Tag Archives: Guest Bloggers

“The Flick” Director Kenny Howard Answers 5 Questions

This week Gen Y Productions brings a 4 week engagement of Annie Baker’s “The Flick” to the stage at the Alexis and Jim Pugh Theater at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. This marks the Florida premiere of the play which earned the 2013 Obie Award for Playwriting and the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.  “The Flick” runs June 17 through July 12.

Central Florida Theatre in Process’ John DiDonna asked the show’s director Kenny Howard to answer five questions:

Kenny Howard, director of "The Flick" playing at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts June 17-July 12

Kenny Howard, director of “The Flick” playing at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts June 17-July 12

JD: The production team you were part of is both Tony winning and Grammy nominated. Why the return to producing in Central Florida?

KH: For me it was about artistic vision and community. I went up for an AD job off-Broadway and to further my career as a director, yet ended up a managing member of a Tony Award-winning Broadway Producing company and a record label for Original Broadway Cast and Broadway artists’ cabaret albums.   Every moment was an amazing experience, but I needed to regroup and focus on what I actually wanted. That ended up being expression as an artist and a sense of community; both of which were things I had always felt I had here, so I came back for that purpose, as well as I just missed my family here in Central Florida. It was 17 years in the theatre community when I made the move to NYC, and I missed it horribly.  

 

JD: How does it feel being one of the first long-run shows in the Alexis and Jim Pugh Theater at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts? What are the risks? What are the benefits? (Okay, it is three parts but still one question!)

KH: Great question(s)! I had made a play to use the Pugh previously. I wanted in that space.

It is a gorgeous space that reminds me of the Jewel Box at the Signature Theatre in NYC.   Being a resident of Orlando almost 22 years, I was aware of the Pugh as the theater “for all lives,” (or whatever phrase they finally settled on), and I wanted to take them up on that.   I can’t tell you how it really feels until we load in on Sat (Note: June 13)., but I am a huge fan of the space and I’m excited as hell. The risks are many. Although not as expensive as first thought, it is still the most expensive venue of its kind in Central Florida, which requires a certain amount of attendance to be truly successful financially. AND, although not a producer for this production, I cannot help with my years of experience as a producer concern myself with that reality.

We are very fortunate to have a producer who not only rises to the challenge, but chose a play that challenges me, the cast, and crew, as well as the audiences. The benefits are that we are doing another production there in August. It is a musical that is over four times the size in cast and we have the benefit of acclimating ourselves to the space. Also, I believe in the vision of the Pugh that was first presented, and I hope that working with DPC for this project makes them amenable to doing the same for many local theatre companies. We are blessed to have a thriving theatrical community and I would like to see theatre companies follow suit and have more local productions take place there.

 

JD: Tell us about “The Flick”! What about this show will pull people into a live theatrical experience this summer?

KH: I can honestly say that personally I have never seen a show quite like “The Flick.” The setting of the play is inside an old movie house, that uses an old 35mm projector, and much like the theatre, the lives of the three lead characters are stuck in a rut. It is a story of the human spirit, change, heartache, yet very funny and extremely poignant. The audience is the screen and we watch the lives of 3 everyday people that we would normally pass in the theatre or on the street without a second glance. But in the movie house named “The Flick” we find ourselves immersed in three people doing their job and examining their lives and the need for connection. It is falls into a category of complete realism so these characters are not “performed,” as much as lived in by the fantastic cast.

 

JD: What is it like collaborating with the team of “The Flick”?

KH: This team is fantastic. Gen Y’s Managing Member Aaron Safer is amazing when it comes to artistic freedom, and he is a champion of the show, and can hustle. Chris Yakubchik as AD is another who provides great insight to the text. The cast collectively is so strong. Anastasia Kurtiak is a dream stage manager who keeps us all on track. Marcellis is a reserved man, but is bringing Avery to life in a beautiful way. Jessie Grossman is the bomb! She is a consummate professional and her Rose is truly lovely to watch. And then Daniel Cooksley is someone I have admired on the stage for years and the audience and we are extremely fortunate to have him breathe life into Sam. Coletyn is young, but he is bright and funny, and we are lucky to have him. Bonnie Sprung is our set designer and has out done herself for this one, and lastly Roy Brown, who I have used for most of my lighting design needs who in each instance has not only succeeded but gone above and beyond expectations. So as far as collaborating with this team…I’m very fortunate. J

 

JD: What is coming up next for Kenny Howard? Projects? Vacation?

KH: Next up in July is “Wanzie’s Court Ordered Therapy: Ladies of Eola Heights-Continued” at The Abbey which reunites Chris and I with Beth Marshall, Peg O’Keefe, Blue Star, Sam Singhaus and our newest cast member of the Locksdale tribe…Kevin Kelly. Then in August “Heathers: The Musical” we are back in the Pugh Theatre at DPC. In September I have BMP’s Play-in-a-Day, and the reboot of The Abbey’s Monday Night Cabaret Series, then in October “Bat Boy” at The Abbey. I do have another project in both the spring and summer of 2016, but it has not been announced yet. Vacation? What’s that? I will get to NYC whenever I can, and I will get to KY to visit my parents.

But mostly….”I can’t – I’m in rehearsal.”

 

Tickets range from $35 to $60 for the hilarious and heartrending “The Flick,” and are on sale now at DrPhillipsCenter.org.

 

– Interview and post courtesy of guest blogger John DiDonna of Central Florida Theatre in Process

Interview: Leah Meyerhoff (writer/director, I Believe In Unicorns)

So, while I was at the Florida Film Festival, I was able to catch the showing of I BELIEVE IN UNICORNS.

The film was introduced by Brian Quain (festival’s film selection committee) and Leah Meyerhoff (her IMDb), the writer and director of the film. Following the film, there was a Q&A with Leah, and one of the film’s associate producers, Hannah Beth King (her IMDb). After the Q&A, I got to take a few pictures of each of them, and the film’s UCF Marketing Team. It was at this time that I was able to speak with and interview Leah. Boy, did I have questions.

We got to speaking about the film, and how it came about. Leah had always had the desire to make a film that a sixteen-year-old her would’ve wanted to see. She wanted to make something pertinent, and something truly relatable – not a fairy-tale / hollywood-reality film.

Leah had previously, primarily, made shorts and non-features. She’d mentioned that, when she got to film school, she’d always thought that a director was more behind-the-camera only; rather than somebody who would stand to the side or out-of-frame, directing the actors. She was sort of ‘afraid’ to direct her actors. Through her experiences, Leah realized that you have to speak with your actors, you have to truly direct them, while letting them perform; this way, you get the most effective result.

Prior to all this endeavor, Leah was able to be on IFC’s Film School, which allowed her to make some connections, gain experience, and garner some financing for this next project she wanted to complete – I Believe In Unicorns.

While trying to get I Believe In Unicorns made, Leah starting calling around and asking her friends about things to do, where to go, and tip/tricks for the film. Through all these calls, she realized that there was a severe lack of help, for women-in-filmmaking. She found though, that she knew a lot of women-in-film. Through these experiences, she was able to garner some interest and support in starting her own organization – Film Fatales -to bring together (and support) women-in-film.

Film Fatales originated in NYC, Leah’s home. They meet once-a-month, discuss their projects, and go over future plans/ideas. Most recently, Film Fatales has expanded with an LA collective, as well. Through Leah’s research, and even Film Fatales, she was able to connect with Hannah Beth King (who happens to be from Central Florida!).

Casting seemed a bit tricky – certainly more detailed. One of the leads (Peter Vack) was chosen in a more conventional way – auditions. However, another one of the leads took a different approach. Leah was auditioning hundreds of girls for the lead, and just wasn’t connecting with any of them. She had a few requirements for the role – she needs a sixteen-year-old (as the role is for a sixteen-year-old) – she didn’t want an 18/20-year-old, she wanted somebody authentic and relatable. Another requirement was the maturity level – there are some pretty heavy, and then pretty wispy/young parts of the film, and there was a need for maturity – to be able to handle each aspect, with grace, and believability. Leah, actually, found the actress (Natalia Dyer) after asking the people behind True Grit what top-three actresses they encountered, when casting for the role of Mattie. When she saw/spoke with Natalia, she was sold. While casting for the lead, Leah also ran into Julia Garner, and liked her so much – she wrote the role of ‘the best friend’ just for her!

Another part of casting – Leah deciding to cast her own mother in the role of the lead’s mother. Leah’s mother, Toni, has MS. So does her character in the film. There was a desire for the mother/daughter relationship in the film to be somewhat tense, strained, and convincing. Leah admitted this relationship was a bit auto-biographical of that time-period in her life. However, Leah has since grown closer with her mother. Prior to casting her mother in I Believe In Unicorns, she had previously cast Toni in her short film, Twitch. After that experience, Toni was excited to work another another one of Leah’s projects.

Other notable experience for Leah include working on, and directing, music videos and commercials. Specifically, one of her most fond experiences on a music video was Joan As Policewoman‘s Eternal Flame. She remembers that being one for the books – just an all-around great time. Another favourite moment was working on Converse‘s ad, The Heist.

In the future, Leah just wants to keep making independent movies. She just wants to make movies that she wants to see, and movies that she wish she had seen. Leah is creating, working on, and producing other projects – including some projects by her Film Fatale cohorts! Hannah Beth King helped with the production I Believe In Unicorns, and in exchange, Leah is now helping produce Hannah’s first feature “Dirt Roads”, which they are hoping to shoot in Florida next year.

Leah is very excited about the future of I Believe In Unicorns, and what it may mean to her future in Indie Cinema.

 

I BELIEVE IN UNICORNS just recently played at Leah’s Alma Mater, Brown University. It is headed to the Nashville Film Festival. For more screenings, please check it out, here!

For more information on the film, check out their website and facebook.
For more information on Leah, check out her website and facebook.