A new one-man show conceived and written in a New York prison makes its off-Broadway debut with a lot of laughs and perhaps a greater understanding of what life is like on the inside. NY1's Stephanie Simon filed the following report.
Joseph Assadourian spent 12 years in prison for attempted murder. He hopes to go back, not to stay, but to perform his new one man show where it was written, Otisville Correctional Institution in upstate New York.
"I've always mimicked people. I've always done that since, you know, as far as I can remember. I used to get in trouble for it in school," Assadourian says. "But I mean, now, it's, you know, it's rewarding. And while I was there, and when I sat down to write this, these are basically real people."
Two years ago, while incarcerated, Assadourian took a theater workshop with New York actor and director Richard Hoeler. Joe began with a five-minute monologue of
"We started inside in the prison, which was really strange to be having him playing guards and the guards are right outside the door, and they're opening the door, 'What's going on in here?'" Hoeler said.
Joe was released in October. Now, with Hoeler's help, his new show, "The Bullpen," has just started an open-ended run at the Playroom Theater on West 46th Street. Joe plays 18 characters in all, including a baseball fan.
First character: That's English.
Second character: English? Say it again, slow.
First character: Derek Jeter.
Second character: Derek Jeter.
First character: See, I told you it was the Yankees," Assadourian says on stage.
He also plays an inmate of few words.
"We over here like, 'You know what I'm saying?' You over here like, 'You know what I mean?'"
Simon: Joe, you do a lot of impersonations. Can you do a TV reporter?
Assadourian: Yeah, I can do a TV reporter. So how exactly did you think the interview went today? Unfortunately, that's all the time we have for that particular question. Back to you in the studio, Robin."
Amid the laughs, there is perhaps also understanding.
"I've made, you know, terrible mistakes, but I mean, I am the person that did that, but I'm not that person anymore," Assadourian says.
"I think the arts are just absolutely one of the most healing things we can have," Hoeler says.