Behind the scenes at Orlando Shakespeare Theater


A Study in the Art of the Understudy

Photo by Brittany Bly

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be an understudy? The answer is most likely “No”. It’s always exciting to dream of being the star of the show, but the hardworking stand-in is often overlooked. They spend hours watching from the audience, memorizing lines so they can be ready to leap on stage at a moment’s notice–not an easy job! Marketing and PR Intern Lexie chats with Sara Costello, understudy for Princess Calliope in our current production of The Frog and the Princess, as well as an alumni of the Theater’s summer camp programming and an aspiring young actress.

LH: First off, how did you catch the “theater bug”?
SC: I was inspired to join in after I watching my older sisters on stage. I’d participated in community theater, but didn’t take it too seriously until my junior year of high school. That’s when I really started putting my all into roles. I always knew I liked to act, but I don’t think I really knew how to.

LH: What was the first role where it just liked clicked for you?
SC: In high school I played Tiresias in Oedipus Rex. It was the first time I felt like I got lost in a character.

Oedipus Rex, Colin Peterson

LH: What have been the major milestones thus far in your theater journey?
SC: A major moment was when I discovered the English Speaking Union Shakespeare Competition. (Up until that point I thought I was going to be a nutritionist!) The annual high school competition is designed to celebrate Shakespeare with school-wide competitions across all 50 states. I got the chance to compete at the national level at NYC’s Lincoln Center, and that was another big moment. Performing on a Broadway stage is exhilarating and it makes you want to come back.

LH:  Who have been your most influential mentors?
SC: My high school teacher, Ms. Elizabeth Horn, always encouraged me even when I didn’t think that I was anything special. Also my college theater professor, John DiDonna, has opened a lot of doors for me including casting me in Phantasmagoria. He’s the one who encouraged me to do more auditions at Orlando Shakes, which lead to an understudy opportunity and even this interview!

LH: What’s your favorite role so far?
SC: I recently played Hunger in Metamorphosis at Valencia College. That’s a really fun character because it’s not a person–it’s the embodiment of starvation. I got to latch onto people’s backs and crawl everywhere. I think I had two lines and they were “yes” and “yes”. My favorite roles are ones where I get to embody something new and leave an impression on the stage. Whatever that may be.


As You Like It, Landon St. Gordon

LH: Let’s talk about your experience working on Shakespeare with Heart.
SC: Shakespeare with Heart is a summer camp program where young actors get the opportunity to perform in a professional theater. I participated in Summer 2013’s As You Like It. I worked alongside students with and without special needs, but in this camp nobody’s different. After the two week rehearsal process, we performed a Shakespearean production in front of our friends, family, and the public. These kids just blow you out of the water!

LH: Being an understudy in The Frog and the Princess is your first professional theater credit. What’s the biggest difference between working in a professional vs. an educational setting?
SC: I’ve always taken theater seriously, whether that’s good or bad. While working on The Frog and the Princess, I finally get to be around a group of people who feel the same way. We all want to produce the best work possible.


      Phantasmagoria, Michael Moran

LH: What is the most important thing you’ve learned about being an understudy?
SC: I learned that it’s a lot of work, which is something I didn’t know going in. You have to put in extra time, because you don’t have the luxury of all those hours in rehearsal.

LH: What’s the best part of the experience so far?
SC: The relationships that I’ve developed with the rest of the understudies and the main cast. It surprised me in a good way, because I’m just so happy to feel like a part of the team.

LH: What’s the most challenging part?
SC: Time management. I’m working on Phantasmagoria at the same time, and I also work at a bakery. I’m learning to give each event in my life the time that it needs.

LH: How are you and Princess Calliope alike?
SC: We ramble. Especially when she sees Gerwyn, she’s star-struck. She just starts rambling because it’s love at first sight. And that’s me. I ramble!

LH: If you could give one piece of advice to a younger actor, what would it be?
SC: Some of the best audition advice I’ve gotten is go in confidently. It’s not scary when you’re sharing what you love to do. And if they’re moved by that, you might get the part. Or maybe they love you and you still don’t get the part. You just can’t take it personally.

IMG_20150312_172122Lexie Hoag is currently a Marketing and Public Relations Intern at Orlando Shakespeare Theater. After completing her AA at Valencia College, she plans to pursue her Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations. She can often be found rereading books, snuggling her puppy, and haunting local theaters.

A Ribbitting Interview with a Princess

Shirilla_Kristin 2015You might remember the charming Kristin Shirilla from our production of Cinderella in 2012. This summer she’s back on the Goldman Stage once more as a completely different member of the royal court––Princess Calliope in The Frog and the Princess (playing through July 26, 2015).

Like many theater professionals, Kristin’s love of the arts started at a young age. “I would act out stories like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I’d play Goldilocks and my mom would have to play all three bears.” Her parents were very supportive of the arts, and took Kristin and her brother to see shows often. With her family’s encouragement, the Ohio native decided to study theater performance at Ohio University.

Following her college graduation, Kristin was on the hunt for a year-long acting internship. Another Ohio University grad told her about Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s Acting/Education Internship program. “I really liked the focus on education,” said Kristin. “In high school, a local theater company would come and spend a week each year working on Shakespeare with us. Orlando Shakes’ internship offered that same kind of programming for the community.”

Since joining the Orlando Shakes family, Kristin has also appeared as Lydia/Mustard Seed in the repertory productions of Pride and Prejudice and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as well as a dog and a little boy in Alexander Who’s Not Not Not Not Not Not Going to Move. (“Typecast, I guess.”) She also works full-time as a performer in Diagon Alley at Universal’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. “Basically, I’m a professional wizard and that’s pretty awesome.”

I sat down with Kristin to talk about acting, puppets, and smoochin’ frogs.


Kristin joking around with Cinderella co-stars Brandon Roberts & Alex Mrazek

ML: How is Princess Calliope different from Cinderella?
KS: Cinderella wasn’t a princess. She was a normal girl who had to figure out how to “princess it up”. Princess Calliope was born into royalty. She has to learn to let loose a little. I think falling in love inspires that.

ML: This is your fifth season with Orlando Shakes. What keeps you coming back?
KS: Orlando Shakes was my home for the first year I lived in Orlando. I met great friends and even my boyfriend here. The Theater has always welcomed me back––I’ve worked as a box office associate, an understudy for Snow White, etc. I’m happy to come back and do whatever I can to help.

ML: I’ve heard that you act alongside a few puppets in this show. What’s that been like?
KS: I’m pretty comfortable handling puppets because of my theme park experience. It’s challenging to remember to talk only to the puppet, not the puppeteer. But it’s important. It’s how we endow the puppet with a life of its own.

ML: What’s the best part about performing for young audiences and their families?
KS: Kids are tough. If you’re not 100% honest, they’re not going to be as engaged or give you the feedback that you need as an actor. You can tell the difference when performers talk down to children and when they treat them like adults. Adam Reilly (Prince Gerwyn in the show) is really great at that.


Kristin with her dog, Hulk

ML: When you’re not busy being a princess, what do you like to do for fun?
KS: I love playing with my two dogs, Hulk and Louise. I just bought a house in an area with alot of parks, so I’m excited to explore those. I also like to check out local farmers’ markets and try new food and beverages.

ML: Do you have a favorite line from the show?
KS: Prince Gerwyn’s line: “Couldn’t she have turned me into something cuter? Like a kitten? Princesses like kittens, I bet.”

ML: And finally, do you really have to kiss a frog?
KS: I guess you’ll just have to see the show to find out… Besides, I don’t kiss and tell.

Kristin and Adam Reilly. Photo by Tony Firriolo.

Don’t miss your chance to see Kristin and the rest of the gang in The Frog and the Princess, playing through July 26. Click here to purchase tickets now or call the Box Office at (407) 447-1700 ext. 1. Hop to it before we close the book on this hilarious fairytale!

Shakespearely yours,
Melissa Landy, Public Relations Coordinator

“Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble.”

keep-calm-and-don-t-say-macbeth-4“The Scottish Play” holds a special place in my heart because it was my original taste of good ol’ Billy Shakes. When I was seven, my mother, sister, and I performed the witches’ cauldron scene (Act IV, Scene I) with me appearing as Witch #2. Back then I obliviously said the “M word” with no fear, while I pranced about the living room and shouted these infamous incantations to the sky from my makeshift stage atop the coffee table. So when I heard The Young Company was doing a production of “The Bard’s Play” here at Orlando Shakes, my inner witch cackled with glee.

For those of you aren’t in the know about the many superstitions that plague the theater, the play Macbeth is cursed. Just saying the ill-fated name or even a line from the text inside a theater is said to bring great misfortune to the actors and their venue. The belief is thought to have originated from the very characters I innocently portrayed in my youth. The weird sisters’ speeches include spells that were believed to call on evil spirits. As witchcraft was still a common belief in Shakespeare’s time, you can see why audiences took this pretty seriously. The characters were actually incorporated to please King James I who considered himself an expert at detecting the dark arts (having written a book on the subject, Daemonologie, which strongly promotes the practice of witch hunting).  His beliefs led him to live in constant terror of witches plotting against him.

79729Along with the fear that was inspired by the witchcraft portrayed in the play, over the years people have gathered evidence that links tragedy with the show. “Mac B” has become associated with small misfortunes like technical malfunctions, poor ticket sales, and forgotten lines, as well as major calamities ending in injury and even death. Famous performers such as Constantine Stanislavski, Orson Welles, and Charlton Heston faced terrible tribulations in their lives during or after they appeared in this show. In the middle of a performance of “The Bard’s Play”, the Astor Place Riot broke out and left 120 injured and more than 30 dead. It is said that Abraham Lincoln read a speech from the cursed play aloud the night before his assassination.

IMG_1482Find yourself suffering from a sudden slip of the tongue? Not to fear–there is a counter curse! When someone mistakenly utters the name or a line from the play, you must say “Angels and ministers of grace defend us!”. Then the guilty party must simply exit the theater, turn around counter clockwise three times, spit on the ground, swear, and then knock on the door and beg to be let back in. Once you grant the offender admittance, they may re-enter the theater, knowing they’ll be safe from the dreaded Scottish curse.

Note: If you’d prefer a more logical (more dull, in my opinion) explanation of the curse, some claim that the dim lighting and multiple combat scenes in the play make the production more prone to accidents.

So now that you know the danger hidden in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, you can applaud the remarkable bravery of The Young Company as they prepare for their production of Macbeth this summer. There are three chances to catch this exciting performance: July 10 at 7:00 p.m., July 11 at 7:00 p.m., and July 12 at 2:00 p.m. General admission tickets are just $10 and can be purchased at the door. Hope to see you there!

IMG_20150312_172122Lexie Hoag is currently a Marketing and Public Relations Intern at Orlando Shakespeare Theater. After completing her AA at Valencia College, she plans to pursue her Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations. She can often be found rereading books, snuggling her puppy, and haunting local theaters.

Volunteering: Better than a Backstage Pass!

11143081_10205936910596984_8891532493382741818_nThe Theater recently hosted its 6th Annual Volunteer Salute on April 21, 2015. The event honored 581 volunteers who have donated their time and talents to Orlando Shakes this season. The evening began with a catered Italian dinner from Uno’s, followed by an award ceremony. Artistic Director Jim Helsinger and Managing Director PJ Albert were joined by members of our Board of Directors as they presented honors to many of these hardworking individuals. We even set up a Spamalot-themed photo booth to celebrate the occasion! (Click here to check out the photos.)

Marketing and PR Intern Lexie shares insight on what it means to be an Orlando Shakespeare Theater Volunteer in her article below.

The lights dim and an actor enters from up right, taking quick, deliberate steps toward center stage. You are hanging on his every gesture, his every word, his every breath. Before you know it, you are completely submersed in the world that has been created for you. You are more than willing to suspend your disbelief, and allow yourself to be taken on a journey beyond your own imagination. And then, it’s over. The best and worst part about live theater is that it’s fleeting, it may stick with us in our hearts but physically lasts only for a brief time. So what now? The lights come up, fellow audience members begin to trail out… The show is over.

Volunteer GroupThe magical moments you see on stage may end,  but the efforts of the people behind the scenes continue well after the curtain goes down. YOU have an opportunity to be one of those people. As a volunteer, you can make a difference.

House Manager & Volunteer Coordinator Colin Worley recognizes the importance of volunteers on a daily basis. “Every day is a new adventure, but no matter which volunteers are on the team that day, you know everybody is going to give 100%.” Colin says he’s fortunate to have a wonderful crew of volunteers, whose flexibility and numbers allow him to fill all positions needed–even last minute.

Besides volunteering on the front lines, the Theater also accepts assistance in their administrative offices. Recently, volunteers took on the challenge of the United Arts campaign mailing. Thousands of envelopes were stuffed, addressed, and sealed, a feat that truly would have been impossible without their help. The United Arts campaign is one of the Theater’s largest sources of funding, so saying that it’s important is a bit of an understatement.

Volunteer Toni Dedik is seen around the Theater almost as much as most staff members. “When I started volunteering, I was impressed that the Theater employees acknowledged my presence and contributions each and every time I visited. Their welcoming presence made me want to come back,” she said.

Volunteers 2Another behind-the-scenes opportunity is volunteering in the Costume Shop. The Costume Department is constantly in search of volunteers with knowledge of hand sewing. (It’s a bonus if you have experience with a sewing machine!) “The Costume Shop and its staff are very special to my wife and I,” said Volunteer David Herman. “When we first started volunteering we had no idea how rewarding and educational it would be. Sure, we sew on lots of buttons, but there is so much more to do and learn.”

Ever wanted to volunteer in the Gift Shop or sell concessions at Harriett’s Bar? Become a member of the Orlando Shakespeare Theater Guild! Guild members also receive benefits such as monthly social dinners, holiday parties, and even the chance to watch dress rehearsals.

“The Guild, for me, is the best method to contribute to the financial well-being of Orlando Shakes. Not only can I contribute in a meaningful way by interacting with the public while raising funds for the Theater, but I’ve made some lovely friends,” said Guild Member Paula Streimish.

LexieBeing a volunteer is a wonderful experience, but what if you could also use it to build your resume? Orlando Shakes offers unpaid, semester-long internships working in Development, Marketing, and Finance. Administrative interns take part in the day-to-day processes of running a professional theater, gaining valuable insight into the career path of their choice. (Note: Finance is currently seeking an intern for Summer 2015!)

So, why not volunteer? Okay, so maybe stuffing envelopes or sewing on buttons isn’t quite as glamorous and magical as actually being an audience member. But did I mention that as thanks for your generosity and hard work, you can actually earn vouchers to see Orlando Shakes shows for free? You can! And now you’ll see the shows in a whole new light knowing that you contributed to their success. It’s easy to become the wind under the wings of your favorite theater, just sign up by filling out the application here.

IMG_20150312_172122Lexie Hoag is currently a Marketing and Public Relations Intern at Orlando Shakespeare Theater, as well as a student at Valencia College. At the end of the semester she will complete her AA and then plans to pursue her bachelor’s degree in Public Relations. She can often be found rereading books, snuggling her puppy, and haunting local theaters.

The Patriarch Triumphant: An Interview with Acting Veteran William “Bill” Metzo

Bill Metzo HeadshotBy now you’ve probably heard that the World Premiere dramedy Bad Dog by Jennifer Hoppe-House is playing in our Goldman Theater. If you need a refresher: Bad Dog follows the story of Molly Drexler, who after ten years of sobriety, tumbles off “the wagon” by driving a Prius through her house. As her opinionated family descends around her, Molly falls deeper into the hole she’s dug for herself.

In the middle of the drama is William “Bill” Metzo, an esteemed NYC actor who plays Molly’s father, Walter Drexler. Bill’s successful acting career boasts impressive credits including Broadway’s Café Crown, Arsenic & Old Lace, and Cyrano as well as National Tours of Annie, Guys and Dolls, and the Royal National Theatre’s production of Carousel. Additionally, he’s appeared Off-Broadway and in recurring TV roles, won Florida’s Carbonell Award for Best Actor (Marquis de Sade in Quills), and, as King Lear, lead the Utah Shakespeare Festival in their Tony Award winning season.

Isabella Ward, one of Orlando Shakes’ hard-working marketing interns, sat down with Bill to pick his brain about his career and his role in Bad Dog.

IW: What’s your Twitter pitch for Bad Dog?
BM: It’s a very funny play, timely… you might even see yourself in the characters!

IW:  Tell us a little about your character in Bad Dog.
BM: Walter is the patriarch of this dysfunctional family. He comes to fix things–though this is not the first time he’s come to straighten things out. He’s a successful business man.

Bill Metzo

Photo by Tony Firriolo

IW: How did you get your start?
BM: I read my first play, The Valiant, in my high school English class. I read the part of the criminal. In college I was in the drama club but received my BA in Economics. Back then, small schools didn’t have these theater programs like they do now.

IW: What’s the most challenging aspect of acting?
BM: Not to lie, but to be truthful.

IW: This is your third season working with Orlando Shakespeare Theater, after appearing as Polonius in Hamlet and Prospero in The Tempest. What sets Orlando Shakes apart from other theaters?
BM: Well it’s about the work. Jim [Helsinger] is a smart guy and the point of view in his productions have always been fascinating.

IW: You learned from the great Stella Adler and later went on to become an acting coach. What advice do you have for those aspiring actors out there?
BM: You have to really want it so badly. I have kids who ask me if they should go into the theater. If they ask me that, I say “no” because if they don’t know, they’ll be eaten up. There should be no doubt about their desire, because that is the big thing. The beginning is the absolute need to do it.

IW: If you could go back twenty years in your career, what is the advice you’d give yourself?
BM: Be more patient and accepting.

IW: What’s different about working in the theater vs. TV?
BM: The theater is there to uplift. When I studied with Stella we were the “chosen ones”. It was our duty and responsibility to make the world a better place. There is a vast difference between entertainment and art, and you have to know the difference. There’s a quote in Hamlet that goes “Now this overdone or come tardy off, though it make the unskillful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve, the censure of the which one must in your allowance o’erweigh a whole theatre of others”. You play to the one who knows and bring the other 1,499 people to that level. So you don’t play to the lowest common denominator. Theater is a very special place and should be like going to church.

IW: What’s your dream role?
BM:  I played [King] Lear ten years ago, but I’d like to do it again. I thought once that if I ever had to write a biography, I would entitle it Carrying Cordelia which I think is a nifty title because it would mean someone hired me to play Lear while I’m still strong enough to carry a woman and young enough to remember the lines. So, yes, I’d like to do Lear again.

IW: Favorite Shakespeare Play?
BM: I have a soft spot for Macbeth. But I think I’ve done 20 or 21 of the 36 plays Shakespeare wrote.

IW: Any closing remarks?
BM: The theater is the only profession I know that uses all of you. It demands your physicality, spirituality, intellect, and your emotional life. I don’t know any other profession that makes those demands.


Photo by Tony Firriolo features Suzanne O’Donnell, Anne Hering, Ginger Lee McDermott, William Metzo, Jennifer Bonner, & Gladys Rodriguez

Come see Bill and the rest of the Bad Dog cast before the show closes on Sunday, May 3. For tickets and information, click here.

Summer Camp Confessions with Intern Lexie Hoag

In school, reading Shakespeare is classified as some form of torture. Even I, a bona fide Shakespeare fan girl and theater geek, could barely tolerate listening to yet another classmate stumble through line after line of iambic pentameter. Their monotone voice and lack of inflection only proved the fact that they had no idea what they were reading. (I’d rather not lend you my ears, thanks so much.) What was worse than their poor cold reading skills was listening to their complaints, as if Shakespeare was boring. Despite the dread I felt in hearing my fellow students butcher the greatest poetry ever written, I couldn’t comprehend how they didn’t appreciate the genuine brilliance of what they were studying.

DSC00871I have a theory that no one actually dislikes Shakespeare. They may protest and call it dull, confusing, or tedious, but I believe they just haven’t been exposed to his works in a way that related to them and enabled them to gain a true understanding. That’s where Orlando Shakespeare Theater comes in. Orlando Shakes has a variety of summer camps targeted at different age groups, which allow students to take on the Bard’s great plays in a whole new way. Last summer, I got the chance to participate in one of their production camps, Shakespeare with Heart. Performing as Portia in The Merchant of Venice, I worked on this production alongside students with and without special needs.

It was so refreshing to get the opportunity to work with people who were completely committed to the task before them. All of us became consumed by our roles and with performing them to the absolute best of our ability. In today’s society, that level of commitment and focus is rare; it’s a trait I value greatly in others. Personally, I have two settings: either I can’t focus, or I can’t not focus. When I’m really into something, it’s seriously hard for me to give attention to anything else. In other situations, my obsessive tendencies get me labeled as “intense” (for those who wish to put it nicely), and I quickly become frustrated when others fail to take tasks as seriously as I do. But at camp, everyone was as eager to dedicate their time, attention, and hard work to the program. For once, I wasn’t the only person in the room excited about Shakespeare! Everyone was thrilled for the journey we were about to take together. The program is designed so that each student is constantly challenged. No one is coasting by, and it’s not easy on anyone, but the result is that each individual proves they are capable of more than even they themselves believed.

CampConfessions_2In the past, I’ve worked with special needs students in a ballet program called dance therapy. As rewarding as that volunteer experience was, it was definitely structured so I was a “helper” working as a mentor and guide to a single student. Shakespeare with Heart is different: instead of helping the special needs student achieve her goals, I worked side by side with the entire cast towards the common goal of putting on the best show possible. As my fellow actors and peers, all the students involved contributed to my knowledge and growth as a performer and a person.

The friends I made there were not just for the moment. In this two week program, I bonded with my cast mates, creating a unique community founded on our shared experience. To improve at anything, it is necessary to put yourself out there. When you are surrounded by people who are all making themselves as vulnerable as you, and taking the emotional risks that are necessary to develop, you can’t help but feel close to them. It is so magical that you can achieve that level of openness with a large group of people so quickly. No one was afraid of potential failure, because everyone was rooting for each other’s success. A connection this close is bound to last. I still Facebook stalk my “little sister” (who played the role of Balthasara) to see what new adventures life has in store for her. Next week, I’m going to see my “cousin” (“Nerissa”) perform in her high school’s production of Measure for Measure. These beautiful young people are more than cast mates, more than friends, they are my family. I can only thank them for being a part of my life.

CampConfessions_3Orlando Shakes summer camps are enriching, educational, and just all around fun. As young people, it’s hard to find a place where it is safe to put your heart on the line by putting your full effort in to something. There are but few social groups that you can rely on to be supportive as you take on the burden of challenging yourself to be better. The summer camp communities at Orlando Shakespeare Theater provide that space. Together we learn about theater, Shakespeare, and ourselves.


IMG_20150312_172122Lexie Hoag is currently a Marketing and Public Relations Intern at Orlando Shakespeare Theater, as well as a student at Valencia College. At the end of the semester she will complete her AA and then plans to pursue her bachelor’s degree in Public Relations. She can often be found rereading books, snuggling her puppy, and haunting local theaters.


Playwright’s Corner: Jennifer Hoppe-House

photo (29)If you attended our new play reading festival (PlayFest) in 2013, you might remember a little play called Bad Dog. A big box of family drama tied up with a comedic ribbon, Jennifer Hoppe-House’s play reading sparked conversation from both audiences and actors alike. Orlando Shakes decided to continue the dialogue by including this World Premiere dramedy in its 26th Season. Before you see Bad Dog (playing April 8 – May 3, 2015) in our Goldman Theater, get to know the playwright behind this biting new play.

About the Playwright
Jennifer Hoppe-House is a film and television writer (Showtime’s Nurse Jackie, DirecTV’s Damages, and Netflix’s upcoming Grace and Frankie featuring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin). She began as a playwright in Texas and has written smaller pieces for productions in New York and Austin, one of which was a finalist in the Actors Theatre of Louisville 10-Minute Play Competition. Jennifer is a member of The Writers Guild West and the Dramatists Guild of America.

OST: You’ve mentioned before that Bad Dog is your first full-length play. How has the process of writing and workshopping this piece both challenged and helped you as a playwright?
JHH: I’ve workshopped it three times, which amazes me. I’ve had so many opportunities to hear the play and hone it. And hearing a play, especially in front of an audience, gives you a sense of rhythm and pacing that you can’t get simply by reading over the pages, mumbling the parts yourself, which we all do, I think. Thank God for actors – I would tank my own play if I had to perform any of these roles. And there are moments here and there that I wrote as drama that played as comedy; moments when comedy played as drama, which surprised me. So, that’s a delight. The challenge came in with a few scenes that had to be edited or jettisoned altogether, and especially the character Abby, whose attitude about Molly had to be recalibrated. I had to find what was truthful, not just what existed to move the plot.

Ginger Lee McDermott as Molly. Photo by Landon St. Gordon.

Ginger Lee McDermott as Molly in Bad Dog. Photo by Landon St. Gordon.

OST: What inspired you to write Bad Dog?
JHH: First, I wanted to explore family violence and addiction, which tend to be standard fare on the American menu, but not in a way that outwardly plumbed the pathos. I just wanted to observe their effect. I also wanted to look at collective memory. What is truth and what is perspective? And can facts be distorted by the way we treat them? The Drexler family – the family in this play – is funny. Humor is their defense against a painful past. Does wit cushion our recollections or warp them?

And within this same conversation, I was interested in a cultural shift where parenting is concerned. Because there were some pretty prevalent parenting styles in the 50s, 60s, and 70s – where parents freely hit their kids, they smacked them and whipped them and hit them – and it was passed down and shrugged off as if it had no effect. I saw a MAD MEN episode in which Don Draper was at a block party and a neighbor hit one of his kids, or maybe he hit a neighbor’s kid, I don’t remember, but I do remember that when I was growing up, you could hit other people’s kids without repercussions. That was acceptable in some quarters. And I thought, “Yes! Exactly!” And addiction is another theme that affects so many families – often addiction and violence are the double feature playing inside families.

OST: Describe this play in 3 words.
JHH: Comedy as drama.

OST: Describe yourself in 3 words.
JHH: Drama as comedy.

OST: How is playwriting different from writing for film and tv? Which format do you prefer?
JHH: I heard an axiom once, and to some extent I think it’s true, that film is about plot, TV is about character, and plays are about ideas. It’s a simplification, but film is a visual medium, and as a screenwriter, you try to come into scenes late and leave early. It’s about pacing. TV is often about what these characters get themselves into, and plays are much more about themes and language. They can be done stylistically, they can be mannered, they can be odd genres like magical realism, they can be musicals, they can be experimental, they can explore and unfold slowly. I love it. I much prefer writing plays. And I don’t get studio or network notes.

OST: What was the first thing you ever wrote that made you proud?
JHH: In high school I wrote a couple of pieces for the annual literary magazine. One of them won for best essay or something. I think it was about a homeless guy in Dallas. I’m sure it was overwrought, but I won twenty bucks.

OST: Given the title of your play: Cat or dog person?
JHH: Dog, dog, dog. You know where you stand with dogs. Cats are mercurial and occasionally violent. They scare me.

OST: Fill in the blank: “If I wasn’t a writer, I’d be a _______________.”
JHH: Hobo.

OST: If you were trapped on a desert island and could have 3 books what would they be?
JHH: Catcher In The Rye by JD Salinger, A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, and Sula by Toni Morrison.

OST: In Bad Dog, Molly and her family are dealing with a lot of serious addictions and issues. What do you hope audiences take away from seeing this production?
JHH: I hope they know that nothing they have done or can do gets anyone sober. Only people who want sobriety, get it.

Tickets to Bad Dog are available now by calling (407) 447-1700 ext. 1 or visiting us online.

Parental Guidelines: Bad Dog is an adult story of family dysfunction that contains strong language, same sex relationships, alcohol abuse, and substance abuse. The play is for adult audiences only. Click here for more specific parental guidelines.


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