Loss, Comedy and the Quaids: In Conversation with Amanda Barker & Daniel Krolik – Next Stage Theatre Festival’s Release the Stars: The Ballad of Randy and Evi Quaid
Interview by Shaina Silver-Baird
I had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel Krolik and Amanda Barker to discuss the upcoming run of their show “Release the Stars: The Ballad of Randy and Evi Quaid” appearing as part of the Next Stage Theatre Festival. Here they talk all things Quaid; the essentials for living on the run and creative inspiration.
SSB: How do you think the piece has changed since your first, exceptionally successful run?
Daniel Krolik: The thing I realized in rehearsals last week was that, more so than the numerous rewrites that we’ve made, the basic energy of the piece is what’s changed the most. In 2012, we were performing in an art gallery. No set, no lights, just us and our audience. We asked them a lot of questions directly and were basically in their laps for the show. Now it’s Amanda and me on a stage with all the trappings of a theatre piece. Even though much of our text is the same, the energy is more polished, more focused, more precise. It’s still as funny and sad and dangerous as it was at Fringe… just completely different at the same time.
Amanda Barker: It has grown in so many ways. There are undercurrented characters that run throughout the piece – they were always there, but we took the time to develop them and really examine who they were and what their journey was. We make an appearance as ourselves as well, and we examine what it was like to meet the real Randy and Evi Quaid.
SSB: What inspired you to write this piece about the Quaids?
DK: Amanda and I had both read the Vanity Fair article about Randy and Evi in 2010. We were trying to write something together, and we started experimenting with the idea of playing the Quaids. For me, the inspiration was twofold. First, Randy is a really good actor and has worked with most of the greats from the 1970s and 1980s. He was very close to a real comeback after his work in Brokeback Mountain, which got derailed with the events we cover in our show. I became intrigued with how this man, an established talent, was deprived (or deprived himself) of an artistic renaissance, and how devastating that would be for him. Then it was the Quaid’s experience with loss. Randy and Evi had lost a number of close friends in Hollywood – like Heath Ledger, Chris Penn, and David Carradine. How do you cope when the people in your life keep dying? How do you justify or process that? Beyond the outrageousness and the crazy Hollywood life, Randy and Evi’s story is about two people trying to stay connected in the face of terrible loss.
AB: Anyone who has heard even small pieces of their journey is fascinated. For me, it was a Vanity Fair article by Nancy Jo Sales (who also wrote the original Bling Ring article) that had me hooked. I think Daniel’s was with Esquire. He actually texted me from Montreal one night asking me what I thought about a show about the Quaids and I was like – YES! Let’s do this. For me, I was always interested in Evi. She was always labled as his crazy bitch wife and I wanted to know everything I could about her. Why did everyone think she was to blame? That’s something I wanted to examine. I wanted to know who she was. She’s a strong woman and an unabashed artist.
SSB: What was it like having the real life Quaids in the audience for your final performance in the Fringe? Did it change the show at all for you?
DK: It was terrifying, because we didn’t know how they would respond to the show. We worked very hard to tell their story as objectively as possible, but we had no idea how they would react. Early on that night, I delivered a line of dialogue right to Randy, and he laughed. I relaxed and knew it would be ok from then on in. Amanda and I only had each other to rely on, and it’s probably the most exhilarated and connected I’ve ever felt in a show.
AB: It was insane….magical…..electric….terrifying. Daniel and I couldn’t talk once we were individually told before the show. That moment when our eyes met on stage will always be one of the single greatest moments that I will ever feel as a performer. We communicated everything in that moment – we both knew what we knew, and we both knew we were there to support each other, no matter the outcome. There may have been slight nuances that were different but for us in that performance but the show was always about their life through a media lense and so we made a safe structure knowing that they were there – we aren’t up on stage poking fun at the “Crazy Quaids”. We never wanted the show to be that. That would have been easy and maybe funny but ultimately uninteresting for us as creators.
SSB: What was your process for creating this particular piece?
DK: About two years of trial and error. Between our work with Jack Grinhaus, our director, and Megan Mooney, our dramaturg, scenes were reshaped, rewritten, added, taken out, cried over, put back in, ripped apart and put back together again. It’s been an extremely complicated and infinitely rewarding process.
AB: I have an English degree in addition to Theatre and have lots of experience in TV format as well but in the last decade I have also written a fair bit of sketch comedy and I think the sketch process is an easy format to get ideas and scenes generating. Being part of that world encouraged me to take risks as a writer and it taught me to generate material and to get out of self-editing. Daniel and I originally were just trying to motivate each other creatively so we challenged each other to write personal or character essays in various coffee shops in the annex. Once possible ideas for a show started percolating, we wrote with Randy and Evi in mind as well as a shared grief experience that really affected both Daniel and me. Then it kind of followed a sketch format for a while. After about a year, what we had were a series of personal essays and sketches. We brought it to Jack Grinhaus who said – ‘yeah, I’ll play with you, but get a dramaturg!’ So we did, Megan Mooney. Both Jack and Megan have guided this piece in ways we couldn’t possibly imagine. I have so much gratitude for both of them.
SSB: What are the 5 things you’d have to take with you if you were on the run like the Quaids?
DK: A good book. An ipod with my entire music library. Cheese and crackers. My favourite orange hoodie. And a damn good bourbon.
paraben free lip balm
My ipad Mini with Netflix on it and tons of open disk space!
All of my points cards. I am religious about them.
A bathtub. I can’t live without one.
Several bags of Smartfood popcorn
SSB: Are you afraid the Hollywood Star Whackers might accidentally come after you instead?!
DK: I’d be honoured and humbled if the Star Whackers made the effort to track us down at Next Stage. I’d be thrilled. Who are the indie Toronto theatre Star Whackers? Names. I want names.
AB: Shit….now I am. I’ll take a career that people would love to kill me for, thank you very much. I’ll take some residual cheques so big people want to murder me for them. These are the problems I want. Sign me up.
SSB: What inspires you as artists?
DK: A billion things. Mostly it’s the amazing work of others. Right now, I’m in love with the late, lamented HBO series Enlightened, David Rakoff’s gorgeous final book “Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish”, the insane and beautiful nightmare of a film Holy Motors, the food at the Whippoorwill Restaurant at Bloor and Landsdowne, and the How Was Your Week and Ronna and Beverly podcasts. And I’m giddy with anticipation at seeing all the amazing work by everyone at Next Stage.
AB: You know what inspires me? Doing shows where an interviewer asks me these kind of questions! I think I’ve done 60 interviews in the past year and most of them were about dildos (I was touring a parody of the 50 Shades of Grey Series). This is such an amazing change.
So, that said… My freedom inspires me, it always has. I love jumping into improv sets whenever I can, the freedom of it, the support of an ensemble – that is always inspiring to me. Shortly after the first Release the Stars ended, I went to Mexico City for work and had a day off. I went to Frida Kahlo’s house, the Casa Azul. I have never been so inspired as I was that day, standing in her studio. She had to create, there was no other option. It was not a question for her. Her energy still radiates from those walls and a world of colour poured from her. You feel it. I felt much the same a year ago – I was in Chicago and I came upon an exhibition of Vivan Maier. She was a nanny who took hundreds of photos her entire life. She took them because she had to, she loved to. And they are haunting, some of the most articulate photos you’ll ever see. They were only found because she defaulted payment on her storage facility, she never did anything with them. It comes from a different place, that creative spirit that flies out of you in inspiration. Like a bird that wants to be set free and it is just up to you not to stand in its way – let it go, give it away. The female artists who fight to create inspire me, I suppose – I think that’s why I am so intrigued by Evi Quaid. I am most inspired when I am in a community of story tellers who fight to create – Next Stage is a thrill beyond thrill for me because that’s what all of us are and I can’t wait to experience the beautiful work that will surround us at the festival. It is beyond inspiring.
Release the Stars: The Ballad of Randy and Evi Quaid
Written and Performed by: Amanda Barker & Daniel Krolik
Directed by: Jack Grinhaus
Where: Factory Studio Theatre – 60 minutes
WARNINGS: Adult themes
Tickets: Click here
Wed Jan 8, 9:00pm
Fri Jan 10, 5:15pm
Sat Jan 11, 7.30pm
Sun Jan 12, 9:30pm
Tue Jan 14, 9:00pm
Wed Jan 15, 6:45pm
Fri Jan 17, 7:15pm
Sat Jan 18, 2:45pm
Sun Jan 19 5:15pm
Watch their NSTF Teaser here: