Paige Gilbert is one of the stars of MCC Theater’s upcoming new play BLKS. Sam sat down with her before rehearsal one day to get the scoop on the show.
Tell us about BLKS.
BLKS is a slice of life of three young twenty-somethings in Brooklyn figuring it out…and figuring it out by drinking, smoking, partying, having fun, and basically trying to avoid their own self-loathing.
I love it. Who do you play?
I play Octavia and Octavia is wild. Octavia is brash. Her defense mechanism is basically to be loud, and she’s afraid of letting people “in” so she deflects by being as loud and open as she possibly can. She’s like “Instead of me being intimate with you, I’m gonna tell you too much so hopefully that’ll repel you from me.”
Is she like you?
Well, you know, the play is set in 2015, and 2015 was the year right after I got out of college, so everything that Octavia is doing in this play is exactly where I was in 2015 - trying to like, basically, free myself, find myself, and using that as an excuse to do the outrageous.
BLKS has been described as having Broad City or Girls vibes. Can you talk about some of those similarities or differences?
So, the only similarities that I would say BLKS has to those shows is the perspective of a femme, but I think that the difference between those two shows and BLKS is that it is specifically the perspective of women of color. And we see them be flawed; we see them be messy. And of course that is in Girls and everything like that, but I think with Girls, it was set in Brooklyn and I don’t really remember seeing many people of color in Girls. And in this show, it’s the opposite of that, and we’re able to use people who are typically stereotyped as just that: stereotypes that serve the story. Where these women of color get to finally be the complex, messy characters that you’re following. The thing about Broad City is that it’s extremely raucous and it’s broad. And I feel like with BLKS, we have elements of both. We have that element that Broad City has where it’s like “this would never happen in real life,” but then also that element of Girls that’s like “I know that place, I know that moment, I know that club,” and just mashing it up to this beautiful play.
Can you talk a little bit about working with (the director) Robert so far, and Aziza, the playwright?
Oh my gosh, I love Robert and I love Aziza. I was a little nervous working with Robert because he can be a little intimidating because you don’t know what he’s thinking about you. You kinda just see him and you’re like “Does he like me?” But as soon as he opens his mouth, he reminds me of an aunt at home, or like, an uncle at home, or someone I know. And his perspective is brilliant. I think that he’s a brilliant director. I think that he’s a brilliant playwright, so getting to work with him, even before getting into the room, is something I was extremely excited about.
And working with Aziza has been doubly rewarding because their words just flow out of my mouth. When I read the script, I was like “This is how I talk. This is exactly how I talk.” There is no holds barred on any “fucks” or “‘bitches” that are sprinkled in there for for extra zazz. And you know, we were fortunate for have them in the room for a couple of days.
MCC is obviously a special place for you as it is for so many people. What do you love about working at MCC?
There’s a reason why you want to be here. It’s because the people who are working for MCC genuinely care about what they’re doing. They don’t produce plays that they don’t care about, and I think that that’s extremely important. You know, and also just a sense of family and a sense of care. Doing, School Girls, even in the second run, Will and Bernie would come and they would just be there and you’re like “What are you doing here? But, like, thank you for being here because I feel supported”…
BLKS starts Off-Broadway on April 23.