Thursday, 16 July 2015

I Am Not Dramaturgy These Days: Tom Stuart @ Edfringe 2015

I Am Not Myself These Days 
The Pleasance 
5-30 Aug (not 17, 24)  
produced by Fuel.

Stunningly witty and ultimately deeply moving one man show adapted from Josh Kilmer-Purcell's searingly honest, outrageously intimate best selling memoir of a young man living a double life in the heady days and nights of the mid-'90s New York gay scene.

We follow Josh through alcohol-fueled nights and a love affair with Jack, a crack-addicted male escort. By day Josh just about holds down an advertising job while night time finds him becoming Aqua, a 7-foot-tall award-winning drag queen who trolls gay clubs in search of her next drink/one nightstand. Then she meets high-class rent boy and crack addict Jack...
Adapted and performed with raw honesty by Fringe First timer Tom Stuart, directed by Nick Bagnall (Associate Director, Liverpool Everyman) and produced by three time Herald Angel Award and Fringe First winners Fuel. The show will tour in autumn 2015.

The Fringe

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?

I read the book (by Josh Kilmer-Purcell) about five years ago and was struck by its honesty and humour. I fell in love with the central character, Josh. I was going through a bad break-up and was in the middle of questioning all sorts of things about myself, so I felt a strong affinity to him. 

He's an alcoholic drag queen living in a world of extremes and I knew immediately I wanted to play him. So actually it was a desire to play Josh that led me to adapt the book.

Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
Why wouldn't I?! I love the festival, there's something very urgent and immediate about it. It's a great place to come and share your work.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
The show is part unconventional love story, and part story of self-discovery, some people will connect more with one of these elements, some both. My hope is the audience will take away the sense that although the characters circumstances are extreme and removed from their own, their problems are universal. That there is more that connects us all, than there is that divides us. (I also hope they'll have a laugh and enjoy themselves in the process!).

The Dramaturgy Questions
How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
It's been a vital part of the process for me. As a first time writer it was essential to receive feedback from people I trust and admire. I'm fortunate to know some incredible artists who were able to offer advice and guidance. Nick Bagnall (the show's director), was my official dramaturg, and involved from the beginning. I'd have been lost without his firm and insightful notes. Without feedback and guidance you can feel like your just throwing things into the void, you need to know your ideas are landing.

What particular traditions and influences would you acknowledge on your work - have any particular artists, or genres inspired you and do you see yourself within their tradition?
I think I'm probably a bit of a sponge, and have soaked up all sorts of influences from different genres. I'm an avid reader of novels and watcher of plays, films and television. I also love people watching, I relish sitting back and listening to people on the bus, zoning in on their lives. So I suppose I set the net quite wide. I think the thing I'm most attracted to is honesty, in whatever form - an honest expression of what it is to be human.

Do you have a particular process of making that you could describe - where it begins, how you develop it, and whether there is any collaboration in the process?
I have no real process that I stick to, it's different for each project. I suppose the only constants are starting writing early - like 6 or 7am, and always in bed! I keep writing until I feel like I've got whatever it is that needs to come out, out. Then I walk away from it and come back to it the next day, review and refine it.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
As a writer and an actor I have two sets of eyes on the audience. I try and use what I know of an audience from my work as an actor - how I feel a particular idea or feeling might land, how long to leave a beat etc. So I have them in view throughout the whole process.

Edinburgh Fringe 2015: Theatre, World Premiere

Fuel presents

I Am Not Myself These Days
Written and performed by Tom Stuart
Directed by Nick Bagnall
Adaptation of Josh Kilmer-Purcell's best-selling autobiography

1990s New York. Aqua is an alcoholic drag queen desperately trying to make a relationship work with Jack, a high-class crack addicted rent boy.

I Am Not Myself These Days is a one-man show that is by turns brutal, funny and heartbreaking, a surprising tale of love and loss, set amidst the excesses of late 20th century New York.

The show is adapted for the stage from Josh Kilmer-Purcell's autobiography, a bestselling, darkly funny memoir of a young New Yorker's daring dual life - advertising art director by day, glitter-dripping drag queen by night.

‘Honest and entertaining ... affecting, always engaging, this is a confession to relish’ Time Out

‘...absolutely hilarious and heartbreaking and heartfelt’ Armistead Maupin

(on Kilmer-Purcell’s book)

Although the characters pride themselves on their unconventionality, their problems are universal. Tom Stuart was moved to adapt the novel for the stage to bring the personal journeys of marginalised members of society within LGBTQ communities - and those who live with addiction - into a wider context, seeking to help break down the barriers of prejudice.

Tom Stuart has worked extensively in theatre around the UK. His TV work includes Kathy Burke’s Walking and Talking, Psychobitches, Little Crackers and Law and Order. Films include Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Michael Winterbottom’s The Look of Love
, and John Boorman’s Queen and Country.

Director Nick Bagnall has recently become Associate Director at Liverpool Everyman and has previously worked with both classics and musicals ranging from ‘Guys and Dolls’ to Joe Orton’s ‘Entertaining Mr Sloane’ He has created and led acting and directing workshops for the RSC, National Theatre, Liverpool Playhouse, and West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Funded by Arts Council England

Produced by three time Herald Angel Award winners Fuel. Founded in 2004 and led by Louise Blackwell and Kate McGrath, Fuel produces fresh work for adventurous audiences by inspiring artists. Fuel is also presenting Fiction by David Rosenberg and Glen Neath and Racheal Ofori’s Portrait by at this years Fringe. Fuel is Associate Producer on Clod Ensemble's The Red Chair. See separate releases.

Venue: Pleasance Courtyard Forth (Venue 33)

Dates: 5-30 Aug (not 17, 24)

Time: 16.15 (75 mins)

Tickets: £11 - £7.50 (previews 5-7 Aug £6)

Venue Box Office: 0131 556 6550 

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