Talking ex-es, game shows and AFT with “Methtacular!” star Steven Strafford.
If the name Steven Strafford doesn’t sound familiar to you by now, get out from under that rock and get hip to this talented guy!
Opening our 19th season, Steven’s amazing show “Methtacular!” has received countless rave reviews including 4 stars from Time Out Chicago and 3 stars from the Chicago Tribune. There have also been tons of great, candid interviews with Steven floating around for the last month, but we still managed to find a few questions that no one has asked him just yet.
This show is so Chicago and many of the references you make are well-known here in this city. Has it been different sharing this story with fellow Chicagoans than in other places?
Yes. Performing this show in the city where it all happened is a trip. I often find myself hyper-aware of the audience here, wondering if the people in the audience might be people from the story. There is also a deeper emotional charge that comes from performing this show here.
Why was AFT the right organization to help you bring this story back home?
There is an easy answer and a complex answer to this question. I’ll give you both.
EASY ANSWER: AFT’s commitment to LGBTQIA issues is very plain to see. My show being about me, a practicing gay (Remember. Practice makes perfect.) seemed a good fit.
COMPLEX: There’s an energy at AFT that I love. They are working without ego. It’s not about how will we be seen or what this will get us. At AFT, it genuinely feels like everyone wants to tell a story the best way they can for as many people as they can reach. That is an energy I find very attractive. I hope this is the beginning of a long-standing relationship between myself and AFT.
You and the director of “Methtacular!” Adam Fitzgerald have such a close relationship. How crucial is it to have someone like that when creating such a personal work?
So, Adam and I are exes. We dated for four years actually. We began working on this piece after we were broken up for sometime and had moved on to being friends. I say all that because A) I think it’s fun trivia about the show and B) It is the reason we have such a strong working relationship.
When I began working on this show, I wasn’t even sure it was a show. I wasn’t sure what it was other than my writing down the stories. Adam was my editor from the very beginning. He was the outside ears and eyes telling me when a story was superfluous. (P.S. No stories felt superfluous to me. If it were up to me, the show would be four and a half hours long with no intermission.)
Adam also knows me as a performer. He has a shorthand in communicating with me that very few people have. He can say to me, “You think you’re being sexy there, but you just seem mean.” Or he can say, “You don’t have to be funny there. The line you wrote is funny.” Stuff like that. He gets how to communicate stuff to me in a way that really drives me as a performer of my own work.
People may not be aware that there is a lot of material from your original writing that didn’t make it into the 90 minutes that has become “Methtacular!” How you do approach editing your life to make it into a show?
Haha. See above. Adam says, “Cut it.” I say, “You don’t know anything about anything.” Then, after an hour or so, I say, “You’re right.” It’s about finding an arc of a show. I’ve had to cut my three favorite stories in the show. I perform them at storytelling events, but they are gone forever from “Methtacular!”. You have to be willing to kill your jokes, especially your favorite ones.
Part-way through “Methtacular!”, you transform the show into a game show. What inspired that part of the show?
So, one of the things that got cut from the show was a story called, “The Write Source” (which we filmed and is posted on YouTube here.)
It acted as a palette-cleanser before diving back into the second half of the story. Adam felt, rightfully, that it got us off track in the story. After much gnashing of my teeth, I relented and cut that story. However, I was still convinced that I needed something there to act as a little break for everyone. The idea of the game show just sort of came to me. I suggested it, and Adam was wary. I stuck to my guns, and eventually I won out. It found its way into the show when we workshopped the show in Cincinnati and we haven’t looked back.
Super important and serious follow up question: What is your favorite game show?
This is a super-difficult question for me…a real Sophie’s choice moment….
I would say my Top 5 in no particular order are
1) The Match Game
2) Sale of the Century
4) Press Your Luck
5) The Liar’s Club
Okay, after looking at this list, I would say my favorite was The Match Game, with Jeopardy close behind.