Azuka’s upcoming production is a unique, colorful, and darkly comic look at a town rocked by a hate crime through the eyes of preteens living through it. So one of the themes of the show (and something it will assuredly make audiences do) is remembering what life was like at that age. In exploring that idea and more, I asked some of the cast and crew of YETI a few questions to get to know them better.
Today, I'll be talking with Ariel Wang, Frank Nardi Jr, Lindsay Stevens, and Kishia Nixon.
Ready? Steady. Yeti...GO!
What is your role/position in this production?
ARIEL WANG: I'm the Costume Designer.
FRANK NARDI, JR.: GOON.
LINDSAY STEVENS: I'm the Lighting Designer for this production.
KISHIA NIXON: I play Carly!
The frame of this show is these kids, preteens, performing a story. Did you put on any performances at that age, for friends or family? What kinds of stories did you tell, and how?
ARIEL: I was a host at my school’s broadcast station and a member of choir. Our broadcast program covered a wide range of topics, such as social and scientific news, poems, etc.
FRANK: My cousins and I performed an awful Thanksgiving recreation when we were younger for my family and it was the dumbest thing I've ever done with them, but we thought we were so cool.
I also used to talk on my Mom's monster sized cell phone on the way to soccer games pretending it was my agent and I was sealing some huge movie deal. It was also the early 90's so cell phones were a bit different then.
LINDSAY: I've been active in theater, music, and dance since I was 7. It was also around 11 or 12 that I started writing my own shows and stories based on my own life or creating characters within an imaginary world of how I wished my actual life would go.
KISHIA: My sister and I use to make up lip sync/dance routines to old songs for our parents. [crying laughing emoji]
What’s your favorite spot in Philly?
ARIEL: Kelly Drive. A beautiful place for a run, a walk.
FRANK: MAX BRENNER and The Linc (Go Birds!!!)
LINDSAY: People-watching in Rittenhouse Square with a panini from Tuscany Cafe and drinking a chai.
KISHIA: Wissahickon Park.
Cats, dogs, or rats?
FRANK: None of the above.
LINDSAY: All the above, though I'm not much for having cats myself. I had two dogs growing up and one of my roommates has a wonderful pet rat named Charlie.
KISHIA: Bears, but to choose I would say dogs.
For the actors: Beyond just using your imagination at home, did you act on stage at that age? What show and role? Have any pictures?
FRANK: Besides school plays I was also in some operas with my family with the Philadelphia Opera Company. I started acting at the age of 5. My first play was in kindergarten and the play was Get Hoppin', my first opera was Eugene Onegin with Luciano Pavarotti.
KISHIA: The closest I came to acting on stage was me playing Rosa Parks in a 3-minute scene. No pictures were captured.
For the design team: The design for this show is interesting because it has to balance seeming like a professional production, and seeming like it’s born from kids’ imaginations. How did you go about navigating that? Did you have any inspirations?
ARIEL: Since the story starts from graffiti, I started by looking at graffiti and street art. I was inspired by the bold color palette and expressive strokes. I also look at a lot of street styles and get inspired by the pieces they chose and how they decided to style them. Since the show is like, born from their imagination, I added DIY elements that mimic the color and pattern of street art to their clothes.
LINDSAY: I've enjoyed tinkering around with the line between play and production. For me, the biggest question throughout has been how would the kids light their own show. The answer came fairly early on that they would use things they would have access to at home, such as flashlights, holiday lights, and construction lamps, or rely on the natural environment of the woods. From there it was quite fun to discover when to use these pieces. The difficult part then became to decide where the world the kids create and the world they imagine collide. After a bit of puzzling it felt right to let the kids and actors lead the moment and then add to it. And then by taking the script and finding the moments that have the most intensity or purpose and isolating the performers in that moment. Which are the moments maybe not when the kids are imagining something, but remembering what actually happened.
Hopefully in upcoming weeks I'll be chatting with even more of the cast and crew; stay tuned! And to see these talented actors & designers at work, reserve your PWYD tickets for READY STEADY YETI GO, running February 21 through March 11.