"Call Me Adam" chats with writer/performer Bay Bryan and director Artem Yatsunov about their new show Growing Into My Beard which will be part of Horse Trade Theater's first annual Queerly Festival on July 2 at The Kraine Theater in NYC (85 East 4th Street)! Click here for tickets!
Growing Into My Beard a coming of age drag cabaret about how we evolve from the secrets we hold. Fusing live music and personal narrative into a dreamy blend of storytelling and performance art, Growing Into My Beard is a must see for anyone who has ever felt – even a little bit – queer at heart.
1. Your show, Growing Into My Beard is being presented in the first annual Queerly Festival on July 2. What excites you about having this show in the festival?
Bay Bryan (Writer/Performer): First off I love Horse Trade. Their presence in NYC is invaluable: a familial and diverse community of artists that range from being in development to Broadway capable. So because of that as well as being gay, ginger and just queer in general, I'm ecstatic to be a part of the 1st Queerly Festival, with many years to come I'm sure!
Artem Yatsunov (Director): This is a summer of Festivals for us! After Queerly we are going to Minnesota and Philly Fringes with Growing Into My Beard! So it’s exciting for me to start our tour off here in NYC and at Horse Trade Theater Group who are my go-to downtown theater company for open minded and eclectic programming. They have been faithfully supportive of my work for a while and I hope to make them proud at the Queerly Festival. Plus, they just won an Obie – what! Yes, Horse Trade, yes!
Bay Bryan: Well, the show is about becoming a man in a way - my own version of a man really. And I think it subtly challenges the idea of what being a man means. Through my personal journey of queer-ness, hopefully people will walk away feeling empowered that they don't have to conform to any gender-norm, or societal norm for that matter, that they don't want to.
Artem Yatsunov: Growing Into My Beard is personal and, above all, honest coming out/coming of age story. Through Bay’s hilarious improvisational antics, his soft and silken songs, lingering melodies, and through scenes of sorrowful daydreams, this is ultimately Bay’s triumph of identity. Queerly is "A festival seen through lavender colored-glasses. Taking the everyday experience, jokes and stories of being Southern, Canadian, a person of color, a sports fan, a misfit, a redhead – and viewing them through the lens of queer identity." So in a nutshell, to serve the audience a few vivid slices of "non-straight" life. To me, Bay’s story is a great statement of why celebrating the acceptance of your queer identity is just as vital as acknowledging the struggle of being queer
3. How did you come to work together on this show? Bay, what made you want to write this show? Artem, why did you want to direct it?
Bay Bryan: Artem and I met through Horse Trade, through their Tuesday night open mic, and hit it off both creatively and friendship-wise. We have worked on a handful of projects together and hopefully will continue to work on many more to come. I suppose it helps that we are building I've Seen the Future together...! In response to why I wrote this show, I think it's because I was straddling two major markets: singer-songwriter world and theater world, and neither were really doing it for me individually - I wanted to find a way to bring them together. And then when I started playing around with cabaret and solo performance I realized that this is the medium that has room for both passions, as well as whatever the hell else I want to do - which you will see if you come along to the show; not going to give too much away, but I will say this: Taco.
Artem Yatsunov: I would direct Bay in anything. He doesn’t just tell a story; Bay’s whole being is overtaken with a need to express. It’s like being part of a séance or watching an exorcism, but in a good way. He inspires me, which is simply the best reason to collaborate because you genuinely cherish each other’s efforts.
Bay Bryan: The response we got from our first performance, what nearly everyone touched on and resonated with was the universality as well as the vulnerability of it - two things that are very important to me when it comes to writing and performing (and I suppose life in general), so I was incredibly humbled by their reaction.
Artem Yatsunov: Taco Dance. I don’t want to give anything away but if you like modern dance and Mexican food, you’re going to want to get your seats FAST
5. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing Growing Into My Beard?
Bay Bryan: I hope that they walk away feeling inspired to embrace their own queerness, however minuscule it may be. And that they might be inspired to be just that little bit more vulnerable in their daily life - that they might share themselves more openly with the world.
Artem Yatsunov: I really hope the audience finds the desire to celebrate their own identities. If identity is something an audience member is conflicted about I really want this show to inspire them to seek out and to strive for happiness in their lives
Bay Bryan: I will reveal one thing... I'm not actually from this galaxy.
Artem Yatsunov: Ha – well if I told you then they wouldn’t be secrets. Seriously though, one of my biggest secrets is my insecurity; I fear that I won’t live up to my own potential and that I’ll submit to fear. Also, I am not so secretly addicted to Parks & Recreation, but I’m willing to own up that!
7. In addition to Growing Into My Beard, you run your own theatre company called I've Seen The Future (ISTF). What made you want to start your own theatre company? What has been the best part about running it?
Bay Bryan: I'm going to cop out on this one a little and let Artem answer this one. Although, I will say that I am excited to see how this company grows and I think a major reason why we want it is so that we can become clear about what's important to us and then by doing so attract the right artists for future collaborations!...I love how I said I'll leave it to Artem and then just answered the question anyway.
Artem Yatsunov: I’ve Seen The Future, Bay came up with that beautiful title, is a devised theatre company with a mission to create works of body revolution and social evolution – telling queer and foreign stories of endless wonder. I’d say right now we’re most excited about finding artists who believe in our mission and who want to work with us. Which is a big part of why we’re creating this company – to build a community of a new generation of storytellers.
Bay Bryan: I met an older man in his 70's, very cheerful, in a coffee shop in Glasgow. His name was Innis. He said the secret to life is to "Think young." And then I can't forget my grandmother Mrs. Doris Bryan. She always used to say, "hold the right thought."
Artem Yatsunov: "What would Tom Waits do?" My friend Ben recommended this approach when tackling difficult decisions, or heartbreak. Or choosing what to drink.
9. What have you learned about yourselves from being a performer/director?
Bay Bryan: Hmmm...You ask good questions. I like you...what I've learned is to trust that I am capable (I'm still learning this really). I have leaps and bounds to go, and much to learn, but I always have to remind myself that I am good enough. I think the funny thing about performing is that when you are off the stage, and out of the moment, you have nothing tangible to remind you of your abilities. You have credits and the fact that you did it in the past, but it's not like you built a house and you can stand back at any time and say, "here's my house..." In performing I only see "my house" for a brief moment: while I'm performing and directly afterwards - a little flash of it...Does that analogy work? Not sure...Anyway all I'm saying is follow your heart and push through. Plant your seeds. Keep watering them. You get the drill.
Artem Yatsunov: I’ve learned that I really love seeing people succeed, and that I have a lot more patience than my erratic personality would lead someone to believe I’m capable of. I certainly didn’t think I had all that patience in me, myself.
Bay Bryan: Definitely to be able to fly. Like Peter Pan style. Real original.
Artem Yatsunov: Money. That’s a super power, right? I’d like the Powers of Money, please.
11. If you could create your own signature drink, what would you call it, and what ingredients would you put in it?
Bay Bryan: It's gotta have ginger in it. Lemon. Fancy white rum. Minty goodness. Raw sugar....So a mojito basically!
Artem Yatsunov: The Old Man’s Shoe. Whiskey, drunk from a shoe. Preferably an old man’s shoe.
12. Favorite way to stay in shape?
Bay Bryan: Yoga and Dancing.
Artem Yatsunov: Pull ups and yoga. Also living in NYC – do you see all these GORGEOUS people out right now?! Hello summer! Nothing like being surrounded by hot people all the time to keep you vigilant with your diet.
13. Boxers or Briefs?
Bay Bryan: Briefs no question. The more gay the better - bring on the jock strap.
Artem Yatsunov: Commando, but I prefer birthday suit.
Bay is a Colorado-born Scotland-trained, and Manhattan-based performance artist and singer-songwriter. Recently he opened for Horse McDonald at Dundee Rep Theater (Scotland) just shortly after a run of True Believer at TheaterLab (NYC) in which he composed/performed the music. His current move into solo-performance/devised theater (Growing into My Beard, ShanaeNae The Cabaret (NYC)) is a product of his desire to find a medium where all his passions can intertwine; where various guises of storytelling can work together to create unique and multifaceted narratives. For festival dates and other info check out Bay's website www.baybryan.com
Artem Yatsunov is a Ukrainian-born, Brooklyn-based theatre director and storyteller. Since graduating from Montclair State University in 2008 Artem has been directing non-stop, creating over 50 full-length works of theatre in both regional theater and non-conventional venues such as bars and warehouses. Artem has had the pleasure to work with Obie-Award winning producer Kelly Nicole Girod, The Horse Trade Theatre Group, acclaimed artist David Gothard, PACE Head of Theatre Jorge Cacheiro, John Pietrowski of the Playwrights Theatre of NJ, Cheryl Katz of Luna Stage Theatre Company, and many more. Up next he is working on a new solo-storytelling show about Americanized immigrants dealing with conflicts in their native lands. Artem is the Co-Founder and Artistic Director of NJ-based StrangeDog Theatre. www.strangedogtheatre.com