Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Holly Payne-Strange: Love, Genius And A Walk

By | Published on Friday 28 September 2018

It’s a show we’ve tipped previously, when it came to London in July, and it’s one that’s already won acclaim across the pond.

So when I heard that ‘Love, Genius And A Walk’, from US-based group Bringing Up The House, would be returning to the capital for a handful of dates at two venues – the Drayton Arms and Etcetera Theatres – it seemed like a great opportunity to find out more about the show.

I got in touch with the show’s director, Holly Payne-Strange, for a quick chat.

CM: Can you start by telling us about the structure of the show – it sounds like there might be two different stories going on at the same time?  What are the stories about?
HP-S: There are indeed two stories going on at the same time. One is a reconstruction of Gustav Mahler’s real life walk in the park with Sigmund Freud. Of course no one really knows what was said, but we can imagine.

The second is a modern day couple whose problems mirror the situations that Mahler finds himself in with his two passions; his work and his wife.

CM: What themes does the play explore?
HP-S: The play explores human nature. How we love and treat each other. It’s interesting because the play shows that some things just don’t change, 1910 held some of the same problems as 2018!

CM: Why were you attracted to the idea of working on this play, and this subject matter?
HP-S: Well, I am very attracted to true stories, and during the historical arc of this play we meet some wonderful people.  Freud, Maria Bonaparte, Strauss, and of course Mahler and his wife, Alma. The show also deals with art and what fuels great artists.  It’s a fertile and engaging question and it’s been a pleasure to develop.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the playwright, Gay Walley?
HP-S: The playwright is also an award winning author, and has recently had one of her books made into a feature film.

CM: Can you tell us about Bringing Up The House, and what its aims are?
HP-S: Bringing Up The House is a really interesting idea, it came from us paying for a bus ticket in New York to get a homeless young woman and her dog back home to her mum in Minnesota.

We realized then that there were many people in the streets with their animals. We began thinking about how to help and came up with the concept of “one person, one pet, one story at a time”. So this led us to the idea of Tiny Homes!

The goal is build our first Tiny Home and start the process of helping one person at a time with grants and the revenue generated by our artistic endeavours. So all the people that come to the show are actually helping a homeless pet and person, we are a long way off but as the Chinese proverb says “a journey of 1000, miles starts with a single step”.

CM: Can we talk about you a bit, now? You seem to have quite an eclectic CV – how did your career start and what has it involved?
HP-S: Well, I started as an actor and enjoyed that for many years! I’ve transitioned into directing and writing now.

I find that in some ways they are very similar- in both you get a chance to develop an amazing story, but with directing you have more creative control. I’m a big picture person, so it suits me.

I also do some visual art, I am a milliner and have developed costumes (especially hats) for a wide range of theatre productions and fashion shows. Most recently I have also started to explore origami!

CM: What’s the Fireside Mystery Theater podcast, and what is your involvement with it?
HP-S: Fireside Mystery Theater podcast is amazing, I am very lucky to be their resident director. It is, as they say, “an old-time radio styled show with a decidedly modern macabre sensibility!”

In other words, they have a wonderful, traditional style but bring new, macabre stories to life. The story and the acting are truly fantastic. We perform live once a month in The Slipper Room, NYC (usually sold out) and then release the recordings once a week.

CM: What plans do you have for the future? Any new projects in the pipeline?
HP-S: Yes, I am working in a lot of things! I am currently in the beginning stages of developing a film, and a novel.

CM: What’s coming up next for you, after these London dates?
HP-S: I am about to direct a very important and fantastic show, ‘A Therapy Session with Myself’, at New York’s Midtown International Theatre Festival. It’s by award winning playwright Anthony Piccione, and focuses on mental health issues. Hopefully after that short winter run it will continue on to a more permanent home.

‘Love, Genius And A Walk’ is on at Drayton Arms Theatre from 7-8 Oct, and at the Etcetera Theatre from 12-14 Oct. See this page here for the former dates, and this page here for the latter ones.

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