A new role for Andrew Kole | AspenTimes.com

A new role for Andrew Kole

Stewart Oksenhorn
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

Four unsuccessful bids for public office and some 794 hours on local television have not made Andrew Kole immune to the sting of public feedback. Nor have they diminished his tendency to expose himself to the spotlight.

Last summer, when Theatre Aspen did a one-night workshop of his comic play “Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time,” Kole was “absolutely petrified.”

But Kole the playwright had more success with an audience and the heads of Theatre Aspen than Kole the candidate has had with local voters. Based on that one read-through, Theatre Aspen will present “Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time” as part of its 2006 summer season. The play, loosely based on its writer, is tentatively scheduled to open Aug. 17 at the Theatre Aspen tent in Rio Grande Park and will have a run of several weeks. Theatre Aspen artistic director David McClendon will direct. The Theatre Aspen 2006 season also includes the musical “Love, Janis” and Donald Marguiles’ drama “Dinner with Friends,” which won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize.

“Pretty much everyone was surprised at how well it did,” Kole said of last summer’s workshop experience. “Most comments were, ‘I thought it might be good, but I didn’t think it would be this good.'”

Kole is already in talks to bring his play off-Broadway, with a target date of spring 2007. In casting the play, he is aiming to use actors who will be available to perform off-Broadway as well as in Aspen.

“Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time” follows the character Max Zirinsky from age 10 to 45 and focuses on a handful of key decisions he made or had made for him. The ideas, of course, appeared to be swell notions for the moment. “But when they reached their peak, of thinking they’re the greatest thing, it just falls off a cliff,” Kole said. “And I think everyone can relate to that. Everyone’s had that kind of story.”

In addition to Zirinsky, the play features 43 characters. Three actors will handle all the roles; the production also includes a big video screen and a quasi-voice of God.

Playwright, or some position in the theater, is a role Kole has been working toward much of his 55 years. As a kid growing up in New York City and Great Neck, Long Island, he was an enthusiastic and frequent theatergoer. He began his professional life in films, in the special promotions department for Warner Bros., and then with his own company, The Movie Section, which created advertisements for movies. Kole then moved into Broadway advertising, relishing the opportunity it afforded to see plays. Kole even took some shots at writing screenplays and TV pilots, but while some were optioned, nothing was ever produced.

In 1999, a year after his move to Aspen, Kole began “The Andrew Kole Show” on radio. The program, with Kole positioned as an opinionated loudmouth on local issues, moved to GrassRoots TV in 2001. This year the program, under the new name “Andrew Kole: Unsolicited,” has a half-hour time slot four days a week. Kole has also run for mayor, City Council and Aspen school board.

The move to Aspen also revived Kole’s latent interest in writing. In 1999, he wrote a book of short stories as part of his participation in the Aspen Writers’ Foundation Weekly Writers’ Group. At a meeting with an agent, Kole was told that short stories don’t sell unless they are by famous writers.

“I, of course, was not famous,” he said. “I put them in a box and left them there.”

Kole converted the short stories into a one-act play in 2003. But he was dissatisfied with the results. He gave the play to McClendon, who agreed it was far from a finished product but also saw potential in the raw material.

“He read it and said, ‘There’s something here. But you need to slash it, blow it up, take the idea and run with it,'” Kole said. “And that’s what I did.”

Kole had a stroke of luck with last summer’s workshop experience. The cast for Theatre Aspen’s production of the musical revue “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” happened to be available to do the read-through. The actors had only a four-hour rehearsal with “Seemed Like a Good Idea,” but even that was preferable to Kole’s alternatives. “Instead of getting your cousin and best friend Bob, I had real actors,” he said.

Kole is well aware that some theatergoers will come expecting ” and some even hoping for ” the worst. But he doesn’t mind, as long as they come.

“I’m hoping they’ll come because they like my TV show, or find it vaguely entertaining,” he said. “Or because they don’t like what I do politically and want to see what I might do different. I just want them to come. And the truth is, if it’s funny, people will like it.”

Just having his play produced has changed Kole’s existence. He has devoted himself to writing. He starts most days at Jour du Fête, where he edits his work, and when the last of his crew of friends leaves, he heads home to write. He has completed two sitcom pilots: “aspenBEANS,” a “Cheers”-in-Starbucks idea revolving around his routine of coffee with “a unique group of guys”; and “Lights-Camera-Action,” a sitcom about former child stars who start an acting class. He is also revising a screenplay he wrote years ago.

“That’s all I do is write,” Kole said. “I’m a writer first, a TV host second.”

It’s got to gladden some locals that he didn’t even mention himself as a candidate for local office.

Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com

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