Monday, June 25, 2012

Meet a Master Mason Monday: Michael Criscuolo

Tell us about the first person you met at The Brick. The first Brick person I met was Gyda Arber, but this was long before either of us was ever connected with The Brick. We met about 10 years ago through a mutual friend, and became pretty fast friends ourselves. A few years after that, she started telling me about this place in Williamsburg that she’d discovered and totally loved, and for a while after that it seemed like every time I saw her she would say something like, “You’ve got to come do a show at The Brick. You’ve got to come meet the people there. They’re awesome.” Eventually she wore me down.

Tell us about your first show at The Brick. The first show I saw at The Brick was An Evening with Roberta Combs at the Moral Values Festival in 2005. It starred another mutual friend of mine and Gyda’s, Cathy McNelis, and was directed by yet another mutual colleague of ours, Tim Haskell. I remember liking it quite a bit, and thinking to myself afterwards, “Ah, so this is what Gyda’s been talking about.”

How did you first get involved with The Brick? In my own roundabout, heel-dragging way. For many years I reviewed shows and interviewed indie theater artists for, and one of my favorite interviews I ever did for them was with Kevin Doyle, the artistic director of Sponsored By Nobody. I remember thinking that I really liked where Kevin was coming from, and I liked his sense of humor. Definitely the kind of guy I’d go have a beer and shoot the shit with. Fast forward about a year and a half after said interview: I happened to find out that Kevin was having auditions for his next show, FOX(y) Friends, which was going up at The Brick’s Pretentious Festival in 2007, and I figured “What the hell?” So I sent in my picture and resume, and a brief letter reminding him about our interview. Next thing I knew I was auditioning for the show, and before I knew what else was happening Kevin had cast me. And, suddenly, there I was on stage at The Brick. The rest, as they say, is history.

What aspect of The Brick do you love? The community, hands down. The people that gravitate towards and orbit The Brick are big-hearted, loyal, compassionate, generous, and just all-around awesome. They work hard, play hard, and love hard. They’re fearless, inventive, and infinitely resourceful. They trust and like each other, and embrace newcomers with open arms. They did that with me way back when, and they have been great friends to me in about a million different ways ever since. I cannot ever thank them enough for that.

What is your favorite show you’ve seen at The Brick? I’ve seen dozens and dozens of shows at The Brick that I’ve loved, but the two that have stayed with me the most are Robert Honeywell’s Greed: A Musical Love Story, and Michael Gardner’s production of Mountain Hotel by Vaclav Havel. Both were truly brilliant, and I still think about them quite often. They tuned me in to the full power of all things Brick. Plus, the day I saw Mountain Hotel was the same day Havel himself came to see it, and he stood behind me in the bathroom line. I mean, come the fuck on!

If you could move The Brick anywhere where would you put it? I’m not sure I would put it anywhere else. Part of its identity is its location: in Williamsburg, in that particular former auto garage/yoga studio/whatever-the-heck-else-it-was. But if they did eventually move elsewhere, it would obviously have to be somewhere that had lots of bricks.

In your opinion, what makes The Brick an incubator of emerging theater artists? They encourage ambition. That’s the kind of atmosphere they cultivate. They want people to walk in there and take huge risks. If you’ve ever dreamed of starring in the same play you’ve written and directed, The Brick is the place to do it. They want auteurs there, for lack of a better word.

What have you gained from your experience at The Brick? Oh Lord, where should I start? A lot of things. Like a lot of great friends. And the kinds of opportunities to grow and challenge myself artistically that I probably wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else. And enough magical, wonderful, memorable theatergoing experiences to last a lifetime. And a chance to fulfill my lifelong dream of performing at The Public Theater. (Big up to the 365 Plays!) I even got a survival job from a friend there. So I owe them a great deal. And that’s just the stuff I remember. Did I mention the kick-ass parties? The Brick is always an adventure.

What’s the best benefit of being a Master Mason? The free spankings, for sure.

What’s something unknown about you that you want your fellow Master Masons to know? I’m already kind of an open book. If I reveal anything else publicly, I may end up sleeping with the fishes.

What is one thing you would change about The Brick? I’d make sure there was hot running water in the sink. Number one priority.

What do you see in The Brick’s future? More of the good stuff, and then some. The sky is really the limit for The Brick.

Anything you want to plug? Oh yeah. I will be Fringe-ing this summer with two of my fellow Master Masons. I'm going to be appearing in Maggie Cino's terrific new play, Decompression, directed by Patrice Miller. Maggie and I have acted together many times before (which is always a blast, by the way), but this is the first time we'll be working together as writer and actor, so that's an extra special treat. And this will be my first time working with Patrice, even though we've been friends for a while. So, I guess you could say that this will be a show of many firsts. Totally Brick-style, in other words.

1 comment:

Trav S.D. said...

Have to agree with you about both Greed and Mountain Hotel. Those were both excellent shows