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Posts tagged ‘Jack Grinhaus’

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.


Release the Stars: The Ballad of Randy and Evi Quaid – Daniel Krolik and Amanda Barker. Photo by Marco Timpano

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.


  1. paraben free lip balm

  2. My ipad Mini with Netflix on it and tons of open disk space!

  3. All of my points cards. I am religious about them.

  4. A bathtub. I can’t live without one.

  5. 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

What: Comedy/Drama

WARNINGS: Adult themes

TicketsClick 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:

Bound to Create Theatre presents “Dirty Butterfly” as part of Obsidian Theatre’s 2013/14 Presentation Series

by Ryan Quinn

I sat down with director Jack Grinhaus and actor Lauren Brotman, Co-Artistic Directors of Bound To Create Theatre to discuss their upcoming production of Debbie Tucker Green’s Dirty Butterfly, being presented as part of Obsidian Theatre’s 2013-14 Presentation Series. We were also joined by their adorable ten-week-old Ethan, who the staff of the Artegelato cafe, where we were meeting, have been eagerly watching grow since he was born.

Dirty Butterfly is the story of an abused woman in a lower-class housing complex in Britain whose neighbours on either side have very different reactions to the sound of domestic violence coming through their walls. One neighbour actively avoids the entire situation, deluding herself into denying what’s happening, while the other becomes almost obsessed with it and completely drawn in. The show first ran at the 2012 Toronto Fringe, which, to Grinhaus, was a testing ground to see if the material could work as a full run. Of course, going from the Fringe Festival to being a part of a larger season at Obsidian has its own challenges, which have more to do with budget and promotion.


The pair first became interested in this show when they found themselves both working on different projects about domestic violence at the same time. “The statistics are frightening, on the rise, and damning,” they discuss. So, the pair went off in search of shows that deal with that topic, and Dirty Butterfly was so perfect for what they wanted to accomplish and explore, that they say they had no other choice. Bound to Create reached out to the White Ribbon campaign, and other local groups focused on this topic, and is happy to be working with them on this project.

Grinhaus and Brotman are incredibly excited to introduce Debbie Tucker Green’s work to the Canadian stage, as they see the power that British works can have on this side of the ocean: “There is a facility with language that even the lower classes have, that makes British theatre so different. Not only is the language fluid and precise, but Green writes in a cadence that the cast really has to tap into”. Grinhaus describes working on a scene where the character work was spot-on, then having to go back and speed up the pace to make the rhythm of the text work. “Trancelike is actually a really good word for it. The beat draws us into the action and really makes us feel complicit in what’s happening. The result is an audience that either identifies with one of the two neighbours, or falls somewhere in-between, on the spectrum of fear to obsession. What do we do on the other side of the wall?”


What makes this show leagues away from being a feel-good morality tale, though, is the complexity of the characters involved. “Green has made the main character, right from the top, do and say some things that are really…unlikeable,” Brotman tells me, “The audience probably won’t like this woman.” Also, there are no big acts of physical violence in this show, which separates Green from the fellow playwright to whom her work is most often compared, the late Sarah Kane. Brotman explains, “Jack’s done something smart where the little moments of violence in the play are closer to metaphors, leaving a play that strongly focuses more on the reactions and the repercussions of the violence.”

It’s also the smaller character moments that speak so much about the class culture in Britain and across the world. Grinhaus tells me about a small piece of text from a character who is a cleaner in a cafe, whose only dream is to someday be a barista. “It’s this tiny moment that happens too fast, but it really hits me”.

Luckily, the rehearsal space was one of the best she’s ever been in, Brotman explains. “It was very zen, you know. I was there with my husband, and my son was there in the room with me, it felt like a very safe place.”

When asked if he has any advice for young companies looking to produce important work, Grinhaus immediately replies “David Mamet is no longer relevant”. He explains that, sure, Mamet’s plays are full of angry conflicts, and that’s where young actors tend to be most comfortable at that stage of their lives, but his plays just are not the right kind of shows to be putting up right now.

His more direct advice, though, was that to be in the business, you have to be in the business. “When I was working at a restaurant in New York, I had to drop an audition because I couldn’t risk losing a shift. I never made that mistake again”. Grinhaus recommends working in any area of the theatre you can get into: “I got more acting jobs from being the guy sitting beside the director of another show in a different capacity than I did from auditioning”.

Bound to Create Theatre is also doing a cross-promotion with Paint Box Bistro for Dirty Butterfly. Paint Box is a restaurant and culinary school that teaches young people in Regent Park the skills they need to work in restaurants, or open their own. Their infrastructure supports establishing kitchens and allows use of the space to Regent Park start-ups. Paint Box is offering 10% off pre-show meals with proof of ticket purchase.

Dirty Butterfly


by Debbie Tucker Green

Presented by Bound to Create Theatre as part of Obsidian Theatre’s 13/14 Presentation Series

When: October 30th to November 17th

Where: Aki Studio Theatre, 585 Dundas Street East.

Tickets:, or by calling 1-800-204-0855.