This week, you get to hear from the Plays for Presidents Social Media Guru, Jeff Mosser. And yes… that is what we call him internally. He’s the driving force behind much of our efforts to get producers connected; to generate, celebrate, and participate in a national conversation; and to ensure everyone has a good time being involved in this gargantuan effort.
If I’m remembering correctly, you and Andy first met at ATL’s Humana Festival. What happened between that meeting and officially becoming part of the Plays for Presidents Festival staff?
I met Andy Bayiates at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in 2009, and I remember steeling my nerve to talk to him. Being an intern at the Humana Festival is a lot like asking someone out. You have to have some decorum, but you really just want to say what you’re feeling like, “Hi. I love ensemble-created theatre. Be my friend.”
My talking point was that the year prior I had taught curriculum based on 43 Plays for 43 Presidents to high school classrooms. We gave teams of students a fact (sometimes obscure) about each president, and asked them to create their own play. Essentially, we created our own five-president production in a classroom period. After professing my joy over teaching this curriculum, we exchanged cards and went our separate ways. In the next year and a half, we wrote back and forth about writing a totally different play (that I hope we still get to work on another time). Not long after I moved to Boston he wrote asking, “Hey, what are you doing between now and November 2012?”
What drew you to the project? Why did you want to get involved?
I’m not a history geek, but I am a huge fan of this form of theatre. I’ve always thought there is so much power in writing with a small collective, and each member brings a different strength. There is nothing pretentious or presumptive about this play, and I think that speaks to its co-authors and the honesty of the Neo-Futurist aesthetic. Not only does it make the audience feel smart and generate a rapport with them throughout, but it begs the actor to retain his or her personality in the interpretation of each President. In short, I love everything about this play.
When you think about the show and the Festival… what’s the main thing you hope audiences and Festival participants leave with?
It is easy to become engrossed in your own production, but I hope that throughout the process we become a reflecting pool for all 44 productions out there. I hope that each production takes a minute to see what’s going on with another show in a different part of the country. By giving our theatres access to one big Tumblr account I hope to engender them with some sort of national unity—not just local bragging rights.
Though this Festival has the potential to have an explosion of media, I really will feel like my job is complete (here comes the cheese) if we get one student, actor, designer, director, producer, or audience member to say, “I was a part of something bigger!” Once every four years we feel like we make a decision that is bigger than us. I think theatre – and this Festival – can do that too.
Jeffrey Mosser is a former Education Fellow at Actors Theatre of Louisville where he co-created and directed Theatre for Two: The Wedding Party, a site-specific piece inspecting the actor/audience relationship. Jeffrey has served as the Director and Education Coordinator for the Youth Action Theatre, Production Manager for the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, and in several positions at the Great River Shakespeare Festival. Recently his play, Love, Death, and Latex, was accepted to the Source Festival in Washington D.C. He is a member of the Rebels Without Applauze improv troup. http://jeffreymosser.me