New York writer and director Andrew Rothkin has decided to press his luck once again by showcasing his play “Danny” for the third time, making its first debut at the Planet Connections Festival in the Green Room Theatre. A comic dramatization of old college friends scorned by a tragic accident that are years later forced to sever ties to the past and move forward with their futures. Having won the Outstanding Overall Production of a Short Play, One-Act, or Monologue award in 2009, can Rothkin dazzle the judges two-years straight?
Review Fix: How long did it take to write the play?
Andrew Rothkin: This is actually the third time I put up this play. I had initially written it about 10-years ago. The first time I produced it was something like ’99 or ’98 and then I produced it a year or two later. It’s been through many many changes. This is also the first time I ever directed it. The first two times it went up I was acting in it.
RF: How has the play improved with each production?
Rothkin: Each production is a little bit better than the one before. There are possibly somethings that might have been easier the last time it went up. This is the first time it’s gone up for a festival. The first time I had a producer credit. I was young and it was the first show I ever wrote that was put up so I had very little control over anything. I let the producer and director take over everything. The second time I wasn’t the director so I didn’t have as much say, but we were able to paint the set.
RF:What was the message you were trying to get across to your audience?
Rothkin: In this particular play there’s a lot. I think this is one of my more thought-provoking pieces, where there’s a lot that I’m saying to the audience, but I let them come away with it what they will. A lot of my reoccurring themes that I write are looking into your life. Where you are in your life right now, are you living the life that you want to lead, why or why not? What’s in your way and what are you going to do with the life you want to lead? Are you being genuine to yourself? A number of my plays and this probably more than any of them is about the past, the present, the future in terms of the person’s own past.
RF: Which of the six characters is your favorite?
Rothkin: What comes to mind off-hand is the character of Marco, because he’s sort of like my Oscar Wilde character. He’s got the wittiest lines; he’s got half the lines in the play. He’s this really flamboyant outrageous character and I had a lot of fun writing his lines. But all of the characters have something. Each one I think is distinct, each one I think is real. I love something about each one of them.
RF:What was the most challenging part of producing the play?
Rothkin: It would have been much easier to do if we had an extra six weeks or two months. There’s never enough time. There’s so much history in this play. These people have known each other for years and have created that sense of ensemble. I think the actors do a great job, but if we had more time it would have been great. Another thing is that we really had a lot of challenges with the set for this particular production.
RF: Last year you won an award for the play, “Meredith’s Ring” can you tell us about that experience?
Rothkin: It was a two-person 45-minute one-act play. I had been living in New York for about 20-years and last year I decided to move in with my family in Baltimore. My friend Glory and Frank Calo started the festival last year and I was sad I couldn’t be apart of Planet Connections Festival for the first year they were doing it. But somehow I got it together and created a 45-minute play. I wanted to do a one-act, because I didn’t want to deal with the pressure of filling in the seats. I used two Baltimore actors, we rehearsed it, we came up and we did it here. That was a really neat experience.
RF:How does “Meredith’s Ring” compare to “Danny?”
Rothkin: In certain ways the play was very different from “Danny,” but they do have stuff in common. They both have a lot of heart. They are both very funny, but have a sadness to them also.
RF: How did you get involved with Planet Connections Theatre?
Rothkin: Initially it was from Glory Cadigan, the executive/artistic director. Glory and I worked together many times. She’s one of my old best friends. i acted three times under her direction. She directed one of my plays; it was perhaps one of my most successful plays. I was hearing about this when it was a seed and knew I wanted to be involved.
RF: Considering yourself an actor foremost, when did you form an interest in writing?
Rothkin: I’ve always did some writing, but it was really when I first came to New York. I wanted a way to be creative between auditions. These days most of the actors I know that come to New York fresh out of school do a little of everything. They produce their own things; they start their own theater groups. When I came, which wasn’t long ago in the early ‘90s pretty much people were actors. At least my clique of friends, we didn’t produce. We would go to auditions and if you didn’t get cast then you couldn’t be creative and do theater.
RF: Tell us about the White Rabbit Theatre.
Rothkin: White Rabbit is my company I started at. The first time I ever directed anything I got together with an old friend of mine from college and we produced a few Tennessee Williams’ one acts. She was the producer, I was the director. We just couldn’t agree on a name for the theater company. I knew I wanted it to be a big deal, because I wanted to hold on to the name. We went over a million names and I don’t even know if she got the reference as exactly what it means to me, but it was finally something that we both agreed on.
RF: What was the inspiration behind the name?
Rothkin: I just really like animals. It’s a big part of my life. Another thing that’s more important is the magician pulling the white rabbit from the hat. Theater is about magic and illusion and some of my earlier logos had the rabbit coming out of the magician’s hat. But the main one for me is in reference to Alice in Wonderland. The way I like to think of it is that every White Rabbit production is a different adventure. We’re guiding the audience through a different journey and each journey is different. Each has a different message, a different essence, but it’s always going to be an exciting interesting journey and one that involves writing of literary work and some heart and soul.
RF: After the festival is over, what’s next for your theatrical career?
Rothkin: I’m directing a one-act and acting in a play in the Midtown International Small Theatre Festival; it’s a 10-minute play and have six rehearsals. The play I’m directing is called, “Facebook” by Mery Wallace. The play I’m acting in is by Jonathan Wallace, “Harley and Lalya Together Again.” It’s six different one acts, Harley is a woman and it’s sort of a love story. I play the devil, it’s a very fun role. Yesterday we had this very intense rehearsal for a bike choreography. It’s the devil and Harley, a biker chick, we get in this big fight. It’s comic, but intense.