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BWW Interview: Fredi Walker-Browne Directs LET THE CHIPS FALL WHERE THEY MAY, A COVID PLAY Presented By Holmdel Theatre Company and Out of the Box Theatrics on 10/5

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Fredi Walker-Browne, original cast member of RENT will direct a virtual play!

BWW Interview: Fredi Walker-Browne Directs LET THE CHIPS FALL WHERE THEY MAY, A COVID PLAY Presented By Holmdel Theatre Company and Out of the Box Theatrics on 10/5

Out of the Box Theatrics (OOTB) and Holmdel Theatre Company will present a virtual reading of LET THE CHIPS FALL WHERE THEY MAY, A COVID PLAY on Monday, October 5th at 7:15 PM ET on Facebook and YouTube. Written by Bob Stewart, the piece is directed by Fredi Walker-Browne (RENT), with sound and video production by DimlyWit Productions.


Set in the near future, Let the Chips Fall Where They May takes place in an America where there's finally a COVID vaccine. Slowly, the nation reopens, but not without consequence. There are strict rules to follow and one misstep will cause severe repercussions - and not just for the rule breaker. Let the Chips Fall Where They May examines entitlement, classism, and the extreme effects of self-isolation during a pandemic. It is a special presentation of OOTB's Off the Couch Play Festival - a virtual new works play festival dedicated to OOTB's mission to diversify American theater by providing an inclusive and accessible platform for artists and patrons, especially in times like these. The cast for Let the Chips Fall Where They May is Jakeim Hart (Sing Street), Terry Lavell (La Cage Aux Folles), Gracie Winchester (Annie Get Your Gun), Ryan Clardy (Mr. Irresistible), and David Meenan (42nd Street, A Chorus Line).


Broadwayworld.com had the opportunity to interview director Fredi Walker-Browne.

Fredi Walker-Browne is best known for creating the role of JoAnne Jefferson in the Pulitzer Prize winning musical RENT! This year she appears as "Ghost" in Season 3 of HBO's SEARCH PARTY. You can find her streaming or "on-demand" as "Beverly" in Rebecca Miller's MAGGIE'S PLAN and "Shay" in Showtime's Emmy Award winning series THE BIG C. The single IT TOOK A LAW 2 MAKE ME HUMAN from her album #1PEOPLE-1PLANET will drop this October. She is currently directing a film-stage hybrid reading of Bob Stewart's LET THE CHIPS FALL WHERE THEY MAY - a disturbing look at the post-Covid world produced by OUT OF THE BOX THEATRICS in association with HOLMDEL THEATRE COMPANY and, her original play #RENTStories will be a part of THE HOLMDEL THEATRE COMPANY's upcoming season. She is a proud advocate of Arts Education for students in all schools everywhere! "Miss Fredi" teaches voice and acting to students of all ages and professional levels. She is the creator of THE PROFESSIONAL SKILLS FOR ACTORS SERIES™.

How did you get started in the theatre industry?

Oh, well, it's funny. You know, I'm doing a thing with "Being An Arts Hero" now. It's amazing to me as a group. And we're going to be doing this thing on "Arts Education" called "arts is my superpower." And as I'm introducing this to my students and to some of the young artists that I would like to participate in this project, we talk about it like "Arts were my superpower, because I realize that everything that made me weird in the world made me great on stage" and then people loved me for it.

It was definitely high school. It was almost like "Glee," like I just fell into the sound of that group. And we all were together and we realized that it was that the very thing that made us weird made us super in this particular arena and I was at home from that moment forward. I chose this for a profession at fourteen. It was where I actually felt like myself, like "Yeah, I can be me here." This is where I am meant to be because this is where I can be me without apologizing.

When did you make the transition from acting to directing?

It was natural. It was a natural transition that was born out of writing. I started writing first. So after I got into the business, one of my slogans was "It's not show art, it's showbiz." So I'm very clear on what this business is and the fact that it's about money and a bunch of other things that have nothing to do with art or your artistic ability. And as I realized that, you know, I have a decent sense of objectivity when it comes to self-casting and stuff like that, which is very hard for actors. And I realized long ago, I'm like, "OK, I'm a plus sized black chick. There are a dime a dozen. There's a million of me." How then do I contribute? Where's my real contribution then if there's like a billion plus sized black chicks that can sing? That makes me one of the small army which is great.

But at the same time, I was like, where can I really make a contribution in this event that matters? And I realized as a content provider, I could make way more of a contribution because there are these black kids out there, but there's nobody writing stories for them. And so that's why I started writing. And I think directing was just a natural offshoot of that. You have to find a way to nurture your artistic experience and your artistic spirit outside of the business, because that's not what the business is for. The business is there to make money. But if you're an artist, you're an artist. And that is something that you have to feed all of your life regardless. I also worked backstage for many years. I worked in wardrobe on Broadway and as an usher on Broadway long before I was an actor on Broadway. So I've always just felt at home somewhere in this work. I really never cared if it was on stage or backstage or whatever. As long as I'm in the environment and in the work, I was happy and I still feel that way.

What was your inspiration for Let The Chips Fall Where They May and how did Holmdel Theatre Company get involved?

Well, Let The Chips Fall Where They May is written by Bob Stewart, who is a dear friend of mine and one of my writing cohorts all these years. We started writing around the same time, actually, he was a dancer and I was a singer-actor. And then when Bob really started to get it going, I was like, "Bob, I just want to direct this work." And, you know, this guy's plays are amazing. And so I just wanted to direct something of his forever. And I was actually pitching a different piece of his to Holmdel Theatre Company, but at the same time when COVID happened, content is king now. I have tons of content. I know all of these amazing playwrights, I write myself, I have the rights to my friends' stuff, you know, I've got all the content. So I started throwing content at them and they did Chips [nickname for Let The Chips Fall Where They May]. And I'm like, cool. So Chips is definitely an intense old piece. Holmdel Theatre Company approached Out Of The Box Theatrics with it and Out Of The Box bid at it and so that's how we all came together to do it.

Can you give our readers a little preview of what the play is about?

In short, it is about the world after the vaccine and what we as a society agree to to have, "a new normal," and it's very deep. I had a couple of mental health experts that I know read the script just to make sure we were on the right track, because it freaked some actors out so much they didn't want to do the role. One of them described it as, "Powerful script. Disturbing but somehow seems plausible. So many themes: dystopia, classism, depersonalized interaction, racism through veiled language, Capitalism, creation of a black market, entitlement, human rights violation, all in twelve pages." That summed it up right there.

What is the casting process for a virtual play?

Casting is what makes a director great. What makes a director great is picking an excellent script, and then finding excellent actors to play it out. That is really the heart of directing. Fortunately, I know a lot of great actors and then of course the producers know a lot of great actors. Two of these actors are people I've worked with before and they're wonderful and one of them is a fellow I've known for a very long time. When I talked to the playwright about what he saw and how he saw the characters this guy so fit that. He agreed to do it and I was delighted. The two main characters were actors that were brought to me by the producers, actors that they know and have worked with and they're both lovely people and I look forward to working with them. They got it, they were into it, and they weren't afraid of the material, which is very important.

What would you like audiences to know about Let The Chips Fall Where They May before watching it?

I want them to know they're in for a bumpy ride. I want them to understand that this is going to touch you right where you live. Whatever your fears are about this, it's going to touch that. It's good because that is what art does, art is therapy. This is our way to actually begin some of these conversations. It is about what we as a society gave up for this "new normal." There's a lot of privacy vs. security with the Internet and content tracing: Facebook, Google, and all of this stuff. The idea of having to re-quarantine, and a lot of topics that freak people out. He [Bob Stewart] managed to pack a lot of incredible ideas into twelve pages. I would imagine people will have to watch this a couple of times.

Both RENT and Let The Chips Fall Where They May have to do with a global pandemic. Do you see a connection between the two?

I am biased, I see RENT in everything. RENT fundamentally changed my life in many ways, not just career. The concept of "No Day But Today." When you actually embody that, if you really take that in as something more than just a homily it changes everything. "There's only now, there's only this, forget, regret or life is yours to miss." That is way more than a song. When it becomes a way of life, then everything changes. And it did. Losing Jonathan in that way, having to sing his eulogy to his parents every night, it changed me forever as a human being. So yes, I would obviously see a lot of RENT references in everything because that man [Jonathan Larson] understood us. He understood human beings. And in his short time here he managed to really hold the mirror up in a lasting and powerful way. I wrote a play called "RENT Stories" (that's how I got involved with Holmdel) because when Rent: Live happened people started texting and pleading and Facebooking from all over the world saying how the show changed their life.

How do you think the pandemic will change theatre in the future?

It will have to change. There will have to be physical changes. The hardest part will be rebuilding those theatres. All of those theatres are incredibly old, they have horrible mold problems and dust problems and terrible ventilation. The money that it's going to take, how that's going to reflect in the ticket sales later on, that's the only thing. The problem is, you can't sing and dance together in this epidemic and not kill each other. It's not even the audience, it's the actors. And all of that is going to have to be taken care of. A lot of outdoor theatres are going to be happening now - amphitheaters and summer theater will come into their own in this stage. All of that stuff is definitely going to be big. I don't know how it will work in New York or on Broadway, but taking the roof off of a theatre and doing it more stadium-like where the roof is open, how do you do the grid and electrics and weather, etc. All of the creativity is going to have to come in and people are going to have to start thinking.

And I hope that we will get more of what I call "pure theater" - two actors, a couple of chairs, and a great script. I love the big productions, but I really hope we can get back to some really good, scaled back theater without all of the bells and whistles. I'm also hoping that there will be way more investing in new pieces as opposed to rehashing old pieces and making movies into musicals and stuff like that. Audiences don't care about context, all they want is a story. They're starving for content.

To keep up with Fredi, you can follow her on Twitter at @fwbrowne, Instagram at @bigspoonprods, or visit her website at www.bigspoonproductions.com.

Let The Chips Fall Where They May will livestream on Out of the Box Theatrics' Facebook page and YouTube channel on Monday, October 5 at 7:15 PM ET and is free to the public, but donations are encouraged.


You can learn more about Holmdel Theatre Company by calling 732-946-0427, visiting their website at https://www.holmdeltheatrecompany.org, or you can follow them on Twitter @RealHTC, Instagram @holmdeltheatrecompany, and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/holmdeltheatrecompany/.

Photo Credit: Yasmeen Enahora


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