in a courtroom, so everyone is always trying to make speeches. Harpo because there's a lot of physical comedy, a bunch of physicality based on clown and commedia, also some gags. Zeppo for the romance and boredom. And, my favorite, Chico because all the craziness needs to be kept together by the actors really listening and responding to one another, keeping everything moving along. Chico was great at that.

How important is diversity to you in the theater you see/make?
Diversity is fairly important to me in the theater I see and make. If everyone on stage is the same then chances are the show will only really give one perspective. If you want to make a show that paints a broader picture of the world, you ought to fill it with people with diverse experiences. I'm really proud of the team we assembled for this show. Not only do we have diversity of race, gender, etc, but the actors come from various theatrical backgrounds - musical theater, experimental theater, straight plays, etc. Getting together in a room and working on a play like Roundheads and Peakheads requires all those talents and perspectives.