Welcome to the Have Nots Theater
We are a performance and digital content collective ("collective" = no one gets paid). Our first project is a farce called "The Shortest Distance" which debuted as a radio play in the 2013 Atlanta Fringe Fest. It has since evolved into an animated film.
The Shortest Distance is about a power-mad oil baron who figures out a way to drill through the center of the Earth to steal oil from beneath the Middle East. It's comedic but attempts to illustrate the dangers of greed and unbridled corporate power.
Rather than generating a studio-recording, we decided to stage a live performance/reading of The Shortest Distance in a theater in Hollywood California with a live band and live audience. The recording of the live performance is the soundtrack for the animated film.
THE SHORTEST DISTANCE a radio play
Written by Rocky Hickey
Directed by Lila StonePerformed and recorded LIVE at the Artworks Theater, Hollywood CA
starring (in alphabetical order):
Our amazing audience
Yeti costumes and dance - Gregory Barnett
The Shortest Distance is a radio play /farce about a greedy oil baron (Harold Heinous) who tries to drill through the center of the Earth to steal oil from beneath the Middle East, causing a world-wide disaster that nearly destroys all humanity, and the activists who sort of stop him.
It was performed in front of a live audience at the Artworks Theater in Hollywood, CA . The performance was enhanced with live musical accompanyment by the Have Nots Radio Trio, live and pre-recorded foley sound effects, a dance number (not visible on the radio) and enthusiastic audience participation.
Audio Services provided by Kingsize Sound Studios, Los Angeles, CA
Audio producer/engineer: Brian Rosemeyer
SCROLL DOWN for INTERVIEW with THE SHORTEST DISTANCE creators Rocky Hickey and Lila Stone.
Interview with Rocky Hickey and Lila Stone about The Shortest Distance:
Q: This is a play about fracking?
RH: There's a made-up technology called "super-fracking" in it, but it's just a tool like any technology. The play is a farce about greed and power. It's an audio political cartoon.
Q: Sounds funny. Why did you write it?
RH: The original script was written as a stage play in 2003... a response to what was happening then, the post 9-11 craziness. Then O got elected and we thought that a play about oil was no longer relevant, you know...we figured everyone would be using solar Segways by now. But that didn't happen. So we decided to revisit it and do some rewrites and produce it as a live radio play.
Q: So the recording is an actual live performance of the play in a theater?
RH: We brought a producer/engineer with a portable multi-track recording setup into the theater, which recorded the actors, the band, sound effects…the audience was mic’d too.
LS: It was written and directed in the spirit of old-time radio plays with attention the musicality, tempo, choral work and auditory detail in order to bring the play alive in the imagination of the listener. We used foley props to create sound effects in real time. The foley activity, live band, and the intensity of seeing actors go all-out with vocal characterizations created a fun spectacle for the audience. We also invited LA dance celeb/visual artist Gregory Barnett to perform a dancing Yeti interlude and make Yeti masks for a visual lift and, because. . . well who doesn’t love Cryptids? I mean if you aren’t going for all-out art fun then why go through all of the trouble of doing a big old production?
RH: Yeah there’s one short section that’s an instrumental musical break, that’s when the dance was being performed.
Q: That sounds like a blast, but wouldn’t it have been easier to just do it in a recording studio or somebody's basement or something?
LS: We think that it is important to connect with living people in our community in real time and space about the ideas we are trying to express. We are all talking about the environment and stuff in cyber-space, but flesh and blood communication is getting rare. It might have been easier to record it in a studio and skip the live performance aspect, but we just asked our friends Ronna and Dave from Kingsize Soundlabs if they would help us do a remote recording thing so we could fulfill our mission. So they sent their amazing engineer Brian Rosemeyer to set up a remote situation in the theater. There were mics and cables all over the place, and Brian was engineering the recording from the stage. He became a part of the cast with his participation, and I believe that the physicality of our collaboration found its way through the wires and right into the digital recording. It has guts. We did post at Kingsize the next week for the final mix. Brian did an enormous amount of work mixing, sweetening and EQ’ing, and adding more sound effects to make it zing.
RH: We just wanted it to feel very real: real people engaging with an audience. Also- we needed the audience to play some important roles.
Q: Audience participation! How did that go?
LS: The audience participation was very strong. They got to play two collective roles. The first was a scene where the audience played a crowd of protesters, with a special guest spot for
Nigel Mitchell, who inspired us with his personal mottos "peace and love are my weapons”, and "greed kills”. We wanted him to be a leader in the scene. So he came to provide his expression, his presence. There were other activists in the audience-many people whose voices mean a lot to us. The audience also played the Yeti colony, embodying Yeti sounds: a language of guttural groans and vowels mixed with elongated English language phrases written by Dr. Jason Schuler of the NYC company The Operating Theater. We were very happy to have his collaborative hand at work for creating that Yeti text, because he has actually had contact with various forms of green man and Bigfoot in his research. The audience rose to the occasion and performed beautifully. It was very lively and fun.
Q: How did you get so many talented professional actors to do this thing without any compensation? It seems a little fishy that you could have such high-caliber folks when you could offer them next to nothing.
LS: We don’t consider a sustainable future to be nothing, and we did the play to promote awareness of our own power to affect the future. We also gave the actors food, beverages, and our undying love and gratitude. Plus, The thing about working with actors is that the really talented ones are smart, passionate, empathic humans. We asked really great folks to participate, because we were certain that they would want to do this for the Earth just like we do. We all like living here and think it’s a perfectly good planet- far from being used up like the oil industry would have us believe. Actors tend to really like animals, too, and they want to protect their habitats and the air that they need to breathe and stay alive. Actress/director Shae D'Lyn shares our feelings about using art to activate people, and she embodied the role of activist/scientist Dr. Harmony with a passion that laid the foundation for the whole play. When Shae came on board, we were still casting about for a mature, highly skilled actor to head up the cast as oil baron Harold Heinous. Shae suggested we bring in her father, actor Michael Shelle. Michael totally blew us away, and he even flew in from NYC to participate. It was really special for them because it was the first time they had ever shared the stage- and for us Michael and Shae were a dream come true, bringing the level of emotional authenticity and extraordinary characterization necessary to make a farce of this nature come to life.
RH: He also made the Heinous character weirdly lovable. Which was important to me, blurring the line of good vs. evil.
Q: Who else did you bring in and who are they connected with?
LS: We did things in twos, like Noah in the Bible. We had Shae and Michael, blood relatives. Then we brought in Andrew Gilbert and Bradford Culver of Poor Dog Group and Royal Auditorium as another power pair- their vaudevillian dynamism and charisma really engaged the audience. Scott Blackburn was the only possible choice for narrator and we begged him and his amazing wife Jennifer Bledsoe Blackburn to astound us with their vocal talent, but rehearsal scheduling was rough so we only got Scott for performance, but Jen saved the day with her house-managing skills. She is on for the next one, though! Vanessa Weinberg and Saxon Jones rounded it out- they are both dear friends and collaborators of mine, and once they got into the room they grabbed the loose ends and wrangled them between themselves like vocal gymnasts. Bill Tutton and Carey Fosse from the band got in on the acting as well, proving that musician acting can be really good, almost too good.
Q: So I heard there is an actual song the show that has been released with a music video?
RH: Yeah we a video for the song “Leave It Alone”, starring Andrew Gilbert as Cornelius. The track we used for the video is the actual live performance.
Q: What would you like to see happen with The Shortest Distance and The Have Nots Theater?
RH: We of course want our radio plays to get played far and wide. I doubt even the most liberal wings of the mainstream media would ever play it. I'd originally envisioned The Shortest Distance as something that could be read aloud in living rooms and coffee houses...free theatrical shareware. And I still like that idea, and will be thrilled if that happens. We already have a theater in Western Australia organizing a listening party of the play, where fracking is a big concern. They are going to do a listening party complete with their own dancing Yeti performance and accompanying projected visuals throughout. (If you are interested in having a listening party- contact us!) But whether it's read aloud or listened to, we want to encourage people to listen in groups. It was performed for a group. What do you think, Lila?
LS: I believe our goal is to promote the idea that we can make informed choices, and have a say in our futures- in the Earth's future. The character of Dr. Harmony represents actual scientific scholarship, understanding of history and geological processes, and environmental awareness. We hope that after hearing the play people might realize that there is just as much brainpower on sustainability as there is on greed, and corporate control of the Earth's resources, and ultimately our health and the quality of life now and in the future is not only unacceptable, but totally avoidable. We just have to say “no,” and insist that the people who are supposed to look out for us say “no,” too!
Q: Aren't you just preaching to the choir?
RH: We intentionally made it kid-friendly and entertaining so we could not only preach to the choir, but the choir's kids. We wanted it to represent everyone on both sides as people- as much as that’s possible in a farce scenario- and kids have those really open minds to embrace big concepts and not file everything away immediately into right and wrong. It is not a children’s play, but it has passed the kid-test of humor and meaning, so we will make sure the next one is open for all ages as well. The children are the future, after all, and this world belongs to them. We have to remember that and fight for it.