Gideon Productions

A Theasy Interview with Founders Mac Rogers and Sean Williams



THEASY: Who are you and how did your company come to be?

MAC ROGERS: Back in ’99, as Sean Williams was preparing to move to NYC from LA, I had just finished a play that he wanted to work on called Dirty Juanita. He convinced Jordana Williams and me to form a theater company to produce it with an eye toward producing other shows down the road. I honestly thought we’d do just the one and then lose interest, but Juanita went up in September 2000 and here we still are, going strong.

A big part of why that is (and this is possibly useful to newer theater companies) is that after a bit of flailing for a few years, we settled into a creative groove and mission statement that we were excited about on a sustainable basis. We love exploring complex personal and socio-political ideas through genre stories. When we hit upon that, roughly in 2005, it gave us a second wind that hasn’t significantly let up since, helped enormously by having new producers Saundra Yaklin, Rebecca Comtois, and Mikell Kober join us along the way.

SEAN WILLIAMS: We started making theater because I guess we realized that we all had the same sense of humor. Whenever people would subvert an established genre (something like Meet The Feebles or "Buffy The Vampire Slayer"), it would crack us up, so we started making theater that talked about things we wanted to talk about, using different storytelling tropes. The company started with me, Mac and Jordana, and at that point we were only good at writing and directing plays. (I'm not actually sure what I did at that point besides ask people for money). Then Sandy joined and helped us create a design aesthetic. Mikell and Becky joined a few years ago and helped us refine our artistic vision and implement better marketing ideas.

THEASY: What kind of work do you make? What are some of your past productions?

MR: Most of our shows fall into clear genre categories, principally science fiction (The Honeycomb Trilogy, Universal Robots), horror (Frankenstein Upstairs), and thrillers of different kinds (Viral, Ligature Marks). It’s a fun niche to work in because we love these sorts of stories recreationally anyway, so it makes it a lot more fun to show up for rehearsal, knowing we’re making the same kind of stuff we love to watch.

It’s paid off big-time with audiences as well. It seems like we’ve communicated the feeling that if you come to see a Gideon show, you can certainly have an intense engagement with uncomfortable ideas and emotions if you want to, but you can also sit back and watch a thrill-ride if you’re more in that sort of head-space. That’s enormously important to me. I’m as ambitious as any of my colleagues, I want to present difficult, challenging work, but I also believe really strongly in the virtue of pure entertainment, of getting lost in a story, engulfed in other lives for a few hours. That’s something I’ve always treasured in my life, and it means a lot to me to offer it to others.

THEASY: Tell us about your upcoming show Asymmetric! Why should audiences check it out?

MR: In collaboration with our co-producers, Ground UP Productions, with Asymmetric we’re taking on a new genre: the spy thriller. In sharp contrast to a lot of our work over the last few years, Asymmetric eschews the large-scale and epic for a tight, intermission-less, eighty-minute suspense structure.

Asymmetric has had a rather unusual history in terms of my playwriting process. I originally wrote it to be performed in five shorter installments (each ending in a cliffhanger) for the Vampire Cowboys’ serial play series, The Saturday Night Saloon, in 2008. Then a theater company in Philadelphia, New City Stage, mounted a lovely production a few years ago. But what happens when you produce a play that was written in 2008 in 2014, you need to take a hard look at the script and see if it’s still relevant. A lot of the ideas the script touches on, particularly with regard to the drone program, were out of date, so I sat down and did a massive rewrite. While it wouldn’t be correct to call this production a world premiere, it’s most certainly quite different from the Saloon or Philadelphia productions, with about 75% new dialogue.

Audiences who check out Asymmetric will get an edge-of-the-seat thriller with a lot of humor and superb performances, marvelously orchestrated by director Jordana Williams. They will enjoy Ground UP’s usual meticulously high standard of production values. And they’ll get to engage with hopefully interesting ideas about corruption, responsibility, allegiance, patriotism, and priorities that the play delves into. At the end of the day, I hope it’ll be a great time.

SW: This will seem like a huge departure for us to many of our Sci-Fi and horror fans, but it's actually a return to form. Mac has created a piece by stitching together two distinct genres - the family drama and the spy thriller. The piece moves a million miles an hour and the plot spins around at the drop of a hat. Plus, we have some very ambitious staging and possibly the grossest bit of stage combat we've ever tried. Also, on a personal note, [we went to college with the folks at] Ground UP Productions. They've been creating modern classics while we've been doing nutty stuff downtown and, after all that we've been through separately and together, it's such an honor and a joy to share names above the title with them.

THEASY: What's next for Gideon Productions?

SW: We have two things that we're not fully ready to I'm gonna go ahead and announce them anyway. In the April-May stretch of 2015, we are going to very likely be doing a co-production with Capslock Theater -- a piece written by Mariah MacCarthy and a piece written by myself. Then in the October-November stretch, we are hoping to bring The Honeycomb Trilogy in rep to the off-Broadway space at Judson Memorial Church. Both of these things are ridiculously ambitious and neither is set in stone, but they're both worth mentioning since, with live theater, you never know what's going to happen no matter what!

MR: Sean has returned to playwriting recently and drafted a couple scripts we’re very interested in moving forward with. We’d love to do a third installment of our Blueprint Project, wherein we have four playwrights write a play based on the same synopsis to see how fascinatingly different they turn out. And I’m starting work on a new play in December that I’ve been wanting to write for years, that I hope the Gideon gang will like enough to produce down the road. We’ll see how it goes!