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BWW Interview: 2Cents' Kristen Boulé Creating/Producing/Directing GATSBY & INK Fest

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2Cents Theatre Group’s GATSBY AN IMMERSIVE ILLUMINATION - CHAPTER 1: EAST EGG will open August 13, 2021 as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival

BWW Interview: 2Cents' Kristen Boulé Creating/Producing/Directing GATSBY & INK Fest

2Cents Theatre Group's GATSBY AN IMMERSIVE ILLUMINATION - CHAPTER 1: EAST EGG will open August 13, 2021 as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival. 2Cents Theatre Group's co-founder and current artistic and managing director Kristen Boulé directs the GATSBY cast of: Bill Posley, Sarah Schulte, Colin Wilkie, Ren Montoro, Chris Lanehart, and Sam Sheeks. Got the chance to chat with Kristen on GATSBY that she co-created, the ACTING OUT INK FEST she produces and her new venture Loose Change.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Kristen!

You are incredibly welcome. Thank you for the invitation.

What creative sparks ignited your birth of GATSBY AN IMMERSIVE ILLUMINATION with Tiffany Asta? Did you happen to land on one of The Great Gatsby movies while channel-surfing?

Actually, quite the opposite. Tiffany had a strong desire to create an experience around The Great Gatsby for years, she had always been passionate about the novel and knew there was more to it than simply the parties and the love story (however wonderful as those elements are). And upon diving into the text thematically, it quickly became clear how prevalent it is today, in 2021, amidst current social justice outrage. The book makes a strong analysis of The American Dream and shows us a man born without privilege or advantage who gives everything he has to chase his own, but is in the end betrayed and forgotten by those whose circumstances separate them from any responsibilities or repercussions. We wanted to shine a light on those themes, to bring to life the book's statements on class struggles and social inequities in America.

When did you and Tiffany start putting GATSBY down on paper?

In script form? I think about two months ago. But honestly the script wasn't really finalized until a couple of weeks back. Immersive theatre isn't as much about the script as it is the mechanics and concept, and we conceptualized for some time before making any sort of script, and that remained loose as we continued to develop the concept with the actors. I actually now have four working scripts, one actor script and others more technical for different conceptual elements.

Which Great Gatsby movie do you prefer: the 1974 version with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow? Or Baz Luhrmann's 2013 version with Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan?

Well, I should say that what we're doing is quite different from either film, and I think both have strong and unfortunate elements. But that being said I'm a huge Baz fan in general. He sure knows how to spectacle. Not to knock Redford and Mia! (But I really just prefer the book.)

For the Hollywood Fringe Festival, you're premiering CHAPTER ONE: EAST EGG. How many chapters are there of your GATSBY series?

There will be nine episodes total, with CHAPTER TWO unofficially scheduled to open top of 2022, following a brief CHAPTER ONE remount.

Is GATSBY the first immersive event you've been involved with?

No. Notably, Tiffany and I created VOTE FOR MURDER! in 2019 and UNREAL CITY in 2018, both Best in Immersive winners for consecutive Hollywood Fringe Festivals. VOTE FOR MURDER! was a high-school-election set immersive game sandbox experience inspired by Clue, Mafia and other party games. UNREAL CITY was a dark ride experience derived from TS Eliot's The Waste Land and others featuring a cast of 25 actors, 19 locations, and many different audience tracks. Both were pretty epic, insanely challenging, and quite successful. On a small theatre scale.

Are all of the GATSBY cast members of 2Cents? Or did you hold open auditions?

Not members, per say, but all actors we've worked with before and know quite well. In particular, Sarah Schulte (Daisy) I've worked with for about ten years now, and Chris Lanehart (Nick) for about seven. But this entire cast is wonderful, and of course will continue to grow with each chapter. We may be holding auditions for roles in the future, specifically the party scenes.

Are you excepting new members? And if 2Cents is, how does one apply for membership?

Not at this time.

What location aspects were you looking for when you found The Anthony Meindl Workshop?

Oh, we love this venue so much! Robin, who runs the place, is wonderful. It has all the makings of a great well-cared-for venue, but in an immersive mindset it's particularly exciting because there are many different spaces. There is a theatre, but also a large rehearsal room, a beautiful lobby and outdoor space, and multiple classrooms. This gives us lots of opportunity to get creative immersively. We are hooked!

What is your three-line pitch for GATSBY AN IMMERSIVE ILLUMINATION?

You're invited to visit Tom and Daisy Buchanan's home in East Egg for dinner, two old friends whom you scarcely know at all. Join Nick as he tries to better understand the tragedy of Jay Gatsby in a 21st century light amid the realities of wealth disparity and class struggles that cloud the American Dream. Featuring an original score played by live musicians, light fare and non-alcoholic beverages, GATSBY AN IMMERSIVE ILLUMINATION is a dark ride-style episodic immersive experience.

Does one creator Kristen ever disagree with the other creator Tiffany in GATSBY decisions?

Ha, of course. But we respect each other's opinions and ideas immensely, so usually if one of us fights for something hard enough, the other gives in based on trust. I think we create a pretty excellent workspace together!

Which of your many hats do you prefer wearing: Your producer's cap? Your director's fedora? Your manager's chapeau?

My heart always wants to direct. But I'm a strong producer and have grown to love producing almost equally. But management of most sorts, I'm more than happy to put those hats away as often as circumstances allow.

What was the catalyst for you and the other co-founders to form 2Cents Theatre Group back in 2012?

We realized that it was the same group of us repeatedly producing theatre. So it was Tiffany actually who one day said, "So, aren't we starting a theatre company?" And that made sense. So we did. We gathered the artists we found ourselves wanting to work with, and together decided what it was collectively we wanted to create and why. And it built from there.

You started producing 2Cents Theatre Group's annual ACTING OUT INK FEST in 2014. Did all that producing experience give you that extra boost of confidence to tackle your Off-Broadway debut, producing Bill Posley's THE DAY I BECAME BLACK at the Soho Playhouse in 2019?

Well, those are incredibly different projects, but yes, all of the challenging experiences I've had have built my confidence over the years, preparing me for projects to come. ACTING OUT INK FEST is a three-day festival of (around twenty) female-identifying and non-binary playwrights that has been running every spring since 2014. Each year over a three-day period we fully produce around 20-25 short plays featuring around 20 directors and around 70 actors. The festival itself runs morning to night for three days and includes live music, parties and special events and appearances. It is an insanely demanding event to produce and has absolutely helped me hone my events-producing skills in particular. THE DAY I BECAME BLACK is Bill Posley's comedic solo masterpiece that I've been producing for the past few years. We started at the Hollywood Fringe and have since had multiple runs for different purposes. We've performed at LATC downtown, all over Hollywood, traveled for a couple of regional shows, and of course two runs at the SoHo Playhouse. Producing in New York City was a blast, but also had loads of challenges simply unique to the nature of the city. Of course, I learned a ton. We benefited immensely from our time there and I am definitely grateful for the experiences I've had which prepared me for it.

What's the latest on the 2Cents Carolers that you manage?

We had to take off last year because of COVID, so we are looking forward to hopefully getting back out there this year! The 2Cents Carolers are an entirely volunteer-based group who sing each holiday season at homeless shelters, supportive housing facilities, community centers and more. Through organizations such as PATH, LA Family Housing, Union Station HS, Skid Row Housing and more, we are able to perform all over Los Angeles for our unhoused and low-income neighbors.

BWW Interview: 2Cents' Kristen Boulé Creating/Producing/Directing GATSBY & INK Fest What's in the future for 2Cents?

That's a big question these days! Unofficially, 2Cents is going through some changes, and plans to primarily split focus on two central areas: INK Fest and Loose Change, the immersive offshoot that will solely create new immersive experiences. We hope to increase funding for INK Fest so it can survive independently as a not-for-profit entity, and at the same time increase our Loose Change production values and eventually budgets so we can try our hand there at developing commercially investible experiences. (If you are reading this and would like to learn more about either entity, you can email me at boule@2centstheatre.com.)

Thank you again Kristen! I look forward to meeting your Tom and Daisy.

Thank you so much! They are thrilled to know of your attendance! They look forward to hosting you, Gil.

For tickets to this live immersive performance of GATSBY AN IMMERSIVE ILLUMINATION through August 28, 2021; log onto www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/7194


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