Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Andrea Alton Talks to David Baxter about "Possum Creek"

Interview by David Baxter
Photo by Jeremy Patlan

Andrea Alton is a New York based actor, comic, and an award winning playwright who performs sketch comedy, stand-up and improv all over New York. Andrea has performed at the Chicago, Toronto, Washington DC, Boston, San Francisco Comedy Festivals and as well as numerous shows in Provincetown, MA. She is the creator of Molly “Equality” Dykeman and has performed the character to sold-out houses internationally. Her holiday shows A Molly Jolly Christmas & Happy Mollydays ran at The Laurie Beechman Theatre where they received rave reviews. As a comic, Andrea performs regularly throughout New York, Venues include, Gotham, Comedy Cellar, Dixon Place, Carolines, The Broadway Comedy Club, The Knitting Factory, UCB, The PIT, Stonewall and The Duplex. Andrea has also been featured in GO Magazine as 100 Women We Love as well as Curve Magazine, The Advocate, Provincetown Magazine, The Village Voice and The NY Post. As a writer, Andrea’s plays have been produced throughout the country with notable productions in New York, Washington DC, Florida, and Provincetown, MA. Her one-act comedy, Cat & Dick, won the Grand Jury Award from The Speaking Ring Theater in Chicago. 

Andrea's latest play, Possum Creek, recently played to several sold out houses at the FringeNYC Festival, and was picked up as a featured show in The 2nd Annual Best of the Fest at The Celebration of Whimsy.  David Baxter recently had a chance to catch up with her and talk about Possum Creek.

Can you tell me a little about your background, who you are, where you’re from, what brought you to NYC?

I moved to New York seventeen years ago after growing up in Oregon and a brief stint in Los Angeles. Rent had just opened on Broadway and I wanted to be a part of the vibrant and gritty New York theatre scene. My first six months in New York almost killed me but thankfully I stuck it out. New York has been the perfect fit for me.

What is this show about?

Possum Creek is a quirky 8 character play set in the 1860’s. It follows the main character, Beth Ann, as she waits for her husband to return from the Civil War. It’s a funny play that has a lot of social commentary in it.

There are several characters in the play that are gay. It’s important to me that I represent that community, and I have no interest in creating a play that has a bunch of straight people in it. Also, the theme of love and relationships is a big part of the play so it would have felt wrong to not have LGBT characters in it.

What made you want to write this show?

I’m fascinated with different time periods and perhaps I watched too much Little House on the Prairie when I was growing up.

Can you tell me about the process of creating the show? How did you come up with the characters? Did you do any big or unusual research?

The main character, Beth Ann, came out of a 5 minute sketch I wrote with Robin Gelfenbien back in 2005 when we were part of the sketch comedy group Freedumb. I had always wanted to do something with the character of Beth Ann and I wanted to write something that wasn’t set in the current time. About three years ago, I turned it into a ten minute monologue. After getting positive feedback, I kept working on the show and the other characters and story slowly started to emerge.

As for research, I read a lot about the Civil War and what life was like during the 1860s. I’m so thankful Google exists. I was always on the look for things that were odd and potentially funny. For instance, one of the characters loses a family member and I wanted it to be an accurate illness from that time. I goggled different types of plagues and illness’s and I found an illness called Putrid Fever. In comedy, you can’t go wrong with the putrid.

What made you choose to play multiple characters?

I love playing different characters. It brings me so much joy. For the last ten years I’ve wanted to create a show with multiple characters. Whoopi Goldberg and Lily Tomlin solo shows also influenced me.

What sort of acting/staging challenges has playing multiple characters presented?

At first it was really hard for me to go from one character to the next. In the beginning I hesitated and second guess myself. I had to force myself to get out of my head and not judge everything. The other challenge was keeping the play moving since it’s virtually a series of letters. Thankfully, I had an amazing director (Eric Chase) who really helped bring the play to life. The play could have very easily got stuck in a rut but it doesn’t. lt’s a fast, funny 50 minutes.

Is there anything you’re working on next?

I’m waiting for HBO and CBS to call me and make me a sitcom offer. Hopefully they’ll call in the next few weeks because I’d like to buy my parents a new house and get them moved in before Thanksgiving. In the meantime, I have a full length play I’d like to finish, my creative partner (the amazing Allen Warnock) and I are working on a few comedy shorts, and I have some upcoming Molly “Equality” Dykeman shows. I’m very excited about the future. 

Possum Creek runs at Celebration of Whimsy, 21-A Clinton Street.
Friday, September 25th at 7:00 pm
Thursday, October 1st at 7:00 pm
Friday, October 2nd at 7:00 pm