OFF OFF the Webseries 

Christopher Borg 
5/21/2012 




With spring comes new life, new ideas and new reasons to shake things up a bit.

And in this exciting era of new media, networks and platforms, there is something charming, flattering and maybe even a little scary when the camera is turned around and we see ourselves…in our small, dusty theatres…and all the work, the madness, the joy and the heartache.  It seems that we ourselves are good fodder for comedy and drama.

This spring marked the launch of OFF OFF, a brand new webseries which is unique in that the fictional characters in this comedy are all working for an Off Off Broadway theatre company.  It is the first webseries that is specifically ABOUT New York’s indie theatre and the people who survive therein creating their art.  The pilot episode is offered for free on YouTube.

I used the power of the internet to reach the writer and creator of the series, Stephen Bittrich, who has acted and written for multiple IT Award nominee and recipient The Drilling Company.  He also plays one of the main characters and in typical indie theatre fashion he has also been, up to this point, the producer, director, web designer and marketing guy.  I found his responses to my questions rather inspiring!


Borg:  Wow!  You are a busy guy.  Are you directing every episode?

Bittrich: No, David Marantz, who plays Carlton, is a co-producer and will be directing an upcoming episode.  Katie McHugh, our invaluable Assistant Director for the beginning episodes, is stepping up to direct the next one and John Painz, our fantastic DP, will direct and edit as well.

Borg: So, Stephen, share with our readers (who are all Indie theatre/ Off Off Broadway artists themselves) a little about the web series - this is your elevator pitch!

Bittrich: OFF OFF the Webseries is about 4 guys in their 40's who run an Off Off Broadway theatre in NYC perhaps past the age when it's still sexy to still do so.

I'm not saying it's NOT sexy to do Off Off Broadway as you get older!  That can surely only be determined by the audience.  I'm only posing the question.  But I'm sure that many people who create Indie theatre, question, as they get older, why they still do it and whether the work they create is important.

Borg: What inspired or prompted you to create a webseries that exposes the quirks and struggles of New York indie theatre?

Bittrich: I'd gone through a separation/divorce, and in 2009 I wrote a fictional one-act about a guy sorta like me who had gotten so down on his luck and depressed after his wife of 20 years leaves that he's living in the theatre on the set of his play that has just closed, and his friends and colleagues are there for an intervention to get him out.  Then I saw Michael Cyril Creighton's highly successful Jack in a Box webseries, and I thought ‘that's it!  A show about guys my age running a theatre -- a show for people who NEVER give up on their dreams!’

Borg: Comedy traditionally pokes fun of and exposes the characters’ flaws or weaknesses, is this series a parody of Off-Off-Broadway? How do you find the balance between homage to the community that you love while also spoofing the shortcomings and challenges that come with producing indie theatre?

Bittrich: This was a big debate in the beginning quite honestly, and we lost a colleague who was worried that we might be making too much fun.  But you can't write anything good without flawed characters and conflict.  And I try to be an equal opportunity spoofer.  Fortunately, most of the people involved worked for many years in the theatre together, and we love each other very much.  Certainly the playwright character (my character) has as many flaws as anyone.  And these characters, imperfect as they are, are not untalented.  It was important to me that they are actually good at what they do.  I'm hoping that people will find these characters quite endearing despite their flaws.

Borg: What do you hope the impact will be - either on our community or on the larger theatre or web-watching audiences?

Bittrich: I would absolutely love to shed some light on how art is created in this community while making an entertaining show.  I think people beyond our industry will be interested in a kind of poor man's SMASH, how art is created down in the trenches, so to speak.  I would love to ask questions like – ‘Is art important only relative to the number of people it reaches, or is art important no matter how many it reaches?’  I want to explore why people continue to work in Off Off Broadway into their 40s, 50s and beyond and what exactly they have to offer the community.

I remember going to the IT Awards show in 2008, and Edward Albee got up on stage and said, ‘There are two kinds of theatre in this country: commercial theatre... and theatre that matters.  You make the theatre that matters.’  Frickin' Edward Albee was saying that! That night I was very proud because I absolutely believe in what he said.  We create the new stories from thin air, we take bold risks and risk failure (financial and artistic) while not being so tied to making money for investors.  We create new stories that matter.  I carry that moment of pride to this day.


OFF OFF the Webseries has launched its pilot episode and is offered for free on YouTube or at www.offoffwebseries.com.


 

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