Love. loss. Infidelity. Addiction. HIV… These are some of the provocative subjects explored in Charles Gershman’s drama The Waiting Game, which sold out shows at New York City’s 59E59 Theaters’ exclusive East to Edinburgh Festival in July 2017. The play would then travel to Scotland for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, known as the world’s largest arts festival, that August. Three thousand, two hundred fifty-seven miles from its origins in Manhattan, Gershman’s award-winning piece (Best Overseas Play, Derek Awards 2017) received positive reviews from critics, both for its severe depiction of gay male relationships in the digital age as well as for the performances of its four young actors. This February, The Waiting Game is coming back to 59E59 Theaters, with its original director Nathan Wright and most of the original cast returning to the stage. One of those cast members is New York actor Marc Sinoway.
Sinoway is perhaps best known for his role as “Tommy”, the handsome but cocksure young lawyer in Jon Marcus‘ popular comedy/drama web series Hunting Season. The actor played Tommy for two seasons of the show, from 2012 through 2015. Inspired by and largely based on the well-liked, aptly-named blog The Great Cock Hunt, Hunting Season both shocked and titillated viewers with its uncensored look at the lives of a group of sexually active, 20-something gay male friends in Manhattan– complete with generous amounts of nudity and sexual situations. The show would eventually win several web series awards, as well as acquire a lasting legion of very loyal fans– many of whom are holding out for a Season Three (Hint, hint…!). In the spirit of the series itself, Sinoway’s character Tommy was unapologetic about his sexual freedom– the kind of guy who’s unafraid to put “No one over 30” on his dating app profile and who probably thinks that “Monogamy” is a board game. In real life, the actor is just as handsome as his blunt-spoken Hunting Season alter ego– but is also funny, affable, and great fun to talk to.
Marc Sinoway took the time to speak to me about The Waiting Game, Hunting Season, life as a New York City actor, and more…
JR: Hello, Marc. Thank you for speaking with me! Congratulations on the The Waiting Game coming back to New York City! What’s your particular affinity for this show, and what is gonna make it a really great experience?
MS: For the cast and creative team, or for the viewers?!
MS: For the actors returning to it, it’s interesting to go back to something that you’ve previously done, with space in between to consider. It’s one thing to perform it and work on it every night for a month, and then it’s something else to have a year off and then return. You have the memory of what you’ve done, but you’ve experienced personal growth, and things in your life have changed that make you approach the role from a different perspective. So, that’s exciting. It leads to all sorts of different discoveries. There are some changes to the team: We have a new cast member. There’s a new projection designer. The design is certainly different. All that is very exciting. For the viewer, I think that what’s exciting is that you really don’t know what is happening as you’re watching. The way the information is laid out, you’re figuring it out as you’re watching it. One of the actors used a term called “information backfills”: You see something and you’re not sure what it is, and then in the next scene you’re like, “Oh, that’s what they were talking about!” But, you’re also having to pay attention for what you don’t understand in that scene, because it may be revealed a few scenes later! You really have to pay attention. So, I think the way the way the information is laid out is very exciting. It’s somewhat of a psychological mystery, if you will!
JR: That sounds intriguing! I know that the play also deals with some very heavy subject matter– like addiction, HIV…
MS: … and loss, and love, and infidelity… actually, “infidelity” may not the best word! My character Paolo and his husband Sam had some sort of open arrangement, so I don’t know if “infidelity” is the right word… but one of them breaks the “rules”. It’s more like a “violation of trust”. My understanding of my character Paolo is that in an effort to stay connected to his partner Sam– who has overdosed and is in a coma– is that he’s experimenting with all the things that Sam used to do, because it makes him feel close to him. It’s a fucked-up, twisted way to reach communion with your partner in a coma: to do the things that he used to do. Sam also had a pretty serious boyfriend in the last part of his and Paolo’s marriage, and that boyfriend comes to Paolo and asks him for conservatorship. He wants Paolo to sign away his rights to pull the plug. So, my character Paolo and Sam’s boyfriend also have a weird, twisted relationship, because we’re also trying to stay in contact with Sam through each other, We are the closest thing that there is. It’s a very difficult subject matter. It’s very sad. There’s no better way to say it: The whole situation is fucked up! It really, really is.
JR: This reminds me a little of your series Hunting Season. The series was mostly a comedy, but it was very realistic when it came to exploring the lives of single gay men living in New York City. It really showed the mentality of a lot of guys in our subcuture, and I imagine a lot of so-called “mainstream” audiences just couldn’t handle it, or just didn’t “get” it. The Waiting Game also sounds like it’s very realistic as well: For example, some audience members just might not “get” the whole phenomenon of an open relationship, or that there are some relationships that are open but which still have “rules”.
MS: Neither of these projects– The Waiting Game or Hunting Season— shy away from the things that might be “unappealing” to someone who is super-conservative… or, who may just not understand it. In the play, there is no effort to conceal that this is an open but rules-based relationship. There is drug use. There are multiple partners. One character sero-converts while in his marriage. It’s all there. Hunting Season was very much an unsanitized version of gay guys in their 20’s– a certain population, of course. You can’t speak for everyone. A lot of people didn’t like that presentation of homosexuality. And most people were like, “No, this is my life! This is what people do in their 20’s in the city!” (Laughs)
JR: Speaking of Hunting Season, what was the most exciting thing about doing the series?
MS: The web series took on its own life. It has a cult following and has a rabid fan base. Out Magazine would do this type of thing where they asked, “Who’s the most eligible gay TV show bachelor?” There would be shows that had millions of dollars behind them, with all the actors that are “real” celebrities. Ben Baur, who was the star of our show, would win… because our fans would vote all day, all night! It was this tiny, low-budget show with ten minute episodes, but the people who liked Hunting Season LOVED Hunting Season. It’s hard to say what was the most exciting. I’ve been involved with this project for like seven years now. What has become most important to me are the relationships, because I have a lot of history with these guys now. We were strangers when we started shooting. We had one rehearsal. Jon Marcus, the director, took the principle cast out to dinner. But, we were strangers. Now, I’ve traveled to L.A. with them for the Indie Series Awards, we did a film festival in Maine where we all lived together, we’ve seen each other fight with our boyfriends… We are friends with seven years of relationship history as a group. It’s something we’re all in together. So, I don’t know if that’s the most exciting thing, but that’s what it is for me now.
JR: When I first watched Hunting Season, I was pretty amazed by how well shot the show was. It certainly didn’t look like a low budget production. And the sex scenes were very well filmed… and very hot, starting with the very first scene. Whoa!
MS: The sex in Hunting Season was so “in your face”, and a lot of people wouldn’t touch it. It was very difficult to get advertising. Even some gay blogs, for example, wouldn’t even cover it because it was so graphic, and they’d have sponsors who’d be like, “If you cover sex, we pull out financing!” or “We can’t do condom ads.”, or whatever. That was a large part of the experience. You know, the source material was called “The Great Cock Hunt”. The name of the series was called The Great Cock Hunt at first– but no one would touch that. Even asking for clothes for the series was difficult. When we called the show “TGCH”, and they didn’t know what that meant, then they’d send clothes! The name wasn’t changed because we were like, “Well, let’s have a better name!” It was because no one would touch it with “cock” in the title! Now it’s a different climate. Every major series has a gay character. They have that series called Cockblockers. In 2012, that would not have been the title of a show that was on billboards in New York City.
JR: Are there any plans for a new season?
MS: The experience of a fan would be, “Where’s Season Three?” and because it’s the internet, they assume that it’s already out there but that they just don’t know where to find it. Right now there are no concrete plans to do it. It’s always in the ether. I think that one of the actors will become super-successful, and someone will ask “What have they done before?”, and then someone will go back and find the series and ask “Why isn’t there more of this?”, and then someone will reach out and say “I got money for this!” It’s about money, really. I think everyone would be willing to do more. But there are no concrete plans for it at the moment. Season Two was exciting. Season One was fucking hard. It really was. It didn’t have as much support or as much success as it would have later on. It was hard to get agents to send actors, because it was “like porn”. It was hard to get certain people to work on it. It was hard to get extras. Everyone was so worried about what it was: It was “too graphic”, it was “too sexy”, they thought they shouldn’t be involved… We had characters playing bit parts who would walk off the set in the middle of the shoot; they’d change their mind, or for lack of a better word, “lose their balls” and disappear. We’d have to figure out who was then gonna play that role…
JR: Uhm… don’t they realize that they are an actor and they are paid to play that role? Didn’t they know what the scene entailed before they started… and that the series was patently made for adult audiences?
MS: (Laughs) You don’t have to tell me! Season One was a bit of a Cinderella story. It was picked up by LOGO. Most web series aren’t picked up by anyone– so that was definitely a story. So now, agents were sending their actors for Season Two. There was access to so much more, and people weren’t as scared of it. They’d think, “Oh, that became successful. Yeah, it’s a little sexy, but I could have a client on that.” So, it became easier to make everything happen. Also, the writer had now known me for three more years, so he was writing for the people he knows. So, your scenes are more fun. You’re like, “Oh, he’s doing stuff that he knows I would enjoy, or something I’d be really good at in my scenes.” So, my Season Two character arc was really fun. I loved the actors I worked with. Because of the budget, the scenes that you would normally have the luxury of spending a week to work on, you have a day to work on. The director was like, “OK, everyone who Tommy has sex with in this season, we shoot today!” So I had this one day where it was like trick after trick after trick coming into the location that was Tommy’s apartment.
JR: Damn, that sounds like fun! I wish I’d been there! (Laughs)
MS: (Laughs) Season Two was exciting because there was this feeling in the air. It was performing very well on Vimeo. There was very much a feeling that Vimeo would produce another season. That didn’t happen. The other show that Vimeo produced got picked up by HBO. The New York Times wrote about it. There was this very exciting time, when we thought we were going to become an HBO series, or that someone else would produce it financially and that we’d just be able to be creative.
JR: Well, as my good friends Romeo Void once sang, “Never say never!”
MS: I’m going on the record to say that I don’t think it’s done!
JR: The fans will be happy about that! Who knows? Maybe we’ll eventually see a season where Tommy is married and monogamous and living out in the country!
MS: You know what’s funny? I had talked to the creator about that. He said that he doesn’t see Tommy being married!
JR: Well, stranger things have happened in pop culture history! So… what is it like working on a web series versus being live on stage?
MS: Being on stage requires an immediacy that doesn’t exist so much in film and TV. Your only chance is what you’re doing right there in front of the audience in the moment. When you’re doing a web series or anything that’s on film, if you want you can do 90 takes. Maybe you can’t even get what you want in those 90 takes. But then, you have the footage of the actor who’s responding to you. Maybe you can use that. Then, if all that sucks, you get a great editor to make that look good. Then, if you don’t have that, you hire a great composer that makes the music… You know, you have all these things to “make up” for any sort of fault in your performance. You have got a lot working for you! Worse case scenario, you re-shoot or you cut the scene. On stage, you can’t cut the scene. It’s live! (Laughs) It’s definitely about what’s there in the moment, and it’s also about your relationship with that audience. It’s different night to night. Sometimes you’ll have an audience who finds things funny, and you’ll be like, “Oh, I didn’t know that was funny!”, and sometimes you’ll have an audience who doesn’t make a peep, and you’ll be like, “Oh, did they not like it?” You’re feeling this energy. So, that’s the huge difference. But also, I think that there is some pressure. I think that theater is exciting because at any moment there’s potential for someone to fuck up, or something to go majorly wrong. There’s potential for the lights not to come on. Actors could forget lines. You could trip over something. You have props. You could be like, “Where the fuck is the meth pipe?”…
JR: … and you could have wardrobe malfunctions!
MS: I had a flip flop break on stage once. It’s exciting, because you have to deal with it. I was being killed on stage, so I’m not gonna worry about the flip flop. A guy being shot is not gonna be like, “Wait! My foot!” But I knew that I had to find a way to get it off that stage so that another actor who doesn’t notice it isn’t going to trip on it. But that’s why theater is exciting, because as a theater person I’m aware of all the potential for things to go wrong– and it doesn’t matter if you’ve done the show a thousand times or a million times. That doesn’t prevent the piece of material that you’re projecting on from falling down, or the projector not turning on. I’m getting anxiety just thinking about all the things that can go wrong! But that’s the excitement of theater. My character Paolo in The Waiting Game is pretty much on stage the entire time in an intimate space. So whatever I do, they’re gonna see it. We have that one chance each night. We gotta keep going, no matter what happens!
JR: Yep! So… as a New Yorker resident, what’s the most challenging thing about being a young working actor in our crazy city?
MS: The hardest thing is that there’s no linear trajectory. There’s no formula for an actor. Also, success doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re gonna keep working. You can be on a successful show and then not work for ten years. But that’s also what’s exciting about being an actor. You get that one phone call that drastically changes your life, where you go from “Oh, I’m barely getting paid.” to “Oh, I have a contract role on an NBC show.” It happens like that (snaps finger). My attitude towards it is “Someone’s gotta be playing those roles. Why not me?” But sometimes it’s exhausting just trying to figure out how to make everything work. You’re always searching for work, of course. I think you have to accept the fact that no matter what you are, that there are roles for you… and not think “I’m too old for that!” Yeah, but now you’re right for a whole bunch of other things. You may think, “I’m not in good enough shape!” Yeah, which makes you right for a whole bunch of other things again. A lot of people will ask questions or say things like, “I don’t want to get a tattoo because it will ruin my acting career.” Live your life, and then acting will come. You’ll play a role of someone with tattoos. Or they will cover them up if they want.
JR: That’s why I have to laugh when an actor doesn’t want to do nude scenes. Part of me wants to ask them, “Twenty years from now, aren’t you going to want to see how young and pretty you were back then?”
JR: So… where would you live if you didn’t live in New York City?
MS: As an actor, or if I wasn’t acting?
JR: That’s tough. I know that they are linked! We all have a love-hate relationship with New York… but what if you weren’t acting?
MS: I’m not gonna think too much about this, because I could probably give you a list of places! But right now, in this moment, “Gay Par-ee” is sounding really good! I don’t know why, but right at this moment I’m thinking of Paris. If it was about acting, I’d think about where I was limited to, which would probably be L.A. of course, Atlanta, London, Sydney or Toronto. But if it wasn’t about acting, either Paris or somewhere super beachy. I have not been to Asia, so it’s hard for me to say– but somewhere like Thailand, where I hear twenty bucks can get you a massage and a three course dinner… and you’re on the beach!
JR: Agreed– especially with this cold weather as of late! So, how do you feel about social media? Most of us have a love/hate relationship with it!
MS: It’s a great thing. I think that without social media, Hunting Season wouldn’t have been what it was. We lived because of it, and lived and died by it. That was what was going to make our show successful or not. So, I’m very grateful for social media. Also, you have access. People have access to me, in a way that I don’t mind… and I also have access to people. For example, you can see Julianne Moore in a show and tweet something at her. Sometimes these people are handling their own thing, So, it gives you access to people in a way that was not possible 20 years ago. You can write someone a fan letter (laughs), but now there’s an option for an immediate response. You can find me so easily, so when someone’s like, “I wrote this script and I was thinking about you, and I know we haven’t met…”, you don’t have to search for how to get in contact with someone. It’s there! Also, sometimes people do have access to you in a way that’s somewhat off-putting. Social media is a presentation, so how I present myself on social media is also a cultivated thing. So when I’m writing these super-slutty things that I know people who like Tommy are eating up, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I want… (laughs) the personal message or DM as a follow-up! But I like social media. I play with it. I think it’s been really useful for me for getting people to come to shows and get them interested in what you’re doing. People are usually nice when they like you’re work. Hunting Season was in 2015. When it was hot, I’d get recognized. When I was in San Francisco or L.A., there were definitely people who recognized me. Or there would be people who would just look at me, because they’re not sure. I don’t look exactly how I look in the show, because I have a beard, and the hair changes. So, they just stare at you… or they ask, “I’m sorry. Do I know you?”… and sometimes they’d figure it out. I would never be like, “You know me from Hunting Season!” (Laughs) But if they’d figure it out, they’d be like, “Oh, I loved Hunting Season!”. Sometimes they tweet, “Oh, I saw Marc at the gym!” and I’m like, “You can say hi if you see me at the gym. Don’t tweet about it. Just say hi!” As an actor, if people don’t want to see what you’re doing, then you’re doing monologues in the mirror!
JR: (Laughs) How true! Anything else you want to tell your fans about the show… besides “Go get tickets?”
MS: I think it’s a really worthwhile time in the theater. It’s a really interesting piece that keeps you on the edge of your seat. It’s rather short, but it’s so dense. So much happens, and so much is layered. I think it brings up some very robust conversation at the end. I don’t want to give too much away… but after the show, people will be asking a lot of questions. Also, from working on this show, I think about a lot of interesting things: “What do you do when someone you love is in a coma?” “Do you put them out of their misery?” “Are they in misery?” “Can they hear you when you’re talking to them?” “Is there a chance that they’ll wake up?” All of these things really make you consider. I had a lot of people who had dealt with that– who came to me after the show, in tears, and hug me. This guy had a girlfriend in a coma…
JR: (Laughs) Sorry, I didn’t mean to laugh. I was just thinking about a song…
MS: (Laughs) But it’s really a big question for society: What do you do when someone you love is in a coma, and you find yourself in that situation? And, I’ve thought about it from the other side: What would I want someone to do if I was in a coma? It made me think of some really dark things, like what if you could hear people and not be able to respond, and know that you wanted to? I’d hate that!
JR: That’s a great thing to have people discussing the play after they leave the theater!
MS: I love that. I think the play leaves a lot of opportunity for that. It’s so interesting to hear, because people have such different feelings about it.
JR: Well, I look forward to seeing it. Thanks again for speaking with me, Marc!
(Photos by Gabe Ayala.)
You can visit Marc’s personal website here.
You can also connect with Marc on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter:
Facebook Fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/marcsinoway
59E59 Theaters welcomes The Waiting Game, written by Charles Gershman and directed by Nathan Wright. Produced by Snowy Owl, The Waiting Game begins performances on Wednesday, February 6 for a limited engagement through Sunday, February 23. The performance schedule is Tuesday – Saturday at 7:30 PM; and Sunday at 2:30 PM. Performances are at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, New York City. Tickets are available by calling the 59E59 Box Office on 646-892-7999 or by visiting here.