After winning an Academy Award for his screenplay of “12 Years a Slave” and creating the ABC series “American Crime,” John Ridley has a lot going on — from an upcoming Blumhouse paranormal thriller to a new Batman comic book. But right now he’s equally excited about taking risks Off Broadway, he said on the new episode of Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast.
Listen to this week’s “Stagecraft” podcast below:
Ridley’s No Studios — the Milwaukee-based venue and digital platform that Ridley founded — has teamed up with the New Group and its artistic director Scott Elliott to produced New Group Off Stage, a starry lineup of projects that brings Off Broadway talent to pandemic-friendly forms, including a narrative film, a documentary, a web series and an audio play. Up first: a timely version of “Waiting for Godot,” starring Ethan Hawke, John Leguizamo, Wallace Shawn and Tarik Trotter.
“What’s really exciting to me is that everything that Scott’s doing, it’s just a little bit different,” Ridley said. “It’s not any one thing in particular. And everything needs kind of a ‘Mission: Impossible’ skill set…There’s a different kind of open-mindedness that’s required.”
He added, “It goes back to what art is, aspirationally, all about, which is just a bunch of really crazy people trying some crazy stuff. If you don’t feel like you could fall off a high wire, what are you really doing?”
Ridley, who had already been working with Elliott on a new stage musical adaptation of George S. Schuyler’s “Black No More,” has signed on to New Group Off Stage as a producer and advisor. “He’s come on both as an ally and as a financier for these projects,” Elliott said, appearing alongside Ridley on Stagecraft. That, he said, helped give the stage director the confidence to explore new forms: “We’re shifting focus for a while from a theater company to a theater company who produces films that are sort of theater-based — but they’re films. They’re not theater.”
“That’s how No Studios and the New Group came together,” Ridley added. “With this idea of ‘Can we support small, moderately budgeted projects with either established artists who will potentially draw an audience, or emerging artists who deserve to have their works supported?’”
To hear to the full conversation, listen at the link above, or download and subscribe to Stagecraft on podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and the Broadway Podcast Network. New episodes of “Stagecraft” are released every other week.