“Felix & The Diligence” @ The Connelly Theatre, New York City

Playwright Colby Day and director Daniel Johnsen of Pipeline Theatre Company answer our Fringe Asked Questions on “Felix & The Diligence” which can be seen at The Connelly Theatre, New York City from September 23 to October 8. Ticket info and performance times are available here.

BTF: Will you tell us about your show?

CD: Felix & The Diligence follows the story of a young, bookish dreamer as he gets his first taste of adventure–and adulthood–on board an old fishing vessel. Alongside a cruel captain, superstitious sailors, and another young boy who looks suspiciously just like him, watch young Felix fall in love with mermaids, chat with sea monsters, and fight Nazi spies during the greatest play about fishermen in the 1940’s you’ll ever see. Felix tells the very funny story of how difficult it is to grow up without losing your sense of wonder and joy in the world around you.

BTF: How and when did it come about?

DJ: We wanted to do a show that took place in an impossible setting, so we came up with a boat. It then became an old wooden fishing vessel that was onstage the whole time. One of the first characters Colby came up with was a depressed sea monster, and we kind of went from there. Names are very important to us, so when we decided to name the title character Felix, which informed him immensely. We also shamelessly took plot devices from Twelfth Night, and every adventure story we were ever told from Crusoe to Melville. We used standard conventions and myths when they were helpful, and made up our own when they weren’t.

BTF: What’s your story?

DJ: Our company actually began as a class project and has since grown into a full-blown business. We were tasked by the Atlantic Acting School (where most of us trained through NYU) to build a company from the ground up, and it was the spark that we needed to come together and create our own work. Felix started during a trip to the laundromat, on a stranger’s stoop, and was filled in over the course of two years through many lunches, workshops, and now this rehearsal process. It is still changing, as we are shaping these characters with our immensely talented actors and designers.

BTF: Just how bare bones is your show?

DJ: “Bare bones” is what we do. If we can put an old wooden ship onstage for .00025% of what a Broadway show costs, and solicit people’s imaginations to fill in the rest, then we have done our job. This play encourages the audience to use their imagination—just like when reading a story—and explore the play with us. BUT we do want a splash zone, and that costs money–so hopefully not too bare bones.

BTF: Do you have any influences?

CD: Our influences are ones you could find on most high school MySpace accounts: Shakespeare, David Wain, Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black, Tennessee Williams, Walt Disney, Herman Melville, Homer, The Lonely Island, Louis C.K., and, perhaps most importantly, Nicolas Cage’s later, crazier work.

BTF: If you were meeting your prospective in-laws for the first time, how would you describe the work you do?

CD: We put on epic, fantastical, and hopefully funny plays that say a little something about how we view life. We think stories need to be told sincerely whether they’re funny or sad, and should always be a little bit of both. Life is incredibly fun, but we still wish we were kids again, so we try to avoid any of the cynicism that can suck the joy and wonder out of things for “grown-ups.”

BTF: What shouldn’t an audience expect from you?

DJ: Comedy without deep, true emotion. Every time something got sadder in this play, we got excited because it got funnier, and vice versa. It should feel like an R-rated comedy that also appeals to your Walt Disney-loving inner child.

BTF: So why do you do it?

DJ: We do it because it is what we want to see onstage. We want to see a comedy with strong acting that is still moving, and has fantastical characters, events, and the unexpected. We like the spectacle that theater can be—and we love to throw buckets of water all over the stage.

FAQs: Timothy Trimingham Lee, Director, London

 

Director Timothy Trimingham Lee of Flying Orchard answers our Featured Artist Questions.

BTF: What are you up to at the moment?

TTL:
 Currently, I’m directing the world premiere of The Viewing by Ross Howard for In Company Theatre’s Off Cut Festival at Riverside Studios. It’s a strange little piece that incites anxiety while also inviting laughter. It’s hard to categorize and complicated yet it’s taut and lean and mean. Ross writes plays that are all muscle and no fat. I feel very lucky to be working with him and such a marvelous group of collaborators. This autumn, I’m also directing Oklahoma! at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts and the MA Musical Theatre Showcase presentation of Tom Sawyer, a new musical by Jonathan Puddicombe, at Goldsmiths. Flying Orchard, the company I’m Joint Artistic Director of, with Anna Ehnold-Danailov, will be performing as part of The Experimental Food Society Spectacular in October. And I’ve recently been made an associate at Theatre Studio London with the remit to develop new work. I’m feeling that this will be an exciting though hectic autumn!

BTF: What’s your story?

TTL:
 I was born in Bermuda, a tiny island all alone in the Atlantic Ocean. It was a beautiful place to grow up. Every time I return there I miss it more when I leave. My parents still live there, and I wish the ocean between us wasn’t quite so vast. But I think I always knew that I would have to move and chase my dreams elsewhere. As a child, I was credited with a wild imagination. It was at Connecticut College that I found a way to channel that imagination with theatre. I wanted to be an actor for a while, but, after studying for a few months in Moscow, I recognized that I would never be as good as the actors I saw there. So I followed the advice that had been given to me by my mentor Richard Digby Day, who said to me when I was at The National Theatre Institute: “You are not an actor. Your talent is in writing and directing.” I tried to ignore his advice for a while, naturally, because I wanted to rebel against this prescription. But he was right. So now I’m writing and directing and loving it. I still get to work with performers, yet I don’t have to deal with the crippling stage fright that would always dog me. I’m also teaching now, which I find very rewarding.

BTF: Describe your first theatrical memory.

TTL: That’s a hard one. I didn’t get to see a lot of theatre as a kid. I watched television. Way too much television. Which probably explains why I have a real aversion to it now. I guess it would have to be when I was performing in Drake as Queen Elizabeth I. I had to wear this purple dress with the stiff, white collar and this fiery wig. That was before my voice broke so I could do this haughty high quality when I spoke my text. My first line was “Rather seaweed than perfume, my lord.” Apparently, I was very convincing. I towered over my friend who played Sir Francis Drake. My parents told me that they managed to preserve the video cassette of that performance despite the unforgiving humidity in Bermuda. I’m looking forward to watching that I must say.

BTF: What are your career highlights so far?

TTL: Directing Waiting for Godot with some close friends for sure. A long relationship had just ended. I’d been engaged and it all went belly up and then I had to direct this incredibly difficult and challenging play. I just really wanted to throw in the towel. But my collaborators became my family and we produced some of the best work I’ve ever been associated with. It’s my favourite play by my favourite writer. Sadly, not many people saw it, but I think those that did knew they were seeing something special. Having the magnificent Barney Rossett, Beckett’s American agent, come and see a night of Beckett plays that Eve Hartmann-Crep and I produced for the writer’s centennial in New York was incredible. I directed That Time with my dear friend Milt Angelopoulos performing (he was Vladimir in Godot and acted in many of my shows in America) and my constant collaborator and close buddy Fitz Gitler doing sound. When Barney said he liked what he saw that evening, I felt as close to Beckett as I guess one can. That meant so much to me. Recently, I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to direct Buried Child at Upstairs at the Gatehouse. I have Racky Plews to thank for that. She took a real gamble with me. I’m still pretty new to London. I had the most amazing company, though. I’m so proud of what we managed to accomplish in the time we had. Working with John Atterbury was what I’ll never forget. His performance as Dodge was astounding. It’s a herculean task to play that role. But he, a seasoned actor, a real pro, would come in to rehearsal and give his all all the time. He was nominated for an Off West End Award for that performance. I certainly hope the selection committee remembers him next year. To have anything to do with a performance of that caliber is an honour for me.

BTF: Who would you invite to your fantasy theatrical barbecue?

TTL: Samuel Beckett, Caryl Churchill, William Faulkner, PJ Harvey, Scott Walker, Billie Holiday, Gerhard Richter, Virginia Woolf, David Lynch, Diane Arbus, Andrei Tarkovsky, Bjork, Buster Keaton, Catherine Deneuve, Captain Beefheart, Pina Bausch, Ingmar Bergman, Helen Mirren, William Shakespeare, Katie Mitchell, Romeo Castellucci, Kate Valk, John Donne, Diamanda Galas, Robert Bresson, Maria Callas, Miles Davis, Nina Simone, Dmitiri Shostakovich, Isabelle Huppert, Francis Bacon, Jeanette Winterston, Luis Bunuel, Sissy Spaceck, Terence Malick, Susan Sontag, Peter Brook, Anne Bogart, Bob Dylan, Juliette Binoche, Tom Waits, Liv Ullman, David Foster Wallace, Siouxsie Sioux, Chaucer and Jane Campion.

BTF: Who have been the greatest influences on your career?

TTL: My parents have never tried to dissuade me from pursuing a career in the theatre, even though I spent many years doing a series of dead-end jobs to finance “my other life.” They have always been loving and supportive even when I’m sure they wished I was doing something sensible like law or insurance. They instilled in me values that I cherish and that inform the way I work with others. In my wanderings, I have found many people who have inspired and guided me. Bruce Grandfield, my high school English teacher, taught me to question everything and introduced me to all the great dystopian novels that continue to colour my thinking. Ken Bleeth, my advisor in college and a friend, spurred on my passion for literature and has been a tireless champion of my work. Richard Digby Day taught me that theatre was a serious and important profession. J Ranelli helped me at college to realize that there is nothing intellectual about making drama. It’s all about action. I apprenticed with Doug Hughes when he was Artistic Director at Long Wharf Theatre. Working with him helped me see that fear is an enemy to creating good work. He possesses an extraordinary vocabulary and it is dazzling to watch him build an easy rapport with his collaborators and to cement the alliances that will pave the way to a good production. The formidable actress Elizabeth Franz and the marvelous writer Chris Pelham were kind of like artistic parental figures for me in the US. Recently, Katie Mitchell has been a real inspiration for me. I interviewed her for my MA in Directing at Central School of Speech and Drama. She was humble and funny. She’s easily the best director in this country. Her standards are so exacting, precise and ambitious. Beyond theatre, I look to Scott Walker as a kind of star to navigate my choices by. He has had such a rich and diverse career. His music is so uncompromising and his vision so adventurous and innovative. I look to him whenever I’m depressed by all the dreck that’s out there.

BTF: Who else should we know about?

TTL: DEREVO. They are a Russian company that I saw in Edinburgh when I was living there. That piece Red Zone remains the best theatre show I’ve seen.

BTF: Where would you like to be in five years time?

TTL: In a rehearsal room, wherever that may be, with whomever else is there, struggling to make good work.

“The Viewing” directed by Timothy Trimingham Lee can be seen from September 27 to October 2 as part of In Company Theatre’s Off Cut Festival. Ticket info and performance dates and times are available here.

“SMILE” @ Vancouver International Fringe Festival

 

Sandra Herd of Awkward Stage Productions answers our Fringe Asked Questions on “SMILE” which can be seen at the Firehall, Vancouver from September 8-18. Ticket info and performance dates and times are available here.

BTF: Will you tell us about your show?

SH: SMILE is a very fast paced musical satire that goes behind the scenes of a 1985 teenaged beauty pageant. Perhaps enough said! It merrily mocks the pageant world, with a lot of song and dance, but it also explores the emptiness of the victory. Sweet and charming, but hyper competitive, it’s like the Toddlers In Tiaras have grown up into their moms and they are now embodying that win at all costs mentality. It’s kind of like Mean Girls meets Barbie!

BTF: How and when did it come about?

SH: The show is primarily about choices. Robin is a sweet girl who kind of stumbled into the pageant and must choose to stay true to herself or succumb to the drive to win. She befriends Doria, who strives to win a pageant to fill the emptiness in her life. Then there’s Shawn, the valley girl, who harbours more than just a competitive distaste for the Mexican contestant, Maria, and goes way too far to win. Leading them all as pageant coordinator is the former winner, but National loser, who has to face down her own failure and make some tough choices. Alongside her is lovable Big Bob, who is the most ardent pageant supporter on the planet, until he sees the naked truth. The score is by Marvin Hamlisch (A Chorus Line) and the book and lyrics by Howard Ashman (Little Shop of Horrors), and it is considered by most critics to be the best musical to come out of the 80’s. We chose it because it’s funny, fast and contains lots of teenagers.

BTF: What’s your story?

SH: We are a primarily youth theatre company (which we define as 13 to 30!) and last year we presented 13 at the Vancouver Fringe. It was very popular, sold out almost every show, and won Pick of the Fringe. We felt a lot of that success had to do with teens playing teens (there were no adults in the show). So we looked for another teen oriented show. There aren’t many that don’t have at least some adults, so we pondered what to do, what to do. Then it hit. Have the adult roles portrayed by Muppet style puppets a la Avenue Q. Great, now where to get the puppets? Too expensive to buy, can’t find any to rent, so we make the crazy decision to make them- without any experience whatsoever of course! So we went online, took out a couple of books, bought some foam and fabric and began. The first one so exceeded our expectations we couldn’t believe it. But then we got even better. By the 8th puppet, the first one was starting to look quite lame, but he’s still a fave! On average they have about $50 worth of materials including costume and hair (we are amazing thrift store shoppers – puppets wear kids’ size 4), and our time – well, you know. It took a lot. Our puppet makers are Sandra Herd of Awkward Stage Productions and Debbie Wiecke of I Make Neat Stuff.Now what to do with all that new found knowledge and skill? Why hold a puppet making workshop for the Fringe of course!! It’s on Sept. 14 at noon on Granville Island. Check out the website and guide for more info. So now we have a show and some puppets. We held auditions that included a little puppet work and cast the show with totally novice puppeteers. We searched for a ‘puppet school’ but didn’t find one. We did find Jeny Cassady, a local professional puppeteer, and she agreed to come train our novices. We had a four day ‘puppet camp’ to kick off their skills before heading into rehearsal. And now they are amazing. A couple of them have even been hired for ‘puppet gigs’!! And we made some Puppet promo videos for Youtube called A Day in the Life of an Ordinary Puppet, and have been releasing one every Wednesday and Saturday for the eight weeks leading up to the Fringe.

BTF: What shouldn’t an audience expect from you?

SH: One thing an audience should absolutely never expect from us is less. They should never expect less from us because we are young. Our casts, crew and band are all youths, but their exceptional talents are more than up to the job of providing superior quality entertainment. We’re professionals, and so are they.

BTF: If this is your first festival, what do you think you’re in store for? If you’re a pro, what is it you’re in for?

SH: The Fringe was essential to our initial success. There are a lot of ways for a Fringe show to be ‘Fringey’. It doesn’t always have to be a cutting edge novel work. It can be a new artist or a new way of doing an old show. That’s what we are. We present very new artists and we are doing an old show in a very new way – with some puppets! The Fringe serves as the perfect launching pad for a new show, a new company, new artists, new approaches and especially all of them combined. The built in audience, promotion, tickets, professional support staff and volunteers make it possible for small theatre, unique theatre and new theatre to get the exposure and experience needed to push out beyond the festival and stand on its own. Last year’s festival was just such a launch for our brand new company and first show. And the exposure to other artists, each with their own unique talents, perspectives and performances, makes the whole event a continual learning experience. After winning one of the Pick of the Fringe rubber chickens last year, our first show 13 went on to run for another week at the Norman Rothstein Theatre. This year our goal is to hopefully maybe move on to two additional venues. Ultimately, we hope to be strong enough and known enough that we can produce and stage a show without starting at the Fringe first. Scary. The Fringe helped our company to provide so many opportunities to a lot of youths, many of whom benefited from the exposure by securing representation, other shows, workshops and even actual paid work as artists. And it was the overall Fringe experience that made it so easy for us to move out of the box to create and cast our own puppets in a musical without puppets. Our future is growing and expanding with possibilities thanks to our well supported beginning!

BTF: So what’s the fun in Fringe?

SH: What’s not fun about the Fringe? Where else can you find such a cornucopia of broad spectrum theatre in a relatively small geographic area and narrow time period? It’s a feast for the senses and the mind. NOTHING will ever replace live theatre. We love it, we love it, we love it. Come see our show and all the other shows too.

“LOL (lots of love)” @ Edinburgh Festival Fringe

 

Artistic director Luca Silvestrini of Protein Dance answers our Fringe Asked Questions on “LOL (lots of love)” which can be seen at the Zoo Southside, Edinburgh from August 22-27. Ticket info and performance dates and times are available here.

BTF: Will you tell us about your show?

LS: Our show is called LOL (lots of love) and delves into the world of electronic communication to comment on how we connect with each other and how social networking has radically changed the way we conduct our relationships. We have a cast of six dancers and, at the back of the stage, huge videos of people online. The action is fast, the text is amusing, poignant, telling…and I think Edinburgh audiences will really go for it.

BTF: How and when did it come about?

LS: I like to make shows from issues or subjects that are of personal interest. I do my own research then research the idea further with dancers during which time I find out if the subject of interest can become a show. Often it’s a very obscure fascination, as if I want to clarify things in my own mind; I want to know why I’m attracted to a particular subject, or why we, as human beings, do this or do that and why it bothers me! I was inspired to make LOL when people were saying to me are you on Facebook and I didn’t even know what it was…I felt left out! I wasn’t part of it and I sensed a shift in the way people were communicating – although LOL isn’t exactly autobiographical, it’s sometimes difficult to separate yourself from what you do.

BTF: What’s your story?

LS: Dance is something I’ve liked doing since I was little, at home, copying dancers on telly. However I only went to my first dance class when I was about fifteen and learned to express myself through movement. Since then, I’ve never really stopped practising dance. I’ve always been attracted to movement and physical expression and being able to imagine things and bringing them to life through theatre. I graduated from the University of Bologna and came to London where I studied dance and choreography at Laban in London where I met my first professional collaborator, Bettina Strickler.Bettina and I shared a fascination for the everyday, for the life that was going on around us which we felt we could portray onstage and comment on. At the time we felt there was a lot of heavy, serious work around and we wanted to make work that was a bit lighter, Our first piece was a duet called Duel in 1998; the collaboration created interest and attention for our approach to portraying human connections and human nature onstage. We needed to call ourselves something but we didn’t want to use our own names; we found this word ‘protean’ which means changeable but then we thought it was a bit too arty so we settled on Protein; there’s movement, energy and speed in protein and we thought that also reflected the work.

BTF: Do you have any influences?

LS: I do not wish to emulate anyone, this is not what interests me or why I work. In terms of inspirations, I saw the amazing mime artist (and dancer/choreographer) Lindsay Kemp in Italy when I was a teenager; I was fascinated by the way he moved and by the theatricality of his show. Later on, the work of Win Wandekeybus and other European physical theatre companies convinced me to approach dance. But ultimately it was the work of German choreographer Pina Bausch, and her extraordinary Wuppertal ensemble, that really inspired me to become a dancer and to make my own work.

BTF: Just how bare bones is your show?

LS: If you mean stripped back it isn’t really! However, LOL is the lightest show I’ve ever made: no big set or multitude of props. I decided to work around the concept of “isolated togetherness” (essentially we are constantly connecting and communicating these days, but mostly in isolation via our phones and computers). This comment required a sense of emptiness on stage and this why I ended up using just video projections (by Rachel Davies) that are thrown onto the entire back wall, and one prop. LOL priorities physicality and narration and the six dancers are skilfully talking and dancing at the same time. The production has original music by Andy Pink and the lighting design, which again compliments the work, is by Protein’s regular collaborator, Jackie Shemesh.

BTF: If you were meeting your prospective in-laws for the first time, how would you describe the work you do?

LS: I would probably say I’m a choreographer who uses physical dance and physical theatre to challenge everyday perspectives on human behaviour and that makes entertaining yet thought provoking work.

BTF: What shouldn’t an audience expect from you?

LS: Hmm, well they certainly won’t be bored or frightened and they won’t go out wondering what it was all about.

BTF: If this is your first festival, what do you think you’re in store for? If you’re a pro, what is it you’re in for?

LS: We came to Edinburgh in 2004 with our show Publife which ran for two weeks in the bar at Club Ego. We had a great time although it was exhausting day after day promoting your show, doing stunts, giving out leaflets…then doing the show at night. This year Protein is performing as part of the British Council Showcase and I believe this is the first year they’re presenting dance – so we’re very excited to be part of it and I’m really looking forward to performing LOL in Edinburgh.

BTF: So what’s the fun in Fringe?

LS: Partly going to Edinburgh, which is such a beautiful city, partly being able to bring our work to a different audience and partly hoping to have enough time to see some other shows.
“The Chairs” & “The Lesson” @ Camden Fringe Festival

 

Actor Deborah Ellis answers our Fringe Asked Questions on “The Chairs” and “The Lesson” which can be seen at the Etcetera Theatre, London from August 25-28. Ticket info and performance dates and times are available here.

BTF: Will you tell us about your show?

DE: The Chairs is a sweetly humorous and, at times deeply touching play, which portrays an elderly couple who are living out their final days by remembering the past and sharing with their audience half forgotten stories seen from their own subjective viewpoints, frustrations and ambitions. Superbly acted by David Brett , Alison Sandford and a cast of chairs, this profound play provokes us to think about what it means to be at the end of your life, how to deal with regret and about the legacies we leave behind. The Lesson by contrast, is a hilarious rollercoaster ride to the deeply disturbing world of the Professor, his Pupil and the Maid. A seemingly innocent tutorial swiftly and absurdly accelerates into an exploration of personal, sexual and violent power dynamics. With this powerful cast, Corin Stuart as the dominating Professor, Alison Sandford as his devoted Maid and myself as the confounded Pupil you will enter the surreal world of The Lesson and question your own moral integrity for laughing out loud and for all the wrong reasons!

BTF: What’s your story?

DE: Atelier Theatre and our Ionesco double bill is formed from four professional actors taken from the main company Atelier Community Theatre, now one year old and formed by the dynamic duo of Romanian director Vasile Nedelcu and his partner and all-round superstar, Flora Smith. We are a Sussex based company and our inaugural production of Peer Gynt back in January 2011 had a fourteen strong cast plus a large technical, design and support team. As a larger company, we have strong ambitions for further exciting future projects but in the meantime we are very much hoping that The Chairs and The Lesson will have legs and if our sell-out performances at local venues is anything to judge by, we have a potential great success on our hands! The company website is well worth a look if you are interested in learning more, particularly about Vasile, our extremely talented, energetic and humble director. I joined Atelier as part of the ensemble for Peer Gynt and was lucky enough to be given some glorious comic cameo parts to play in that production. This time round, I am so excited to have been cast in the part of the Pupil in The Lesson and am enjoying no end playing what can only be described as a comic gift and a dream of a part for an actress like me. I have been very lucky in my career to have been solidly working in theatre, (apart from taking a couple of years off after the birth of my gorgeous and long-suffering son) in one form or another since graduating with a BA Hons degree in Drama and Theatre Studies from Royal Holloway University of London in 1996. Actually, it’s quite strange to be asked this question as I’ve always been someone who has their eyes on the “What’s next?” and looking back is not something I allow myself to indulge in much, so it’s with some surprise that I wonder who this person is that has amounted such an impressive body of work and I am grateful to the bottom of my heart to acknowledge that it is me. Long may the parts keep coming as I intend to be acting when I am a toothless old hag with a chin full of whiskers!

BTF: If this is your first festival, what do you think you’re in store for? If you’re a pro, what is it you’re in for?

DE: Firstly, I just need to say how brilliantly organised and promoted the Camden Fringe Festival is, we have been guided and helped throughout the whole process, which is painless and as easy as I find spending money on the internet (How do they know I am so weak-willed?). Michelle in particular has been as patient as a saint and deserves a medal in my opinion. The Etcetera Theatre is a great venue for our work, which will flourish in the intimate space and we feel very optimistic about our audiences, good absurdist comedy is always popular and the plays of Eugene Ionesco are timeless classics. Apart from being fine actors though, our company focus is on the one hour time limit and quick change over issues, running over is not an option in this fast turn over environment so we are currently in chair-strike training under the stopwatch of Anna Sheard (our task-focused stage manager) and so to answer your question, I am hoping that I am in store for a PB chair-strike time at the Camden Fringe.

BTF: So what’s the fun in Fringe?

DE: Where else would you get the eclectic mix, the weird, the wonderful and (lets face it) sometimes downright strange other than at a Fringe Festival? It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet of venues, performers and entertainment where you can gorge yourself on anything that takes your fancy and you can keep going back for more until you feel full (or sick) and the best thing about it is that it won’t cost you an arm and a leg! For us as a company and with this double bill, it’s a great way to test the water in London, share laughs and possibly tears, phone numbers and no doubt a few beers with like-minded souls and do what we love doing best, performing great theatre.

Juliette Burton answers our Fringe Asked Questions on “Rom Com Con” which can be seen at the Medina, Edinburgh from August 6-27. Ticket info and performance dates and times are available here.

BTF: Will you tell us about your show?

JB: It’s a real-life story, all totally true! Lizzy and Juliette decided to road-test all the ways guys and girls meet in the top 100 romantic comedies to find out whether they too can find love or whether rom coms are just one big con! We tackle what is fake and what’s real in the world of dating and love and have a few laughs along the way.

BTF: How and when did it come about?

JB: Earlier this year both of us were surrounded by couples – all our friends are settling down, getting engaged and married, all at once. We felt like the only two single girls left. Lizzy decided we needed to meet new men, but neither of us knew how. It all seemed so simple in the rom coms – maybe they held the answer! We began road-testing the rom coms in May so the show is still very fresh!

BTF: What’s your story?

JB: We have been friends for years and have both been professional actresses separately. We began writing together in early 2010 when we both took a stand up comedy course and helped each other write our routines. We realised we had a shared love of all things confusing and a shared confusion about all things love! We wrote a show together last year called Crush which Lizzy performed in Edinburgh as part of the Free Fringe. Rom Com Con is our first show together and the ideal first step as Mace and Burton.

BTF: Do you have any influences?

JB: We love French and Saunders but our format is more Danny Wallace and Dave Gorman…but female! Imagine Daniel Kitson in a dress next to a slightly shorter clone of himself and you’re kind of close to Mace and Burton …

BTF: Just how bare bones is your show?

JB: It’s just us on a stage with Lizzy’s lap top and Juliette’s projector. That’s it! We tell the story and use film footage and slides to help us.

BTF: If you were meeting your prospective in-laws for the first time, how would you describe the work you do?

JB: Uplifting story-telling comedy to brighten people’s days!

BTF: What shouldn’t an audience expect from you?

JB: Don’t expect stand up or sketch comedy, don’t expect lies or fakery, don’t expect angry feminists having a rant, don’t expect serious theatre. Come with an open mind and as few expectations as possible – we’ll do our best to make sure you leave smiling and pleasantly surprised.

BTF: If this is your first festival, what do you think you’re in store for? If you’re a pro, what is it you’re in for?

JB: We’re going to meet the friendliest people of our year, we’ll have late nights, we’ll learn how much we can drink without jeopardising our performance, we’ll make the most of terrific networking opportunities, we’ll be very tired, we’ll probably catch a cold a few days into the run, the weather will change five times every day and we’ll the time of our lives!

BTF: So what’s the fun in Fringe?

JB: Particularly for the Edinburgh Fringe, the fun is being in such a wonderful city filled with so many creative people. We’ve both performed in Edinburgh before and we both LOVE it. Every day is an adventure – you never know who you’ll end up meeting! You end up seeing the most wonderful, eccentric, brilliant and bizarre shows and being enlightened. One day it’s a random, undiscovered yet fantastic comedian in a damp underground cave, the next it’s the most incredibly talented circus performers braving all weathers on the Royal Mile. We can’t wait to entertain as many festival-goers as possible!

Director Melinda Burton of Trunkman Productions answers our Fringe Asked Questions on “Alternative” by Trent Burton which can be seen at the Etcetera Theatre, Camden from August 3-4. Ticket info and performance dates and times are available here.

BTF: Will you tell us about your show?

MB: Man has mystery illness, GP has no clue, weary girlfriend wants him to try remedies from his homeopath sister, fellow patient the only one not giving him grief… The story is about what you’re driven to do when everyone has a theory but no-one has an answer and how hard it can be to ‘ignore the hype’ when you’re desperate.

BTF: How and when did it come about?

MB: It’s a somewhat autobiographical story by my husband. Last year he got a stomach thing on his 30th birthday. After a few months of tests, he found out he had a stomach disorder and everyone advised him to try homeopathic remedies, but he’s not that way inclined.

BTF: What’s your story?

MB: Trunkman was founded by my husband in Fremantle, Western Australia, in 2001, which is the same year we met. He started off filming small local events, then we made some short films together, and by 2003 we’d made an 8 part sitcom for a local TV station, the first one made in Perth. This was followed by a theatre show that got professional backing in one of Perth’s biggest theatres in 2004/2005. After that we decided to leave the ‘hustle bustle’ of Perth and move to London. Now we’re doing our third play for the Camden Fringe, and Alternative is our biggest and best show yet.

BTF: Do you have any influences?

MB: In a nutshell, we like black humour and satire, ‘angry’ comedy, physical comedy and surreal comedy. We try to use elements of each in our productions. Particular favourites of ours include John Cleese and Monty Python for breaking the rules, Ricky Gervais and Steven Merchant for breaking them further, Robin Ince, for his energetic hatred of stupidity and love for rationalism, and Tim Minchin (also from Perth) for putting a tune to some fine skepticism.

BTF: Just how bare bones is your show?

MB: We aren’t lard drippings, but we’re not prime rib either. We’re a good decent sandwich I’d say. Social media has been a huge help in terms of promotion and we’re also working in association with a fantastic duo from The Nightingale Collaboration, whose work focuses on challenging misleading claims about healthcare products and services, particularly alternative therapies. Our combined efforts have seen the play, and its message gain interest from several reviewers, a featured story on The Pod Delusion, and some well known skeptics are coming along to see it as well. One of the aims for the show, (apart from being an entertaining comedy!), is obviously to increase awareness around the issues it raises, and so working alongside Nightingale is a natural fit.

BTF: If you were meeting your prospective in-laws for the first time, how would you describe the work you do?

MB: We are skeptics using the mediums of theatre and comedy to contribute a rationalist view. Our last three plays have all had a skeptical bent – Rob Is was about the hysteria surrounding the media, The Twenty Minute Policy was focused on the religion debate, and Alternative, well, as above.

BTF: What shouldn’t an audience expect from you?

MB: Anything in the vein of Michael McIntyre or Little Britain. Or irrational nonsense.

BTF: If this is your first festival, what do you think you’re in store for? If you’re a pro, what is it you’re in for?

MB: It’s our third time round and we’re looking forward to it. The Fringe isn’t easy, and you have to be super organised. Getting people to your show out of the huge bunch of stuff that’s on is the most important thing and publicity is something we’ve focused on more and more every year. As I mentioned, we’ve had quite a bit of interest already, so we’re looking forward to a great run and some good PR for Trunkman, our cast and crew and The Nightingale Collaboration.

BTF: So what’s the fun in Fringe?

MB: Being your own master, I think. When you write it, cast it and fund it all yourself, you have creative control. We’re very collaborative with our cast and crew once they’re on board, but it’s great to have the freedom to shape it as we want to from the beginning. We are also performing Alternative outside of the Fringe this year, which is a first for us. It’s also a great way, for us anyway, to get involved with some people you might not normally associate with Fringe theatre. Whilst The Nightingale Collaboration’s work is well known and revered within skeptical circles it’s a real pleasure to be able to introduce them to our audience and likewise, us to theirs.

Marc Spiegel Fringe Asked Questions on “The Foo Fah Show” which can be seen at Capital Fringe Festival from July 13-23. Ticket info and performance dates and times are available here.

BTF: Will you tell us about your show?

MS: Starting in the imaginary world of Foo Fah, the stories are several and all a bit fantastical. There are evil beings, angelic choruses, one wise nincompoop, a forever jaundiced dragon and an absolutely non-preachy morality tale or two. The storyteller, Marc Spiegel, assigns parts to sections of the audience and then conducts them like a preposterous symphony in the telling of his original ridiculous and sublime tales.

BTF: How and when did it come about?

MS: I contracted the germ of the idea for The Foo Fah Show some years ago having briefly fled from Harvard Graduate School to Hollywood, California. Early one evening I was walking down La Brea Avenue between Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards with some distinctly eccentric people I have only just met. Suddenly the street lights turned on and I had the immediate realization that “all people are one.” It was a comforting thought, though I had no clear idea what it meant. A few years later, having permanently fled from graduate school, I started performing on the streets of San Francisco. I had no theatrical training, no musical ability or acrobatic skills, but I remembered my earlier realization and set out to make the audience and the performer one. It was a gradual evolution which is even now still picking up speed.

BTF: Do you have any influences?

MS: As I look back, my artistic influences were Spike Jones, Victor Borge, The Marx Brothers, Dr. Seuss, Jimmy Durante, Pinkie Lee and the early kids interactive TV show, Winky Dink & You. I also liked Shakespeare and Bob Dylan, but that is rather commonplace.

BTF: What shouldn’t an audience expect from you?

MS: The one thing and audience should not expect from me is any opportunity to fall asleep. Even if they don’t completely adore the show, they will be entirely too busy to realize it.

BTF: So what’s the fun in Fringe?

MS: Being on the fringe itself with it wild range of performances. There is everything from Ancient Greek to post-modern gaga.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

 

Pamela Nash answers our Fringe Asked Questions on “A Day At The Museum” which can be seen at Capital Fringe Festival until July 10-23. Ticket info and performance dates and times are available here.

BTF: Will you tell us about your show?

PN: There is a nude girl in our show. A live nude girl. Yes, she’s nude. Ok, now that that’s out of the way, our story takes place in a museum among the characters that visit and interact before a trio of (yes, nude) paintings. A woman brings her adult daughter to the museum to reveal her past as a nude model. A charming young man, spending his lunch hour at the museum, is taken by the young woman depicted in the painting, and eventually by her daughter. These three play out their meetings and partings between interruptions from the bizarre and hilarious characters that populate the gallery where the paintings are displayed. The paintings represent innocence, motherhood, and sensuality, and the various characters who flow through the piece embody different aspects of these characteristics.

BTF: How and when did it come about?

PN: The story and the music were originally performed as “Fugue Series,” which premiered at the New York International Fringe Festival In 2008. The DC performance features an entirely new cast, new choreography, and a new director. The story and the music remain the same. The choreography borrows heavily from modern dance, mime technique, and the very unique variety of physical theater developed at Synetic Theater, Washington DC’s premiere physical theater. Our choreographer and cast member John Milosich and cast member Ryan Sellers have both performed on Synetic’s stage. I’ve been taking classes at Synetic since January and I have a dance background in ballet, jazz, and swing, as well as in improv comedy. The model who plays all three paintings, is also portrait artist and body painter, with a degree in art history and a masters degree in museum education. The diversity of the cast is our strength, and our various backgrounds have informed the artistic direction of the work.

BTF: What’s your story?

PN: My story begins, well, my artistic story begins at the University of Michigan, where I took a playwriting course with a dynamic and influential instructor, Ari Roth. He subsequently moved to Washington DC, to serve as the Artistic Director for Theater J. I moved to DC for non-artistic reasons (my day job is “government lawyer”), and Ari was one of my first visits, because I knew he would inspire and encourage me. And he did. Since moving to DC, I have studied improvisation at DC Improv and Washington Improv Theater and physical theater at Synetic. Add that to an undergraduate degree in creative writing, a career as a trial attorney and then an appellate attorney (both “performance” lawyers), and here I am, in a beautiful silent comedy about love and art.

BTF: Just how bare bones is your show?

PN: Our show is intentionally minimalist. There is no dialogue. The story, the relationships, and the action are all dictated by the musical score. The characters tell their stories through movement, body language, and facial expressions. Each cast member plays 3-4 characters, including the model who plays the three paintings, so it’s bare bones in that respect as well. The set consists of 3 frames for the paintings and a bench. Costumes are limited to a simple element that defines each character, the Mother’s shawl, the Docent’s ascot, over a neutral base costume worn by each ensemble member. The design lets the music and the emotion of the piece take center stage.

BTF: What shouldn’t an audience expect from you?

PN: Dialogue. Or porn.

BTF: So what’s the fun in Fringe?

PN: The collaborative environment. The DC arts community is always growing, and Fringe shows and events give us a place to connect. The people we meet every July through Fringe usually wind up being artistic collaborators, advisors, castmates, and friends. This play was cast largely through word of mouth, recommendations from former collaborators and castmates.

John Grady answers our Fringe Asked Questions on “Fear Factor: Canine Edition” which can be seen at Winnipeg Fringe Festival from July 14-22. Ticket info and performance dates and times are available here.

BTF: Will you tell us about your show?

JG: A man and his dog…and a ticking time bomb.

BTF: How and when did it come about?

JG: Thirteen years on a walkabout with my dog as co-pilot.

BTF: What’s your story?

JG: Raised by wolves in Northern California, on the lam in Canada for a spell, now in New York City forging a powerful yet contentious bond with it’s eight million inhabitants.

BTF: Do you have any influences?

JG: Simon McBurney, William Forsythe…oh and Spaulding…I used to play with his balls when I was a kid.

BTF: Just how bare bones is your show?

JG: A guy in a suit, standing in a pool of light…so shake your bones at that.

BTF: If you were meeting your prospective in-laws for the first time, how would you describe the work you do?

JG:  “I’m an archaeologist. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go on a dig.”…(door closes, sounds of a grown man weeping coming from the bathroom.)

BTF: What shouldn’t an audience expect from you?

JG: Stories of my love affair with Kate Middleton…she was my first.

BTF: If this is your first festival, what do you think you’re in store for? If you’re a pro, what is it you’re in for?

JG: I’m hoping for no barfy rides.

BTF: So what’s the fun in Fringe?

JG: A room full of strangers…like dad’s retirement party…and grandma’s funeral.