What are your names and where are you from?
PS: I’m Pia Scala-Zankel and I’m from Brooklyn.
TR: (shout out style) Brooklyn!
Is that where you are from originally?
PS:Yes, born and bred!
And you still live there?
PS: I do!
TR:My name is Tara Ricasa, and I was born and raised in San Diego.
What brought you to New York?
TR: (dramatically pronounced) Theatre. My husband was starting a PHD program at Stony Brook, so we thought it would be a nice change of pace.
What have you been working on at SPACE?
PS: Well, we were working on my play for a little while, and then after the actors left, we were also interspersing it with doing work on our programming for the next season, and one of the things we are doing is something called “Collab,” which actually, Lady Emily (Simoness) is…
PS: Exactly. So it’s three short new works. They’re going to be readings and it’s all going to be at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) this year. We’ve gotten over 150 submissions. We’ve finished reading through them and we’ve picked them-
Dan LeFranc, resident at SPACE at the time of this interview, comes through the dining room.
DL: Sorry, to interrupt.
PS: Oh, that’s ok.
TR: Excuse me, this is my fifteen minutes of fame, I only get fifteen and you’re eating it up.
PS: There are three different teams. We have to cast them, get the director, and get the actors. So we are in the middle of contracts and things like that.
TR: We’re putting together the creative teams which is fun because it’s “Collab” meaning…
TR and PS: Collaboration.
TR: So, we basically pick a bunch of people that we think would work well together and who are talented and we put them in a room together. Some of them know each other, some don’t and that’s how the magic happens.
Do you mind talking about the beginning of your theatre company (Vertigo Theater Company)? What’s been the toughest thing?
PS: Sure, yeah. The toughest thing was that we started off as an ensemble, and we had these delusions of grandeur that we were going to be an ensemble-based company. We started off with the ensemble theatre class at the Labyrinth Theater Company, and we met a bunch of people in that class and we were like, “Hey, we love each other, we’re going to have this theatre company, and we’re going to be together all the time, and we’re all going to be on the same page,” and what we discovered pretty shortly after was…
TR: We weren’t.
PS: We weren’t, and that was ok. I think the good thing about it was recognizing that and not holding on to something that really wasn’t working. People are at different life stages, and even if they’re not at different life stages, my personal opinion is that it doesn’t really work. And it’s not a democracy. It’s very, very difficult to get anything done if it is a democracy, and also having obligations to people. If you want to break outside of the type of people that were in your ensemble and you feel that you need to cast only these ten people, it just doesn’t work and we wanted to be free of that. So, we broke off and we became the artistic directors and we’re working with people in a community that we love, and we call it our ”Vertigo Family,” and it grows and grows all the time.
TR: We parted on good terms for the most part, and it was also a question of aesthetic. Because we met in an educational class, and then once we got to really know each other, we figured out that we didn’t share a common aesthetic. Over the course of time, we figured out what we were really interested in doing. It took awhile. It took a few months.
You two also met in the class. So why was it you two specifically, and what about the two of you individually works so well together?
TR: I think it’s a question of leadership, because I’ve posed that same question to other people who have their own companies and said, “Why do you think this company has survived for so long?” More often than not the answer is, “Because of the leadership of so-and-so.” We were fortunate enough that people in our group were very open and completely okay with our spearheading, and they trusted us, and they had confidence in us. And to those who started the journey with us we’re grateful. That gave us the opportunity to essentially form what became Vertigo. That certainly wasn’t our objective from the beginning. We just wanted to get things started and the idea was that eventually people would step up and different people would do different things. But, at the end of the day, I think we gravitated toward each other because we were the ones doing the legwork.
PS: And this is something that is true, and this is something I have heard of other people, when you find a creative partner, who really is your partner, who balances you out with all of the things that you don’t have—all of things I don’t have, she has, and all of the things I have she doesn’t have, and honestly I’m so grateful for it. I wouldn’t want to do it without her. We have so much fun, number one, we really do have so much fun, but also we have the same aesthetic most of the time, really, and we balance each other out, and we get things done. So, it’s a beautiful partnership, and if you can ever find somebody to have that partnership with creatively, run with it because it’s rare, it’s so rare.
I had two drama teachers in high school, one of them directed the actors and blocked, and the other was the technical director making the set. They could do both, but one was their strong suit. Do you guys have that sort of edge? Who is who?
TR: Pia is the “people person.” She’s very good at making introductions and chatting with people, all that stuff that I’m not particularly attracted to doing, and I’m very good at anything that involves a computer.
PS: Tara is amazing. I think we are both amazing problem solvers. …Not like “we’re amazing.”
TR: We’re amazing, period.
“We’re amazing,” interview…ends! I got it, I got it, done.
PS: I think we’re both really good at problem solving, which is much of this whole thing, and putting pieces of the puzzle together. And we don’t get confused or sidetracked, like with eyes glazed over. We can pretty much see the problem and see what needs to be put together, and put it together. She is amazing at the computer. S can do things that—there is no way, no way, that I could ever do them, and she knows that because I’ve tried. I’ll try and do some things, and I’ve learned a lot from her. I have! That is not something…
It’s not your thing.
PS: No, I don’t want to. You know what I mean? It’s not something I look at and say, “Oh, I want to do that.” No, I don’t want to.
So the “Collab” is coming up, what else is coming up?
PS: We have something really exciting coming up!
TR: Yeah, actually this is the first time we are talking to anybody about any of this stuff.
PS: That’s good, that’s good!
Share it on the Tumblr, share it on the Facebook.
TR: So, this is exclusive.
PS: In February we are doing something called, “The Living Room Series,” and this is the second time we are doing “The Living Room Series.” But it looks different this year. We want to support new artists and new work. We made a pact that we would always pay our artists. Even if it’s minimal, from the very first thing we ever did, we try and pay them something because we really feel like they are doing a service and they deserve to get paid and feel worthy, and feel good about themselves. So, it’s something we always do, even if we don’t have the money, we do it.
TR: It’s a gesture. It’s a symbolic gesture.
PS: And that number has grown a little bit, which is nice, so this year we decided to commission three playwrights, three female playwrights. We have Lindsay Joy, and she is the co-artistic director of Lab Rats but she is also a fantastic playwright.
TR: She did, oh what was it? Teenage Cyberqueen?
PS: The Rise and Fall of a Teenage Cyberqueen. Amazing. Her writing is just wonderful, and she is being commissioned. She is an excellent and wonderful friend of ours. And Jess Brickman, who has been to SPACE many times, and she is also doing a piece, and she is fantastic. And also, Lucy Thurber is doing a piece, which we’re really psyched about, we love her, she’s an awesome person. We’re thrilled to have her, and Laura Savia is going to direct. So it’s an all female team, it’s all female producing, and all female writers, but we’re doing it at Gleason’s Gym, which is an iconic male space, to be in a boxing gym, but the women are coming in…
TR: We’re going to take it over!
PS: So it’s site specific. We pick the space and the writers are inspired by it. It’s going to be immersive, so they will be in the rings, and there will be all sorts of stuff going on.
TR: That’s February. We have another project that is coming up next summer, but we’re still waiting on the green light so I can’t really talk about it. That one is site specific as well, and we’re hoping to put together a pretty impressive creative team for that.
PS: And we do “Shoptalk!”
TR: We do “Shoptalk”, and that’s ongoing, that will start back up in the fall. That is essentially a really chill, intimate Q and A.
PS: It’s essentially Parisian salon style.
TR: Yeah, we have it once a month with someone in the industry—someone who we respect and admire, who so graciously comes and answers our questions.
PS: We talk and drink some wine around a table, and we handpick the people who will be there so it’s people who have gotten someplace in that field or who are just breaking into that field. Lucy (Thurber) did it and we had John Gould Rubin, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Stephen Adly Guirgis. So it’s been really great. That’s going to start up again.
TR: It’s fun. It’s a more intimate version of the Q and A’s that they do elsewhere, really. It’s like this, we sit down at a table, open a couple bottles of wine…
PS: And we eat.
TR: And we eat.
PS: And it organically goes somewhere.
TR: You don’t have to raise your hand; it’s more of a conversation.
PS: And then we’re going to do my play next year.
TR: In the fall.
PS: Yeah, next fall.
I have a question about the all female teams of The Living Room Series. That was purposeful?
TR: I don’t think that it was intentional.
PS: It kind of organically grew into that. It kind of went in that direction. We had always mentioned that it would be great to support female playwrights.
TR: But when we had planned for this project, we didn’t go out and say, “Hey, let’s get a female director, and three female playwrights, oh by the way, all of our production team needs to be female, as well.” We just thought about, “Who are people we want to work with?” It just happened that we went through a list of people who we thought would be able to contribute something and would be exciting to work with, and they happened to be female.
PS: I’m happy it turned out that way.
TR: Yeah, and then we got to take a step back and make that lovely realization on our own and say, “This is fantastic.” You don’t see it enough.
Yeah, I think that’s my question. Is it being shown enough? Is it a bad thing that we have to take a step back and realize that “Oh, it’s all female. That’s great.”
PS: I don’t believe in picking female playwrights for the sake of them being female playwrights. We picked these women because they are special and amazing at what they do. I absolutely believe in supporting female playwrights and female artists by making sure they get noticed. We do have an obligation and I do feel some sort of responsibility for that, for sure. Don’t you?
TR: Yeah. I mean if there were enough opportunities and they were being acknowledged at that level, we wouldn’t have to make that realization, obviously. But, that’s not the reality we live in. It’s good that women are gaining leverage.
TR: Right. I still think we have a long ways to go, but I do agree with Pia that this show was never about “women power.”
The shows are good.
TR: The shows are about good work.
PS: It’s always about the work first.
TR: Right, and the fact that it happens to be an all-female team, that’s just the cherry on top.
For the past couple of weeks, the staff has been all women. It’s been Emily, Alison, Rebecca, Arden, and me, and at one point we sat back and realized, “Hey, this is pretty nice.”
PS: You’re running the show!
TR: And it’s nice to be in a position, too, where you’re in a room with all of these talented women and you’re not competing with each other, you’re working together.
For the last question we’ll make a whole 360! If you could be a farm animal, reincarnated, what farm animal would you like to be?
PS: Oh gosh, a horse.
A horse. Why?
TR: So people can ride you? OOOHHHH!
PS: She just totally slapped me down.
TR: I went there.
PS: What is she trying to say? I can’t even say anything now.
TR: I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to steal your thunder.
Ok, um, so why would you be a horse? Can you say anymore?
PS: Yes, I would want to be a horse because I always think horses are amazing animals because they can very easily kill you if they wanted to. They could! They could easily kick you or throw you off, or something like that, and they’re so gentle actually for the most part, and so sweet. They have this intuitive quality with humans or with other animals that I think is so special. I always loved horses growing up. They’re beautiful.
Did you ride them?
PS: I did, I did, I did… all my life… yes… (Tara starts to laugh) What animal would you be, Tara?
TR: A farm animal? Hmm… I’ve actually never thought about it before, it’s a good question. I think I would be a honeybee.
PS: Oh, is that from today?
TR: Yeah, I think so.
What happened today?
PS: She picked flowers today.
TR: I went flower harvesting.
Oh yeah, you did! How was flower harvesting? It was nice?
TR: Oh, wonderful! It was nice.
PS: “Special,” she said!
TR: It was! It was a special experience. I learned a lot and made some new friends.
PS: That’s so great!
TR: And, found a hidden talent for flower arrangement.
PS: Oh, that’s true! You made some bouquets!
It’s so calming.
PS: It is!
TR: And then you have this beautiful thing of flowers at the end of the day. But yeah, honeybee because I get to be outside and I get to live in a colony with other bees, hardworking honeybees, because there aren’t any lazy honeybees.
PS: Your pet peeve.
TR: Yes, like excuse me, if I’m going to be out there getting pollen you better be getting pollen, too.
TR: And it’s a very purposeful job, insect, right?
They each have their own job.
TR: On a larger scale, I would be a part of something and my bee-buddies would be a part of something that, if I weren’t there and they weren’t there, would die out because who’s going to pollinate the flowers? You know? It’s part of this whole cycle. It would give a whole meaning to my life.
PS: Being a bee.
Which job would you have in the colony? Would you be a guard bee, the bee that collects pollen, the Queen Bee?
TR: I wouldn’t be the Queen Bee.
That’s too much. She also doesn’t get out of the hive ever.
TR: What’s a worker bee that gets to buzz around and get the pollen?
PS: That’s a worker bee.
TR: Yeah, I’d be a worker bee.
The one that flies out and gets pollen?
TR: Yeah, it’d be fun. I’d get to go out and check out the farm. I would visit some friends.
PS: That’s actually perfect for you.
PS: You could visit me.
Yeah, ride around. This could work.
TR: Right! So, did we get them all right?
You got them all right.
It’s going to go viral.
PS: People are going to be like, “Who are those brilliant people?”
Interviewed by Raquel Loving.