Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Year in Brick: 2012

In 2012, The Brick celebrated its 10-year anniversary and was incinerated into dust during the Mayan Apocalypse!  

Also, we got new curtains.  And mind-blowing performances occurred.  Read all about it in 

The Year in Brick: 2012!

Amtrak Arrive Magazine in their Feature Article “Springtime for Brooklyn: Surveying the theater scene across the river from Broadway” boasts “For a night of sheer joy, don’t miss the opportunity to stop by The Brick Theater, hipster  Williamsburg’s most fertile breeding ground for theatrical innovation.” 
In the first Mainstage of the season, the new noir classic adaptation Bunny Lake Is Missing was hailed as "metronomically propulsive" by the New York Times.

Williamsburg became Puppetsburg at The Brick on Thursday mornings at The Brick for the entertainment and education of local babies and toddlers.  No hipsters were harmed during the incident and irony returned to daily life shortly thereafter.  Asked for comment, explained "The enthusiastic performers really keep the mood lively, and their puppets even sport tattoos!  Funky and fun!"

In addition to Bunny Lake, 8 bold, beautiful, strange and exciting Mainstage productions collided at The Brick in 2012.  The Brick welcomed Everywhere Theater Company's controversial Flying Snakes in 3D!, Old Kent Road Theater's All the Indifferent Children of the Earth, Nosedive Productions' Monkeys and Blood Brothers present…Raw Feed, Glasswork Productions' The Collected Rules of Sleepaway Camp, Buran Theater Company's House of Fitzcarraldo and Target Margin Theater's TMT LAB's festival of Yiddish plays Beyond the Pale!  

The election of 2012 was tight, but in the end, the winner was clear: political theater.  In anticipation, The Brick hosted Democracy, a festival of theatrical candidates who campaigned for President of The Brick in 2013.  The winner, Lamb Lays with Lions, will begin its Presidency this January!  Also returning were Brick classic feasts Game Play, The NY Clown Theatre Festival and Gemini CollisionWorks annual repertory!

In a month of remembrance, The Brick Retro brought back 4 classic Brick productions from its 10-year history.  The soundtrack will be available on 8-track stereophonic sound in the new year.

The Brick postponed its long-gestating 10th anniversary gala after Hurricane Sandy visited our friends and neighbors. In its place, we were blessed with the opportunity to raise funds for The Brooklyn Recovery Fund with The Brick Benefits Brooklyn: A Hurricane Sandy Benefit.

Dainty Cadaver, Tiny Theater, Mother Tongue, Dick & Gina, VCR Love, Antigone: The Lost Translation, Feiffer’s People, The Oven, Graffiti and new curtains!!!

For its 10th year of existence, The Brick asked for a pony and, instead, got a beautiful community of insane theatrical talent, love and inspiration.  Dammit.  

By donating to The Brick theater you are ensuring that new theater work has a home where the artists are free and encouraged to experiment.  And, The Brick is a registered 501(c)3! So, if you donate by December 31, 2012, you will be able to deduct your donation from your taxes in accordance with IRS standards.   Donation information is on our website:  

We remain grateful for all you do for us. It has been a wonderful decade and we anticipate another one with you in our seats and on our stage!   

Monday, December 17, 2012

Meet a Master Mason Monday - Gavin Starr Kendall

My grandfather was a real Mason. So I guess this honors his memory?

Photo: Kent Meister
Tells us about the first person you met at The Brick.
I came into contact with a hodgepodge of Brick regulars during the 2nd Baby Jesus One-Act Jubillee in Dec. 2007. Jeff Lewonczyk and Hope Cartelli were preforming together. Ian Hill and Berit Johnson were in a piece by Carolyn Raship that Daniel McKleinfeld directed. Dominic D'Andrea directed something. Got my first tastes for works by Eric Bland, Qui Nguyen and Matt Freeman. Audrey Crabtree was working box office one night. I thought everyone was pretty cool but it wasn't until the opening night party for Notes from Underground in the new year that I got to know some of them a little better.

Tell us about your first show at The Brick.
Jake Witlen (director) and Eric Sanders (playwright) asked me to be in Hollow Hallow for the 2nd Baby Jesus One-Act Jubillee. I think the only way it fit the theme of the fest was that it was set during Christmas. I played an 
Abu Ghraib soldier a little reluctant to carry out my orders from my commanding officer. It starts out sweetly with me talking to my daughter on the phone wishing her and my wife a Merry Christmas and ends with me freaking out, pulling the tooth out of a planted audience member and then dragging that person backstage and electrocuting him as screams rang out through the theater. I remember Hope had this slightly scared look in her eyes when I first met her in the dressing room after one performance. The Brick was a little nervous too because we had some audience participation where we brought people to the stage, hood them and verbally abuse them. Luckily no one reacted too badly. I certainly left my mark on the place thanks to Jake and Eric. The play really disturb some people. So much so that it became the worst thing they'd seen in awhile. But then later, those same people reversed their opinions saying it was the best thing they had seen for that same reason.

How did you first get involved with The Brick?
After the 2nd Baby Jesus One-Act Jubillee I knew I needed to hang out at The 
Brick more. In February 2008 I ran into Moira Stone on the subway on a Monday. We had been in a festival together years ago and she was opening Notes from Underground that Friday. I promised her that I'd be there. There was an opening night party and I was able to talk with some of the regulars in more depth that night. Jeff Lewonczyk cast me in Babylon, Babylon based on what he'd seen in the festival and rest is history. Most of my professional and personal Brick relationships started at that opening night party.

What aspect of The Brick do you love?
I like some of the ordered chaos that keeps the place running.

What is your favorite show you've seen at The Brick?
Notes from Underground has always stuck with me. It was confined to a small portion of the back stage and only lit by candle light. I still remember the shadows cast by the candles and the way it illuminated the cast. It certainly got me excited about working at The Brick.

What are your thoughts on Williamsburg? How has the art scene changed over the years?
I don't know. I mean, it's a cool place to hang out but I really don't care what the pulse of Williamsburg is.

How has gentrification affected your personal life?
I'm all for revitalizing a neighborhood so people can raise families and hang out with their friends in peace and harmony but instead of creating affordable places to live, it invites Yuppie bullshit-artists to take over.

If you could move The Brick anywhere where would you put it?
I don't think The Brick should move. But a second space would come in handy. Someplace with a bigger backstage, dressing rooms, etc. Where if a production wants to build a set there's room for that. Maybe some office space for our dedicated staff. Or we should move to Broadway and play our rock music real loud, leave empty beers cans all over the sidewalk and throw water balloons at all the Tony nominees.

In your opinion, what makes The Brick an incubator of emerging theater artists?
It takes a certain type of artist to create theatre here. Nothing is spoon fed to you. It's a punk rock world of theater. The staff is creating the same type of experiments and challenging shows so they know what's it like the first time you're putting up something new and creative. It may fail. And they're standing there with a beer for you. It may succeed beyond your wildest dreams. And they are again standing there with a beer for you.

What have you gained from your experience at The Brick?
Friends. And a "No Holds Barred" way to making theater. Sometimes this place leaves with you with a bloody nose and a few bruises after a production. But it certainly makes you stronger for the next one.

What’s the best benefit of being a Master Mason?
Mentioning it in my program bio.

What’s something unknown about you that you want your fellow Master Masons to know?
I'm a cheap date and an easy lay.

What do you think about a production of Ibsen’s The Master Builder done solely by Master Masons?
Cliched and unnecessary.

What is one thing you would change about The Brick?
They need a kegerator that serves Brick Brew!

Would you send your children to The Brick?
Yes. (Who wants to make some with me?) We need to pass on our ways to the next generation. We're doing that with Eddie Kim's students from Game Play (the Video Game Festival). I love the opportunity they have with exposure to an emerging theater genre and being on the cutting edge of it. The kids are alright.

What do you see in The Brick’s future?
I wouldn't say I'm qualified to answer this. I gave up forecasting the future years ago. I never ended up where I thought I would. Change is happening constantly at the Brick. The ebb and flow of running a theater. After hearing a little about some of the upcoming plans they have I think they'll be alright.

What would make a good premise for a Brick-based video game?
Something like Pac-Man with the staff running around the space trying to locate power pill grants while the ghosts of shitty reviewers, audience late-comers and people who leave their cell phones on chase after them. The couch floats around so you can sit on it or take a nap.

If you could commission any playwright, living or dead, to create a new work for The Brick, who would it be, and what would they write?
Sam Shepard could do some damage here. John Patrick Shanley would probably groove pretty well. But celebrities are a dime a dozen. I want to see more work by previous Brick writers like Bland, Freeman, Comtois, Lewonczyk, Lovejoy, Meyer, Nguyen, Skillman with room for some new blood.

Anything you want to plug?
I am co-founder of the Bad Theater Fest with Shawn Wickens. We've all made bad theater so why not celebrate it! Our first set of shows were at The Tank.  We had a strange, crazy line-up and I remounted The Lone Starr of Texas with my sock puppet group Afternoon Playland that I wrote and premiered for Tiny Theater at The Brick in 2010. We got some great international press from The Telegraph and on the heels of that success we're organizing the Bad Film Fest. Currently taking submissions. Please follow us on Twitter @badtheaterfest. And you can follow me @thestarrkendall. And this is a picture of my knees.
Photo: Peter Hapak for The New York Times Magazine

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Greetings and salutations...You a Heather?

Hello Brick aficionados!

My name is Gavin Starr Kendall. Call me Gavin or Starr or at the very least, Mr. Kendall. You’ve probably (hopefully) seen me in various Brick shows. From Old Kent Road to Piper McKenzie to Gemini CollisionWorks to my own sock puppet narratives with Afternoon Playland. And if not, please introduce yourself next time you see me working box office in my black Ray-Bans®.

I asked, and was graciously given permission, to start blogging for The Brick. I look forward to keeping you up to date on goings-on at The Brick, from shows to parties and beyond. The Brick has just finished their 10 Year Anniversary and looks like we’ll all be wearing shades because the future's so bright.

I will admit that I’m a much better actor than writer. The second time I took the SATs my verbal score dropped 50 points where my maths went up 100. And my only published writing credit is the high school column I wrote for my hometown paper in Texas. Letters to the Editor were mailed complaining of my laziness, selfishness and personal pleasure in only reporting events I was involved in or using the column to talk about out-of-town weekend adventures with my friends. But apparently readership went up due to the controversies I stirred. I have promised Artistic Director Michael Gardner that I will be a better reporter, but who knows what my pen will yield. At most I hope to keep Your, You’re and Yer straight.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Meet a Master Mason - Ivanna Cullinan

And we're back with our Meet a Master Mason series. Meet Actor, Director and NYIT Award Nominee Ivanna Cullinan! Not a season goes by where you won't see her handiwork somewhere on The Brick stage. She's a pleasure to work with and an even greater pleasure to know as a friend. Enjoy!

NYIT Nominee Ivanna Cullinan as Ssussu in Piper McKenzie's The Granduncle Quadrilogy. Photo credit: Ken Stein/Runs With Scissors Photography  
Tell us about the first person you met at The Brick.
Michael Yawney introduced me to David Cote who introduced me to Michael Gardner... I was a long time ago in another century.

Tell us about your first show at The Brick.
Michael's In a Strange Room as the Mother.  An amazing production with a gorgeous cast that was set entirely within a small wooden house that the audience sat within as we came at them from all sides. ALL SIDES.  But they did get coffee on break.

How did you first get involved with The Brick?
The theater being absurdly close to my home, once I was aware of it I went in to see most every show on offer.  The generosity of spirit and theatrical styles was astonishing.

What aspect of The Brick do you love?
It is a neighborhood and yet worldly. Not so insular that there is no connection to new ideas and yet does provide a home.

What is a favorite show you've seen at The Brick?
One favorite?  That is absurd.  A few favorites: The Ninja Cherry Orchard, Babylon Babylon, Greed, Jeannine's Abortion, World Gone Wrong and the NY Clown Theatre Festival.

What are your thoughts on Williamsburg? How has the art scene changed over the years?
It used to be cheap and easy but routinely screwed by the MTA putting the L under construction.  Now it is expensive and problematic and the L still goes off schedule when someone looks at it wrong. Seriously, Williamsburg still has a lot of wonderful things and our spot is more accessible than other indie spaces but I do not know how we'll survive without stronger resources and a bigger neighborhood profile. Not to contradict what I said above, but many of our neighbors don't know we're here—that is both the newbies and the old guard.

How has gentrification affected your personal life?
The gentrification is a problem—most of our current residents simply want a chic view of Manhattan or are visiting for a "cool" bar where they can get loaded.  Actually contributing to the neighborhood does not seem part of their consciousness. But to me, more importantly there are older neighborhood folks who don't necessarily see theater as including them. But I live here and am strongly biased about the changes.

If you could move The Brick anywhere where would you put it?
Same area, better space with two stages and a proper lobby.

In your opinion, what makes The Brick an incubator of emerging theater artists?
We curate lightly and allow a lot of projects to try out works that would not be possible otherwise.  I think we're genuinely interested in new voices and modes of expression over what is "hot" or trendy.

What have you gained from your experience at The Brick?
A community, relationships with a broad range of artists whose work I respect and company I enjoy. An artistic home.

What’s the best benefit of being a Master Mason?
It recognizes the strength of my relationship with this theater, not just as a jobbed in actor but as an artist.  It recognizes that this is the place that invited me to direct and challenged me to work collaboratively with writers.

What’s something unknown about you that you want your fellow Master Masons to know?
Please don't ever make me go up a ladder again in show. I will vomit.

What do you think about a production of Ibsen’s The Master Builder done solely by Master Masons?
Not much. Ibsen is wildly under-produced but I don't know that is the show that would be best—isn't the ultimate message there "dream but not too high and now you're too old anyway"

What is one thing you would change about The Brick?
Facilities upgrade and perhaps create a system whereby volunteerism earns you a show or show case night.

Would you send your children to The Brick? Why (not)?
Never had any, so difficult to send and frankly don't think the cats would enjoy it.  But other children would and we need to develop future audiences with short and engaging works.

What do you see in The Brick’s future?
More new works, more new voices.

If The Brick had its own superhero team, what would it be called and what heroes would be in it?
Don't they have one already?  Isn't that all of us making indie theater happen?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Meet a Master Mason Monday: Lindsey Carter

Tells us about the first person you met at The Brick. I came to know about The Brick through Edward Einhorn, and it was Gyda Arber who was the first brave soul to cast me.
Tell us about your first show at The Brick. Gyda, Maggie Cino and I worked on a Tiny Theatre piece by Callie Kimball called Crash/Splash in 2010. It was my New York stage debut, and I played a little boy named Michael. It will always be one of the things I am most proud of doing in New York.

How did you first get involved with The Brick? After meeting Gyda and working with her, I was fortunate enough to be noticed by other artists in The Brick's extensive network and continue working on shows there, building relationships and making strange and interesting theatre.

What aspect of The Brick do you love? The amazing support! The Brick really strives to encourage artists to test the boundaries and make new and interesting choices.

If you could move The Brick anywhere where would you put it? I would make The Brick portable, and take it on tour. Like the entire building. Of course, I would fill it up with lovely Bricklayers (and snacks) also.
In your opinion, what makes The Brick an incubator of emerging theater artists? The support that we give one another to explore. That exploration, and its results, I think creates better art and artists.    

What have you gained from your experience at The Brick? I am more comfortable with the unknown as it happens onstage, but I also feel that my time at The Brick has helped me be a better friend as well as a more curious person and actor. It's really opened my mind to just what theatre, (and all art, really) can be. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

GAME Play Artist Interview: Brian Davis ("Right Thing")

My piece explores the intersection of art and gaming by simply stripping away all the superfluous information and distilling the experience of gaming down to a simple question that has many interpretations. I am interested in economy in both art and gaming.

Obstacles in the general acceptance of video games as an art form
are the same obstacles that every new medium has faced gaining acceptance. Good artists and game developers don't care, though, and will continue to make interesting things.

My most emotional reaction elicited by a game was my disappointment when, after playing all the way through Metal Gear Solid 4 on the PS3, I missed the climactic ending scene because I had to pee.

True or False: video games are now more culturally important than they were in the past.

I discovered the merit of video games as an artistic medium after putting in over 100 hours into GTA: San Andreas and realizing how incredibly immersive and reward-driven the experience was.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

GAME PLAY Artist Interview: Raphael Arar ("Synth-a-Sketch")

My piece explores the intersection of art and gaming by re-imagining a classic game from the 50s to the present day as a reflection on the current state of digital culture. SYNTH-A-SKETCH is similar to the Etch A Sketch in its basic gameplay and interface; however, there are more conceptual themes at play. On the most basic plane, we now have a game that bridges the physical and digital divide—an aspect that our current culture struggles with. The piece also presents players with an influx of multi-sensory content. We experience so much digital noise in our day-to-day lives, and the installation serves to exploit this by transforming the line into one of shape, color, dimension and by the creation of interactive sound as a byproduct of gameplay. Despite all of this multi-sensory material, players are left with little control over the parameters, and the installation ultimately highlights major frustrations we experience daily.

When people say video games aren’t art I tend to
say it depends. Some games purely exist to hook people and make money. Others serve to highlight aspects of culture and reflect upon them.

My most emotional reaction elicited by a game was
euphoria, but there may have been other external factors involved...

True or False: video games are now more culturally important than they were in the past.
True—but this really extends to the emergence of technology as an artistic medium. Artists just have another material to leverage to express whatever they want.

Why should people view your piece? First off, it's interactive. You won't just want to view it, you'll want to experience it. The installation can be interpreted on many different levels. At its most basic, it's fun, suitable for children to childish adults. Once you start thinking about it and really interacting with it, themes emerge that reflect on digital media today.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

GAME PLAY Artist Interview: Josh Bricker ("Deterrence Machine")

When people say video games aren’t art I tend to agree. As a medium I think they have great potential to become art, but video games out of the box are not art. They may be artful or even beautiful, but most games never go beyond simple aesthetic pleasure. Culturally we tend to needlessly attach the term ‘Art’ capitol ‘A’ to something whenever we want to imbue an object or thing with value or prestige. I have never understood why a thing/object not traditionally considered art needs to be re-categorized as such. Like with video games, why do we feel the need to make them fit into the ‘ART’ box? Why can’t video games just stay video games and be judged as shitty or amazing, or beautiful video games? I mean aren’t video games fucking awesome for the very reasons that they are not art? For the most part, art is stuffy, boring and pretentious. Oscar Wilde famously said about art:
Art is useless because its aim is simply to create a mood. It is not meant to instruct, or to influence action in any way. It is superbly sterile, and the note of its pleasure is sterility. If the contemplation of a work of art is followed by activity of any kind, the work is either of a very second-rate order, or the spectator has failed to realise the complete artistic impression.
In contrast video games are activity based fun; pure entertainment of the highest order. For the sake of fun, capitol ‘F’ and the future of the industry I hope the two worlds continue to exist separately. For me to regard a video game as a piece of art it needs to transcend the purely superficial and visceral joy associated with the vast majority of video games and game play. I want art to tell me something new about the world, try and expand my understanding of something and tackle the existential. It’s a very narrow view of how art can operate and probably signifies an over reliance on pragmatic, rational thinking, but looking at and making art in this way wards off the persistent feeling of nihilism I get when I make and look.
An obstacle in the general acceptance of video games as an art form is video games rarely if ever provide any insights or values. Most games are usually nothing more than crass (but extremely entertaining) exercises in the spectacular. Generally the gate keepers of the art world demand more from its art then pure experience, but as the old guard is replaced by the new, meaning once our generation becomes the old guard, we’ll see that change and video game art will eventually become absorbed into the mainstream (my guess is it’ll probably get twisted and commercialized- similar to the way graffiti and street culture have been legitimized- into a marketing tool so corporate America can sell Mt. Dew and Red Bull). In fact you could make the case that the stigmas surrounding video games as art have already started to disappear. As gallerists have discovered ways to commodify game art, artists like Corey Arcangel have begun to show at institutions like The Whitney, opening doors for the future legitimization of video game art and artists.

My most emotional reaction elicited by a game was
when I beat the original Medal of Honor I strutted around like a proud peacock for about a week solid. I played non-stop for four days straight. To this day it’s the only game I have ever beaten.

True or False: video games are now more culturally important than they
were in the past.
True. In recent years the gaming industry has become one of the leading forms of entertainment in terms of revenue, often going toe to toe with or outright beating Hollywood for the almighty entertainment dollar. Highly anticipated game titles routinely gross more in the first 24hrs of release then the most anticipated films during an opening weekend. Stratospheric earning power, combined with shadowy funding from military/government sources and the pervasive, global reach of the gaming industry make gaming one of the most important mediums in contemporary culture to understand and critically engage. While the connection between violence and video games may be tenuous, there’s clearly a connection between video games and propaganda. Games like Call of Duty raise interest and support for the U.S. military and have become a part of the militarization of society. A recent Call of Duty commercial reinforced this point with the tag line “There’s a soldier in all of us” and gun battles being fought by people (presumably Americans) in work attire. Additionally in 2010, the U.S. military spent $50 million dollars developing combat training games and even developed a first-class shooter of its own, similar to Call of Duty, called “America’s Army” which is openly used as a recruiting device and is free to download from the internet. As a medium, video games pose a danger in that their often violent natures are rarely, if ever, reflected upon meaningfully by users. Video games require active participation unlike other media such as music or movies, which raises their potential to distance user associations between violent actions and possible consequences. I see this is getting convoluted so I’ll end it here. But it’s a big question that deserves more critical analysis then I am capable of. So to summarize: yeah, shit is real important.

Why should people view your piece?
Cool generic explosions.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

GAME PLAY Artist Interview: James Carter ("NY_Hearts:LES")

NY_Hearts: LES explores the intersection of theater and gaming by putting you in the shoes of one of the main characters of a love story and sending you on a scavenger hunt of sorts through the Lower East Side. The entire experience unfolds in site specific locations while you listen to Jill, Sal’s girlfriend, recount their relationship on an iPhone app, Moveable Feast. Businesses are featured in the story, and at each location you get items Jill talks about, including a yoga class, lunch and many other surprise goodies.

When people say video games aren’t art I tend to talk about how the NEA is now funding video games. I also emphasize how story is essential to practically every video game. Story is the place where theater and video games intersect. I have a friend who plays games just for the story. Game Play offers artists a chance to explore new ways of telling story, going outside comfort zones; theater artists explore games, and gamers bring their narratives to the theater. The convergence of the two is thrilling.

An obstacle in the general acceptance of video games as an art form is sometimes people think video games are a waste of time. It’s something kids do. It’s something unemployed thirtysomethings do while sitting in their underwear. It’s just play. It’s not art. Wait. Did I just say it’s play? Funny. That’s what we do in theater. Play. On stage. In site specific locations. Playing is what theater is. Another convergence of themes.

My most emotional reaction elicited by a game was: Lots of swearing, console throwing, and teeth gritting. Damn TMJ. But video games can also give me a Zen feeling. In the zone, one can relax, release and recharge. Just like flower arranging or motorcycle maintenance, there is a Zen and the Art of Gaming. Oh, snap. Did I just call gaming an art, again?

True or False: video games are now more culturally important than they were in the past. True. They didn’t exist for much of the past, so now they’re pretty important. As far as the recent past, their importance is rising in graphic capabilities, storytelling, and money making. It’s no wonder Hollywood is playing a big part in the evolution of games. It’s big money. The more realistic and social these virtual worlds become, the more culturally important they will be.

I discovered the merit of video games as an artistic/theatrical medium after I became involved with transmedia storytelling, or telling many small stories to create one large story over many media platforms. So many of the creators I know are not just video game makers, but they are game designers in all mediums. Alternate Reality Games (ARG) is a form of storytelling on the rise over the past ten years. This is where reality and fiction intersect, and players influence and sometimes create portions of the story. Interactivity and engagement are words repeated as mantras in the transmedia world, and invariably, whenever I see them done well, some game mechanics are involved.

What video games in performance can provide that traditional media cannot is the interaction and audience influence.

Why should people see your Game Play show? It may be unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. If you’ve never played with the Moveable Feast app, it certainly will be new to you. If you’ve never stepped into a character’s shoes (don’t worry no one will pull you up on stage), then this will be new to you. Haven’t seen a show in a site specific location only to receive a present when you visit? You will discover a new experience. Have you ever gone to a theater show and taken a yoga class? You can at NY_Hearts: LES. I’m very happy to be taking many digital and traditional storytelling tools and mashing them up to offer a unique theater experience. Oh, yeah…and it’s going to be tons of fun!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Meet a Master Mason Monday: Amy Overman

Tell us about your first show at The Brick.  My friend Pete Schuyler was in Strom Thurmond Is Not a Racist/Cleansed in 2007.  And I remember we gave him a lot of crap about going out to Williamsburg.  They had curtains down and the space open all the way to the back wall and I loved the bricks and how huge it was.  I then promptly forgot it existed.  I'm not sure I even realized what the name of the theater was.

How did you first get involved with The Brick?  I auditioned for Ian and Berit and was cast as the Model in Blood on the Cat's Neck in 2009.  I was the only newbie in this cast of Brick regulars.  I remember Roger Nasser telling me that the whole cast would immediately Facebook friend me.  And they did.  Also, there was a lot of blood and I wore a really fabulous dress.  I think that dress is still how a lot of people know who I am. 

What aspect of The Brick do you love?  I love that the Brick is a group of experienced indie theatre artists who are doing this because it's what they love.  People who have had shows succeed and had shows fail and who aren't doing this as a stepping stone to Broadway or Hollywood, but are making theater for its own sake.

If you could move The Brick anywhere where would you put it?  There's actually an old movie theater at around 100th & Broadway that's been shut down for years.  I'd put the Brick there.  The fact that this is walking distance from my house is purely coincidental. (

What have you gained from your experience at The Brick?  I have met so many talented people.  Dysfunctional Theatre's last show, Unlicensed, never would have happened without the Brick.  The playwright, a lot of the actors, directors, and audience were all people I either met at the Brick or met through Brick connections.  Also a lot of these people are now my friends, which is nice. 

What’s the best benefit of being a Master Mason?  An overall feeling of superiority.

What is one thing you would change about The Brick?  Some way to get from backstage to the back of house that doesn't involve climbing out a window and cutting through the back of the pizza parlor.  Or a transporter.  Actually, I'd really like a transporter.

Show to plug?  Yes! Of Dice & Men, which is Dysfunctional Theatre Company's first show at the Brick opens on July 7th as part of Game Play.  An awesome comedy about a group of 30-something D&D players and what happens to their group when one of the members decides to enlist in the Marines.  No previous knowledge of D&D required, but if you like D&D, you will find it extra awesome.  I'm directing and it stars Master Masons Gyda Arber & Adam Swiderski.  3 Master Masons for the price of 1!

Friday, June 29, 2012

GAME PLAY Artist Interview: Richard Lovejoy ("Rock, Paper, Scissors")

When people say video games aren’t art I tend to refer them to Every Day the Same Dream if I'm in a good mood.  If I'm not in a good mood I usually mutter to myself, often tripping and spilling whatever beverage is in my hand.  (Note, I always have a beverage in hand for just such occasions.) 

An obstacle in the general acceptance of video games as an art form is that they are often thought of as toys.  Actually, I think the big thing holding them back from being accepted as art is that there is an assumption from a lot of mainstream gaming companies that the only people who play video games are young men.  As a result, the video game market gets deluged with sexist, childish crap that isn't anything close to art at all (this is something comic books also struggle with.)  Which is a shame, because there is so much you can do with a game that you can't do with any other art form.  When you think about early games like Adventure or even Pong, people would gather around and watch someone playing these games (in the case of Adventure, large groups of people would be working out the puzzles together, and telling the person manning the keyboard what to type down.)  That was a promising start, and I don't know what happened or why video games got as derailed as they did, but the mainstream did go astray.  And now, rather than "video games are art" being a generally accepted statement, you have to make an argument.  Which is a shame, because all that energy you spend making an argument about why video games are art could be better spent creating or playing a video game that is art.

My most emotional reaction elicited by a game was the sheer excitement of pulling the cloth map out of the Ultima V box...  Or the sadistic glee I felt after finally figuring out how to turn Mannanan into a cat (you can bet I kicked him plenty of times.)  It might have also been the sadness I felt after watching the Kilrathi blow up the Tiger's Claw in Wing Commander II, or even the sense of accomplishment I felt after I united both sides of Xeen.  I think I have a lot of more.  Do you want to hear them?  Hey, where are you going!  Get back here!  I wasn't done reminiscing.  GET OFF MY DAMN LAWN!  Oh, wait, I just told you to keep running.  Sigh.

I discovered the merit of video games as a theatrical medium after writing a play in the style of an old Sierra adventure game.  Chris Chappell and I were drunk, reminiscing about those old EGA adventure titles, and how bizarre their plot structures were when you thought about the events as literally occuring.  Adventure Quest (which was in the inaugural Game Play Festival) was born out of that.  It is currently published here:  (cough, cough.)

True or False: video games are now more culturally important than they were in the past. I think this is actually a deceptive question.  The answer is obviously true, but it is more complicated than that.  Video games are more prevalent than they were in the past, but I don't know if they're necessarily more "culturally important" now.  It really depends on what you mean by "cultural importance."  I think in the late 70s, early 80s, they were very cutting edge and new (and thus important.)  I feel as though a lot of video games today are the creation of large firms (as opposed to passionate individuals) and as a result they're marketed, focus group'd and committee'd to death.  To me this makes them less "culturally important" than they could be, in the same way that new sitcom with a tired premise is probably less culturally important than, say, the latest Soderbergh film.  Of course, that could just be my own bias interpreting "cultural importance" as being something with an attempt at substence when, in fact, you could make the case that something like Friends is more culturally important than The Honeycomb Trilogy (even though the Honeycomb Trilogy was brilliant and Friends was arguably rubbish, it still affected society and culture 'at large' more than the Honeycomb Trilogy.)  It depends on whether or not you think things that are cotton candy entertainment are "cultural."  Which, I suppose, they are... Maybe I'm overthinking this.  I mean, heck, McDonalds could be considered "cultural" since it is, in fact, part of our culture.  Now, to focus back on video games, Brian Fargo's Wasteland 2, which was crowd sourced is, to me, culturally important on multiple levels.  We're definitely in a transitory moment, and the old business models are crumbling.  I think there's a real opportunity for video games to be "cultural pioneers" again and it starts with wresting control of the medium from corporations and putting it back in the hands of the actual artists.  Don't get me wrong - corporations SHOULD have a hand in art.  When big companies provide corporate assistance to things like the NEA, or donate money to theaters to keep them running and capable of paying artists for their work: that's a good thing.  Patronage is great for the arts.  But video games aren't treated like part of the arts, they're treated like commodity.  And that holds them back from being culturally important in the way that only art can be.  I don't want video games to be culturally important in the same manner that bottled water or summer blockbusters are.  I want them to be culturally important in the same manner that theater, film, and television is culturally important.  And when I say theater, I mean everything from Broadway to Indy theater.  When I say film, I mean everything from the aforementioned summer blockbuster to the microbudget mumblecore art house flick.  I want video game companies to be patrons for video game artists - the Brian Fargo's and Roberta Williams's of the world.  So, yes, TRUE.  I mean, this festival exists, right?

Richard Lovejoy is the author of Rock, Paper, Scissors. The show runs July 7 28, 2012. Tickets can be purchased here.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

GAME PLAY Artist Interview: Charles Battersby ("That Cute Radioactive Couple")

My piece explores the intersection of theatre and gaming by starting the story as a play, then continuing it as a video game.  After the show, the audience can download a custom mod for a game called Fallout: New Vegas.  In the mod, players can visit locations seen in the play and meet the characters to find out what happens to them after the events in the play.  The actors from the show voice the characters in-game too.

When people say video games aren’t art I tend to name 100 games that are.  Have you played The Longest Journey?  No?  Go play it right now.  Seriously, why are you still reading this?

An obstacle in the general acceptance of video games as an art form is all the terrible games your mom plays on Facebook.  Buy your mom a copy of Ico.

My most emotional reaction elicited by a game was sheer terror when Psycho Mantis moved my Playstation controller with only the POWER OF HIS MIND!  How did he know I like Eternal Darkness?  HOW!

True or False: video games are now more culturally important than they were in the past. True. A whole generation of consumers has been raised with Playstations.  They have their own cultural references that non-gamers just don't get.

I discovered the merit of video games as an artistic/theatrical medium after making my first Neverwinter Nights mod.  I could make the video game characters say whatever I wanted, just like actors in a play.

What video games in performance can provide that traditional media cannot is interactivity!  What is Skyrim but a story that the Player gets to tell?

Why should people see your Game Play show? Aside from the game aspect, it's the funniest play about the apocalypse you'll see this summer.

Charles Battersby is the author of That Cute Radioactive Couple. The show runs July 7 28, 2012. Tickets can be purchased here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

GAME PLAY Artist Interview: Kathryn Funkhouser ("The Sequel")

My piece explores the intersection between theater and gaming by making the characters who inhabit the game just as "real" as the characters playing the game.

When people say video games aren't art I tend to point to comics. Like video games, people considered comics to be just violent stories for kids, but the genre evolved into something sophisticated enough that people now take it seriously. When video games find their equivalent of Watchmen, I think they'll start getting more respect.

An obstacle to the general acceptance of games as an art form is the focus on mindless violence in a lot of popular games. However, if you made the argument that all movies are not art because of the existence and popularity of Transformers, people would think you were crazy, so hopefully video games can travel a similar path to movies, where crowd-pleasing violence exists but so does more thought-provoking fare.

My most emotional reaction elicited by a game is probably how nostalgic I get for growing up with my brother when I play Mario Kart. We were (and are) a spectacular DoubleDash!! team.

What video games in performance provide that traditional media cannot is connecting us to the human side of gaming. People put a lot of themselves into games: when your avatar gets shot, no one says "my character died." You say, "I'm dead." Having the human experience you have playing a game represented by other humans in a theater piece helps you think about that experience. That may or may not make sense...

People should see my Game Play show because our team is determined that you'll have as much fun watching it as we're having doing it. Also, zombies!

Kathryn Funkhouser is the author of The Sequel. The show runs July 7 28, 2012. Tickets can be purchased here.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

GAME PLAY Artist Interview: Cameron McNary ("Of Dice and Men")

Of Dice and Men deals with the world of tabletop roleplaying games rather than that of video games, although the issues of why we game, what it means to be a gamer, and how gaming impacts peoples' lives are much the same whether you're rolling dice or working a controller.

My piece explores the intersection of theatre and gaming by presenting the act of running a tabletop RPG as theatre: giving the uninitiated an accurate picture of what roleplaying is, what it looks like, what it feels like, and (most importantly) why people do it. I used to be mystified that anyone would ever want to watch other people play D&D... until I realized TRPGs are just a form of participatory improv where the players are (usually) the only audience. It was a pretty short leap from there to putting a game session up on stage. In a broader sense, the play toys with the line between the game and the play itself... the character of John Francis is the Dungeon Master for the game within the play, but he's also the DM for the play itself. Similarly, presenting each of the Player Characters as they are perceived by their player (often in completely stylistically different ways), and then showing how that comes together into a common play experience is something I think you could only do on stage. The ability to play with stage conventions allows you to comments on the player, their character, and the relationship between in a way I don't think any other medium could quite pull off... putting a cheap fake beard on a woman in her forties, giving her a hammer and letting her tell Dwarven dick jokes directly to the audience would be awful hard to make work on film.

When people say gaming isn't art I tend to want to smack them, hard, because this is such a settled issue at this point. Games exist to generate narrative, and anybody that says a medium that can generate narrative can't be art has no idea what they're talking about.

My most emotional reaction elicited by a game was... there are too many to count at the tabletop. You kinda had to be there for just about all of them. In terms of video games, it was when SHODAN killed Dr. Polito and finally showed her stupid face in System Shock 2. Hands down. I was so hurt and furious and betrayed at being denied the only human companionship I had known for so long that I emptied two clips into SHODAN's face even when I knew it wouldn't do anything, and that ammo was incredibly precious in that game. I didn't reload my save, either; Polito deserved that much.

True or False: games are now more culturally important than they were in the past. Resoundingly, triumphantly true. We now have two or three generations who grew up knowing what hit points, mana and leveling up are.

Why should people see your Game Play show? Because it's a really good play. If you're a gamer, this play speaks for our tribe; you'll see yourself in it. If you're not, you'll get who we are and why we do what we do. Also there's a dragon.

Cameron McNary is the author of Of Dice and Men. The show runs July 7 27, 2012. Tickets can be purchased here.