Directed by Stephen Kaliski & Amanda Holston
Produced by Adjusted Realists
Nominated for: Matt Sherwin Outstanding Original Music & Outstanding Sound Design
About the Production
Adjusted Realists wants to tell "theatrical stories about slightly unhinged worlds." In Stephen Kaliski's Gluten! they explored a future world where sterilizing your environment, sterilizes your soul. For one couple, the desire for healthy living has been corrupted with fears and insecurities. This funny, thought-provoking, and touching satire achieved AR's mission while making fun of our current society's fascination with health and safety.
Producer Eric Vigdorov, Writer and Co-Director Stephen Kaliski and nominee Matt Sherwin shared their thoughts on creating this timely production.
What attracted you to this production?
Stephen: I have an abiding love for dystopian worlds, so I wanted to write something in that storytelling tradition. Also, as someone who has tried to eliminate this or that (including gluten) to feel like a healthier person, I'm really fascinated by our cultural behaviors when it comes to feeling safer in a dangerous time.
Matt: Stephen Kaliski, the Director. We’d already collaborated on three projects, and I consider him a great talent…as well as a joy to work with. When he told me about the new theater company he’d co-founded, I was thrilled to be involved any way I could. I was honored to be given the chance to work on one of the company’s first productions.
Eric: One of our founders is the playwright, our team is tight and we loved the story.
What was your favoite part of working on this production?
Matt: Working with the theater company, Adjusted Realists, was a pleasure - they are a true team, with each member going above and beyond his or her ‘role’ in the company. And the cast was truly game for anything - they approached the prospect of trekking out to middle-of-nowhere Staten Island to record voice-overs in a damp unfinished basement with the same humor and aplomb as they approached their roles onstage. Additionally, this was my third time working with the folks at 59e59, and they were - as they have always been - extremely courteous, professional and supportive.
Eric: The team is a family. We work with actors, creatives and members who always support our work. It's wonderful.
Stephen: I got my A-team of actors and designers for this, so the collaboration was a thrill from start to finish. Also, producing at 59E59 is a luxurious experience for an indie theater company. They took such good care of us and eased some of our normal grassroots stress.
What was the biggest challenge of working on this production?
Eric: Producing a new play is always difficult, and designing one that is set in the future comes with its own unique set of challenges.
Stephen: I'm pretty mainstream as a director, but as a writer, this is the first play I've put together with a broad audience in mind. My writing has been somewhat esoteric in the past, so I wanted to create something that had widespread comedic reach. Moving the play from something I found funny and profound to something the audience found funny and profound was an ongoing challenge.
What did you want the audience to come away with after watching Gluten!?
Eric: We wanted the audience to think about our world today and our choices now could affect how it will in the future.
Stephen: I want them to question their impulses to safety. What are the choices we make to keep ourselves at a distance from the dangers of the world? And are those the right choices? I did not want the play to be moralizing; both points-of-view from the two bickering parties have merits and downsides. I just wanted to encourage the act of communal doubt.
What was the weirdest part of working on Gluten!?
Eric: The whole show was weird, innovative and funny!
Stephen: The title is a bit of a misdirection, and a commercially potent one at that. We had a lot of outreach from the gluten-free community, including a French magazine, thanking us for tackling this subject matter. I was never quite sure how to respond. The play is anything but an advocacy piece for or against that irksome protein.
Why was sound and music so important to the production and what was unique about Matt Sherwin's contributions?
Stephen: I've worked with Matt many times before, starting with a production of Sarah Ruhl's In the Next Room or the vibrator play at Yale University. On that show and all the ones to follow, Matt has contributed transformative moments to the story I'm trying to tell. His musical talents are breathtaking not only for their final beauty but also for how quickly he arrives at the abstractions I have in my mind--he always seems to nail it on the first go.
The world-building in Gluten! is completely dependent on evocative sound/music, especially in a lower budget production in which we can't 100% get the set/lights/costumes we want. With a quirky theme that evolves as the play matures and a detailed soundscape that captures the play's hyper-technological world, Matt crafted a design that inspired many audience members to mention the sound/music first in their responses. I still find myself humming the theme around my apartment!