Pictured Above: Playwright and Performer, Dave Droxler,  Photo Credit:  Contributed.

Robin & Me - My Little Spark of Madness

By Anthony Stoeckert

Arts News Now Features Writer Anthony Stoeckert explores the “madness,” history, and creative process with playwright and performer Dave Droxler regarding his new play that is an homage to the late Robin Williams. 

Dave Droxler’s earliest memories of watching Robin Williams were in the movie Popeye. As a kid growing up in Delaware County, he would attempt to recreate Williams’ flips and antics in that film, and he was also a fan of Mork & Mindy, the sitcom that skyrocketed Williams to stardom.

“I didn’t realize at the time that these two characters I liked were the same guy because they just looked drastically different,” Droxler says. “And my little childhood mind was like, ‘These are two different people who are really funny.’”

Those performances sparked a fondness for Williams that went beyond the typical fandom. Even as an adult in his 30s, one of Droxler’s birthday parties included a screening of Popeye.

 

“It was very thoughtful of them to do, because I know it’s not the greatest movie, but it’s still one of those movies, because it’s such a core memory from my childhood, that I almost can’t even tell what’s wrong with it,” he says. “Because as I’m watching it, it has such a heavily nostalgic feeling and it’s like watching your uncle and saying, ‘Oh it’s Uncle Robin.’”

Pictured Above: Playwright & Performer, Dave Droxler who stars in Robin & Me.  Photo Credit: Grace Copeland

Droxler describes Williams as a sort of childhood imaginary friend, and that relationship is at the core of Robin & Me: My Little Spark of Madness, his one-man show that will make its off-Broadway premiere when it kicks off Abingdon Theatre Company’s 30th season, April 15 through May 14.

 

“It comes from all different times where Robin Williams’ movies and certain appearances of his seemed to pop up when I really needed it, and I learned from them,” Droxler says. “I could see the connection between my dad and times where he may have dropped the ball, and Robin Williams kind of comes in and saves the day with his movies.”

Droxler is a writer and actor whose credits include Sesame Street’s Mecha Builders and Marvel’s Wastelanders: Wolverine podcast series. He’s also been in several off-Broadway and regional shows. Williams’ influence on Droxler made its way into his previous play, Walking on Sunshine, during which he did his Williams impression.

“It would always get a big reaction,” Droxler says. “This was about two years after he passed away, and everyone was like, ‘When are you going to make something about Robin Williams?’ And I thought, I really want to, but I don’t know what that is yet.”

Pictured Above: Robin Williams photographed backstage by Jay Paul Photo credit:  Jay Paul/Getty Images and Biography.com.

“He had his own anxieties that he was dealing with and he didn’t know how to cope because so many things that are available to us now were not available then, like therapy, or being able to show your emotions as a man”

But as he gave it some thought, Droxler remembered the moments in his life when Williams inspired him, while also realizing the influence Williams had on his career. Becoming a father—he and his wife have two kids—is another inspiration for the play. Raising children of his own gave Droxler a better understanding of his own father.

 

“He had his own anxieties that he was dealing with and he didn’t know how to cope because so many things that are available to us now were not available then, like therapy, or being able to show your emotions as a man,” Droxler says.

Pictured Above: Playwright & Performer, Dave Droxler who stars in Robin & Me.  Photo Credit: Grace Copeland

He says writing Robin & Me required a lot of trial and error and figuring how many jokes to include, and how often he should work his take on Robin Williams into the play.

 

The show, which is being directed by Chad Austin, begins with Droxler stressed out before a show backstage, and that leads to Robin Williams “visiting” with him for the first time since the legend’s death in 2014.

 

“It’s fun because I get to have those Robin Williams moments where I address the audience and comment on the audience,” Droxler says. “Then there’s also the narrative aspect of it, which goes back to me as Dave.”

The scenes about Dave involve his parents and stories from his childhood into his 30s. Those moments also include him performing comedy bits he developed in his 20s and 30s.

 

“It’s fun, but it’s exhausting, let me tell you,” Droxler says of being in his 40s and doing things that came much easier in his younger days.

 

For some of us, the actors and characters we watched in movies and on TV make a real impact on our lives—and the fact that people can affect others they have never met is something Droxler finds amazing.

“On the flip side of it, it’s so cool to think that just because you might not be a celebrity, that doesn’t mean you as an individual, as a human, can’t try do the same thing,” Droxler says. “Just through humanity and the way you act towards people and how you might affect somebody in a positive way.”

Robin & Me: My Little Spark of Madness will be performed at Theatre 4 at Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd St., New York April 15 through May 14. For tickets and information, go to abingdontheatre.org.

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