Empire Stage in association with Thinking Cap Productions presents the Southeastern premiere of MilkMilkLemonade, from May 27 to June 27, 2010.
MilkMilkLemonade tells the satirical story of a young gay boy who lives on a farm with his disapproving grandmother. A whimsical narrator guides the audience through Emory's journey and along the way introduces a bully classmate, a spider named Rochelle and Emory's best friend... a depressed chicken. Adults playfully and poignantly occupy a child’s world, complete with adult content and partial male nudity.
This critically acclaimed new play premiered last fall at UNDER St. Marks and was named 2009 Best Off Off Broadway Show by New York Press.
I was able to catch up with playwright, Joshua Conkel, and director, Nicole Stodard, to chat about the show's Southeastern premiere.
BETTO: Joshua, the show's title is absolutely hilarious! You've penned some colorful scenarios and characters. What inspired you to write such a unique piece?
CONKEL: Thanks so much! I use things that frighten or anger or sadden me as inspiration for my plays, and then translate them into comedies. Humor, for me, is a survival mechanism. If you can laugh at something awful it enables you to remove its power. In the case of MilkMilkLemonade, some of the frightening things I've written about are simplistic and childish- bullies, spiders, etc. Others are truly horrible, like cancer, factory farming and deeply systemic homophobia that seek to destroy gay children. That last one is the biggie: when I think about what gay kids are going through all over this country, what I went through and what my partner went through, I feel anger that is nearly uncontainable. MilkMilkLemonade is a protest play against that cruelty. A funny, funny protest play.
BETTO: When did you discover that writing was your passion?
CONKEL: I went to Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington to study acting. I was a good actor, particularly in character roles and broad comedies like Moliere or witty comedies like Oscar Wilde. I just didn't have the passion for it. It's tough to be an actor and always be interpreting other people's art. I wanted to express myself but there weren't plays being written for me to do that as an actor. I realized I had to write them myself.
BETTO: What can gay South Florida audiences expect from the show?
CONKEL: To laugh. To maybe laugh at things they feel they shouldn't be laughing at. What can I say? I like to test people's taste levels. One of the only benefits of being a second-class citizen, if any, is that you can pretty much say or do whatever you want. You've already been rejected by the mainstream just by virtue of being alive. So why worry about offending people? Your mere existence offends people. You might as well tell it like it is.
BETTO: Nicole, as the show's director, I'm sure you have some great behind-the-scene stories! What moved you to direct the show, and what can we anticipate from you in the future?
STODARD: Josh's gem of a play did, indeed, pave the way for many memorable rehearsal moments, not the least of which were coaching a vegetarian actor on how to portray a cheeky chicken and getting two straight male actors to deliver a convincing, passionate kiss. Josh and I met in true 21st century fashion through our respective blogs www.tarhearted.typepad.com and www.dramadaily.wordpress.com, and we found we were kindred spirits. His incisive commentary and queer activism really impressed me and spoke to my own sensibility. I knew after reading just the opening pages of MilkMilkLemonade that it wasn't a matter of ‘if,' but ‘when' and ‘where' to get the show up. The play is bold and smart, marries style with substance-it is indie theatre at its very best and a breath of fresh air for the South Florida scene. Empire Stage proved a good fit for this play given the theatre's mission to produce work for diverse audiences. My next directing project at Empire will be the premiere production of S/HE, a play about trans-life, by Tanzanian-born playwright Nick Mwaluko. And, of course, I'd love to bring more of Josh's work to the area, perhaps, some of his shorts or his latest play The Sluts of Sutton Drive.
Empire Stage is located at 1140 N. Flagler Dr., Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33304. For tickets call (954) 678-1496 or visit www.empirestage.com.
Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 5 pm.
Regular Performances: $25, Student Rush tickets available for students with valid I.D., $18 at door (cash only) and subject to availability.