Ten Questions. Ten Answers. And one Big Surprise in the audience …
produced by Playpen Theatre
CHALK is a hilarious and unexpected one-man show guaranteed to delight audiences of all ages. Chalk invites audiences into a hand-drawn world where imagination is made real and anything can happen. Charlie Chaplin meets Harold and the Purple Crayon in this feel-good romantic romp sure to “Draw You In.”
- Tue Feb 16, 2016 | 8:50PM
- Sat Feb 20, 2016 | 1:40PM
- Wed Feb 24, 2016 | 8:50PM
- Tue Mar 01, 2016 | 5:30PM
- Fri Mar 04, 2016 | 6:50PM
Kraine Theater New York, NY $5/$12/$15
Answers by Alex Curtis
(Performer & Creator)
1. Forget the PR version. When you’re talking to your friends, how do you explain this show to them?
Alex: I always struggle with this. I tell them it’s about moving on and finding your happiness. The truth is that I made this show after a breakup of a serious relationship and a few failed less serious relationships after that. So, when I was making the show I was really drawing from my own experience in the dating scene. After that breakup, I was really, really lonely. So as I started meeting new people, I kept looking for them to solve my loneliness – and that just doesn’t work. No one wants that kind of responsibility. Eventually I realized that the only person who could solve my loneliness was me. I needed to be happy with myself first, then I could meet other people. Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece and the Big O has a really similar message. So, anyway, I took that journey and then translated it into a one-man silent clown play. Because it’s silent and because it’s clown, all of this isn’t in there literally. Actually, I hope that it hits different people in different ways and that everyone who comes takes something from it that makes sense to them and their lives. But this is what the show is for me.
2. Here’s a scenario: After the show some audience members go have a drink. What’s the part of the show you hope they’re discussing?
Alex: The last third of the show. To give the quick and dirty version of the plot – the play starts with a clown, alone. Then he meets this woman (she’s invisible) who comes into his world, and really rocks it. He falls in love with her, but then she leaves. And then he has to deal with that. And it’s all the stuff after that I hope that really touches people. There’s a dance, some puppetry work. Things I think express the theme in a really lovely way. And then the ending. That’s been really hard to pin down in this new version of the play – so if people fell in love with the ending particularly – it would be hugely gratifying.
3. What drives your show – character, theme or plot?
Alex: I’d say plot. As much as for me the play has a strong thematic element – since I don’t have words to just say it all outright, it gets put into the story. That makes continuously moving the story forward really important and hopefully the thematic stuff comes naturally out of that.
4. In rehearsals, read-thrus, or prior incarnations, what’s the one thing someone said about the show so far that made you (or the team) the most proud?
Alex: There have been a lot of things…
After the first performance, a good friend of mine who had been going through a hard time rushed up to me to say how much CHALK had moved her. She was so happy. That moment, and others where my goofy clown play really connects with people, has been incredible.
Another moment, I was asking friends who’d seen it if they might write testimonials about CHALK that I could use for publicity material. One friend wrote, “…if you’ve ever had your heart strings pulled by a Pixar short, you’ll fall in love with CHALK.” I love Pixar. I think they’re really smart, and I love what they do. It’s such a magical balance of play and heart. To have something I made mentioned in the same sentence as my idols – that made me really proud.
5. If money and resources (and even reality) were no object what is the most lavish, luxurious, pointless prop, costume, effect – anything – that you would spend money on for this show?
Alex: That’s hard, since so much of the charm of clown comes from its simplicity and the room that leaves for the audiences imagination. BUT! Oh, oh, I got something…
If the invisible woman could be a hologram of Jessica Rabbit, that would be amazing. She saunters into the space… One of the big tasks of this newest draft of CHALK has been to specify this invisible person’s physical life so she stands on her own more as a character, and we can really get her place in the story. But if we could SEE that, see HER, through some kind of 3D projection, problem solved. And so cool. Things could appear as she interacts with them…which would make the world of the play even bigger… I’m spinning with ideas for what I’d do with that production… It would be really exciting.
6. What’s the one thing you’re looking forward to regarding the FRIGID Festival itself?
Alex: I’m looking forward to meeting the audience. Clown isn’t a 4th wall style; in the show, I look out and connect with the audience constantly. I’ve been really fortunate to have friends coming in to watch rehearsals and I’ve been able to bounce off them in the rehearsal process. But clowns are really great at inspiring community, I think. Which is why it’s so wonderful to have programs out there like Clowns Without Borders, where clowning can bring a sense of joy and companionship to people in really difficult circumstances. I’m looking forward to sharing a theater with a bunch of strangers, and then hopefully meeting some of them at a bar and talking like we know one another.
7. Is there a scene, a moment, a gesture … anything at all in the show that you anticipate may get a completely different reaction depending on the audience that night?
Alex: There’s this bit in the middle of the show where I keep trying to hang things up on my coat rack, but then everything keeps falling down. I can imagine that landing really differently depending on the audience. I’ve done this show a few times and one of my best audiences was when I performed for a kids camp. The room was two-thirds kids between six and eight, and then the other third was a mix of adults. The camp counselors were in there teens and then the camp admin people were thirties and up. That show was magic. The kids ate up all the silly parts of the play, and then the adults got the parts that were more emotional. By themselves grown ups can be sort of uptight sometimes, but kids are so free in their reactions. That’s a part of the play that’s pretty silly, so I think it will depend on how loose the audience is. (Or how young at heart!)
8. What’s your favorite line from the show?
Alex: The play itself doesn’t have any dialogue. But I think the curtain speech is pretty good. I like to know where the fire exits are…
9. What’s the last thing you usually do before the beginning of a show?
Alex: Triple check my props. If I start the show and don’t have something, there’s no going back and I’m screwed. Also, for this run my girlfriend (we’ve been together a year – she’s wonderful!) will be helping backstage. So we’ll probably have a moment for a kiss and “break legs!” before we start, which will be a great way to get the show started.
10. You scan the audience and you see a face that stops you dead in your tracks – who is it? And why are you shocked?
Alex: My first thought was the ex-girlfriend I mentioned who broke my heart years ago. It wasn’t a good break up, and we don’t speak anymore. To see her in the audience would be a shock for sure.
My next thought was Harrison Ford. I love Star Wars and Indiana Jones has been a hero of mine forever. Then for him to be watching my clown show, c’mon, that’d be incredible.
I’ve also invited Bill Irwin and David Shiner, who are the famous clowns performing Old Hats at the Signature Theater right now. I love their work, and I know it’s a long shot, but I really hope they come.
Well, Alex, you never know – even a long shot is a shot! So be it Bill Irwin and David Shiner … or even Harrison Ford … there’s a chance they’ll make it out to FRIGID to see what you’ve created with CHALK.
Thanks so much for answering our questions, Alex!
The rest of you – don’t forget to check out CHALK.
Horse Trade Theater Group will present the 10th Annual FRIGID New York Festival at The Kraine Theater (85 East 4th Street between 2nd Avenue and Bowery) and UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place between 1st Avenue and Avenue A) February 16-March 6. All shows run 60 minutes, or less. Tickets are available for purchase in advance at http://www.horsetrade.