Bricken Sparacino is an award winning/nominated performer, writer and director. She is also a bright, confident woman who has been involved in theatre for most of her life. To watch her work is to watch an artist with a powerful command of her talents. I have seen her ability to transform a space, as well as her own persona, as she captivates and connects intimately with an audience, provoking a wide range of meaningful responses to her performances.
Bricken’s latest show I’m Not Sure I Like the Way You Licked Me! is running April 7,8,9 at HorseTrade’s Under St. Marks Theatre in NYC. Using humor, story telling, honesty and a little bit of rock and roll, Bricken shares the battles she has fought, the mountains she has climbed, and the licks she has endured! I’m Not Sure I Like the Way You Licked Me! was chosen as part of the Frigid Festival ‘11 and is “a very brave, honest, funny, endearing show.” – Amy E. Witting, aWe Creative.
Whenever I see Bricken perform, I am always left with a gift – laughter, lingering tears, revived memories, profound thoughts – sometimes all at once. It never ceases to amaze me. And Bricken makes it seem so effortless. Her quick wit, gentle eyes, and sweet smile are disarming; her ease comes from years of hard work doing what she loves. I was so happy to have the opportunity to meet up with Bricken as she prepares for her upcoming shows, and to interview her about her life as an artist.
Michelle: You have been involved with theatre your whole life. Do you come from an artistic family background? How supportive were your parents in your decision to become a performer, director, and writer?
Bricken: I am very lucky; my parents never once questioned my interest in theater. I was in my first play around 3rd grade and wrote a play about the same time. It was pretty clear there was nothing else I really wanted to do with my time. My mom said that when I was born, I looked up and posed for a photo my dad was taking, and that I was “on the stage” ever since. My father was an artist, my grandmother was a ballerina, so I think I got my creativity from the two of them.
I think the biggest example of my parents supporting me was just that they let me move to New York. I remember the day I moved, my mom watched me get on the plane and cried and cried. I’m an only child and it was the hardest thing in the world for her to let me get on that plane. But she never said “no, that’s a bad idea.” She and my father said “great, go to New York … we’ll support you … what do you need?” I didn’t appreciate it at the time. I sure do now.
You’ve mentioned how you first started in theatre as a litterbug in a kid’s show about cleaning up the environment, and now you work in the zoo doing children’s theatre about keeping the environment clean. What did being involved in children’s theater give to you as a child, and what does it give to you now, as an adult?
I grew up working with a group called “The Santa Clara Junior Theater.” This was children and teens working on plays. I now work at my day job with adults performing for children. When I was a child we worked on all different kinds of plays and our focus was on being the best we could be. I learned a lot about myself, how to make friends, how to lead, how to be creative.
The focus of what I do now is about educating those who are watching, which is a much less self involved thing. We go into schools all over NY and the tri-state area. We hope we entertain and leave the students with hopeful messages about the world around them and their future. An unexpected result with some schools, especially inner city schools, is that the children meet a group of adults who they probably wouldn’t on their own and learn that these adults care about them and what they think. I always try to tell the students they are smart and have wonderful ideas and questions. You see their faces light up and you know you have done a little bit to help.
March is Women’s History Month. What does it mean to you to be a performer, director, and writer from the standpoint of being a woman? How have perceptions of you as female affected you as you have grown into yourself as a woman?
Well, it is hard working in theatre and not noticing that there is a divide between the amount of woman directors and writers who reach success and the amount of male directors and writers who reach success. I try not to dwell on the statistics, as they are rather disappointing, but to lead by example. I do what I do and do my best. Have I ever had problems as a female director? Yes. Does it make me mad when some one doesn’t listen to my direction or rolls their eyes at me in a way that makes it clear that they are not listening to me because I am a woman? Yes. What do I do? Never work with that person again. I try to gather positive people around me. If I see something I say something!
Growing up I had (and still do) wonderful woman role models that taught me not to let your gender stop your dreams. My mother is City Manager of a pretty good size city. My grandmother was a ballerina. They taught me from a young age to be myself and follow my dreams. My mother told me when I was young that if I ever got married I shouldn’t feel like I had to change my name. She never wanted to change her name, but when she got married it was unheard of to keep your “maiden” name, so she was bullied into taking my father’s name. When I got married, I didn’t even think about it. I kept my name. If you think about it, just the term “maiden name” is ridiculous.
You live and work with your husband, Michael Birch, and it appears you have a special, synergistic relationship. “I’m Not Sure I Like the Way You Licked Me!” is produced by Birch and Bricken Productions, and you have directed his popular “One Man Hamlet.” Can you talk a bit about your relationship as artists?
I have a wonderful working relationship with my husband Michael. But I don’t recommend what we do for everyone who is in a long term relationship with another creative person. We have written together, performed together, I have directed him, he has directed me, we produce together. But it took awhile to work out the kinks. You have to have off times and rules. Like when you are falling asleep, don’t wake the other person up with “Oh, I just thought of the perfect song to start the show out with!” or “Oh, I just remembered what line you forgot”. It can lead to sleepless nights and fights.
We remember it is a job and just like any other job you have to have a lunch break, so to speak. It took time to learn the right way to talk about things we don’t agree on with out hurting each other’s feelings. But we are pretty good about it now. We still have little clashes, but considering we work together at the zoo as well as everything else, they are few and far between. It might be crazy, but it makes for a lot of fun wonderful times.
You ran the 10:17 Comedy Night for several years at the Gershwin Hotel, and you’ve workshopped parts of your show at different places as it has unfolded. How important do you think it is for other artists to be part of something where work is often in progress, growing, and being tested in front of an audience?
Having an open forum to practice your art is one of the most important things going on out there for performers. Creating art in a vacuum is not easy. How would you know if you are on to something if you just perform for yourself in the shower? (though I sometimes get great ideas when I am in the shower!) I wish there were even more outlets for new work. Every time I have workshopped in front of an audience, whatever it is, it gets better. You also get ideas from the way people respond after. The old saying practice makes better is really true. And to practice in front of an audience is a real luxury.
For many years, you have been involved with the Midtown Theatre Festival and the Frigid Festival. What are your experiences with this process, and how festivals and other resources support performers, directors, and writers in the community?
I have been a part of many of our New York “festivals” and they really have become the next step in creativity. First, it helps to have a weekly or monthly show that allows you to try new material and works in progress. Then, once you have created your show, you can select one of the yearly festivals to debut the new piece. Self producing is very hard, time consuming, and costly. Being a part of a festival can take a lot of the burden of self producing off of the artist’s shoulders. Having a space ready for you, lights and sound ready, a box office person, ticket sales, publicity etc. is a real perk of the festival world. Also often you get a couple of reviews, which can further promote your show.
My current show I’m Not Sure I Like the Way You Licked Me! was helped and supported by ArtEffects Workshop Reading, Manhattan TheaterSource’s PlayGround workshop for new plays, HorseTrade Theater Group, and performing at Penny’s Open Mic. These groups and shows all stand up for new plays. If anyone out there is looking for a place to start something new, I recommend all of these resources. I also want to mention Martin Denton and nytheatre.com; www.nytheater.com really promotes independent theatre, giving it just as much attention as it does the Broadway theater world.
Many thanks and hugs to Bricken for sharing wine, sangria, and laughter with me at a downtown bar on a Tuesday night, and for sharing some of her thoughts and experiences with “The Happiest Medium.” If you enjoyed reading about Bricken, you do not want to miss the special three day showing of “I’m Not Sure I Like the Way You Licked Me!”, April 7,8,9 at Under St. Marks Theatre in NYC, presented by HorseTrade and produced by Birch and Bricken productions.
~~~http://www.smarttix.com/show.aspx?showcode=imn222&ss=1 Discount Code: 2licks can be used on smarttix.com only
More about Bricken!
- Bricken Sparacino was one of nytheatre.com’s “People of the Year ‘08.” Under her direction, Chris Harcum’s American Badass (Frigid ’08) was selected to be in a collection of “best of” and is now published. Other nominated/winning shows include Those Whistling Lads (Planet Connections and MITF) and Pizza Man (MITF). She was nominated for “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical” for her portrayal of her original comedy character Cherry On Top (Planet Connections).
- As a comedy powerhouse, Bricken performed, co-wrote, produced, and directed numerous original works including Comedy Period, All About The Comedy (1 &2), Alien Sympathizer Henry Platt Is Missing, American Treacle for the Midtown Theater Festival as well as the wildly successful 10:17 Comedy Night, which ran every Saturday night for 3 years at the Gershwin Hotel. Bricken’s short play Are We Freaks and her one person storytelling show I’m Not Sure I Like the Way You Licked Me! were chosen as part of the Frigid Festival ’09 and the Frigid Festival ’11, respectively.
- Upcoming plans for Bricken include turning her short plays Pointy the Starfish and Are We Freaks into full-length plays, and directing Emleigh Wolf’s The Terrible Manpain of Umberto MacDougal for the mini Frigid in Summer, 2011.
- To find out more about what Bricken is up to, check out her website www.bricken.org