Interview: Ellyn Essig of THE TOXIC AVENGER at The Leonia Players

through April 30th.

By: Apr. 24, 2023
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Interview: Ellyn Essig of THE TOXIC AVENGER at The Leonia Players

The Leonia Players Presents The Toxic Avenger! I had the pleasure of interview Director Ellyn Essig.

The Toxic Avenger is a campy, yes raunchy, and totally hysterical 2008 musical adaptation of the 1984 Troma film of the same name written by Tony Award winners Joe DiPietro and David Bryan (Bon Jovi). The Toxic Avenger combines horror, a fabulous rock score, and an action-packed love story that has it all: an unlikely hero, his beautiful girlfriend, a corrupt New Jersey mayor and two guys who play...everyone else. Set in a toxic waste dump off the New Jersey Turnpike - the citizens of Tromaville cry for help as Melvin Ferd the 3rd, an aspiring earth scientist, vows to clean up the state while fighting corruption and falling in love with Sarah, a beautiful blind librarian.

Please tell us about yourself.

Lawyer by day and Director by night. I grew up in Bergenfield and have been a Bergen County resident most of my life. I'm a Jersey Girl...What else can I say...

Please tell us about your involvement in theater.

I started in theater 25 years ago as an actor. After being told I didn't have an acting future, I immersed myself in scenic design and, for the last 10 years, directing. After a few nominations, I received the 2018 Perry Award for Outstanding Production of a Play for directing Steel Magnolias and the 2020 Perry for Outstanding Scenic Design for The Lion in Winter, so I guess changing theater paths was the right decision..

What inspired you to direct this piece?

Who wouldn't want to save New Jersey?! A friend of mine hipped me to this show after seeing it in New York. When I was asked to direct at PGL, I thought "finally a theater that was a perfect fit for this quirky, edgy and totally Jersey show!". The Board loved the idea and so it became a fabulous reality for me. I am truly grateful for this opportunity and the talent that flocked to the production.

What do you want your audiences to take away from this show?

I wanted to make this production uniquely ours, capturing the camp and humor while maintaining "Toxie"'s genuine relevance of our beloved New Jersey facing ecological disaster from global warming, political corruption and toxic waste. While the audience sees superb performances on stage, they should appreciate that these 5 actors play 33 roles creating another separate play backstage with costume changes, props and a backstage running crew of 8. If the audiences leave happier, have laughed for 2 hours, and go home inspired to tell others to see "Toxie" and join our quest to save New Jersey, we have fulfilled our mission.


Any upcoming projects you will be working on after this?

This show will be a tough act to follow. If I could take "Toxie" on tour, that would be my wish. Otherwise, no plans at the moment.

Anything additional you would like to add?

This absolutely superb cast and the immense artistry of the design team, needs to be seen! The Toxic Avenger is a train that takes off and doesn't stop.




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