Sticky in the Sticks with J. Michael Grey

A few months ago, Dave, Ali and I decided to take some time off from Sticky. While this was certainly a sensible, logical, rational idea, and while Dave and I need the extra time to focus on more child-centric activities and goals, it is also true that we miss Sticky. We miss the camaraderie, the new plays, the events, the rehearsals, the joy, the anguish. We miss all the emotions, basically, and all of the people.

Which is why we are so happy to see Sticky continue on without us, bringing all the emotions and the collaborations and the new arts experiences to a whole new crew of kids. Sticky has left the nest, and is taking her first solo flight. This Friday she will touch down in Normal, IL, under the guidance of newbie impresario J. Michael Grey.

Mikey has written many plays for the New York City incarnations of Sticky, and when he left NYC a few years back, he kept the project in mind. I caught up with Mikey via chat to find out how the project is coming. (Initially Ali, Dave and I wanted to road trip out to Normal to see the show, but alas, NYC has her viper’s grip on us and we can’t manage it.)

For more info about the aptly named Sticky in the Sticks,

It goes up Friday, November 7, 8 pm, and the first Friday of the month thereafter.
THE FIREHOUSE PUB in Uptown Normal, IL.
They’re even taking submissions: If you are interested in writing a play for us to consider; all we ask is that the piece is set in a bar or restaurant, is 2-4 characters, and no more than 10 minutes. Email

A few years ago, you did the unthinkable: you left New York. More specifically, you left the arts community that you’d been part of for over ten years. How was that transition? How did you go about finding an arts community where you are now?

​Well, I had left New York for health reasons really.  So the transition between art communities was a slow​ transition as I dealt with that business.  Sometime after arriving here I met a standup comedian named David Yates.  We quickly grew on one another, and for pretty much the first two years away from New York, David was my only friend who wasn’t in New York.  Going out to the comedy clubs with him was as close to art in the area that I got.  And then, about six months ago David mentioned wanting to move to LA within the year to pursue standup more aggressively.  Never having acted before, I suggested that he get involved in one of the local theatres here and get some experience under his belt because as a comedian, an acting role here and there could really help support his career.  Days later, my neighbor brought the morning paper over and had me read that auditions were being held that night for a 10-minute play festival at The Heartland Theatre company.  I called David, we both took this as a sign from the universe, and we went.  We both ended up being cast, and also in one of the plays that we were in, was Connie Blick was cast as well.  After a few weeks of working with Connie I knew she was the perfect fit for Sticky.  Art community transition.  Bam.

You’d been involved in lots of Stickies in NYC. What made you think that the Sticky form was the right art form for the sticks?
​When facing the hard decision to leave New York to focus on healing, the only thing that gave me hope for the seemingly grim future was knowing that Sticky could happen here.  The people here want to be entertained.  Tim McGraw performed here a few weeks ago – traffic in town came to a standstill as everyone and their uncles’ cars crawled to the stadium.  This town is where the founders of Steppenwolf theatre first met each other.  Here is where they got that ball rolling.  And a lot of members of that company have started out here.  There are two universities with strong theatre programs that have produced many wonderful and notable talents of stage and screen.  There are a lot of published authors here.  T​here are at least four community theatres that are all graced with artists that could have made the choice to go to a big city to take a stab at a career, and just chose differently.  Connie went to college for acting and chose the mother and married Midwestern life.  And after six years of being away from performing, she too was having her own transition back into the arts community.  And after learning about Sticky, it was Connie who said to me “you have to do this here.”  In that moment, Sticky in the sticks was no longer just a dream in my head.  Connie had given me permission.  Do this.  So I said to her we would do Sticky together, and she ran toward the opportunity.  As we’ve worked on Sticky we’ve received nothing but overwhelmingly positive feedback from everyone hearing about it.  Lots of times when someone first learns of Sticky they ask “Why hasn’t that been happening here already?”  This town is brimming with bars.  And Midwesterners are natural born story tellers.

Are there differences in making art outside NYC?

I don’t think there is a difference in creating art outside of New York City.  There is powerful work happening here across the spectrum.  The difference, I think, is that the presence of the work isn’t as powerful as it is in the city.  I have hope that Sticky can help this entire artistic community come together in front of an audience who maybe otherwise wouldn’t know about all the wonderful art in the area and say “Hi y’all – we’re here!  We’ve been drinking next to you this whole time.”

Community is half the reason we got started. We’d met some great artists that we wanted to keep working with, and we needed a sustainable model: Sticky was what emerged. I’m so glad it’s emerging for you and your crew, too. Can you talk about the process of putting up the show? How did you collect the artists, the work? What has been the reaction of the artists you’re working with to the idea of Sticky?

​Collecting the artists is a work in progress.  Our plan for Sticky in the sticks is to put on a new show every month.  So I expect this process to take a long while.  Connie and I reached out to all the actors we know who have then recommended friends of theirs.  ​We’ve also recruited several friends and acquaintances whom have never acted before but have the IT factor.  Everyone involved is excited.  The pros and the newbies.  Sticky is great for newbies whom have always wanted to take the risk to act in front of an audience, but couldn’t make the time to commit to a several week run, or wouldn’t commit for fear that those several weeks wouldn’t go well.  The pros in these parts love it because it’s an opportunity for them to do a show between shows.

How did you select the plays you’re doing? What were your priorities for choosing scripts?

Good question.  ​
​Most of the plays thus far have been previously produced at Sticky in New York.  Some came by suggestion and some I’ve requested having had experienced them first hand.  My hope is that the audience here has the same reaction that I had to seeing Sticky for the first time and straight away rush off to write a bar play to submit for consideration.  We would like to develop a writer base here so that a good portion of future plays are locally penned.  But we will still produce plays from New York writers.  Always.

Break all your collective legs, Sticky in the sticks, and head out on stage with all our love, from Sticky NYC.

Sticky in the sticks: the line-up:

WINGMAN, by R.A. Wilson
THE BALLAD of J & J, by Mariah MacCarthy
THE OUT CASTS, by Samantha Jones
CREEPER, by Libby Emmons
BARFLIES, by J. Michael Grey

nov sticky

J. Michael Grey, complete with beard
J. Michael Grey, complete with beard

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