Call Answered: Randy Sharp: Axis Theatre Company's Founder/Artistic Director + "Last Man Club"
After featuring Emily Kratter on “Call Me Adam,” I have gotten to know a bit more about Off-Broadway’s Axis Theatre Company. Now, in their 20th Anniversary Season, it is a real honor to interview Axis Theatre Company’s founder/Artistic Director, Randy Sharp.
Opening Axis Theatre Company'’s 20th Season is Randy’s play Last Man Club, which is being revived after it’s hit run in 2013.
Last Man Club takes place “From 1930-1939, the Great American Desert of the Texas and Oklahoma plains—destroyed by the expansion of wheat farming, which plowed beneath the bluestem and buffalo grass holding the dirt in place—blew up into the air in dust storms that packed enough static electricity to power the city of New York. Many refused to leave their dust-covered farms, even after all the animals died and they were eating bitter roots to survive.”
Last Man Club is about one of the families who stayed. With no one else around for a hundred miles, Major's family lives in a one room dugout as he tries to reconcile himself to the fact that his own kin has taken the money and run. Out of the biggest storm in the history of the Dust Bowl—200 miles wide, 15,000 feet high—come two desperate men promising a way out.
Last Man Club will play at Axis Theatre (One Sheridan Square in Manhattan’s West Village, just off 7th Avenue) from June 5-28. Click here for tickets!
1. You are currently celebrating the 20th Anniversary Season of Axis Theatre. When thinking back throughout the last 20 years, what gives you the biggest smile today about Axis Theatre? What gave you the biggest smile during year one? "Biggest smile" is a hard thing to pinpoint. Every emotion connected with working here is multi-layered. Year one it was simply opening the space and immediately staging an original play with a highly technical aspect. Through the years I would have to say it's any night I’m in the booth looking out at the stage through that glass. That is truly the greatest place on earth.
2. This June, Axis Theatre will present the return engagement of your play Last Man Club, which you will also direct. What made the 20th Anniversary season of Axis Theatre the right time to bring this play back? Last Man Club is about desolation and the horror experienced in the middle of a country that believed itself to be experiencing the end of the world. Sound familiar?
3. Do you relate to this show differently today than when it first premiered in 2013? I’m a different director now with a more finely tuned aesthetic. I allow less things to escape me and I believe I control the experience of the audience more effectively.
4. What should audiences know about this show prior to attending? It’s set in 1933 during the worst part of an environmental disaster called The Dust Bowl. Over-farming led to the top soil of the center of the US to simply blow away in massive dust storms that destroyed families and livelihoods. Concurrently the Great Depression had detonated the stock market and the country was on the brink of a total financial apocalypse. The east coast had no interest in what was happening in the middle of the country until the biggest dust storm ever recorded finally blew onto the buildings of New York City blotting out the sun and stopping trains and cars. People in the Dust Bowl rightly believed they were witnessing the end of the world which was only narrowly avoided when the entire US became involved in solving the problem.
5. Let's talk more about running Axis Theatre. In 1999, what made you want to start a theatre company? I had no choice.
6. What has been the biggest reward of founding & running Axis Theatre? Any time I see our work or the work of someone we have supported and I know we did everything we could to make it perfect.
7. What's the biggest challenge in running an Off-Broadway theatre company? Getting an audience in. People like to be told what’s “good" and if the main critics are so overworked they can barely get to shows off-off-broadway and this becomes challenging.
8. What are your hopes for Axis Theatre in the next 20 years? Hits.
9. For this last question, I'm going to play off of your YouTube series Dinner Party Tonight. If you could have a dinner party with 5 guests who have not been featured at Axis Theatre in your 20 year history, whom would you invite? What would you cook? Carl Sagan, Ricky Gervais, Steve Coogan, Tyson Fury and RuPaul. Coq au vin because I can make it in advance and it’s better the next day anyway! Great wine always. And decadent chocolate pots for dessert.
More on Randy:
Randy Sharp is Axis Theatre Company’s founder and Artistic Director. Her plays include Strangers in the World, which just premiered as the kick-off to Axis’s 20th anniversary season, the Drama Desk Award-nominated Last Man Club (published by DPS), Nothing on Earth, Down There, Seven in One Blow (published by DPS and performed every December in NYC and around the country) and the long-running serial Hospital. Sharp wrote and directed The Vast Machine (2015), and co-wrote (with former Blondie member Paul Carbonara) and directed Evening – 1910, which premiered at acclaim at Axis in 2016. Sharp’s directing credits also include Strangers in the World; Last Man Club; Nothing on Earth; Down There; Seven in One Blow; Hospital; Edgar Oliver’s New York Trilogy (including East 10th Street: Self Portrait with Empty House, winner of the Fringe First Award, Edinburgh Fringe, In the Park, and Attorney Street) and London Paris; A Glance at New York (Edinburgh Fringe & NYC), Julius Caesar; and the U.S premiere of Sarah Kane's Crave, starring Deborah Harry. She also directed the feature film Henry May Long, winner of 13 international awards, and is the host of the popular YouTube cooking show Dinner Party Tonight.