For the month of AUGUST
Recently, I had the good fortune of sitting down with the members of the up-and-coming theatre company, The Amoralists. (See the Theasy review of The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side. The show has been extended through Aug. 17th). The four American Academy of Dramatic Arts alumni had a lot to say. They are an interesting bunch with a lot of great stories and innovative ideas. Here is a mere sampling of what they shared.
The company’s been around since December of 2006, but Meghan you just recently joined the team this year?
JAMES KAUTZ - She’s seen all of our shows, as a friend.
MEGHAN RITCHIE - I’ve known them for years. I’m a big fan and I was Derek’s assistant director in the fall.
DEREK AHONEN - We have a different assistant director for each show. Then there’s a good chance that somebody can come in and collaborate with us. We had our first intern on this last show. She worked out great.
MATTHEW PILIECI - We’re expanding as a company by working with friends, people who know how we work, and have worked with us before.
How did the company begin?
AHONEN - On a trip to LA we were debating whether to move out to LA or stay here...
PILIECI - and what the hell to do with our lives.
AHONEN - We took a couple grand and drove to Vegas with the hopes of winning fifty thousand dollars to start a company.
KAUTZ - We were absolutely convinced that we were gonna win.
PILIECI - We already had it spent.
KAUTZ - What our productions were gonna be, all that kind of thing. We walked into the first casino, Matt walks up to a roulette table, throws fifty dollars down, bets it on black.
PILIECI - Lost it.
KAUTZ - And that set the tone for the weekend.
PILIECI - We spent the rest of the weekend losing more money and drinking apple martinis. (laughter)
KAUTZ - Then on the drive back we all kinda looked at each other and were like “Fuck it. Let’s just start this.”
Matthiew Pilieci, James Kautz, Derek Ahonen. Not pictured: Meghan Ritchie. Photo by Krissy Rowe.
What were your first steps when you came back. Was it a slow process?
AHONEN- Not really. We got back and we dove in head first. I had a play. It was just a matter of getting the money together.
What was the play?
AHONEN - While Chasing The Fantastic. It’s probably the most experimental thing we’ve done in the sense that it jumped around in time and played with the boundaries of reality as opposed to the other things we’ve done which have been so straight forward, in your face, and confrontational. It went really well but no one saw it.
PILIECI - Our friends saw it.
KAUTZ - We made every possible mistake you could.
PILIECI - Getting a nonexclusive space, number one.
AHONEN - Wrong PR people.
PILIECI - We got PR people that are used to dealing with, like, banks.
AHONEN - They had no theatre connections. Out of our own frustration, we made a contact with some company that you had to pay twenty dollars to get a review.
PILIECI - And when we got it, we thought we were stars!
KAUTZ - Then we did our homework.
AHONEN - We followed the press for shows we liked and were like, “Who’s doing press for them?”
The Amoralists have gained a lot more press recently.
AHONEN - Yeah. The bigger the press the more people it brings in. But it doesn’t matter what level it’s coming from. When the reviewer is fair and objective then it’s great.
KAUTZ - Reviews are a beautiful way to get people to see your play. That’s all we really want. We want people to come and see these shows.
In 2007 they were pretty hard on you and in 2009 almost every review is glowing.
AHONEN - We’ve had a couple harsh reviews this summer.
PILIECI - New York press is real harsh.
KAUTZ -Love us or hate us, you gotta feel something for us. When we first started, we were fully prepared for that.
The Pied Pipers is not really part of the PS 122 season.
RITCHIE - We’re a rental.
AHONEN - Shoshona Currier (PS 122 Programming Associate) had seen [the original production of The Pied Pipers] and we talked to her about coming in there with a play and she was really open to it.
Some reviewers have criticized The Pied Pipers for the use of nudity, political views, and for being didactic or even pedantic at times.
PILIECI - Are you calling the nudity pedantic?
AHONEN - Some people make up their mind that they’re not gonna like a piece, then they pick out flaws. Nothing’s perfect. We’re not writing perfect plays.
KAUTZ - I was in a bar two nights ago and the bartender was talking about The Pied Pipers and he was like, “So that’s kind of The Amoralist view, right? The very radical, leftist, kind of view? That’s your thing? All your plays are about that?” And I looked at him and I’m like, “No, not at all. Most of our plays have nothing to do with politics.” There’s all kinds of social, American, commentary in all of them. That’s a thread.
AHONEN - The play that we did after The Pied Pipers, the first time, is a drama about a family of cops whose matriarch was murdered. They’re tough, right-winged, racists, everything the Pied Pipers are not.
What do you think about the articles out there that say “they’re ready for Broadway?”
PILIECI - Unfortunately, Broadway’s a star vehicle right now.
KAUTZ - I’d be afraid of putting our work in the hands of some “Money Man” who wants to change or control things. This play is not gonna work if [Matt doesn’t] come out naked, with an erection.
AHONEN - It wouldn’t work without the erection?! The whole thing wouldn’t work at all? (laughter)
PILIECI - The whole thing!
AHONEN - It’s hanging in the balance of Matt’s unit.
PILIECI - Somebody would take this to Broadway and fire me and you.
KAUTZ - And hire Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and we’re fucked.
PILIECI - Broadway, off-Broadway, off-off Broadway. It doesn’t matter as long as the product is good.
RITCHIE - A lot of off-Broadway stuff is really great. Broadway is just so difficult to market that it’s not necessarily the big goal for a lot of companies [like ours], at the moment. Unless you’re a big musical, it’s a really difficult place to be.
What is the big goal?
AHONEN - A bigger audience base. We’d love to have our own, permanent, theatre.
RITCHIE - And not have to go buy things off our own credit cards. It would be nice to have a good size budget.
AHONEN - The reason that we extended [The Pied Pipers] - we sold out the last two weeks and we didn’t know anybody [in the audience], we’re like, “You don’t close a show that’s selling out.” We have our own product and if it could make money...
KAUTZ - That’s the thing that I’m most excited about - people are coming [to see Amoralists’ shows].
How did you come up with the name The Amoralists? Not to be confused with Immoralists, which is...
KAUTZ - Completely different. And it seems like some of the reviews may have confused the two.
PILIECI - Yeah.
AHONEN - We were originally gonna call our company Seventies Film On Stage but then we worried people were gonna think we’re doing "Serpico". But it’s the qualities in those movies. PILIECI - You know "Dog Day Afternoon?" That’s kinda us.
AHONEN - We started off as Tribe For The Huddled Masses.
AHONEN - Which was cool for us but it’s a not really a good name for a theatre company. Everything that we [came up with] was too limiting, or too weird, or too long. One day, Matt was like “What about The Amoralists?”
PILIECI - I wanted it to sound like a band!
It really just came out of the blue like that?
KAUTZ - Well, no, we figured out what we liked about “Dog Day Afternoon” or “Taxi Driver” or all these other movies. What was it about the characters that was so fascinating? It was this human quality presented in a way that wasn’t judgmental.
PILIECI - It was amoral.
Do you find that a lot of things nowadays are judgmental?
PILIECI- I feel like our society, in general, is very quick to judge. And that goes across the board from art to people.
KAUTZ - Art is then produced to cater to that and to profit from that.
PILIECI- And we try to get away from that a little bit.
For more info check out The Amoralists on MySpace, Facebook, and at www.theamoralists.com.
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