Bobby Holder is the founder and owner of The Actor’s Project-NYC (TAPNYC). In 2009 Bobby produced a play called Manhattan Fable -The Actress Who Cried Wolf.
Now four years later he is again showcasing this play but with a few changes. “When I was looking for a play to help promote our ‘Help Keep Plays Alive’ at TAPNYC, I realized it was time to blow the dust off the script for Manhattan Fable,” commented Bobby.
“I had thought of it a lot over the years. I had written and directed other plays since, but I knew it was time for this story,” he continued.
“In 2009, I was inspired to write this play from a scene called “Mother,” which is now in my book ‘Out of the Blue,’ a collection of scenes and monologues which have been performed in our industry showcases at TAPNYC.
“‘Mother’ is a memory scene about three sisters who are remembering their drunk, dead mother, as she chimes in with drunken barbs.”
For the original play Bobby pondered over this scene thinking about how he could expand the concept into a full length play.
“When deciding to turn the scene into a play, it was as if the character of the mother (Anna) walked right out of that scene and right into a play about a struggling actress (Carla), who was living in Manhattan with her boyfriend (Andrew), a young southern playwright,” explained Bobby.
“I did this change because I needed to place the memory scene into my reality as much as I could,” he explained.
Bobby wrote “Mother” from his memories of growing up in the south. But when he started writing the play he was no longer living in the south. Instead, he was living in midtown Manhattan.
“By then as a director I was spending and still do spend a lot of time with actors, so I knew the main character had to be an actor,” he remarked.
“I tried it a thousand different ways on paper, but once I had Carla, Andrew, and Anna, the play seemed to come alive for me.”
By that time Bobby had developed his TAPNYC, a company that produces showcases, monologue challenges and more for the actors that are part of their program. Actors are provided with monologues and if they pass the very strict standards of TAPNYC they are cast in a showcase.
These showcases also give Bobby an opportunity to test the many monologues and scenes that he writes and he used this opportunity to test some ideas he wanted to implement in the play he was writing.
“I took the main scene from my play and put it on the stage in one of our showcases and it worked. We then work shopped the entire play in front of a live audience in 2009,” he explained.
To his amazement the audience was sold out and in addition to the general public there were also many actors, agents, managers, and producers.
“I received a ton of feedback from industry on what worked and what didn't work, and it was overwhelming how many people wanted to see the play reworked and presented again. But producing a play in New York is very expensive, and I was juggling a lot of other work. Plus, I was too close to the play and wasn't ready to work on it again. I needed some time.”
Fast forward to 2013.
After deciding that it was time to produce this play Bobby started to review the characters to see what changes he wanted to make.
“When I revisited the play, I was still in love with Carla, Andrew and Anna, but there was a small character, Acantha, who I wasn't exactly happy with. She was a character I had created, based on a Greek friend who made me laugh. I wanted the play to have comedy relief so she was created, but I felt she was never part of the story like she should be.
“I spent a lot of time with Acantha,” Bobby continued. He was trying to understand her story and how she fit in the play.
“At its core the play is about an actress who begins to believe her own lies and falls to pieces in front of an audience,” Bobby continued. “The supporting characters are what help the audience tolerate the intensity of watching Carla lose her mind. Acantha was needed.
The new Acantha was brought in as someone Carla said she needed to help her organize their apartment, but in order to justify this to Andrew she told him that Acantha was her sister. Andrew tried to believe Carla but when Acantha turned out to be an African American woman it created some doubts for him. Regardless, she did just what Bobby hoped she would do. She brought to the play the relief it needed to lighten Carla’s intensity.
“I am so happy that she now feels part of the story, though she is totally not Greek anymore,” explained Bobby.
So with that missing piece solved Bobby felt the play was now ready to be produced.
“I truly love these characters, all of them. I have spent so much time with them over the past few days, months, years. As everyone knows, when you put up work like this you are revealing your soul, and never have I written anything that felt so revealing,” he explained.
Bobby freely admits that it hasn’t been easy.
“It has been a difficult journey and a struggle to find the balance of comedy and drama in such an intense play, but the cast, Maureen Toomey (Carla), Peyton Thomas Tucker (Andrew), Sophornia Pickett (Acantha), and Rachel Marcus (Anna) have really made me proud and made my words flesh.
“Maureen finds the comedy, drama, happiness, and insanity every time,” commented Bobby.
Maureen’s emotions (Carla) build during the play. In the beginning it feels like it is all about this love connection of her and Peyton (Andrew). Even in their fights you always sense that love connection but Carla can’t seem to ever be truthful about her life.
Maureen here character Carla as “a very emotional, mentally disturbed, struggling actress. When I read for the role I brought a lot of fun to the character trying to bring out how comedic her personality is. I am a lot like Carla when she gets the chances to be playful and loving, especially in her relationship with Andrew.”
Maureen took Bobby’s direction and built on it. “Working with Bobby has been a wonderful experience. He is such a dedicated director and is so passionate about the actors, the story, and the process. I really appreciate how he allowed me to be creative in rehearsal and doesn't stifle new ideas, even if they don't work the first time around!”
Maureen also feels that being involved with TAPNYC has opened doors for her.
“I have been a member of TAPNYC for a few years now and I am so grateful for the opportunities it has provided me with this far. Not only has it given me the opportunity to sing and act in showcases, bootcamp scene sketches, and plays; but it has also been the number one reason I have developed relationships with multiple agents and managers. TAPNYC has given me the opportunity to create not only working relationships with so many wonderful people in my field, but also many lifelong friendships.”
She was inspired to get involved with the play also because a large part was Bobby’s goal of keeping plays alive which Maureen feels is “important and inspiring to me. Growing up I remember watching plays and musicals and thinking about all the dream roles I would love to play when I'm older. Now, when I get to play roles that I also get to create at the same time I love to think about how one day this show could be that inspiration for someone else.”
Maureen (www.maureenatoomey.com) is originally from Chicago, IL but has been taking NY by storm for the past three years. Since graduating from Carthage College with her BA in Theatre and Music Theatre some of her favorite roles include: Sally Bowles in Cabaret, Jo March in Little Women, and creating the original role of Maureen Toody in The Rail Splitter.
Bobby thinks of Peyton as the boyfriend who “brings the southern charm and the compassion needed to the play.”
Even through Carla’s dramatization Andrew tries his best to support her despite some very trying moments that she places him in because of her lies.
Peyton lets us view his character through his eyes and noted, “I play Andrew the southern playwright who is hopelessly in love with Carla. He is a neurotic, very particular person that is very smart but is very trusting. I think I bring the southern charm and honesty to the character.”
Peyton comes from Virginia but went to school in Tallahassee at Florida State University (The BCS National Champs) and that has helped him to understand the culture that Andrew grew up in. “I also have my certain ticks and peculiarities that make Andrews ticks seem believable,” he explained.
Peyton came on board later than the other actors and had to do some catching up but by the time the curtain was raised he was in the zone and thrilled with the experience.
“I really enjoyed working with Bobby. I was under more of a time crunch, as I entered the rehearsal process midway through, but he and the cast made it so easy to adjust and to sync in to the flow of the show. I would now consider each of them great friends and even better advisors.
“I say advisors because they are so good with the business side of theatre, and that is the biggest thing actors struggle with. I have had to hustle and work so hard for the work that I have gotten thus far but despite my four years in a BFA program I am still learning a lot about agents. But with TAPNYC I am learning not only how to target agents you are interested in but how to talk to them and that is a great thing that I think a lot of actors both young and old would benefit from.”
Peyton also understands the importance of keeping plays alive noting, “I think plays have such a special way at cutting us to the core. The good ones make us see the characters as real people and that ephemeral connection we make to those characters has the power to draw us away from reality only to bring us back with a whole new perspective on the world.
“But as important as plays are I would take it one step further, I think it is more important to keep our audiences alive. Theatre and the arts will never die but I think we may be coming to a time when live theatre may become something truly appreciated by only those in our profession. We need to make great efforts in bringing in younger crowds and creating younger generations that love and are passionate about theatre. I think we keep the plays alive by keeping the next generation invested in them. But how we do that, I am not quite sure,” he added.
Peyton has worked all over the country from upstate New York to Bigfork, Montana. Some previous credits include Emmett in Legally Blonde, Uncle Max in the Sound of Music, Harold Hill in The Music Man, Cornelius Hackl in Hello, Dolly, and Curly in Oklahoma. He is a current resident of Astoria, New York and has fallen in love with this city despite all its trials and tribulations. You can look for him in the upcoming productions of Prince Igor and La Boheme at the Metropolitan Opera and in various TAPNYC showcases.
Bobby achieved his goal of having Acantha (Sophornia) be the person that created some lightheartedness to the play and he referred to her as the one that often “made me laugh to tears.”
Sophornia’s delivery and facial expressions definitely helped bring a play that was very dark at times have a certain level of lightness and fun.
She refers to her character as “a fire starting thief of a woman who actually is a softy at heart. I feel I bring her to life in a way that the writer and director, Bobby, saw her when he rewrote Acantha as a black woman. Acantha has a painful background of abuse which causes her to deal with it in an odd way, a sort of burning escape, but when she is needed, she can't just leave no matter how much she wants to.”
Sophornia was honest when she said at times the work was tiresome yet great. “Bobby has a vision and he knows what he wants, but if you can show him that sometimes he wants something different, that's when he knows he's a brilliant director and he's glad he thought of it,” she laughingly commented.
“Having this blessed opportunity to work with Bobby and TAPNYC is just that, a blessing and timing. TAP is putting me someplace I've never been before, in front of agents, managers, producers who can help propel my career forward and up. I envision myself on the big screen with Will, John, Denzel, Queen, ohhh I love me some Queen, that's my girl...it could happen,” she added, injecting some of that humor that she also brought to the play.
She too voiced her opinion about the importance of keeping plays alive noting, “Personally when it comes to plays nothing beats the raw energy you get and give. The energy literally touches your soul like clothes on your skin. As a performer I get to be a puppeteer in the sense that people come to the theatre to be taken on a journey of emotions, pushed and pulled up and down on our theatrical road. These emotions aren't readily available in everyday life, thank God, because that would be exhausting. So people come to be reminded that they are alive, that there is an escape from the ordinary mundane life we live. This is for the performer and audience alike,” she concluded.
Sophornia views herself as a “dramatic person. I fell in love with the arts in High School when I took a drama class, but college is when I began to develop that love.”
Bobby’s final thoughts focused on Anna who he said he couldn’t “say enough about Rachel, who was the original Anna in the 2009 play. Rachel manages to find the comedy and the depth of a drunk, dead, mother. She haunts Carla in the play and really has me on the edge of my seat as a director and audience member.”
Rachel is definitely the dark side of this play. Only Carla can see her, which adds fuel to her emotions.
Anna is Andrew’s alcoholic mother, who unbeknownst to the audience is dead. Rachel explained it this way, “Am I a ghost and/or a figment of his girlfriend's imagination? In addition to the eeriness inherent in the part I also bring out the humor in the woman.”
Rachel does this in a deadpan way, interjecting little digs and offhanded comments in between her drunken negative remarks.
This is Rachel’s third play with Bobby as director (in addition to sketch comedy). “I wanted to do this play to work with Bobby again. He ‘gets’ it, does not accept second best and keeps the comedy grounded in reality - his sense of timing is impeccable,” she commented.
Rachel also supports Bobby’s belief that effort needs to be put into keeping plays alive.
“Live theatre provides a visceral connection to emotions, thoughts not explored in other venues. For an actor, it enables one to create a character from start to finish, with a consistency not given in film,” explained Rachel.
As an actress Rachel has been in numerous off-Broadway plays, done some film work, studied at HB Studios with Austin Pendleton and continues working in a profession she loves.
By the applause Manhattan Fable received on opening night it was clear that those in the audience not only enjoyed the play but support and understand the need to keep plays alive.
Credit goes to Bobby for investing the time, energy and money to produce this play at a time when the expense does not necessarily match the effort.
Bobby originally came to New York City as an actor and writer and has evolved into a writer, director, and producer. When The Actor's Project NYC was founded, it gave him a platform to showcase his work. He has written for and directed well over a thousand actors and loves it.
“I can't believe this is my full time job, to create work and opportunities for actors. I have an amazing team behind me including Renee Iovine (Company Manager) and Ann Bonner (Assistant Artistic Director), and we can't wait for you to see this play!
There is still a couple of days left for you to see this play and so if you live in New York or nearby for tickets go to www.TheActorsProjectNYC.com. And if you also support the need to keep plays alive you can do so by buying a copy of Bobby's book “Out of the Blue,” since all of the profits go to the campaign to Help Keep Plays Alive at TAPNYC.