Beautiful “Ugly”

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The 2018 Fresh Fruit Festival MainStage’s 16th Season at The Wild Project, 195 East 3rd Street presents a downtown classic, The Ugly Kids with words by Anna Michael, music by Tony Macht. This new version performs Tuesday 7/17 7 pm, Friday 7/20 6 pm, and  Saturday 7/21 2:00 pm after an incarnation won great praise at the Downtown Urban Ars Festival this past Spring. 

It’s beautiful being friends with the ugly kids. College student Chris wants to embrace that ugliness, and to let in her weird new poetry club friends. But her need for control, and her struggle with an eating disorder, makes it hard to let go—or to see her roommate, Alice, as a person instead of a savior. Jazzy piano and interspersed spoken word underscore this truthful yet joyful story about learning to save your own life. Join the Talkback after the 7/21 show

We got a chance to speak to the brains behind this engaging musical with a modern message. Anna Michael and Tony Macht.
So let’s start with you both. Tell us about yourself as an artist

Anna: Tony and I both graduated together from Fordham University in 2017. Tony’s concentration was in performance and mine in directing. The work that interests me is always socially conscious work about women and body image typically. But I’m not usually a writer. I just couldn’t find this particular story in a preexisting piece. So I had to make it.

Tony: As Anna said, I’m primarily a performer, but I have always been looking for a composition project that made me excited enough to put the work into songwriting, and Anna trusting me with her wonderful script turned out to be exactly that

So the performer and the director wrote and produced a play. Great! Share with us a little something about your play that we WON’T see in the press release.

A: We used to have a younger version of the main character in the piece to help show that the eating disorder wasn’t a college-girl-problem. We ended up cutting that out because it wasn’t fully developed within the story we’re telling, but I hope we solved my worry. I think starting the play in a place where Chris and her friends are all aware of her eating disorder and ending the play without “solving it” (that’s not a spoiler because you can never really solve it of course) work to keep the portrayal truthful and avoid minimizing it. I just didn’t want the experience to span the length of a 1 hour play from diagnosis to catharsis because that felt belittling to me.

T: If you scroll through Anna’s phone you can find dozens of different versions of some of the songs, which to me was one of the most fun parts to see how the script and music changes as we both understood Anna’s story more and more. 
What else will we find in Anna’s phone? The concept grabs me, but am I alone? How does your play resonate today? Feel free to be blunt.

A: I think most women and men today have issues with body image and food and exercise even if it’s not on a clinical level. I also think the message about saving oneself and not using other people to be your savior is universal.

THAT’s what grabbed me. OK, So with all the NYC Fests out there, why did you choose Fresh Fruit for your work?

A: I heard about Fresh Fruit Festival through my SDC Observership program as there were some directors I met there who had done work at Fresh Fruit. The Wild Project is a really cool space and the goals of Fresh Fruit of uplifting LGBTQI+ artists aligns with my personal goals as an artist.

So, from the really cool Wild Project… Where do you see it going in the future? What’s the next step?

A: I’m certainly going to keep working on it. I think any responses from my peers, fellow artists and friends will be helpful in keeping it going in the direction that I want.

T: This production will have only be me playing piano as accompaniment, but I would love to hear what it sounds like some day adding a bass player and drummer to the mix.  

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