Rossi (aka Chef Rossi), yes, she only has one name, has been a writer for many publications, such as The Daily News, The New York Post,Time Out New York and Mcsweeney's to name a few. In addition to being a writer and nationally recognized chef, she is also a playwright who has cooked up a new play just in time for this year's virtual Rogue Theatre Festival 2020. In this interview with festival founder, Allison Hohman, the prolific artist (because good cuisine is, afterall, art) talks about her new play debuting Friday, December 11th at 8:30pm, Halloween 1981, directed by Charmaine Broad (also interviewed here).
Conversation with Halloween 81 Playwright, Rossi.
Allison Hohman: Where did you get the inspiration for writing your piece? Rossi: “Halloween 1981” came from a real life experience I had when I was a teenager with a wild and fabulous friend who helped me accept my true self, rather loudly.
Allison Hohman: What is your writing process? When inspiration strikes? One hour a day? Rossi: I tend to write in fits, nothing for days, or weeks and then something will set me off and suddenly I am writing non-stop. I once locked myself in a 200 sq. foot apartment on the Provincetown bay in January in a blizzard and wrote non-stop for a month.
Allison Hohman: How did you first get involved with theater and becoming a playwright? Rossi: My Memoir “The Raging Skillet” was published in 2015. On the first stop on the book tour I met a wonderful playwright who insisted on adapting my book for the stage. The two year process to get there sucked me in forever. Raging Skillet has now been performed in 7 theaters and counting. As a writer my greatest love and (I think talent) is writing dialogue. I felt right at home writing plays.
Allison Hohman: What do you love about this piece and what will others love about it? Rossi: This play is about transformation and pride. I love the no- nonsense, blunt honesty. I think audiences will find it hilarious. It’s about accepting yourself, damn the torpedoes.
Allison Hohman: How important do you think it is for theatre festivals to offer opportunities for new or up and coming playwrights? Rossi: So important. We need our voices heard. If a tree screams in the forest and no one hears it, what’s the point. I mean, other than that screaming does feel kinda good.
Allison Hohman: Have you participated in theater festivals before? What was that experience like? What has your experience with Rogue Theater Festival been? Rossi: I have been in theater festivals several times. I have been blessed with mostly working with fantastic people, but I’ve also had the experience of being treated like I should be groveling in appreciation just to be there by pretentious people. Not fun. I love Rogue so much. They really care about the writers and it shows. Very kind and supportive.
Allison Hohman: How has the rehearsal and performance process differed now in Covid times vs. regular times? Rossi: This was originally supposed to be performed live at the theater, now it’s being filmed with a small crew and later live streamed. Rehearsals have been fun, safe and joyful. Everyone appreciates having the chance to perform.
Allison Hohman: If you weren’t a playwright, what would you be doing? Rossi: I would write another book. Tape my podcast. Drink sparkling rose’. But then I’m doing that anyway.
Allison Hohman: Any advice for aspiring playwrights? Rossi: Write, write, write and get your plays read and performed any chance you get. Write about everything. The craziest things wind up being amazing theater. Presently I want to write about fighting over the last of the two-ply toilet paper in a grocery store during the corona NYC shut down in March.
Allison Hohman: What’s up next for you? Rossi: I just finished my second memoir “Queen of the Jews” and I’m looking for a publisher. I’d like to have more of my short plays performed on the radio. I grew up on radio drama theater and love it. Raging Skillet the play is coming to Sedona Arizona in 2021. I also can’t wait to start hugging again. I’d like to do some serious post Covid hugging in 2021.
Conversation with Charmaine Broad, Director
Allison Hohman: When were you first inspired to be a director? Charmaine Broad: I've been an actor for quite awhile, and was asked by an actor friend to direct her in TV Short. It was a Challenge but turned out to be really enjoyable for both of us AND we got a splendid finished product! I was hooked!!
Allison Hohman: What is your preparation process before going into rehearsals? Charmaine Broad: I read over the script many times beforehand to get a feeling for the play.
Allison Hohman: How did you get involved with theater and directing? Charmaine Broad: I've been involved in theatre since I was in the 3rd grade, when I starred in an original Valentine's Day play! Creating a character or a tableau is exciting for me, and hopefully for my audience.
Allison Hohman: What did you love most about directing this piece and what will others love about it? Charmaine Broad: This piece, Halloween 1981, is a comedic piece with a poignant story underlying the humor. It's very well written and is totally relatable to everyone--straight, gay, young, old--the gamut!
Allison Hohman: What has been most exciting about bringing this script to life? Most challenging? Charmaine Broad: Working with Covid has been very challenging. This play is a rather intimate piece and some touching would have been optimal. That being said, the actors have worked around this beautifully!
Allison Hohman: What are some things this rehearsal and performance process has taught you? Charmaine Broad: I adore both my actors and it has been great to let them play, and find the characters voices!
Allison Hohman: How has the rehearsal and performance process differed now in Covid times vs. regular times? Charmaine Broad: OMG!! 6 feet apart and masks??? So different!! This play is very touchy feely (or can be) and it certainly isn't now!
Allison Hohman: If you weren’t a director, what would you be doing? Charmaine Broad: Certainly not running for President!
Allison Hohman: Any advice for aspiring directors? Charmaine Broad: Stay involved! Stay interested! See as much theatre as you possibly can! See everything from small theatre presentations on a lawn to Broadway! Be Generous! There is something nice to be said about all performance and plays---the show is on it's feet and people are working. Be positive!
Allison Hohman: What’s up next for you? Charmaine Broad: I am a member of The Carnival Girls --a theatre company made up entirely of women ranging from teenagers to octogenarians. We are cooking up something for the beginning of next year, with one of our members who is living in England. Will keep you posted!! Very exciting indeed....!
About the Play
On Halloween morning, 1981, Rossi is awakened far too early by Rodney, her loud and flamboyant friend. Despite her complaining, Rodney demands she come out to the Halloween parade in Greenwich Village. While searching her apartment for a make-shift custom for Rossi to wear, Rodney forces her to see and accept who she really is. Then to embrace it, rather loudly.
More about the Playwright
Rossi, yes, she only has one name -– has been a writer for many publications, such as The Daily News, The New York Post, Time Out New York and Mcsweeney's to name a few. She has been the food writer of the "Eat Me" column for Bust magazine since 1998, hosts her own hit radio show on WOMR and WFMR in Cape Cod called "Bite This," now in its sixteenth season, has been featured on "The Food Network" and "NPR” and has been a popular blogger for “The Huffington Post.” As the owner and executive chef of "The Raging Skillet," a cutting-edge catering company known for breaking any and all rules, Rossi has earned a reputation as the one to call when it's time to do something different. The Raging Skillet has been called "a new breed of rebel anti-caterer" by The New York Times, "the wildest thing this side of the mason Dixon line" by Zagat and has been named among The Knot’s Best Of Wedding Caterers or New York City 10 years running.
On November of 2015 Rossi’s first memoir; The Raging Skillet/The True Life Story of Chef Rossi was published from the Feminist Press to rave reviews.
“That Raging Skillet” was adapted for the stage in 2017 and has been a sold out smash hit in theaters nationwide from Theater Works in Hartford, to The New Jewish Theatre in St. Louis, The Wellfleet Harbor Actor’s Theatre on Cape Cod, The Jewish Play Project in New York City, The Center Stage Theatre in Rochester and coming in 2021 to the Emerson Theater Collective in Sedona Arizona.
Rossi has been voted one of GO Magazine’s “100 Women We Love.”
“It just takes a little imagination and a lot of Chutzpah to open minds,” says Rossi “and a killer barbecue sauce.”
Rossi has just finished her screenplay adaptation of “The Raging Skillet!” She has written two full length plays; “Miss New Jersey” and “Queen of the Jews.” Her short plays; have been performed by The Jewish Women’s Theater in Los Angeles, by The Village Playwrights in New York City and by Undiscovered Works and Dixon Place in New York City. Her second memoir, “Queen of the Jews” is near completion. In 2020 in answer to the pandemic, she launched her first solo podcast Raging and Eating. It is available on iTunes, Spotify, Anchor, Apple Podcasts and Overcast.