Point Break Live!, the stage production of everyone’s favorite Anthony Keidis movie, comes to San Francisco tonight, with more shows one Friday a month in December and January. When my friend Brian Gavin offered me his interview with Point Break Live! producer/director Thomas Blake, I jumped at the chance. Hell, I was so excited I shot my gun in the air and went “ARRGGGHHHH.” I mean, who doesn’t love Point Break? Even the Academy felt so bad about not giving it every award ever that they nominated Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty for best picture to try to make it up to Kathryn Bigelow.
Below, Thomas Blake delivers the scoop on how to show big wave surfing and skydiving for under $100, trying to do a play in Vegas, and Gary Busey chasing the cast around with a water gun. Enjoy, butthorns. -Vince
Thomas Blake is Director/Producer of the West Coast production of Point Break Live! He licensed the show from its creator, Jaimie Keeling, who runs the New York production.
1. Where are you from originally? Where do you consider home now?”
North Carolina… Wrightsville Beach. So, the coast side. LA now. I was in New York getting our other live show Terminator Too: Judgment Play ready for about a year and a half. But now I’m back in LA working on Point Break and Terminator out there.
2. Are you a surfer?
Yeah. No fifty year storm or Mavericks or anything. But I’ve travelled all over the world surfing.
3. How would you describe your duties as a producer/director?
Babysitting (laughs). It’s a lot of fun and a lot of work even though it’s made to look like it’s easy to do. So it makes it more accessible to people that might not be super into theater. We want people to think, ‘Oh, I could have done that in my backyard.’ My biggest thing as a producer/director is to make sure my cast is having fun. The biggest complement we can get is ‘Oh my God, it looks like you guys are having a blast.’
4. When did you join PBL?
The original Point Break Live! started in 2003 in Seattle, created by Jaime Keeling, and she runs the production in New York now. I joined as an actor when it came to Manhattan in 2006. When it came to LA they asked me to direct and produce it. And in LA is when it really took off. We brought it up to San Francisco for a couple years and it really took off here as well. Some not so great moments were when we tried to take it to Las Vegas and that was a little weird for us because we’re sort of punk rock theater and that didn’t really translate to Planet Hollywood, with old people coming in expecting to see Cirque Du Soleil.
5. When you joined did you know what you were signing up for?
Growing up as a surfer, I loved Point Break. I saw they were having auditions for Point Break Live! in Manhattan and that’s where it started for me. But when I got into the show, I almost quit four or five times. When you’re rehearsing it and you don’t see the gimmick of pulling someone up from the audience… Every single person who came into that rehearsal process was wondering if it was actually going to work. We were like rehearsing in people’s back yards. I didn’t get it until the first show we performed. When you see it for the first time, it makes sense. It’s much easier now that it’s been a hit, you don’t have to convince people as much. Back then we didn’t know anything about it.
6. Do you think Point Break Live! has helped create two different levels of appreciation for the movie?
Yeah… we’ve had Gary Busey come to the show and he was telling us about ‘Utah, get me two,’ which was a throw away line that wasn’t meant to be funny. We don’t change the script much, but in our context it becomes funny. Even the writer of Point Break, Peter Illif, he comes all the time and loves sees it as a homage to the movie. Even he thinks it’s hilarious now. The beauty of what we do is taking these overly serious things and portray them in a way that comes across as funny. How are you gonna show big wave surfing or skydiving for under $100? That’s what makes it funny.
7. It’s been a couple years since Point Break Live! has been in San Francisco. Did you go on hiatus?
It did great here. The people here are insane. The LA crowd is great but can get a little bit worried about what people are thinking about them and trying to be a little more cool. Up here people just get drunk and crazy and soak it all in. The only reason we stopped it up here is because we wanted to try it in Vegas. We stopped it and have been waiting for the right time to get back.
8. Are most of the cast and crew professional actors?
On this show we’re bringing most of the LA cast up to San Francisco. Most of them are actors. We’ve been doing it so long, now even if people have gone on to do other things outside of acting, they still want to come back to this. We’ve also had people who book TV shows and movies because of the show
9. How does someone join the cast?
When we came up to San Francisco and had a cast up here, because there’s not as many actors up here, I would literally put out casting calls just for surfers. These surfer dudes would show up and we’d be like ‘you know what, you got it.’ We’re also a very tight-knit group. We do this one and we do Terminator together. It’s so hard to teach our style to people coming in from traditional theater backgrounds, so we tend to keep the people that get it.
10. Are there differences between the New York production and this one?
Jaimie Keeling runs the current New York production and she does some cool things that we don’t do and we try things that she hasn’t. She has like a live guitar player that rips a Dick Dale-y kind of soundtrack. We’re always trying to up our ante, so we’re adding a zipline above the audience. So we’re gonna have the bank robbers zip line over the crowd. The shows all change for the various cities as well because you want to make every city feel like it’s their show and that’s how we get people to come over and over again. They want to be the person that found it and then tell their friends about this underground thing that they found. We have people that have come 20 times. We want to make every city feel like it’s theirs. We’re also trying to get the people that wouldn’t normally go to a theater show where it’s like, here’s a chance to have something to do besides go to the bar and have a good time and be a little artistic also.
11. So the original cast members have been supportive of the show?
Busey showed up the first time really early and came in all scary, especially to the guy playing his character Pappas, like ‘Don’t mess up my show! If you suck I’m gonna rip your head off and shit down your throat!’ And then he sat in the front row and five minutes into it he was grabbing water guns, and getting up on stage chasing people around. And three weeks ago, Lori Petty, who played Tyler in the movie, came in and auditioned for Johnny Utah and won. That was really epic to have one of the stars in the show.
12. What’s the strangest Point Break Live! related encounter you’ve had since you’ve been doing this?
I met Keanu once when we were doing the shows. He’s never come, but one night after we finished doing a show, there was a sister bar nearby that called us and were like ‘you gotta get over here, Keanu Reeves is here.’ It was right around Halloween so I was like, whatever. But I went over there with some flyers and brought a poster and sure enough it was Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, Bill and Ted, sitting at the bar together. And I mentioned the show to Keanu and said you should come and audition and he was like, ‘But what if I didn’t win, you know, that would suck!” At the show itself we’ve had all kinds of crazy stories. We’ve had people visiting from Japan who don’t know English audition and of course the audience picks them. So people who can’t even read English have gone on and tried to guess what the words are and people still went nuts for it. We’ve also had brawls break out during shows, so you never know what you’re gonna get.
13. What about Terminator 2 made you want to recreate that on stage?
Everyone always asks how we’re going to outdo ourselves or what we’re going to adapt next. There are certain elements movies have to have for them to work in our setting. They have to be cheesy, they have to have these really big lines that people are on the edge of their seats waiting to scream out, and they have to be very serious. Sometimes people ask why don’t we do comedies. You can’t do a comedy because it’s already funny. You have to pick the overly serious things and make them funny. If not, you’re just kind of recreating a comedy on stage, whereas we’re spoofing which is a different thing. Another thing with Terminator is that it allows us an actor we can make fun of. Also, in Terminator, Arnold’s character is naked in the first part of the movie. So the person from the audience that is picked gets thrown back stage and put in like skin tone spandex with a drawn on six pack and we just open the curtain on them and they’re standing there naked. Terminator 2 was the more memorable one and it had the elements we were looking for. We are about to have its one year anniversary in LA in November.
14. When can we expect Terminator Too: Judgment Play in San Francisco?
Soon. We’re gonna roll Point Break Live! back into San Francisco and get the vibe going again and probably roll Terminator in right behind it. Terminator is a little crazier than Point Break – we want to up the ante. There’s a lot more interaction, there’s a lot more running around the audience, there’s a lot more water, and a ton more blood. People are getting shot all over the place in Terminator so people in the audience are just covered when they leave.
15. Are you working on anything else outside of Point Break and Terminator?
Right now that’s about it. We do a lot of shorts and web series down in Los Angeles. There’s a couple other ideas I have for new shows, but right now it’s pretty wide open with both of these shows – we’ll do Point Break Friday once a month in San Francisco, San Diego, and Hermosa between now and January, then Saturday Terminator in LA, and Sunday Point Break in LA. And if this show takes off in San Francisco and we’re selling out, then I’ll recast it full time up here..
16. Any advice for newbies interested in acting/performing, wanting to find a good situation?
I would say make your own situation. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past seven years. You can sit around and wait for people to call you, but it’s better to surround yourself with really creative people and then just go make your own stuff. Do what you really like. If you’re not having fun, your audience will know right away and they’ll check out. Make your own stuff, do what you like, and don’t take yourself too seriously ever.
The whats and wheres of the show:
DNA Lounge, 375 Eleventh Street, San Francisco, CA 94103, tel: 415-626-1409, Web: http://www.dnalounge.com
Friday, November 1, 2013 with shows at 7:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.
Friday, December 6, 2013 with shows at 7:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.
Friday, January 3, 2014 with shows at 7:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.
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