Brandon T. Snider is a modern day renaissance man: an actor, a comic book writer, and now, he can add playwright to his impressive resume. We caught up with him (if you can catch him!) on his upcoming theater debut “A Weekend Conference,” his new book series Peter Powers, and what he describes as ‘the tragicomedy of gay conversation therapy.’ With his toes dipped into so many rich projects, does he have time for anything else? Why yes, New York Comic Con in October is just one of many things we learned during our intimate conversation with Snider.
Check it out:
WOW: Hi Brandon! Thanks so much for talking with us today. You have lots of theater this week! Tell us about your short play you wrote “A Weekend Conference.” What’s it about and how did it come to life?
Brandon: LOTS of theater. Everyone is excited. Without giving too much away, “A Weekend Conference” is about three strangers on their way to a very curious weekend retreat. It’s a comedy! That’s also tragic. I’m acting in it alongside two fine actors, Mike Houston (Orange is the New Black) and Gabe Fazio (The Place Beyond the Pines). Our director Richard Masur is the best. He’s like the wise shaman of acting. I would do anything he told me to do. And he’s been in every single movie and TV show ever made, I swear to god. I love Richard. I love Mike and Gabe. I can’t wait for people to see their work. It’s really special.
A WEEKEND CONFERENCE CAST PHOTO
Mike Houston, Brandon T. Snider, Gabe Fazio
CREDIT: Brian Hotaling
I was inspired to write the play after watching a documentary about gay conversion therapy. It’s so sad to see men accept their truth and then work backwards to erase themselves. They spout all kinds of bizarre religious reasoning that makes absolutely no practical sense as it relates to human sexuality. What’s intriguing and disappointing at the same time is that many men believe in these programs despite never actually having their desired breakthrough. In the abstract, there’s something really funny to me about the men who rave and gush over these experiences. Some of them are lifers. They talk about how bonded they feel to these other men because they’re all going through the same thing. It’s like of course you love leaving your wives behind to bunk up with twenty other dudes in the woods, getting into massage circles and putting on plays. You are a gay man. I love that bit in Waiting for Guffman (my favorite movie) when Corky St. Clair talks about shopping for his wife. You laugh because at first you think he must be joking then you realize he’s serious and you laugh again because there’s just no way this man isn’t aware of himself. But I also want to say that I have great empathy for these men. Many of them are shut off from reality out of fear. There’s no gay community that they feel safe enough to explore. Some of them come from small rural areas where the hint of gayness might cause them to become the town outcast. We touch a little bit on that aspect in the play.
WOW: I also see that you’re starring in David Thigpen’s “In Wake of Yesterday.” What’s that about and how did you get attached to the project?
Brandon: “In Wake of Yesterday” is set in a trailer in South Carolina during the mid-90’s and it’s about a bunch of people in the middle of a drug-fueled celebration. A portrait of dysfunction. David wrote this play specifically for the people who’re starring in it which was very cool. We’ve been friends for years and I love the rest of the cast. David and Kevin Kane are directing. I play a semi-closeted redneck named Randall. He dreams of an exciting life beyond the trailer park, knowing full well it’s way beyond his reach. He’s about to lose one of the only people who has ever shown him unconditional kindness and respect. It puts him on edge. He’s had to navigate a lot of abuse and harassment in his life but when push comes to shove, Randall gives as good as he gets. I get to speak in a backwoods Southern dialect which is always exciting.
IN WAKE OF YESTERDAY CAST PHOTO
Booker Garret, Michael Abbott Jr.
Joan Porter, Brandon T. Snider, Swann Gruen, Lacy Marie Meyer
CREDIT: Brian Hotaling
WOW: Tell us a little bit about The Collective and your involvement with them?
Brandon: I came to The Collective through Kevin Kane who’s a good friend and one of the co-artistic directors. We went to college together and were roommates during our early years in NYC. He and a handful of William Esper Studio graduates started the company together almost ten years ago. Amy Schumer is a founding member. We used to do sketch comedy shows at this synagogue in Midtown called the Actor’s Temple. They were basically fundraisers for whatever play production was going up at the time. That was back in the beginning. The company has grown so much since then and it’s been really amazing to watch it happen. They’re making all kinds of movies and people are popping up on TV like crazy. David Thigpen’s “Turtleface” has been winning awards at film festivals. Sayra Player’s film “Uncle Silas” is hitting that circuit soon. Khalil Muhammad’s one man show about Richard Pryor just killed it at Fringe NYC. Tons of other stuff in the pipeline. They’re a really great group of artists and I love working with them.
WOW: There’s a bajillion things I miss about New York…street fashion, bagels, and of course pizza. But I use to go once a month to Broadway with a coworker from ‘Ugly Betty.’ There’s nothing like NY theater. Why do you think NY theater has successfully managed to continue telling and performing stories for so long?
Brandon: Street fashion! I used to play a game with a friend of mine called “Where are YOU going?” Whenever we’d see, you know, that Asian dude in Soho with the Pocahontas braids who walks around barefoot all day in a Speedo, we’d fantasize about tapping him on his bare shoulder and saying, “Excuse me but where are YOU going?” Like what is his job? Moving on…what I love about this city is that it’s a cross section of culture and it never, ever stops. If you live in Appalachia, your choices are limited. You don’t have access to everything. It’s just how it is. If you live in New York City, you can go see any type of show you could ever imagine. TONIGHT. Just open up a Time Out. You can see a polished Broadway musical or terrible stand-up comedy in a basement. Your options are unlimited. That’s why people come here to find themselves. This city draws the stories out of people. It’s where they get made. People move to New York to work their shit out on stage and that can be thrilling (and painful) to watch.
WOW: Any theater you are looking forward to attending coming up?
Brandon: And now I will share my truth: I’m so behind on current theater, it’s shameful. My writing workload has increased significantly this year and it’s been difficult to find time to see all the things I want to see. I have two beautiful The Humans glasses that I got at Broadway Bets and every time I look at them I’m reminded that I still haven’t actually seen The Humans. I recently downloaded TodayTix though and I’m fairly confident that I’m going to use it by 2017.
WOW: “A Weekend Conference” has gay themes and I know it’s important for you to tell and represent honest stories. How do audiences receive your work?
Brandon: I really want the audience to see the struggle of self-acceptance through the eyes of three very different men. Human sexuality is a spectrum and the characters in this play represent different parts of that spectrum. How they view themselves and each other is part of the play’s conflict. They’re imperfect people who may not make the best choice. We have the luxury, as an audience, of being on the outside looking in. We get to identify what a better choice actually looks like whereas these men may not have that ability. There will be moments that will make your heart hurt a little. That gets balanced out with some genuinely funny moments. What I hope people take away is the idea that we need to be kinder to ourselves and one another. Sometimes we put ourselves through so much pointless suffering because we feel like we’re out of options. It doesn’t have to be that way.
WOW: In “In Wake of Yesterday,” there’s a much larger cast, do you like working in big or small groups? How do you approach each project…both being so different in size and subject matter?
Brandon: I love acting in a good ensemble. Finding the right rhythm to make things work is a challenge I enjoy. It can be a scheduling nightmare but that’s fine. Chaos can be fun. Smaller casts mean individualized attention. In a cast of two or three you can have longer conversations and there’s more room to experiment. When you’ve got five or six people, time is of the essence.
WOW: What have you learned about yourself and your writing process through both projects?
Brandon: Whenever I act in something I’ve written; I tend to think I already know everything about the role. When we started rehearsals for “A Weekend Conference”, I was pretty sure of the approach I was going to take. I wrote the character for myself. Once we began the rehearsal process it became a different story. Richard opened my eyes to some new possibilities and I was able to let go of my previous ideas and do something that worked better and made more sense for the character. It’s a much more truthful performance because of his direction.
WOW: NY Comic Con is just around the corner. I assume you’ll be there? What can we look forward to about this year’s NYCC and the work you will be showing/sharing? What are you most excited about seeing?
Brandon: I’ll be there! I don’t know my whole schedule yet but I’ll mainly be promoting the debut book in a new kid’s series I’m doing for Little Brown & Company called Peter Powers. He’s a sweet, passionate kid who’s desperate to figure out his terribly lame super powers. Peter wants to be a hero so bad he can taste it. There’s lots of action and humor. Themes revolve around the power of family, friends, and having confidence in yourself. I hope it empowers kids but also reminds them that growth takes time. Patience will be rewarded, just hang in there. Dave Bardin’s art makes me squeal with joy. I’ll also be promoting Teen Titans: Jump City Jive and Doctor Strange: Mystery of the Dark Magic.
WOW: I know you are watching All Stars 2 (we text a lot during it). What are your thoughts on the voting twist and who are your favorites? I know you love Alyssa and Katya, but any new surprises in favor?
Brandon: All the twists are great! It’s exactly what the show needed. I’m really into that moment at the end when the losing queen is feeling defeated and all of a sudden here comes Ru with that mystery message. I love the uncertainty. Usually, I love deconstructing the whole thing to figure out who’ll take the crown but I honestly don’t know how All-Stars will play out. My theory is that all the queens who were voted off are going to come back as some sort of tribal council toward the end. I think that’s just because I want RuPaul to make a “hung jury” joke.
WOW: When are both of your shows and how can people get tickets?
“A Weekend Conference” runs Sept 15, 16, 17, 18, 22, 23 & 24
“In Wake of Yesterday” runs Sept 14, 16, 17, 21, 23, 24, 25
Ticket Information is HERE: http://www.thecollective-ny.org/4th-annual-collective10-4/
WOW: You worked in fashion for a long time. As NYFW is upon us, do you miss it? Do you still partake in fashion week for fun?
Brandon: I do miss it! But only for a second. Fashion Week was always insane because you’re working like a dog and you’re running on fumes but going out every night. I really miss seeing friends at shows and catching up but my liver is retired. No champagne fountains for me anymore. Nowadays, I’d rather be at home watching Loosely Exactly Nicole and ordering tacos on Seamless.
Read our other story on Brandon from this past year’s San Diego Comic Con.
PETER POWERS BOOK COVER
Art by Dave Bardin