Taeghan Buggy got the opportunity to sit down with the brains and bodies of Starc Productions for a talk about who they are, what they do, and their upcoming production at the Bakehouse Theatre.
From the get-go, the energy that Marc Clements, Stephanie Rossi, and Tony Night bring to the table is obvious. They have an easy rapport that lends itself to rapid fire conversation and a back-and-forth of ideas and topics. It’s something that they’ve made their own since the conception of their production company. Eighteen months and several productions later, Starc are gearing up for their next production, A Night at the Theatre; a selection of short comedic plays by American playwright, David Ives.
From the moment they amalgamated, Starc has built itself on a several founding tenets. ‘It was all very quick,’ Marc admits about the company’s conception, to which Steph adds ‘We did a collaboration and then went “lets make our three names one” [to form the company], and then we did.’ But despite this impromptu start, Steph admits that all three of them were agreed on wanting ‘the story, the acting, and the characters to be central. The bare minimum that we needed with props and staging’. ‘Our aesthetic is Starc by name, stark by nature’, Tony jokes.
Starc theatre is one that is also intended to provoke thought. Steph says, ‘We like to create conversations in the foyer. For every single one of our plays, I think we can safely say that people have gone out to the foyer and there has been conversations.’
‘[The audience] think we’re withholding the last two pages of the script and that we have answers,’ Marc adds.
‘But we like to create that conversation and that people are able to make up their own mind about what happens next because they’ve been so invested in the story that they make their own interpretations,’ Steph says.
The play’s Starc choose don’t necessarily wrap the story up in a neat bow, nor do they always have characters who are depicted in terms of black-and-white. ‘But good acting challenges’, ‘and I think that attracts us.’
The trio also ‘wanted to put on pieces that people maybe hadn’t seen before.’ ‘But that’s not adverse to actually honouring a past tradition,’ Tony adds, ‘It was great doing Neil Simon’s The Last of the Red Hot Lovers, for example.’
And what do Starc look for when they choose a new production?
‘We change genres each time,’ Marc states. ‘We don’t follow psychological thriller with a thriller.’
‘We look at what we’ve done so far and go “okay, where do we want to go now?” Steph says.
‘We [also] look on a slightly international level for example,’ Tony says, ‘– I’m not going to give the game away [about our next production] – but Terrence McNally was honoured at this years Tonys for a lifetime achievement award, and so we immediately went, “Well, why don’t we do a Terrence McNally?”’
Emotionally connecting to the play is also an important factor; Tony stating that ‘Stanislavsky talks about that; he calls it the lure for an actor, the thing that you hold onto … that sparks the imagination. We look for that. The three of us know each other well enough that we can tell. That kind of honesty and trust is really important.’
‘For this [production],’ Tony says, ‘Marc wanted to do some really wacky, crazy comedy. And we went “Okay, we’re going to some really wacky, crazy comedy”. We’d looked at David Ives’s Venus in Fur as a possible play to do – and we still may do it – but then I said, “do you know David Ives’s earlier work, All in the Timing, which is this collection of short little sketches?” You want wacky? We’ll go wacky.’
‘Only two of the five are really linear,’ Steph states of the five one-act plays they’ve chosen to showcase in A Night at the Theatre. It’s a statement Tony backs up by saying, ‘But that’s encouraged us to all really come out of our comfort zone and actually challenge us artistically. I’ve never done anything like this before.’
Delving more into A Night at the Theatre, all three admit to being challenged artistically by it.
‘Sometimes because these guys like naturalism, I’ve got go, “forget the naturalism, just say it.” That’s an understandable challenge because a lot of actors come from a naturalistic base, and in order to get into the style of [these plays] you have to throw that out the window.’ Says Tony.
‘It’s a challenge everyday,’ Marc says, ‘When you talk about building multiple characters … you know what you what to do, but just getting there is hard. In one of the play’s [in A Night at the Theatre], I think we’ve got about fifteen characters each.’ To which Steph adds, ‘And then you’ve got the characters of the other plays as well; so one of the challenges is finding the variations in each of these characters’.
‘But we have a great time,’ says Tony.
‘We laugh so much,’ Steph chips in.
When it comes to who should see A Night at the Theatre? All three agree on one point and that’s ‘everybody’.
‘People who love the English language,’ says Tony of this question. ‘That’s David Ives; he’s completely obsessed with the way we use words; how words can change. People who like comedy, [such as] Saturday Night Live, and vaudeville. The American 1930’s wisecracking style is very much in the spirit of this play. The Americans are the masters of the wise-crack; it’s one of their gifts to comedy.’
‘There’s a play for everyone in it,’ says Marc of the production. It’s a statement that Steph finishes by saying, ‘if you’re able to open your mind and just have a laugh.’
If one thing’s for certain, the audience is ‘going to leave having had your money’s worth –’ ‘ – or completely baffled.’ Marc and Tony joke. Either way, it’ll be a good night out.
A Night at the Theatre is running from the 17th of July to the 27th at the Bakehouse Theatre. Tickets can be purchased here.
Words by Taeghan Buggy
Cover picture from STARC Productions.