“I Squeezed Really Hard” is a new performance by Anthony Misiano that will begin on September 17th at NYC’s wild project. “I Squeezed Really Hard” is a series of painfully funny and progressively shocking true stories about his turbulent childhood and the modern broken home. The fearless and high-energy storytelling in this engrossing autobiographical piece is bold, unapologetic and comedic set in the 1990s.
Anthony Misiano is a California born actor, editor and writer now living in New York City. He recently discussed his play via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you discover your talent for acting and what was it about theater that most interested you?
Anthony Misiano (AM): I don’t know if I can use the t-word, it always feels too pretentious for me, but I definitely remember when I knew I wanted to perform. It’s actually a story I tell in I Squeezed Really Hard. The short version: I got a big reaction from an audience of my peers who didn’t know it was me, and that was like a mainline of high-speed adrenaline and dopamine the likes of which I’d never experienced. I’ve been chasing that dragon ever since. Theater’s unlike any other art form, it’s both voyeuristic for the audience yet at any moment the performer can turn and engage directly and have a conversation with the crowd. Like stand-up comedy there’s also the immediacy of it, the performer knows when a joke works, and definitely knows when one doesn’t.
MM: How did you break into the performing industry?
AM: After doing drama in high school, I enrolled in the theater program at my local community college and simultaneously started auditioning for and performing in plays around San Diego County, my home town. In 2013, I drove my Honda Civic to New York City, sold the car, got an apartment, and have since tried to keep the lights on working primarily in film, television, commercials, you name it. I wouldn’t say I’ve broken in, but I’ve been attempting to slowly carve a narrow path for myself. If you have any tips on the breaking part, I’m not hard to get a hold of.
MM: Why did you decide to tell such personal stories on stage?
AM: It’s easier than writing fiction! Look, I love fiction and as an actor that’s primarily what I work with, I help create fictional characters and try to make them real. I love it more than anything. But if I’m going to be on a stage, under my own name, not some character, and talking directly to the audience? I want to be honest, and this show is as honest as they come.
MM: How did your childhood impact who you grew up to be?
AM: That’s like asking how the tomato seed you planted grew up to be a tomato plant (laughs). I think it’s undeniable that our childhoods affect who we become. Now sure there are a number of traits, quirks, ways of processing information that are genetic, that are programmed into us since the beginning and there’s no changing them, it’s how twins separated at birth with completely different lives can be reunited fifty years later and find they have so much in common. But things like fears? Social dynamics in many ways? Qualities we seek out in others? I think those all come from one’s childhood.
MM: What’s your favorite part of the piece and why?
AM: Any time the stories become non-literal. I’m a pretty matter-of-fact kind of guy and have even been told I could work on “sugar coating” a bit more, so I love the moments when I’m not showing what actually was, but instead showing how something seemed, or felt, or looked to a child. Any time a simile or metaphor can be physically manifested, it’s a joy, because then I’m basically satirizing my own life.
MM: Was it a challenge to plan for live theater during a lingering pandemic?
AM: It’s like chiseling your way out of a caved-in mine with only a headlamp and a voice trying to hide its fear as it yells out, “keep digging fellas! There’s light out there, just keep digging this way!”
MM: What is some of the best feedback you’ve gotten about this piece thus far?
AM: The variety of the feedback is by far the best. It seems to hit everyone differently and I love that. Some people leave talking about the jokes and the comedy, and some of them leave having cried their eyes out. I think it’s because it’s about childhood, and while not everyone can relate to everything that happens, each individual seems to connect with at least one thing, which ends up binding the audience together. And there’s a poop story, what more do you need?
MM: What other projects are you working on right now and what themes might you like to explore in future works?
AM: As an actor I’m always auditioning and getting my weird little face out there. When I’m not acting, I do a lot of post-production work (editing, sound design, etc.) and have been working on this really great new series called Kinfolk created by Sh’Kia and Daniel Augustin that’s beginning its life in the festival circuit now, I really think it’s going to do well, it’s something special. Another two films I edited and did sound for called Soyka, made here in New York by an incredible new filmmaker Anastasiya Sergienya, and Water, written and directed by the established and brilliant Brittney Rae are both doing well in the festival circuit and keep rolling on. In my writing, I think I want to continue to explore family, relationships and the struggle with self. There’s a reason why those themes always come up in everything, they’re the core of the human experience.
MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future and is there anything else that you would like to mention?
AM: I’m available for birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, funerals and wakes. If it’s awkward or dark, I’ll make a joke about it. Beyond that I’ll just say something I say in the opening of my show, “if we can’t laugh at our baggage, our baggage wins, and I don’t want your baggage to win. And feel free to laugh, you should.”