Aaron chatted with New York Theatre Review about the importance of storytelling and Warner Bros. cartoons!
AARON ROSSINI: Fault Line Theatre's Frogs
By Jody Christopherson
JODY: Why do you make theater?
AARON ROSSINI: I make theater because I believe that the way in which our species understands the world is through storytelling. All the ups and downs, the awful and the beautiful, everything that happens in the world is understood through the shared action of storytelling. It’s so exciting for me as an audience member to stand up and scream, that’s me up there on that stage in this book, in that poem, on that screen, wherever it happens to be. I enjoy the great responsibility of being an artist who tells that story. I make theater because I loved being an audience member so much and wanted to participate in that.
JODY: Tell us about your process for rehearsing Frogs.
AARON ROSSINI: The process for rehearsing Frogs or any play that we would ever do or have done is to begin with the words, start with what is on the page. It’s a slow process, and we start at the table, reading the words, discovering what they mean, what the thoughts are that are attached to each word, sentence and phrase. We explore how those thoughts are being communicated to the other characters onstage and to the audience, and from there we build the play up from a read through to table work to more table work to standing on our feet, how we are going to physically communicate this. You can’t just stand up and say it, you have to build your physical life from a profound understanding of the language and of the story you are choosing to tell. You have to know how the grammar works, how the words connect to that moment, how that moment connects to the rest of the play. With this play a lot of work went into making sure we took responsibility for both of the major aspects of this story, the wild comedy that’s happening but also the deep human needs of the play, the hard look Aristophanes is taking at his civilization and, by extension, ours.
JODY: Clearly Fault Line is a theatre company dedicated to the exploration of language and text. In addition to this consideration, what made you choose to produce Frogs?
AARON ROSSINI: I would be lying if i shied away from the fact that we chose to do Frogs, just like we chose to do Faustus, because no one does these plays. We’ve got a bit of a chip on our shoulder about that. They have survived for a reason, because they’re good, this play has been around for 2500 years and it’s still here and I’ve never seen it. That excites me as an actor and a producer and a theatre goer, check it out, they’re doing that. So I think there’s a little of that in it. I also think that this play is extraordinarily relevant, my mind is always blown away when something so old is so vibrantly and elegantly speaking about right now. Also, I’m a cartoon addict and the first time that I reread this play when I was choosing our season I couldn’t help but think that it should be produced by Warner Bros, it should be Bugs and Daffy and Elmer as a theater company producing Aristophanes’ Frogs. There’s a beginning to all this comedy stuff and Aristophanes is a part of that beginning. I’m going to jump at the opportunity to direct a cartoon because, well, I can’t draw, and Aristophanes has given us a great gift here.
JODY: Tell us about the original music in Frogs?
AARON ROSSINI: Greek plays all have chorus speeches, and I can think of nothing more boring to me than a large group of people in masks and robes speaking in unison. Eric Thomas Johnson has done this incredible job of creating original music that has made the choral moments pop and move the story forward in a way that I don’t think the traditional chorus can do. The content is all intact, and very important, but the human element is so much more vibrant. Accordion, ukulele, guitar, melodeon, slide whistle, kazoo; the music enhances the play without distracting from it. What I have learned from the music and from this process is that what one is supposed to do as a director is to hire brilliant people and let them do the thing that they are brilliant at doing. ETJ’s ideas were never about him but about supporting the play and the company of actors communicating a story. Music can express so much all at once, different thoughts and emotions and voices together and it buoys the story in a beautiful way.
JODY: Favorite places below 14th street?
AARON ROSSINI: 440 Studios, where we rehearse plays, is #1. Death and Co, because they make the best cocktails, period. We go to Swift for Guinness and oysters.
Hearth. Because it’s incredible.
Fault Line Theatre Presents;
directed by Aaron Rossini
A rowdy, bawdy romp through the underworld, FROGS is a celebration of humor and a poignant examination of the purpose of art. Inventing what would become the finest traditions of modern comedy, Aristophanes brings to life characters that belong in the same breath as the Three Stooges, Mel Brooks and Looney Tunes. A night of original music, jokes and capable storytelling, FROGS is a comedy event 2,500 years in the making.
Fourth Street Theatre
83 East 4th Street
between Bowery & 2nd Ave.; Subway: F to 2nd Ave., B/D to Broadway/Lafayette or 6 to Bleecker
November 4 through 19, 2011.
Director: Aaron Rossini
Cast: Rachel Christopher*, Matt Clevy*, Craig Divino*, Becky Gibel*, Karl Gregory*, Scott Raker*, Haa Regen*, Blake Segal*, David Rudi Utter*, John Tracey:
Set Design: Tristan Jeffers | Costume Design: Allison Crutchfield
Lighting Design: John Eckert | Composer: Eric Thomas Johnson
Vocal/Speech Coach: Jimmy King | Assistant Director: Brandt Adams
Production Stage Manager: Jamie Steffen
Fault Line Theatre is a collaborative group of artists dedicated to producing plays, classical and modern. The core of Fault Line Theatre is the text. The company converts the potential energy of a playwright’s words into action, creating productions that engage and inspire. Fault Line Theatre strives to understand and transmit a story from within the text — shear the unnecessary and seek the essential.
Last year, the company kicked off its season with a lauded production of Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.
“After such an auspicious maiden voyage, we can expect many, to quote Marlowe, more ‘sweete speeches, comedies, and pleasing showes,’ from this ambitious new troupe.” — Show Business Magazine