“ I am an actor and writer born in Miami, but everyone thinks I’m from Brooklyn,” says the hirsute and jubilant Mark Levy. Packing a smile and 1000 watt energy, he continued to say “I am a unique character actor so I tend to write for myself and love doing it.” There is a master plan to this as he offered his freeing philosophy, “getting to decide what you want to do is so freeing as an artist.”
Mark is enjoying doing his solo-show, BLOCKBUSTER GUY, maybe because he is … a Blockbuster guy.
HUB Theatricals revives his award-winning one-man show, directed by Kristen Keim, as part of the Frigid Festival, February 16 @ 7:00 pm and March 4 @ 6:30 pm at The Kraine Theatre, 85 East 4th Street, NYC. Tickets: $20 in person/$15 for virtual. Tickets Available: www.frigid.nyc/event/6897:57/
Mark Levy allows us to return to those thrilling days of yesteryear when you had the ritual of going to the video store, hunting down the aisles, finding your cinematic choice and returning to your home to watch it for a limited time. This might seem alien to a generation that can watch a movie on their phones anytime, but some of us miss it.
“All my life, I have been a die-hard movie nerd” says Levy, “I have always wanted to share my stories of my time actually working at Blockbuster Video and my love of movies. Its original run wowed sold-out crowds garnering the Frigid Festival Audience Award in 2020. “I worked there from 2004-2007, arguably the last peak of Blockbuster, also when they could’ve bought Netflix, which would’ve been interesting!”
In the past few years, nostalgia for Blockbuster Video has grown and grown. And Levy has always wanted to tell his stories from his time there. Mark Levy grew up an outcast and thus, became a movie nerd. So much so that he worked at Blockbuster Video in college in small town Florida. He – uproariously and heart-breakingly – shares the highs and lows of choosing escapism, DVDs, and what movies can do to someone in this compelling storytelling experience.
“Blockbuster Guy deals with the escapism we all feel when we go to the movies and how movies help us cope with growing up “different”…also this play is hilarious” says director Kristen Keim. Levy and Keim, are up to their 5th collaboration.
Ai caught up with Mark to find out more about his love affair with renting films.
What made you create this production?
I have wanted to do a play about/inspired by my time at Blockbuster since I started writing plays when I got to NYC. Biggest issue always came up: by page 3 it became “Clerks”(Kevin Smith’s iconic film from 1994, you must see it if you haven’t).
I never could figure out how to come at this and make it feel unique, original and my voice. Eventually, it clicked. I knew it had to be a solo show about how movies have helped me be ok with being “the weird kid” and how Blockbuster made me who I am. Once I figured that, I let my frequent collaborators Kristen Keim and Adam Sherwin know (they know me better than most and are amazing Directors and Stage Managers) and we started working it out and I’m quite proud of the current product. (I will never call it a finished product, the show changes every run)
Are there a lot of “Blockbuster guys” out there?
There are! I work at the Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn and there are a lot of people with more extensive knowledge than me that worked at Blockbusters and elsewhere. I think what makes me so happy about everything involving this is that there has been so much love and support from fellow people that worked at Blockbuster Video. I somehow have talked to some higher ups in the company and other people at other stores (my coworkers in the store in small town FL, most know about the play and let me use their names).
But the idea of a “Blockbuster Guy” is cool because it means you are the best to that person as you resemble their idealized experience (or worst experience, I try not to think that way though). You are their movie person
What do you miss most about the good old days?
Literally walking around the store and discovering cool movies. It’s the best. Love a good box cover. I still try to do that at best buy buying DVDs but it’s different.
Do you think we are better off without the video rental store and have everything right on our screen?
In theory yes because “everything” is at your finger tips but you can’t find Miami Connection streaming and other hard to find/weird/vintage/unique things streaming.
What’s next for you and for the play?
Trying to get a producer involved so we can move to Off-Broadway or a commercial run. Also would be cool to film it in a husk of a Blockbuster