A Therapy Session with Myself, a full-length, semi-autobiographical drama by Anthony J. Piccione about the inner struggles of living with mental illness and Asperger’s syndrome, premieres January 2019 at the Hudson Guild Theatre, 441 W 26th Street, as part of the New York Theatre Festival’s 2019 NYWinterfest.
Performance schedule is Tuesday, January 15 @ 9pm, Wednesday, January 16 @ 6:15pm and Saturday, January 19 @ 3:30pm. Tickets cost $23 and can be purchased at the door or by visiting www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3798842.
A Therapy Session with Myself tells the story of Alex Grayson, a young college student and aspiring writer suffering from severe social anxiety, depression and Asperger’s syndrome. During the summer before his senior year, he receives a mysterious visit from “himself”, a human incarnation of his inner consciousness. As they interact, Alex is forced to reflect on his own flaws and personality quirks, as well as some of the darkest and most painful memories of his adolescence, while also pondering the question of whether or not he can overcome his inner demons, and ultimately build a brighter future for himself.
As Piccione describes his play: “It’s a semi-autobiographical play, so while it’s not an exact retelling of my life, it comes extremely close, and I hope it helps fuel a significant conversation about issues of mental illness and autism awareness, and that maybe it will leave people thinking about them, in new ways. I also hope it leaves anyone who has been through dark times with the reminder that life can get better, as long as you’re willing to go out there and give people a chance…”
The play received a staged reading at the Dramatists Guild Foundation in October 2017, and marks its official world premiere with this production. It is directed by acclaimed director and World Ocean Arts’s Stand Out Artist of 2017 Holly Payne-Strange, who previously collaborated with Mr. Piccione on the innovative children’s play An Energy Tale at the 2017 Midtown International Theatre Festival, and assistant directed by Andres Gallardo Bustillo, who is known for his work as an actor in Piccione’s award-winning short drama What I Left Behind at last year’s NYWinterfest.
The production stars Nick Roy as Alex; Shane Zimmerman as “you”, the human incarnation of Alex’s inner consciousness; and Bryant Jager as “me”, Alex’s younger self who appears in flashbacks. The cast is rounded out by Emma Romeo (Kelly), Louise Heller (Kate), Tony Bozanich (Ray/Professor Collins), Travis Martin (Henry/Ensemble), Ramona Messina (Ms. Appleton/Beth/Ensemble), Nathan Cusson(Tim/Ensemble), Aaron Algren (Philip/Ensemble), Rosie Coursey (Ensemble) and Lizzy Moreno (Ensemble).
We’ll be hearing from the artists involved in the coming weeks but first let’s get the scoop from the titular playwright himself.
Welcome, Anthony, all your works touch upon your own reality but this one goes deeper … can you elaborate?
A Therapy Session with Myself is a semi-autobiographical play that’s mainly inspired by real-life events that occurred from my first year of high school up to my last year of college. I changed the names of the characters that are referenced, and some of the characters are actually depictions of more than one real-life person. But still, I’d say the actual story itself is about 80 to 90 percent the truth, with only some minor changes.
In this play, Alex Grayson – who’s basically a proxy for me, in this play – is in his apartment trying to write one day and suffering writer’s block, and he gets a visit from a reflection of the second half of his consciousness, and they have a largely cathartic back and forth, as if you were actually talking and responding to yourself over and over about various subjects you’re emotionally torn over, while flashbacks take place depicting the events that happen prior to that discussion.
I like to call it a deliberately messy play, to reflect what often feels like my actual thought-process while talking. When people come see the show, it’ll likely feel more like a stream of consciousness, rather than a traditional story with a beginning, middle, and end, so I imagine it’ll raise at least as many questions as answers, with regards to the subject matter it brings up. But still, my hope for this play is that it leaves people thinking about issues of social anxiety, depression, and Asperger’s syndrome – all things I’ve dealt with in real-life – in a different way than perhaps they used to.
I’m cautiously hopeful that it will, because it’s also staged wonderfully, and I’m not just saying that because I wrote it! The cast, director, and assistant director of this show are all incredibly talented and passionate artists, and this show is easily shaping up to be not just the most in-depth story I’ve ever told onstage, but also hopefully one of the most visually impressive. If you want to know what I mean by all that, you’ll just have to come and see for yourself!
So there’s a version of your life right there in front of you… in light of that, what have you learned about yourself as a person from your play?
That I’m an even more messed up person than I thought!! Haha.
In all seriousness, though, the writing of this particular play took a lot of self-reflection, because it dives so deep into some very painful and uncomfortable memories in my past, and frankly, not all of them make me out to be the best person in the world, necessarily. There’s stuff in there about being bullied and feeling suicidal, a past romantic relationship, nasty falling outs with my best friends, how I got involved in theatre and writing in the first place, and how I feel like I came across to others back in those days. Those aren’t always easy things to be objective about. It’s often driven by raw emotion, whenever you reflect on things that still feel recent.
But I obviously had to be a bit objective, especially as I got to rewrites and edits, because while I wanted the play to maintain some sense of coherent storytelling, despite the unconventional structure of the play. When I did that, though, I actually had to dive even deeper into the depths of each memory I was trying to depict in various scenes, more so than I did during the writing of the first draft. I felt I didn’t fully achieve the in-depth, honest story that I wanted to tell with the first draft, and so I felt that I had to make big changes to the dialogue, in order to make that happen.
Anyway, I could go on all day about what I was thinking as I was actually writing the thing, but as far as learning a lot about myself, I honestly don’t know, other than that maybe I’m a more complicated person, and I have a more nuanced and complex story, than I’d really considered before. But you could probably say that about all of us, as human beings, couldn’t you?
You are becoming more than recognizable, you’re becoming a fixture of indie theater. Give us your thoughts on it and … ready … do you want to go commercial??
The way I see it is, while this is my first full-length play produced, it’s also my 8th overall – counting my first seven one-acts, some of which you might remember – to be produced here in New York at various indie theatre festivals. After just over two years living in the city, I’d like to think at this point, I’m quite used to the basics of being a self-producing independent artist.
If a commercial producer ever approached me and said they wanted to produce my work, without diluting the story or the message, then obviously, I’d be stupid to say no to them, wouldn’t I? I mean, let’s be honest, and ask what playwright wouldn’t want to see their plays have bigger budgets, and potentially bigger audiences, for their productions? Plus, if we’re talking about a Broadway theater, as opposed to an Off-Broadway or Off-Off-Broadway theater, it would be better – at least, in theory – to have your show in a larger theater with more seats, because it offers the opportunity for more people to see your work, as long as you can fill those seats!
Having said that, I’m very happy to be in a place in life now where I can do the creative projects that I’m most passionate about, and which I’ve really wanted to do for awhile now. I’m 25 right now, and I’m gonna be turning 26 on New Year’s Eve. Already, my plays have been frequently produced throughout New York and elsewhere. I’ve won an award for my writing, and have been nominated for others. Some of my plays have been published and have gotten productions through that route. And my work has gotten mostly positive reviews. I’m not saying all that because I take any of it for granted, because I don’t. But they’re all things I feel proud of, and as long as I can keep doing projects that I’m as proud of as I am of what I’ve done so far, then I think I’ll be more than okay.
That’s what I’m really in this for, more than anything else. Creating art that I can be proud of, and hopefully stimulates conversations about what I care about, whether it’s mental health, social and political issues facing society, or anything else in between.
Here’s #8, what’s in the cards for it … and then #9, 10, 11 … 150 …
I’d really like to transfer A Therapy Session with Myself to another venue or festival after our premiere at the Hudson Guild, for additional performances later in 2019. Hopefully, by the time you hear from me next, we will be preparing to mount this same show yet again, but we shall see. And either way, there’s always the possibility of a film adaptation, at some point down the road, as far as I’m concerned!
Beyond that, though, I’m also working on some new one-acts I’m hoping will be produced in 2020, plus another full-length drama, a short screenplay, and on top of that, I’m still writing reviews! So I’m keeping busy! If anyone is interested in following me and my work, feel free to go and visit www.anthonyjpiccione.com, and also check out the page on my website dedicated to A Therapy Session with Myself. Also, feel free to follow me on Instagram @anthonyjpiccione and my show @atherapysessionwithmyself for consistent news updates, as well!
Here’s to us sitting dcown again … and again … and again … and…