Danny Pudi and Nick Blaemire on Found, Community, and Finding Community
The two actors are coming together in a new musical from a team that includes the Tony-nominated cocreator of [title of show] and a couple of Story Pirates.
Found, a new show now premiering off-Broadway at Atlantic Theater Company, is hard to define. So TheaterMania asked cast members Danny Pudi (Abed Nadir on NBC's Community) and Nick Blaemire to explain it. "It's a musical. But it's a straight play with really incredible scenes," said ensemble member and theater newbie Pudi, "and there's a completely different interactive component to it with digital projections."
"It's sort of become like a structured amalgam of a linear play," added Blaemire, who plays Davy, the show's protagonist, "like a sketch comedy show."
"Nick and I kind of represent two sides of the story," Pudi continued bravely. "Nick has what you would consider more of a traditional protagonist kind of story line. And then there are six ensemble members who are these [characters from found notes] that are discovered all across the world. We kind of illuminate the story."
"They act as subtext," explained Nick. "Danny plays upwards of, I would say, fifty characters in the two hours. It's like every time he comes onstage there's somebody else…In ten seconds you learn everything about this person and their perspective on the world through this note that gets projected behind them. And those notes are real."
"And then there's also a weird dancing component to it," Pudi said. "It's really kind of exciting to be in something where you don't really know what it is yet, and you're able to just get into the sand pit and figure it out and play."
The indisputable truth about Found is that it's the brainchild of [title of show]'s Hunter Bell (book), Story Pirates artistic director Lee Overtree (book and direction), and Eli Bolin (music and original lyrics). Based on the popular indie magazine of the same name, Found is inspired by actual events and enough actual discarded notes to feed Danny Pudi's neurosis for years to come.
Danny, why did you decide to step from TV to theater?
Danny Pudi: You know, sometimes when you feel like you just really want to torture yourself a little bit more than you're already tortured. Theater is a great outlet for that.
Nick Blaemire: And it's the money, I'm thinking.
Danny: I think the first thing is it's different…[it's] always exciting to do something you've never done. I'm lucky because of being able to work on something that I feel really creatively fulfilled with with Community. Now I'm always looking for stuff that's equally as interesting or different or diverse. When I read this I knew right away. I was like, this is great because it's a complete departure from what I'm currently doing and it's really exciting and challenging.
What is it like for so much of the show to be based on real people?
Nick: Our artistic director Neil [Pepe] was talking about how it hit him the other day that all of these people represented in the show are probably still alive somewhere in the world and have no idea this is going on. These actors are embodying and bringing life to their most dramatic lost moment in time.
Danny: It's a lot of imagination, really. Because we don't really know who these people are behind the note. We're just trying to find the most honest or funny way to approach it…When you're surrounded by thousands of real found notes and…it's all around you. There's something really precious about looking around and being like, oh, this is like very real. It's bigger than just what I'm saying. These are actual people's thoughts and lives right here. I think that gives us a bigger-picture sense when we're playing around.
Nick: They're all super relatable moments that these people in the notes are having and what's so cool about the show is the moment you read one, without any context, just looking at the way they wrote it, on the kind of paper they wrote it, what words they chose, what they misspelled, what punctuation they used, this whole very detailed story hops off the page…It becomes like this map of the human experience.
What's the vibe like backstage?
Danny: We're sharing a tight space and there's only a curtain separating the women's changing area from the men's changing area.
Nick: The two conversations that are going on are like, I would say, girls dressing room is like "Do you like this top?," "I had this experience with this person, and I'm trying to work it out emotionally."
And ours is, "I just had this experience with the bathroom." "I am hoping that this team wins and or this person helps my fantasy football league."
Danny: Or "Have you seen this video of these two guys trying hot sauces?" That's how we cope before a show. That's our warm-ups.
How has the cast created such a fun rapport?
Danny: I knew it was a tight group and I was one of the new people coming in. But when I talked to Lee and he told me a little bit about the group, he was like, "You're gonna love this group. It's a group of weird people. You're gonna fit right in."
Nick: That is a compliment I think.
Danny: But he's right. It's really cool to be part of something where everyone is really cool and having a good time and doing their own thing.
Nick: But supporting each other.
Danny: Everyone is like, I hate myself, but you're doing great.
Nick: I know I was worried that Danny was gonna be a dick and wear his sunglasses in music rehearsal and that sort of thing.
Nick: Finding a group of people that is interested in being kind and supportive is so rare.
What do you think attracted so many people with the same sensibility to this project?
Danny: I think there's something interesting about this kind of project that probably draws the people who are right for it because it is different.
Nick: We really are luckily getting to do something that is about joy. And is not too cool for school and is not interested in being smarter than you and is just interested in representing you as a human in the same way that we feel about being human.
Danny: It's also a great way to really manage your psychoses, is how I like to think about it. You know Fifty Shades of Grey? This is like Fifty Shades of Danny Pudi. I feel like this is the non-bestselling-book version of that.