By Kevin Assam
After pivoting to a slate of digital streams, The Studios of Key West announced Drew Larimore’s SMITHTOWN as its 2020–21 theatrical opener. SMITHTOWN is a series of monologues that links its characters to the death of a local college student. Directed by Stephen Kitsakos, the dark and comedic play features familiar faces including Michael Urie, Ann Harada, Constance Shulman, and Colby Lewis.
Is it crazy or strategic to launch a production this deep into the pandemic?
It’s both. Lucky for me, SMITHTOWN is a play about technology told in four monologues. It’s perfect for streaming. However, pandemic or no pandemic, isn’t it always kind of crazy to mount a production of anything, like, ever?
Will this be your biggest launch yet? What have you previously worked on?
This is my biggest digital launch by far. Earlier this year, we released some YouTube tracks for a new musical I co-wrote called THE BESTEST OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY EVER. Not all shows play well online so, finding the ones that will has been a challenge during COVID! But I’m a firm believer that the work goes on.
How far were you into developing the script when the pandemic hit?
Believe it or not, the script is ten years old, but it felt like a Zoom-friendly format to work with and rewrite while trapped inside. Its themes of shared responsibility certainly resonate in a way they didn’t before the pandemic.
Could you explain the format of these monologues?
SMITHTOWN is told in four chapters and four characters. Each struggles to make sense of his or her responsibility in the death of a local college student. While many of my scripts contain monologues, few are this solo, so to speak.
How involved were you with casting?
This is my dream cast! I worked with Constance Shulman and Ann Harada on a few projects before and am friends with Michael Urie and his partner, Ryan. Colby Lewis is the newbie to my circle and am thrilled with his performance — not to mention, absolutely dying to see him in Hamilton!
Do actors cold-email or call writers any more, especially during the pandemic? If I’m an actor wanting in to your inner circle, how would I make that happen?
You bring me cookies. Cold call me on my lane line, but not after 9:00 PM because I tuck in early.
Funniest moment from your Zoom rehearsals?
We were working with Constance Shulman on another project earlier this year. We had a pervert Zoom bomber write expletives and draw male genitalia all over the computer screen. We had to cancel the performance, recover from the emotional trauma of it all — and thankfully, now when we think about it we have a good laugh!
Theater will likely limp back toward normalcy. Will you stick with digital production for the next year or so?
It’s a fantastic production, but it would be great to see it produced live. I’m pursuing publication opportunities for the piece, as well.
What do you say to patrons who are skeptical that these productions can be enjoyed digitally?
Now more than ever keeping new work alive is crucial. If you finish watching and think — hmm, I would have rather seen that in a theatre — chances are the writer, director, and cast feel the same way. But this is how we can enjoy this right now. This is the safe way to support theatre and theatre artists. Unlike seeing it live, you can watch at home drinking as much wine as you want without pants. I guess there’s always a bright side.
Will SMITHTOWN be available for replay after the initial online stream?
SMITHTOWN premieres November 14th, but you can watch it through the 30th.
You’re completing a residency at The Studios of Key West. How does it feel to be there at a time when travel is increasingly inaccessible?
Well, the Studios got us COVID tested right when we got here. Normally, it’s 3–4 residents. It’s just two of us this time. Despite the non-mask-wearing Trump stuff happening on Duval Street, in general, this is a better place to be than New York right now. Bars are outdoors, restaurants are outdoors, bike rides are outdoors. It’s a pretty good deal and I almost feel bad about it. Almost.
TSKW.org/Smithtown | Premieres November 14, 2020