Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: The production, Crabbe and Goyle Are Dead, will soon be making its debut as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival this summer. For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about its premise?
Grayson Schlichter: The show focuses heavily on two characters from the Potterverse Canon who have less than a dozen lines between them there. Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle. In the source material, they are near-mindless, thugish enforcers for Draco Malfoy. Our play pulls back the curtain on their experiences during the seven years they spent at Hogwarts alongside the famous “Golden Trio,” as well as their boss Draco, and elevates them from props to people by showing the audience these familiar events from a different perspective.
At the same time, taking a cue from the inimitable Tom Stoppard, we layer in shades of existential crisis, metaphysical searching, and the absurdity that is bred from being unable to meaningfully affect your own life’s course. Crabbe largely enjoys the ride, at least for a time, while Goyle is frustrated, certain there must be something more going on, or at the very least some way out of their present circumstances.
BD: As a veteran of the Fringe Festival, what was the inspiration for bringing this story to the stage given its diverse and varied origins, and what can you tell us about your work with writer Kitty Keim in crafting the story?
GS: The beginnings of the show were a simple “what if.” The question being what if you tried to explore some of these strange ideas and difficult questions about agency, determinism, purpose and the whys and wherefores of existence through the lens of the very familiar characters and events of the Potterverse. I’ve always been a fan of Stoppard’s including performing in a rather “unusual” production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead in college and love theatre’s ability to explore otherwise often left alone topics and subjects. The question of who would be the protagonists in such a piece popped into my head while I was in rehearsal one night for another Potter-themed show. And the answer was instantly obvious to me, Crabbe and Goyle.
The next step was equally obvious, texting the idea to Kitty Keim and asking her to write the play. At that point, Fringe ‘19 was still far off (This was in July of last year, I believe.), but I thought the idea was a good one and *knew* Kitty was the right person to pen it. Not only because she is smart, which you’d have to be to wade into a genre who most well-known exemplar is Mr. Stoppard, but because she is extremely familiar with the Potterverse, she’s an even bigger fan of R&GaD than I am, and she has masters degrees in Shakespeare and Renaissance literature and Performance.
Once she said yes, my work was largely done at least as far as the script was concerned. We had a few phone check-ins, and a couple of “this way or that way” conversations, but when you have the right person in a role the best thing you can do is stay out of the way. To be frank, most of my “contributions” to the script didn’t survive the rehearsal process. And I’m fine with that. If I could have written a script half as good as this one, I would have, and if I could have directed half as well as Andy has I might have been tempted to try. But I think I might be getting ahead of myself.
BD: You have a tremendous cast and crew involved with the production. What can you share with us about the creative process in bringing the show to life?
GS: Let people do what they excel at and stay out of their way as much as possible. Kitty delivered an amazing script. Andrew is a gifted and subtle director, always with an eye on the arc of every character from beginning to end. In addition to that though, he loves to experiment and innovate. Our production features elements conceived by Andy that build on the script in what I am comfortable saying are non-obvious ways, and they are wonderful. Our Production Manager/Rehearsal Stage Manager Toni Rose, keeps things running on time, and has all of the people and things where they are needed, before they are needed, in order to do the work that develops into the show. I cannot say enough how much of a blessing she is. And the cast are there to play: to find the moments, to make the connections, and to traverse the journeys that will engage the audience from the moment of lights up until long after they leave the theatre. Being able to tap top talents like Gregory Crafts for truly special lighting visuals and having a venue like Studio/Stage, these are the kinds of collaborators you dream of, they care about this show too, and want to do everything they can to make sure it’s everything that it can be.
BD: What do you hope that audiences will take away from the show?
GS: Laughter for their favorite comedic moments. An appreciation that there are often at least two sides to every story, and that history (even fictional history) is often written by the victors. And reflection on what the questions raised mean to their own lives. Right now is a time when many people feel disenfranchised in one way or another, and the idea that we have little to no control over our day-to-day goings-on, much less the wider world, is familiar to all of us. If something we do on that stage helps someone to break a troubling pattern or question an assumption that has been holding them back that would be a spectacular accomplishment.
BD: What makes the Hollywood Fringe Festival an ideal venue for Crabbe and Goyle Are Dead?
GS: Expectations, or rather the lack of them. Many people have clear idea in their head about what constitutes commercial theatre. With that idea comes a lot of assumptions for good, but also for less good. Fringe is an anything goes kinda place where the one thing folks know for sure, is that there are going to be constantly surprised and they will repeatedly have their expectations subverted. Which means Fringe is the place to perform if what you want is to have a curious and questioning audience come to your show with an open mind and questing heart. Which isn’t to say you can’t find those people in commercial theatres, they are there, too. But at Fringe, you get a concentrated dose, in part because a lot of your audiences are made up of people doing the same thing in their performances elsewhere in the festival.
BD: The show will be appearing at the studio/stage from June 9-30, 2019. Are there any future plans to perform the show at other venues?
GS: At the moment, those of us in LA are primarily focused on giving our Fringe audiences the best experience that we can. All of us involved are heavily invested in the show, and given the right circumstances and opportunities, there could be more local excitement. At the same time, Kitty has been contacted by groups elsewhere who have shown an interest in the piece. I’m not sure how much more there is to say on that for now beyond “stay tuned.”
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about and purchase tickets for Crabbe and Goyle Are Dead?
GS: As of right now, our preview on the 9th is sold out (YAY!), but there are still seats available among the other four performances throughout June. We are lucky to have a closing weekend of sorts, as the last two shows are June 29th and 30th. The 30th is already starting to fill up, so anyone who wants to see the show then (or on our official opening of the 16th for that matter) should jump on them now. Tickets can be purchased on the Hollywood Fringe Website at this link. Tickets for shows that aren’t sold out will be available at the door, but I am big advocate of early reservations so that one doesn’t accidentally miss out.
All shows are at Studio/Stage: 520 N Western Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90004, and tickets are $15.00.
The show has a 60-minute runtime, and dates and showtimes are:
Sunday, June 16 – 9 p.m.
Wednesday, June 19 – 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 29 – 10 p.m.
Sunday, June 30 – 3:30 p.m.