After “Greater Tuna” closes every Friday and Saturday night through September at TheatreNOW (see review here), the dinner theatre shifts the action from the conservative, backwoods laughter of its inhabitants in Tuna, Texas. A late-night show takes over the stage in true Larry Sanders style, as local comedian and actor Reid Clark has brought to life his original production, “Percy Late Night.”
After binge-watching “The Larry Sanders Show,” Clark found himself in the midst of a life change and drawn to Sanders’ frustrated outlook on show business. So he wrote “Percy Late Nigh” about a disgruntled talk show host trying to exit out of the Hollywood machine.
“[But then] a young woman sneaks into his office looking for a job,” Clark tells, “[and] they both find more than what they were looking for.”
Starring local actors, comedians and even some newbies—Jordan Bench, Lydia Manning, Wills Maxwell Jr., Derek West, JJ LaBeet, Carli Lind, Penelope Glover, and Zeb Mims—the show runs through Sept. 30, at 10 p.m. We caught up with Clark to learn a little more about “Percy Late Night” and his quadruple-threat role as writer, director, producer, and star.
encore (e): What was the impetus to write this show? Where did idea come from?
Reid Clark (RC): I had just dropped out of college for the second time, so every day I dedicated time to write this idea I had. It probably took me about two weeks to get out a first draft. I did have some local comedians and actors in mind for some of the roles but only after the script was written.
e: Tell me about the roles and how your actors are fulfilling them.
Jordan Bench is the show’s executive producer, Fred. He sets the tone. Lydia Manning plays Andre, the head writer of the show, played as a man. Wills Maxwell Jr. is the affable sidekick, Jake, who wants to be young again, while Derek West is part of “The Network” and makes sure the show makes the advertisers happy. JJ LaBeet is the young lady, Felicity, who sneaks into Percy’s office, looking for a job opportunity. Zeb Mims is the insult comic, Johnny Casserole. Penelope Glover is Natasha, the assistant to Percy
Ian Radcliffe is the technical assistant. Carli Lind is the assistant director, stage manager—my right hand, my left hand, my extra pair of eyes and ears, my angel.
e: What’s your role in “Percy Late Night”? Did you write it specifically because it’s a character you’ve wanted to portray?
RC: My role in the show is writer, director, producer, and star. This has been quite a challenge for me. It is hard to go from actor to director—especially when I wrote the project. I tried to avoid starring in this play, but it was the best casting we could manage.
There are many parts of the main character that are drawn from my personal experience as a son and it was hard to dig into that. Every night it takes a little out of me.
e: So how does it feel to be so intimately involved from writer to actor to director? What’s it like juggling these hats, and how is each part of the experience helping you grow in your craft?
RC: It is a lot to take on, but I don’t have a day job, so I’ve been pretty dedicated. I’m newer to directing than acting, but I’ve enjoyed the process of sharing acting lessons with people with little experience. I have a solid group of professionals behind the whole process. Fracaswell Hyman, Zach Hanner and Steve Coley all have let me know when I do something wrong, and I’m grateful.
e: What do you love most about doing this production?
RC: I love watching people for their first time crush theatre. I love having my friends around and working with people that just want to laugh all the time. I’ve gotten good responses from friends and honest critiques from better friends. By the time this gets out, we shall be close to perfection.
e: What are the challenges and most exciting gratifications thus far?
RC: It has been challenging working with people who have never done theatre before. It was also challenging being an actor and a director simultaneously. We had a lot of casting issues in the beginning that were solved. Mostly, the process of putting up a play has been a new experience for me, but I had a wonderful crew. I could have not done any of this without Carli Lind.
e: Describe this world you’ve crafted onstage and why folks will relate to it?
Many people watch late-night talk shows every night, but they never see behind the scenes. There are a lot of characters that the people can relate to. This is a world of people who are good with words. There are jokes after jokes after jokes, so by the time we get to the exposition and other literary tropes, the audience is so engaged. Just like a solid stand-up comedy set.
e: Are there themes to the show parallel to real-life currently and the paradigm of late night talk shows?
RC: As an entertainer, there are elements that are close to me just working in show business. We try to update the show nightly with relevant jokes. During the live taping part, there are elements of improv and every show is different because of this.
e: Is it your first original production?
RC: No—my last original production was a film called “Hobo Hustle.” I wrote that after the first time I dropped out of school. Anytime I’m depressed and confused about my place in the world, I write. I was lucky enough to shoot it with some friends of mine who later moved on to the North Carolina School of the Arts.
No, I’m not bitter…