We make no bones about our love for Ian Bell’s ridiculously funny movie parody productions at Re-bar staged with his fellow “Brown Derby Players”, Nick Garrison, Imogen Love, Dusty Warren, Ade, Rebecca M Davis and many other beloved Seattle comedic actors. But, Mr Bell wasn’t satisfied with spreading his brand of comedic sass to the debauched gays and hipsters and gay hipsters at Re-bar…he’s decided the older, more conservative audiences at ACT need a good comic goosing so he’s bringing them a brand new quarterly theatrical event he likes to call, “Seattle Confidential”, which premieres this coming Monday, February 7 at ACT’s Bullitt Theater. We rang Mr. Bell’s bell, and requested an interview, and one of Seattle’s busiest hyphenates, (actor/producer/director/mangler of famous film scripts) agreed to have a chin wag about his new show, the future of Brown Derby, and a bit o’gossip about all sorts of silly things.
Michael Strangeways: Are you often mistaken for Ian Bell the famous British cricket player, or Ian Bell the famous British computer game creator, or Ian Bell the famous Bellevue dentist? They all, inexplicably, have high search results on Google…
Ian Bell: Being mistaken for one another is not that much of a problem, since we are Fraternal Quadruplets and not Identical. But we all do share an intense emotional connection, so that when one of us “Bowls a Jaffa”, “Phracks” a competitor, or performs a particularly satisfying “Molar Luxation”, we ALL feel it as if it’s happening to ourselves. Also, all the “Ian Bells” share a secret quadruplet language we only speak with each other – oops I wasn’t supposed to tell!
MS: What a disturbing answer…You have a new quarterly show starting at ACT’s Heating Lab, Seattle Confidential next Monday, February 7…what’s it all about, and where did you get the idea?
IB: Seattle Confidential is part social experiment, part voyeuristic theatre event. The idea is to present a new theme each quarter, and ask greater Seattle to submit writings and take a survey based on that theme. The submissions and surveys are completely anonymous, so people are encouraged to be fearless, frank, and forthcoming. After we have tabulated all the surveys and selected the best written submissions, I put what once was a secret into the mouths of Seattle’s finest actors for all to hear!
I really love a theatre experience that is immediately relevant to the audience, and allows them to take stake in what is happening on stage, and I don’t think a theatre needs to resort to “Improv” to do this. Having the audience submit stories and fill out surveys about their personal life is one way to do this, and the cloak of anonymity allows for an honesty to the submissions that is at once dangerous, thrilling and hilarious! (And having skilled, talented actors to bring it all to life is pretty great too!)
The idea was to create an ongoing series for ACT Theatre’s Central Heating Lab. They didn’t yet have something like that, and I had some experience with creating serial theatre events, that build their audience over an extended period of time. So I pitched a few ideas and, after a few adjustments, we ended up with Seattle Confidential. The idea for the show as it exists today, came after taking a road trip with my partner Andrew through the blue highways of the Northwest. As we traveled around, I was struck by how easy it is to strike up conversations with people when you’re an anonymous traveler, and how quickly small talk gave way to personal divulgence – that’s where the element of anonymity worked its way into the show. Seattle Confidential, at its core is basically a live theatrical Blog and, of course I think the concept certainly nods to writing salons like The Moth developed in upstate New York, and This American Life from Chicago Public Radio, – but Seattle Confidential is very much its own event, unique to ACT Theatre and new to Seattle audiences.
MS: What a long answer. Were you pleased with the submissions you received for the first edition? Your first theme is “Virginity Lost”…will we be horrified by some of the stories? Will we cry? Be aroused?
IB: For the first theme of “Virginity Lost” – a natural choice, I thought, for our first show – I have received a really wide swath of fantastic submissions. The audience will hear stories that are sweet, hilarious, terrifying and even a little disgusting. I am having a blast reading through all the submissions we got! I really have to thank all those that submitted on line at www.Seattleconfidential.org and at the drop boxes located at coffee shops and book stores around town, so: if you are reading this, thank you, whoever you are!
MS: Are you sharing your “Virginity Lost” story, secretly, in the mix?
IB: Maybe. (he said with coy, smiling eyes) – you’ll never know for sure, I take the anonymity part of the show very seriously.
MS: Would you at least give us a big theatrical wink when your story comes up?
IB: I can’t promise anything.
MS: Tease…What’s up with the Brown Derby Players at Re-bar? We hear that there is another show coming up and Stephen King movies are this year’s theme…any hints on what we might get for the first show?
IB: Yes indeed! A few blocks away in a venue completely different from ACT’s Bullit Theatre, this March 10,11,&12, I will begin yet another season of the Brown Derby Series at Re-bar. And you are correct: this year we are doing an entire season of Stephen King movies, beginning with THE SHINING! It will feature many of the usual suspects: Dusty Warren as Jack, Nick Garrison as Wendy, Scott Shoemaker as Little Danny, Freddy Molitch as “PacMan” Crothers, and many more!
MS: Would you please re-stage Carrie? I didn’t see it when you did it originally.
IB: Actually, that is probably going to close the season out in September or October. It was the last show of the first Brown Derby season (that seems like an eternity ago -back in 1946, I think it was). Back then we only ran Brown Derby shows for one night only, on Mondays. It will be fun to dust off the original script I kept, and get another run at it -especially now that the style has evolved so much! I am hoping I can get Nick to reprise his role as Ms. Spacek.
MS: That would be amazing! Another Brown Derby actor, Scott Shoemaker, has been whining lately that he always plays weirdos, freaks and the unattractive…any plans to make him a leading man? Cujo maybe?
IB: As an actor myself, I understand the frustration of type casting – I myself am always being cast as the attractive, mysterious, sex symbol – it’s a burden, I know, but Mr. Shoemaker will just has to accept his lot the way I have.
MS: Biggest Brown Derby Diva? Details!
IB: No comment – hold on: my personal masseur is here to give me my hourly rub down… (30 minutes later)…Ah, thank you, Julian! That was lovely! Oh – and Julian? You were thirty-seven seconds late, Sweetie. So… you’re fired. I’m what? Typing and talking at the same time!? Oh my, thank you for telling me Julian. You’re still fired. Bye!
Now where we ?
MS: Nice try, Mr Bell: I think you’re just covering up for Dusty Warren…I hear he’s a monster.
IB: Well, it’s true that when Miss Warren starts swinging her silk bitch purse, we give her a wide berth.
MS: What else is going on in Ian Bell-Land? Anything big to plug? (yes, we are aware that sounds awful…)
Any other GIGS to plug?
IB: I always have a few irons in the fire, but I like to keep them in there until they are glowing, white hot. The nature of producing your own work is that until a press release goes out and posters are up, plans can change and projects move around. But I will make sure that Seattle Gay Scene is the first to hear about the latest announcements when they are ready to be unveiled.
MS: Obviously you love films. If you could be a fly on the wall on the set for the filming of ANY film ever made and observe the production, which would you choose and why? (Or, theater production if you prefer.)
IB: Any film with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton – I’m a big fan of witnessing spectacular fiasco and over-the-top delusion… from afar, at least.
MS: My Taylor-Burton choice would be BOOM! just because I haven’t seen it, and any film directed by Joseph Losey and based on Tennessee Williams, has to be AWESOME!
IB: BOOM! would be the creme de la creme, the crown jewel, the greatest of them all! Burton, Taylor, Williams, AND (Noel) Coward! Good lord, even as a fly on the wall, it would be hard not getting sucked into the pull of that black hole!
MS: You’re to be given a $1m bucks but you can only spend it in Seattle and it has to be used to better the arts/theater community. What would you do with the money?
IB: I have always wanted to open my own venue – but I think everybody has a fantasy about “running the zoo” and it doesn’t always end up bettering the arts/theatre community. Perhaps I’d start a fund for actors that subsidizes living expenses like rent and utilities, or allows them to finance their own union contracts so they can keep working, even if at smaller lower budget theaters.
Awww….that’s a GOOD answer! But, I’d rather he open his own Brown Derby Theater and it MUST be shaped like an actual Brown Derby.
Thanks to Mr Bell for participating in our silly, but informative, interview and make sure you check out Seattle Confidential at ACT next Monday (and, quarterly throughout the year) and The Shining at Re-bar in March.