The following is an interview with Tony Tanner, writer and director of the one-act, Who Are You Anyway?, which will be premiering at the Hollywood Fringe Festival this month in Los Angeles, CA. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Tanner about the motivation behind writing the show, balancing multiple roles throughout the creative process, why Fringe makes a perfect fit for the performance, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Your one-act, Who Are You Anyway?, will soon be premiering at the Hollywood Fringe Festival this month. For our readers who may be unfamiliar with the show, how would you describe its premise?
Tony Tanner: To call WHO ARE YOU ANYWAY? a ‘one-act’ play is to mislead the reader. It’s a play in one act. A ‘one-act’ play implies a piece of theatre that needs another piece of theatre alongside to constitute a full evening’s entertainment. The content of this play, believe me, will be as much as any audience wants to absorb in one sitting.
Over the course of one hour and fifteen minutes, we see an older man, confined to a wheelchair, struggling to remember a life that now escapes him. His wife and his daughter come to sit with him and are not recognized. This play deals with their dilemma as much as it does his. Three years of monitoring his struggles and his long periods of blank unconsciousness have left them both exhausted and ready to move on, to make new lives for themselves with other men. Unexpected, even seismic events, however, shake their resolve, at least temporarily.
BD: What inspired you to bring this story and the impact that Alzheimer’s can make to the stage?
TT: One of my dearest friends lost her husband to Alzheimer’s Disease earlier this year. Her own struggle with the effects of this ailment on her husband over the last two or three years inspired me to write something which was as much from the point of view of the family involved as with the sufferer himself. Just to be clear, this is very far from being a mirror up to nature. My play is all imagined and only in certain respects echoes my friend’s experience.
BD: You have taken on quite a few roles within this production, having not only written the play but also directing it and starring in a few of the performances. How do you find that you have balanced these roles and how have they impacted one another throughout your creative process?
TT: Here’s the thing, Barbra… to me writing, directing, acting, they are all part of one process. Making theatre. When people ask me what I do, that’s what I tell them…”I make Theatre.” To help me and my comrades, however, I have elected to mount the show on another actor, then step into it myself. That has worked before and is working now.
BD: What makes the Hollywood Fringe Festival the best venue for Who Are You Anyway?
TT: We’re at the Fringe because it’s comparatively cheap. I can not afford to put this show up in even a modest, 99-seat theatre.
BD: What do you hope that audiences will take away from the show?
TT: I want, as I always want, an audience to leave my shows feeling they’ve had a damn good time and have been thoroughly entertained. If this sounds like a slim hope in the face of this play’s subject matter, let me be clear. It has humor and sharp writing and surprise. No one will be disappointed. Most people will, I think, be pleasantly surprised.
BD: The show will be appearing at the Hollywood Fringe Festival from June 4-25, 2016. Are there any future plans to perform the one-act at other venues?
TT: You ask the question that most bedevils me after any performance or reading of anything I have ever written. “What will you do with it now?” After the exertions needed to put anything on anywhere at any level… what one hopes for is the appearance of an angel or some other deity who will scoop up what you have done and carry it forward to a Broadway Stage. This manifestation of this play will have knocked me for six. I’ll need R and R thereafter,.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects that you would care to share with our readers?
TT: In September over two weekends, the City of West Hollywood is funding performances of my musicalization of Chekov’s short story: THE LADY WITH THE LITTLE DOG. It is an enchanting show, as different from this as can be imagined and will be performed outdoors in Plummer Park.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about and purchase tickets for Who Are You Anyway?
TT: Call me… 323 461 5570 and leave a message. Include your telephone number, so that I can confirm your reservation.