StarKid Interview at LeakyCon


Full Transcript with Julia Albain, Eric Kahn Gale, Robert Manion, Jim Povolo, and Brian Rosenthal, Saturday, August 2, 2014

Transcribed by Katie Hynes

Eric Scull: Hey there! Eric Scull here. I'm here with members of Starkid; most of them are so famous they need no introduction. All the same, you guys should introduce yourselves.

Jim Povolo: I'm Jim Povolo.

Eric Kahn Gale: I'm Eric Kahn Gale.

Brian Rosenthal: You probably don't need to know this because I'm so famous, but my name is Brian Rosenthal.

Julia Albain: I'm Julia Albain.

Robert Manion: And I'm Robert Manion.

Brian: The most famous of all.

Eric S.: [You're having] a killer season. The 2014 StarKid Summer Season. I live in Chicago so I was able to catch the two shows that you're doing this year. I have to say, they are [consistently] above and beyond. You guys have produced increasingly cool content throughout the years, [which] is crazy. Specifically, between Annie: A Parody and The Trail to Oregon!, it seems that the style has changed. You have a choose-your-own-adventure story with Trail to Oregon!, and with Annie, you have a musical where the leads don't do any singing. I want to ask, what do you think is next for Team StarKid? Is it intentional to break the boundaries of traditional stage musicals and parodies? Where do you see it going in the next season, even?

Eric K.G.: Well, this is a room full of people unqualified to speak on this because no one here wrote those two shows. I am a little qualified [just] because I know Matt and Nick, [the people] who wrote them. The reason why this year the musicals are so different... Last year, we made Twisted. I did co-write that. It's very difficult to write a musical where there are basically two teams: one's the book writing team living in one city and one's a songwriting team living in another city. It's hard to coordinate something that's very cohesive, like a musical play; it was frustrating and difficult. I think that with Annie, what the Langs were trying to do was, "Let's just write a show that we can completely control. We'll write it and the songs won't matter as much, they won't be as integral to the plot, they'll be more like montage songs in a film." It made it easier to do [because] the songwriting team was in another city. With Trail to Oregon!, they worked with Jeff Blim, who wrote all the songs, and he did live in Chicago with us, so that is a more integrated musical. And as far as why the concept is so wild as an interactive show, that's just the theatrical genius of the Langs. But I couldn't speak to what they're going to do next.

Jim: I think it's also just really fun to try things that [we] haven't tried before. I feel like a lot of StarKid is just experimentation, screwing around, and then trying to make ourselves laugh at each other. When we find that, then usually it's something that a greater audience would enjoy.

Eric S.: I have to say, I have a very specific question for Eric. There was a particular physical challenge with your role in the summer season, I believe. How did you prepare for that? Is [there] a series of stretches for your role in Annie?

Brian: No spoilers please, I haven't seen it yet.

Eric K.G.: Oh, you haven't seen this show?

Brian: [I will] this week.

Eric K.G.: I have a very strange physicality. I think I got the part because I could do the voice and the physicality, mainly because I do a lot of yoga; I'm a big yoga fan. It doesn't bother me at all to do that. I actually have a great time onstage.

Eric S.: Now, are any of you guys doing the after-hours events, performing, and otherwise doing sketching, and writing, and that sort of thing? If so, what are they? Can we still see them? Did we miss them? What's going on with that?

Eric K.G.: Julia has arranged all that stuff.

Julia: Yeah, I helped produce the late-night series. That was something that I was really excited about [when] the idea of doing the summer season was presented. We just really wanted to give a chance for everyone to present stuff that they wanted to do, [or skills that don't typically get showcased] in the StarKid shows, in a setting where you have an audience but maybe it's a little looser, a little more relaxed, a little less pressure. We've had a little bit of everything. They've done sketch shows this weekend, they had a scripted play that has been running, we had a dance show, we've done readings, Eric's been doing readings out of his book, we've done readings of new works, stand-up comedy, just so much. There's been a late-night almost every single night since we opened, which has been awesome, and it's had the right balance of put-together content with a relaxed vibe, you know what I mean? Everyone gets to see their colleagues do their own thing and it's been great. I think for this last week, Meredith and Brian still have one more sketch show that they're going to run. They did an excellent sketch show. I think tonight or tomorrow is the last night of the StarKid sketch show that has about 10 or 12 people in it. Next week The Tin Can Brothers are doing a late-night, so that's Brian, Joey Richter, and Corey Lubowich. And [there are] maybe a couple [of] other things to end out the week. It's been a busy summer between the two main stages and the late-nights. We've been doing a lot, but it's been fun. You guys aren't there currently, but Eric and I have been there this summer and we've been doing [it]. It's just been great; it's been a really fun summer of watching each other do work. And I think what's nice about doing two shows this summer is that the casts are split. A lot of us haven't watched each other perform in years because we've been performing with each other. It was really fun on opening night, too, for each cast to watch the other cast and go, “Oh my God, he's so good!”, “She's so good!”, “Oh my God, they're so good!” It's nice to remember these people that we've worked with forever [and remember] how fun it is to watch your friends perform.

Brian: It's so wild that I can go to Chicago this week, be in a show, and see five shows in four days. So if you're going to make the effort to come out to Chicago, it's way more bang for your buck.

Eric S.: I would completely agree with that. Seeing the amount of content that you guys are putting out, as you say, just in this season [and] in between this season, it's astounding. It's absolutely surpassed everything that you guys have done before. I do want to talk about casting because you mentioned having [a] split cast. Julia, you’re in Annie as well. Who does the casting for you guys and how do you decide? Is it a matter of personal interest for what shows you want to be in, or [where] you think your talents will fit the most? Who places you in what show?

Julia: Nick and Matt. This has started within the last few shows that they've held auditions among our group. Mostly just so that everyone can come in and get a chance to read, and maybe show something that then the Langs haven't seen before, or for the Langs to confirm, "Yes, this is the right person for the role." So everyone came in and auditioned specifically for these two shows. The big one was that Oregon is a much more song-heavy show, so the stronger singers ended up in that show. A lot of the jokes of Annie - and the story of Annie - have been developed over the years among some of the friends, specifically the guys. So a lot of those people [who] have been in on those jokes were cast in Annie. But, really, they put people where they felt was best. We all came in and read from multiple parts. At one point it was the idea that everyone was going to be in both shows [and] you'd have a bigger part in one show, be in the ensemble of the other, and then vice versa. I am glad that didn't happen. I think that would have been a nightmare. And because it's eight performances a week, [you also have to think about] rehearsing. Because [we were] rehearsing two shows at once, they were able to split. If we were all in both shows, I don't know how we would have rehearsed because, as it was, we pulled it off by the skin of our teeth the night before we opened. So yeah, it's the Langs, mostly, [who] really place each other. And I'm sure Jeff had input on Oregon as well.

Eric S.: I do have to ask because there are scripts sitting on this table that you guys have brought here - Starship Requiem - have you guys done the read-through yet at Leaky? How did that go in general? Was there a good audience reaction to that?

Jim: I thought the audience reacted really well, especially considering that it's a very heady show. There's a lot of high concepts, a lot of giant robots, [and] a really visually immersive world that the audience wasn't seeing at all. So for them to follow [and] read along was very impressive, and they did so really well. I think it speaks to the strength of the writing because, line for line, it's really strong. There are also some incredible concepts in the show from a sci-fi and fantasy perspective overall.

Eric K.G.: Yeah, I agree. It went great.

Eric S.: Obviously you guys have got so much going on that this won't ever see the full puppeteering stage treatment. Do you think they wrote it specifically because it was never going to be performed? So that there might be super high-[concept], you said, giant robots, things that would never really be cool [or] comfortable visualizing, ever, onstage?

Eric K.G.: We do this thing fairly often, about twice a year, called "24-hour theater," where we'll all get as many people together [as we can], go over to the Lang's house, and everyone will write something over the course of 12 or 24 hours. So we'll start at noon, and the next day at noon, we'll read…

Jim: Everybody cheats all the time, especially the Langs and Eric.

[Everyone speaks at once]

Eric K.G.: Yeah well, the cheating would be…

Jim: They’re the biggest cheaters.

[Everyone speaks at once]

Eric K.G.: There's literally no rule that you can't have preconceived it, or you can't have written [it] before!

Jim: I do write it before I’ve seen it.

Eric K.G.: Oh sure, sure. All right. So that's how Twisted got written. We wrote, saying…

Jim: I don't think cheating is always bad, to be honest.

Eric K.G.: Yeah. It's a creative exercise that I think is so valuable and a lot of cool stuff [had] come out of it. Lauren and Julia did a version of “The Moms." It was awesome. The first year we did it, they did a version of “The Moms," the first act of Twisted got written during one of these things, and the year before we wrote the first act of Twisted, Nick and Matt wrote this. And I don't think it was with the intention to put it on. Nick and Matt are sequel-oriented people. They're always joking about sequels, and so this is a joke that they would have written a sequel to Starship because the idea of mounting another one would be crazy. But it came out so well that this year they thought maybe we could do this as one of the StarKid shows. So this was planned to be one of the shows for the season. And it only didn't happen because of scheduling problems with some of the key cast that couldn't make it to the season. It ended up getting replaced with Oregon and so I couldn't speak to if they're going produce it ever as a full musical. I think it'd be great if they did. It's very funny and very good.

Julia: Also, though, the thing is, when you read, the Langs always write in stage directions that will never be accomplished on the stage. They don't write as if it's going to be a stage thing. Not in a bad way, they just write for what they envision, and then they know that they're going to adjust it for the stage later. [It] has been funny, though, because in the past, sometimes early on when they were working with the designers, they would present these scripts, and the designers didn't realize yet that the Langs knew it was a joke and [it] wasn't ever going to happen. You'd get these designers [who]'d be like, “Okay, so how exactly is this 200-foot-tall robot going to walk through the door?” They'd be like, “Wait a minute, how am I supposed to make this happen?” And [the Langs would be] like, “No, no, no, no, no, that doesn't happen. It's a joke!” I wish everyone could read every script because the stage direction the Langs write are just as funny as the scripts themselves, and they'll never get seen by people.

Eric K.G.: The funniest one is from the first Harry Potter. When the Avada Kedavra spell bounces back onto Voldemort, the stage directions say, “Joe Walker dies. He evaporates. He just evaporates. He's dead onstage.” It's very, very funny.

Eric S.: That's crazy. I have to ask, with Trail to Oregon! being the Oregon Trail video game that we all played in school on the Apple Mac computers when we were young, nothing is safe. You guys have touched Disney; you're not afraid. You've done a ton of sci-fi [and] everything else. What, from your childhoods, each, separately, would you now like to see turned into a StarKid show if you're feeling nostalgic about something that hasn't yet been adapted?

Julia: Rainbow Brite. Do you guys remember Rainbow Brite?

Brian: Is it a toy?

Julia: No! It was a girl. You [don't] remember Rainbow Brite? The Rainbow Brite series? And she would go on these little adventures, and she had those tall... I don't know, Rainbow Brite.

Eric S.: I'm saying Lite Brite.

Brian: Yeah, that's what I was thinking!

Eric S.: Lite Brite. I'm just thinking of Lite Brite.

Jim: Well, I think with the Langs’ interest in My Little Pony, and the similarities between Rainbow Brite and My Little Pony, they could do some sort of world-bender mishmash.

Eric K.G.: The thing about the My Little Pony... What's funny about that is when we were in high school, Nick and I did make a My Little Pony play. We did it. We took the My Little Pony movie script and we adapted it as a play and performed it as part of a high school play performance competition we used to do. It went over like gangbusters; people loved it! It was amazing. But now My Little Pony is so…

Brian: The parents loved it.

Eric K.G.: No, no. [This] high school audience [and] these kids that [we were] competing against were dying, man. It worked great. But My Little Pony now has been revamped as the best cartoon show ever made. You can't make fun of it. It's impossible. But they already did it in the sense [that] Puppy Kitties is a parody of that kind of animation style. Puppy Kitties. No one knows what that is? No one's seen the…

Jim: Our viewers do.

[Everyone speaks at once]

Eric K.G.: But that's a tough question with the StarKid stuff. After Twisted, we were like, "What could you do ever again?" They've done Harry Potter. Disney. They already did Lord of the Rings, sci-fi.

[Everyone speaks at once]

Julia: They could redo Lord of the Rings. Me and my Dick was a totally original thing. There is the capacity for original stuff. Oregon 's an original thing.

[Everyone speaks at once]

Julia: Sort of, but it's so not about the video game. Do you know what I mean? It's so not about the video game. I think there's the capacity for original stuff as well.

Eric K.G.: Sure, you can always do an original thing, but there's something appealing about taking something that people already have ideas about [and] playing on those ideas. It's a tough thing to figure out.

Eric S.: I think we're nearing the end of our interview, but I do want to ask, while we're here: Since you guys have done Holy Musical, Batman!, obviously - two StarKids [and] you forgot about Batman - who's your favorite superhero? What type of bug is your favorite bug? And what's your favorite actual Disney musical? There are those three questions.

Jim: I do love Spider-man a lot but my favorite superhero is probably Morph from X-Men. He's a lot like Mystique, who Jennifer Lawrence plays in the movies. He's more of a prankster. He's got a very funny sense of humor. In the animated series, he dies immediately by the Sentinels and then he comes back, but I wouldn't want to spoil too much. I know you're going to watch that pretty soon. [My favorite] Disney musical would probably be The Lion King. I'm a bandwagoner, I guess. And [my favorite] bug, that's a tough one. I'll just say bug from Starship because I don't have a real answer.

Eric K.G.: So my favorite superhero is definitely Spider-Man. I love earthworms, they're my favorite bug. Are they an insect? Is an earthworm an insect? And they're all wonderful musicals, man. Probably the one I like the most is The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Jim: I'm going change my answer to rollie pollie.

Brian: I don't know what my favorite is, but I think the most badass superhero was Gambit. [He] just shows up with his exploding cards. Bug... Yeah, earthworms, man. I don't know, [they're] just cool. And I like The Sword in the Stone. Julia?

Julia: I don't follow a lot of superhero stuff [and] I'm not going to pretend so I'm going skip that one. I like inchworms. You know those little green inchworms that come out in the spring? Yeah, I love those little guys. And Mulan is probably one of my favorite Disney musicals.

Robert: My favorite superhero is Batman, but I think it's because I love the villains so much in Batman which makes him awesome but he's a great character as well. My favorite bug is actually this microspecies of bug which is a type of parasite that crawls into birds’ brains and takes over their mind.

Julia: What’s wrong with you?

Robert: I think it's fascinating! I think it's amazing that a bug can do that. And what was the other one? Favorite Disney film? I think [it] is the Aristocats. I watched that recently and I think it's just lovely.

Jim: I'm changing my bug one more time to monarch caterpillars.

Eric S.: Final question. The world is saturated with great television these days. We've got Game of Thrones [and] we've got a lot of people watching Once Upon a Time. If you guys could be on one of those shows as actors, what show would you want to be on that's currently on the air?

Jim: Start with Robert.

Robert: I’m going sound like a weirdo. I'd love to be on Hannibal. I think it's such a great show. I'm going to sound like I'm this morbid person.

Julia: There [are] two sides. If I wanted to stretch dramatically, then I was obsessed with True Detective. I'd love to see a True Detective with two females. But then to have fun, New Girl, because that cast is so funny and they seem like they have so much fun.

Brian: Yeah, I was going say True Detective as well because the writing is just so fantastic. But I would also love to do a voice on Rick and Morty. That show is so funny.

Eric K.G.: I would want to be on The Mindy Project - [I] love Mindy Kaling - or on Community. I would love to be on that. I don't think I'm good enough for that.

Jim: I would love to be on Louie. He's a huge stand-up inspiration for me. And I won't go into specifics of anime, but I would like to do anime voices.

Eric S.: All right! Well, I want to thank you all for your time, and we certainly hope that you keep coming back to LeakyCon. We love seeing you [and] we love seeing everything new that StarKid does, so keep it up. Thank you.


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