PXP was lucky enough to ask Yael Rizowy, Oliver Houser, India Carney, and James Zebooker, the cast of the 2014 New York City Fringe Festival's Held Momentarily a few questions:
1) Complete this sentence: Held Momentarily is the only play in Fringe NYC that...
Y: features a woman giving birth in every New Yorker's favorite place...the subway!
I: brings the cast and audience together on a journey in a subway car that is being "held momentarily" by the train's dispatcher.
J: will transport you to a mystical version of the subway you just got off at Bleecker street.
2) What was the inspiration for Held Momentarily?
Y: In this generation, we are so connected to our phones and thinking ahead that we forget that there is life all around us. New York City always has something to offer, but you just have to look up from your phones to see it.
O: It has become such a major part of our culture, especially in high-octane areas like New York City, to move through life myopically focused on our destination, bent on quickly attaining our perfect life, always focused on the next thing and never truly satisfied. It's something I personally struggle with, and I think this view prevents us from being mindful of each moment and the world around us. It's perfectly illustrated when we're in transit--on the subway--we're in our heads, our earphones in, eyes glued to candy crush, waiting for the minutes to pass so we can move on with the day… the subway ride is, for so many of us, a total non-moment. So with Held Momentarily, a fun, zany show, I'm interested in exploring what happens when the train gets stuck in extraordinary circumstances; when we're suddenly forced to focus on the journey more than the destination, and the unlikely human connections that are made possible when we immerse ourselves in a moment.
J: We were inspired to see what would happen if, in a musical, you threw a group of New Yorkers into the boiling pot of a stalled NYC subway. And one of them has a really pressing situation to deal with.
3) I know that many of the people involved with the show attended Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School. How did this connection help spur Held Momentarily's creation?
Y: Working with my fellow classmates has been an absolute dream. I wish that every rehearsal process were like this. It's extremely important in my opinion to feel comfortable when collaborating so that you can make big choices during rehearsal, because after all that is what rehearsals are all about: To try new things and see if they work or not. Since day one, I felt comfortable with these guys. And let me tell you, it’s extremely hard to keep a straight face. We break into laughter so much I can’t believe that this is my job!
O: It is an absolute joy to work and create with people I've known since high school. In most rehearsal processes you need a week or so before everyone begins to feel comfortable being ridiculous in front of each other, but we all came in ready to get dirty on day one. On the same token, the non-LaGuardia members of our team are also extraordinary and jig-sawed right in. The openness and acceptance of this group, and the talent and dedication each member brings to the table, has created a wonderful environment for creative invention… and it's also insanely fun.
I: The awesome part about the cast dynamic was not only that we attended LaGuardia at the same time, but that we were in the same graduating class and performed in many of the same shows together! We were already acquainted and quite comfortable with each other. So, I assume the writers of this show tried their best to keep in contact with the other performers, producers, and stagehands who eventually became part of this production. I imagine this made life a lot easier when figuring out who to hire for the creative team and who to cast for the roles.
J: Many of the characters were first inspired by the funny and idiosyncratic people that we got to meet at LaGuardia!
4) Tell us about a memorable experience from the creative process of Held Momentarily!
Y: HA! Like I said, it's impossible to keep a straight face during this process. There are so many wonderful moments, I can’t pick one. A lot of them are “you have to be there” kinds of stories. If I were to pick one… because that's what the question asks, it would be exploring the improvisation of the show. Watching how people add and tweak moments adds a real depth to the show, characters, and the situation at hand.
I: About three days before opening night, we performed a couple run-throughs of the show. During our second run-through, we were laughing hysterically at each other's jokes, and this contagious laugher really reminded me not only of how awesome Held Momentarily is, but why I love to perform, and why I continue to do it in the first place. Putting on a show is all about the journey, the experience that leads up to creating the final product. When you're able to laugh with your cast mates, have a genuine connection with everyone, and you absolutely love what you do, then you know you're pursuing the right career.
J: There have been a few unavoidable laughing breaks during rehearsals. In a run-through a few days ago, a flawless cast member received her cue and didn't respond... like five times. We kept re-phrasing the cue but we started cracking up because she NEVER FORGETS THIS. We had to stop.
Also, our director, Hunter, has coined an entire lexicon to describe different elements of the show. It's funny how conversant we have become with these very funny words.
5) What are the difficulties presented with starring in a show in the New York City Fringe Festival?
Y: I would have to say getting only one day of tech. That's me being nit picky. I’m not too worried about it though because we have an amazing Director (Hunter Bird) and an incredible production team that makes the cast feel confident enough to kick this one day of tech in the a$$!
I: The only difficulty I can imagine is the -sometimes frightening- feeling of going onstage and performing in front of numerous live audiences. I view the NYC Fringe Festival as another opportunity to develop my performance skills and become more comfortable with performing onstage.
J: Before rehearsals, the whole process seemed dauntingly short. However, only two weeks in and three days before opening (Ahh!), it feels like we've been doing it forever. That is largely due to the exuberant atmosphere of rehearsing the show in a room with wonderful friends.
6) What do you hope audiences will take away with them after the show?
Y: I'm hoping that they'll remember to live in the moment and know that life is beautiful and funny. Each person has their own story. On the outside we may all look different, but we are more alike than we think. We just need to take the time to realize that.
Also… how to deliver a child. It's an important skill, and you’ll never know when it will come in handy.
I: I am hoping that the audience will learn to be kind to everyone they meet, because you can't know someone just by looking at them across the train platform. You can't be so quick to (negatively) judge a book by its cover, because that person might end up saving your life!
J: On their train rides home, (between buzzing about how wonderful they thought the show was!) I think they might take a moment to take in the scene on the subway. It's amazing that we enter a subway station, careen through a system of underground tunnels and overground platforms and disembark in an entirely new neighborhood; and it's easy to forget! It's sort of preposterous, really, that we're shooting through the ground with strangers, and I think Held Momentarily will remind people of the beauty of that... that is until their face is in someone's armpit during rush hour.
7) Who are the unsung heroes involved with Held Momentarily and what were their contributions to the finished product?
Y: If this were a live interview I would sing this answer. The unsung heroes are the wonderful supporters who have been so generous in their donations through Kickstarter. The hardworking producers, Lionel and Marielle, without whom this would not have happened. The really cool tech team, because everything is perfect! And the MTA! Wow.. the MTA has so much to offer.
J: Ashley, our stage manager. She is completely organized, and compassionate. And together with Rachel, our production assistant, we are really spoiled because they make it so we get to focus on the show!
8) What would you say to someone who thought theatre wasn't for them?
Y: First of all, I would say, “Okay, I respect that...but allow me to change your mind over a cup of tea. I don’t drink coffee so I hope tea is okay.”
Then I would ask them why they don’t enjoy theater. And then, I would hand them a Held Momentarily ticket and say, “You're welcome in advance.”
Held Momentarily will change your mind...I guarantee it.
O: I'd say you're wrong. Just kidding. Everyone has their tastes. To me, football is just a bunch of men bumping into each other, but people seem to like it a lot.
I: I would first ask them why they thought theatre wasn't for them, and who suggested that they shouldn't take that route. Performance is all about development and cherishing the learning experience. So, naturally, it takes time to hone in on your skills and develop them to a level of mastery. That's why performing is so difficult. It's quite easy to feel discouraged and intimidated by our peers that seem to be more advanced, but we tend to forget that we can be advanced too! Don't give up. Keep at it. No goal is met without hard work!
Now, if you know that theatrical performance may not be for you, you can always act as an agent, director, designer, or some other role on the creative team and remain in the theater world!
J: If this someone was a New Yorker and I was trying to convince this New Yorker who thought theatre wasn't for them to come to our show, I'd say: “So you really have no interest in theatre?” They'd say: “I don't think it's for me.” I'd say: “Have you been on the train?” NYer: “Yes, of course, I take it every day.” I'd say:“Our story takes place on a train, and we tell our story with humor and music. Are you interested in seeing a setting you know intimately, told with music and humor?” NYer: “You've convinced me. I'll be there on opening night.” Me: “Thank you for participating in this random survey.”
Theatre can explore any pocket of human experience in as many permutations as a group of creative people envision it. Someone can't say there isn't at least one show available that they would never want to see!
9) What would you change about New York City theatre to make it more accessible to young people?
Y: The prices… without a doubt. I think it's ridiculous that the prices are that high.
There are so many young people who want to be cultured and learn from the masters but can’t because they can't afford the tickets. It's hard enough as it is living off a college budget. I am a theater student and as a student I have to do my research. My research requires me to go see shows but how can I do my homework if I need to choose between rent money and show money? If the prices were lower, there would be more sold out houses. I know that.
O: So many great Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway companies have exceptional student ticket policies. I think if you're a student in New York, it's easy to find a good show for under $20; you just need to know where to look.
I: I would love to see more available student tickets at discounted prices. That will encourage more young people (who don't have over $100 for a seat) to see Broadway shows and the like.
J: I'd make B-way shows generally cheaper! Student matinees! Outreach to NY, NJ, tristate schools (especially art schools) where kids get to come to all kinds of shows and bring the discussion back to school.
Venue #13 - Sheen Center - The Loretto 18 Bleecker Street (at Elizabeth Street)
SAT 9 @ 6:30 THU 14 @ 2 SAT 16 @ 7:15 WED 20 @ 7 SAT 23 @ 3