Andy started in “Limbo”

Andy Halliday Interview by Jen Bush

Obsessed is a twisted thriller about love, murder and money gone terribly wrong in a Film Noir style.  You can see this riveting production at the Theater for the New City beginning on March 30th and running for 16 performances.  Andy Halliday is one of the talented playwrights of this piece as well as a lead actor.  He’s had a fascinating career as an actor, playwright and filmmaker.  His collaborations with Charles Busch became legendary. We had a chance to chat with him and he was very generous with sharing information about his life and career.

Mr. Halliday was bitten by the entertainment bug early and experienced consistent success in the industry.  “I began my career as a kid, acting in school plays and dancing in a lot of summer stock productions.  As a young man I moved to New York in the early 70’s and broke into commercials and print work.  With an occasional Off Off Broadway showcase thrown in.”  

“As luck would have it in 1983 my best friend Charles Busch wrote a little play titled Vampire Lesbians of Sodom. Charles,  together with seven other friends of his, got together and with Ken Elliott directing,  performed the show at The Limbo Lounge, which had been someone’s apartment, on East 10th between 1st and Ave. A.  It took off like no one expected.  Lines of people formed around the block on weekends when we performed this outrageous show.  And with the success of “Vampires…” Charles wrote several other plays including Pyscho Beach Party, Pardon My inquisition and Theodora, She Bitch of Byzantium”  By now our troupe of eight actors was called Theatre In Limbo, and we became so popular we moved to a bigger venue on 9th Street between B and C.   We were in the East Village at just the right time.  People from everywhere in the city were flocking to see our delightfully outrageous troupe.” 

“Vampire Lesbians…”  moved Off Broadway in 1985 and was a huge hit.  Charles wrote several more Off-Broadway plays, utilizing all the regular Theatre In Limbo actors.  For our second to last play, The Lady In Question, in which I played “Lotte”, a little Nazi girl, fashioned after The Bad Seed who killed people. I received the coveted Hirschfeld drawing.  To me equivalent to winning the Tony Award,  it was that fabulous for me.’

‘’Then in 1988 I wrote a play titled Sex Slaves of The Lost Kingdom and another in 1991, I Can’t Stop Screaming.   Both very well received.   In 1992 I went inti rehab to deal with a very bad cocaine addiction.  The epidemic called AIDS, in which, like others, lost so may friends I couldn’t handle it and turned to drugs to escape.  Then I got sober from cocaine addiction and walked away from acting for ten years.   I went corporate, so I could have benefits, a regular paycheck and a normal, grounded life.  And to be of service to others.’’

“In 2002 my company was bought out.  I took the package they offered and bought an APPLE computer, editing software and a digital video camera and began making short films, which I later sold to TLA VIDEO.”   

“I got a job at  Broadway Cares in 2003 and began another career in non-profit which I loved.  In 2010 I did my final Off Broadway play,  directed by my former director and dear friend Ken Elliott.   It was titled Devil Boys From Beyond.  And it was written by Buddy Thomas and Ken.  And got wonderful reviews.”  

“In 2014 my friend G.R. Johnson, whom I met in 1995 when we played best friends in an indie flick called A Level Field by Ken Haywood.  The two of us formed a theatre company called Windowpane Theatre Company and produced two plays I wrote and he directed.  Nothing But Trash and the autobiographical play Up The Rabbit Hole.   Both big hits.  It was very exciting to be acting and writing again”’”‘I wrote a musical comedy in 2018 titled Those Musclebound Cowboys From Snakepit Gulch which I collaborated on with Frank Schiro, who wrote the wonderful score and C.J. Critt who wrote the brilliant lyrics.  I starred in it at Dixon Place and it sold out in two days.   Then it had another sold-out run-in Palm Springs at The Desert Rose Playhouse.  And all these plays had originally started their development at The Playground Experiment.  A playwriting group in the West Village.”  

“In 2019 I began work on a new play titled Ball of String which was going to be about my breakup with G.R. Johnson because he wanted to adopt a baby with his husband and hadn’t any more time to devote to the theatre company.  Then my friend Russell told me stories about his many sex-capades with young men. Russell had turned 50 and some of these boys were crazy and broke, and I felt were taking advantage of him.  It gave me the idea about a rich old man, lonely and addicted to hustlers, getting mixed up with a couple of grifters, with dangerous consequences.  I retitled the play Obsessed.  I personally have a problem with obsession.  I also wanted to play a male role, having played a lot of roles on stage as women. And I wanted to have a love scene with another man on stage. I wonder if I’ll come away feeling more like a sexual being getting to have love scenes with another man on stage.”  

  “This play is going to be my “Swan Song” to performing on stage.  I’m moving to Palm Springs around May, or as soon as I sell my apartment.  But they say “Never say never” right?”

“G.R. had been my dramaturge on my other three shows, and I work best in a collaboration with someone else.  So my good friend David McDermott, who had cast our other three shows, came on board after I had had several readings of Obsessed  over a years time.  He loved the play and really turned it around with his skills as a writer.  He made it deeper and more complex.    I’m really proud to put my name on it. “ 

“I’m turning 70, on stage, on March 31st. and on our last show in April 22 It’s going to be my AA Anniversary of 31 years.  So it’s quite a way to bookend a life and a career.  What a wonderful way to finish this very exciting career that’s been beyond my wildest dreams.”  

Mr. Halliday knows that the early bird catches the work.  That’s why his creative process involves being an early riser.  In his work, he draws inspiration from old movies and he uses music to help get the creative juices flowing.  “My writing process is I get up at 4 or 5am and begin writing.  I post on Facebook and then work on which ever project I have going at the moment.  I even did a short play titled The Facebook Land Diaries in 2018  Which was a ball.”  I base a lot of my plays on old movies because I’m so addicted to them.  Especially Film Noir.   I lined up a lot of Film Noir soundtracks on my IPHONE, turned them on and started to write.  I always listen to music when I write.  “Nothing But Trash’ were the scores for “Peyton Place” and “A Summer Place”.  “Musclebound Cowboys” I listened to old time western musical comedies and “Obsessed’, “Sunset Boulevard”, “Double Indemnity”, “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers”, “Possessed” and “Laura”.”   

Mr. Halliday feels that certain television genres have impacted the landscape of theatre somewhat.  He would like to provide the audience with a unique and enjoyable theatrical experience.  “If the audience comes away with anything it’s that they had a good time.  It’s very rare in this day and age to see thrillers on stage.  I think TV robbed us of that, with shows such as Murder She Wrote among more episodic  TV.”

After contributing prolifically to the performing arts in multiple ways, this recent retiree is ready to make a big move.  Hopefully before he goes, he can stir up some obsession with audiences who come to see his show!  “I retired from Broadway Cares at the end of 2022, and as I said I’m moving out west.  My thought was to give up playwriting completely.  I just need a collaborator and right now every artistic person I know lives here in New York.   I don’t know what will happen but everything, every day is an adventure and I never know what’s around the corner.  Life is hard, it’s not perfect, but it is thrilling and I’m very grateful for the life I’ve had thus far.” 

Become obsessed with Obsessed at the Theater for the New City from March 30th to April 22nd

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