Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Q-and-A with Penny Pollak, the fire-breathing East Village actress and writer
Last Wednesday, we posted photos that peter radley and Bobby Williams took of a woman breathing fire in Tompkins Square Park... turns out that this was Penny Pollak, the East Village-based (occasional fire-breathing) actress and writer who also hosts Penny's Open Mic Tuesday nights at Under St. Mark’s Theater.
We thought that this would be an opportune time to talk with Pollak, who also recently started a travelogue performance blog of sorts, about fire breathing. And other things.
How long have you been breathing fire (if that is the correct term for it)?
About 7 or 8 years ago a friend of mine mentioned he needed another firebreather to do gigs with, and having never even seen someone breathe fire, I obviously volunteered. He taught me how to do it and all of a sudden I’m hurling flames outside of dungeons-and-dragons events in rural Pennsylvania.
What were you rehearsing for this particularly afternoon?
I got a call from a casting director for a WWF commercial that morning asking me if I can actually breathe fire or is just on my resumé. I told him I could send him a video audition by that evening, so I grabbed some kerosene and a lighter then hit Tompkins Square Park. It’s been several years since I’ve done it but turns out it’s just like riding a bike… except with fire.
Several people sent me photos of the fire breathing that day in the Park. Did you feel as if you were receiving a lot of attention?
It’s funny, I didn’t really notice. But that’s the thing about the East Village — nothing seems out of place. A girl breathing fire in the Park is just another Tuesday in the neighborhood. Also I was just really concentrating on getting the biggest flames I could on film without setting my hair on fire. But now that I think about it, I should have put on a hat.
What is the secret to successful fire breathing?
Don’t set yourself on fire.
Penny’s Open Mic is now in its sixth year at Under St. Mark’s Theater. How have you seen this evening continue to evolve?
The great thing about the show is that it’s constantly evolving. Tons of new performers every week and really talented regulars are always there to grace the stage. It’s a wonderful mix of a little bit of everything. Being in a theater I think inspires people to be more theatrical and take bigger risks with their art. I love that every show I never know what to expect which keeps me on my toes and having fun.