Where did the idea for a comic book theater festival come from? Was there a particular play or comic that inspired the decision?
We've been doing themed festivals at The Brick since 2004—both festivals that invited artist to submit shows around a specific concept or image (the Hell Festival, the Moral Values Festival, etc.) and festivals that celebrated a specific medium (the New York Clown Theater Festival or next month's Game Play, a celebration of video-game performance art). The comic book idea has come up numerous times at brainstorming sessions in the past, but with comic-book culture becoming more and more influential in the world of entertainment, this was the year it made the most sense to do it.
Is there a hope that by tapping into the comics subculture you'll attract an audience that rarely goes to the theater?
Well, sure! We've had pretty good luck with that in terms of our Game Play festival. Last year, I wrote a show, Theater of the Arcade (which is appearing at the Fringe this August) that reinterpreted classic arcade games (Frogger, Asteroids) as short plays by famous playwrights (Beckett, Brecht). We had a lot of gamers in the audience that didn't get the theater jokes, and a lot of theater people who didn't get the gaming jokes—but everyone seemed to enjoy it, and we sold out every show. That's what we're hoping for here—there's nothing better than a crossover audience, because different people bring different things to the experience in a way that makes it richer and more fun for everyone. And the more non-theater people we can get to realize that theater is a living, breathing experience that doesn't have to consist of boring sub-sitcom depictions of people simply sitting and talking in a living room or celebrity-driven big budget musicals, the better. It's a living laboratory of artistic ideas, presented with full volatility in front of a live audience—what could be geekier than that?
Some of the groups participating in the Comic Book Theater Festival have very little experience onstage, while others are more seasoned; would you say on balance that they're theater nerds trying their hand at comics, comic book nerds trying their hand at theater, or a mix of the two?
I think that this festival actually features more people rooted in the theater world than the comics world. Theater companies—whether they be new or established—are much more gung-ho about the idea of throwing together a full original production in a few short months than people with less experience or training in theater. Comics artists have their own challenges, but the hassle of producing plays is rarely one of them. That being said, there are definitely some folks driving shows who are more directly related to comics than theater (Carousel's R. Sikoryak, Funnybook/Tragicbook's Adam McGovern and Action Philosophers' Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey immediately come to mind), and I'm hoping that this festival will be successful enough for more closeted comics artists with theater aspirations to crawl out of the woodwork for future installments.