Review Fix chats with the cast of “As Is” to find out the inspiration and goals for the unique production.
About the Production:
AS IS: Regeneration Theatre presents AS IS by William M. Hoffman
February 1-11 (Feb. 1-3, 5, 8-10 @7:30 p.m.; Feb 4 & 11 @ 2:30 p.m.) Workshop Theatre, 312 West 36th Street, NYC Tickets are $18 and available at regeneration.brownpapertickets.com.
Imagine being ill with a strange unknown disease … and nobody cared? Regeneration Theatre chooses one of the first works exploring AIDS from a personal point of view to open its 2018 season.
In 1985, when As Is first appeared at the Circle Theatre, AIDS was a new moment in time. A pandemic with no cure or reason. AS IS was one of the first plays, and subsequent teleplay, depicting how AIDS was affecting the LGBT Community. Its power was also in that it focused on a small group of friends – and what it did to them. It proceeded Larry Kramer‘s The Normal Heart by about a month.
THE PLOT: Saul and Rich are breaking up… but not for long. Rich has contracted the disease ravaging the gay community. Seeking safety back in Saul’s arms, the two stage a play showing how family, doctors, and friends treat those with the disease. The play’s parable shows how important it is to have someone you love by your side – especially in trying times … as that is when you feel most alone.
Featuring Brian Alford, Robert Maisonett, Aury Krebs,* Daniel Colón, Colin Chapin,* Sara Minisquero, Jenne Vath,* Rick Calvo, Mario Claudio; Directed B. Marcus Gualberto *Appears courtesy of Actor’s Equity Association
Review Fix: What was the inspiration for this project?
Barnaby Edwards: Our 2017-18 season has been inspired by the political situation in which America currently finds itself, and has focused on the need for acceptance and the need to not sit still or keep quiet when important things are happening around us. Kennedy’s Children focused on the reasons we cannot keep quiet, and Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean showed that even in the 1970s our need to connect as humans can overcome the fear of being different. As Is was an obvious candidate to select this season as it addresses with one the biggest social issue in America today, dealing as it does with fear as well, in the early stages of the AIDS crisis in New York City, and the need for a healthcare system to support the love and family support that anyone in a terminal and life threatening situation needs. It also has a connection to the Robert Patrick who wrote Kennedy’s Children, as both he and William M Hoffman started out at the famous Cafe Cino during the 1960s.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Daniel Colon: I believe in a collaborative process and creating a safe space to explore and popcorn ideas off each other without judgment. We’re all in this together and developing that trust with one another is so important!
Marcus Gualberto: For me, theatre is a collaborative process where a community of artists from all disciplines gather and exchange ideas and expertise. When I first approach a script, I find it most helpful to visualize the place and who these characters are. I often insert images of the people in my own life to play these characters in my head. Most often, the images of these familiar faces change and morph and are then played by other people in my life. As these characters shift, I discover new things, all the while being reminded that different people will react differently to the same situations. This open-mindedness translates itself to the casting session where I then look for the essence of the character as opposed to focusing on a specific type. Theatre, after all, is about telling a story.
During rehearsal, I encourage my colleagues to bring something to the table so I can help them shape these characters. As a director, this also presents a welcomed artistic challenge in finding the right approach that will help them shape the character. During the exploration process of rehearsals, we find ourselves volleying with creative energy and impulses back and forth. Soon, that energy becomes so great that we have to share it with the audience. Due to my extensive background in technical theatre, I too like to encourage and volley with the designers to get them thinking of the play as we discover and re-discover it. The set, lights and sound are also artistic elements that help shape the story we are all telling.
Review Fix: What makes this production special?
Jenne Vath: Many things make this a special production: one would have to list all the artists on board. It begins with and comes from the amazing William M. Hoffman’s art! This is the rare, valuable opportunity for audiences to see this tremendous play live and experience the powerful journey of Rich and Saul as breathed to life by Brian Alford and Robert Maisonett.
Daniel Colon: “As Is” shows us how far we’ve come and how much further we need to go. Also, there is a story for everyone to connect to in this piece and it brings awareness to the health care crisis in America
Review Fix: What did you learn about yourself through this process?
Marcus Gualberto: I consider myself lucky to have been given an opportunity that has led me to working professionally in theatre. As a director, I feel that it is my duty to give back and provide opportunities for other artists. If it wasn’t for that one person who gave me that one push, I would not be the artist I am today. This process has made me more determined to nurture Regeneration Theatre’s Next Up Readings as a platform for artist development (whether it be through acting, writing or directing) by providing a safe environment for artistic exploration.
Above all, mounting the production of AS IS has reminded the value of trusting ones’ gut instincts. I see it in my colleagues who are tasked with telling the story. I see it in my Executive Artist Director who continually provide me with valuable insights and perspective. I see it in the designers whose talents help realize the world in this play. I see it in the Stage Manager and Assistant Stage Manager who have become my extended right and left arms, AND the voice of reason. They all have something to say, which are valuable gifts to receive as we are all in this together to craft an art and grow as artists.
Review Fix: What are your Goals for this production?
Robert Maisonett: My goals for this production and the future, is why I’m an actor, not just to entertain but hopefully enlighten. As artist we can touch people, open their hearts and minds.
Review Fix: What do you think audiences will enjoy most?
Robert Mainsonett: Not sure if enjoy is the right word, but the story. This play is about so many things, the human condition, our own mortality relationships, family, love, and life-affirming. I hope they are able to enjoy and appreciate this beautiful gift that William M. Hoffman left us.
Sara Minisquero: I think audiences are pining for this catharsis. We’re in a painful period of american history where there is lingering bigotry and ignorance being magnified by our current political divisions. This was an early and brutally honest depiction of the spread of AIDS, and a lot of these people’s stories were silenced because of their queer identities, particularly those of color. I feel very blessed this cast is so connected to this subject manner and have been super supportive through really raw emotional material, any audience can appreciate that.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Daniel Colon: Who knows! This is a great time to bring back pieces showing us that there arevstill issues to address. This is also a great time to create original and influential pieces reflective of our current climate. If the next project implants ideas for social change, I’m there!
Robert Mainsonett: Auditioning. There is a play by Jose River that I would love to put up this year.
I’m also looking to raise funds to film season 3 of my web series Latin Lives.
Barnaby Edwards: We are in the planning stages of our 2018 season, and the highlight will be a production of Tennesee William’s underrated 1974 play about lost souls, “Small Craft Warnings.”