I interviewed AJ Epstein, founder of West of Lenin & The Ethereal Mutt, and director of the upcoming Tommy Smith play Demon Dreams. He talked about the unique staging opportunities West of Lenin affords productions, the history of The Ethereal Mutt, and how enjoyable the process of producing this play has been.
James Schreck: Who are the actors? Are there ‘leads’, or would you describe it as an ensemble piece?
AJ Epstein: It’s a true ensemble, and I’m REALLY F’ING LUCKY to have such a great/smart/playful cast. Matthew Aguayo, Susanna Burney, Christopher MacDonald, Sara Peterson, Heather Persinger, Carter Rodriquez. What’s really neat is that I’m both able to work with folks for the first time in years, and also a couple are right out of Cornish (actually, Cornish has really been sending out some incredible talent the last few years, we have at least 5 recent grads who have worked on the show)
JS: Who is the director? Designers?
AE: I’m directing. I’m working with Rick Lorig as scenic designer, who is a semi-regular collaborator of mine, Dominic CodyKramers, who I’ve worked with several times is doing sound. Dave Vaught on lights who I’ve not worked with in about 16 years, but have always been a fan of, Sarah Mosher, who is a new collaborator, but who is WAYYYY crafty and an incredible designer. The Poster was designed by the woodcut artist Charles Spitzak, who is also a recent Cornish grad.
JS: What company is producing it? Any tidbits you can give me about their history?
AE: The show is being produced by The Ethereal Mutt – Limited/AJ Epstein Presents. We’ve been doing shows locally and nationally for about 15 years. Some notables are: John Kaufmann & Dan Dennis’ Starball, Saving Tania’s Privates, Kevin Joyce’s A Pale & Lovely Place, Mike Daisey’s How Theatre Failed America (off broadway), Tim Crouch’s An Oak Tree (off broadway), The Flying Karamazov Brothers, Pali Chant Suite, and a few films to boot.
JS: Are there any particularly notable or unique aspects of the production design?
AE: We’re arranging the space in an ‘alley’ configuration – that’s different from the standard seating layout that we use. I created the space to be a true black box, in that you could arrange it in any number of ways with just a few hours of work. In our first year, we’ve already had a few shows take advantage of that flexibility, but this is the first time that I’ve spun the room around a bit. I’m very excited to have the chance to do so. (Keep in mind that this is the first time I’ve directed in the space, so I’ve had a couple years of pent up ideas and excitement on how I would use the space for a show.)
JS: What’s the #1 reason people should see the play?
AE: It’s really a fun and touching piece. With an incredible cast.