CAMERON: Alright so let’s start with your names, where you are from, and a little about yourself…
RJ (pretending to be Graeme): Well, I am Graeme Gillis.
GRAEME (pretending to be RJ): And I am RJ Tolan… I’ve grown up all over the place. Ohio and upstate New York, North Carolina; most recently I live in Park Slope with my wife Lisa and my two kids and my dog.
RJ (pretending to be Graeme): I grew up in Nova Scotia, on the most remote and sea pounded barren rock in all of Nova Scotia.
GRAEME (pretending to be RJ): That’s a little ungenerous. But keep going, “Graeme.”
RJ (pretending to be Graeme): I have been in New York for fourteen years, been at Ensemble Studio Theatre for twelve, and been running Youngblood with RJ for nine years and he has been there for eleven.
GRAEME: I’m confused.
RJ: Yeah, we have to drop this now.
CAMERON: I know… I was trying to figure out how I was going to type that…
GRAEME: You have to do it verbatim or we are sending it back.
RJ: No! You have to do parentheses “Graeme pretending to be RJ, RJ pretending to be Graeme.”
CAMERON: Got it. So, what project are you working on at SPACE?
GRAEME: So we are up here with Youngblood. There are twenty-one writers that have come through SPACE this week. Everybody has been working on plays, and we have been reading two a day, so about ten of those. They all have stuff that they are working on, and we are basically guiding that while working on our own projects on the side. Last week, I was up here with Ensemble Studio Theatre with the Sloan Project, which is EST’s program for plays about Science and Technology. We were doing another group of plays there. So, it was a fair amount of projects.
CAMERON: Where have you been spending most of your time at SPACE?
GRAEME: I’ve set up shop in the new garage space. The interns keep taking my chair away, though, so it’s a challenge. Though Anna Moench has introduced us to the virtues of the standing desk, which is actually better for your health and posture. But, uh, I haven’t done that… when you take the chair I just sit on the ground.
CAMERON: [no comment]
RJ: Well, I’ve been doing a lot in the rocking chair on the front porch, and I’m living in my van in the driveway… the sort of disreputable hermit of the Youngblood residency. I’m just the weird dude living in his van.
GRAEME: The Youngblooders last night took a quiz that tells you whether or not you’re a psychopath, and, uh, we were around the campfire trying to figure out who among us would be the most likely to get the top score on the psychopath quiz. I said “What about RJ?”… and Patrick Link said, “You mean the guy that lives in the van?”
RJ: Yeah, that rockets me into the lead. No question.
CAMERON: What’s coming up for you and your projects, or Youngblood in general?
RJ: Well, next up for the group, we are reading applications. We just had the deadline pass for incoming writers, so we will be reading that and then interviewing folks and bringing in new writers because the season starts in like September.
CAMERON: So, the season, what will that look like?
GRAEME: The season starts with ‘Asking for Trouble’ which is where the writers draw casting and directors out of a hat, and they get a week to write, then we rehearse it for a week, then we put it up for a week of performances, during which we have a party every night, and then we go from there. Then we have our first brunch of the year, which is our monthly Sunday program where we have themed plays with pancakes and mimosas, and it goes from there. We meet every Wednesday night as well, as a group.
RJ: We have a slot on the EST main stage and then a couple of slots in the sixth floor theater, which we’ve gotten to sort of re-outfit and turn into a useable space. So, we will probably be working on some new plays there.
CAMERON: Final question. If you were reincarnated as a farm animal, what would you be, and why?
GRAEME: I know my answer, but do you want to go first?
GRAEME: I would want to be that barn cat–
RJ: I knew you would–
GRAEME: I would want to be that barn cat twenty-four hours a day. I love that guy. I like the way that he interacts with the world… He’s sort of independent but he needs affection, but also boundaries. Very Canadian.
RJ: He only takes it so long until he bites you.
GRAEME: Or hides behind a leaf.
RJ: Yeah. I would be Big Mac the sheep. The sheep were a big deal here last year, and I feel like they are kind of sulking because there are horses now. And this sheep is just kind of like “Fuck you. Go pay attention to the horses.”
GRAEME: So you would be a bitter sheep?
RJ: Or I would be more Big Mac of vintage last year. He was really—
GRAEME: Before the crash?
RJ: Yeah. He was really the standout among the sheep. My sons came up and visited last year and Big Mac really caught their imagination, so bedtime stories for the next month were all ‘The Adventures of Big Mac.’ He was always figuring out some way to get out of the pen, all the other sheep would always go “Big Maaaaaccc come baaaccckk.” He would go have an adventure and come back and bring whatever he discovered. So we had a little series of Big Mac stories. I’ve got real love for that guy.
Interviewed by Cameron Morton.