Episode 033 – Producer Director Actor Brad Coolidge – Part 2

Filmmaker Brad Coolidge likes hockey

Filmmaker Brad Coolidge likes hockey

Here is part 2 of my interview with Brad Coolidge.

If you’ve ever thought you might want to direct a film, this is a great interview for you because my buddy Brad talks honestly about some of the challenges he faced as a first time director shooting a “creature feature.”

Sometimes the elements don’t cooperate, or your creature gets held up in customs and arrives late, or you don’t have enough days on the schedule.   There are so many obstacles awaiting you when you make a film.

Brad and his wife, Melissa, along with their producing partner, Todd Labarowski, make beautiful indie movies as well.  We talked about these in detail in part 1 of the interview, but here are the links again to those great films: What Maisie Knew, Prince AvalancheJoe,  The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him AND Her, Manglehorn, and The World Made Straight.

Enjoy the interview.  Topics covered:

  • Back to our conversation in progress, El Chupacabra (1:25)
  • Setting the movie in Austin, paring down the budget, casting in NY, LA and locally (5:06)
  • Approaching go time, creature creation by Mario Torres, Jr. (7:22)
  • First day — driving scenes, Texas State University (9:50)
  • Relying on experienced crew, location scouting, spending a lot of time on the master (12:29)
  • Complication at the beginning of the first week (19:19)
  • Weather does not cooperate, steady cam (22:22)
  • Creature challenges, no time to rehearse (24:56)
  • Reworking, editing what’s in the can (33:00)
  • Inspiring the troupes, “Once more unto the breach!” (34:56)
  • A little about raising money (39:46)
  • Working on a script with Brad, Drilling Company connection (44:16)
  • Treating people well on a film set (46:37)

Episode 032 – Producer Director Actor Brad Coolidge – Part 1

Stephen Bittrich and Brad Coolidge after whacking some golf balls.

Stephen Bittrich and Brad Coolidge after whacking some golf balls.

My good friends Brad and Melissa Coolidge helped me transition to Austin.  That’s the kind of lovely, awesome folks they are!

And they also happen to make thoughtful, exciting independent movies.

In part one of this two part interview I talk to Brad about the movies he and his wife have been producing or co-executive producing (along with their partner, Todd Labarowski).  These include, What Maisie Knew (with Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgård and Steve Coogan – inspired by a Henry James novel), Prince Avalanche (directed by Austin filmmaker David Gordon Green and starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch, Joe (with Nicholas Cage and again directed by David Gordon Green),  The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him AND Her (which can now be seen as intended in the big markets like New York — and a combined version “Them” is playing in some smaller markets), Manglehorn, (with Al Pacino, Holly Hunter, Chris Messina, directed by David Gordon Green) and The World Made Straight (with Noah Wiley, Minka Kelly, Haley Joel Osment, and Jeremy Irvine).  These last 2 films have not yet been released.

In part 2 of the interview we’ll talk about Brad’s experiences directing a “creature feature” horror film.  So keep an eye out for part 2 coming soon.

If you’re in New York or other select cities go see The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him/Her.  Click here for tickets in New York.

Topics covered in the interview:

Episode 022 – Marc Palmieri – Actor, Writer, Webseries Creator


Marc_Palmieri_The_ThingMarc Palmieri is a very smart and entertaining guy, an actor, writer, teacher, and dad. He tells some great stories about getting a screenplay of his made, some of his first survival jobs, his awesome webseries (The Thing), but the most touching part of the interview well may be when he tells the charming story of how he met his wife.

He and I met when a friend of mine was in a play which he was also in, and we all went out afterwards to a bar.  I instantly liked him because he was just fun to be around, but over the years since, I’ve been consistently impressed with the depth of his talent not just as an actor but also as a writer.

In the interview we mentioned the awesome set for his play, Levittown, as designed by Michele Spadaro.  Here’s a picture of that set and a link to that feature in the NY Times.


Topics covered in the interview:

  • Intro  (0:00)
  • Hello Marc! (3:51)
  • First survival jobs – as a Macy’s “model” and receptionist  (5:10)
  • Growing up, connection to New York, theater roots  (12:00)
  • Artsy fartsy literary Shakespeare guy (15:26)
  • The Thing Webseries  (19:07)
  • Playing the lead in the movie, Too Much Sleep (22:25)
  • Writing the screenplay Telling You, the scoop (25:45)
  • How Marc met his wife – great story! (32:21)
  • Exploring question – is art still important if fewer people see it?  (44:01)
  • Levittown production (and talk about that great set) (47:13)
  • Contacting playwriting hero, Christopher Durang  (1:01:37)
  • Talking about memorable moments of the webseries (1:03:28)
  • “Bizarre, Interesting or Horrible Audition Stories” (1:14:16)

As usual my buddy Sal Clemente (of Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra) who wrote the podcast theme song, “Here We Go Again,” plays us out.  URO has a concert coming up.  Click the link to find out more!

Episode 021 – Scott Baker – Actor, Bally Master, Santa


Scott_Baker_Bally_Master_02Scott Baker is truly one of a kind on this earth.  He is the barker or bally master for the Coney Island Freak Show in the summers.  In the winters he is often (when not acting in films or plays) Santa Claus in one of the big department stores.  He was in the legendary show Oh! Calcutta! for 12 years on Broadway, and he also did some porn acting in the 70s-80s!  Quite an amazing and varied life!

He and I met doing theatre Off Off Broadway at the Drilling Company years ago, and he was my muse there in the beginning when I was writing a lot of bizarre comedies for which he was so perfectly suited.  He added his unique stamp to all of those short plays.

Interestingly the interview took a dark and serious turn when we talked about his experiences being mugged in NYC.  NYC is a safer city now, but the area where he’s lived (and in other areas around the 5 boroughs) the city has gone through some major changes through the years.

I promise you will enjoy this talk with Scott Baker!

Topics covered in the interview:

  • Intro  (0:00)
  • Hello Scott! How we met — Two Eggs and La Mouche (3:49)
  • Bally Master a short documentary film about Scott Baker  (8:17)
  • The Coney Island Freak Show — three kinds of freaks (12:00)
  • Early inspirations, Frank Lentini and Gilbert Mysto Magic Set (16:30)
  • How to learn how to pound a nail into your head or eat fire, Coney Island Side Show School (20:32)
  • Winter job, Santa Claus (24:56)
  • How Scott got to New York (25:51)
  • Scott performs in adult films – “Rupert!” (27:23)
  • Oh! Calcutta! on Broadway (33:12)
  • How Times Square has changed, being mugged by gunpoint (37:30)
  • “Bizarre, Interesting or Horrible Audition Stories” (44:00)
  • Kitschy interests and new project: Elvis, Santa, John Wilkes Booth, Frankenstein (50:43)
  • Cancer survivor — of the soft palette (55:16)
  • Remembering director, Richard Harden (59:29)

As usual my buddy Sal Clemente (of Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra) who wrote the podcast theme song, “Here We Go Again,” plays us out.  URO has a concert coming up.  Click the link to find out more!

Episode 020 – Holly Williams – Repertory Actor at Barter Theatre


Stephen Bittrich and Holly Williams at Barter Theatre

Holly Williams is a repertory actor at The Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia.  I really wanted to see something at The Barter while I was still in this area (East Tennessee), and I approached her about doing an interview, and she could not have been nicer.  She got me into 2 shows, we had a terrific interview about the busy (and artistically fulfilling) life of the rep actor, and I got the super deluxe tour of the facility.

I was so impressed with the well-oiled machine at the Barter.  They were switching out the set for the evening show when we were talking in the dressing room.  They also have 2 shows going on in the Stage II space (their smaller space), and they are simultaneously rehearsing for the next shows which will go up.  The scheduling people must be geniuses!  Right now at the Barter you could see 4 different shows… Man of LaMancha, I Do I Do I Do, Don’t Cry for Me, Margaret Mitchell, and The Dryad: An Appalachian Tale.  Something for everyone!

And Holly was terrific.  She had a lead role in I Do I Do I Do and a supporting role in Man of LaMancha.  And she’s also in the midst of rehearsing for her next cool role as Rita in Educating Rita.  Go check out The Barter if you’re in the area!

Topics covered in the interview:

  • Intro  (0:00)
  • Not Hank Williams Granddaughter (4:30)
  • Can you actually barter to get admission to the theatre?  (8:25)
  • The shows I saw, Holly’s busy schedule, life of a repertory actor (10:15)
  • Holly’s good luck charm, writing a lyric on her fingers (17:15)
  • How Holly got the gig with The Barter (19:30)
  • Versatility required, non-traditional casting (23:40)
  • How Holly got the acting, storytelling bug (25:38)
  • Wall of fame … Barter Alumni (37:32)
  • More about The Barter administrative and creative staff (38:37)
  • “Bizarre, Interesting or Horrible Audition Stories” (47:25)

As usual my buddy Sal Clemente (of Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra) who wrote the podcast theme song, “Here We Go Again,” plays us out.  URO has a concert coming up.  Click the link to find out more!

Episode 019 – Corybungus – Off Off Radio Theater


corybungus_posterWelcome to Off Off Radio Theater with the short play Corybungus written by Stephen Bittrich.

Hijinks ensue when a bookshop customer tries to return a defective “OED” (Oxford English Dictionary) because it’s missing words.  This fast moving skit is a nod to the works of Monty Python.

The Returns Man is played by Steve Sherman.

Mr. Weiner, the Customer, is played by Stephen Bittrich.

An interview with Steve Sherman coming soon in a future Off Off Pod episode!

Corybungus was originally performed by The Drilling Company in an evening of New York themed one-acts by Stephen Bittrich called Big Apples.


Episode 017 – Victoria Campbell – Adventurer Filmmaker and Actor


Victoria_CampbellI’ve decided Victoria is amazing and fearless.  And I don’t know if she’d define herself as an “Adventurer” but after talking to her I felt like that word needed to be in the title of her interview!

We got to know each other when she was in a production of my play, Home of the Great Pecan at The Drilling Company, and over the years I’ve seen two of her films, House of Bones (about her lovable, eccentric family and childhood home on Martha’s Vineyard — not to be confused with a horror film of the same name!) and The Hunt for Good Americans where she and a friend traveled across this great country finding and filming all sorts of cool characters.   [I’ll put up links to see these films as they become available.]

I had heard a few stories about her most current project where she daringly finagled her way into Haiti 7 days after the earthquake of 2010.  I knew there would be some amazing tales about that journey, and, boy, I was not disappointed.  You must listen!

By the way, the Haiti documentary, Monsieur le Président, is playing TOMORROW as part of The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival at 10 am at the Chilmark School. Check out this great article from the Martha’s Vineyard Times.

Topics covered in the interview:

  • Intro  (0:00)
  • Hello Victoria; growing up in Martha’s Vineyard in an artsy family (3:12)
  • Film: House of Bones  (10:39)
  • Film: The Hunt for Good Americans (18:55)
  • Back road hookers in Ely, Nevada, Crow Reservation in Montana  (21:06)
  • Blues man, Razorblade, in Clarksdale, Mississippi (27:22)
  • Film: Monsieur le Président; the Haiti Earthquake in 2010 (32:29)
  • The aftershock 6.2; drafted as a “nurse”  (36:22)
  • The Voodoo Priest, Gaston (41:50)
  • Ukrainian transgender in Canarsie, NY (52:11)
  • “Bizarre, Interesting or Horrible Audition Stories” (53:17)

As usual my buddy Sal Clemente (of Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra) who wrote the podcast theme song, “Here We Go Again,” plays us out.  URO has a concert coming up.  Click the link to find out more!

Episode 014 – Hamilton Clancy of The Drilling Company – part 2


DrillingCompanyInterviewClancy2In the second part of the Hamilton Clancy interview we visit stories about the Theater Ghost, a horrible audition story, how Drilling Company helped to raise money for the kids at PS87, and actors teaching Sunday school.

Don’t forget that Drilling Company is now running The Norwegians by C. Denby Swanson and directed by Elowyn Castle with the following cast:  Hamilton Clancy, Veronica Cruz, Karla Hendricks, and Dan Teachout. The stage manager is Mary Linehan, and the house manager is Milena Davila. Go to the website for more info:  www.drillingcompany.org.

Topics covered in the interview:

  • Intro  (0:00)
  • The Drilling Company Theater Ghost as told by Dan Teachout (5:19)
  • History of space – Mark Zeller (10:03)
  • The new one-act read-aloud, Stephen plays a trick (12:25)
  • The Drilling Company starts producing full-length plays (15:25)
  • The haunted house at PS87, Zombie Labs (16:58)
  • The Discovery Series for developing new plays (19:15)
  • In Memoriam: Edwin Owens and Richard Harden (21:58)
  • Actors teaching Sunday school (25:24)
  • Now playing over 100 performances, The Norwegians (32:08)
  • Hamilton’s bad audition story, the toy fair (35:24)

As usual my buddy Sal Clemente (of Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra) who wrote the podcast theme song, “Here We Go Again,” plays us out.

Episode 013 – Hamilton Clancy of The Drilling Company – part 1


Stephen Bittrich & Hamilton Clancy on stage of The Drilling Company Theater

In 2000 I was introduced to a theatre company called The Drilling Company which at that time produced new one-acts in themed evenings.  They’ve since branched out into full-lengths, play development and even Shakespeare in the Parking Lot on the Lower East Side.

I can’t think of many plays I’ve written in the past 14 years which have not been in some way inspired or nurtured by The Drilling Company, which is helmed by my friend, Artistic Director, Hamilton Clancy.

In part 1 of this two part interview, Hamilton and I talk about the history of the company as they begin their 16th season.

Don’t forget that Drilling Company is now running The Norwegians by C. Denby Swanson.  Go to the website for more info:  www.drillingcompany.org.

Topics covered in the interview:

  • Welcome Hamilton and audience  (1:49)
  • How the company began, and the first show (7:00)
  • Second show Neighbors and how I met Drilling Company (12:59)
  • Company member Scott Baker’s Kringled (15:15)
  • The one-act evenings and the themes (18:58)
  • The Drilling Company Theater space on 78th Street (22:12)
  • Why is the company called The Drilling Company (25:08)
  • Political theatre, George Bush years (27:53)
  • A man of many hats, including writer (31:27)
  • Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, crap on the moon (37:33)
  • Dave Marantz’s story about the sword/knife fight in the parking lot (45:53)
  • In the Car stories, the birth of the read-aloud (49:48)

As usual my buddy Sal Clemente (of Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra) who wrote the podcast theme song, “Here We Go Again,” plays us out.

Episode 012 – Gioia De Cari of Truth Values




Photo by John Olson

My friend Gioia De Cari created a very successful one-woman show called Truth Values: One Girl’s Romp Through M.I.T.’s Male Math Maze which has had 95 performances in 45 theaters in 17 states with over 17,000 audience members.

In this interview we talk about the development of her show as well as her background as a mathematician at M.I.T.  The show has create a serious discussion about women in STEM fields.  The writing of the show was in part spurred on by a quote from the former president of Harvard, Lawrence Summers who infamously (and publicly) suggested that the reason women weren’t more represented in STEM fields was because of innate gender differences.

[Please note: Gioia wrote me in horror after the interview realizing that she had had a brain fizz and said “Bill Clinton” when she meant “Barack Obama” at the 9:20 mark of the interview.]

If you’ve ever wanted to write and perform your own one person show, certainly Gioia may be held up as a model of success.  Or if you’re interested in the topic of gender inequality in education, you’ll enjoy her point of view!

Topics covered in the interview:

  • Introduction.  Welcome to New York!  (0:00)
  • Hello Gioia De Cari.  The acting impulse.  MIT. (2:52)
  • The beginning of her one-woman show, Truth Values (7:15)
  • Tips from Wynn Handman about writing a one person show (11:43)
  • Gioia trying to fit in at MIT (14:49)
  • How she started booking the show into theatres around US (20:43)
  • How she figured out the business end of touring (24:30)
  • Political writing, can art change people or policy? (31:31)
  • Stephen didn’t realize he was sexually harrassed in the workplace (34:39)
  • Writing again after a hit (39:37)
  • Gioia’s most horrible or bizarre or interesting audition experience (46:15)
  • Go eat at Chirping Chicken at 77th and Amsterdam! (51:44)

As usual my buddy Sal Clemente (of Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra) who wrote the podcast theme song, “Here We Go Again,” plays us out.