The Midtown International Theatre Festival presents The Good Life by Joe Hoover; directed by Tom Paolino; and produced by Joe Hoover & Tom Paolino as part of their Autumn Arts Series. Visit midtownfestival.org for more details.
Joe Hoover’s dramedy took nearly 20 years to be produced. Written in 1999, this character study focuses on a fiery young woman struggles with her fears and insecurity about settling down and getting married–especially to a man who seems too good to be true. Morality is examined amid witty prose and parables.
We spoke with the creative team: Joe Hoover, Playwright; Tom Paolino, Director; and two of the performers, Jessie Ruane and Chelsea Rodriguez on the production:
We hear a lot about inspiration – or Muse – that drives an artist. What inspires you?
Joe: As a writer, it comes from all over the place. Reality, real people living their actual lives, the odd little things people say and do that just kind of wake you up. On the street or at dinner or raking the lawn in Oak Park, IL.
Jessie: I would definitely say that most of my inspiration comes from watching other actors. When I see a performance (film or theatre) that is so unbelievably real/touching/complex, I immediately want to figure out how I can create a performance that can wow someone else in the same way.
Chelsea: Real people living their lives around me. That’s one reason I love New York so much. All of these little dramas happening around me every moment of every day.
Tom: What inspires me is the sacred energy of the theatre.
Tell us about why you wrote this play?
Joe: This play just sort of came out, the first draft did, in 1999 when I wrote it. It must have been one of those subterranean works that dealt with things I had been thinking about—relationships, sexuality, sports as life analogy, and so on—and didn’t even realize it. I carried the play around with me for years and always felt it had potential. Over the past year or so I got actors together and read it and revised it to where I was ready to put it up.
I wrote “The Good Life” as a play and did not originally think of it as a film. I think though it could be an interesting film as it gets into the moral quandaries that drive our lives–but does so in small and nuanced ways that I think could be picked up nicely on film,
What is your vision and process for the play/part?
Jessie: I haven’t had the opportunity in a while to really get to sit down with a long script and complex character. I’m just really excited to dissect the play and my role and discover new layers every day throughout this process.
Chelsea: My character, like most of us, is doing her best to navigate her way through some pretty complex thoughts and emotions. She’s trying to figure out, through her confusion, what she really wants. I’m happy to go on this ride with her and bring as much of myself and my own discoveries to the part.
Tom : I want the audience to laugh out loud several times throughout the play, but also emotionally support them to inventory their own moral character.
What do you want most in your chosen profession? It’s OK to say “fame” or “wealth.”
Joe Hoover: As a writer I would like to create works that, basically, say everything I want to say, as best as I can say it. I don’t know if I could ask for much more than that. As an actor I’d love to do Shakespeare in Central Park again, (with lines!) and simply continue to grow as an actor–particularly in the classics.
Jessie: I’ve always imagined myself as a Film/TV actor, who finds my way back to Theatre throughout my career. I feel like I’m accomplishing that already, and am excited to do it on a bigger scale as time goes on.
Chelsea: To surround myself with people I connect with creatively and make work that I’m proud of.
Tom : I want to redefine the role of a theatre and film artist to include being a spiritual leader.
Sally Field and Paul Newman both said of their profession… “it’s all I can do.” Is this all you can do?
Joe: Pretty much. I mean, I can make cornbread, also.
Jessie: Literally all I can do, and all that I want to do.
Chelsea: I’ve got some other skills and interests but I’ve definitely spent the most time and energy on this one. Acting has never ceased to excite me.
Along those lines, if you couldn’t so this, what would you do?
Joe: I am a brother in the Jesuits, a Catholic thing. so I would do what I have also done in the Jesuits: write creative non-fiction, teach, spiritual direction, social justice work and so on.
Jessie: I love cooking… So I’d probably just try to make money doing that.
Chelsea: I write a blog and manage social media for a Brooklyn based company. Writing about events, new openings and happenings around Brooklyn. I enjoy that. I’m also a mom and am learning American Sign Language.
How do you want [legit] history to remember you?
Joe: He said true things—things we couldn’t turn away from if we tried. He was a good friend. He wore white t-shirts to devastating effect.
Jessie: A fantastic actress who played exciting roles.
Chelsea: I want to enjoy my life. I’m totally cool with not being in the history books.
Tom : I want to allow $100,000 per year acting, writing, directing and producing.
Joe: Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.
Jessie: COME SEE OUR PLAY!
Chelsea: The Good Life! Come out and see us!
Tom : Follow your bliss!