Steven Hess is an accomplished Bay Area performer, director, teacher, and playwright. He trained for theatre in New York City, where he worked as an actor, director, and acting teacher. He is so excited for 23 Elephants Theatre Company in San Anselmo. I'm thrilled to to bring you an exclusive interview with one of my favorite people on this planet, Steven Hess.
Tell me about the name 23 Elephants Theatre Company and the cast of characters involved.
23 Elephants Theatre Company was founded by Bidalia E. Albanese and me, Steven Hess. 23 is Bidalia's favorite number and elephants are my favorite animal, put them together and viola! We will be working with a team of amazing people, including Maria Elena Cacciatore, a talented choreographer and director whom we have been working with for seven years. Ashley Kimball, an exciting ball of energy who directs, produces, acts, and runs a youth company of her own up in Sonoma. Ann Peterson, who worked very closely with us at Throckmorton, as stage manager, office manager, and company manager. And finally, Marilyn Izdebski herself, who brings 45 years of experience and passion to the work of making theatre. I am so excited to be working with all of these people!
You’ve been such an integral part of the success of the Throckmorton Youth Theatre in Mill Valley. What excites you about this new opportunity to take over the Marilyn Izdebsk's studio in San Anselmo?
Oh goodness, there are so many things! Mainly, Bea and I are excited to grow and stretch, try something new, and make something of our own.We are looking forward to the challenges that will come with exploring new territory as well (even the challenge of remembering how to do a bulk mailing, YOWZA!). I'm excited for the opportunity to uphold Marilyn's legacy by continuing to offer theatre to the wonderful people of Marin. Bea and I also look forward to putting our own stamp on the scene up here with new classes, new faces, and new performance opportunities.
Can you tell me about this summers camp productions and why you have chosen them?
There are a few things going on for 23 Elephants this summer. First, Broadway Workshop: HAMILTON!, where young people will be able to come together and work on some of the music and dance styles of this super awesome, ground breaking, mind blowing achievement of a musical! Young people have been begging to do SOMEthing, ANYthing, from Hamilton, since it came on the scene, so we put together this camp in an attempt to slake the thirst for more Hamilton! We even have a cast member from the tour coming to teach a guest workshop. Pretty exciting!
And speaking of new performance opportunities, both of the full summer productions are new to the young people that have been working with Marilyn, both are musical adaptations of great motion pictures, and both are hilariously funny. Madagascar, the Musical is a blast, start to finish, and really captures the spirit of the film. Lots of great characters and great parts.
Young Frankenstein, the Musical is Mel Brooks' fantastic adaption of his wonderful film of the same name. This show is full of laughs and has great parts for women. Bidalia actually played Frau Blucher in a production in New York in 2015, it's one of her favorite shows. We also like this show because it walks the line between great family entertainment and edgy parody.
To date, what has been the most rewarding part of working with youth in theater?
The opportunity to be a part of these young people's lives. We just attended Marilyn's retirement gala. She's been teaching for 45 years and the place was packed with people who had been positively affected by her interaction with them. There were people performing at her gala who were in her very first production, which was in 1973! When one of the kids who passes through our program goes out and starts doing good work in the world, it just makes us so happy to have had a connection with them. Unless they going into acting, of course. Then I think, oh no, what have I done!
Give me a nutshell version of the man behind the mustache?
There is no man behind the mustache, actually. I was just talking about this with some of the actors in Beauty and the Beast the other day. I think that if I were to shave my facial hair, take my glasses off and walk into the theatre in regular shoes, not crocs, I might hang out as long as I wanted and not be recognized. The mustache is running the show.
What is the best advice would you give to a child who is striving to enter the theater industry?
Take special notes when you take that class in high school where they teach you how to eat on three dollars a day. Learn how to properly format a resume. And DO IT! Do it with everything you've got. It's the greatest.
Describe 23 Elephants Theatre Company in three adjectives.
Engaging! Pioneering! Unique!
The mission for 23 Elephants Theatre Company is to do something right now, theatre can’t wait! We dream big! We believe strongly in the theatre’s power to engage, challenge, question, encourage and empathize. Our youth programs offer captivating classes and exceptional productions that enrich the lives of young people of all ages, backgrounds and experience levels. Connect with them online at 23 Elephants Theatre Company, Facebook and Instagram.