BWW Interview: Adam Fleming of THE DARE PROJECT Opens Up About HAIRSPRAY, TOE PICK, WICKED, BARE and DARE!
Actor-singer-dancer-choreographer Adam Fleming became a part of Broadway history originating the roles of Sketch in Hairspray and Lucas in Bare. In 2005, he starred in David Brind and Adam Salky's acclaimed short film, Dare, about two teenage boys' tense, spark-filled encounter in a pool following high school play practice. Dare gained a cult following as part of Strand Releasing's "Boys Life" series and ultimately achieved worldwide popularity via more than 12 Million views on Youtube. The fan fervor (and fan fiction!) eventually inspired a sequel, ten years later. The original and the sequel are now being presented together as The Dare Project and attracting new legions of fans.
Broadwayworld's Ben Rimalower sat down with Adam Fleming to talk about his Dare character Ben's journey from closeted high schooler to out gay man as well as Adam's own journey from bratty chorus boy to brilliant choreographer.
Ben: Where did you grow up?
Ben: Oh my god.
Adam: Yeah. Metro Atlanta.
Ben: Did you dance as a kid?
Adam: No. I didn't start dancing until I was sixteen.
Adam: Yes, always. Chorus starting in third grade.
Ben: Were you, like, a Christian, church-y family?
Adam: No, we were not a religious, going-to-church family at all. My dad's from Chicago originally, but my mom grew up in the church in the sticks of Georgia. She's real country. But that wasn't a part of our---it was in the world, very much, but not our house.
Ben: Were your parents cool with you being gay? When did you come out to them?
Adam: The situation with my mom was... I did the "step-up," I was like, "I think I'm bi," when I was eighteen. But I had high school girlfriends.
Ben: Like, full-tilt all-the-way girlfriends?
Ben: But you were into them?
Adam: I dabbled.
Ben: Good for you!
Adam: Then when I came out finally, I was twenty-one. I came out to my mom on my phone because I had an official boyfriend on this cruise ship.
Ben: Did you go away to school?
Adam: I did. I went to Philly (University of the Arts) for a semester and dropped out and then I went to CCM for a year and dropped out to go (work) on a Disney cruise.
Ben: "I booked it, bye!"
Adam: I went to a performance high school in Georgia. So by the time I got to college, I was like, "enough already. Let's do this thing."
Ben: Oh, if I had any talent I would have been out the door.
Adam: So on the Disney cruise, I was like, "I have a boyfriend" to my mom over the phone...
Ben: Did you have any sense of how she was going to be?
Adam: I was nervous because her youngest brother, who she was super close to, passed away in, I think, 1986 from complications with AIDS.
Adam: He was gay. In Chicago.
Ben: Was he out?
Adam: Yeah. But when he passed, AIDS was still called GRID or whatever. And she was super scared.
Ben: I'm 43, and I first even knew what gay people were because of AIDS. Like, I was, like, in fourth grade in 86. I used to watch Dynasty with Rock Hudson. And then he was on the cover of The Enquirer because he had AIDS, and we told jokes at school like, "what do you call Rock Hudson on roller blades? Roll-AIDS." And we used to play "smear the queer." Do you remember that game?
Adam: Oh my god, what are the rules?
Ben: It was like tag, you threw the ball in the air and whoever got hit by it was the queer and everybody had to chase them.
Adam: The word was just used flippantly.
Ben:I think that changed though even in that moment-eighty-five, eight-six, eighty-seven-with AIDS, being such a national topic...
Adam: Right. I was probably exposed to gay people for the first time because of AIDS too.
Ben: How old you were when you knew your uncle was gay?
Adam: It was probably Ninth or Tenth Grade... I was in the car with my mom and "Waterfalls"
Adam: ...came on the radio and I was like, "You know, mom, this is about this guy gets AIDS and dies."
Ben: You didn't feel an elephant in the room?
Ben: Did you know you were gay?
Adam: For sure. So maybe there was a little bit of an elephant in the room.
Ben: I feel like before I came out, I would have been like, "huh, whatever, this song is lame."
Adam: I never really went through that phase of like pushing it away. It was an internal suppression rather than vocal. But yeah, that's how I found out (about my uncle).
Ben: Wow. And she she was just was open about it.
Adam: It shook me.
Ben: That must've helped you feel safe to come out to her because you knew she loved her brother.
Adam: Yes, she was very accepting.
Ben: She wasn't like, "Your uncle died because Satan got to him."
Adam: Right, no, that was not involved. She was scared, though.
Ben: I remember that fear... I think about that so much. It must be so different for the younger kids. The first thing anyone said when I came out-and my parents are liberal, Jewish, LA... my mom's brother's gay, and actually my father's gay, I mean like, he was out of the picture shortly after my parents split up when I was nine? But so my family went through it all way before I came out. But still it was, "There's nothing wrong with being gay. As long as you're safe." I mean, that was part and parcel.
Adam: Safety was the most important.
Ben: Everybody said that, it was like not a separate issue at all. It was completely the same thing. Being gay meant you were in danger of getting AIDS. So of course your mom was worried. That has all stayed with me. For me, sex is really fed up, in this shadow of death, the way I developed as a young gay man...
Adam: Yes. Terrified, but you wanted it so badly.
Ben: But I also saw it as, I saw gay men as dirty and sick.
Adam: That wasn't a point of view of mine. I was just in it and I was like, "This is who I am." I did feel there was a secretive quality. And that still affects me today. But I never went to the gay men are dirty.
Ben: Maybe not young, cute twinks my age.
Adam: You mean older, predatory.
Ben: Totally, but I don't know why I thought they were. They could be a librarian or a hairdresser, they weren't coming for me. And resting bitch face was a self-defense mechanism and even now I'll see some guys and think, "Oh, he has AIDS face." I mean, I don't say that, but it's something on my mind. AIDS face! What does that even mean?
Adam: Right. I think of gay eyes. Did you ever read that? It's Chris Rice... Anne Rice's son wrote these books about a lot of young gay kids in college. I loved them at the time. The straight guy in the book talks about gay guys having gay eyes. You can just tell by looking at their eyes.
Ben: Like you just smelled fresh baked cookies face. That's gay face, right?
Adam: That's great. That should be a compliment, right?
Ben: That's so positive. I hope that's where things are now. The Dare Project is so much about that change. Ben, your character, in the first movie where he's in high school, it's like he has this problem that he's gay.
Adam: Yeah, it's an issue.
Ben: Everything else about him could be perfection, but he's saddled with this thing that doesn't really work in his life. And then in the second movie, he's this really together, arrived human being and the shoe's on the other foot. Johnny is like many people, like all of us really, kind of a mess, and in terms of their dynamic, it's reversed.
Adam: Yeah. I love that.
Ben: It's so great to see it in you. It's what I got the most out of your performance. It's one thing to have gained all this ground in your life. I mean, we fight and we grow, but you're not necessarily always looking back. I could see him in this moment of this kind of reunion, seeing where he is and coming into his own, you know?
Adam: Right. It's like a litmus test.
Ben: Like when you get back into the pool with that that hot guy at the party, you know, it's just like, "Yeah, girl!"
Adam: Yeah, "I'm here. I can do this and I'm gonna."
Ben: It was kinda beautiful. I was so proud of David (our mutual friend, the screenwriter David Brind) because I didn't know he had that wisdom. I was like, "Okay!"
Adam: Sure, sure, sure, that self-awareness. Yes.
Ben: Yeah. But also none of us has that because we do see ourselves as a mess. You're always looking at what's wrong.
Adam: You see yourself as that child, and in my twenties, I was aware of the world, but in a way I wasn't. I mean, I was a conscious human and I connected with people, but ultimately I was not present. I was not political at all. Harvey Fierstein used to yell at me all the time. "Adam, you need to get your s together and pay attention!" My world was so wild... I was overwhelmed, so immature and lost and...
Ben: How old were you in Hairspray? Was that your first Broadway show?
Adam: Yeah, I was 22
Ben: That's so young. And this huge Broadway hit and at least from the outside it seemed like it was a such a close group. Not just like Harvey and Marissa and the ensemble, but you know Fender and Shelly and Little Inez and everybody. Such a posse, an A-List, hot posse.
Adam: It felt that way.
Ben: I even remember reading stuff online when you guys were in Seattle. I can't remember reading about an out-of-town tryout on message boards before that... Was Seattle when Matt Morrison replaced James Carpinello?
Adam: No, that was in rehearsals.
Ben: But it all just felt like it was happening in real time. Being around the same age as you and Marissa and everybody felt very much like watching the coolest kids in my class star in this great, big, amazing hit show. And I was so into it. I mean everybody was. I think for theater people and our generation, much more so than the producers.. I saw the original cast four times. And then I came back, I came back once when Leslie Kritzer was going on as Tracy. I'm sure you were gone by that time, like a couple years in.
Adam: Amazing. Yeah, I was gone by then. I would have loved to have seen her.
Ben: Okay, but so for all you in that original cast, that's a high-pressure situation for a twenty-two-year-old...
Adam: Sure, and I think that's why we did become such a posse. We were like, "what the f is happening?" No one else understood what was going on with us except each other, so we were like "hi, friend, friend, friend, friend, blah blah, blah, family, family." You know? And then having a matriarch like Harvey there, it was just set up well.
Ben: Did you appreciate who he was?
Adam: As a force in the gay community?
Ben: Had you seen Torch Song Trilogy or anything like that?
Adam: No, I knew him from Mrs. Doubtfire.
Ben: Mrs. Doubtfire. Yeah. That was big!
Adam: It was probably the most commercial thing he had done at that time. So, no. I was just like, "Who is this guy who kisses me on the mouth?" He's mama like you hug him like nuzzle in on him and like his kisses are a little too wet.
Ben: What is that thing with older gay men, with the mouth kissing? And it's too wet. And I find myself becoming that dirty old man and like, I can't fing take it.
Adam: I am really glad you said that because I have these thoughts about these young kids and I flirt with these young guys in a very direct, dirty way and I'm like, "Adam, you need to slow down a little..." You know what I mean? If that had been reversed...
Ben: Yeah, I did not like it when I was the younger guy. That was very disturbing to me.
Adam: Oh. Me too.
Ben: I remember I met guys online, in theater, publicists and producers, people like that. And we would go for drinks when I was twenty-three and I thought we were going to talk about like producing a Patti LuPone album or something, you know? And they were like...
Adam: Sure, sure, sure.
Ben: I remember a few tried to kiss me. And I was horrified.
Adam: Did you take you to The Townhouse?
Ben: No, hahaha, no. We used to go to East of 8th do you remember that place on 23rd that was for some reason where they all took me.
Adam: Yes, of course. When Chelsea was a thing?
Ben: When Chelsea was a thing.
Adam: Aw, may it rest in peace.
Ben: But I still don't know how I feel about that older, younger thing. Sometimes I think it's kind of like hot now. I didn't when I was younger, though...
Adam: Yeah, no, I was never attracted to older men and I was always attracted to people my age. Even now I'm still more attracted to people my age. Very rarely. I have several friends who have younger boyfriends or date younger men.
Ben: I get so much more interest from younger guys now.
Adam: Well that's what a lot of my friends say.
Ben: If I go on the apps and stuff, it's like twenty-two-year-olds and that's it.
Adam: I don't get that interest. I think it's cause I still look like a boy.
Ben: Yeah yeah yeah yeah.
Adam: You know I'm waiting to one day look like an adult...
Ben: Well, don't rush it. The day will come.
Adam: On this side of it, I'm like, "Can you please take me seriously as an adult?"
Ben: Well, at least it's nice because the whole Daddy thing is kind of in right now.
Adam: Oh, one hundred percent.
Ben: When we were young, you did not want to be older, that was not at all, there was no...
Adam: No, everyone was hairless. Boy band, you know what I mean?
Ben: Oh, I hated body hair. I hated myself. I was so repulsed by that.
Adam: Oh my god. I liked smooth boys.
Ben: Hair was the biggest turn off to me at the time.
Adam: Because I was smooth, I didn't have to worry about it. Whereas now everyone's like hairy as f...
Adam: Beards left and right...
Ben: It's so weird.
Adam: ...and I'm like yes, I want to be in it.
Ben: It's so strange. How did my tastes change? Did I learn to love and accept myself or did I just follow the trend?
Adam: Trends exist because of social norms and we move them along and we follow them.
Ben: Yeah. Right. Right. Yeah.
Adam: It's natural. We're social creatures.
Ben: That's such a great, zen attitude, Adam. I'm like, "what's wrong? This must be neurotic."
Ben: So wait, before Hairspray, you'd done Disney cruises and then were you like, "Okay, I'm actually not bi. I'm just gay"? Or are you, like, bi?
Adam: Sometimes I think I might be a little bit (bi).
Adam: I don't think I'm a total six on the Kinsey scale. Cause I think women are beautiful. I've never had sex with a woman, but I'm not repulsed by it in any way. But no, when I came out to my mom and had boyfriends, I was like, "Oh no. I'm gay. Like, this is my world!"
Ben: Was it the same with your dad or was that more difficult?
Adam: My dad is such a weirdo. I love him. He's so cool. We want to take him to Burning Man. One of these days. He just turned 68 on the 13th.
Ben: Does he smoke weed?
Adam: Um, doesn't that I know of, maybe he does.
Ben: You should buy him, like, a pen.
Adam: I know I should, I'm sure he would be into it. So actually my sister got to him first. Not because I asked her to but...maybe, did I ask her to? I don't remember, but she gave him a heads-up that I was gonna have THE TALK with him.
Ben: This was before Hairspray.
Adam: This was probably before Hairspray. Yeah. I was probably twenty-two. It was a year or so after telling my mom. This was home in Georgia. We were going to the mall. It was Christmas time and I told him in the car, in his truck, before we went into the mall. And he was like, "I know, I've always known. It's you, it's okay, you do you. I love you just the way you are." And I was like, "Oh, okay." No more conversation, let's go.
Ben: That makes me feel so good, the idea of "I've always known."
Adam: Well yeah, it makes you feel seen.
Ben: Yeah, exactly.
Adam: And that's really what everyone wants.
Ben: Yeah. Yeah. Getting to your movie Dare, that's this problem that your character Ben has in the first movie. It's the sense that the world is otherwise totally fine, but you're fed up and by being gay you're bringing to the table this baggage that nobody wants to hear about or deal with. And so what your dad said is like the opposite of that because it's like, "Hey, you're not bringing this, this was always there, this is real. This is you."
Adam: Right. "You were made this, like, you are that tree that grew that way." Like "You're over here, everyone else's over there and that's just fine." You know? It's what the world that needs to come around to.
Ben: That's beautiful, Adam.
Adam: Yeah! I was very lucky with my family.
Ben: Going back to Hairspray, and Scott (Wittman) and Marc (Shaiman). I don't know Harvey, but I know Scott and Marc pretty well and I think about them famously kissing at the TONY AWARDS and...
Adam: Yeah, 2003. I was just looking back at what was going on in the gay community at that time and in 2003, um, the Supreme Court just struck down the same sex conduct law.
Ben: Sodomy and everything else.
Adam: Up until 2003 same sex conduct was illegal in many places. That's the time we're talking about. It feels like that's so long ago, but it's not. So yes, the fact that they kissed like that on the Tonys is a big deal.
Ben: Also and maybe not as much in your case with your family being supportive, but it still must have meant something to be part of this production where you have Scott and Marc and Harvey and Jerry (Mitchell) and Jack (O'Brien), as these really successful examples of gay men living these really great lives.
Adam: Yes. One hundred percent. Like we would go to Scott and Marc's apartment and have these like lavish parties. And we're like, "This is what life is?"
Adam: It normalized it and made it something to aspire to.
Ben: I remember when they broke up, John Hill said it felt like his parents were getting divorced.
Adam: Yeah, he was closer to them than I am, but it definitely hit all of us.
Ben: And then life goes on. So how did you get involved in Dare the first time? Did you just audition? Did you know David or Adam?
Adam: No. David tells the story of coming to Hairspray and thinking I was cute.
Ben: As did literally every single person in New York
Adam: Oh my god, I was so spoiled. What a brat. But so David told the casting people, "There's this interesting actor"
Ben: Cough, cough, that I want to bang.
Adam: Hahaha. And they brought me in for it. They actually brought me in for Johnny, for the other part. And after I read for it, he was like, "No, read these sides instead."
Ben: I remember before I even met David or saw Dare, your Friendster picture was
Adam: Oh my god.
Ben: a shot from Dare or maybe it was just like on Natalie's page or something, but I remember the picture of you in the pool...
Adam: With like, my hair in my face?
Ben: Yeah, and like, so I was shocked when I finally saw the movie you were the nerdy, sad one. I had just assumed obviously you're playing the beautiful Adonis coming out of the pool.
Adam: Oh my god. I'm the nerd, I am the quiet nerdy, weirdo.
Ben: Yeah, obviously David and Adam were able to see that too.
Adam: Yeah. I'm the weird awkward one.
Ben: Was that the first on-camera work you had done at the time?
Adam: Basically. I had done this movie Marci X.
Ban: Oh, yes. With Lisa Kudrow.
Ben: I love that movie. You guys were the boy band, right?
Adam: Yeah. With Matt Morrison. Jerry Mitchell choreographed.
Ben: Who else was in the boy band? It was like, somebody crazy, right?
Adam: Um, it was Manley Pope. Do you know Manley Pope?
Ben: Yeah he was in Rent.
Adam: Yeah. It was me, Matt, Manley, and Michael Seebach.
Ben: There was a black guy, wasn't there?
Adam: No. No, it was 2002.
Ben: Paul Rudnick wrote that, right?
Ben: Who directed it? It was somebody big, right?
Adam: Yes, Richard Benjamin.
Ben: Wow. And it was a big disaster flop like it was supposed to it was supposed to be big movie, right?
Adam: Oh yeah. Oh, and then all of her friends were um Sherie Renee Scott, Jane Krakowski, and Veanne Cox.
Ben: Okay. So you did Bare right after Hairspray, wasn't that?
Adam: Yes, I left, I left Hairspray to do Bare.
Ben: And did you already know Damon (Intrabartolo) or Kristin (Hanggi) or anybody, or...?
Adam: No, I didn't know anyone. I auditioned for it.
Ben: Were you close with Damon eventually or...?
Adam: Not super close, but enough to see his struggle.
Ben: Yeah, I think we all, especially gay men around our age, have a few friends like that, that somehow get just kind of lost along the way.
Adam: Yeah, where you're like, "Oh god, please figure this out." You know?
Ben: I mean with Damon it was so sad because he was so talented and so original and irreplaceable.
Adam: Right. Agreed. It's so hard to watch and not know how to help.
Ben: I don't know. I'm sober now for like almost nine years and I...
Adam: Oh, congratulations.
Ben: Thank you. But back in my heyday, I wouldn't have listened to that kind of help from anyone, with my family or my sister, I would just shut people out. I didn't want to fing hear it from anybody. I had to get there on my own.
Adam: Right. And it's heartbreaking.
Ben: In a way that's a bigger challenge than the career stuff or relationships or whatever. Because we are saddled with this feeling that the basic essence of who we are is a problem that we have to apologize for. Substance abuse and general chaos are a natural path to take.
Adam: It's easy to medicate that way.
Ben: Yeah and if you get stuck, it's easier to do coke just socially than, say, crystal meth. So if you do the wrong thing at the wrong place, you slide down the wrong path, it's shoots and ladders.
Adam: Totally. You take a different exit.
Ben: So it's a success just to be someone who hasn't fallen down in that.
Adam: Right. I think I'm doing pretty good.
Ben: So tell me about your success, cause you've done so much. You went right into Wicked after Bare?
Adam: No. So when Bare got canceled...
Ben: It's like 2005?
Adam: 2004. It threw me into oblivion cause I wasn't auditioning. We were taking a, a retainer over the summer. I was getting paid not to take jobs. I was like, "this is amazing." But then when (the commercial transfer of Bare) got cancelled, it was like the rug got pulled out from underneath us, I didn't know what to do. And I was like, "f." I was really wanting to play roles, bigger parts. I didn't want to go back into the ensemble.
Ben: Yeah, from Hairspray to bare, that's a principal. That's not chorus.
Adam: I felt part of the storytelling and that was important to me. I wanted to keep doing that. But I hadn't auditioned for an entire season and people kind of forgot about me or...I also like wasn't really maintaining my... I wasn't going to class, I wasn't taking voice lessons, you know, I was like just riding on the world.
Adam: So I fell into a little bit of a rut for a minute. And when I think back on that time, it's very powerful to me. It kicked my ass. An existential crisis, in a way. And so a whole year later when Wicked called and wanted me to join the original Chicago company,
Ben: That's like, Ana Gasteyer?
Adam: Yeah. Ana Gasteyer. And Kate Reinders. It was cool. Heidi Kettenring, a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant Chicago actress. And it had been a minute since I'd worked. I was waiting tables.
Ben: Was that hard to go from parties at Scott and Marc's loft with celebrities and everything to waiting tables?
Adam: Yes, I was so dark, like what the f? I was such a punk.
Ben: Were you bitter?
Adam: Uh huh.
Ben: There's a strength in that bitter "f you and this fing business, I'm gonna come out on top!" which is different than "I suck, I'm sad. I want to stay home..."
Adam: Right. I think I teetered on both. I mean, socially and publicly I was probably more like "f this bulls." But alone at home I was kind of sad and dark. So when Wicked called I was like, "One hundred percent. Yes yes yes!"
Ben: How long did you stay with it?
Adam: Over 11 years. More in than out. Like I would have like a year off and then therefore while they were calling me back in to be a vacation swing on and off. And then finally the last time, I finally had to say no.
Ben: Why was that?
Adam: Just because creatively, I was like, "I've done this. I know what I can do inside the machine that is Wicked."
Adam: And it was wonderful and amazing. All those great positive things, but I wanted to do something different.
Ben: Were you able to use it as a financial stabilizer to build your life? I mean if I had been in your shoes, I would've just bought a lot of s and done a lot of drugs, and been completely broke the second I was out of the show.
Adam: I'm really glad you said that because it's more that... I definitely got some good things happening from it, but ultimately I did not leave with a giant...
Ben: So you weren't a moron like me, but you also don't have a country house from it.
Adam: I was right in the middle. My friend who was on tour with me, he would max out his 401k every month. So he has over $100,000 in his 401k now and he's in his mid twenties.
Ben: I wish I was one of those people that got excited about like interest rates and that would be the high for me...
Adam: I have never been good with finances.
Ben: So bad. Okay. And then were you going on a lot of auditions during that time?
Adam: I mean in Chicago I didn't go into many auditions and then I came back here and wanted to play roles and do other things. I was going out for stuff, but not booking much. And then I basically left the business for a while, worked in interior design and founded a co-working space for artists.
Ben: Wow. So when did you start choreographing?
Adam: I don't even remember... choreography was always like floating around. I would choreograph Easter Bonnet skits for Wicked. that's actually where it first took hold.
Ben: Were you dance captain in shows?
Adam: No, I was dance captain as a swing on the Disney cruise. Abbey O'Brian and I were in charge of those shows. We were like, twenty-two. And then years later, I choreographed for Norwegian cruise lines.
Ben: That must be a great job.
Adam: That was my first thing where I was like, "Oh I could like legitimately do this." I mean it was a nightmare gig. The director re-choreographed half of my s and I was like, "what the f is going on?" Because all my stuff was super specific to these dancers. In hindsight I'm like, "Oh they needed to create a cookie cutter show where they could just plug people in and not worry about it," whereas I wanted to make this textural experience.
Ben: Live and learn. You don't know til you know.
Adam: Right. And now that choreographing has brought me back into the theater community, I'm like, "I missed this. These are my people." I miss the teamwork that it takes to create, you know?
Ben: Had you thought in the past all those years in Wicked, were you like, "I want to choreograph something, I want to direct something"?
Adam: I mean, it was always around, even in high school I liked creating things. I've always been a creator in some way. I would dance in my room as a kid. My mom would knock on the door and be like, "what the f's going on in there? Because I'd answer the door and be all sweaty. But now, I'm finding power in that.
Ben: Now, you choreographed Toe Pic, that crazy brilliant Tonya Harding thing at Dixon Place. I really loved that.
Adam: What a dream. Thank you.
Ben: And that seemed like such an intense and interesting, cluster of collaborators, those guys.
Adam: Yes. Zackary Grady.
Ben: Who created it and slayed as Tonya.
Adam: So great. And he's very like, "This is what it is." And you're like, "But Zack, I have so many questions." "This is what it is." But it was amazing. The director, Chris Murrah, is my boyfriend.
Ben: It was so well directed.
Adam: We work together a lot. It was a dream. I loved when he was like, "All right, we're going to do ice skating in socks." And I was like, "Well, we should have a big piece of white Marley (vinyl stage flooring)."
Adam: Dan Dailey, the set designer, made magic out of a dollar. I wanted it as legitimate as possible. I pulled all the moves you saw based on real moves that the real people were doing. I thought that was important, the Chinese point of view, the French point of view, everyone's point of view... Like what Katerina did, what's their take on what beauty is and what power is. So I just pulled and pulled and was like, "What would this look like if you did it in socks?"
Adam: Although not everyone an do that. Zack can do those spins in sock like no one else can.
Ben: He's such an enormous talent. And the guy that played Nancy Kerrigan too.
Adam: Preston Martin.
Ben: The whole cast, actually.
Adam: Oh, god, having Jenn Harris up there and Deidre Goodwin, it was stupid.
Ben: Are there more shows coming from that group?
Adam: Well, Zack has another thing floating around and I'd be there in a second. I think we all felt Toe Pick was a huge success. Chris and I were at every show and we don't do that, you know? You set the show and then you're like, "good luck everybody. See you later." But we went every single night.
Ben:. I wish I had gone a second time. I really enjoyed it.
Adam: It was a dream. So, so if that team were to be like, "Let's make something," we'd be there in a heartbeat.
Ben: And separate from those guys, you and Chris work together a lot?
Adam: Yeah. We have this theatrical collaborative called Two-Way Radio. It started when we were doing West Side Story in Iowa, with the Sioux City Symphony in 2018. We had the orchestra onstage Chris and I created the set using all these ramps and alleyways through the orchestra for the actors to get around the musicians. Then we were like, how do we even put this in the program, how we devised the set and staging? That's when we came up with the name Two-Way Radio. West Side Story was amazing. It was all this work for two performances, I was surprised we made it through!
Ben: That's such a good show to do that with because you want to hear that music like that, with a symphony. What did you have, two weeks of rehearsal?
Adam: Oh my god, yeah, well the kids in the show-the kids!-all the actors and the dancers, all worked so fast. It was all my original choreography.
Adam: Yeah. All new choreography. Half of them had done West Side before and they were like, "What the f is this?" And I was like, "Stay with me, stay with me." And when we got the orchestra and we did the sitzprobe, the cast was just like, "Oh my god!" Because there's the, the trumpet section right next to them. So all of a sudden they were on board when before they'd been like, "I've got issues."
Ben: How is that, having been the little bitchy actor, right?
Adam: Hahaha. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Ben: How's it being on the other side and having to get them on board? Now other people have issues with your choreography and you have to be like, "Stay with me, stay with me..." How has it changed your view of that dynamic?
Adam: I just try to be as honest as possible and take care of them as much as possible. When they ask questions, I try to let them do whatever they need. If they need to like rant, yell about something, I'm like, "Okay, I hear you, I hear you, I see your concern." I just try to be there with them and move them through it. I think mostly they just need to be heard. And once they're heard, then you can actually get them going where you want them to go. And then once I can point to progress and say, "This, this, this is what we're trying to make." Then they're like, "Ooooh." You just have to get them on your side and make them see your point of view in a positive way. That's all I wanted when, like, Mark Myers was giving me notes in Wicked. I was like, "Listen, Mark. Let's talk about this." When he's like, "Just take the note, Adam." I just wanted to be heard. I wanted to be part of the conversation. I give actors and dancers the benefit of the doubt. I assume positive intent.
Ben: And how does that compare on like a film set?
Adam: Film is very strange. It's all about the script. And I am all about movement. So I'm still learning how to function within that world. It's still a very foreign world to me.
Ben: Coming back and working on Dare with David and with Adam after all those years, is there a different comfort level?
Adam: Absolutely. Nothing supports an actor like having something written for you. It sets you up for success. And so with The Dare Project, I was like, "I know who this person is. David wrote this with me in mind." That's magical, what a gift. So I wasn't nervous at all. I was like, "Get as skinny as possible (for the bathing suit scene)." That was my goal and then I just showed up.
Ben: How has it been beeing on like the film festival circuit with David, right?
Adam: It's awesome. Audiences are dying for it and they eat it up. How fun is that?
Ben: David's been so passionate about the response from young, queer people. Do you see that in the festivals?
Adam: Some, there'll be some kids and it's incredible to meet them face to face, like the young fans, after they reach out to me on Instagram and Facebook. My Instagram is crazy with all this Dare stuff, like a deluge.
Ben: So cool. The original film's had how many views online now?
Adam: I think 12 million...who knows now? The fans are growing it every day.
Ben: What do they say when they contact you?
Adam: This was everything to me. I used to watch this every day. I really saw myself in this.
Ben: What do you think it is about Dare that has hit such a chord for so many people?
Adam: I think it's a combination of the vulnerability of the characters and with David's hand, you know, the way he writes. It's very accessible, yet also surprising, like it always has just enough of an edge, that intelligence and wit. You're not being talked down to-you're not really being shown anything. The audience is allowed to witness. That's what makes it so strong.
Ben: What about the title? What does Dare mean to you?
Adam: That's an interesting question. What are you daring yourself to do? What are you going out of your comfort zone to do? And why? And why is it important to you?
Ben: I mean, it's like, I wonder if your character could go back to to that moment in high school with straight boy crush, would he do the same thing?
Adam: Yeah. I mean, he'd probably go further.
Ben: Give him an inch.
Adam: Oh, sure. Like, f, this worked the first time.
Ben: Yeah. Do you think Johnny is a little bit gay?
Adam: Well, I think a big thing that I've loved about Dare is the fluidity, the conversation about sexual fluidity, which I think is super important. And it's a huge conversation now. So the first Dare was somewhat ahead of its time.
Ben: Right. Nobody was talking about it fluidity 15 years ago. It was forbidden topic in a way, because the older generation of gay men-as a generality-are so negative about it. I mean, god forbid anybody says they're bi. And I get it. I mean, you know, we've talked ourselves about the transitional coming out as bi. But that is only one way that some people have called themselves Bisexual. That's not representative of what Bi means for the whole world.
Adam: Right. It's a fearful way of being. You've fought your way up to have this identity, to be proud of this identity. So anyone questioning that or even attempting or posit a question against it has to be shot down.
Ben: It's funny though, cause like I think of us as a generation, like the first generation born out of slavery or after the Holocaust. We bear the residual scars of our forefathers. Thing are better now in so many ways of course, but obviously there's still so much further for things to change because the fact that young kids are responding so passionately to this movie. In a perfect world, maybe they wouldn't, you know? Not to say there's not something universal in the humanity of that adolescent experience regardless. But it seems like the fact that it's young gays responding, it shows how much it's still just, you know, we're not at the top of the mountain yet.
Adam: It's still a conversation. You know, as adults, we like to think we're fully formed, but we're always growing and changing.
Ben: Yeah. If in another fifteen years, there's another sequel, "The Dare Project Project," where, where would you like to see your character?
Adam: Ha, I don't know, like fully tatted, head to neck, or toe to neck...
Ben: I hate it.
Adam: ...you know, hanging in, like, a cult bookshop.
Ben: Oh god, I hope not.