Épater la bourgeoisie! That’s what they say in Texas*, and that’s the sensibility Bastion Carboni says he isn’t bringing to Philadelphia with his smart-mouthed, P.C.-busting Fringe show SOMETIMES CALLIE AND JONAS DIE. Bastion and his Poison Apple Initiative are recent transplants from Austin, and on the strength of a recent Fringe preview, they are welcome additions. He tells Phindie how the theater scenes in Philadelphia and Austin compare and talks about his local premiere, which features actors specially brought in from the Texan capital. [1fiftyone, 151 North 3rd Street] September 8-13, 2015; fringearts.com/sometimes-callie-and-jonas-die.
Phindie: So you’re new to Philadelphia? Welcome! What brought you here?
Bastion Carboni: Oh, loads of things. Mainly the urge to push myself harder and farther. I’d heard about the rising playwriting scene here and was hungry for a new, challenging environment. Also I missed living in the Northeast and good pierogies.
Phindie: What are your first impressions of the Philadelphia theater scene? How does it compare to Austin’s?
BC: (Laughing) You can actually get paid in Philly.
The major difference seems to be that Philly has a bigger contingent of audience who are not theater-makers whereas in Austin it’s largely practitioners supporting each other’s work. Devised work is a much bigger thing out here. But in both cities you have a profound connectivity between companies and a system of support inspired by excitement for what other artists are making. That has been really galvanizing, and I’m so stoked to formally become part of the conversation here.
Phindie: Tell me a little about SOMETIMES CALLIE AND JONAS DIE.
BC: So Callie and Jonas can commit suicide and come back at will. Like any responsible young Americans they use this ability to play a game where they rack up points based on the havoc they wreak in different cities. They decide to return to Austin for Round 2 and everything explodes in their faces. So it’s a buddy comedy.
Phindie: Has it been performed before?
BC: I workshopped it almost five years ago and put it down for other projects, but it wouldn’t stop nagging me to be revisited and finished. I’m excited that it’s my inaugural show here in Philly and that I get to make it with some of my closest collaborators from Austin. It’s part touring show and part local, and it’s the first step towards our goal of becoming a bi-local company and strengthening theatrical ties between the two cities.
Phindie: The characters are keen on mischief making and provocation. Is this reflective of your approach to theater?
BC: God no; the easiest way to be boring is trying to be provocative. It’s a great end result but shouldn’t the the goal. If it’s not coming from a genuine, vulnerable place I don’t wanna do it. That said, I am certainly all about characters behaving badly and the disaster of best intentions. There’s always some sort of morality in the world of the play that contrasts against general real-world morays, so if my plays were to be called “provocative” I guess that’d be why.
Phindie: What’s the craziest road trip you ever went on?
Outside of the yearly trials that were family vacations? I went on a road trip to Maine cuz my friend Jackie and I wanted to see where Stephen King got hit by that van. Neither one of us had smart phones and we probably spent as much time being lost and angry as we did knowing where we were going and not-angry. But it was very much so led by caprice and happenstance, so that was rad and we learned things about ourselves blahblahblah. I won a Shrek pillow on a boardwalk. And eventually Jackie and I started speaking again.
Phindie: A former stalwart of the Philadelphia theater scene recently moved to Austin. Did you run into Philly refugee Madi Distefano there?
BC: HA! No, actually. A friend of a friend from Austin connected us on Facebook right before I moved in September. Maydee [as she's now self-styling, Texas style] in turn introduced me to Jess Conda [Madi's successor as artistic director of Brat Productions] who introduced me to basically everyone else. I didn’t actually meet The Woman Behind the Legend until she visited for Christmas and I was like, “Dude, you’re why I have friends! Thanks!”
Phindie: Do you know of any other good shows in this year’s Fringe?
BC: Absolutely: Mondegreen Collective is devising a really cool little jawn (I’m tryin’, Philly) about failures of honesty called Capacity for Veracity. I saw a bit at Scratch Night and am excited to see what comes of it. Also Me First: An Autobiographical Comedy About Dying from Cursed Church and, of course, The Lid by BRAT because I am a rational human who likes fun.
Phindie: What can Philadelphia expect next from you?
BC: Most immediately l have a site-specific play for gay bars about internalized homophobia that I will start thinking about as soon as Fringe is over. I’m also going to start work on a play about endangered species triage and a Demeter-centric riff off the Persephone myth. So lots of light-hearted Noel Cowardesque fare coming up.
Phindie: You must get that comparison a lot. Thanks Bastion!