By Gary Wien
What is SAMURAIZATION all about?
...Having my sushi and eating it, too! It's about getting happy - and about celebrating being alive - which means facing the fact that we're all going to be not alive at some point. The show's inspired by a Japanese writer named Yukio Mishima who was deeply into the Samurai culture - which stressed the importance of making bold, clear choices... (you don't see images of whiny, wishy-washy Samurai warriors..."Do I chop off his head now? or now?"). I feel like lots of people - including myself - struggle with how to get the most out of life. The show explores doing that by getting clear about what life is (or can be): an intense, finite experience of calculated risks.
Audiences say the show's hilarious and uplifting -- and hearing everyone laughing, I guess you wouldn't think it's a show about death -- but it is. I've had people tell me that they see the show being about facing fear, about making the right choices, about feeling good. I can agree with all of these.
You've performed one-woman plays before, do you like the challenge of being alone on stage?
I'm thrilled by performing solo on stage - I'm alive and buzzing when I'm out there with the audience. I've been called a 'stand-up poet' - which is some kind of hybrid of stand-up comic and performance poet - and there's accuracy to that statement, I think. Every show is different because of the audience and that makes the whole ride worth taking.
What's the most difficult thing about a one person show? What's the most rewarding?
The most difficult thing for me is rehearsing. It can be really lonely because my whole show rides on the relationship with the audience --- which is the most rewarding thing --- making the connection with the audience.
I notice that you sometimes move back and forth between your works (like going from Fear Junkie to Samuraization) - do you ever find your characters morphing by accident? How do you keep the works straight?
Fun question! I don't actually - it's really fortunate that, for some reason, the pieces are caught in different parts of my brain, I guess... That'd be really fun, though, to see Yukio Mishima show up in the middle of my therapy session for Fear Junkie!
Tell me a little about the Out of the Box series you co-host in North Brunswick.
Oh, yes!! Thank you for asking! OUT OF THE BOX is an open-mic series for performers of all types. We've been running for three years now at the Pride Center in North Brunswick. Each month we have a featured artist - now they're coming in from around the nation - Arizona, Washington DC, Chicago. About 40-55 folks show up each month to listen and share. It's a really special space - where people actually listen and are there to support each other. I couldn't be prouder of this event.
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.