Photo by Warren Chow
About the authors:
Writing partners Elan Wolf Farbiarz and Cory Terry seem to have a good thing going. Not only did they pair up to write Channeling Kevin Spacey, now running at St. Luke’s Theatre off-Broadway, their previous collaboration The Movies (abridged) earned the coveted "Best of Fest" award at the 2008 Toronto Fringe Festival. Farbiarz, who also helmed Channeling Kevin Spacey, has appeared in and produced international tours of both shows, as well as The Bible (abridged). He enjoys American football and just had his first child in June. Terry enjoys collecting Banksy prints and remains childless as of the date of this article.
With a name like Channeling Kevin Spacey, there was sure to be some confusion. We expected questions about the show’s premise and whether Mr. Spacey was in the cast. He isn’t. But we were caught off-guard earlier this year when we participated in a phone interview for the play’s New York opening. Though poor cell reception (and loud snacking) threatened to derail the interview, we were able to clearly make out the fourth question: “What made you decide to base your play on a Woody Allen movie?”
Shit. Had Woody Allen already made a movie about a guy who discovers that his life mirrors the weak characters of Kevin Spacey, and decides to morph into the macho characters of Al Pacino? A quick iPhone search for “Woody Allen and Kevin Spacey” yielded only porn. After several uncomfortable moments, Elan vaguely offered, “I mean, of course we’re big Woody Allen fans. I think the play clearly shows that.” I chomped loudly down on a handful of Pringles, hoping the noise would disorient our interviewer. It worked and he moved on.
As it turns out, there is a 1972 Woody Allen film called Play It Again, Sam, which, according to IMDb, follows the exploits of a man who adopts the alter ego of Humphrey Bogart. We made a mental note to tell future interviewers that we wrote the show as an homage.
Channeling Kevin Spacey sprung from humble beginnings. Elan and I were always discussing future projects, but every time we thought we had a winner, someone else would beat us to the punch. We were just days away from launching our musical about a Greek wedding set to the music of ABBA, when we got the news.
After our pitches for Phantom of the Theatre and War Pony fell short, we began to lose faith. Elan moved to England to start a life with his future wife, and I relocated to New York to pursue eating. Then, after what seemed like just another day of defacing Mamma Mia! billboards, Elan called me from Liverpool. He'd just watched Glengarry Glen Ross, and had an idea for a show.
Drawing on personal experiences, we began writing the story of a meek office drone who seeks refuge from his dull life via his Netflix queue. With our geographic limitations it took over a year and a half to write the script. I would write a scene and e-mail it to Elan who would then offer revisions and additions. Writing in this manner led to its own line of issues. There was no instant gratification. If I wrote something that I thought was funny I might have to wait a week to get feedback…usually “That’s not funny.”
Often, independent writers lack firm deadlines and are able to procrastinate their way through several rambling drafts. However, we had already been granted a time slot at the 2008 Winnipeg Fringe Festival and were under pressure to deliver a full length play. We started off strong, but as the deadline approached, addictive reality shows threatened to disrupt our progress.
With dedicated writing (and the summer hiatus of Keeping Up With the Kardashians), we were able to finish the show on time and enter the Canadian fringe festival circuit. One perk of touring through Canada was the nationally subsidized free housing provided by the locals. Most of the time, friendly families with spare rooms offered fringe festival participants a warm place to sleep and home-cooked meals. However, we ran into more than one shady landlord who, drunk on Molson and draped in a Sidney Crosby jersey, offered us his spare “living room floor” for the week.
The play found critical and commercial success in Canada, but the glamorous life of free health care and being the toast of Saskatoon quickly wore off.
In late 2010 the show moved on to Fort Lauderdale and quickly picked up momentum for its New York City run. I couldn’t help but think that our days of crashing on Canadian couches and pretending to like hockey were behind us.
Finally, after years of cross-continental playwriting, our show hit the Big City. Opening Channeling Kevin Spacey off-Broadway took countless hours of work, but the amazing response we've received has made it all worthwhile. So happy were we, in fact, that Elan and I could think of only one way to celebrate the show's success. We scooped up premium seats to see Mamma Mia and led the evening's standing ovation.