Julius Ferraro And His MICROMANIA
Julius Ferraro is a little nervous about performing in his first show since graduating from college—six year’s ago. But he is going all in because he is the only performer in the show MICROMANIA, which he also wrote. Directed by Robert Gross, the play “picks into the dark, grisly world of the wierdos at the office.” You can catch the show at this weekend’s Collage Festival at the Meeting House Theatre at the Communicty Education Center (CEC) at 35th and Lancaster in Powelton Village section of West Philly. We caught up with Julius, who also covers the performing arts as a regular contributor and editor at Phindie, to tell us about the new show and jumping back onto the stage.
FringeArts: What’s the show about and how did you come up with it? Was there an initial inspiration?
Julius Ferraro: In the piece, the setting isn’t really mentioned much—only once or twice—but I think it’s where the whole concept sprung from. It’s about three men, Derek, Christian, and Frank, who are at a “TeamWorkShop” at their office. Which is just about the most horrible setting I can imagine. They’re given a completely mundane challenge—to work together to come up with a plan to fix an imaginary cockroach infestation—but then they all start having these over-the-top emotional reactions. I wrote it originally as a story, then, with some encouragement, cut it back and made it into a play.
I’ve worked in a lot of offices, and in some high-stress sales environments. I’ve learned the language of how to talk to people and how to inspire people to work harder. It’s really a language that’s taking over the world, and as helpful as it may be in certain situations, it’s about as mundane a lingo as you can imagine. It’s full of hypocrisy and purposeful ignorance and self-help jargon. It’s codified, like legal language, and it has very strict rules and guidelines. There are certain words you never say. There are certain words you try to say as often as possible. It builds a certain kind of culture, an outward appearance of prosperity and respectability.
Like I say, it can be very helpful, but I find it repulsive, and I know precisely why it offends me. At the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s the cockroach, and there’s no really good reason why it’s so repulsive. They’re not even dangerous, and yet we have these wild emotional reactions when we see them. We’re at the top of the food chain, but when we see a mouse or a roach, some of us freeze, unable even to act.
FringeArts: What made you want to do a solo show? What was your process in developing it?
Julius Ferraro: I didn’t really want to do a solo show. The fact is, I kind of hate the idea of having too much to do with one piece. The reason it’s a solo show, though, is that I really wanted to make it into a reality. And the best way to do that, as an unknown artist, is to go low-tech, no-budget. The SoLow Fest, which I first learned about two years ago, has really been an inspiration to me. The work that Meghann Williams, Amanda Grove and Thomas Choinacky do with that festival, and the people who get involved, is incredible. That, more than anything, has refined the way that I see art over the last few years. Art and artists can be intimidating until you see an incredible low-fi show and realize that it was sort of thrown together at the last minute.
So I wanted to make it happen, but I had no money. I would have loved to have four actors, or even just three, but I’m pretty against the idea of asking someone to act for free, people would have had to offer themselves up. I started hunting around for a director that would take on the project for an exchange-of-services kind of thing, I would maybe write for their company or perform in something of theirs. Then Robert [Gross] told me he’d be willing to do it.
Robert was a director and professor of mine in college, and last year he retired, sold off all his worldly belongings including his home, and has been traveling the world like a gypsy. A real romantic figure. This project would not have happened without him. I’ve always considered him to be a genius, and his presence on the project has made me comfortable with taking some risks.
Since he came on the project a few months ago and we started having rehearsals, we’ve cut the playwright out of the process. I no longer view the play as something I wrote. We’re tackling it like any traditional company would tackle a play they’re performing, not editing lines, and reconsidering every moment not from the perspective of playwright’s intention but from our own needs. He’s the one who’s really made this into a performance.
FringeArts: You’ve seen a lot of work since you’ve been covering performing arts for Phindie and other outlets for the past couple of years, has this informed your own work at all?
Julius Ferraro: As I said before, what’s really informed my perspective on art has been the work of festivals like SoLow Fest. Collage is great too, but this is the first time they’ve been on my radar. It’s the attitude of just put it on stage. Just do the show. Commit completely, but don’t feel like you need to censor yourself, or like it isn’t good enough. Just do the show. It’s democratizing, it takes the power out of the high-budget theaters’ hands, theoretically, and into the hands of the artists. A lot of very interesting work has come out of this kind of set up, and will continue to do so.
FringeArts: Anything the audience should know going in?
Julius Ferraro: There’s no splash zones or anything. No dress code. No flashing lights or cigarette smoke. If you hate me, you probably shouldn’t see it, because I’m it. But besides that, it’s a pretty diverse performance: there’s monologue, dialogue, slapstick, a scuffle or two, a bit of drama, human interest, animal interest, and even horror. And six characters.
Collage Fest is going to be pretty incredible. I have no idea what’s going to be going on, on the whole. There are nine or so different performers, including people who truly wow me. Like Joo Won Park and Asimina Chremos. I’m excited to be on the same stage as them—but not floored, or awed, because that’s the point, isn’t it? Democratizing the artistic process. Anyone can do it. Anyway, nine performers, and that’s not counting all of the visual artists.
The Festival itself is a work of art. It’s a collage. So it’ll be fun just to walk around and see how people’s artwork flows into one another, and how the audience moves through the space, and how everything informs everything else. It’s going to be a bit of a mess, but it’s going to be awesome.
Thanks Julius, looking forward to it.
Written and performed by Julius Ferraro
Directed by Robert Gross
Friday May 9 at 7:45pm
Saturday May 10 at 8pm
Meeting House Theatre at the Community Education Center
3500 Lancaster Ave
Entrance to the festival is $5, performance is PWYW (pay what you will).