“Kapow-i GoGo” at The PIT – Interview with Actor-Choreographer Alex Gould

Photo Credit - Anya Gibian

Photo Credit – Anya Gibian

On June 20, the Kapow-i GoGo marathon will be back again at the Peoples Improv Theater. Tickets are on sale now for $30 and available for purchase at the door or online here. I had the chance to sit down with some of the cast and creative team to discuss this unique show and how it came together. Leading up to the marathon, I will be sharing those interviews here.

First up is actor Alex Gould, who plays Koffley in the show. He is also the show’s fight choreographer. In our conversation, we discussed physical storytelling, the brilliance of Robin Williams, and the challenges of creating Kapow-i GoGo highly stylized battles.

Photo Credit - Eleanor Philips

Photo Credit – Eleanor Philips

Tell me about yourself and how you got interested in acting and theater in the first place.

Great! I started when I was nine. I did an acting company when I was in my high school. They do a summer program, and I did that from like nine until fifteen, and then I started becoming a teacher there. And I did that for like four or so years, and then, yeah, I mean, that’s kind of like the moment. I just loved doing it. I was young, and I, yeah, I got to do a lot of different stuff. It was like dancing and singing.

My brother also was in it, and he would always say like, “Oh, thanks for copying me!” And I’m like, “Uhhh, I didn’t!” So I remember like when we were in high school, he was a senior and I was a freshman, and it was like, “Ooh, big brother,” and then he left and like everyone started seeing me as just myself. And then yeah, I decided my junior year and was like, “Yeah, I guess I’ll do this for the rest of my life.” And I’ve got a band teacher who was like, “Uhh, that’s a solid career,” and I was like, “Well, what should I do?” He was like, “Become a professional trumpet player,” and I was like, “Well, that’s a solid career!” (laughs)

Yeah, no kidding!

So yeah, and I did it and I went to UMass Amherst in Massachusetts, and then after about a year, I wanted more. I was a theater major, but I wanted, like, more of it. And so I came to New York, and I went to a conservatory, the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, and did that, and now I’m in New York. I’ve been here for, it will be seven years in the fall!

Nice!

Yeah!

What was the first show you remember seeing on-stage?

First thing I’d ever seen on stage, well, I did see – professional or anything?

Anything!

Well, the first thing I ever saw was a show my brother was in when I was seven. I saw him in it, and it was an adaptation of all the fairy tales on trial. Like the Prince Charming was on trial by all the princesses for being, like, a man whore. And it was an original piece, and I think, like, the Newsies were like the dancers of it. They were like, “Read all about it, Prince Charming is going to jail!”

Were there any actors that influenced you?

I always, you know, Robin Williams, I always loved, you know. I was really sad when he passed away. He was someone that, you know, he was so weird, and then when he started doing like – I mean, not started, but like I knew him as the Genie and Mrs. Doubtfire, but then like when I opened up, like, my eyes and saw that he did like a lot of dramatic roles. So I love that aspect, that like someone could do both, and I’ve always loved that, you know, the idea that someone could do such amazing comedy could be so sincere and real and raw.

Yeah, because I think people underestimate comedians in that sense, or comedy actors, because it’s like often times, dramatic actors can’t go the other direction. They can’t be funny.

No, and they always say, I mean, I don’t do stand-up. I mean, I appreciate it and I love it. I love doing comedy, and it is a skill and it is something that is really hard to be truthful about it. I think that the people who are like true comic geniuses, like, they can do the other thing. So yeah, and then Meryl Streep (groans), I hate her! She’s so good! And Ben Foster, if you know his work, there were aspects about him that I always really, really loved. When it comes to stage, Mark Rylance and Tom Sadoski. You know who I really just recently was looking at, was Christian Borle. Like I really dig.

Yes, he is hilarious!

I dig his work!

He is so funny. Did you ever see Peter and the Starcatcher?

I actually just watched it at the Lincoln Center.

Peter and the Starcatcher Mermaids

Peter and the Starcatcher

Oh, it’s wonderful.

I’ve really gotten into physical storytelling, especially like that choreographer Steven Hoggett. I have started watching a lot of the stuff that they’ve been doing with this company, and he did Peter and the Starcatcher. So I watched it and was like, “Oh my god.” I didn’t see it on Broadway, I didn’t see it live.

Yeah, it was wonderful. He was great in it. I mean, of course he is.

Yeah, he’s amazing.

Like Something Rotten is on my list mainly because it’s like him and Brian D’Arcy James in a show together

Right!

And it’s like, just them, I don’t need anything else.

I know! I haven’t seen it, and I’m like, it’s on Today Tix, and it’s $37, go see it. Yeah, it always changes. I have like different people for different reasons. Like, Chris Pratt up there because he has been like a goof and is now doing super hero movies. I’m like, “Screw you, you’ve broken it, and now I can slide on in!” (laughs)

And he’s hilarious too. The stuff that he improvised on Parks and Recreation, if you watch the outtakes, he came up with some of the funniest lines of that show.

I know, it’s so interesting working on like, it’s like with this kind of show, with Kapow-i GoGo, it’s like a lot of times we’re sitting there, and Matt will be writing and like people will just say something off the cuff, and he’s like, “That!” Yeah, it’s like doing Parks and Recreation is like a perfect example of like Kapow-i, great comedy comes from a collaboration of amazing people.

How did you first get involved with Kapow-i GoGo?

So Kapow-i GoGo came from the Flea Theater, and I am a Bat at the Flea, a resident actor, and yeah, it started off as a serial. So I was in another serial, and Matt had asked if I could, you know, jump in and do some quick cameo roles. And then, yeah, when it moved, they asked me to do the fight choreography for it, and then as they were writing the further sagas, they actually found a role they wanted me to jump into and then built it actually around some cool fight choreography that I could help create and be in.

Photo Credit - Anya Gibian

Photo Credit – Anya Gibian

For people that haven’t seen the show yet, how would you sum up Kapow-i GoGo and how your character fits into the story?

Kapow-i GoGo is, I would simply say is live-action anime. If you know anything about any kind of anime, Pokemon to Final Fantasy, which is, I don’t know, I’m not really an anime person, I’m like the worst person. My roommate loves it. I told him about it, and he’s like, “Does it have this-obscure-thing?” And I’m like, “I have no idea what that word means. Come see it!” So it really is, I think it’s a travel, it does a really beautiful job of traveling through the growth of anime from like the kid perspective of it all the way to the adult version of it. So I play Koffley, who is the royal jester to King Cloudberry. That’s actually how to define him. He pops in, and you’re like, “What the hell was that?” And then, I don’t want to give anything away, but like, he’s a weirdo with other abilities.

I’ve seen the show twice now, well, the marathon, and I’m really amazed at the endurance that you guys have for doing a show like this. What was the rehearsal process like, leading up to it?

Insane! Um, it was a lot of finding the time because you had to jump into rehearsals around, you know, schedules. For me, I was in jury duty while it was happening, and I was doing another show. So we would like get out chunks of time, so in the beginning of the rehearsal process, it was like reading through, but then like, soon it was like, okay, we understand, it was mostly on its feet. I mean, once we did Saga One, the rest of the rehearsal process was get up on your feet and go, for me anyway. And then when it came to the fight choreography, it was like, “Great, this is what we are looking for – Go!”

For a show like Kapow-i GoGo, I mean, it has to be a pretty big job to put together the fight choreography for it. It has to have a very specific look to it because you’re doing that anime style.

Right.

2012-01-01 00.00.00-135

Can you talk a little bit about the process of putting together the choreography?

Yeah! So Evan Maltby is a huge anime fan –

I was talking to Keola, and he said that Evan put together a packet –

A packet! A dramaturgical packet! And I read through that and I actually watched a lot of YouTube clips to get the different styles of the fights. And I wanted to like add those elements, but it’s also like also the elements of like a video game, so what we discussed and how we started was with Saga One, I mean, I had no idea where it was going. Because actually during Saga One, the rest of it was like being written, and until like the marathons, we were still like fine-tweaking everything.

With Saga One, it was very much like a video game, very like comical and very big, you know, like punches in the air that were hitting your face. Very much like, it’s like two people are in Street Fighter, and there is a bar above you, and it was like, bee-uuuu, your level will go down. That was a lot of the imagery that I would give to the actors. It was a huge collaboration. Like there is no way, I don’t think there’s any way that one person could do that. I don’t care how amazing you are. Without them, it could not be done. There was like a little bit of pre-planning but not much. It was very much like, hey, talk to director-slash-actor, what are we looking for, what do you want to tell here, so I think that as we like decided as each of the sagas would go. So in Saga One, it was very like campy and fun. Saga Two goes more like into more realistic fighting, and then Saga Three, it was all real combat.

What do you enjoy the most about playing Koffley, and do you have a favorite scene or moment in the show?

That he can be – what I love about him is that he can be played any kind of way. I’ve gotten to play a lot with, he has kind of two sides. So the first side you see can really just be completely out there and wacky, and honestly, I love the moments when he just kind of pops in, and I’m like, the way that the set is just this wall and I appear up above things, my entrance is really fun. I also really enjoy Part 3. There’s a really great scene which takes place mostly in the dark with some cool light effects that you get to see a different side of Koffley. And also what I love is the challenge of it, is that each time we do the marathon, it’s like trying different things with him.

Photo Credit - Anya Gibian

Photo Credit – Anya Gibian

If you could swap parts with any of your fellow cast members, who would you pick and why?

If I could swap parts…oh boy…

You’ve kind of got a wealth to pick from.

I know! There are so many. I would say I do, I do, like there’s something really amazing, I love Mike Axelrod who plays Hicc-up GoGo, and what he does with it, no one else can do. I love playing a kid. Love it, so I think Hicc-up. I think Hicc-up GoGo would be really fun to play.

Yeah! Plus, you get that darker side.

Yeah, his story is one of the best in the show, and the audience falls in love with him. I think that’s also a testament to Mike’s ability to really, you know, get the audience to love him. Yeah, there’s a great journey with him. I mean, Kapow-i is great of course, but Hicc-up’s like, you gotta love him.

Yeah, I was going to say, Kapow-i is a great character on her own, but I mean, it’s really the supporting characters around her that elevate the whole thing.

Yeah, definitely.

2012-01-01 00.00.00-85

So Kapow-i GoGo is obviously based on anime, video games, and Saturday morning cartoons. What were some of your favorite video games or TV shows growing up, and did you have a Saturday morning cartoon routine?

Favorite shows when I was a kid, I mean, I loved Nickelodeon. I loved Rugrats and I loved all that stuff. When it came to like anime, I watched Pokemon a lot. I used to collect the cards. Never played the game, I just traded them. Someone was like, “Boom, lightning strike!” And I’m like, “Boom, what are you talking about? Give me that card, I want it. I’ll give you this stack for that one.”

Did I have a Saturday morning routine? So on the weekends, I actually would sleep on the couch. My parents let me sleep in the living room with the TV, so I used to wake up and my brother and I would watch Looney Tunes. Classic, like Bugs Bunny was one of my favorites. Video games, I mean, my brother and I had like every game system known to man. Like whenever a new one came out, it was like, “Mom, please?” So we had Sega Genesis, we had like REAL. I think it was like one of the first disc systems because they were all like the consoles. One of the first discs we played was Demolition Man, based on that movie with Sylvester Stallone. We played Zelda a lot, played Mario, and my mom would actually kick us off Nintendo 64 to play Mario. (laughs) She was the best when she played because when she’d lose – did you ever play Mario on the Nintendo 64?

Yeah.

So if you ever lost, he was like, “Oh, no!” and it was the head. My mom would go, “F— you!” and scream in his face, and I was like, “Mom, can I play?” “No!” (laughs) And Sonic, all the time, Sonic the Hedgehog.

See, the funny thing is that my parents would not let us have any game consoles, but I collected the comic books of Sonic when I was younger. So there’s drawer at my folk’s house that you pull out, and it’s all my stacks of Sonic comic books.

And you’re like, “I can imagine I’m playing it!” Yeah, hours upon hours, and the best was like watching my brother. I actually loved watching my brother play because he was so good at them, but then when he’d lose, he’d beat me up because he would blame me for being in the room.

You’re distracting him!

“You’re breathing!” That was the one, “You’re breathing the air, and it’s sucking the life!”

Tell me why people should come see the Kapow-i GoGo marathon at Peoples Improv Theater on June 20.

It is something that you’ve never seen. It’s created by people who love what they do. You know, I can attest for the show. I mean the writer, I think Matt Cox is amazing. I think he’s a genius. He writes complete comedy that then swoops in and grabs your heart. You fall in love with characters that are outrageous and completely original but also like stealing from places, but it’s morphed into its own thing. I mean, that’s what you’ve gotta do. Like, you’ve gotta see what works and you take it, and then when you make it your own thing, people are like, “This is the first time I’ve seen it. It’s not, but it is,” and you get a lot of that. And I think if you know this kind of genre, there are plenty of moments you get to sit there and be a kid again, and that’s why you go to theater.

You go to theater to have an emotional response to something, and like I said, we all love what we do and it’s completely made from us. That’s something really, really special, and I think you actually can take that away. You actually can see that when we’re all working together. And it just keeps growing, and I think the more we do it, yeah, we do it once a month, but it’s just like we continue to learn about what’s working and what’s not and what we can do. And it’s always changing and it’s always growing, and the audience helps that. And also, we used to do it at night, and now we’re doing it in the afternoon, and they are different audiences. So the last marathon we just did was in the afternoon and was like more of a quiet audience because they were so invested. They were completely just sitting and watching it, and by the end, everyone is standing up. That to me is the biggest takeaway is looking at everyone’s faces. Like they come in, not knowing what to expect, and they leave, and it’s like they’re a seven-year-old again. And that’s amazing.

Do you have any other upcoming projects you’d like to mention?

Come check out Serials at the Flea Theater. We’re continuing through for the next two weeks. It’s where the show started, so you can go to The Flea’s website and check out Serials at the Flea.

Photo Credit - Anya Gibian

Photo Credit – Anya Gibian

Lightning Round!

Fruit Loops or Lucky Charms?

Fruit Loops.

You’re fighting in the World’s Greatest Fighter tournament, and it’s a tag-team round! Who do you want as your partner, Princess Cloudberry or Blade Gunblade?

Princess Cloudberry.

Skittles or M&M’s?

M&M’s.

You’ve freed the magical Hydra! Do you wish for unlimited wealth or superhuman strength?

Unlimited wealth

“F—, Marry, Kill”: Blade Gunblade, Tuxedo Gary, Madame Blood

F— Madame Blood, kill Tuxedo Gary, and marry Blade Gunblade.

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