Tuesday, January 24, 2012

An Interview with Bill Massolia of Griffin Theatre Company

January 25, 2012

By Angela Marroy Boerger
Education and Community Programs Coordinator

In anticipation of our upcoming Family Festivities performances of The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales on January 29th, Playhouse Education and Community Programs Coordinator Angela Marroy Boerger interviewed Bill Massolia of Griffin Theatre Company about the exciting production for young people.

Angela Marroy Boerger:  You’ve had a rich career as an active playwright and as a founding member of the Griffin Theatre.  What drew you to adapting The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales for the stage?

Bill Massolia:  To begin with, the book is just hilarious. I am also drawn to more subversive children’s literature and less the “fuzzy bunny” children’s stories I grew up with when I was young. I think that young people enjoy those stories most of all. 

AB:  Could you tell us a little bit about the story?

BM:  Well, I have taken some liberties with the original story. The book is structured as a series of different fairy tales twisted and combined to become something else. Rather than tell the story in a similar manner, I have chosen to make “Jack” the central character in the story. And the stories are told by “Jack” to the “Giant” as a way for “Jack” to avoid being eaten by the “Giant.”

AB:  As a book, The Stinky Cheese Man plays a great deal with its physical materials – rearranging pages, talking outright about the table of contents – in ways that break down the barrier between the book and the reader.  How do you translate some of these techniques to the stage?

BM:   I honestly haven’t chosen as an adaptor to try and recreate the ideas of how a book is constructed and deconstructed onstage.  That is what makes the book unique as a book. I have made changes to make the book unique as a play.

AB:  The narrator, “Jack”, is a very clever and savvy, almost a snarky kind of character.  How do you think he speaks to children and families today?

 BM:  “Jack” is the main character in my adaptation of the book. He is the narrator and drives the action in the play which is different than in the original book. By making that choice I have made the story more theatrical.

AB:  The Stinky Cheese Man, along with the Griffin Theatre’s touring shows, has been performed across the country.  Do you have a story or two about the adventures of traveling with a show?  Care to share a story about a less than smooth moment along the way or a funny onstage mishap?

BM:  Sure. On one particular tour, the actor’s flight was cancelled the night before departure. So we had to scramble to get the cast to the theater the following morning. The cast actually flew out of Chicago early in the morning before sunrise and landed just two hours prior to curtain.  They rushed to the theater, loaded in the show and performed.  I guess the old saying “the show must go on” really does ring true sometimes!

AB:  What is your favorite thing about writing and producing children’s theater?

BM:  My favorite thing has to be how much fun kids have watching my plays.  Their reaction is always immediate and instant. And they certainly let you know whether or not they like it. They’ll just tell you!

Visit the Playhouse website for more information about upcoming Family Festivities performances.

No comments: