“Late Night” Playwright Kat Sandler on Ageism, Theatre and ZoomerLive
The Dora Award-winning scribe opens up about staging her hit play “Late Night” at the Zoomerplex’s TV studio and her collaboration with ZoomerMedia founder Moses Znaimer.
The world of late night talk shows isn’t all monologues and one-liners. Sometimes the punch lines turn sour, from tussles over The Tonight Show hosting gig to the ongoing battle for ratings and viral web views. But what happens when a show’s host is ousted because he’s deemed too old, unfit to keep pace with the Carpool Karaoke generation?
That’s the launching point for the innovative new stage production Late Night, penned by Dora Award-winning playwright Kat Sandler during the 2015 Toronto Fringe Festival’s 24-hour playwriting contest, in which she earned first prize. An ensemble “dramedy” led by Dora-nominated actor Alon Nashman and actress Kat Letwin, Late Night spotlights the bungled final broadcast of Marty O’Malley’s (Nashman) Early Late Show program, where the outgoing host shares his desk with his replacement, the much younger Sarah Goldberg (Lewin). Zoomermedia founder and CEO Moses Znaimer, who executive produced the play, notes that, at his suggestion, Late Night “has been significantly reworked to focus on Ageism as well as Sexism; themes that are relevant to our Zoomer/CARP audience and Millennials alike.”
Adding to the atmosphere of chaos on set is the fact that the play about a TV show is being staged inside an actual television studio, part of a new initiative called ZoomerLive. “ZoomerLive is an experiment to see if a new intimate venue for live paid events can be established in the ZoomerPlex, our multi-media production and event facility in Toronto’s Liberty Village,” Znaimer, whose long-running interactive theatre production Tamara earned rave reviews in major cities across North America, South America and Europe, says. When it comes to Late Night, he adds, “What’s even more unusual than a theatre piece presented in an actual TV studio is the fact that five of the performances will also be shot to create a future broadcast on VisionTV.”
Zoomer’s Mike Crisolago recently spoke with Late Night playwright Kat Sandler about this groundbreaking production.
MIKE CRISOLAGO: How did you conceive the play for the Fringe Festival’s 24-hour playwriting contest?
KAT SANDLER: They give you three words, three ideas that you’re supposed to write on. One was some Freudian slip, one was a fistfight and one was a pirate. So the pirate has gone by the wayside but I’ve kept the two other things that kind of inspired it. Of the 24 hours, I think I spent eight writing and the rest just freaking out and surfing the Internet to get inspired. It was right around the time that The Daily Show was kind of up for grabs and Letterman retired and I think it was just kind of in the zeitgeist. And I’d been thinking a lot about my own career and being a woman in comedy, and my father having to retire from his job. I think it was all there — it just kind of fell into place.
MC: How does it feel to be doing a play about a TV show within an actual television studio?
KS: It feels incredible and we’re really just getting a sense of that now, in crunch time when all the departments are coming together. But there’s also just so many more people involved because we’re running cameras throughout the show. And to be honest, it’s such an opportunity to learn, for someone who’s interested in this field, to get to watch the people at [ZoomerMedia] who are so good and so qualified doing what they do best. And we’re trading words. Like, they’ve learned some theatre words and I’m trying to pick up TV words. It’s been a really amazing coming together of families – two very distinct entities that are finding ways to work together and help each other, and create something that’s going to be a really interesting hybrid of the two.
MC: And it’s interesting that this project, which bridges television and theatre, reflects the show itself, that offers ideas and perspectives that bridge generations.
KS: It’s focused on issues that affect everybody. Ultimately when people say, you know, ‘Theatre audiences are dying and I don’t want to accept change and I don’t like risky plays,’ I just don’t think that’s true.