“Interstate” Is a Glorious ‘Pop-Rock Musical’ About Inclusivity, Queer and Trans Community, and the Open Road

by  • Originally published on The Village Voice

For every contemporary-spirited Hamilton, Broadway stages numerous revivals of musicals from half-centuries ago, few of which have books, lyrics, or music by women or people of color. Even those productions with relatively diverse casting are unlikely to involve queer or trans characters. Meanwhile, Broadway’s tendency to latch onto franchise properties that audiences have experienced countless times over — whether in books or GIFs or movie theaters — further encourages patterns of sameness in representation. All of which makes especially pivotal the mission of the New York Musical Festival, which originated in 2004 with an aim to “introduce new shows, new perspectives, and new blood into the musical theater canon.” Over the course of the festival’s existence, a number of its selections — including Chaplin and In Transit — have made the vaunted and against-the-odds leap to Broadway.

Saha, who was discovered via the theater program at Ithaca College, does a fast-paced, flawless rendition of Henry’s energetic first song, “I Don’t Look” — the catchiest in the show — about the high schooler’s crush on a classmate who “doesn’t know either of my names.” They also make poignant Henry’s spoken, daily updates posted to YouTube. Lin as Adrian conveys an air of hilarious frustration, whether the character is being interrupted by Dash during a radio interview or encountering straight racists in a bar. Adrian’s mouth at times becomes akin to the wavy lines of Charlie Brown’s expression whenever he sighs, “Good grief.” Corpuz (who was in the recent revival of The King and I at Lincoln Center) is equally at home with Dash’s big solo number (“Loser Dumplings”) as with the loose, playful dialogue. In one scene, when it comes time for the band to move its equipment, Dash counters Adrian’s “You’re the man” with “You’re the lesbian.” Even the smaller narrative strands are written and performed with exceptional nuance. Esco Jouléy as Carly — the would-be record-label impresario Adrian picks up on the road — scores laughs simply in the way ze eats from a bag of Doritos. The familial arcs also hit close to home: Dash’s first-generation immigrant father (Kiet Tai Cao) accepts his only son in a manner not untainted by traditional Asian patriarchal values. And Adrian’s corporate, go-getter mother (Michelle Noh), coolly dismissing her daughter’s artistic career (and queerness), will be painfully familiar to anyone who has been a disappointment to a parent.

The music throughout is live keys, guitar, bass, and drums, and the numbers alternate between songs Dash and Adrian perform on the road to thoughts and feelings they — and Henry — confess to the audience. Much of the show is sung: In a different era, and with different music, it would be called “operetta,” but Interstate bills itself as a “pop-rock poetry musical.” The production’s commitment to casting trans or nonbinary actors in trans roles, and its portrayal of a young trans man encountering resistance from his parents, is clearly (and depressingly) timely. As always, work from actual trans artists injects much-needed reality and authenticity onstage. Handsome Dash easily passes as a cis man, but in a bar, racist homophobes call him “faggot.” When Henry’s mother throws out his binder, he uses duct tape to flatten his chest, constricting his breathing. But even though the course isn’t always smooth, Dash and Adrian eventually find solace in their friendship and their art, just as Henry locates support in the greater community. The news has been so bad these past few weeks (well, these past few years), especially for queer and trans people and people of color; this show — and, crucially, more like it in the future — can perhaps be what we turn to for our own solace.

INTERSTATE: New pop-rock poetry musical shines a spotlight on queer Asian-Americans

Melissa Li and Kit Yan became friends more than 10 years ago. They met while performing together at a queer Asian-American cabaret in Boston, where Li performed as a singer-songwriter and Yan as a spoken word performer.

It was during these early performances that Yan, who is transgender, got the idea of performing together on the road, and bringing their queer Asian-American perspectives to other communities across the country.

“Backstage one day I was saying to [Li], ‘What do you think about quitting our jobs and getting in a little compact car and going on the road, and bringing what we’re doing in the [cabaret] out to wherever we’re going,” Yan told NBC News.

Kit Yan
Kit YanGrace Naw

Li thought it was a good idea, and the two formed the band Good Asian Drivers. They then set off on a cross-country tour in 2008 and performed together in cafes and small venues across the United States, seeking out other queer communities.

It was this cross-country tour that inspired the story for their new musical, “Interstate,” which is one of 12 productions taking part in the 2018 New York Musical Festival.

Described as an Asian-American, pop-rock poetry musical, “Interstate” tells the story of two transgender people at different stages of their journey, as they navigate love, family and masculinity while finding community in the age of social media.

“It’s definitely a queer, Asian, trans story which is one that is rarely seen,” Yan said, noting that the musical is written about and by queer and transgender people.

To read the full article, please visit NBC News.

‘Arrival & Departure’ was unlike anything I have experienced before

Blog by Saif Saigol

As a theatre lover, I have often struggled to qualify the artistic value of a show. What, for example, separates a great, large-scale Broadway musical from a great, smaller, experimental work? When it comes to art, does more money equal more success? I received my answer last Saturday, at the designer run-through rehearsal of the Fountain’s Arrival & Departure: a successful play is one that leaves its audience thinking.

Art has the power to leave a lasting impact and change the way we think. That is exactly what I experienced after watching Arrival & Departure.

The play, at its core, follows the classic, impossible love-story of two star-crossed soul mates who have the universe standing between them. The 90-minute play is filled with heart-wrenchingly beautiful acting on the part of the ensemble and a fantastic script by Stephen Sachs. The artists invite us into their most intimate and vulnerable thoughts, thoughts that were born in a reality that they created out of nothing. It seemed impossible that such genuineness had been bred in only a few weeks of rehearsal – it is beyond inspiring to see what the Fountain team is capable of.

Personally, it was especially moving to experience the power and beauty of Deaf theatre for the first time. The show’s interwoven and unique mélange of ASL and Spoken English creates a dynamic and multi-dimensional artistic medium in which authenticity prevails. Deanne Bray and Troy Kotsur conveyed a degree of beauty, truth, and honesty in their signing that cannot be expressed in other forms of communication – it was almost like watching a dance. Especially moving was Bray’s ability to convey her character’s struggles with identity as a hard-of-hearing woman, switching back and forth between ASL and Spoken English.

The play struck me as a type of ‘deconstructed theatre’. The various forms of art involved – from ASL, to Spoken English, to movement, to staging – are separated but harmoniously married, each holding its own and conveying breath-taking emotion, but also supporting one another to create one beautiful piece. I left the rehearsal pondering the very nature of art, and the ways in which society often creates pigeon-holes for artists. Arrival & Departure was unlike anything I have experienced before – it is novel and unique, and conveys emotion in ways that don’t conform to exclusive norms. This, I believe, is the point of theatre, and I cannot wait for others to experience the magic of Arrival & Departure.

BWW Review: A SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS at The Shakespeare Theater of NJ is Fantastic Summer Entertainment for All

From Brodaway World New Jersey.

If I pull it off, call me the master servant of all servants.”

-by Truffaldino in The Servant of Two Masters

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey makes summer a wonderful time of the year for metro area theatergoers with their Outdoor Stage productions. This season, they are presenting The Servant of Two Masters through Sunday, July 29. The show is delightful, a fun frolic, wonderfully staged. Written by the Theatre’s Artistic Director, Bonnie J. Monte, adapted from a play by Carlo Goldoni, and directed by Doug West, it features an exceptional and versatile cast. Last seen eight years ago on the Outdoor Stage, it is an all-new, vibrant production.

The venue at the College of St. Elizabeth is ideal for a summertime outing. You can bring a picnic for a pre-theatre treat on the campus grounds before entering the charming, spacious Greek Theatre area for the show. When we attended, there were many families, couples, and groups of friends, all enjoying the Outdoor Stage experience.

The Servant of Two Masters is set in 18th Century Venice. This slapstick comedy centers around a servant named Truffaldino, who believes he can gain more money and meals by serving two masters. Yet, to accomplish this, there are complex events that he must navigate including a broken marital engagement, mistaken identities, and two lovers who are in search of each other. By saying whatever comes to his mind, Truffaldino can temporarily avoid problems, but not for long. The fast paced show keeps audiences entertained from the first minute to the last. This tale of deception with its chaotic situations and exciting action keeps you wondering just what will happen next.

BWW Review: A SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS at The Shakespeare Theater of NJ is Fantastic Summer Entertainment for All

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey has assembled a fantastic cast for The Servant of Two Masters that masters the portrayal of their colorful charactersLed by James Michael Reilly as Truffaldino, the company includes Jay Liebowitz as Patalone de Bosognosi; Miranda Rizzolo as Clarice; Raphael Nash Thompson as Dottore Lombardi; Russell Sperberg as Silvio; Izzie Steele as Beatrice Risponi; Tug Rice as Florindo Aretusi;Connor Carew as Brighella; Aurea Tomeski as Smeraldina; Abby Carroll as the Maid; Alexander Emond as Porter/Waiter and Benjamin Lang as Porter Waiter. Scenes like Truffaldino romancing Smeraldina, Silvio dueling with Beatrice, Clarice’s emotional outbursts, or Dottore Lombardi verbally sparring with Pantalone de Bisognosi are fascinating. As the theatre’s entrances and exits are used the by the actors, audience members get a real close up view of all the story’s shenanigans.

BWW Review: A SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS at The Shakespeare Theater of NJ is Fantastic Summer Entertainment for All

The Artistic Staff has done a top job of bringing A Servant of Two Masters to the Outdoor Stage. They include costume design by Paul Canada; lighting design by Rachel Miner Gibney; sound design by Warre Pace; scenic design by Jonathan Wentz. The Production Stage Manager is Christine Whalen; Assistants to the Stage Manager are Maren Billy and Amanda Wingo; Assistant to the Director is Joelle Zazz; Fight Captain is Connor Carew; Wig & Hair Stylist is Samantha LaScala.

The Servant of Two Masters is a show that will engage audiences of all ages. Relax under the stars in July and enjoy a good laugh and some great theatre.

The Servant of Two Masters run time is two hours and fifteen minutes with one 15-minute intermission. Outdoor Stage is located on the campus of the College of Saint Elizabeth. Performances are Tuesdays through Sundays at 8:00 pm with a special twilight performance on Sundays at 4:30 pm. Theatre offers free tickets to young people 18 and under. For tickets, call the Box Office at 973.408.5600 or visit:http://www.shakespearenj.org/.

Oregon Artswatch: Dawn Monique Williams directs SECRETARIES at Profile Theatre

At Profile, just what the world needs right now: a comedy about a cult of chainsaw-wielding killer secretaries (social commentary included).

These are not your grandfather’s secretaries. Unless, of course your grandfather was a lumberjack in the fictional town of Big Bone, Oregon, in the 1990s. In that case, the women at the center of this latest Profile Theatre production very well could have known, worked with, and possibly murdered your grandfather. There are so ma

ny reasons to put on a play like this one, right now, and director Dawn Monique Williams homes in on those reasons with her skillful focus and expert direction.

For starters, there is the #MeToo movement: Women are freer to stand up and speak out about mistreatment – at least more than lumber mill secretaries in an Oregon timber town in the ’90s. The women depicted here were not free to do much: they couldn’t have sex or even eat solid food (strictly SlimFast diets all around, of course). But they took matters into their own hands once a month by murdering a lumberjack. The play centers on new secretary Patty (Claire Rigsby, a newcomer to Portland stages, who exudes the youthful naivete and excitement the role needs). Patty is so happy to be welcomed by the other secretaries, but she slowly starts to realize there’s something strange going on here.

Therein lies one of the other reasons for this play right now: men are not the only enemy women have. Sometimes, women’s expectations and demands of other women are just as difficult to navigate.


To read the full review, please visit Oregon Artswatch.