Interview: Mitch Hara Talks Revamped MUTANT OLIVE 2.0 at the Hudson Guild Theatre

The production runs on Tuesdays March 7 through April 25 at the Hudson Guild Theatre.

By: Feb. 26, 2023
Interview: Mitch Hara Talks Revamped MUTANT OLIVE 2.0 at the Hudson Guild Theatre
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Back in 2015, I caught a solo performance play Mutant Olive, created and performed by Mitch Hara (pictured). I decided to speak with him about his revamped play, Mutant Olive 2.0, soon to begin performance at the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood, to ask about the new show, it's title, and what's been going on during the 8 years since Mutant Olive in its original form premiered.

Hi Mitch. I remember the play's title comes from an incident in your youth when your overbearing father made you wear an Olive Green suit to a family wedding rather than the rebellious, leaning-toward-gay all black attire Adam (your alter ego in the play) usually wore. Why is that incident so significant in the creation of the play?

It's the first time I rebelled! And a pivotal triumphant episode in the play! It always gets huge applause.

Let's talk about the revamped play and what else has been going on since we spoke eight years ago. First, what inspired you to create this new version of your original play?

Interview: Mitch Hara Talks Revamped MUTANT OLIVE 2.0 at the Hudson Guild Theatre

Hey!! Great talking to you again!! I've done so much TV and film including 3 pilots: I Run Hot directed by Ilana Glazer (Broad City) for NBC/Peacock, Peeling a Stinky Onion at Sony, and Sunny's Closet written and directed by Carlyle King, and having my short form series, Smothered, go viral on Amazon Prime. Amazon called me "comedy gold!" But I really craved live theatre. There's nothing more intimate, dangerous, or raw than taking a ride with an audience who gets on your train and doesn't get off till the curtain comes down. We co-create the journey together. I love it!

That's why nothing can compare to sharing yourself with an in-person audience, both for you and the audience members.

You know, we all grow, elevate, get more and more conscious, so we see things and our baggage differently, through a new lens. So, it's exciting for me to mount a new ride with my truest heart and soul as the spine of Mutant Olive 2.0. This show has grown with new episodes that will blow your mind. It makes every show is a new discovery for me.

Does Mutant Olive 2.0 follow the same ADHD-riddled actor, Adam Astra? And if so, what's he up to this time? Is he still auditioning and ruminating on his parents?

Oh, hell yes. The healing continues! Adam thinks he's got things under control till he's triggered and falls down a K-hole of anger, tears and insanity. His battles with his depressingly tedious childhood are funnier and more tragic. And this time he's auditioning for a very intimate production of Hamilton - Unplugged at an Equity waiver theatre. Of course, he's up for a role he would never be seen for, Hamilton's Black best friend. Adam raps, sings and joins a cheerleading squad called the Creamettes. But of course, he's still haunted by his past and demons. And those voices in his head have become more defiant, which makes his search for self-love and acceptance more hysterical and heartbreaking.

There were so many hysterical and heartbreaking, as well as comical but sad, tales of Adam's soul-sucking childhood in the first play. Will you be revisiting those incidents or adding new memories this time?

Interview: Mitch Hara Talks Revamped MUTANT OLIVE 2.0 at the Hudson Guild Theatre

Well... Yes and yes and YES. Adam's still sober, and still hungry to be loved. And probably to be worshipped, which feels more attainable than love. He's starved for attention. He's just built for public rather than that one-on-one thing. He has all the emotions; he just wants to be paid to feel them. Personally, I get that, and I'm so proud of this new ride. There are hysterical, touching, and tragic flashbacks that are shocking and triumphant.

There are favorite episodes that bring the audience to their feet that have been sculpted to become even deeper and more revealing. And there are new episodes that I/Adam remembered which highlight the wreckage of our pasts that no one could believe, and yet are totally relatable and startling. There's a Mother's Day episode that I don't want to ruin, but it's astonishing. At least that's what my director says. Well, she said, "delicious."

Is Adam really you in disguise? Or is he all a ruse and your real childhood was wonderful?

LOL. Well, no matter what I do as an actor, it begins with me. I'm the first tier of experience and emotionality. Then, I pick and choose what is right for the character and go from there. When I developed this originally, it was a vehicle for me as an actor. A multilayered play and a juicy, compelling role that I wasn't getting offered. The material started out as very personal journey that I relish, and this 2.0 ride is even deeper and probably more shocking.

Interview: Mitch Hara Talks Revamped MUTANT OLIVE 2.0 at the Hudson Guild Theatre

You know when you grow up and your parents are speed-freak alcoholics and your father is punching walls and your mother is banging everyone in the neighborhood, you think that's normal. And for you, it is normal. Adam is my alter ego. Some crap is true. Some is the way I remember it. Some is how I wanted it to be. But Adam gives me permission to be bald-faced honest and raw. I do attack this show as an actor. Nobody cares how well-adjusted I am today. Like my director said, "nobody wants to pay money to see well-adjusted. That's not fun or compelling." She, Carlyle King, is 100% right.

Last time, Adam was auditioning for Death of a Salesman. Tell me more about his auditioning for Hamilton - Unplugged this time.

Last time, nobody wound up knowing Death of a Salesman, so the joy of the absurdity was lost on the audience.

Not everyone! I got it!

Yes, you did! But to be more inclusive this time, I upgraded the audition to a very intimate production of Hamilton - Unplugged, playing in a 50-seat theatre where each actor has to cover 17 roles. It's so fun, because it's immediately identifiable, and me being seen as Hamilton's soulful, rapping best friend is ridiculous and creates combustible joy! Plus, Adam insists on doing a monologue from A Midsummer Night's Dream as Puck for his audition - only as an Italian pizza delivery boy. It's riotous and perfect how he keeps trying to do the monologue! But he's derailed by his past constantly seeping into his present, and he must purge before he can continue. And purge he does...

What has Adam learned about life and/or himself in the past eight years?

Mitch has learned a lot more than Adam. Adam is a bit more grounded and a bit more... calm? No. He's volatile, tormented, joyous and his inner child is still in search of self-love, acceptance and worth. But that's a never-ending battle, right? So, his struggle is real and ongoing.

Interview: Mitch Hara Talks Revamped MUTANT OLIVE 2.0 at the Hudson Guild Theatre

Will there be opportunities for audience members to speak directly to you during the play? I remember that was such a fun part of the original Mutant Olive.

Yes, yes and again, YES!! Those are some of my most favorite parts of the show. I come in to audition for the role, and the entire audience is part of the casting process as I make someone the director, the producer, the casting person. I hand out headshots and I try and seduce them into casting me!

I also get the audience to help me torture my father who keeps calling to diminish my soul. The audience is always helping me by singing a James Brown tune - very loudly! It's me and the audience. Then they become the addicts in my rehab group. They are integral to this ride and I cannot do this show without them. I invite them to get on this runaway train and once they get on, we co-create the experience. Plus, they can't get off till we all crash into the wall. I love, love, love this experience!

You must really enjoy how those interactions make the show different each time.

I live for them. I crave the audience's responses. Every audience is different. But they are always game to play. And if they're not, I make them. Every time I enter the theatre it's like the first time. I seriously don't know what's going to happen. We've filmed the show, but I won't watch it because I don't want to be seduced into recreating some gesture or affectation again. I want to organically walk in to get the damn part. That is the motivation to enter the theatre with that child-like innocence that this part is mine and they will love me!

Do any of the audiences' past responses stick in your mind as either the best or worst at the time? And have those experiences changed the type of questions you ask?

Any response makes me so happy. I tripped over someone and they said, "I'm so sorry." And I said, "Don't worry. If you see anything you like feel free to touch it," and I offered my crotch as a possible option. The audience died with laughter. Then, one night I made some dude near the back of the theatre a producer, and I climbed up there and squeezed through the row where he was sitting. He was tragically trendy with a man-bun, and after the show, I found out he was also a huge exec from Sony! When I was giving him a headshot, I wound up plopping in his lap and petting his bun. And I said, "Oh my god, your hair's so cool. Do you think I could rock that? Or would I look like I'm chasing my youth also?" The audience fell out. So, there are no rules and no lines I won't cross or ask. It's freeing and it's our show.

Sounds like it was an unintentional double audition!

Interview: Mitch Hara Talks Revamped MUTANT OLIVE 2.0 at the Hudson Guild Theatre

You mentioned that Mutant Olive 2.0 is directed by Carlyle King. How did the two of you connect to work together on the show?

I love her so much. She speaks my language. I grabbed her to direct the second season of my short form series on Amazon Prime, Smothered, which I created it with my buddy Jason Stuart. I've known Carlyle for years as a brilliant actress and an award-winning theatre director. She's an actor's director, which is what I wanted, and Smothered was her first TV directorial experience. It was a genius experience and I said, "Wanna do my solo show?" And she said, "duh-yeh."

We're creative soulmates. I bring her all my toys and she fine-tunes them. She asks really good questions. She directed a pilot last month and cast me in this amazing role as Taytay, the scheming, gaslighting, executive assistant to a Sunset Boulevard-inspired lead. I love Carlyle and I trust she knows how to hold my baby.

Was Carlyle involved with the original version of the play?

Nope. Another old buddy, Terri Hanauer helped me with the maiden version.

Is the same production technical team in place this time?

Luckily everyone I love that was involved with the first one was excited to join this journey!! Zeke from the Hudson Theatre is my consulting producer. Steve Pope is my lighting and sound designer and stage manager. Lucy Pollak is my PR maven. Nancy Nimoy is my graphic queen. Scottie Nevil did my program and Harry is the best kinda cheerleader.

Have either of your parents ever seen Mutant Olive?

Ha, no. At one point I was gonna let them. But I asked one of my best buddies, Doris Roberts (of Everyone Loves Raymond who saw my show 22 times) if I should let them. And she said, with that psycho timing and that gravely, throaty delivery, "No, honey, no. They don't need to see that!" So, they never did. I think my dad would have dealt with the extremely unflattering light I paint him in. But my mom was his only true love and he put her high on a pedestal, and I wanted to keep her up there for him.

They saw a less dramatic work that I did, Cracks in the Mask, which in some ways was the beginning of Mutant Olive, and my mom cried all the way through it and said, "I'm sorry your childhood was so horrible." Like she had nothing to do with it. And my dad said, "That Strasberg crap you did when you cried was okay. The rest of that, I don't get. Who told you that you could act?" That's where I get my humor.

Interview: Mitch Hara Talks Revamped MUTANT OLIVE 2.0 at the Hudson Guild Theatre

When moments of inspiration hit about things to add to the play, how do you remember them and transpose them to the page?

Well, when I decided I needed to be on stage again and have that collaboration with a live audience which is intimate, immediate, and spectacular, my show started talking to me. It said, "It's time mutherf**ker. We're ready. Get ready!" That's when my past starts to invade my present. I see everything like little movies. First, I get very emotional because everything gets freshly reactivated. Then, old episodes and new ones flood my consciousness and the characters in the episodes start throwing up pictures. That's how I write. I kinda channel the characters and I walk around improvising all the voices and then run to the computer.

There were also episodes I didn't use because I wasn't ready to share them. But I'm ready to share everything now. This 2.0 version, you're gonna get the bonus reel, baby! Plus, if I make myself laugh or cry, I know I'm in the secret pocket, and I've learned to trust my process. And I'm a spin freak and cycle all over Hollywood, and the endorphins creatively fine tune my inspirations. And I have a photographic memory for all dialogue. So, I remember every conversation I've ever had. What a waste of computer space that is...

Do you anticipate there will be version 3.0?

As long as I don't die, there will always be more of me. I am 1000% creative. I have to create, or my little soul dies. And my motto has always been, "I don't wait for other people to give me permission to create. I do it for me. I need it to breathe and you need to get out of my way. I just get better and better and happier with myself. It's a very festive place to be. I am so freaking proud of this show. I give you everything, every night, and I love every minute of it. I love this show and I love every person who gets on my train and takes this ride with me. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I love you.

The original version ended with Billy Idol's song "Dancing with Myself" during which audience members got up and did just that. It reminded me that we are all truly dancing by ourselves through our lives and things will turn out exactly as they should. Is that the message you hope audiences will walk away with this time?

Yes. I love that so much! Me and the audience creating a revelatory moment again!! And that our perception effects our journey. Our choices create our experiences and ultimately, we are in control of our destiny. Point the arrow and the universe rises up to get you a bullseye. And, I hope I give everyone permission to be more of themselves! I want to inspire people to risk making a fool of themselves and stop being harbored by their past and self-doubt and just jump in. Just go for your most secret dream, the thing that makes your heart jump a bit every time you think of it. Trust that that gift is for you! Jump my people! The net always appears.

Have you found it easier or more difficult to keep dancing through life in the past three years since Covid hit? Or has the dancing slowed down a bit?

(laughs) Well as you could imagine, I flourished!! I wrote a screenplay, Can You Hear Me Now? about me and amazing nephew who has Asperger's. It's like a gay Aunty Mame meets Kramer vs. Kramer meets Rain Man. I filmed two pilots. Wrote a short, Peeling the Stinky Onion, and filmed it at Sony Pictures about a grief group in hell. Literally. And I rode my bike two hours everyday all over Hollywood, West Hollywood and Beverly hills. For me it was bliss. No voices. No extra people. Just pure creative time. I was transported to my happy place: Creation.

Anything else you would like to add about Mutant Olive 2.0?

Take care of your inner child or it will kill your adult. I'm just saying. And it's time for me to have my own series. I have a pilot written of Mutant Olive, or feel free to develop one specifically for me. Spread the work darlins. He's ready. Love and light my peeps. Love and light.

Thanks so much, Mitch!

Interview: Mitch Hara Talks Revamped MUTANT OLIVE 2.0 at the Hudson Guild Theatre

Written and performed by Mitch Hara, MUTANT OLIVE 2.0 is directed by Carlyle King and presented by Boombaby! Productions and the Hudson Theatres, Zeke Rettman consulting producer. March 7-April 25, 2023 on Tuesdays at 8:00 pm at Hudson Guild Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90038, Tickets are $20, available at or at the door. Masks are recommended but not required. And be prepared to play your part!

Photo Credit: Sierra M. Scott-Malo