Antonia Kasper Interview by Jen Bush
A highlight of Pride Month is all the exciting happenings in the performing arts world. From lively stage productions to passionate songs sung loud and proud, entertainment is in full swing.
Antonia Kasper happens to have a wonderful show playing this month. Antonia Kasper is an award-winning writer, producer, director, and actress. The comedy that she wrote and directed, True Confessions Of The Straight Man is currently playing at The Laurie Beechman Theatre. Through her craft, she endeavors to feature people who are usually in the shadows. Her pieces are humorous with a message, and she considers her job well done when her work resonates with people. “My mission as a writer is to give a voice to people that are sometimes not heard. For me, personally, it’s women and men of a certain age, or that may have had a turbulent past that isn’t visible to most. I like to write edgy or quirky material and now especially with all the hardships in the past few years, I feel comedy is really needed right now. Because I’m from a comedy background, I love writing comedy with some dramatic or poignant underlying message. Connecting with people and connecting people through writing is my most important mission.”
Ms. Kasper doesn’t have to look far to find her keen observations for her works. “I get most of my ideas and observations from my personal experience or experiences of people I know around me. The everyday man or woman struggling for their own integrity, purpose or truth in an environment that doesn’t support those honorable traits. At this time, like with True Confessions of The Straight Man, I’m redefining older writings that originated in a past time but that still feels timeless in many ways. Some topics I have written years ago have messages that are still relevant today.”
The pandemic has most certainly changed the arts, but it also presented a challenge to artists to be more creative with limited resources. Ms. Kasper rose to that challenge and came away with added techniques. “Well, as far as stage productions, Covid has obviously really hurt the theatre. But I do try to look for any positives or take aways from challenging times. Though people still aren’t going to live performances like they used to, artists have learned how to pivot with their art. For instance, learning how to live-stream and have adjusted what was once a stage performance to more film/tv or camera type styles.
At least, that’s what I learned for myself. In the middle of the pandemic, I performed my one woman show “45 Coffee Dates” and restaged much of it for camera-type streaming. I found some interesting choices that I would have never found without the pandemic. A few months ago, I performed the show live and took some of those acting choices I found through zoom performances that also worked well on stage. So, I believe many artists and the art supporters have had to “think outside the stage box” which has opened up alternative and interesting ways of interpretation and expression. But performing at home in front of your computer or phone is daunting. On the other hand, what’s theatre without an audience’s laughter, gasps or applause? It’s hard to hear or see how people are reacting to your art when you are performing to a blank screen. Nothing beats live performing. While directing “True Confessions of The Straight Man” I found the initial auditioning process more convenient for both the creatives and the actors auditioning because everyone is using zoom now. But live call backs and rehearsals are more challenging with vaccination card checks, regular Covid testing and mask wearing. Though all the compliance is slowly being phased out in theatre and the arts, it’s still difficult to say where we are all headed in the future. Hopefully, artists, the arts (and the world) will get back to normal times…like the way we lived BEFORE the pandemic.
From Three’s Company to I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry, a straight man pretending to be gay has been a concept utilized on stage and screen time and again. Through a careful balance of comedy and character depth, Ms. Kasper found a way to convey an important message using this concept. “Three’s company revolves around a living situation, whereas Todd in True Confessions of The Straight Man is always pegged as being gay because he’s handsome, sweet, sensitive, and still single in New York City and plays gay to get the girl. Kate, who has been burned by guys, almost projects her wanting Todd to be gay onto him. It’s farcical and though an outlandish story it is based on some of my own experiences in Hell’s Kitchen in the 1990’s. All the great guys I knew and could relate to were gay. I thought the concept of a straight guy pretending to be a homosexual “to be cool” was a twist to the homosexual guy pretending to be heterosexual to be “accepted”. So basically, Kate makes Todd gay, and he plays along to get to know her better but gets in over his head playing this charade. It escalates when everyone in the show takes on different personas. The show twists and turns with mistaken identities and disguises. But through wearing different masks, the characters begin to understand each other. The show is a farce but does have a poignant message about living in someone else’s shoes for a time being – about understanding each other and acceptance.”
With projects galore coming up, Ms. Kasper will be keeping busy utilizing her artistic gifts in the arts world. “Though film and television work is ramping up for me right now, understandably so, I hope to do more live theatre once we can get through this still unpredictable time.
It would also be nice to see “True Confessions of The Straight Man” extended or continued after the summer. With Kasper Productions, I have some new works in development which includes an exciting new musical with original music and relaunching another period piece. In October,I will be directing Phyllis Gordon in her one woman show, “Em-Pathetic” at The Emerging Artists New Works Series. And when theatre is more robust, (crossed fingers in the fall/winter of 2022) I plan to perform my one woman show “45 Coffee Dates- In search of my soulmate through cyberspace and beyond!”
“I hope we all continue to rise through this prolonged tough time and everyone feels more confident going out and seeing theatre again soon!”