Alex Zavostovich introduces us to Molotov Theatre Group’s New Artistic Advisor Richard Hand and Their 2014-2015 Season
Joel: Tell us about Richard Hand and how he came to accepting the Artistic Advisor Position?
Alex: Gladly! Richard is Professor of Theatre and Media Drama at the University of South Wales (UK), and the author of two of the best known textbooks on the Grand Guignol horror genre, published by the University of Exeter Press. He also has written books about horror radio, and has produced modern horror radio shows. Richard also appears regularly on British and American radio and television, usually talking about horror in all its glory. (The UK seems to be more willing to consider horror as a mainstream theatre genre, rather than it’s somewhat more peripheral status here.)
He’s a great, fun person with a terrific insight into dark theatre, and he’s extremely approachable. Molotov reached out to him our very first year of business, and we’ve been talking regularly ever since – sharing information about what works in the horror genre, and ways to elevate the form. Richard is very generous with his time. In the past, he’s also visited with our friends in San Francisco, Thrillpeddlers, who also specialize in Grand Guignol. He likes to stay busy.
Richard would probably be too modest to promote his own work in an interview, but I have no such reservations about being his booster. People who want to know more about the Grand Guignol should pick up at least one of his important books, on Amazon.
Anyway, after years of shying away from the issue, this past month I finally came right out and asked Richard if he wouldn’t mind having a more active role in Molotov. To my amazement, he said yes! We settled on the title of Artistic Advisor, and he’s already been hard at work reading some of the scripts for our current season and sharing insight on how to pull them off while staying true to the genre.
In the future we hope to have Richard involved in Skyped discussion panels about the Grand Guignol, and to participate in talkbacks at staged readings of the original plays. We’re still in the very earliest stages of our new relationship, but the prospects are extremely exciting.
There have been some changes at Molotov this year. What’s new now?
We’ve begun to overhaul and update our board of directors. In the past six months we’ve added Tia Pausic (an extremely energetic and accomplished executive, who founded and operated her own successful non-profit organization), Denis Sgouros (a recent American University alumnus with deep connections in the graphic novel community) and Jill Vanderweit (an actor and experience grant writer who most recently worked with Spooky Action Theatre). And we are also fortunate to have Josh Speerstra, Jen Speerstra and Darrell Poe.The board is reinvigorated, and are ready to help us do even more this year.
We’ve also established a theatre company of talented actors and other theatre professionals with skills beyond what happens on stage. That company includes Adam Adkins, Jen Bevan, Elliott Kashner, Brian McDermott and Katherine Offutt. They’re all committed to prioritizing their time to make sure that Molotov succeeds and continues as an ongoing concern. In exchange, I making sure they have opportunities not only onstage, but in the theatre business community in general. It’s a noble experiment on both sides, and I’m very interested in seeing what happens.
(Interestingly, many of Molotov’s company members and past collaborators are all working together on Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s upcoming production of The Tempest, which is opening August 1st. It’s directed by Jay D. Brock, who directed Molotov’s last show Normal. Gregg Martin, who also worked on Normal, is doing original music composition for the show. Past Molotov star and former board member Jenny Donovan is playing Miranda, Elliott Kashner is Sebastian, Brian McDermott is Alonso, and I’ll be playing Caliban. People should make plans to see this great show.)
Last, we’re now working with a dynamic young PR professional named Kelly Carnes. She’s a longstanding Molotov fan who is also helping us extend our business relationships into other entertainment areas – burlesque, alternative music, roller derby, and the like. She seems to be six degrees of separation from anyone doing anything cool in the city. It’s a little early to be talking publicly about our next big project with her, but suffice it to say it involves a bed of nails, a sledgehammer, concrete blocks, my stomach, world records, and a boatload of awesomeness. Look for more on that soon.
Tell us about the shows you have selected for the 2014-2015 season and why you selected them and why audiences will enjoy them.
ALEX: This is our “Season of the Supernatural.” We’ve tried to be very smart this year about finding shows that appeal across the board. Molotov’s audience members range from traditional theatre-goers to our loyal Fringe fans to followers of other horror- and suspense-themed entertainment, like graphic novels and video games. Whether it’s other-worldly spirits or the ghost in the machine, these shows will let Molotov will do its uniquely deep dive into the dark world of the unexplainable.
The season’s plays include:
Nightfall with Edgar Allan Poe by Eric Coble – November 6 to December 7, 2014 – This play dramatizes four of Poe’s best known works: “The Raven,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.” It’s classic horror, brought to the stage.
The Margins by David Skeele – April 2-April 26, 2015 – Based on the true story of The Philip Experiment in Toronto in the 1970s, five paranormal investigators and a skeptical reporter visit a haunted manor to create and raise a spirit as a psychic experiment – until that experiment goes horribly better than they imagined.
Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom by Jennifer Haley – July 9 to August 2, 2015: A psychologically addictive video game emulates players’ actual neighborhoods as the on-screen environment. Moving from one level to the next means destroying armies of zombies. But what does it mean for the neighbors who aren’t playing the game?
We’ll also be workshopping Gallery, by CJ Tuor, a play about five of Batman’s arch nemeses, trapped together after an explosion in Arkham Asylum. We’ll use the workshops to refine the work for a possible full production of Gallery in a later season. Our hope is to do the workshops in comic book stores or during fan conventions.
As you can tell, there’s a lot going on! Thanks for giving me the chance to talk about it.