Interview with Phil Bond of
The Duplex and
by Jonathan Frank
Jonathan: Welcome to Talkin' Broadway, Phil.
Phil: Pleasure to be here.
JF: What exactly is your position/title at The Duplex Cabaret?
PB: They hired me as 'booking manager,' but I prefer to think of myself as the artistic director: it sounds more important and 'arty!'
JF: How long have you been the artistic director of the Duplex?
PB: Since April of 2002.
JF: It seems that since you took over, The Duplex has been hosting more theatrical and comedy shows, which had been so abundant in its past.
PB: The good thing about The Duplex is that it has always been a very eclectic space in terms of what has been booked. We have everything from one-act plays, to musicalized versions of King Lear, to traditional cabaret shows and events like the New Mondays series, which features cabaret and theater composers performing their own compositions. More recently, we have had people like John Wallowitch and Natalie Douglas come down and do shows, and the 'uptown' cabaret crowd is really starting to get in the habit of coming down here, which I am proud to say. But really: anything can happen here and usually does.
JF: New Mondays is produced by The Storefront, which is also your company, correct?
PB: Right. We're a non-profit theater company that has been around since November of 2000. We have presented revues of the music of John Bucchino, Stephen Schwartz and Brett Kristofferson. We also just did a production of Rags in concert with Anne Runolfson and Leslie Kritzer. Stephen Schwartz and Charles Strouse wrote a new version of the show and we produced the New York debut of it.
JF: Are you the artistic director of Storefront as well, then?
JF: That's a lot of artistic directing for you have on your plate!
PB: It is. But luckily the two jobs have cohabited nicely.
JF: How long does the New Mondays series run?
PB: This round goes through July 15th, then we'll start up again in October.
JF: You have put together a wonderful mix of well-known writers and ones I was unfamiliar with.
PB: Thank you. We really tried to find a good mix to make the evenings as diverse as possible. While you won't ever get two songwriters who are exactly alike, we tried to mix things up stylistically: we didn't want to have, say, Sean Michael Flowers on the same night as Jason Robert Brown, as their styles are somewhat similar. I've had a lot of people send me stuff and I'm pursuing writers that couldn't be in this series due to schedule conflicts, so if things work out, we should have another great series in the fall.
We've been terribly lucky that so many famous writers have been wanting to lend their time and their talents to the program in order to shed light on people who are lesser known. The series has been selling out and has really been gaining momentum, so thank you, Talkin' Broadway, for your help in getting the word out.
JF: You're more than welcome.
What are some upcoming events for The Storefront?
PB: Another of our series, Dead Divas, closes on June 29th. Then we go to Indiana, where we will be premiering a new show from Karen Mack and Michael Holland. Last year they wrote Gashole: The Wit and Wisdom of the '70s, a revue that played for six months and won the MAC Award this year. This year were are following it up with an '80s revue that will premier in Indiana on August 23rd at an AIDS benefit that the Storefront produces every year. Last year Gashole premiered there, incidentally; only there it went by the tamer title Yesterday Once More. We will be running the new show here in the fall.
JF: Sounds like fun. What is in the works for The Storefront after your show in Indiana?
PB: We have a couple of things in the works, but nothing definite. Unlike other theater companies, we don't announce our entire season at once. It sort of depends on what we feel passionate about. It's in our mission statement that we will do things that we feel completely passionate about, throwing clever cocktail parties along the way. We have six projects simmering right now, and we just have to pick one.
JF: Do you perform at a regular space?
PB: We have a space at 40th and 9th at the Metro Baptist Church, which is where we did Rags. And, of course, we do a lot of work here at The Duplex.
JF: You were one of the founders of the Storefront, correct?
PB: I was the founder, she said oh-so egotistically (laughs).
JF: A man with many hats!
PB: I try! Nothing beats a good hat...
JF: ... especially if you can wear it well.
Does The Storefront have a website?
JF: If people are interested in doing a show at The Duplex, what is the best way for them to submit materials to you?
PB: We have an ad in Back Stage, [which asks for people to call (212) 989-3015]. I really prefer e-mail, however, whenever possible, as it forces people to organize their thoughts better. Interested performers can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have 65 slots to fill a month; two shows a night and three on the weekends ... so a lot of stuff has to come though the door! I like to start with my own ideas first and then structure the rest of the month with people I may not be familiar with. What I try to do is think of what would be a great way to achieve a diverse monthly schedule and then try and get people lined up who can do it. It's much easier than getting cold-call solicitations from the Back Stage ad, although sometimes some incredible stuff comes through the door from the ad.
JF: It's a wonderful space and it's where I made my New York debut, thanks to that Back Stage ad!
PB: I love that room. I performed in that room before I even started The Storefront; the first shows I did in New York were there. The space is very theatrical in nature: the performing space is raised and audience is tiered, so they can see can see the actor's entire body. The space is also proscenium in nature and the sound is great.
JF: The Duplex bills itself as the longest continual cabaret space ...
PB: We've been around for fifty-two years now ...
JF: Originally it was housed in another building - where Rose's Turn currently is, correct?
PB: Yes. The Duplex moved when Rick Panson bought it in the '80s. It's amazing, but so many people get up in arms about that designation; they think that since the space moved the years don't count.
JF: As if the physical building really matters ...
PB: I know. Besides, as someone I heard talking about it the other day said, "Well, technically, the floor boards at Rose's Turn have been replaced, so it's not the same stage as when it was the Duplex anyway." It's just so silly ... As long as we're presenting good work, it really doesn't make a whole lot of difference to me.
JF: Do you still perform?
PB: I do. I have a BFA in Acting and a BFA in Dramatic Writing from Tisch School of the Arts. I workshopped a play of mine called The Citadel at Sundance in 1998, and we did it at Expanded Arts in November of '99. It's a two-character play and I played one of the parts. I have another play that I'm working on as well.
JF: Is it something you might have at The Duplex at some point?
PB: We may do it here, since it's a small play and would fit the space nicely. We're going to do a reading of it before it gets staged, however.
JF: Well, best of fates on all of your upcoming events, and I am looking forward to seeing more of New Mondays.
PB: Thank you.
The New Mondays series continues at The Duplex, Mondays at 7pm through July 15. On July 1, Mark Hartman, John Wallowitch, and Gerry Deiffenbach will appear. July 8 will feature John Bucchino, Amanda Green, and Stephen Schwartz. Karen Mack, Andrew Lippa, and Michael Holland will be on hand on July 15.
Tickets are $12 (plus two drink minimum, and no credit cards allowed) and you must be over 21 to be admitted. The Duplex is located at 61 Christopher Street (at 7th Ave). For reservations call 212-255-5438.
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