PRE: 'G.U.S.' Improvised, but still a full play structure
PXP was lucky enough to get in touch with Devin Heater, Nick Carrillo, and Langston Belton, the creative team behind G.U.S., one of the 200 shows appearing in New York City's 19th annual Fringe Festival:
1) Complete this sentence: G.U.S. is the only play in Fringe NYC that...
Nick: Will be improvised, but still have a full play structure.
2) What inspired G.U.S.?
Langston: It mainly came from our friendship and our desire to do Improv together, but was kind of brought about by a role playing game we played that really clued us in to the way we liked to play and interact. We wanted to bring that to the stage.
Nick: There was this game called GURPS, and it was like D&D, but somewhat different. We would play it every Sunday, and out of that G.U.S. was born.
Devin: There was a show starring Nate Starkey and Dion Flynn called Shackled. It was a improvised play about two escaped prisoners shackled at the ankle. I saw it at the PIT and loved it because it combined my love of Improv with the longer narrative structure of theater that Improv often lacks. I wanted to do a show like that with my good friends Nick and Langston. I've always been fascinated with post apocalyptic literature, movies, and pop culture. I think that exploring what happens to people when society has been stripped away is interesting. So I approached Nick and Langston with this idea of three men trapped underground at the end of the world. They were excited about the idea and so we did it.
3) Tell us about a memorable experience from the creative process of G.U.S.
Langston: Well, the process was pretty quick. We decided we wanted to play together, and Devin had seen this show with a concept he really loved. He emailed us and said "Hey, I have this idea" and Nick and myself were like, "Cool" and we went from there.
Devin: In one of our earliest shows, we had a moment when a gun was found in the shelter. Langston's character, who typically is the more responsible one, said that he would hide the gun where Nick and I could not find it. In every G.U.S. show there are no props and only two wooden boxes on stage. One of the boxes we used for this show had a lid that opened up. While Langston was hiding the gun, we slyly watched where he put it and immediately retrieved it. So we did it a second time, and again we looked and saw where he put the gun. We did it a final time and that time we actually didn't look, but still went to the box and found the gun. It was a great example of the group mind and trust that can form between improvisers.
Nick: We did a show in Chicago, and in the space found chalk. We used it as part of the show and it was great. It’s a lot of fun using what is around us in the show. That’s the fun of doing an improvised play.
4) What are the difficulties presented with putting on/performing in a show in the New York City Fringe Festival?
Langston: Promotion and advertising. Getting people to understand the concept and build interest is one of the major difficulties. It is a challenge to find new ways to get the word out.
Devin: It's a lot of work and expenses putting a show up in the Fringe. Luckily, we don't have lines to memorize or sets to build. So most of the work is in promoting the show and the everyday pains of producing.
Nick: Promoting the show the way it should be, and getting people to understand what our show really is.
5) What do you hope audiences will take away with them after the show?
Langston: I really hope that the audience comes away with a new perspective on Improv. I want them to see Improv as a legit form of theatre that can challenge them and not just a fun hobby that people have.
Devin: We hope that the audience has a new respect of Improv as a legitimate form of theater. We are very excited to have our show seen outside of the Improv community.
Nick: I just hope they have as much fun watching it as we have doing it. When we do it, it feels like kids playing, and I hope they take that experience with them.
6) Who are the unsung heroes involved with G.U.S. and what were their contributions to the finished product?
Langston: Zoey Russo and Jonathan Schlieman hands down. They have really kept us on track and believed in this from the start.
Devin: Nate Starkey coached us when we first started and he really helped us find the show. Jon Schlieman and Zoey Russo have helped tremendously as producers and Kevin Laibson, the artistic director at the PIT, has given us a place to work on our show all these years.
Nick: Zoey Russo and Jonathan Harper Schlieman. They have helped us put everything together, and stay on track. They have done so many amazing things to help produce the show, and it’s been amazing and amazingly helpful.
7) What would you say to someone who thought theatre wasn't for them?
Langston: Give it a chance. There is so much theater out there that something will grab you.
Devin: Don't be an idiot. Theater is just another form of story-telling which is something that every human being throughout history in every culture has enjoyed.
Nick: I’d say they really need to see various shows. There is bound to be some show that strikes a nerve for every person. You just have to give it a chance.
8) What would you change about New York City theatre to make it more accessible to young people?
Langston: I would say offering more chances to see it, perhaps offering tickets to schools in areas where the students do not get to see theater that often. I have performed for students in that situation and they have told me how much it meant to them.
Devin: I would make it cheaper. There are lots of plays that I would have loved to see but can't afford to.
Nick: Create shows that younger audiences can relate to. So often they just rehash the same old show, but there are so many new works out there that can be put up. Keep it fresh, and new.