BWW Interview: Kevin Barwell of the Actors Anonymous Theatre Company
Kevin Barwell, one of the founders of The Actors Anonymous Theatre Company, took some time to talk with Broadwayworld.com about Tony N Tina's Wedding and the company's future.
MCL: How long have you been a part of The Actors Anonymous Theatre Company? What is the history of it? How did it start?
KB: I'm one of the founders of the company. We came up with the idea while sitting at the old Garvey's (Desiderio's Downtown) after a performance on Tony N Tina's Wedding we were in at Shea's performing arts center back in 2001. I happen to mention to the leader of the band that was play with the show at the time this idea I had about starting a theatre, but one that was about the actors and by the end of the run we had the whole idea down and the backing to make it work ( at least we thought). So that summer we began planning and forming the company over the next few months. I came up with the name from an inspiration I had with a few good friends many years ago, my partner in this company Steve Petix liked it and Actors Anonymous Theatre Company was formed.
MCL: What was the first show?
KB: Our first production would be Tony N Tina's Wedding, We reached a verbal agreement with a producer in NYC to help fund the show and we were off, Radio, TV, Costumes, Location , things were going well , until at the 11th hour our backer pulled out. We were in serious trouble and with less than two months prior to opening, had to regroup, so I maxed out my credit cards, secured a loan and prayed this would work. Well opening came in November of 2001 and we ended up selling out almost every show. Our production was a success. Two months later we reopened the show and sold that out as well and were able to pay back all the loan's, credit cards and fund a full season of shows. So that following fall we opened an original show that we wrote The King and Queens Royal Feast, A Christmas carol for two and Tony N Tina's Wedding. So over the course of the next 15 years we would move to a couple different locations before we settled into the Lancaster Country Club as a primary location. But we are mainly a touring company. We have traveled all over WNY, and nationally and internationally in locations such as Fort Erie, Utah, Florida, Montreal, and Toronto. I have been the Executive Director/ Artistic Director for 15 years and am proud to have produced many great shows to over 45, 000 people.
MCL: What is Tony N Tina's Wedding?
KB: Tony N Tina's Wedding like many of our shows is a parody on a particular event in life, as in this title it is about all the things that happen at a wedding, good or bad.
MCL: How much is improvisational and how much is scripted?
KB: Most of the Shows we do are about 50 - 70 percent scripted and the rest is improve.
MCL: Has anyone ever not get the improvisational aspect and get offended or confused at what was going on?
KB: Yes we have had it were people believe it a little too much and we have to tell them things are not real (but not until after the show). Also we have had a lot of well know people attend our shows, and that can be a lot of fun as well as having had many local personalities play guest appearances in the show. We actually had Rob Ledierman play a catholic priest. But for the most part people have a lot of fun.
MCL: What other shows has Actors Anonymous done?
KB: So we have written a couple shows "King and Queens Royal Feast" and "Doctor your Trying my patients" and produced original works such as the cabaret show "Cafe Bison" Murphy's Wake" and our second longest running show "a Christmas Carol for Two" in addition to produced shows such as Lafferty's Wake, Hilarious HillBilly Massacre, 1940 Broadway Radio Hour. We also produced a one act play festival for five years, which allowed us to show case many new writers, and directors with shows such a "Pops" "Full Circle" and "Coffee". Our vision is to bring our stage to life for you in our home or yours!
MCL: What are some of the future shows? What shows do you want to do that you haven't?
KB: This fall we would like to do a Prom Themed show as we have done many other types of life events also a show based on probation. We do at least four different shows per season "Tony N Tina's Wedding' and "A Christmas Carol for Two" along with two different show each season.
MCL: The toughest part of this kind of theater?
KB: The toughest part of this kind of theatre is getting traditional theatre goers to accept it. Our brand of theatre Interactive / environmental has bread a lot of new theatre patrons, that may not have gone to a regular stage show prior to attending one of our performances, mainly because our setting is more relaxed, as patron can have a meal and a refreshment while seeing and being a part of a show. Also the biggest issue is the unknown, we have had people try to get involved or want to sing with the band. It's all fun but can detract from the show. We have a great staff and ensemble of actors that can address things quickly without anyone really knowing.
MCL: What do you want people to know about Tony N Tina's that they may not know?
KB: That it's one of the longest running comedies in Buffalo, and that you will be a part of the show, as the actors consider you a family member and treat you just like that. Our goals are to do comedies that allow people have a great time and laugh all night. I have personally played the roles of Tony (8 years), Father Mark, Barry, Vinny, Dominic, Rick and Uncle Micki and have performed in over 350 performances of this shows and still enjoy the production and love to see people laugh and have a wonderful time!
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON TONY N TINA'S WEDDING: