Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Interview: Kyle Wilson and Sam French

By Amiko Gonzalez and Ninoska Rodriguez (Producing Assistants)

And then the bunny explodes into a mass of blood and guts, and Jimmy Carter lifts up his oar in triumph!

It’s not unusual to hear a statement like that when sitting down with Kyle Wilson and Sam French. As the co-directors of Jimmy!: A Musical Fable with Almost No Historical Basis, they channel their inner sci-fi nerds constantly as they come up with new ways for green goo to splatter across our stage. These two recent Carnegie Mellon graduates are the visionaries steering a company of over forty high school and college students as they create the ultimate alien encounter story. Today, we chatted with these two B-movie fanatics to find out more about the process of bringing Jimmy! to the stage.

What are your thoughts on Jimmy! so far?

SAM: I think it’s a really fun show because it’s based on history, but it takes such a creative spin on what happened. It’s like an untold slice of Jimmy Carter’s life.

KYLE: To just have a musical about Jimmy Carter is kind of fabulous.

Why is it fabulous to have a musical about Jimmy Carter?

KYLE: Because there’s this tradition of musicals that showcase the lives and trials and tribulations of people from American history or like these fictitious characters that undergo great American struggles and possibly one of the least likely people to have a musical, to sit down on his desk and like sing a ballad, is Jimmy Carter.

SAM: President Jimmy Carter. He seems like such a gentle human. The thought of him tap-dancing is delightful.

Who is your celebrity crush?

SAM: Oh, so many.

KYLE: Oh lord.

SAM: Emma Watson and Emma Thompson. Both of them. And Bruce Springsteen.

KYLE: Paul McCartney. And Gladys Knight – for the Pips.

Why did you want to direct Jimmy!?

KYLE: What we really liked about it was that Sam and I have done a lot of musicals together that were mostly very funny twists on pop culture or history. These musical exaggerations of specific niche things. So a space sci-fi B-movie romp of Jimmy Carter was this combination of genres that we’re really interested in. When Victoria [NTSA’s Executive Director] sent us the script, we were like: “Oh wow, this is literally just what we do.” And meeting Noah and Isaac has been great because it definitely feels like it’s a collaboration that could continue.

What cast or crew member are you most like?

SAM: That’s hard.

KYLE: Because we don’t know them that well yet.

SAM: I think there’s a great parallel between me and you and Noah and Isaac. Like I came in to meet Noah and he loves baseball and wears backwards baseball caps, and I’m always talking about baseball and wearing backwards baseball caps. So I was like: “Woah! This is like Georgian composer me.”

KYLE: And he also likes Star Wars. Which we both like. And Noah and I both received Tommy Wiseau’s, who directed one of the worst movies ever made – The Room, blessing –

SAM: Separately!

KYLE: Separately received his blessing, which we found out the first day we met, to write The Room: The Musical, and we both have separate opening numbers that we wrote for it.

SAM: So I don’t know if there’s exactly one particular member of the cast that we’re each like but I think together as a pair we’re very similar to Noah and Isaac.

KYLE: Which has been great!

If you don’t know anything about Jimmy Carter, what will you get out of this?

SAM: What’s great is that if you don’t know anything about him, you’re going to learn some things that are true about him. But there’s going to be all of these other crazy things that happen, and you’re going to wonder: “Did that really happen?” So you might find yourself on Wikipedia or in your old American history textbook flipping through pages, trying to learn more about him.

KYLE: It’s not like a giant inside joke about Jimmy Carter. It just happens to be about Jimmy Carter, but it’s really a quest story and a bromance story.

SAM: You can go into this knowing nothing about him and totally follow the journey.

Why should people go see Jimmy!? Why should they buy a ticket now? Right this moment?

SAM: To begin with, you should buy a ticket now as opposed to later because it’s cheaper now. BUT buying a ticket whenever is great because there’s something in here for everyone. If you’re a history buff, you’re going to get a kick out of seeing this topic you’re interested in set to kicklines. But also if you love sci-fi films, you’re going to get to see aliens done in really creative ways. If you love silliness, you’re going to get to see a rabbit ballet, and if you know someone in the cast, chances are you’re going to get to see them dressed up as a sexy peanut. Whatever that means.

KYLE: It’s great to see all this disparate talent come together into one thing, which sounds really cheesy. But it truly is.

SAM: You also get to see, just by coming to see any show that this company does – now or in the future, what young artists can do. You can see both the quality of work that they do together, but you can also see the uniqueness of the work that they do together and what they’re into and where they’re headed.

KYLE: It’s like a little sketch of what they’re going to be doing in ten years. When they’re on the Broadway.

Buy your tickets to Jimmy!: A Musical Fable with Almost No Historical Basis today!

And congratulations to Benjamin Viertel, the director of our August 2013 show, Clipped, who just received the Best Director Award at this year’s West Village Musical Theatre Festival for his work on Grindr: The Musical. Congratulations, Ben!


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