By Crystal Skillman
Directed by Evan F. Caccioppoli
Produced by Sanguine Theatre Company
Nominations: Joshua Levine is nominated for Outstanding Actor in a Featured Role; Lyonel Reneau is nominated for nominated for Outstanding Actor in a Featured Role; Wild is nominated for Outstanding Revival of a Play
About this Production
Peter and Bobby graduated from Northwestern together, live together, work together, sleep together. But when one of them cheats with a woman, they dive into a world of wild sexual affairs that threaten what they once had. Through this cycle of destruction and repair, will they find a different kind of love?
Producer Karly Fisher, Playwright Crystal Skillman and Actor Joshua Levine discuss their work on this engaging production about surviving the complexities of a relationship.
What inspired you to write Wild?
Crystal: Peter and Bobby started as characters I explored in a short play where I challenged myself to show a break up, in continuous action and time, in the span of the ten minutes we saw them. The full length play was originally a commission for Evan F. Caccioppoli’s production company Kid Brooklyn, done in 2012. Which is why the play is considered a revival in the play nomination. From the start of writing it, I felt the play was so special because rather than just tackling sex or love it really focused on commitment. To see Peter and Bobby's struggle and discoveries about that excited me. It's a struggle I heard a lot about from close friends and family and I loved exploring the hard question: why does one stay in a relationship after an affair? In 2013, Sanguine got super excited about the script and said to me the same thing that Evan did when I was writing it about loving how honest the play was and what it said about how the play tackles love in such a universal way that they felt this play could be done in any city in the world and have an impact. It brought tears to my eyes, and the play found its way to New York!
What attracted you to working on this project?
Karly: We had the opportunity to meet Crystal Skillman and see some of her previous scripts and were set on working with her. When we read Wild we fell in love with the dynamic characters and its reflection on love in all of its complicated glory.
Joshua: The Character of Ted was very close to me. I didn't feel like I had to work hard at all. Crystal writes amazingly rich characters.
What was your favorite part of working on this production? And why?
Karly: The collaboration between the team members was truly exceptional. The director-playwright dynamic was familiar and open, as both worked furiously with the actors to workshop and tweak an already-excellent script. As producers, we want to pull together teams of passionate, collaborative people, and with Wild, it seemed that the designers, actors, and artistic team (along with our wonderful hosts at IRT Theater) were all bringing their best tools to the table.
Crystal: It was amazing to dive back into this script after the first production of Wild was done in Chicago. I think every writer feels the same way about their work growing every year - I loved the production in Chicago and worked very hard to get the play the way I wanted it. But this was another chance to further perfect it. I got to really flesh out the play and make stronger choices - on an already very strong script. The reception in Chicago was wonderful, and I adore that cast too. This cast - because I was here with them more as opposed to flying out - we just all bonded like crazy. They did. They made Wild wild with their incredible talent they brought to the table, and passion for the script. Each actor felt comfortable talking to me about what their character would say or do in a moment, and a lot of my rewriting embraced that. I wanted that. They became those characters. Evan, Sanguine and I bow down to them. To see almost half our cast nominated (the wonderful Lyonel Reneau and Joshua Levine) is amazing to me and so special. Our full cast included the young and tearing it up David Armanino, the brilliant Hunter Canning, the incredible Jeff Ronan (also a super talented writer), and Diana Stahl, who I love, who was with the show from the first initial read in New York before we even went to Chicago! Also Evan's direction was quite different here - he had been working and thinking about the show from Chicago. Before we even knew about this production, he'd call me up with ideas. We had lots of talks about how the process would change for further productions. In those talks we grew closer which means a lot to me. We both grew as artists in this production. And that's just awesome sauce! So between, him and I, and this dream of a cast, and the love of IRT and Sanguine, well it was a love fest ...! That didn't mean I didn't hit the bar a lot. Working on new plays, no matter how fun, are nail biting for the playwright no matter what! :)
Joshua: The team of actors! I don't think I've ever worked with such a talented team of actors. In rehearsal I always felt supported and encouraged by their talent. In performance they effortlessly let me make different and interesting choices and rolled with the punches
What was the most challenging part of working on this production? And why?
Joshua: Because I knew this person that I was playing so well it was, from the beginning, very hard to make new choices because I was so so so very happy with first choices. It was hard to let certain moments go, even if I knew they were getting stale.
Crystal: Hmmm ... writing is always a challenge but I love it. So nothing was daunting .. but I worked very hard at the balance of Peter and Bobby’s relationship and how we can feel their love, while opening with them breaking up. When you write challenging structures the notes you always get back are ones that ask to “show a scene with them when they were in love” etc. Well ... Wild wouldn’t be very wild if we had a prologue where we saw that. At least for me. What makes Wild wild is how we are dropped into this relationship. It's my job as the playwright to know that and connect with the audience, but also write an exciting NEW play - so the challenge in addressing this note both in the writing and performances was huge. I'm so glad we got it right! The most challenging part in production, in an exciting way, was having more design involved which truly made this production special. Jonathan Cottle's unique set/lights - he built a beach in a big sandbox and surrounded it with Hollywood like lights really making the public beach pop, but so clear these folks were in some ways putting themselves on display to each other in bearing their emotions and wild actions. Holly Rihn’s costumes - numerous! - really demonstrating the passage of time, the sound of the waves around you (Grant Jefferson). It really drew you in.
Karly: This production required more stamina than any production by Sanguine to date. We began working with Crystal on the script over one year before it opened in March 2014. With readings and workshops throughout the fall and winter and months of preparation by the design/production team, Wild was on our minds throughout 2013. This was Sanguine's first run longer than 3 weeks, and it required more extensive financial planning than any of our previous productions.
What was the quirkiest thing about your experience working on this production?
Karly: We loaded in what felt like a million pounds of sand to cover the stage so I guess it is pretty noteworthy that we still find sand in all of our homes.
Crystal: Well everyone just loved playing in that sandbox. Literally ... as there was a box full of sand - our own beach! And just from a collaborative standpoint we all worked so well together. Also it was an incredible moment where in terms of getting the word out. We were selling well but in the first week I realized we were up against an incredible theater season in a time where it's a challenge for a smaller show (the awesome Hand to God was up the street!). But those that came loved the show so much - they all wrote each other, word of mouth drew, the critics started coming. The amazing Doug Strassler pioneered the way - he made time that first weekend - luckily we ran for four weeks - and wrote us a rave that caught on and helped us gain more interest. I’ve been a part of a lot of amazing word of mouth experiences - this was extraordinary. Sanguine’s support of Evan and I as a team in that last week of pre-production was pretty special too. IRT having us in there a few weeks before we opened. We lived there! We built a beach there! How wonderful is that! The future of indie, and what honestly is making indie more like what Off Broadway used to be in its more risk taking days, is finding ways to create structures and support to give the artists the tools they need. That larger developmental stuff that larger theaters, with large investments, can bring. Being creative about that and by investing in those artists you get a richer play, experience that audiences want to come to. IRT has had a hell of a season - Gin Baby was before us, they just had Vampire Cowboys there in residency - theater spaces/producers keep this in mind when planning. Providing time and space to new plays and projects makes all the difference if you really want to change the game ... and world!
Joshua: Lohanthony's basic bitch video on YouTube and the song my fellow cast member Diana Stahl created that goes:
Everybody drop your pa- ants
Everybody drop your pa-ants
Everybody drop your pants and do the da-ance
What do you want the audience to come away with after watching your production?
Crystal: The sense of being a fly on the wall and really peeking into Peter and Bobby’s odyssey with trying to find some peace and love in their lives, in a very intense, turbulent, hell bent time. The audience has a very special viewpoint in this play! From the initial break up they follow Bobby and him lashing out with his own affair, and Peter’s reaction to that with a new partner he finds. When the two characters are together - only in three scenes - quite a challenge which I love - you see a collective experience between them, and even then there are secrets they keep that we the audience witness. Because of these things, our hearts are pulled in different directions and the audience has different reactions to each character - some seeing more of Bobby or Peter’s side. From my conversations with both productions, audiences feel the play is special because this same sex relationship is treated like any other - with no comment on that. Peter and Bobby go through the same trials and tribulations that any couple testing each other to see what “this” is go through - to one extent or the other. For this reason alone, Wild is a play that I hope will have a long life in other cities.
For those that missed the production, you can read it on line in a terrific publication for just a few bucks at the amazing indietheaternow! AND you can get it in a package with other NY IT noms! WHAT?!! Martin Denton you are the best. See here! https://www.indietheaternow.com
Karly: Wild's strength is that it shows us so many kinds of love, and it portrays them honestly with no "angle" or political agenda. We want the audience to consider the fluidity of sexuality and of individual relationships. Wild is not about labels or categories; ideally, the audience will forget these things and focus instead on six human beings experiencing the unpredictability of life and of love.