The Reviews Hub contributor Adrienne Sowers chatted with writer Joe Kelly and director Griffin Osborne about their current production, Aliens Coming.
What was the development of this play like? Being at an improv theatre, did you rely on performers to improvise/devise some of the text?
JK: In August I had to go to Saratoga for my sister’s wedding. While waiting for the train I read about the Bad Theater Fest, and thought it sounded like the perfect place to workshop whatever our next project was going to be. I knew that BTF was usually held at The PIT and had been dying for a chance to have my work performed there. With a clear goal in mind I started to think more seriously about what to write. Whatever it was I knew I needed Alice Kors to be in it. […] The PIT offered to let us do four shows that Spring. Lemon James and I wrote all the music over the winter and workshopped the hell out of the show with the actors. It was an extremely collaborative experience. I’m a big believer in the whole “best idea wins” thing and the actors often have a lot of really great ideas.
GO: As the new team member on this project I couldn’t have been luckier as a director to come into a room that was so excited, passionate, and fun-loving about the show. Everyone in the cast is a master improviser in their own right, and made my job easy as all I had to do was try to keep up with their million-jokes-a-second attitudes.
Was there any one thing that drew you to producing this particular play? A pull toward this concept/story?
JK: I started out being really interested in the idea of arbitrary success. What does it mean when someone becomes famous or successful for what others view as a petty or meaningless reason? The other major question of the play, at least for Brandi, is how many followers or subscribers or likes or whatever–call it anonymous validation–how much of that equals the attention of someone you love in real life?
GO: For me it all lies on Brandi and Clementine’s relationship. I think the pressure that young people go through at that particular time to define themselves is an incredibly fascinating and widely relatable problem. The idea of exploring this relationship, this relationship that’s showing its cracks as two friends head different directions in life, all under this sort of absurd umbrella I just found to be a really fun and different opportunity. We don’t work in camp and fun anymore; it seems like everything has to feel ironic or detached in modern theater, so for me getting to play in that world was a no-brainer.
Improv theatre is a particular community. Do you find that Aliens Coming draws a broader audience than traditional improv shows, or are you seeing largely an NYC comedy community turnout in terms of audience?
GO: I think we definitely have a larger audience. The world is a crazy, scary place right now and I think the opportunity to get together with some friends, perhaps grab a drink, turn one’s brain off and laugh and enjoy is something a lot of people need right now. I know I do. I think we’ve seen a big turn out of theater fans and musical fans and those attracted to culty camp theater, and that crowd is always excited and ready to engage in something new.
Aliens Coming skewers the cultural pervasiveness of self-promotion. Was this an intended theme or something that arose organically throughout the process?
GO: I think what’s brilliant about Joe’s script is that it allows its commentary to simply exist for those who choose to look for it. Primarily it’s about friendship, and change, and fear of change; something all of us can relate to. I think someone can look at the YouTube-star plot of this show and think it’s satirizing the baseness and shallowness of this kind of self promotion, but I find that to be a less interesting read. We use projection a lot in this show, and yet never show one of Brandi’s videos. For me this is purposeful, to pull attention away from YouTube and makeup tutorials and instead bring attention to those who are watching them, what they are absorbing, what kind of message they’re receiving. For Clem, it’s this recognition that these videos are a sort of cry for help from someone who’s felt so in the corner of the party for so long.
JK: That was 100% the intended theme. The genital harvesting stuff was actually the thing that arose organically during the process, believe it or not.
Aliens Coming runs until 18 September 2017 at The PIT in NYC.