What are your names and where are you from?
RJ Tolan: God.
Graeme Gillis: Where in the world or what company?
What company, or where in the world, whichever one.
GG: I’m Graeme Gillis, wait is this for your notes or…
No, no that’s an actual question.
GG: Oh, this is going out live. I’m Graeme Gillis this is RJ Tolan and we are from Ensemble Studio Theatre and Youngbloods Playwrights.
RT: Did you just put an “s” on Youngbloods?
GG: I know, like people do when they don’t know who we are? That’s how I can always tell when someone emails us and they don’t know the company, and they say, “I want to get involved with Youngbloods!” I want to get involved with “The Youngbloods,” which makes us sound like an a cappella group.
RT: So I don’t know who this is sitting next to me, but this is not Graeme Gillis this is some kind of weird imposter. Who found himself out.
GG: The first question was “What was your name and where are you from?”
RT: It took us ten minutes.
GG: And already it’s gotten abusive.
RT: We’re also wildly off the subject.
When I transcribe this, it’s going to be very…
RT: Just edit it.
GG: You’re going to edit it right?
RT: No?! It’s going to be unexacerbated.
GG: Fantastic. It’s more interesting!
RT: Good, great.
GG: It’s a miracle that this writers group has had any success.
What have you been working on since you’ve been at SPACE?
RT: I am actually working on a book that I am co-writing with my mother. So, I’m also doing some writing, but mostly some Youngblood stuff.
GG: Yeah, and prior to Youngblood’s arrival I was up here for ten days with the Ensemble Studio Theatre, or as referred to only at Ryder Farm, “EST: Mothership.“
Is that? Wait, that is what it’s called?!
GG: No, it’s actually a slang that RJ sometimes has employed to differentiate it from Youngblood. So at one point-
RT: Youngblood is a program of EST.
GG: So it’s called EST: Youngblood, but sometimes we internally and very colloquially call it “The Mothership.”
RT: Yeah, so this will be Youngblood and then that will be “The Mothership.” I think we said that to Emily (Executive Director of SPACE) one too many times so it’s actually in the brochure as “EST: Mothership.”
No, there is a calendar on Emily’s desk, like this week is this person, and on it, it says, “EST: Mothership.”
GG: I actually really like the idea of “EST: Mothership” because in my mind it’s this city sized hovercraft above 52nd street and 11th Avenue and it’s occasionally beaming up Billy Carden and his beaming up and down from it.
RT: I feel like it’s Jefferson airplane turning into Jefferson starship. “EST: Mothership”! Now, they’re (SPACE) going to release that we built this city.
GG: I was here with EST, with “The Mothership” working on plays for the EST member company, and the EST Sloan Project which is another program I run with “The Mothership.”
GG: It’s a collaboration with the Sloan foundation and it gives commissions and development grants for plays about science, technology, and economics. That’s why there was a “sciency” drift for many of the plays we were working on for the first two-thirds of our time here.
What’s coming up next for you, your company of your project?
GG: Next for EST is we’re bringing back our play that we did in June, Cori Thomas’ When January Feels Like Summer, which we did with a group, called Page 73. It was as well received as you’d hope a play would be. It’s a lovely play, so we’re going to bring it back in-
GG: September, October. So for anybody who missed it or wants to see it again. And for Youngblood… you can explain how we start our season.
RT: Well for Youngblood we’re in application season so we’ve got our applications for new members open, and submissions are coming in. So Graeme and I always spend the last half of our summer reading applications, and then interviews are usually in September. Then we pick up the new season usually mid-September. We start meeting again weekly. Productions usually start mid-October with a short play-fest after January.
GG: Then the brunches start, and we’ll probably do our full-length plays, looks like we’ll do them in March-April of 2015.
How do you guys decide who gets into Youngblood and who doesn’t? What’s the application process?
RT: (deadpans) Fistfights. That’s what I thought.
GG: Its like chicken fights. Those piggyback fights. One gets on RJ’s shoulder.
RT: Yeah. One gets on my shoulders and the other gets on Graeme’s shoulder. …No, we take writing samples, which we read. And then there are interviews, for finalists. They usually come in to talk to us for 20 minutes or half an hour and then submit more work and we read it.
GG: Agonize for a period of nights.
RT: Days at least, and yeah sort of figure it out.
If you were to be reincarnated as a farm animal…
What farm animal would you be and why?
RT: Woah. I think I’d be one of these boy ducks here.
GG: Goodness, God, sending all of the wrong messages.
RT: Not for their lifestyle.
GG: Just getting worse and worse.
RT: The stuff that they are famous for this week is not-
GG: That’s what they are famous for every week.
RT: is not, not appropriate and I withhold my support for that, so I’ll amend that to be one of the boy ducks outside of mating season when they are behaving like civilized animals. The reasoning is that there is nothing for them to do except be in their pen and their pen gets open and they sort of wander around. So they’re in their pen, and then they wander around in the tall grass, and they lie down and have a nap, and then they wander back to their pen, and no one eats them apparently. The only reason I specified the boy ducks is because the girl ducks seem to have some trouble with the boy ducks and it seems like a less cushy life.
GG: I’d be a pig.
RT: You’d be a pig.
GG: I’d be a pig, I mean I know they used to have pigs here.
RT: Yeah, it didn’t go well.
GG: I didn’t know it didn’t go well.
RT: Oh yeah. I guess it was the farmers who were saying that it didn’t go well, like they all got sick and skinny and couldn’t be eaten and died.
GG: Well that’s not why I chose that.
RT: No, I didn’t figure.
GG: No, I just think I’d be a pig. Angela Hanks who used to be in Youngblood left me a copy of Charlotte’s Web, which I never had read before and has been my extracurricular Ryder Farm reading. Yeah, just makes me want to be a pig.
RT: A strong runner up would be Big Mac the Sheep.
Big Mac the Sheep?
RT: Yeah, apparently the biggest of the sheep is named Big Mac and he’s the friendly one. So if you go pet the sheep he’s the one that wants to be petted. And the sheep also have no purpose except to be chased periodically by the border collie.
Interviewed by Raquel Loving.