The directors chair for the therapist’s couch

A Therapy Session with Myself, a full-length, semi-autobiographical drama by Anthony J. Piccione about the inner struggles of living with mental illness and Asperger’s syndrome, premieres January 2019 at the Hudson Guild Theatre, 441 W 26th Street, as part of the New York Theatre Festival’s 2019 NYWinterfest.

Performance schedule is Tuesday, January 15 @ 9pm, Wednesday, January 16 @ 6:15pm and Saturday, January 19 @ 3:30pm. Tickets cost $23 and can be purchased at the door or by visiting www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3798842.

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A Therapy Session with Myself tells the story of Alex Grayson, a young college student and aspiring writer suffering from severe social anxiety, depression and Asperger’s syndrome. During the summer before his senior year, he receives a mysterious visit from “himself”, a human incarnation of his inner consciousness. As they interact, Alex is forced to reflect on his own flaws and personality quirks, as well as some of the darkest and most painful memories of his adolescence, while also pondering the question of whether or not he can overcome his inner demons, and ultimately build a brighter future for himself.

Holly Payne-Strange.jpgHolly Payne-Strange returns as director of a Piccione piece. She also has just returned from directing the London tour of Love, Genius and a Walk, and is the resident director of Fireside Mystery Theater, a podcast with over two million downloads. She is one of World Ocean Arts’s Stand Out Artists of 2017, and was nominated for Best Director for her work on An Energy Tale at the Midtown International Theatre Festival (by Piccione). She has directed at various theaters, including Theater 80 St. Marks, the Davenport Theater, Wild Project, Theater for the New City, the Secret Theater, and many more. She is proud to be a part of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.

 

We got her just before she began tech for Therapy. 🙂

 

What are you learning about yourself as a person from working on this play?
Well this is the most cohesive backstage team I’ve worked with. Anthony is great, as is Andres, my assistant director. Very often, I’ll be contacted by someone outside of NYC whose work has been accepted into a festival. They’ll just email me a script, and a minuscule budget and tell me to figure it out. It’s nice to have the freedom, but it’s lonely and it can be a lot of work. 
This also the first time I’ve had an assistant at all, and it’s really letting me focus on what I love. For instance, watching the actors instead of being on book for them. It’s also helping me refine how I direct, because it means I have to explain my process to other people, instead of just having it in my own head. It’s also a very challenging script and it’s great to be able to collaborate with two other really talented artists. So it’s really helping me develop as a director.
Give us your thoughts on indie theatre and if you want to go commercial at some point. 
I love indie theater- as long as it’s New York.  I’ve done some indie stuff in London, and while it was a great experience, the scene isn’t for me. I find that New York has the energy, drive and passion to really make indie work. We know how to get the most out of every single penny and how to work long hours. Of course, I don’t know if this is healthy! But it’s fun, it’s exciting and the opportunities for theater are endless.
What’s it like with the playwright right there – as opposed to one not there (or not alive).  
Well, Anthony is great! He trusts me a lot and I really appreciate that. I feel like I can new try things, and experiment in the rehearsal room, which is really important. He also is really good about giving feedback and not contradicting me in front of the cast. (As a woman, I have this issue a lot.) We talk about any issues privately and I’ll implement any changes he wants, but he lets me do it in my own way. In general, it can be a little complicated to have the writer there, because their another audience I have to talk to. When I talk to actors, I don’t just think about what I’m saying, I think about how I say it. Actors work in different ways and they need different approaches. Some need positive reinforcement a lot, some need structure, some (the scariest!) are great at auditions, great at live shows, but flat in rehearsals. Directing is about working with theater creators and getting the best out of them, so you need to be deliberate with how you communicate.  For instance, if an actor has tried something new, I will never be overly negative about it, even if it’s awful, because I don’t want them to get shy and clam up. I’ll thank them for their idea and gently steer them in a different direction.  But if you don’t know what I’m doing, this can come across as if I have really bad taste!  
When I’m directing, I’m usually thinking “how will this be perceived?” 
What’s next?
Well, hopefully A Therapy Session With Myself will be continuing into the spring! As for myself, I’m working on writing a play about Anne Hutchinson (a fabulous woman) and I’m directing the fantastic Fireside Mystery Theater, a podcast with over 2.5 million downloads. It’s old time radio horror with a modern twist! Check us out on iTunes, or catch our live show every month at the Slipper Room.
And speaking of her assistant…
Andres.jpgAndres Gallardo Bustillo is a Colombian musical theatre performer and director based in New York City. He graduated from The New York Film Academy’s Musical Theatre and Film Professional Conservatory. His theatre credits include Indio (West Side Story) at SummerStage Leonia, Peter (Peter/Wendy) with The AlphaNYC Theatre Company, Gomez (Ybor City) and Antonio (Vagina Town: The Musical) at the 13th Street Repertory Theatre. Film Credits include: For Julie and Bang! Boom! Pow!. His directing and choreographing credits include: The Twelve Dates Of Christmas at the Davenport Theatre and The Lion King at the Montessori Theatre in Colombia. He is glad to be joining the creative team of A Therapy Session with Myself!

 

 

 

What are you learning about yourself as a person from working on this play?

I came into this process of the creation of A Therapy Session With Myself in a moment of my life that was meant to be. Some personal stuff have been happening these past weeks and the process of creating a piece like this one has kept me sane. It reminded me that we, as artists, are creators and that creating id the fuel of that car we car soul. I’ve learned that whatever I’m going through I can always go back to creating, specially with a group like this one.

Give us your thoughts on indie theatre and if you want to go commercial at some point. 

I have to say that I don’t care about what people call “industrial”, or if this or any show is industrial or not. What is important is to make art. People should leave the theater asking questions art shouldn’t answer those questions for them. Our job as artists is to hold a mirror to society and expose those topics that the world is too afraid to talk about. “Going commercial” is just being in the right place at the right time, but I hope that when I get to that place and that moment arrive I’ll be creating and showing my art, my truth.

What’s it like with the playwright right there – as opposed to one not there (or not alive)?

I feel that having the playwright right there is like having another point of view of the play, another hand. And there’s nothing better and more pure than a group of artists that get together to create.

What’s next?

Fortunately, for me as an artist a lot of new projects coming my way, that unfortunately I can’t share yet, but REALLY excited. 

With Anthony, I know that we also have great new projects in mind in which we will be collaborating together.

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