Friday, December 29, 2006

Noir Interview #4: Todd Michael

How did your interest in film noir originally get sparked?
I love old films. Especially those of the 1930's and 1940's.

Do you have a favorite film which for you most clearly defines the movement/style/sub-genre?

Murder, My Sweet with Dick Powell and Claire Trevor is my absolute favorite noir film. It has all the elements of lighting, camera angles, dialogue and characters. And of course The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, Double Ideminty, and Out of the Past.

What do you think, generally speaking, film noir has to offer the theatre artist?

A chance for an actor, writer, directors to do a challenging style of theater.

Why do you think the past few years have been so noir-saturated in film, television, and theatre?

I think there are so many creative people who admire film noir, and they try to put that into their work whether it's for theatre, film or TV.

Vice Girl Confidential was quite a hit this summer. Tell us a bit about the piece and how you created it. What were you trying to achieve/explore? Can we expect to see the production remounted at some point in the future?

It was the story of a madam of a high class house of prostitution in New York City getting tangled up wih the law and gangsters. I got the idea after reading about Lucky Luciano, the king of the underworld in New York, and his notorious trial in 1936. He was prosecuted by Thomas Dewey. I read old New York Times articles about the trial, and how the prostitutes, and the madams took the stand and testified against Lucky Luciano. The Bette Davis film Marked Woman is loosely based on the trial. Also, a lot of cheap exploitation films as well. Even a 1937 Broadway play entitled Behind Red Lights. So I mixed the genres of film noir, the exploitation film, and theatre, and Vice Girl Confidential was the result. It achieved more than I had hoped for. That's because we had an outstanding cast of actors who got the material. And they had no trouble with the "lingo" of the period. That's what the audiences really loved about the play. How the characters used to talk in those films. At this time we have no intention of remounting the play...but who knows? I'm always thinking and working on the next one.

Are there any other film styles you are eager to explore in your own work?

I wrote a film parody of 1930's films, but I'd like to delve into it more. I think I only scratched the surface last time. I like to create pieces using different film and theatre styles. Our last play was a total departure, it was a parody of 1950's sci-fi children's TV programs like Captain Video and Space Patrol. It was called The Adventures of Jock Jupiter, Rocket Ranger.

Can you tell us a bit about how Grayce Productions was founded and its mission?

The whole thing started because I hadn't acted in a while and I thought I'd try my hand at producing, writing, and acting. I asked my friend, Neal Sims, if we would be interested in directing. We rented Horse Trade Theatre's Red Room and we've put on a production there every year since 2001. It also started a long association and friendship with Erez Ziv, the managing director of Horse Trade. After we finished our third production, someone told me to submit it to FringeNYC. We didn't get excepted that year, but we did the next with another play I had written. "Vice Girl Confidential" was our second production for FringeNYC. The mission of Grayce Productions is to parody or spoof old film and theater styles, and create a homage to the different genres.

Any other upcoming work to plug?
Nothing right now. I'm busy at the moment writing a play to submit to FringeNYC for next summer. And we're already slated to do another show in the Red Room in the Fall of 2007. So I'll be working on that in the Spring.

No comments: