What was your inspiration for your work? Explain your personal experience.
My inspiration for the work was almost a no brainer.In 2008, I moved to Los Angeles in search of a dream. I had no dreams up to this point in my life. After reviewing a few years for a local community newspaper, I realized my passion was to use my creative talents for others to see. My personal experience with this whole matter the last few years has been an emotional roller coaster. After it first happened, my thought was to seek revenge. I even at one point had a plan – but then I had to ask myself What would that accomplish? I had already lost a lot of friends, talented actors, and an amazing cast – from this; and if I get defensive, instead of ignoring it, that would accomplish nothing. I then went into my “ignoring phase”. For the next year, I ignored everything and continued trying to produce, but it got harder, as they contacted my new cast, showed them all the websites they had copied and pasted, and most quit. Luckily, a few who actually have been around, and know the truth, as they were there have motivated me to go on. After a year break, I decided to address the accusations head on.
What they “groupies” fail to tell you is all the “he can’t do this statements” they tell you about, while many are true, are because of them, for contacting people and showing them their websites, and what not.So, now, my company is all about Original Work. We will continue to do 1 staged show a year of a previously-published story, while obtaining rights, but we want to focus on original works. One of the best inspirations of telling this story was actually a man – “Philly” – who met with me a few years ago at a Coffee Bean after the initial onslaught. He had come and seen a play – and saw some un tapped potential. I was crying for help – I opened up my heart to him and ask him what I could do, it seemed as if he was someone I could learn from. He asked me a lot of hard questions – some of the questions that are addressed in Fact or Fiction – and when I couldn’t answer them, I had to search deep. It was then I discovered who I truly was, and he still after all this hate believed in me – IT gave me hope that others would two, if I was just honest.
So, when one door closes, another opens. It seemed the best place to start would be with my unique struggle. Exploiting my personal addictions, struggles, and the like would hopefully reach out to someone, and let them know they too can regroup and have the life they want. “Philly” then encouraged me to write a script about my experience, which I then did, over the next 18 months. I wanted to show the experience in a new light – not a “woe is me” victim mentality – but the truth. As the truth is presented by my “groupies”. I’m not here for judgment, so we let you decide what’s fact and what’s fiction – we just offer you another way to look at things.
What do you hope to convey to the audience?
What I would like to convey to the audience is simple. I was not a victim. I’m only a victim in the sense of the continual harassment I get now – years later – from my “groupies” – but I was not without fault. Maybe not nearly as much as this play or the “Web sites” portray, but people do make mistakes, its human. And, yes, I am human. As a human being, we need to forgive and forget, especially when everybody deserves to have a learning curve. Everybody has skeletons in their closet, and it’s how we use those skeletons in our personal development. Do we become ashamed of them, thus hindering us as humans? Or do we move on, not forgetting them, but learning from them and sharing our personal growth experience with others?
How comfortable did you feel explaining your personal story?
At first, it was a no-go. I wanted to be the victim, and have the world see everything from my eyes. But, in reality, we need to see it from all angles. That’s why many things in the play are pretty much “copy and paste” from accusations made about me. With a great cast behind this project, and them knowing the fact and the fiction, it was really easy just to put my life out there. One thing this has taught me is that if we hide from who we are, our past, or, try to be someone we are not, we are not only hindering ourselves to develop and grow, but to be the best at what we can. Opening night was very uncomfortable, and I actually had my first “pre-show jitters” ever as a director. But I wanted to hit everything straight on, so I invited my parents out that night. They watched and learned what I had gone through, and why I had to take a two-year hiatus. Once that ice was broken, it got way easier. To be honest though, I’m still not 110% comfortable sharing my sexual addictions, but if it reaches one person, then it is all worth it.
How are things going for you now?
Things are going great. We started the 321 Collective in February, and took 3 months to prepare. With the Board/Leadership team we have in place, and as we strive to survive the onslaught of the new laws proposed by the AEA, I feel like I personally have weathered the storm. We are ready to impact LA. We have our Original show 3… 2.. 1. ON FIRE! twice monthly, that has been a huge hit already. While the harassment and postings still come in waves, it no longer bothers me, and that was the big turning point on why it was time to tell the story.
What do you have coming up next?
After Fringe, we will continue to develop “Fact or Fiction: The AOJ Story” for other fringe festivals, and, hopefully, a main stage show here in Los Angeles in early/late winter. We also are working on bringing the talent out to the people. We are looking at taking our Improv troupe to parties, and do custom shows/sets to fit the occasion. Set to debut in October, we are developing a brand new improv-based show concept called BING! BANG! BOOM! which will feature local celebrities and their stories all told through the work of our performers. We have our big 15-hour non-stop comedy marathon happening on Labor Day. In October, we will be Durang Nights, a fundraiser, PWYC event weekend of one-acts by the great play-wright Christopher Durang, who almost everybody in the Collective is a fan.