Courtesy of Troma
Join 1428 Elm’s Lorry Kikta on a personal journey through her Tromatic past as not-so-great Troma employee to a way better chronicler of Lloyd Kaufman & Troma’s present endeavor, SHAKESPEARE’S SH*TSTORM
READ ON FOR MORE ON THIS SHAKESPEAREAN WHALE OF A TALE
A couple of weeks ago, I traversed from one side of Queens to another to visit the set of Troma Entertainment’s Shakespeare’s Sh*tstorm. At this point, I hadn’t been to Astoria, Queens in about a year. Prior to that It had been about nine.
I originally moved to New York City from Atlanta, Georgia to be an intern at Troma Entertainment. Troma had very recently moved their headquarters from a walk-up in Hell’s Kitchen to a former Chinese food distribution center in Long Island City. I moved to Astoria so I could be close to the office, and it was close enough that I could walk if I wanted.
I’m going to be the first person to admit that I had a major case of arrested development, so moving to New York City as a 24-year-old was the equivalent of letting a 16-year-old kid loose in one of the wildest cities in the world. I was a great intern for Troma, I can say that with no reservations, but I was a BAD Troma employee. I was much more concerned about boys, going out and drinking, and just being a crazy person. I did things in the only way I could at that time and I honestly felt guilty about how bad I was at that job for way longer than I probably should have.
Something I remember when I quit working at Troma (I quit because I knew I was eventually going to get fired, lol) was that Lloyd Kaufman told me, “this is just another chapter in your book”. It always stuck with me and is something I still apply to a lot of situations in my life.
Lloyd Kaufman, director of Shakespeare’s Sh*tstorm on set talking shop with DP Lucas Pitassi – Photo via Lorry Kikta
Having reached a point of certain adulthood and also achieving a tiny modicum of success as a writer, I wanted to do whatever I could for a Troma project. I’m glad that Lloyd accepts me creeping around in the background of his film set. I’m glad that even though I made approximately eight hundred thousand mistakes, I was welcomed back into the Troma fold in a certain capacity.
I thought about this as I was walking to a huge beautiful bar in Astoria, to be on my first Troma film set. I had either been in or script supervised some of the famous Troma Entertainment PSAs but I had never been on an actual Troma set. I was extremely excited to see how it all goes down.
The filming took place in a pretty massive room off the right from the main bar area. There are wonderful “gangster” booths everywhere. When I walked in, shooting had already begun on a very interesting scene. When I originally visited a rehearsal for Sh*tstorm, Lloyd was acting as Prospero. I was intrigued to see who played the roles of the “enemy”, such as the chief villain of the original Shakespeare play, Alonso, amongst others.
Big Al (as he is referred to in Shakespeare’s Sh*tstorm), played by Alan Spears, is the head of AvonBard, an evil mega-conglomerate nestled in the bosoms of Big Pharma. The scene I was fortunate enough to witness took place at an AvonBard party. A big group of nefarious world leaders, corporate jerks, and Super Tromettes in 6-inch heels and lingerie are squeezed into the central booth. PA’s are throwing balloons, there are mounds of (fake) cocaine and (fake) money everywhere.
The most compelling performance in the scene was from Teresa Wei, who plays a Chinese dictator named Chien Wu Beng. The role was initially written for a man, but once you see Teresa in this role, you can no longer imagine anyone else in it.
“I’ve always wanted to play a role like this because I’m usually a reporter or a nurse or a teacher,” Teresa told me about her performance as Chien Wu Beng, “So to play someone really, really f**ked up is a dream come true because I’ve always wanted to be just batsh*t crazy. Troma allows me to be batsh*t crazy and this is me living my dream and living my best life right now”. I seriously loved her performance a lot, so please look out for her in Sh*tstorm.
The great thing about being on any film set but particularly a Troma set, is that there is a lot of on the fly improvisation. Lloyd will throw in new lines (or impromptu opera singing) for the actors off the cuff, and it’s really exciting to see an idea form into a living work of art. Everyone is always ready for something new and hilarious to happen at every turn and it’s extremely fun to watch.
Having seen a lot of the BTS footage for films like Poultrygeist and other Troma productions, as well as working on PSA sets with Lloyd, I had expected a certain level of chaos to await me, but I am glad to say that Shakespeare’s Sh*tstorm, by all appearances, is a very well oiled, surprisingly chill, machine. At the beginning there were some staffing issues, but as usual the Troma System was put into play.
“So in pre-production we had a couple of people fall out, in the AD department, due to unforeseen circumstances and what happened is we have this dedicated pool of PA’s who rose to the occasion so now Allison (Davidoff) who was first a PA and then script supervisor is now the First AD because she stepped up and did the job. That’s what Troma is good for, if you’re here and you’re dedicated, there’s a chance to rise in the ranks when things change”, John Brennan told me as we watched the scene go through rehearsal and several takes.
Allison is just one example of someone who has rose to the occasion for Troma. The team is so incredibly dedicated and filled with people from all over the country. Everyone’s working their butts off over 12 hours a day and has a great time doing it, because working for Troma (in any capacity) is a life-changing experience. You either learn from your successes or you learn from your mistakes, but you will always learn so much, because Troma is all about giving people opportunities.