VFC, Jr. is talking to some of the other Hollywood Fringe participants in our new series, Fringe Family Friday Interviews. Our third interview is with Jay Alvarez, who is presenting his one man show at the Fringe, Be Careful! The Sharks Will Eat You!
What made you decide to write a children’s show and put it into Fringe Family?
I never set out to do a show. My father had passed away and a couple of years before he passed my nephew had taped him recounting the story of our escape. I had grown up with these stories and also had been surrounded by similar stories.
One day I was sitting at Franklin Canyon Park in Beverly Hills by the lake where Opie throws the stone in the old Andy Griffith show and I was listening to the recording and I just started to write. I found that it was just flowing through me, it wasn’t an effort to write which was interesting because I don’t consider myself a writer. For a couple of weeks I went back to that lake almost every day and wrote. It became therapeutic as it was a very down time for me as an actor. Anyway I wrote it and thought in the back of my mind that it might make a good play or something. One day I finished writing, I put it away and it sat in my computer for two years. Two years later after moving back to NYC I serendipitously met my very talented director Theresa Gambacorta and I mentioned that I had written this piece, it was the first time in two years that I had mentioned the piece, one thing led to another and we started working on it. It’s an interesting side story how we met, sometimes things are just meant to be……….
What has been the most exciting or fun thing about working on this particular project?
What was most exciting about working on the piece was the rehearsal process. It became about peeling away the excess and finding the essence of the piece. Exploring each character’s truth. Theresa took the piece and sliced and diced it to where we got it to a tight 65 minutes. We spent several months exploring and I’m glad we did. I think we were able to give a sense of this period in history through one family. We scheduled the piece for three performances last June and I thought that would be it but I was wrong I’ve been doing it in NYC and Miami since then. This is a gift that my father left me.
What do you hope families will take away from your show when they see it during the Hollywood Fringe?
I have a very dear friend who brought her somewhat moody teenage niece to see the show. A couple of days after seeing the show she called her aunt and said “you know aunt Judy seeing the show made me think of how many people we pass on the streets each day that must have wonderful stories they live with and we just “pass them by.”
I often have people come up to me after the show wanting to tell me about their grandmother that escaped Russia or an aunt from Hungary. I had a very young Jewish woman who knew her grandmother had escaped Germany and wished she knew her story. I am very humbled by these reactions.
I would hope young and older audiences alike would see courage and determination and most importantly the idea that Love concurs all. I would hope that American born kids understand what so many go through to get to our shores that immigrants are not here to take anything away from us that instead they come with gifts to offer. I would hope that immigrant kids who cling to their heritage to the exclusion of their American side discover that becoming American only adds to who they already are, they can embrace two cultures fully, I certainly have done so. I am Cuban and no one can take that away from me but boy I am so American as well and I love it!
Are there any shows you are planning to see at the Fringe?
I’m so excited about The Fringe! I’m starting my exploration of what I want to see. Since we only have so many days and such a huge smorgasbord I’m going to start with my research. But I would say go out there and experience the world within the few blocks where we will all be presenting such diverse experiences.