The Art Inventory

Mark Siano Takes ‘White Hot’ To West Of Lenin

by Kirby Lindsay, posted 18 January 2012


A production photo from 'White Hot', featuring Hannah Franklin and Tommy Smith Photo by John Cornicello

In Seattle’s live theater scene, Mark Siano said he’s, “known as a comedy guy, a cabaret guy.”  That’s where he’s built his reputation, through his work with the comedy troupe The Habit, and musical comedies like his Modern Luv.  “I always considered myself the gateway drug to legitimate theater,” he explained.

For a three week run, from January 27th – February 11th, Siano will produce actual legitimate theater, with Tommy Smith’s play White Hot, at West of Lenin.  “My big experiment in heavy drama,” Siano described White Hot, “I’m trying to see how many will follow me down the rabbit hole.”

Backing the Right Play

An illustrator (he displayed his works here during a First Friday Art Walk in June 2011) and actor (recently in the Café Nordo offering, To Savor Tomorrow,) “all I ask,” he said, is to have, “’Prolific Artist’ on my tombstone.”

Poster design by Judah Stevenson

As a producer, through his non-profit, “completely independent,” nomadic theatrical company Marxiano Productions, he already has earned the title.  “I’ve produced probably two dozen shows in the last five years,” Siano reported.  He tries to stage three big shows a year, with a few smaller cabaret shows in between.

“I’m usually in the shows that I produce,” Siano admitted, but when he looked at White Hot, “the two [male] roles in the show, I didn’t think I was right for.”  Instead, director Braden Abraham (who also serves as Assistant Artistic Director at Seattle Repertory Theatre) cast solid acting talent – many of whom Siano knows from his own circles.  The cast features Ray Tagavilla (who worked with Siano on ‘To Savor…’,) Vancouver based actress Kimberley Sustad, and Hannah Victoria Franklin (Siano described her as, “probably one of my favorite actresses working in Seattle right now.”)

A production still from 'White Hot', featuring Kimberley Sustad and Ray Tagavilla Photo by John Cornicello

Tommy Smith, the playwright, also has a part.  “I’m a fan of Tommy’s work.  I saw his play Sextet last year,” Siano said, “and absolutely loved it!”  The two are also friends, which might be why Siano has been so willing to step back on this production.  “It’s not my vision that is going up on that stage,” he explained, but that of Abraham and the rest of a strong, creative team.

Still, with White Hot Siano takes a daring step, for him.  “I didn’t write it.  I’m not starring in it.  No dance numbers, no sketches with a funny punch line…” he explained.  With all of his productions he allowed, “it’s never easy to get people to see what you are doing,” he said, “you just have to make a good case.  Once you get them,” and give them quality, he said, “they’ll keep coming back.  They’ll love you!”

Selecting the Right Venue

Promotional photo for 'Modern Luv', featuring Mark Siano and Opal Peachy Photo by Stephen Vest

Looking over his calendar for 2012, Siano expects White Hot to be his only show produced in Fremont.  March 15th – 17th, Marxiano Productions presents Modern Luv, written and starring Siano, with Opal Peachy, at The Triple Door.  He particularly liked that venue due to its 300 seat capacity, and ability to accommodate a musical.  He has reason to expect this show to draw crowds – as it takes off for an engagement in New York.

When Siano looked at White Hot, he said he knew, “West of Lenin is perfect for this show.”  The smaller space will provide an intimacy to the production.  However, he’d also been looking for a production for A.J. Epstein’s new theater.  While planning to build the theater, Siano reported, “[Epstein] said, ‘I want you to bring some work here.’”

“Honestly, I go to the best venue for the show,” Siano explained.  A lot of factors go into deciding which that might be, including the size audience the piece can attract.  He doesn’t want actors playing to empty seats, and “I’m going to the biggest theater I can fill,” he stated. 

A production photo for 'White Hot', featuring Tommy Smith and Hannah Franklin Photo by John Cornicello

Marxiano Productions, a 501(c)3, isn’t about profit, (“there’re no delusions of producing theater to get rich,” he observed,) but each production needs to do its best, and hopefully provide a stake for another show.  “I’m a guy who likes to put on events, and bring people together,” he explained.

In May, he’ll perform again with Café Nordo, in Cabinet of Wonders at Washington Hall, an unconventional venue for theater, for an unconventional production.  In November, The Habit take the stage at the Green Lake Bathhouse Theatre, where they will fill the seats.  “The Habit always has to turn people away,” Siano admitted, “it’s a problem that you want to have.”

With White Hot, Siano welcomes the chance to offer Fremont audiences, and Marxiano Productions supporters, this drama about people making bad choices at West of Lenin.  “Tommy [Smith, the playwright] wants you to sit there and think about what you’ve done with your life,” Siano described, and the comfortable, professional theater space is perfect for doing so.

Tickets to White Hot cost from $9 – $18, and can be purchased at Brown Paper Tickets.  While it’s in Fremont, check out the ‘pitch black psychodrama,’ as the posters describe it, ‘just in time for winter’ – and note the warning also given – ‘don’t bring the kids.”

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©2012 Kirby Lindsay.  This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws.  Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.

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