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Jeremy Goldstein, talks to Run Riot about his work as an award winning producer

Jeremy Goldstein is the leading independent arts producer who's latest production - Penny Arcade's Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! is showing at The Albany in Deptford. The production has enjoyed a whirlwind series of performances and events that have taken in the Arcola Tent, Old Vic Tunnels, Lovebox, ICA, Gay Pride - and has been nominated for Best One Off Production in the London Cabaret Awards 2012/13. If you haven't seen it - we can't recommend it enough! And - if you have seen it and want to see it again - now's your chance!

His other successes include the original production of Carnesky's Ghost Train (Marisa Carnesky, Paloma Faith, Paul Kieve); Mincemeat (Cardboard Citizens) which won an Evening Standard Award for Best Design in 2009; and A Life in Three Acts (Mark Ravenhill and Bette Bourne) which won a Fringe First in 2010. His projects have attracted audiences of over 300,000 people in cities from New York to Sydney and his work has been described as 'an evocative theatrical wonderland that has pulled off some of the most directional and artistic productions of recent times' (Guardian).

We caught up with Jeremy to ask about his work as a producer. He shares it all - from Grace Jones to Marc Almond - and that time in New York with Michael Clark, Charles Atlas, Michael Stipe and Jarvis Cocker. Stay tuned to the Goldstein story - he's the man with an exciting vision and the know-how to pull it off! Penny Arcade's BITCH! DYKE! FAGHAG! WHORE! at the Albany, 15-23 Dec.

RR: Were you always a luvvie?
Jeremy Goldstein:
Wow – I’ve never really thought of myself as a luvvie as I always imagined them to be clapped out middle-aged queens sporting gin soaked bouffants in West End bars, so no I wouldn’t put myself into that particular box as for starters I don’t have a bouffant or drink gin! But it’s true I have been immersed in theatre and performance my whole life, and for that reason I’ve found it difficult to imagine myself doing anything else. So I guess you could say I’ve always been passionate about the arts – it’s in my blood.  I put it down to my upbringing in an arty bohemian home, and I ran away at the tender age of 15 to join the circus on the streets of Sydney’s queer mecca in Darlinghurst. I shared a bedsit with mates from a gay refuge listening to Marc Almond and lived out my fantasies in all those fabulous clubs and Mardi Gras nights at a time when the music was authentic and the politics really mattered.

On a more practical note I’ve found that over the years there will always be a place for someone like me in the arts because I have the drive and ability to make interesting things happen on a scale that would otherwise not occur.  Eventually you realise there aren’t many people out there who are prepared to stick their neck out and do it well, so I’m blessed in that respect.

RR: Would you agree that your work often gives voice to those on the fringe of mainstream society - the 'outsiders'?
Jeremy Goldstein: I’ve worked on a whole range of projects across the full divide of performing and visual arts drawing audiences of over 300,000 people in cities all over the world.  As the producer I’m often the link between the show and the audience and that’s a big responsibility.  I start each project believing it should be in the mainstream; because if you talk about your shows as being on the ‘fringe’ or margins of society, they tend to stay there and you end up playing to a limited audience made up of your mates and/or peers. That works for some artists I know but it’s not that exciting for me.  

When I started working with Penny, most people told me Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! was a niche event with limited appeal but I thought that was a load of bollocks.  Penny is a consummate entertainer and this is a show that ran for a year Off-Broadway and became a mainstream hit in 25 cities around the world.

When I first read the script and watched the DVD, not only was it incredibly funny, but I could not believe it had been created 20 years ago, as it spoke to me as if it had been written last week.  But like a lot of great theatre, I felt the show had matured and become more powerful over time, and for that reason I thought it would mean more to audiences in 2012 than when it was first performed in 1992.  The last twenty years have seen us drift into a homogenized existence, populated by this X factor fungus for which we haven’t yet found a cure.  These days there is a lot less room for individuality, so when you find it, it hits you like a tidal wave of authenticity and in some ways this is what the show is all about, and one of the main reasons I wanted to do it.  It also addresses a lot of the themes I’d been exploring previously as a creative producer around queer identities, politics, and sexuality.  It simply blew the lid off those issues in a spectacular way, and reinforced how important it is to be true to yourself in amongst all the shit we have to endure in our daily lives.  And to top it off, there is this fabulous dance break where the audience literally storm the stage and take over the theatre in what is a truly liberating experience. Of all the shows I’ve worked on, I felt that Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! is the closest to the way I see the world and that in itself is the connecting thread between a lot of the shows I’ve produced.

RR: Over the last 10 years you've maintained a belief that failure is a pre-requisite for success - can you explain more about this?
Jeremy Goldstein:
I wish I could say that everything I’ve touched has turned to gold but like most people in this business I’ve had my fare share of hits and misses and people who won’t admit to that I tend to be very wary of.  But the misses are part of the course and it’s the shows that don’t work that enable you to hopefully learn from your mistakes and try again.  And because most of the shows I’ve worked on have been newly commissioned (Penny Arcade excluded), you never really know how it will turn out until you see it on a stage. Given the amount of money and ego involved, this can be a terrifying experience if it all falls in a heap, which it has done on more than one occasion.  But deep down I am an optimist and I think that one day I will find my pot of gold and cherry pick the projects I want to do and when. That would be success for me.

RR: What does it mean to you to be included in the Time Out/Hospital Club Culture 100 List as one of the 100 most influential people working in the UK's creative industries for 2012?
Jeremy Goldstein:
It’s incredibly flattering to be included on a list with people like Stella McCartney, Barbara Broccoli, and Grayson Perry and hey what the hell, if the people who put these lists together think I should be on it then who am I to argue.   I can’t deny that the older I get the more important it is to be recognized, especially in my case as for the last 10 years I’ve worked outside institutional structures so it’s not like I can be rewarded by my employer as I don’t have one. So yes, in this case it was great to be recognized and I hope there are many more moments like that to come.

RR: What are your greatest challenges as a producer?
Jeremy Goldstein:
Finding, securing, and making quality work is always a challenge, but without a doubt, the greatest challenge for me is always finance. There is never enough money, and unlike my peers I never got my Arts Council revenue funding, so I don’t have a wage and I’m always holding on by my finger tips. On the one hand it’s incredibly frustrating, because when you consider what I’ve achieved without that precious resource, I know that if I had it, I could create exceptional work of real and lasting value for a broad audience.  But I know that in this climate there is just not the kind of money there was for the arts 10 years ago so the prospect of being revenue funded now is next to zero. Also if I stick with the subsidised model, these days the bigger pots of money seem to be tied into community participation projects, which fulfill a broader governmental agenda, suiting funders to a tee.  It would be very easy for me to be drawn into that world and dance to their tune, but I resist it, as whilst I believe art can change people’s lives for the better, I’m a producer, not a social worker so that will never be the driving agent for me.   

For that reason, I’m increasingly being drawn into the commercial arena which I find exciting and full of possibility but the key to its success is finding the right script or production which you can proudly hold up as your own and attract audiences in huge numbers.  I think this is the future and I’m ready for that now big time.

I love reading new scripts, seeing shows, and finding new ones to produce, and then watching them come alive whilst building a proper context and broad audience for the work.  Creating that buzz and excitement around shows is something I also enjoy and I’m really good at it too. For Penny, I curated a whole programme of events with the BFI, ICA, Duckie, Foyles and many others. We even marched in the Pride Parade under a fabulous banner I commissioned from Ed Hall (via Jeremy Deller) and got ourselves onto the bill at Lovebox, which was great fun.

There aren’t many artists who can appeal to so many different audiences and carry it off, but Penny is a powerhouse with a rich context and history behind her and that in itself gave me the opportunity to do something really special whilst giving audiences a whole range of exciting ways in which they could interact with her work.

By the time we finish our run at The Albany we will have played nearly 50 performances and engaged tens of thousands of people in the show and what it represents, which is not bad when you consider we started with a limited run at the Arcola Tent in July.

 


RR: Penny Arcade's show Bitch!Dyke!Faghag!Whore! - what makes it so sexy?
Jeremy Goldstein:
Ha! – that’s easy – it’s all in the writing – just look at the title for starters. When I first read it, I found so much truth in it and it’s the kind of truth that most people don’t talk about these days so it’s incredibly liberating to hear it.  It’s a release like great sex.  And when you combine this with Penny’s bravura performance, our fabulous erotic dancers and iconic dance music, the show becomes a potent cocktail mix, which allows you to leave your inhibitions at the door, relax and get into it in a way which makes you feel great about yourself. I think that’s the reason why so many people keep coming back for more, and that’s why Penny has what she describes as her ‘drag factor’.

RR: So far - what's been your most memorable 'Penny Arcade' moment?
Jeremy Goldstein:
Gosh – now let’s see, there have been quite a few. Certainly the shows we did in the Arcola Tent were otherworldly experiences for me, as the kind of connection Penny builds between the show and the audience is something few performers can do, so it’s amazing to see that in a packed house. Then there was Penny’s birthday show, which coincided with the Pride march and a celebration of 20 years of queer performance with guest David Hoyle. But also last Easter when I was in New York, Penny took me to the Whitney Biennial to see a Michael Clark performance and that night I met up with Michael, Charles Atlas, Michael Stipe and Jarvis Cocker. It was Passover too and afterwards we went to a late night Seder with Judith Malina at her Living Theatre and were presented with Hagadah’s personally inscribed by Allen Ginsberg so that was pretty memorable.

RR: If you could do anything - what's your all-time fantasy production?
Jeremy Goldstein:
Anything involving Grace Jones or failing that a long-running popular show playing in several cities simultaneously with something useful to say about the world and from which we can make a shed load of money, turn it into a movie and make more money – and no it’s not Les Miserables as that’s been done to death. Watch this space!!!

RR: Other than your all-time fantasy production, what plans do you have for 2013?
Jeremy Goldstein:
Right now I’m looking forward to seeing Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! in The Albany because from a production point of view it suits the show perfectly.  For that reason, I would urge anyone who saw it in the Arcola Tent or Old Vic Tunnels to come again because it will blow your mind in the best venue we’ve had!   

I’m lucky I can go into 2013 open to a lot of new experiences, which is a really exciting place to be.  Work wise, I’d love to return Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! to its spiritual home in New York, as there are three venues who want it and all we need to do is raise enough capital, - but who knows, it might even come back to London again.  Also Penny and her collaborator Steve Zehentner have a number of new shows in development, which sound really exciting.  And funnily enough a script turned up in my in-box today, which could be the key to unlocking the commercial success I would like now. I’m also writing more and more so my book is open and we’ll see what happens…

RR: Can you treat us to a Jeremy Goldstein London anecdote?
Jeremy Goldstein:
Well seeing as it’s Christmas, I do remember the ICA Christmas party in 1994 as being a very special night and a great way to end my first year in London. I think we may have all ended up at Heaven afterwards but I can’t be sure for reasons I won’t go into here.  What made it so special is that in March I had just moved to London from Australia and I didn’t know a soul until I found a job at the ICA and met great friends who I have to this day. In fact, the ICA is really where it all started to happen for me, and many others of my generation. Even Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! had had its first UK performances in the theatre the year before I arrived.

Anyway, before Christmas, I was on the core team that produced Andrew Logan’s Alternative Miss World, which I suitably christened Fireball for bonfire night. I persuaded Marc Almond, Lady Bunny, and Pierre et Gilles to take part, David Hockney was one of the judges and even Jean Paul Gaultier turned up. The whole event was a riot, incredibly glamorous and quite possibly the most interesting event in the world on that particular night of the year.

I asked Lady Bunny to introduce Marc Almond and just before he was due to go on we were all standing in the wings and Lady Bunny, in what sounded like a Texan drawl, whispered in my ear ‘now is that the man who sang Tainted Love?’. She was checking her facts but for me, it was a funny and poignant moment as I stood there thinking this was a long way from my ‘bedsit land’ of the mid 1980’s. That night I was 24 and living the dream, because the ICA in those days was the hottest venue in town, if not the world.  We all knew it, and owned it as if it was ours for keeps. There has been nothing like it since.

Jeremy Goldstein, official website:
goldsteinproductions.net

Penny Arcade's
BITCH! DYKE! FAGHAG! WHORE!

at The Albany
Douglas Way
Deptford
London SE8 4AG
thealbany.org.uk

15-23 December 2012
For tickets and info thealbany.org.uk or call  020 8692 4446

Read our 'very sensual, very dirty, very erotic' interview with Penny Arcade here.