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New York Cool - Ask Miss Wendy


New York City - Theatre



New York Cool's Wendy R. Williams Talks to Montserrat Mendez and Armistead Johnson of Billy Carver and the
Children in



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 first meet?

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

Mozz: 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? Alfonzo?

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 Willis,
Stuart Williams, Lauren Roth in Billy Carver and the Children in Mind

Question: Tell me about Billy Carver and the Children in Mind? How did it come about?

Armistead: Wasn't 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 cast!

Armistead: Billy 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.

Mozz: Yes, 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 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, 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 and greedy.

Jenny D Green and Armistead Johnson in
Billy Carver and the Children in Mind

Mozz: 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 my appendix.

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 Roth in
Billy Carver and the Children in Mind

Armi: Dean? The actor’s name was Dean?

Question: What are your signs?

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 Wednesday?

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, Andrew! His name was Andrew!








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