“Kapow-i GoGo” at the PIT – Interview with Evan Maltby

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.

Evan Maltby plays Kapow-i’s long-time rival, Tuxedo Gary. Maltby describes Tuxedo Gary as a “feisty blowhard” who could be a main character in a different story, but despite his best efforts, he is stuck in a story where he is incidental. In our conversation, Maltby talks about his early love of Disney movies, the show’s beginnings at the Flea Theater, and being Kapow-i GoGo‘s unofficial dramaturg.

Tell me a little bit about yourself, how you got interested in acting and theater.

So I am a born and raised New Yorker. I’m a local, and my mom is a pianist and a voice coach and musician. When I was seven, she decided that one of the things that I would do would be in the New York City Opera Children’s Chorus. And so I went and sang “Happy Birthday” in three different keys or whatever the audition was, and then that’s what I did for seven or eight years. I was like one of those kids, my voice changed very slowly, and I grew very slowly, so I was in the children’s chorus until I was fourteen or fifteen. That was my introduction was actually through opera and through my mom because she is specifically an opera coach, and she does a rehearsal and a recital class.

It was really fun and it was a thing that I didn’t have to work very hard at to be good at, at a young age, as opposed to – I always like to blame my parents the fact that I don’t know how to play an instrument, but it’s not really true. It’s my fault because I wasn’t as instantly not bad at singing or whatever, as I was playing piano or playing drums or French horn or all the other weird instruments that I cycled through as a kid. I loved doing it, and it was the path of least resistance, so I kind of couldn’t avoid it. And luckily because my parents were very – like my dad was a photographer. He’s retired now, they were very artsy New York-y parents. They were happy to foster and encourage that kind of behavior, so I sang all the time, and I was a very precocious only child, perform-for-all-the-adults-around-you kind of kid, kind of stereotypical in that way.

That’s how I got my start, and then in college, I chose not to apply to any conservatories or anything like that because I wanted a real academic liberal arts-y education. So I went to school, not for acting or theater, but I ended up being a comparative literature major. But the school was so small. I went to Williams College in Massachusetts, and in my graduating class, there were six theatre seniors, theatre seniors, so there was no way they could limit the department shows to only the majors. There are only 2,000 undergrad students, and there were only one or two student theatre ensembles. So I got to do all the theatre that I wanted to do, knowing that’s what I wanted to do after school but not focus on it from an academic perspective. It was a nice balance.

Photo Credit - Anya Gibian

Photo Credit – Anya Gibian

What’s the first show that you remember seeing?

That I remember seeing? Well, it’s not live, but one of the first things that I remember seeing is a video recording of The Magic Flute, which was awesome. Because there’s like a dragon in the first scene that Tamino kills, and then he gets the flute and all the animals come hopping along. There’s a bunch of animals in that play, and there are a couple of kids which is neat.

Definitely really cool, that opera, because vocally all of the characters are really clear, like Queen of the Night is so different from Sarastro. The main antagonist is this super-super high coloratura soprano, and then there’s Sarastro who’s this basso profondo wise man, and so it’s very clear what’s going on all the time. And Papageno, who’s the good guy, is a lot of fun and has fun songs, and so I think it’s a good opera for kids. That’s the first thing I remember watching, but it wasn’t live. I don’t remember the first thing I saw live, that’s an interesting question.

I have a very clear memory of my first show. It was a local production of Starmites.

No way, that’s amazing!

Have you seen it?

I’m familiar, I’ve never seen it.

Oh, it’s wonderful. It’s definitely something special, and it’s a musical about a girl who reads comic books! It’s got super heroes and it’s in space!

So you were set! You were good to go.

Madeleine Bundy, Mike Axelrod, Eliza Simpson

Were there any other actors that influenced you?

Not really, I don’t know. Only in more recent years have I been someone who’s like followed careers or watched a bunch of movies with the same person in them. When I was a kid, I wasn’t really into live-action movies that much. It was a lot of animated stuff, and so I wasn’t going to track voice actors, you know. And then I think it was more for me always about a franchise or a story set as opposed to the actors.

What were some of those franchises?

I mean, literally my first thought was The Land Before Time. I don’t know why that’s the first thing that comes to my mind, because that’s not really what you’re asking at all!

It’s a franchise! There’s like a million of those movies.

There are! And I think I owned the first, the second, and the fourth? I was like all Disney all the time as a kid. My neighbor downstairs, she had maybe 80 percent of all the core Disney movies that we all grew up with, and I had the other ones, and I would hang out with her all the time and just watch The Little Mermaid or something. That was her favorite. My favorite when I was a kid was 101 Dalmatians, which I called the “Matian Goggies.” And that was one of my one-a-days. Did you have those, like movies that you watched every day?

Yes, I did, and it’s kind of embarrassing.

What are they?

One of them was Annie. Like the 80s movie. And my sick day movie was The Sound of Music.

Yes, sure, great, excellent. One of mine later on was Space Jam. Not that I’m a basketball guy, at all! And Fievel Goes West, and the original 10 Winnie the Pooh VHSes.

Okay, enough tangents, we haven’t even talked about Kapow-i GoGo yet! We’ve gotta get to the show! How did you first get involved with Kapow-i GoGo?

So I, like many in the show, came through the Flea at one point. I was a Bat from about 2010, so I met everyone there and did Serials for a long time. I wasn’t in the first episode of Kapow-i GoGo, but I saw it and it rocked my world. I flipped out, and I walked up to Matt after the show, and I was like, “Hey, buddy, I need to be in this. Please, please, please.” And so the second episode, he wrote a character. He wrote Tuxedo Gary, and that episode kind of remains intact. Like, he comes on-stage, insults Kapow-i, they had a Pokemon battle, and then you learn that he has to take care of his sister, and then he leaves. It’s almost exactly the same. So I originated the role, and I was really, really happy when I heard that Kapow-i was going onto bigger and better things and that Matt was happy to have me back.

Photo Credit - Cristina Pitter

Photo Credit – Cristina Pitter

For people who haven’t seen the show, how would you sum up Kapow-i GoGo and how your character Tuxedo Gary fits into all of it?

Oh, man. So the show is like a live-action Saturday morning cartoon, right? And Tuxedo Gary is the red herring every time he shows up. He walks in, and you think, “Oh, this is the antagonist character.” Nope! And maybe there’s going to be a will-they-won’t-they thing going on? Is this going to be a fun rom-com? Nope! Is he going to be a helper character? Nope! Gary is a normal in a world of supers, and it’s so sad for him, but I love the guy. Gary is the main character of a different story, but Gary’s tragedy is that he thinks he is the main character of Kapow-i GoGo. And so he bursts on stage and he’s like, “Yes! I am the most important, the world revolves around me!” And then he ends up, every single time, he is incidental, at all times.

He gets his knees shot out.

Yeah, exactly! Multiple times! And I love that. I love that he touches the surface and doesn’t even make a ripple. (laughs) There is something very tragic and very endearing about that.

I was talking with some of the other cast members about Tuxedo Gary, and I can’t remember who said it, but they said Tuxedo Gary is such a weird character because he annoys you so much, but then something happens, and you feel bad for him!

Right, yeah. Like you don’t care about his successes, but you feel bad for his failures.

I’ve seen the marathon twice now, and I’m amazed at the stamina that you guys have for doing a show this long. What was the rehearsal process for you, especially because you originated the role?

Back at Serials, you learn what shows are coming back on Saturday night at the bar after the show, and then the writers have Sunday and Monday to write, and then there is three hours of rehearsal on Tuesday, three hours of rehearsal on Wednesday, and then Thursday, you tech and you go. So it’s very, very quick, and there isn’t a lot of time to pick things up or put things down, which is exciting, and the writers are always making changes and finessing things as you go.

What was kind of cool about the rehearsal process for Kapow-i GoGo once we had moved to the PIT was it was kind of a protracted but similar process. Matt was writing as we went, you know, like we would have new scripts every day, all the time. But we had more time to play and find things, and so it was more a process of seeing how things fit as opposed to throwing things up on the wall and seeing what stuck, which is sometimes how Serials works.

And then with the marathon we did in May, we had one six-hour rehearsal where we showed up at 9:00, and we essentially just ran through the show once on Wednesday, and then on Sunday, we did it. And that’s cool because we have it in us now enough so that we can put it down and pick it back up that way, but that was its own interesting experience.

Kapow-i GoGo - Team Shot

You said Matt was writing as you went along. How much of the character of Tuxedo Gary came from Matt’s original writing of the script, and how much came from you playing around with it in the rehearsal process?

Well, I think certainly the original concept of this feisty blowhard who doesn’t really get it character is Matt’s, for sure, but I think Tuxedo Gary as a character became a larger piece of the puzzle after the serial ended and I came back on board. I think that has to do with the fact that I was always around in rehearsal, and that’s also tangentially why I do most of the prop manipulation because I was there. But yeah, Gary’s role expanded. Obviously, he’s still a minor character, but by the end, I’d like to think – I haven’t really talked to Matt about it – I like to think Matt pulled the way that I was, like I understood really quickly what Matt wanted and what he was working towards with Gary. And so I was able to lean into that really hard and really fast, and that allowed Matt to echo-chamber back through it and see, “Oh yes, that’s right,” or “Oh, no, that’s wrong,” and then figuring out where Gary was going to land. Like in episode 9 when he (Spoilers! Highlight text to reveal) finally finds a friend. He finds a place for himself. I think that was actually originally Steve’s idea, and both Matt and I at first were like, “Nah, that doesn’t feel…” and then over the next two days, we were like, “Wait, wait…oh. Oh, yeah.” All that Gary has been searching for is a home, and that is so “tie a little bow on it.” (End spoiler)

So I heard that you put together a pop culture packet for everyone.

Yes.

What exactly went into this? What things made the cut?

Well, everything. Like I tried to be really comprehensive about this. It started because Steve asked me – I think of the people in the show, the people who overall have the knowledge about all of the different subject matter and things that we draw from, are probably me, Hank, and Matt, and Mike Axelrod as well. Matt was obviously busy writing. Steve approached me and asked if I would be interested in putting together essentially a dramaturgical packet for everybody, and I said yes, of course.

What it allowed me to do was watch a bunch of YouTube clips and spend hours on TVTropes.org. So essentially, that is how I structured things, episode by episode or part by part. In Part 1, for example, it’s a really heavy Dragon Ball Z thing, like Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon, and Final Fantasy were our big three. And so I had big headings for those, and then it says, “In Dragon Ball Z, characters often fire blasts of energy at each other,” and then that line of text is hyperlinked to a TV Tropes article and a YouTube clip.

I did that with everything, and I tried to catch every reference that Matt was making in this script. And I admit, I never even got to Part 3, which has all these Akira references which I never got to. Like I have a miscellaneous section with all this other random stuff, like Zelda throw-aways, that kind of thing. The prop that we used, that Triforce, that weird triangular thing, here is what that is. And so there’s like seven or eight pages of PDF, which is like hyperlinked text. But that was a lot of fun for me to do because it meant I just got to sit in nostalgia for a while.

Kapow-i GoGo - Keola Simpson, Madeleine Bundy, Hank Lin

If you could swap parts with any other cast member, who would you pick?

I think I would want to swap with Andy because she gets to do so much different stuff in the show. And I wouldn’t want to swap with her because she is incredible, and she is doing everything right. But I think it would be a lot of fun to play the Woobly and to play Giggle, especially when she becomes Giga and how bad-ass that is.

That’s the one thing I really miss, that I don’t get to fight in the show really at all, and I love doing it, and I’m good at it. But besides the tiny little fight in the Greatest Fighter Tournament, I don’t have a chance to, so that would be fun. Andy and I also have similar tracks through the show, in that we both do a lot of small things or a lot of medium-sized things, and so I think I’d like that and would want to continue doing that. It would be cool to do Andy’s path.

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

Because you can’t not have a great time! Because it’s like all of the stuff we grew up loving. Even if you don’t, as I was saying before, like even if you don’t really know all this stuff, you’re going to be sitting next to somebody or you’re going to go with someone who knows the stuff you don’t know. And it’s a fun show, it’s a funny show, and I think one of the strengths of Matt’s writing is that it starts as genre parody and then lets that go really quickly and lives in that world without being about it.

It becomes a story about all these characters, and that’s why when Gary says, (Spoilers! Highlight text to reveal) “All I’m good at is causing trouble,” and Snuggles just stops, that’s why that moment stops the show with applause. (End spoiler) It’s because you’re so invested in all these weird, misfit toys that you can’t help but love. It’s just so much fun, and also, there’s free cereal. I’m so happy we do that. I personally eat a lot of sugary cereal. It’s my go-to meal for me is a couple bowls of Cheerios, so that warms my heart cockles that we have cereal. It’s a totally un-ironic celebration of all of the things we grew up loving.

Where can people find out more about you and your upcoming projects?

You can find me on Twitter @Maltbysfalcon.

Photo Credit - Cristina Pitter

Photo Credit – Cristina Pitter

Lightning Round!

The zombie apocalypse has hit the Capital! Who will you bring along to take out the walkers, Blade Gunblade or Princess Cloudberry?

Princess Cloudberry, in a heartbeat.

Pop Rocks or Airheads?

Airheads

Fruit Loops or Captain Crunch?

Oh, that is not a fair question, but I have to go with Fruit Loops.

You’ve freed the magical Hydra! Do you wish for a robot army or telekinetic powers?

Telekinetic powers, no contest.

“F—, Marry, Kill”: Treeleaf, Mr. Snuggles, King Cloudberry

I think I have to…oh, god. Oh, it all sounds so right and so wrong! I think I have to kill…I don’t want to kill any of them! I think I have to kill King Cloudberry, f— Treeleaf, and marry Snuggles. King Cloudberry will be fine, you can’t kill him anyway.

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