Token Theatre Friends: Shirtless, Singing Jesus!

Hey everyone, welcome. I’m Jose. And I’m Diep And we’re your Token Theatre Friends Putting a splash of color into
criticism to since 2018. Yay!!! Today we’re gonna be talking about three shows. Jerry Springer the Opera at the New Group Kings at the Public Theater And High Noon at the Axis Theatre. It takes place in a small town in the 19th
century. Where the sheriff just got married. It’s his very last day on the job. And just as he’s about to
leave town with his new wife. He learns that one of his biggest enemies,
some guy he sent to prison for murder is coming back to
town The movie is one of my favorite movies.
It’s a 1952 film and it was a wonderful take on McCarthyism. So I have to say that I really like
the vision that director Randy Sharp. who’s also the artistic director of Access Theatre Company had for this show.
It was very fast it’s an hour long and moved super quick.
It felt like it was edited like a movie in a way. It’s interesting you say that the original,
I haven’t seen the original movie because I’m a not big fan of Westerns,
But the original was an allegory for McCarthyism and I
think this version was like an allegory for gun control and toxic masculinity. But unfortunately we’re gonna have to
inaugurate our very first Pale Fail with the show.
This show featured an entirely white ensemble.
There’s like ten people onstage. And this was especially bothersome to me
because one of the characters has a Hispanic last name. In the show they
explained that she married a Hispanic guy so technically you know it could
have been a white lady marrying a Hispanic person. But I mean this
character Helen Ramirez in the 1952 movie was played by the incredible
Mexican actress Katy Jurado who was even nominated for a Golden Globe for it.
If in 1952 at peak Hollywood whiteness, they were able
to find a Mexican actress, how does a theatre company in 2018
in New York City How are they unable to do this?
I don’t get it. I don’t get it. There are no kings in the
show. It’s mainly ladies. Four people. Three women. And it’s about the lobbyists
and how lobbyists and money are basically controlling all of our politicians.
I didn’t come in expecting to like it because I’m not a
big fan of political drama onstage or on TV, because I always feel
like it’s really overwrought and they over dramatize it. But what I appreciate
about Kings was that it wasn’t sentimental about what it was talking about But it was very clear on where it stood.
And I found it refreshing because it was mostly women talking to each
other about their jobs which if you know anything about American entertainment
women are not allowed to talk about our jobs very often to each other.
So I love that it passes the Bechdel test with flying marks.
It leapt over it in like the first scene. But the one thing that I have to
say about the show is that, and this is obviously completely personal, but I just
don’t have the heart anymore to see smart, well-prepared, strong
women lose political battles. [laughter] Did you just spoil the show? Well maybe.
But I just don’t have the heart for it anymore. It’s interesting you brought that up
because one failing I did think about the play was it
presented a problem that we all know about and it presented that problem very
well but I like my theatre to Give me something to think about in
terms of solutions or ways that I can help change the world, especially when
it’s political theatre. In the opera, Jerry Springer is played by the
incredible Terrence Mann Who is in the middle of one of his episodes when someone shoots him. So the second half of the show basically takes place in the afterlife where the Devil Played by the incredible Will Swenson Forces poor Jerry to do an episode of his show in hell Jerry Springer is like so American.
For better or for worse he represents a lot of what America is.
I like how Richard Thomas filtered that. That’s also about our love of seedy
reality television because I remember being like seven or eight years old
watching Jerry Springer on late-night and being really compelled by it
and you can see the line from that to the Kardashians to the
present White House. What I found really interesting
was, it was kind of like watching an episode of the Jerry Springer
Show where I liked it despite how terrible everyone on that stage
was. It was really entertaining But then afterwards I left and I was like
that was odd. I feel kind of guilty for liking that. But I will say that ensemble’s one of the most talented ensemble in New York right now
because they all play like two or three roles I want to give a big
shout out to Justin Keyes who plays Jesus and who also plays a man
who wants to be a baby. He’s so hot. And he’s a beautiful singer and he’s shirtless half
of the time. When you’re watching musical theatre
that’s basically all you want. [laughs] Okay so now let’s pick the show
that we would go see again. If we had to pay for it.
Yes. So, Diep. Can I break our only one-episode-
long rule by saying Black Light by Daniel Alexander Jones at
the Public Theater/Joe’s Pub/ the person we’re interviewing in
approximately two minutes? That’s cheating! Well I’m gonna go with Jerry Springer
the Opera because I think it’s a lot of
fun it has an incredible cast It has great music and hey, you get Terrance Mann and Will Swenson Two JaverTs for the price of one ticket
so go see it Javert you mean?
Javert. And shirtless Jesus.
[laughs] So next up we took a little trip
to the Public Theater to talk to the amazing Daniel Alexander
Jones about his new show Black Light so let’s take a look. So can you tell us a little bit about
what the show is about? It’s centered around my alter-ego Jomama
Jones who I always think of less as a character and more as an energy that
visits me. And this show feels like a response to the moment we’re in.
To the current political social climate. And thinking about the crossroads
that we’re at as a nation. And so I let Jomama respond to that idea.
So we wrote a bunch of new songs. We took some of our favorite songs from our records and I pulled together this
extraordinary band. It’s a lot of fun I think, even though
it goes deep, it invites you to have fun too.
Each song reminded me of an artist I love. I’m really curious about what your process
is in both paying tribute to artists that you clearly love so much but also
crafting new music that’s all your own.
I love that question. They are a constant presence with me,
those songs, those albums, and those artists
And when I sit down to write, I usually start with a question
and that question will be like, kind of like the oyster stuffed with
the pearl, it rubs me, it rubs me. And I then go to one of my collaborators
and we talk about the idea. We talk about the question. But we work very quickly.
I do with all of my songwriting collaborators. It’s a quick process.
And then I look back and I’m like, oh wow there is a tie to a Sade song
or a song by Teena Marie or Prince for sure. But rarely is it that
we’ve gone out and picked a song and modeled it. It’s kind of in our blood
and that feels really thrilling to me. The first line Jomama says in the
show is “What if I told you everything is going to be alright.” And especially in
this moment of things feeling very unsteady,
how do you stay positive? For me it is 100% that I come from
the lineage of artists and activists and family members that I do. I look back
and I see that they faced equally if not more sobering times. And it’s
overwhelming right now and I think especially for those of us who
felt in the shift toward the Obama Administration a certain kind of
movement away from a particular kind of right-wing ideology, it’s been a really
harsh awakening to have that restored and be so aggressively central to our
experience in the nation right now. Okay so Jomama Jones does
13 costume changes in Black Light So what is the key to a
really fast costume change? I kind of made the analogy the other day.
My assistant who’s doing the costume changes
has to hurl herself at Jomama like a howler monkey, like just go at it! And we kind of say a little prayer. It’s a little bit like a car wash, an attack.
You just have to go at it Thank you so much Daniel. We love your show. And we love you. And we
hope you’re gonna be back on our show. Thank you so much, it was a
pleasure to speak with you. And I look forward to next time Welcome back!
And for today’s 11 o’clock number which we will not be singing We had a question or a comment
from our first episode! Oh my god you guys are delivering so much already. Jean wrote, “I hope that Token Theatre Friends will address ways to get paying POC audiences into theatre seats.” I have thoughts on that. [laughs] So I feel like when we’re talking
about how to get people who look like us into
theatre, I always come back to the “Field of Dreams.” If you
build it they will come. You frequent Repertorio Español
and I frequent Ma-Yi Theatre Company in New York City. Both theatres of color doing
works by people of color and those are places I see the most POC audiences. There’s also I think a very huge need for some sensitivity training, especially
with white people who work in theatres. Because I cannot tell you the
number of times where ushers at Broadway theatres have asked me if I’m
sure I’m in the right place. Especially when I have
orchestra seats because I’m a critic. And they’re like, “are you
sure you’re not supposed to be upstairs?” Sometimes I don’t feel welcome
and I go to hundreds of shows every year Sometimes I don’t feel welcome in
theatres. Right, and if you’re not going to
welcome Jose with his amazing facial hair and top knot and diva shirt. How are you gonna welcome other young people? Dominique Morrisseau wrote that amazing
piece for American Theatre about all the old white people
shushing young people of color who go to the theatre because they—
And who laugh! Yeah.
We laugh and we like to engage with what it is that we’re seeing!
We don’t like to sit back and be like, “Yes, show me.” I think we should wrap it up for our second episode!
So soon? No!!! If you want more, let us know
if you want less, let us know Or if you have any other thoughts just
leave us a comment below. Until then Token Theatre Friends out. Bye….. How can Diep and
I become your new vibrations? Oh my gosh you just have to
come to a rehearsal! Oh yeah that’s it. Yeah and just you know, do your
vocal warm-ups and come to practice and we’ll see what we can do. We love the current vibrations. Yeah I know. There you go, you never know. They could end up
somehow strangely locked out of the building right before the show.

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