Andy Halliday: An Off-Broadway Icon Raising Money For Trash


EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday August 24, 2013

Andy Halliday logged into his email account and found a message: "How do I make a donation for trash?"

Strange question you might ask, but one Halliday has been hearing a lot for the past month as he raises money for his original comedy Nothing But Trash, slated for production at New York's Theater For The New City.

Halliday is far from alone in his efforts, as self-funded projects in the arts have become the norm. Crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter, Gofundme and Indiegogo are taking the role traditionally filled by producers, and showing exponential growth. According to a May 2013 article in Forbes, global crowd funding in 2012 raised $2.7 billion in revenue. That number is projected to almost double to $5.1 billion in 2013. What sets Halliday's project apart from the one million crowdfunded campaigns globally is the way in which he's doing it, as well as the artist's pedigree.

A fixture of the downtown theater scene in the 1980s, Halliday enjoyed a long history of creating roles in plays written by Charles Busch, author and founder of Theatre-In-Limbo which produced Busch’s hits "Psycho Beach Party" and "Vampire Lesbians of Sodom." Halliday recalls those early years in the East Village: "No one would go past Second Avenue. It was like walking into a crack den."

But soon the company moved to legitimate Off-Broadway houses where Halliday and his original Theatre-In-Limbo cohort, Julie Halston continued to create roles in Busch plays, now considered to be camp classics. In Busch’s send up on Nazi-era melodramas, "The Lady In Question," The New York Times called Halliday’s performance as Lotte, the Teutonic demon child a "psychotic hybrid of a Trapp Family Singer and Patty McCormack in ’The Bad Seed.’’’ For that role, Halliday received Playbill’s ’Scene Stealer of the Month’ award, and was immortalized in an Al Hirschfeld caricature.

Eventually, after seven years (1984-1991), the legendary Theatre-in-Limbo disbanded, a casualty of fatigue and AIDS, as several core members were lost to the epidemic.

But Halliday soldiered on, writing and performing in his original works, "I Can’t Stop Screaming" and "Sex Slaves of the Lost Kingdom." At auditions, he found himself repeatedly typecast in one genre. He confides,"I was auditioning for all these weird, bizarre characters. Once, I was up for the part of a deranged hairdresser who stabbed people. I didn’t feel comfortable."

By 1997, desperate for steady employment, Halliday accepted a very un-bohemian position in the human resources department of an investment firm. But as with all artists, the day job came at a price. When Busch offered him a role in his new play, "Shanghai Moon," Halliday’s new keepers subtly suggested he give up his theatrical career if he wanted to keep his job. Fortunately for Halliday, his buttoned down office career was cut short, thanks to a sizable severance package he received when the company was bought out, allowing him to return to writing films and plays.

According to its website, "Nothing But Trash" is "What happens when two beautiful teenage boys meet under the hot summer sun? [...] Tab and Troy are on the fast track to madness when their innocent love is destroyed by lies. Wrongly accused of a heinous crime, the boys must escape the horror of juvenile hall, or risk losing their sanity. And their lives!"

"Nothing But Trash" began as the basis for a short film, but eventually Halliday saw it more as a two-act play that paid affectionate homage to angst movies from the 1950s, films like "A Summer Place" and "Girls Town." There was something in these films that spoke to him. How repression works upon the individual. What happens when love is repressed? He was intrigued. So he got to work.

But first he needed money. Halliday and his director, G.R. Johnson, investigated crowdfunding resources, but found they all came with caveats they couldn’t afford. Indiegogo charged a percentage fee, and they were not willing to pay the emotional price of Kickstarter’s raise-it-all-or-lose-it-all platform. Fortunately, like deus ex machina, in stepped Crystal Field and her Theater For The New City.

Founded in 1971, Theater for the New City has nurtured the talents of Sam Shepard, Moises Kaufman, and many other theater luminaries. Busch’s last two comedies the nun epic "The Divine Sister" and silent era biblical spoof "Judith of Bethulia" were both hits for Theater for the New City. Based on Halliday’s association with Busch, Field agreed to provide him with a theater and non-profit status, so that all donations are tax deductible.

With theater rental, the largest budget item, off the table, Halliday and Johnson are free to focus on raising funds to cover production expenses and salaries. To date, they have raised $11,498 through social media and email appeals, half of their projected $25,000 budget.

"I feel like Rocky," Halliday admits, "fighting to create gay plays with heart. I grew up never fitting in, and now I embrace it rather than always trying to be ’the boy next door.’ It’s freeing and exciting."

To learn more about Halliday’s trash, visit the "Nothing But Trash" website.