Produced by Life Jacket Theatre Company
Photo by Jenny Anderson
Nominated for: Outstanding Ensemble Andrew Dawson, Phil Gillen, Aidan Sank; Outstanding Set Design, Carl Vorwerk & Travis Russ; Outstanding Innovative Design, John Narun; Outstanding Lighting Design, John Narun; Outstanding Choreography/Movement, Katie Proulx; Outstanding Director, Travis Russ; and Outstanding Premier Production of a Play
About the Production
Life Jacket Theatre Company strives to create “smart, original, and unpredictable theatre.” Judges, audiences, and critics alike felt that they achieved this goal with their production of Gorey: The Secret Lives of Edward Gorey. Three actors (Andrew Dawson, Aidan Sank, and Phil Gillen) all play reclusive artist Edward Gorey — simultaneously. Their performances have been described as “fascinating” and “absorbing.” This inventive production received raves as it explored the humanity of a “genius.”
Nominees, Andrew Dawson, Phil Gillen, Aidan Sank, John Narun, and Katie Proulx share their insights into creating this “theatrical excavation of the artist’s memories.”
What attracted you to this production?
Aidan: From the moment I first auditioned for this show, I knew I wanted to work with this company. Travis and the rest of the production staff were immediately so warm in the room-and it was clear from the get-go how excellent the writing of this piece was. Whenever you have a chance to work on a show with an interesting subject, surrounded by talented people-you grab it.
John: Initially, I was attracted by the opportunity to work with Edward Gorey's beautiful art work. But after reading the script, it was the story of this mysterious and lonely man that really resonated with me. I couldn't resist the opportunity to help make a world for this great story.
Katie: The writer/director Travis Russ and I met in a physical theater workshop and hit it off, so I was excited to get to work with him. I knew that the process would be very collaborative and ensemble-driven, which I love. Also, I love Edward Gorey's work and was excited to explore his personal story in a theatrical context.
Photo by Jenny Anderson
What was your favorite part of working on the production?
Aidan: I loved most of all how collaborative this process was. Because of the unique nature of a show wherein all the characters are essentially the same person, opportunities were constantly presented to share ideas that may not normally be discussed in a regular rehearsal process. In addition, our writer/director/producer Travis Russ was very amenable to having his actors give their feedback and valued our opinion throughout. The end result was therefore that the show very much felt like it was built organically on and by the four of us.
Andrew: The other cast members, the director and the entire production team were top notch.
John: Absolutely the people were the best part of working on Gorey. Not only was everyone insanely talented, they were a joy to work with as well. There was so much love and passion in the room, and that showed in every performance.
Katie: Working with the team - the actors, the design and direction team. It was a group of amazingly generous, enthusiastic people who were interested in collaboration.
What was the most challenging part of working on this production?
Andrew: Three actors all playing the same man at the same time.
Phil: This was actually my first time playing a real person, which, of course, presents unique challenges. The three of us needed to respect how Edward Gorey actually behaved, which is no easy task when the subject of your play famously hated interviews. And because Gorey was so private, the play naturally makes some educated guesses about him, especially my character - Gorey in his 20s - of whom only one photo exists. And even for my cast mates, who play older iterations of Gorey, the raw material about him does not get much more expansive: a few filmed interviews and a handful of photographs. And so we used all the evidence that our director Travis Russ had masterfully assembled - Gorey's books, his letters, early writings, random quotes, and things said about him by friends and acquaintances - to craft portrayals that were, hopefully, respectful of, and truthful to, this fascinating man and brilliant artist. And though he was a man whose writing style has been described as strange and macabre, he nevertheless lived a complex, human, and beautiful life.
John: I've never designed projections and lighting together before, and I feared that it would be insanely demanding. And it was. I would've been lost without my amazing associates.
Katie: The biggest challenge was making sure the storytelling was clear as we balanced narration with the 3 actors playing Gorey at different ages.
Photo by Jenny Anderson
What was the quirkiest thing about this production?
Katie: The production was quirky in the way it combined traditional acting moments with so many other ways of presenting the story. We had two different kinds of puppetry, dance, singing, interacting with projections. For me - and of course I'm biased on this as the choreographer - the funniest part was in the big dance number. The actors dressed up like Pan Am flight attendants and did a dance number inspired by Gorey's drawings of ballet dancers.
Phil: Pretty much everything in the life of Edward Gorey was quirky. After Gorey's death, his Cape Cod home was found filled to the brim with a hodgepodge of items he had collected over the course of a fascinating life: door knobs, hand-made puppets, Tibetan rings, and cats. Lots and lots of cats. Our production included a beautiful set and props design that hinted at the delightful mess that Gorey left behind, and we invited audiences to join us in an exploration of Gorey's strange possessions, and his even stranger life.
Aidan: Edward Gorey is nothing if not odd and quirky, I'd say.
What was it like working with Life Jacket Theatre Company?
Aidan: The people that are involved with this company are all remarkably talented and incredibly committed to telling great stories; everyone who was a part of this production performed their job at the very highest level.
It is rare to come across an organization that places such a high value on treating its members so well and I feel unbelievably grateful that I was able to be a part of such a creatively fulfilling process.
Andrew: The absolute highest quality and attention to detail in every regard.
John: Travis Russ is absolutely the best thing about working with this company. He's brave and trusting, and, most importantly, passionate. He provides the love and the drive at the heart of the show.
Katie: The commitment to ensemble creation is the best part of working with Life Jacket Theater Company.
Phil: Artistic Director Travis Russ poured his heart and soul into this play and this production. I did not know Edward Gorey and his work before this show, but I certainly know him now. Travis's passion for Gorey was infectious, and I soon found myself sad to leave Gorey at the conclusion of each performance, and especially sad to say goodbye to him after our final night.
You can follow these artists on Twitter
Life Jacket Theatre Company - @lifejacketnyc
Aidan Sank - @theAidanSank
Andrew Dawson - @ aednyc
Phil Gillen - @philgillen