In Jonathan Tolins’ Buyer & Cellar, an out-of-work actor named Alex More takes a rather peculiar job – working in the basement shopping mall of a female megastar. When Alex meets the lady of the house and the two begin to bond, Alex’s life is turned upside down. In the play, Remy Germinario plays Alex More – as well as several other characters – in a tour de force performance that requires comedic timing, stamina, and flexibility.
We met with Remy to talk about why he loves Buyer & Cellar so much, the challenges of FST’s production, and people’s obsessions with celebrities.
Buyer & Cellar plays in FST’s Bowne’s Lab Theatre through April 14. For tickets and more information, click here.
How would you describe Buyer & Cellar to someone who knows nothing about it?
A megastar released a book about the design of her house in Malibu, and in it she mentions how she has a lot of spare items she didn’t have room for. Instead of throwing them out or putting them in storage, she built a fake shopping mall in her basement – this is a true story! But Buyer & Cellar is a fictional one-man show about a struggling actor named Alex More who gets hired to work in a celebrity’s basement and how they form a working and friendly relationship. Mayhem ensues as Alex recounts his tale in the cellar for the audience, and plays every role!
Alex More, the central character of Buyer & Cellar, is a down-on-his luck actor. Do you have any advice for young performers who are in a place similar to Alex? Have you experienced what Alex is facing, and if so, how did you get through it?
My biggest advice for young performers is to not pigeon hole yourself into one thing. When I was in college, I just wanted to do musical theatre on Broadway. I had a one-track mind. I wanted someone to hand me a completed script, and I’d perform the hell out of it. I soon learned about the difficulty of the business. Everyone tells you how hard the rejection and competition is when you’re growing up, but you don’t really believe it until you’re in the thick of it.
I’ve been very lucky to work as an actor, but during those gaps, it’s vital that you find other mediums to get your creative juices flowing. That’s why stand up, sketch comedy, comedy writing, and cabarets have been an essential part of what has kept me optimistic as an artist. I wish I had known this in my early 20s when I was feeling lost or down on my luck. I feel like stretching my creative legs earlier might have helped when I was in a creative slump. So start writing that web series NOW. Create your own one-person cabaret NOW. Start writing stand-up jokes and sketches NOW.
Buyer & Cellar is over 90 minutes long, and you never leave the stage. How do you keep up your stamina and energy?
Thankfully, the play – masterfully written by Jonathan Tolins – is engaging and fast-paced, with never a dull moment. But physical and vocal warm-ups are key. I find it’s more likely to drift into bad vocal habits while talking rather than singing, especially with multiple characters and ranges. Singing is very technically based, while talking is emotionally based. So, I just have to be really on top of my physical and vocal health. Vocal rest after a show is vital too. Your voice is a muscle and it needs rest.
Also, since I’ve been in Sarasota, I’ve been going to yoga every morning, which I think has helped my stamina for the show. And finally, adrenaline. I love performing and making people laugh. And if a crowd is in the groove, then so am I, and that’s the best energy boost an actor can ask for.
What does Buyer & Cellar have to say about fame, friendship, and the dynamics of working relationships?
Buyer & Cellar explores how, with fame and fortune, comes the ability to purchase lavish houses, expensive items, and even basement shopping malls! As you get more famous and acquire more possessions, how does the value of these objects change? When you have the means to buy anything you want, what becomes truly important to you?
Alex and the megastar go through some ups and downs in their relationship. Towards the end, he even thinks they have become good friends. Despite her A-list status, Alex believes she can become vulnerable with him and show him the “real her.” But, as with all working relationships, we find out that there is a line. How well can you truly know a celebrity whose private life is always public? What is an act?
Buyer & Cellar explores the dynamics between celebrities and non-famous people. Where do you think our fascination with celebrities comes from? What does this interest do for us as human beings?
Celebrity obsession is an escape from the troubles of “real” life. We look up to these celebrities for inspiration for fashion, lifestyle, politics, and more. They allow us to be “aspirational,” a word used often in Buyer & Cellar. This fascination has positive and negative effects. Celebrities have the power to change people. For example, a person can listen to an album by a famous musician, and their words and musicality can pull them out of a deep depression. An aspiring actor can look up to the greats as a symbol of hope as they pound the pavement to achieve their dreams. A non-famous person can see themselves in a celebrity and it makes them feel less alone and gives them comfort in knowing that they are not the only ones going through trials and tribulations. However, the status of celebrity also makes it easy to forget that everybody’s just a person.
Buyer & Cellar reminds us that the famous are also people who deal with real human problems. They do have luxury and maybe an easier way of life than most, but they suffer many of the same woes as other people. The play illustrates that, despite different ways of life, maybe celebrities and non-famous people aren’t as different as we think.
What have you learned about yourself and Alex More through your time performing Buyer & Cellar?
I’ve learned that whether you are famous or not, everyone is just a person. While we may mix in different social and financial circles, we are all united by basic human instincts and a need for connection. This show sheds light on celebrities’ obsession with possessions and what void those possessions are filling and how society (especially today) puts such emphasis on material items like phones, furniture, electronics, etc. It makes you realize what is really important in life, what it means to be a real friend, and how far people will go when they are desperate for a connection and something to give them purpose. As I go through ups and downs in life, Buyer and Cellar reminds me how little changes that you can take into your own hands can make significant improvements in your life to claim agency for yourself and find self-love and confidence.
For tickets or more information about Buyer & Cellar, click here.