New York Cool's
Wendy R. Williams Talks to Montserrat Mendez
and Armistead Johnson of Billy Carver
Children in Mind
We're talking today to award winning
playwright Montserrat Mendez and Armistead Johnson,
who are working together in Billy Carver and
the Children in Mind at Manhattan Theatre Source.
The play has gotten rave reviews from the press
and it’s now going into it’s second
week of a three week run.
Question: How did you two
Armistead: How did
I meet Mozz? Glad you asked that Wendy. I met Mozz
a year and a half ago when he wrote a one-act play
for someone he wanted to sleep with. The director
he hired had strict instructions to cast this one
specific actor so that Mozz could "get to know
him" during the rehearsal process, but as directors
often do, she made her own choice: me. Lucky for
Mozz...mainly because I heard through the grapevine
that the actor Mozz wanted to "cast" had
several STD's. Just kidding, lucky for me because
I loved Mozz's work and to this day (fingers crossed)
he likes my work as well. We've become great friends.
Playwright Montserrat Mendez
Really Wendy! I can't believe he would choose to
share such lurid details about how we first met.
Now I have not a story to share. I remember my director
calling me and saying, Mozz, I know you wanted to
cast "what was his name Armi?"
Armi: Chad? Brad?
Mozz: It doesn't
really matter. Anyway, she said... I know you wanted
to cast (insert name of forgotten actor here) but
this guy named Armistead came in an auditioned and
he totally rocked it. He's perfect Mozz wait till
you meet him. My first thought was, Armistead, what
a pretentious name, sounds like the name of a person
who comes in and takes what is not his. But once
we met, oh, he is not only a great actor, but the
nicest human being on the planet, and he has become
a dear friend. I think we just have good writer/actor
chemistry. He gets my rhythm and we developed a
pretty quick short hand, so it's just really great
when you meet someone you know it's going to be
a permanent part of your team.
Aimee Whelan, Armistead
Johnson, Monroe Robertson, Jenny D Green, Nathan
Stuart Williams, Lauren Roth in Billy Carver
and the Children in Mind
Tell me about Billy Carver and the Children
in Mind? How did it come about?
the actor’s name Henry?
Mozz: I don’t
know a Henry, really Armi, you’re so insecure,
and I don’t even remember the actor we didn’t
Carver is about a woman who has written a series
of successful books about a teenage werewolf named
Billy Carver. A la JK Rowling and Harry Potter.
After she receives a terrible review for the latest
installment of the series, she debates killing off
the character. This sends the people she loves,
who are also sort of on her payroll, into crisis.
Comedy, gunshots and a pile of cars in her backyard
pool ensue. It’s great, and the thing is that
Mozz wrote it in three days.
I had three days to write the play because I was
supposed to be directing Alan Ayckbourn's A
Woman in Mind, but our rights were taken away
by Alan Aycbourn's Agent... And I have to say I
have never been more focused on finishing a product
in my life. Normally it takes me a good three months
to get a play out, well, now thanks to Hulu.com
more like four. But this was an up all night for
three nights, deliriously writing a play. And our
first review was a rave! Really, it was called "the
most lavish and beautifully realized" production
the critic Martin Denton had ever seen at Manhattan
Theatre Source. That made all the stress worth it.
But I will tell you. When I had the crazy idea to
write the play, the first person i called was Armi,
and he said, "Mozzie, you can do anything!"
And now I know that if Armi and I are ever on a
boat stranded at sea and he gets appendicitis, I
can take that appendix out, cause god damn it "I
can do anything!"
Question: Who should go
see Billy Carver and the Children in Mind?
Armistead: Well Wendy,
I hope that actor Mozz wanted to cast a year and
a half ago shows up,but if he doesn’t, the
target audience for Billy Carver and The Children
In Mind would be people who can buy a ticket
and get their ass in a seat. Oh, and people who
don't have to get up in the middle of the show to
pee because the audience exit is used for the casts
entrances and exits. but...seriously, the show has
something to offer everyone who enjoys live theater.
It is first of all, a great farce...really fast
paced, really witty, and not at all diaphanous while
managing to look totally diaphanous. Secondly, it
has a great cast that has so many compliments on
our chemistry we should sign up for chemistry.com,
and lastly, it has one scene where one of the characters
says, "Stop the presses", "you'll
never work in this town again" and "follow
that car" all in one monologue. Asking for
more than that from a show would just be unrealistic
Jenny D Green and Armistead
Billy Carver and the Children in Mind
Armistead plays Christopher Barret, England’s
Best MidFielder, so if you want to see a nice pair
of legs, he wears shorts and has great calves. He
also has one of my favorite scenes I’ve ever
written, it’s intense, I like to call it,
the “Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf scene”
if that play had been a British Farce, and He and
his co-star Jenny Green knock it out of the park.
I take writing very seriously, as a craft, so anyone
who enjoys a well-made play, should come check it
out. But I give it to my cast! The entire cast is
superb! I also forced Armi to learn a British Accent
for this play! It’s because deep down inside
I also believe “Armi can do anything!”
No, don’t even think of getting anywhere near
Question: You Guys recently
shot a sitcom together? How did that come about?
Armistead: He had
a fancy name like, Taylor?
Mozz: I think you’re
thinking about the guy in Twilight. And
No, it wasn’t him.
Armistead: I got
introduced to Polltakers last summer when I was
in one of the northern states doing some summer
stock theater. I had my days free and was writing
my own sitcom at the time. I sent it to Mozz to
look over, and he basically said, “Nice try,
but this is how it’s done.” And emailed
me the first draft of Polltakers. It was
in its infancy at the time, but obviously very funny,
so I told him that he had hurt my feelings so much
with his reaction to my sitcom, that he had to cast
me as the lead in his.
Mozz: He IS the lead
in Polltakers. It was July of last year,
and Armi had asked me to read a TV pilot he had
written, it had no title, so I called it “Tribal”
which I still think it’s a great idea, but
boy was that Pilot rough, but the guy had comic
timing, not a sense of structure but comic timing
to spare. I think until that point we had been merely
acquaintances, but I really respect someone who
tries to do something and doesn’t mind when
they’re told “this sucks, here’s
how to fix it!” because he really listened,
and he learned quickly. He has a knack for comedic
writing. And as we got to work together we formed
a really great friendship, I mean, I like to think
of him as one of my Best Actors, and certainly an
award winning Best Supporting Friend. Which is why
YOU should come see him in Billy Carver and
the Children in Mind, which is playing at Manhattan
Theatre Source till July 24th.
Aimee Whelan and Lauren
Billy Carver and the
Children in Mind
Dean? The actor’s name was Dean?
Question: What are your
Armistead: Oh come
on Wendy! You can do better than that!
Mozz: I'm an Aquarius,
which is why Armi and I are such a great team, cause
he's a Libra, and that's the... I want to say that
actor’s name was LEO. What was your question
Question: It’s Wendy,
and my final question is. Sounds like you guys are
on your way to becoming quite a team. What else
can we expect from the two of you in the future?
Armistead: What can’t
you expect? Need I say more?
Mozz: Well, I love,
working with Armi, I have no doubt we will be life
long collaborators… but if any agent or casting
director wants to come see him in Billy Carver
and the Children in Mind, I would totally share
him. It’s currently running at Manhattan Theatre
Source until July 24th, and you can get tickets
by going to the source Website, Theatresource.org.
Andrew! His name was Andrew!