Orange Hanky Productions will be presenting "F*ck Me B*at Me L*ve Me" at the Kraine Theater, opening on Thursday May 1st. I've known Brian for several years - from my days with Gorilla Repertory Theater. I got a chance to send a few questions to Kevin Podgorski, the playwright, and Brian, the director, about this upcoming play.
Check out their website here for ticket information.
1. The title of your play is certainly going to grab some attention. What should people expect from a show called F*CK ME, B*AT ME, L*VE ME?
Kevin - A raw and honest glimpse into the lives of 4 characters who need something, but have no idea what it is or how to get it. They resort to sex, thinking that's the vehicle that will either help them out or allow them to escape. There is nudity and sexual situations. It's not gratuitous but rather necessary and understandable in the context of the characters and where they are in their lives.
Brian - Something provocative, I would hope. They may be expecting something that's just viscerally, physically provocative, but they'll come away with something emotionally and mentally provocative as well. The show has fucking, beating and loving, all of it is extreme, and none of it is gratuitous.
I would like to say that this play contains one physical act which I personally have never seen presented on-stage before. It's completely integral to the plot, it's about one character trying to get something he desperately needs from the other, but it certainly presented me with some unique difficulties in staging it. I'll just leave it at that...
2. I love how you treat Love in the title the same way you use Fuck.
As if they're both worthy of censorship...
Brian - They are! At least, to these characters they are. None of them know
how to properly deal with either. Words get censored because we
consider them dirty or dangerous, and "love" can be just as dirty and
dangerous as "fuck". More so, really, because love, misused, can be so much more manipulative and hurtful than fucking. In this play, for these four men, the fucking and the beating are easy and safe compared to the loving.
Kevin - I think people use one to get to the other and confuse one for the other all the time. I've done this and I know others have as well, think that, "Oh, if I let this guy fuck me, then he'll love me," or "he's fucking me, so he must love me." I think people self censor love or fucking all the time, telling themselves that all they want is sex when they're just too scared to admit they want to be fully loved by someone. And of course so many people think that just because they're naked and fucking that they're experiencing intimacy with another person when they might not necessarily be doing so.
3. How did the two of you come to start working together? What do you feel are some strengths of the partnership?
Brian - Kevin and I met in the Playwrights and Directors Workshop at the Actors Studio. I was new to it; Kevin had been with them for a while. I saw a play of Kevin's, "Mary Christmas", and I was really drawn to the writing, I thought it was very strong, very subtle, and I decided that the next time he needed a director I was going to pounce. Well, a few months later he needed a director, and I pounced. That play was what is now the first scene of "F*ck Me, B*at Me, L*ve Me", and I fell in love with it right away. It's an actors' piece, really – some people read it and don't get it, because the characters almost never say what they're really feeling; in fact, the characters almost never know what they're really feeling. But a good actor reads it and sees how much there is to be mined, and when a good actor performs it, it's just brilliant.
Kevin and I work together really well – we're both strong believers in collaboration, and we developed a great working relationship over the course of developing this play. I believe very strongly in this piece, and trust Kevin's writing implicitly; Kevin trusts that the choices I'm making in my direction are all working toward telling the story that he wants to tell. Our egos don't tend to clash – we don't fight (knock wood), and when we disagree about a line or a moment, we each listen to the other and try different alternatives until we find what works. Ultimately, my job is to make sure that every moment in the play tells the story that Kevin wanted to tell when he sat down to write it. What I enjoy about working with Kevin is that he takes what the actors and I do in rehearsal and brings that to his rewrites; even rewriting in rehearsal based on the discoveries that are being made. My favorite part of directing is helping to bring a playwright's vision to life, and the more involved the playwright is the better, so
working with Kevin is perfect for me.
Kevin - What I love about Brian is that "he gets it." He is so smart and knows how to really read and analyze a script. I write this stuff and half the time, have no idea what I'm writing, but once Brian works the play, he clears up so many things for me. I have constantly sat through rehearsals and had "aha…that's what that means moments." Brian is the intellectual counterpart to my subconscious writing. I can't speak for other playwrights, but I know for me it is horrifying to hand my words and my soul essentially to a director to play with. I fear that my vision, my intention, and my passion for the piece will be lost in his or her interpretation. With Brian, I have absolutely no fear of that happening. I know with utmost certainty he will get what I'm trying to do and will help me through directing get to my goal…he won't sacrifice my vision for his own, but will rather combine both into one concise vision. We're a perfect collaboration I think and complement each other's strengths and weaknesses very well.
Brian - I was nervous about whether our artistic relationship could translate into a business relationship as we became co-producers and co-artistic directors of Orange Hanky Productions, but that's working out as well. Neither of us has ever done this before, but we seem to have found our roles and split up the duties without having to discuss it all that much. Even now, as opening approaches and the tension builds, I find we're able to rely on each other completely.
4. Tell me a bit about the cast and crew. Who's involved?
Kevin - Brian, I'll let you answer.
Brian - We've got four great actors involved: Felipe Forero, Jeff Goldfisher, Jim Halloran and Jason Romas. They all really get the subtleties of Kevin's dialogue, how much there is simmering beneath the text. Kevin hates when I use the word "brave" – he feels, rightly, that actors tend to be called brave for playing a gay role when they wouldn't for an otherwise-identical straight role – but the bravery of these actors has nothing to do with playing gay. All four actors have to go to some very dark places, and make themselves extremely vulnerable, emotionally and physically.
Our design team has done some amazing work as well –I'll name-check them, because they deserve it: Arnulfo Muldonado is our scenic designer, Ben Tevelow is our lighting designer, Ben Ridgway is our costume designer, and Mike Allen is our sound designer. The Kraine is a great space, but we are limited by the fact that we have to share it with other productions; everything has to be set up and put away before and after every show. Our design team has really taken this limitation as a challenge, and have created the world of the play far better than I would have thought possible.
5. There are countless shows every day Off-Off Broadway. The question is always...why should someone choose to see this particular play? What are you offering that you passionately want people to see or hear?
Kevin - I believe to the depths of my being that this play is something most people have never seen before. We present issues that affect gay men in a way most plays do not. The play is honest and raw. It doesn't try to come up with solutions but rather depicts rarely discussed topics in a frank manner. I didn't censor myself…I went to the limit of where I thought I needed to go. I wanted to show a real gay relationship with all its flaws and perfections, dirty, truthful, and unapologetic. There is nothing in this play which does not come from a place or truth. I wanted to treat this love relationship as just as important and on the same level as a heterosexual relationship. I defy anyone to leave the play without having some reaction. Some might hate it…some might love it, some might be offended…either way, people WILL have a reaction. I know that as fact.
Brian - This play is about how what we want may be different than what we need, and how we very rarely can tell the difference. I hope that people will come away from this questioning the patterns that they themselves may have fallen into, and ask themselves whether those patterns are really what they want for themselves, and whether they have the courage to break them.
What I'm very proud of with this play, and what has inspired the mission statement of Orange Hanky Productions, is that this play takes being gay for granted. The characters are gay, they're fine with being gay, that's not their problem. Even the closeted teenager's issues aren't about being gay. Coming out stories are important, there's still a place for them, but that's not what we want to do. I hope that this piece will challenge some people's preconceptions about what "gay theater" can mean.
But mostly, I hope people will choose to see "F*ck Me, B*at Me, L*ve Me" if they want to see a challenging, provocative, smart, funny, moving evening of theater.
Kevin - I think it captures who I am as a writer and defines what stories I want to explore with my writing. Brian, the actors, the designers, everyone who has worked on this production has done an amazing job and they have sacrificed their time and energy for this production. I want people to see their work, their professionalism, talent, skill, and bravery. As a playwright, I sit in my room and imagine these stories and write this dialogue. To have a director and actors take my story and characters and to fully commit to it with the same love and compassion I have is the greatest gift I can imagine. I am amazed and eternally grateful for that gift.