You are back in the magical land of Oz almost a century later in Over The Rainbow, courtesy of actor/creator Andy Crosten. The story is described best by the author as follows.
As a young queer boy from Maryland, Andy yearns to travel the world in search of his destiny. For his seventh birthday, he is gifted a pair of ruby slippers that possess a secret power. Transported to the magical land of Oz, he journeys to meet The Wizard who can unlock the key to self-discovery and can help make America gay again!
Join performing artist and ‘Friend Of Dorothy’ in this reimagining of Oz, where Andy portrays all your favorite characters- lions, wizards, and witches, oh my! The audience will experience a fantastical musical journey down the yellow brick road in an evening of fun and fabulous digital entertainment. Welcome back to Oz, where new adventures await!
The musical journey, starring Andy Crosten, and featuring musical direction by Mason Griffin, is the final production of the 2020 Rogue Theatre Festival. In this interview, Allison Hohman interviews both Andy and Mason to get some insight on the show, the festival, and the challenges of going virtual.
Allison Hohman: Where did you get the inspiration for writing your piece? Andy Crosten: When I was a wee young lad, I was obsessed with the 1939 The Wizard of Oz film and would watch it constantly. For my birthday around this time, my parents got me a pair of ruby slippers. I created my own yellow brick road in our living room using yellow bath towels and would skip like Judy Garland while watching the movie. I’ve told this story in my other cabaret shows. I began to envision an entire show inspired by this story and what would happen if those ruby slippers really did possess the power to transport their owner over the rainbow to Oz? Thus, this show was born.
Allison Hohman: What is your writing process? When inspiration strikes? One hour a day? Andy Crosten: When inspiration strikes for a project, it comes over me in a magical wave and I usually will have the entire idea and structure envisioned in my head in a day or two. I start with the songs and put them in order, which then informs how the scenes will break down. In terms of execution of the actual writing, that takes a little longer. For Over The Rainbow, I worked on the script on and off for six months, all during quarantine 2020. I like to write in the mornings for a couple of hours while I’m drinking my coffee. Sometimes I’ll go days or weeks between working on it. Oftentimes certain ideas or lines will come to me late in the evening or at night and I’ll have to jot them down so I’ll remember to add them to the script the next day.
Allison Hohman: How did you first get involved with theater and becoming a playwright? Andy Crosten: As a performer, I’ve been involved in theatre since I was a young kid. I didn’t start writing projects until my late twenties / early thirties when I began performing in the cabaret circuit around NYC. I do consider myself more of an editor than an actual writer- but hey, baby steps! I contribute to the scripts of my Golden Girls drag troupe, The Golden Gays NYC and have also written / edited a handful of other projects.
Allison Hohman: What do you love about this piece and what will others love about it? Andy Crosten: This is by far the largest creative project I’ve ever taken on, and also the most personal. I am so happy with how it turned out. I really poured my heart and soul into it and I think that translates in the piece. It’s funny but also sincere. I loved playing all the characters and the challenges that came with figuring out the editing. I think folks will love the inspirational and uplifting message of the show, and of course revisiting The Wizard of Oz!
Allison Hohman: Have you participated in theater festivals before? What was that experience like? What has your experience with Rogue Theater Festival been? Andy Crosten: I *believe* this is my first theatre festival and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. Rogue is wonderful!
Allison Hohman: How has the rehearsal and performance process differed now in Covid times vs. regular times? Well, we created the entire show in our home studio in our apartment. From writing, to rehearsing, to building the sets, the costumes, filming, and editing. In regular times, I would have wanted to do this show in a real theatre, but alas that wasn’t in the cards. It’ll happen in the future!
Allison Hohman: What’s up next for you? Andy Crosten: I’m excited to try different incarnations of Over The Rainbow, certainly a live production once in-person theatre safely resumes. Also, my Golden Girls drag troupe, The Golden Gays NYC is keeping very busy with virtual performances. Check out www.thegoldengaysnyc.com!
Allison Hohman: When were you first inspired to be an actor? Andy Crosten: I started re-enacting Disney movies in my living room for my family when I was really young. So, the bug hit me early! Ironically, my first actual play I performed in was The Wizard of Oz when I was around 11-years-old. I played Uncle Henry!
Allison Hohman: What is your preparation process before going into rehearsals? Andy Crosten: It really varies depending on the project. I’m a perfectionist and a professional so I love rehearsals. In terms of Over The Rainbow, things were so different! Most of my preparation was spent “setting up the shots” as they say in the TV/film world. We would rehearse the scene and then film the scene on the same day. In some cases I didn’t even have time to learn my lines, so we used cue cards!
Allison Hohman: How did you get involved with theater and acting? Andy Crosten: I started performing in community theatre in my hometown when I was a teenager. I then went on to receive my BFA in musical theatre from Shenandoah University. Then onto the Big Apple! I’ve only directed a handful of projects. But I’m more and more inspired by the idea of directing. I think I have a good eye for envisioning a show and how things can be creatively staged, etc. I definitely look forward to exploring more of that.
Allison Hohman: What do you love about your character and what will others love about it? Andy Crosten: What I love most about my character is that...it’s me! Haha. The inspirational message of the show, while intended for the audience, is mostly actually for me. The character goes on a journey over the rainbow in search of the meaning of life and trying to find himself...And discovers, like Dorothy, he always had the power.
Allison Hohman: What has been most exciting about bringing this script to life? Most challenging? Andy Crosten: This show is really a life-long dream come true. The most exciting part to me has been the wonderful and loving reactions I’ve had from folks who have seen it. Most challenging was learning how to film and edit it all myself (using my iPhone!) Quarantine has definitely forced a lot of performers to learn how to be their own stage managers, technicians, and directors.
Interview with Mason Griffin, Musical Director
Allison Hohman: When were you first inspired to be a music director? Mason Griffin: My choir and drama teachers from middle school to high school were my biggest inspirations. My choir teacher, Lisa Smith, is a brilliant pianist and pedagogue while my drama teacher, Lori Kaiser, always speaks with clarity and gives precise direction. I would not be where I am today without their guidance and love.
Allison Hohman: What is your preparation process before going into rehearsals? Mason Griffin: My first order of business is to compile a complete or near complete score before rehearsals commence. I also do a lot of thinking about the songs and how I might play them. Because we often aren’t performing the songs in the context of the shows they come from it leaves me with many possibilities.
Allison Hohman: How has the rehearsal and performance process differed now in Covid times vs. regular times? Mason Griffin: The rehearsal process was basically the same as it always was but the performance process was certainly different. This show was originally conceived as an in-person show. Due to Covid, we had to reassess our options and decided that the best way to still do the show but in the safest manner as possible was to do a live stream. It was without a doubt the smartest decision we could have made.
About the Author
Andy Crosten Andy's creative endeavors combine his love of theatre, art, and fashion. Growing up in Western Maryland, his joy for performing was evident at a young age when he would reenact The Wizard of Oz in his living room, creating his own yellow brick road with yellow bath towels. He participated in numerous theatrical productions; most notably as Huckleberry Finn in the musical Big River. He went onto study Music Theatre at Shenandoah Conservatory, graduating Cum Laude. At Shenandoah, he appeared in musicals, plays, operas, and the professional summer stock theatre- SSMT. Following college, he worked in regional theatre (touring with the National Theatre for Children and two summers at Hersheypark) before continuing to New York City. In the Big Apple, Andy has played the 13th St Repertory Theatre, The New Theatre at 45th St, as well as Off-Broadway with The Golden Gays NYC. Andy has also created his own solo shows including “Andy, Darling, Let’s Chat” and “Make America Gay Again”. For two years, he also worked with the legendary Patricia Field, learning about the fashion industry and design. Andy has also appeared as an extra in television shows such as: Difficult People, Law & Order, and Broad City. His favorite stage performance to date has been the titular role in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. www.andycrosten.com
About the Musical Director
Mason Griffin is a musical theater accompanist, coach, conductor, and music director. In New York, he has worked at LaGuardia High School, Amas Musical Theatre, MTCA, Jen Waldman Studio, The New York Film Academy, Applause NY, Broadway Classroom, The West End Lounge, NYU, CCNY, Sing for Your Seniors, and UNIS. He is the music director of the current Off-Broadway production of Naked Boys Singing. As music director, highlight shows include: RENT, Les Miserables, The Addams Family, Spelling Bee, A Funny Thing...Forum, Little Shop of Horrors, I Love a Piano, and Dreamgirls. A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Mason was the guest conductor of Louisiana State University's annual spring musical theater showcase Singo de Mayo for six years. He has had the pleasure of working with industry professionals such as: Taylor Negron, Steve Martin, Edie Brickell, Patti Murin, Baayork Lee, Mrs. Kasha Davis, Andrew Rannells and Laura Osnes. He has been the music director for shows at 54 Below, The Duplex Cabaret, Theatre Row, The Laurie Beechman, Uncle Charlie's Piano Bar, The 13th Street Repertory Theater and The Triad. Mason created the show No Blue Monday, celebrating the life and music of Broadway composer/lyricist Jerry Herman. He is currently working on another Herman show, Open A New Window, featuring his lesser known songs and he will be recording a Herman album in the near future. Mason is creator of Virtual Piano Bar Happy Hour, live once a month on Saturdays at 6:00 EDT. www.masongriffin.com
The final production of the 2020 Rogue Theatre Festival, Over The Rainbow plays on Sunday, December 14th at
Buy Tickets: https://www.showtix4u.com/event-details/41763