All For One Theater is proud to present readings of two works by playwright Aaron Mark, "Empanada Loca" and "Another Medea," during the Off-Broadway run of "Squeamish" at the Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row in New York City. The pieces will be read by the actors who originated the roles Off-Broadway, Tom Hewitt and Daphne Rubin-Vega, both Tony Award nominees. In addition, the hit production of “Squeamish,” also written and directed by Aaron Mark, starring Alison Fraser, is also playing at the Beckett Theater through November 11, 2017.

Daphne Rubin-Vega read “Empanada Loca” last week. The play follows Dolores, an ex-con and ex-drug dealer who must find a way to survive while living, homeless, in an abandoned subway tunnel. Rubin-Vega starred in Labyrinth Theater Company's production of the play in 2015.

Tom Hewitt will read “Another Medea” on Saturday, November 4, 2017, at 3 PM. This play focuses on an actor who recounts how his obsessive relationship with a wealthy doctor lead to gruesome and nearly unspeakable events. Hewitt performed the play to great acclaim in All For One's production in 2015.

Playwright and director Aaron Mark recently granted an exclusive interview where he discussed his experiences in theater, creative inspirations, and more.

Theater, plays, and horror themes

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you start writing plays and how did you break into the theater industry?

Aaron Mark (AM): I wrote and directed my first two plays in the third grade. One was about cannibalism, and one was about a kid getting AIDS from a used needle.

Actually, the one about cannibalism was a musical. I moved to New York when I was eighteen and spent a few years on the assisting track before focusing on my own work.

MM: You seem to write a lot of stories that have horror themes, so what is it about this genre that so appeals to you?

AM: I'm fascinated by fear, and the power fear has over us all - specifically, fear of ourselves, and the things each of us humans likes to believe we aren't capable of (both the good and the bad).

The theatre is a uniquely visceral, intimate, fun, and safe place to explore that fear. I'm also a big fan of classic stage thrillers like “Angel Street” and “The Thirteenth Chair,” so much of my work now is a kind of contemporary minimalist homage to that cannon.

MM: Your full-length play, “Squeamish,” deals with themes of mental illness. How did you think up the plots, characters, and how much research into mental disorders was involved?

AM: The plot and characters in “Squeamish” are all drawn from various experiences and people I've encountered in my own life - perhaps not always literally (there's some extreme behavior in “Squeamish”), but symbolically for sure.

The thread in the play of mental illness - or mental health, rather - is something I've watched people very close to me wrestle with, and certainly, something I have some personal experience with, though thankfully not quite to the degree the characters in the play have. I tend to write heightened manifestations of the particular psychoses of myself and those close to me.

MM: How did you think up the plot of “Empanada Loca” and, when writing it, did you research homeless lifestyles and the people who do live in the subways?

AM: “Empanada Loca” came initially from the idea to write Daphne Rubin-Vega as a modern-day Sweeney Todd figure.

I'd also previously been interested in writing about the people who live in abandoned NYC subway tunnels, and that seemed to be the perfect location from which Daphne's character, Dolores, would tell her story. I did indeed do much research (short of visiting the tunnels myself); Jennifer Toth's book, “The Mole People,” is particularly mind-blowing.

MM: “Empanada Loca” was recently released as an audio play. Can you tell us a little more about how that process happened, and where one is able to find the audio version?

AM: I love radio theater, and “Empanada Loca” lent itself especially well to a kind of radio play-audiobook-cast album hybrid.

95% of the play is a monologue, so the recording functions as if Dolores is telling her story right to you - and Daphne's voice is so gorgeously distinct and captivating. She and I produced the recording ourselves and released it on Audible and iTunes. There are plans afoot now to record Alison in “Squeamish” and Tom in “Another Medea” as well.

MM: What inspired “Another Medea” and what most interests you about the characters and themes at its core?

AM: “Another Medea” came from my desire to write something for Tom Hewitt that would build on his history of playing "villains" onstage, but in a uniquely minimalist, focused way.

I was also interested in the prevalence of the Medea story and wondered who that person would be were they to live now and in the New York theater scene. Thematically, for me, this play is about behavior becoming contagious, and the fear of enacting the things we judge others for doing.

Staging, performances, and feedback

MM: How did you secure staging for these three and how did you meet the performers?

AM: I met Alison shortly after I moved to New York when I was an assistant on a reading of a new musical she was in. I'd known her work from afar, and we rehearsed at Theatre Row, as a matter of fact.

We worked together several years later when she was in a film I made called “Commentary, ” and we've done a handful of other projects together since then. Tom was also in “Commentary” and was also someone whose work I'd known and greatly admired. We first met doing a reading of a play of mine in 2010 or thereabouts, via our mutual friend, the brilliant Kristine Zbornik. I've been fortunate to have the support of Michael Wolk and AFO in bringing both “Squeamish” and “Another Medea” to life. I met Daphne through Jim Nicola at NYTW, and Daphne brought “Empanada Loca” to Labyrinth, where we ultimately premiered the play.

Again, she's someone whose work I'd known and loved for years, as is the performer I'm working with on the upcoming fourth play in this ongoing series.

MM: What other works have you written and do you have any particular favorites?

AM: One of my personal favorite pieces of mine is a two-person play called “Deer” which was inspired by an incident Alison had driving to her house in the Poconos. “Deer” was written for Alison and the brilliant Chip Zien, though the three of us haven't been able to do a full production together yet.

MM: What have been the most memorable reviews and/or feedback that you’ve gotten regarding your work?

AM: The most memorable feedback I've gotten is from the performers for whom I've written these plays after they've read them for the first time. They have been, for me, by far the most nerve-wracking audience, and also the most gratifying.

MM: Are you currently working on anything and are there any themes you would like to explore in your next works?

AM: I've been developing a fourth full-length monologue play to hopefully premiere next season. Though I can't say much about it yet, I will say that while it's definitely a further exploration of fear in the form of a solo piece, this one has no blood or death.

My challenge to myself after “Squeamish” was to write one of these pieces just as scary as the previous three but without any of the violence or gore. I've also got a couple of multi-character plays (shocking, I know) in development, as well as a commission for Audible I'm very excited about.

Please come see the sensational Alison Fraser in “Squeamish” before we close on November 11, and listen to the singular Daphne Rubin-Vega in “Empanada Loca” via iTunes and Audible!

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