Interview: Michael Aguirre and 'The Jackson C. Frank Listening Party w/ Special Guests'

The show begins streaming on Monday, March 29 for a limited engagement through Sunday, April 11.

By: Mar. 22, 2021
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Interview: Michael Aguirre and 'The Jackson C. Frank Listening Party w/ Special Guests'

New Light Theater Project will present The Jackson C. Frank Listening Party w/ Special Guests, written by Michael Aguirre and directed by Sarah Norris. The show begins streaming on Monday, March 29 for a limited engagement through Sunday, April 11. Presented as part of 59E59 Theaters Plays In Place program, tickets are free with a suggested donation of $15.

The Jackson C. Frank Listening Party w/ Special Guests is structured as a "listening party," where like-minded people gather to listen to a new or classic album in its entirety and discuss the music. By taking on this novel format, the production draws parallels between an obscure and tragic folk musician of the '60s to our isolation in the pandemic while also sharing a darkly funny story about ways we hold onto the people we love. had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Aguirre about his background and the upcoming show.

Michael began his career in Chicago working with Steppenwolf, the Windy City Players, and First Folio. Regional: The Wilma Theater (Philadelphia), the Hexagon Theatre (South Africa), Red Barn Theater (Indiana). New York: Pearl Theatre (City Center), Signature Theatre, Waterwell, Snorks and Pins, Boomerang, The Acting Studio/Chelsea Rep Lab, and is a founding member of New Light Theater Project. Recent Writing: American Dream Theater Residency (Virginia Beach, for The Mountain King); New Light Theater Project's SIDD presented in New York City (Access Theater), Woodstock (Byrdcliffe Theater), and Chicago (Gift Theater) which was the first out-of-town show to sell out in Chicago Fringe history; New Light Theater Project's sold-out run of the site-specific Apartment Play (January of 2014); The Acting Studio and Chelsea Rep's production of Mountain King, Rose Queen (Shetler Theater, NYC) which was also a Neil LaBute New Play Fest semi-finalist (2013); The Acting Studio and Chelsea Rep's production of Almost a Fantasy (440 Studios, NYC Fringe); various short works including At War (Equilibrium Theatre, London);The Convention of Leaving (The Pit, NYC), ATHE's New Play workshop selection for To Whom Shall I Tell My Grief (Alternate); John Wayne's America (semi-finalist, Seven Devils Conference). Residencies/Awards: Former Resident Playwright with Rising Sun Production Company. He is also the former Playwright Apprentice with Wide Eyed Productions. A Fellow at the Byrdcliffe Woodstock Artist in Residency and a Pataphysics Workshop Fellow with Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins (The Flea Theater).

When did you first realize your penchant for theatre?

In the fourth grade, I was involved a bit with the community children's theater, and there was also a classroom at our grade school that had a very small stage. We had to write and produce our own short play in the fifth grade, and I remember it being the most engaging and interesting thing I had ever done. I collected (what seemed like) hundreds of props from around my house, did re-writes upon re-writes, printed programs -- the works. And of course, I starred in it, too. The show was called The BeeBops, and it was about aliens from outer space landing on Earth. I'm sure I copied jokes and stole from sitcoms or cartoons I was watching. And I'm sure there's a VHS of this performance somewhere in my parents' garage...

Tell us a little about your education and how it influenced your career.

In high school, I was involved in theater and there were some terrific teachers, but I had no thoughts of pursuing it in college. I went to Indiana University on scholarship -- a golf caddy scholarship (the Evans Scholarship, another story for another time) -- so I knew even less about what IU had to offer in terms of the arts. Of course, the first week of classes, I passed by a bustling theatre department, signed up for auditions, got involved with a few undergrad shows, and I was hooked again. There was no escape. IU turned out to be a terrific education, and I've further pursued writing and acting classes in New York at The Acting Studio led by John Grabowski and James Price, and The Acting Studio has been tremendously supportive and helpful over the years.

We know that you are both an actor and a writer. How do these professional roles complement each other?

As a writer, you sit with a script for a very long time, and you sit with it completely alone. You speak to the characters, the characters speak to you, so sometimes when other people join the collaboration, it's like a shock to the system: they have different interpretations and opinions for what you've written, which usually, it works out for the best. As a writer, you can sometimes get caught up in something or have blind spots to structure, character, plot. Both actors and writers depend on others to help get the job done. Maybe it's your scene partner, maybe it's the director. A designer. But both roles depend on and need other collaborators to give their talents, insights and honesty.

What was the inspiration for The Jackson C. Frank Listening Party w/ Special Guests?

Originally, and part of the story of the script, draws on my relationship with my brother and our adolescent years, where in our obsession to acquire music we would create listening parties (just the two of us) where we would force ourselves to listen to the full albums of each CD purchase all the way through.

This is harder than it sounds! When's the last time you listened to a full album in one sitting? There's a determination and patience, but also a reward in doing so. It's like finishing a novel.

For years, there have been incarnations of productions where I thought it would be great if audiences could all gather and listen to a full album, and finally during the pandemic, I wanted to create a show that tried to talk about art, connection, and our relationship to music. Jackson C. Frank was an obscure folk artist and his story is somewhat tragic, and I wanted the music to hopefully be something new people would be discovering.

We'd love to know more about the team for the show.

The Artistic Director of New Light Theater Project, Sarah Norris, is also the director of the show. She's, in my opinion, the best director working to date. I couldn't imagine anyone else at the helm (or having to deal with me as a writer and actor), and she has helped craft the script and production into something more than I thought there could be.

Hallie Wage Griffin has been key in figuring out the virtual world, editing the video together, and the cast of the play do an amazing job bringing energy and an amazing amount of talent to the story.

What would you like audiences to know about the upcoming performance?

We are going to listen to an entire album of music and also listen to a story. It's about 80 minutes long. I know... it's the pandemic... we're on the brink of tiring from Zoom shows and virtual events. But I hope there is an added element of playing the music that will be worth it.

You'll have to have both the stream of the show and the playlist up at the same time, because you'll be asked to play music in between scenes. Watch the tutorial video or ask if things are confusing. It's not as confusing as it sounds once you find your rhythm.

Can you share any of your plans for the future?

Hopefully, New Light Theater Project will be back in an actual theater space by... end of year? We are comprised of a Collective of nearly 50 incredibly talented theater-makers, and everyone is ready to be back.

We have a Radio Dramas series on the website which are top-notch and we'll launch another written by Gama Valle later this spring.

There were a slate of shows that were postponed that hopefully we'll get to line up back in the theaters shortly, so keep an eye out for more New Light Theater Project updates!

Tickets for The Jackson C. Frank Listening Party w/ Special Guests can be purchased via For more information, visit The running time is 1 hour and 20 minutes.

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Photo Courtesy of Michael Aguirre


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