BWW Interviews: F.I.T.R. PRODUCTIONS' Priyank Rastogi & Laura Moss
New Jersey is home to many exciting and innovative theater companies - several of those being directly outside of New York City. A new one was formed in 2012 and Broadway World set down with the Managing Director of the company along with the director of the first production The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh.
BWW: Thanks for joining us today to introduce us to your company. First off. F.I.T.R. Productions. Can you tell us what that means?
Priyank Rastogi: There are actually dual meanings to the name of our company: F.I.T.R. stands for "Fiction Is Turning Real," and it is spoken as "Fighter" Productions.
BWW: What made you decide to start this new company?
Rastogi: I still remember the first play I saw, when I was back in India. I was blown away by the power of a live performance. I remember coming out of the play and thinking "I would love to create something so magical someday." That thought never left me, and when I moved to New York City, my passion for theatre grew stronger and stronger. Last year, I finally took the opportunity to turn my fiction into a reality.
BWW: Was there a particular mission you had in mind and why in Northern NJ?
Rastogi: The mission of F.I.T.R. Productions actually coincides with its name. Our mission is to turn a true ambition and an honest dream into reality. I value all dreams, and I have created a platform where we all can honor our purest dreams.
I chose Northern New Jersey because, as a resident of Jersey City, I have encountered many local, professional artists who want to be a part of the professional theatre community, but the opportunities provided in Northern NJ are not extensive. The focus is on New York City. I wanted to provide Northern New Jersey residents with an intimate professional experience as rich and entertaining as any New York City production. Our production of the The Pillowman is as professional as an Off-Broadway production.
BWW: Did you meet many of the people on your staff while at NYU?
Rastogi: I moved to New York City from New Dehli, India to pursue my Masters in Computer Science, so most of the people I met in NYU were Computer Geeks like me. However, I did become a member of an Actors/Filmmakers/Producers social group internal to NYU, so when I was looking for the Director for The Pillowman, I reached out to that group. That is how I met our director Laura Moss, who has an extensive director resume and is currently a Masters student at NYU's graduate film school.
BWW: The Pillowman. There must be a reason this was chosen as the first production. Can one of you answer that?
Rastogi: The Pillowman was the first play I ever read. I was dumbstruck by the exceptional and somewhat poetic storytelling, and the exquisite writing of this play. The way the play depicts and handLes Child torture with the medium of storytelling is just brilliant. When I decided to open F.I.T.R., my truest and purest dream was to create The Pillowman, and I couldn't have thought of any other play to launch the company.
BWW: I know it's difficult to get people involved in a New Group when there are so many to choose from. Can you tell us what sets F.I.T.R. apart?
Rastogi: Honoring dreams sets F.I.T.R. apart. It is a company run by artists for artists. Our biggest goal for the end of the production is for the whole cast and crew to be able to feel a sense of achievement and satisfaction. Everybody came to this production because they wanted to pursue their dreams, and I want to make sure I provide a platform for them to do that.
BWW: What comes next for your company after The Pillowman?
Rastogi: Our driving force is to address our strongest truth. The Pillowman is the strongest truth now, and we are very open to whatever comes next. We are considering taking our work to other parts of United States, internationally, or even producing a film. Whatever it will be, we will make sure we follow our truth.
BWW: Laura, as the director of the piece - can you tell readers a little about it?
Laura Moss: It's a hilarious but very dark play by acclaimed playwright and filmmaker Martin McDonagh, in which two fascist police detectives interrogate a writer of violent stories. McDonagh, whose work is always violent, is in a way putting himself as an author on trial in the piece; the material is incredibly layered. The play was heavily influenced by Kafka's writing as well as Grimm's fairy tales, taking some of them to their grisliest conclusion.
BWW: What is your approach to working on such a powerful work?
Moss: It's easy to be intimidated by such complex themes and powerful writing, so to ground myself I make sure to find what is most basic and human about the play. For me, this play is about returning to innocence, and finding ways to make sense of the terrible things that happen in the world, especially to children. All of the characters are finding ways to frame the violence they encounter every day to make it okay, and all of them have deep wounds of their own they are trying to heal.
BWW: What do you feel audiences walk away from The Pillowman mostly remember?
Moss: I hope people will reflect on the power of narrative, for 'good' and for 'evil'. Society can promote a narrative to oppress people. An oppressed person can shape a personal narrative that helps communicate their experience to the world. I do not believe work should be censored because of violent themes, but I strongly believe that storytellers have a responsibility to think about whether their work reflects or questions the status quo.
BWW: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. The Pillowman runs 9 performances May 17-26, 2013. Fridays-Saturday at 8pm, Saturdays & Sundays at 3pm, Plus Thursday May 23 at 8pm. The Barrow Mansion in Jersey City at 83 Wayne Street. Tickets are $25 and people can get more information at www.pillowman-fitr.com