Fringe Friday: Office Hours Schedule + Workshop 2 Panelist Announcement

Join Hollywood Fringe staff and participants for weekly casual meet-ups at different bars around Hollywood. If you're wondering what the fuss is all about, check out this FringeTV video.
Office Hours take place Wednesdays starting March 28th. The times and locations are below; for drink specials and updates, check out this blog post and the #drinkingaboutfringe hashtag on Twitter and Instagram (as well as #hff18, the official festival hashtag).
March 28th, 7-10pm - St. Felix (1602 N. Cahuenga Blvd.)
April 4th, 7-10pm - Lost Property (1704 Vine St.)
April 11th, 7-10pm - Paloma (6327 Hollywood Blvd.)
April 18th, 7-10pm - Pig N' Whistle (6714 Hollywood Blvd.)
April 25th, 7-10pm - The Well (6255 Sunset Blvd.)
May 2nd, 7-11pm - BLACK (6202 Santa Monica Blvd.)
May 9th, 7-10pm - 33 Taps (6263 Hollywood Blvd.)
May 16th, 7-11pm - Three Clubs (1123 Vine St.)
May 23rd, 7-11pm - BLACK (6202 Santa Monica Blvd.)
May 30th, 7pm-Bar Close - Three Clubs (1123 Vine St.)
Networking is an essential ingredient to your success at Fringe and the Fringe organizers are giving you a ton of opportunities to mix and mingle! Hope to see you #drinkingaboutfringe soon.
Consider this your last call to join the Fringe organizers this Sunday, March 11th for Workshop II: Money & Promotion from 2-4pm at the Complex, moderated by their Outreach Manager Ellen Den Herder.
They have some awesome panelists lined up to share their expertise (and encouragement!) who have all had successful Fringe shows: Sofie Khan, Tom Cavanaugh & Kat Primeau.
Click the workshop link above to reserve your free seat.


Some Other Notable Upcoming Dates:
The next #HFF18 Twitter Chat is on Wednesday, March 14th from 2-3pm. Check the link for tips and the full schedule.
Venues will still be hosting tours and open houses this month. Check out the list here.
Town Hall II: Marketing takes place Tuesday, April 3rd at 8pm. Check out the full schedule of this year's Town Hall & Workshop series here.
Purchase Ads for the printed guide by April 15th at hollywoodfringe.org/market.
Questions? Send them to support@hollywoodfringe.org.


Fringe Friday - Registration Open, The HFF18 Fringe Scholarship Winners, and Fringe TV

After intense deliberation by the Fringe selection committee, they are proud to announce the 2018 Fringe Scholarship winners. Each production reflects Hollywood Fringe's commitment to expand and diversify the pool of artists producing work at the Hollywood Fringe Festival.
The Winners of the 2018 Fringe Scholarships are:
Baba, Jee (Father, Yes)
Unapologetically Black
Trafficked 2.0
Paisajes Marinos Con Tiburones y bailarines
Love, Locs & Liberation
I Came To Make Noise
Liao Zhai: Tale of Extraordinary
A Mile in My Shoes
Gay Men Like Young Boys
The Goddesses Guide: Adura for the Women of African Diaspora
Land of No Shadows
Fringe Scholarships provide each recipient with complimentary festival registration, a $550 stipend toward venue and production costs, a Fringe mentor, and marketing and networking opportunities as a member of the Fringe community.


Registration for LA's largest performing arts festival is now open.
Now is the time to seize the day, to realize your dreams and propel your vision onto the stage. The good news is that you aren't alone. By your side is a legion of veteran and aspiring fringers, each sharing your grit, hope and ambition. It's the Fringe community that makes all this possible and that community is behind you!
Check out this video for a registration tutorial.
Complete the three steps of registration by April 1st to be included in this year's printed guide (if you don't register by that time you can still take part in the festival and have your project listed at hollywoodfringe.org). Guide ad sales close on April 15th and tickets go on sale on May 1st.
If you have questions about anything Fringe, check out the Hollywood Fringe support portal filled with advice, information and reference. Or send your questions to support@hollywoodfringe.org.


The Hollywood Fringe Festival is looking for ideas for this year's FringeTV theme.
Last year's FringeTV theme was SPACE, which you can see in the HFF17 Staff Intro as well as many other videos on the HFF17 FringeTV Playlist.
Visit the Hollywood Fringe Festival on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to submit your ideas by using the hashtags #FringeTVTheme and #HFF18. If we pick your theme, you could be featured on FringeTV!


Finally, February 1st marks the official opening of the Hollywood Fringe registration period. Start your season ahead of the game by creating a project today.


Last Night's Hollywood Fringe Town Hall Live Tweet

Better Lemons was at last night's first Hollywood Fringe town hall meeting. Here are the tweets for your future reference.


We will life tweet again from the next Town Hall, so be sure to follow the Fringe hashtag #HFF18 and the #LAThtr hashtag.


Fringe Friday: Pick the Hollywood FringeTV Theme + Hollywood Fringe Open Houses This Week + More!

The Hollywood Fringe Festival is looking for ideas for this year's FringeTV theme and as always, we rely on the creativity and enthusiasm of the Fringe community!
Last year's FringeTV theme was SPACE, which you can see in the HFF17 Staff Intro as well as many other videos on the HFF17 FringeTV Playlist.
Visit them on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to submit your ideas by using the hashtags #FringeTVTheme and #HFF18. If they pick your theme, you could be featured on FringeTV!


 
The first Hollywood Fringe Town Hall is rapidly approaching! This Town Hall, led by Festival Director Ben Hill, is all about Registration and takes place on Monday, January 29th from 7-9pm at The Actors Company.
As always, if you can't attend one of these events, they will be posting recordings of the proceedings on the Fringe YouTube Channel.


Here is the number of venues that are hosting open houses this week:
Lounge Theatre: Saturday, January 20; 2:30 - 5:30pm
The Complex Hollywood: Tuesday, January 23; 3 - 6pm
The Complex Hollywood: Thursday, January 25; 1 - 3pm
You are encouraged you to notify the venue, if you plan to attend their open house. Please visit the Fringe venue's page at hollywoodfringe.org/venues for more information and contact details.
Finally, February 1st marks the official opening of the Hollywood Fringe Festival registration period. Start your season ahead of the game by creating a project today.


Hollywood Fringe - Week 2

From the first Fringe previews, I have been going to every single Fringe theater to talk to audience members about Better Lemons and the #LemonMeter, encouraging them to leave a review of shows they have seen. We currently have 1375 reviews listed (from critics and from audience members) and it's nice to see over 40 #Sweet #LemonMeter ratings. We also have 2 shows that received #DoubleSweet ratings which occur when the critics and the audience both award #Sweet ratings.

Congrats to all who worked very hard to get critics out to their show and who got audience members to leave reviews of their show.

Since my last post, I have seen the following shows:

THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE
HIGH RISE
TRANSMISSION: A ONE TRAN SHOW
TALKING WITH ANGELS: BUDAPEST, 1943
PENETRATION
BLAMED: AN ESTABLISHED FICTION
THE AMITYCODE
LADIES IN WAITING: THE JUDGEMENT OF HENRY VIII

And of this list, here are the shows that I really enjoyed:

High Rise was a real Tour de Force show written and performed by the very talented Cameron Jones. In 30 minutes he took us on a journey of a real estate agent, Henry Lewis, who started small to "become somebody", and who had to start anew after the market crash. The entire show is extremely physical and Cameron incorporates elements of mask, mime, Commedia dell'arte, Buffon and physical forms of theatre. And the ending was a beautiful surprise. It is a must see at the Fringe! Two more performances: Friday at 5pm and Saturday at 3:30 pm.

There's No Place Like is performed by two talented actors from the UK, both of whom, plus the director, I'm hosting at my house. I love watching international performances! The acting style is different, as is the writing and the stories. And I loved this show! As an immigrant of two countries since the age of 10, it is very difficult to describe what it feels like to be home at a country that you weren't born in and at the same time longing for your father land. And this play did a wonderful job of just that. How does one feel when one is an immigrant? Why do people create a little village in their communities instead of going home to their country of origin? How does it feel when one goes back "home" and what is "home" anyways? What does it mean and where is it? These are questions that I always ask myself and this play (wonderfully written by Lilac Yosiphon, performed by her and talented Sam Elwin, and beautifully directed by Marianne Mayer and Mike Cole) answer these questions and more. Go and see their last performance at the Underground Theatre tonight at 10!

Ladies in Waiting: The Judgement of Henry VIII (the first show to receive a #DoubleSweet rating) is another international play that I enjoyed not only for the topic but also for the great performances and the creative directing and use of space. The playbill had a family tree on it which was super helpful to understand the timeline and the relationship of the women with Henry VIII. See this show if you can! One performance left on Saturday at 4pm at the Stephany Feury Studio Theatre.

Transmission - A One Tran Show was performed by soft spoken Jade Beauvoir, who was born a woman trapped in a man's body. She meditated, she sang, she showed us slides and videos to make us try to understand what being transgender feels like. She pulled us into her story like a gentle lullaby and I walked away smarter then when I entered the theatre. And hat off to her parents! Art can teach us so much! Even if this issue doesn't seem interesting to you, you should give it a try. Only one show left on Friday at 11:45pm at the Lounge Theatre.

The Amighty Code I caught late at the Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre right after Ladies in Waiting and I was pleasantly surprised. I wan't going to see this show because I wanted to catch something else on Santa Monica Blvd. but I didn't want to hassle with parking again, so I decided to give this show a try and I'm glad I did. Clever writing and great acting, and lots of humor, the story drew me in and a week later I'm still thinking about it. The ending was disappointing for me only because I wanted Pete, the engineer, to make a choice that would have been against our human nature. Only two more performances left: Friday at 10pm and Saturday at 7:30pm at the Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre.


Ashton's Audio Interview: The cast of The Interference @ Rogue Machine in association with Pepperdine Scotland

Enjoy this interview about the "Scotsman Fringe First Award for excellence" & "Broadway Baby Bobby Award for exceptional work" winning play The Interference at Rogue Machine Theatre, which closed Jun 8th. You can listen to this YouTube interview while commuting, while waiting in line at the grocery store or at an audition, backstage and even front of the stage.  For tickets and more info  Click here.

 


Voices from Hollywood Fringe 2017: Exclusive Interview with ‘Zombie Clown Trump' Creator

Making its premiere at the Hollywood Fringe Festival next month is the provocatively titled Zombie Clown Trump: An Apocalyptic Musical, and it's already raising hackles in the community. Hate mail started coming in very early in the show's development, so the cast and creator decided to work behind a veil of anonymity.

Zombie Clown Trump takes place in 2020, when a certain current president is running for reelection. Syria, Iran, North Korea, South Korea, and Sweden have all been destroyed. In the name of a curative vaccination, Dr. Ben Arson has unleashed a powerful virus on the United States, but now millions of people — including the president — have been transformed into zombies.

From the press notes: “Will our Zombie Clown-In-Chief be reelected and bring the hammer down on the world for good — or will a group of heroes rise up and help deport him to Twitterland forever?”

Zombie Clown Trump features a satirical score set to the music of such artists as The Beatles, Madonna and Cee Lo Green. Four actors play multiple roles, and there's a Spitting Image-style puppet — White House Press Secretary Sean Sphincter.

The creator of the piece was kind enough to answer some questions for me from the security of his underground bunker.

What's the value of humor and satire in the age of Trump?

For me, the value of humor in the age of Trump is to vent serious frustrations and use satire as a healthy form of protest.

What is it about today's political climate that's making the country so divided?

I think that is the subject of an entire book. But some people like chocolate ice cream, others like vanilla, and neither respects the other's choice, or is willing to take the time to learn about one another's preferences. Perhaps finding a bridge somewhere along Neapolitan Avenue.

Also, the very fabric of the American Dream has come unraveled. Our politicians have lost the ability to lead or inspire. They've replaced positive leadership with old-fashioned mudslinging. In today's political climate, that translates into exploiting the fear of “the other.”

Michael Moore has just announced he's doing a Broadway solo show intended specifically to destabilize the president. Do you have a particular agenda with Zombie Clown Trump?

Of course, if Broadway producers come calling, I'll gladly accept their calls! In the meantime, we're just going to have fun doing these seven performances at Hollywood Fringe. If an opportunity arises to continue the circus, we'll cross that clown car when we come to it.

Tell us a bit about the show and what audiences can expect.

The show is about Zombie Clown Trump running for reelection in 2020 while presiding over a zombie apocalypse.

We're basically conducting our comic sermon for others who, like us, are truly frightened of what's going on not only in our country, but across the world. We want to provide a safe and enjoyable space for people to come together right now and relieve some tension, aided by the magic of music and laughter.

And, perhaps they'll come to the conclusion — as I have — that the Trump Circus will one day leave town and order will be restored.

How was this piece developed? What was the inspiration?

I had previously created another zombie musical. When I woke up the morning after this last election, I knew what I had to do to exorcise my own feeling of tremendous powerlessness in the face of such a negative force.

Can you talk about the actors' backgrounds and what they bring to the piece?

The three other actors involved come from a variety of disciplines and they first and foremost bring courage and an openness to the show. This musical took me about 40 hours to cast. I looked at 600 demo tapes in an effort to find eight actors, and we ended up with four.

Not only was the project censored by the main casting outlet in town, I also discovered that it's not easy to cast a non-paying theater gig, especially in a place where everyone wants to be a star. They are more focused on themselves rather than the big picture. The Big Picture, in this case, being political protest.

What's the takeaway you hope audiences will get?

As with all my projects, I like to hear one sentence when it's through: “That was fun!”

Is this your first time at Hollywood Fringe? How are you enjoying the experience?

This is my first time at Hollywood Fringe and I haven't yet really been mingling in the Fringe scene. The experience has been a master course in respecting the creative process, going with the flow and making something work, no matter what challenges spring up on a daily basis.

Are there any other shows on your must-see list?

I definitely would want to see Trump in Space.

Zombie Clown Trump: An Apocalyptic Musical has seven performances beginning June 2 at the Complex Theatre, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd. Dates, times, and ticket information can be found on the Fringe website.

This interview was originally published on BlogCritics.org


Voices from Hollywood Fringe 2017: Exclusive Interview – Ryan Lisman, Writer/Director ‘Apathy Killed the Cat'

Making its world premiere at the Hollywood Fringe next month is Apathy Killed the Cat, a new play by Fringe veteran Ryan Lisman. This intimate piece concerns a depressed playwright, his catatonic mother, a dying cat, and some shocking secrets.

Ryan took some time out from the Fest's rigorous production schedule to talk with me about the play and about his overall Fringe experience.

Tell us a bit about the play.

It's about a playwright who feels that his life is crumbling. His mom is in the hospital in a catatonic state, and his cat is about to die. As a coping mechanism, he writes an 826-page play chronicling his entire life. He plans to give it to his mother, knowing she won't be able to read it, but he's always given her all his plays as a way of trying to connect with her. He puts the play in her hands with plans to retrieve it, but it is found by his girlfriend and his brothers before he can do so.

This unwanted exposure unravels everything in his life, revealing things he never wanted anyone to know. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I will say it's something very controversial and disturbing.

What was your inspiration for writing the piece?

I try to put a good amount of personal elements into my work. I find it makes the writing process a lot more meaningful for me. Obviously, I dramatize it a lot. I put my own cat, Rosebud, in the play. My cat is very young and healthy, but the Rosebud in the play is old and dying. I was just thinking about what it would be like to have to put Rosebud down, and how hard life would be after that.

I guess I was inspired by the fact that losing loved ones is always traumatic, and grief can often dominate your life. I think it's important to know yourself and how to work through that grief so it doesn't cripple you forever. A key message in the play is understanding how to accept death as a natural part of life, and how to let go in a healthy way as part of that process.

You've been at the Fringe before, right? How many times?

This is my third Fringe. The first time, I produced and acted in a play. Last year was the first time I produced something I'd written, and this will be the second year producing something I wrote.

How is the process going? I know there are challenges and time constraints with the Fringe.

There are definitely some obstacles that the Fringe throws at you, but I welcome them. I find the whole thing very exhilarating. I enjoy having these set obstacles. It's always difficult, I think, with independent, non-union theater. Scheduling is always especially hard. Everyone has such different schedules, with work and all. It's really hard finding a time that works for everyone. Being on a limited budget is also a challenge. You want to do something, you want to get a certain prop that's too expensive, and you know you have to just let go sometimes.

For the most part, though, it's going pretty well. I feel good about where we are.

How did you acquire your cast?

I find auditions to be one of the most fun aspects of theater. Starting out as an actor and as the person being judged, it's nice to find myself on the other side. I just find it really fun being in the audition room and getting to work with the 30 or so actors auditioning. I really enjoy being able to meet them for the first time, give them direction and see if their energy matches the character's. It's really an energy thing, I think.

I used Actors Access and Backstage.com. I also was lucky to have a network of people I'd met at the Fringe and in other theater ventures. I have a main cast of five and an ensemble cast of 10, so that took a while to cast. It's a pretty eclectic mix.

When you go into production on a piece, are you collaborative? Do you find the work changing or evolving?

Yes, especially with an original script such as this. It's the first time it's going to be produced. The way I look at is that the actors are the ones saying the lines, so I welcome the collaboration. Honestly, if there was more time, I'd like to do it even more. I'm only one brain, so the more brains I can get into the room to give input the better. I find it helpful because there can be things that I don't catch that they catch.

As a Fringe veteran, what do you like about the festival?

I just love the fast-paced nature of it all. I really try to take full advantage of it and have as much fun as possible. The past few times I saw about 20 to 25 shows, more or less. I love being able to get there in the afternoon and see three or four shows, going to Fringe Central afterward and just meeting people. I love the community. I really love talking to other artists. There's really great conversation that happens.

It's nice to see other people who are passionate about what they're doing and hearing about their experiences with their plays. And, of course, networking is fun. The more people you have a good relationship with, it's always going to help. And as a producer, it's always nice to do a comp swap. “I'll give you a ticket to my show, you give me a ticket to yours.” We see each other's show, we support each other, no one loses money. It's perfect. That's something that's really unique to the Fringe.

I also think the 15-minute in-and-out time is really fun. The energy is so high, because you know you only have 15 minutes to set up. It's just that high-energy, spontaneous environment that I feel like I really thrive in.

Since the Fringe is a community, what other shows would you put on your must-see list this year?

I'd say Chateau Rene, Pledge, Narcissus & Echo, Orange Mango Cabaret and Pagliaccis.

Apathy Killed the Cat plays June 3 (preview) through June 23 at the Sacred Fools Theatre, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd. Tickets can be obtained on the Fringe site.

This interview was originally published on BlogCritics.org.


Voices from Hollywood Fringe 2017: Exclusive Interview – Kat Primeau, Producer/Performer of ‘TURBULENCE!'

Making its triumphant return to the Fringe after last year's acclaimed Thug Tunnel, the award-winning musical improv group Robot Teammate & the Accidental Party is premiering its third scripted musical for the #HFF17, entitled TURBULENCE!.
The story: The 4242 Intergalympics have arrived, and the competition between humans on Earth and Mars is at a fever pitch. An epic race around the sun concludes the events, but the untimely demise of Earth's designated competitors means the haphazard crew of the S.S. Albacore and their android assistant Mambo 4 (Dave Reynolds) must go to bat.
Can Captain Davin Galaxy (Miles Crosman) win the respect of his team in time to win the race and prove that Earth isn't the shabby dirt turd the Martians think it is? Will astrophysicist Dr. Joules Johnson (Kat Primeau) be able to master turbulent energy to their advantage? Can demolition-derby mechanic Mick Cribbins (Chris Bramante) translate his expertise in space? And will nihilist navigation specialist Pattern MaGerk (Molly Dworsky) find a way to really care about it all?
Robot Teammate producer/performer Kat Primeau was kind enough to take some time out of the busy preproduction schedule to answer some questions about the show and the troupe's activities.
What was the inspiration behind this year's show?
The Robot Teammate ensemble floated a lot of ideas before TURBULENCE! was voted into development. The story is very loosely based on a zany space crew musical with the same title that we improvised in 2016 at Impro Theatre, but we had no recordings of the show, so only our best memories have made it into the script. After last year's original musical Thug Tunnel, we were really excited by the idea of doing an ensemble piece, and we love playing with sci-fi, but this show also has a sports comedy twist.
What about the development process? How did the show evolve?
We continue to refine our process through trial and error, and for the first time this year we codified how the script was to develop. Pulling what we loved from the initial improvisation, we started by creating an outline as a group, with Miles (our head writer) hammering out drafts, watching reference materials (Cool Runnings, Galaxy Quest and Noises Off, especially), researching the science behind the story (Cosmos and StarTalk Radio with Neil DeGrasse Tyson), and bringing what made us laugh to each subsequent round of revisions. It is still evolving as we get it up on its feet, and we're grateful for our improv background for allowing us to be comfortable with changes this late in the game.
Tell us about the actors involved and what they bring to the show.
Each member of Robot Teammate is contributing to the story — lyrics, production, and most importantly, their characters in this show — even the musicians! We're celebrating our 5th anniversary as a musical comedy ensemble in 2017, and know that we are our most entertaining selves when we lean in to our unique chemistry as an ensemble. When we are making each other laugh and bringing our critical eye to the table, we are able to create stories that have a larger impact than any of us could have done alone.
What about the music? Is there a particular theme or style?
We initially wanted a more electronic palette, with our spaceship's console as functional, pre-programmed synth pads the crew would play in conjunction with the action on stage. We still hope to do that one day, but we've transitioned to our music director, Sam Johnides, composing tracks and all of us writing lyrics. The style is very modern, with thick harmonies and high-intensity arrangements to go along with the sports theme, but we hope audiences will still find it to be catchy and most of all fun!
For fans of Robot Teammate (and I'm thinking along the lines of MST3K), are there Easter eggs in TURBULENCE! that will strike a chord?
There are many nods to classic sci-fi tropes. As for Easter eggs, you'll have to bring your baskets to the hunt (aka the show). We don't want to spoil the fun.
Since you've become Fringe veterans, have you become more confident with the time constraints involved in setup and staging? How have you taken advantage of it?
Making cuts for time is challenging, but always leads to a tighter, more comedic script, so we are embracing that and anticipating killing many more of our darlings before opening night. We're being more playful with our set and costumes and have a load-out joke in our closing number. Knowing what to anticipate is helpful, but there are always new obstacles in Fringe theater!
What is it about the Fringe that makes it so welcoming to projects like TURBULENCE!?
Robot Teammate performs a lot in comedy venues and weekly on the Geek & Sundry live stream, which broadcasts on Twitch.TV to audiences around the world, so Fringe really allows us to get back to our theatre roots and be a part of the immediate community. We love seeing our peers experimenting on stage, and enjoy challenging ourselves to write better jokes, songs, and heartfelt stories in response to the raw feedback inherent in Fringe.
Talk a bit about the release of the soundtrack of last year's show, Thug Tunnel. How did that come about?
We were thrilled when A Little New Music gave us the ‘Outstanding Songwriting Award' at Fringe last year as well as being encouraged by the effusive response to our music we received from audiences, so recording it for our fans seemed like a no-brainer. I work part-time at a recording studio and my boyfriend Chris Sousa (who was also the bassist for THUG TUNNEL) is an audio engineer, so we spent Labor Day 2016 recording vocals in Frank Sinatra's old room at EastWest Studios and the remaining five months recording, editing, and mixing the album at home. Check it out on Spotify, iTunes, and robotteammate.com now!
What other shows are on your hit list for #HFF17?
We're excited for Cherry Poppins' Shakeslesque, MB Productions' remount of The Video Games, Trump in Space (which Sam Johnides also composed music for), Office Beat and SLASHED! The Musical.
What's next on the agenda for Robot Teammate?
We have new live-stream shows in development at Geek & Sundry as well as three live shows, an album release, an album release party and multiple rehearsals before the end of this week, so we're taking it one day at a time. We'll have more songs, stories and narrative musicals available for more audiences soon. Stay tuned!
TURBULENCE! plays June 10 through June 22 on various dates and at various times at the Sacred Fools Theatre Main Stage, 1076 Lillian Way. More information and tickets can be obtained on the Fringe site.

This interview was originally published on BlogCritics.org.


Voices from Hollywood Fringe 2017: Exclusive Interview – Rich Silverman, Writer/Composer ‘Robot Monster The Musical'

The Hollywood Fringe Festival has a long and storied history of making musicals out of cult classic films, and #HFF17 is no exception as we witness the world premiere of Robot Monster the Musical, with songs and book by Rich Silverman.

Not only is this Silverman's first Fringe experience, it's his first theatrical experience entirely. He took some time out of the dizzying production schedule to answer some questions about the show.

Are you a fan of ‘50s sci-fi or of bad cult movies in general? If so, what are your favorites?

You know, my answer may surprise people. I'm not really a diehard fan of cult movies or “bad” movies. I'm sure I would lose at trivia night on the subject or on Jeopardy. I've never even really been into the Ed Wood catalog. I find his personal story more interesting than his work. I do love The Room, though, but who doesn't?

You're tearing me apart! Tell us a bit about the inspiration behind the show.

Robot Monster is a film I've loved for literally decades. I'm also a big fan of the Great American Songbook and Broadway's golden age – from Jerome Kern through Lerner & Loewe, really. I attempted a musical once years ago and always thought I would try again. When I attended a screening of Robot Monster a few years ago in Hollywood, it just popped into my head that it would be a great musical, and here we are!

Are there modern references in the piece that will resonate with audiences?

Like the movie, the show is set in the 1950s. It works best that way. Most of the modern references are really thematic. There are some things in there – mostly about anxiety and neurosis – that feel more relevant to today's audiences than they may have in the '50s, or at least they're not quite as repressed! About as modern as I get is Philip Glass and Lawrence Welk, and I'm pretty sure this is the first show in history to wink at both.

Obviously you don't have to be deeply familiar with the original film to enjoy the show. How did you manage delineating the plot and exposition while squeezing in 16 original songs?

Oh that's easy. The film doesn't have that much plot to begin with! There's some clumsy exposition in the movie, which I've retained for its absurdity, but at least 10 minutes of the 60-minute original is spent watching Ro-Man and other characters walking around Griffith Park.

What about the music? Is there a particular style or is it a potpourri?

As I mentioned, my frame of reference is our great standards. While I would never in a million years compare myself with those songwriters, about half my songs are in a Sinatra/‘50s vein along with my take on Broadway ballads, plus a smattering of pop, a hint of opera and a maybe a tad of Sparks thrown into the mix.

How did you go about casting the piece? How does the cast contribute to the show?

It all just kind of came together and in a really great way. We held auditions and Derek Long, the show's director, and his assistant director, Pam Paulson, brought in people they've worked with before. I also have a friend of mine in the cast, Val Peterson, who is a very talented and versatile professional singer. Talk about knowing the Great American Songbook – she probably has 1,000 songs memorized. Val's more into Ella Fitzgerald, whom I consider the second greatest singer after Sinatra, but we don't fight about it – not too much, at least.

How do you manage the strict Fringe 15-minute load-in and load-out? Did you come up with some creative solutions?

Rogaine extra strength.

Is this your first Fringe experience? How have you been enjoying it?

This is my first theater experience! And I'm Jewish, so I don't enjoy anything.

Since the Fringe is a community rather than a competition, what other productions stir your interest?

I'm very interested in other new musicals. I've gotten friendly with a few creators. I just bought a ticket to Comic-Con the Musical (also at Sacred Fools). There are other shows I find really interesting because of their somewhat obscure and/or intellectual source material, like a play about the Algonquin Roundtable and the baseball player, Mungo.

Finally, can we watch Robot Monster the Musical without 3D glasses?

Only if you don't mind getting hit in the eye with a bubble.

Robot Monster the Musical plays June 4 through June 23 at Sacred Fools Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online or by phone at (323) 455-4585. As a special offer for Fringe participants, the June 4 performance is pay-what-you-can.

This interview was originally published on BlogCritics.org.


HOLLYWOOD FRINGE AND THE ART OF RECONNECTION

It's almost June, and you know what that means: It's my Mom's birthday!  (And I have to put that in print so I don't forget again.) But no, in Los Angeles June means something else - THE HOLLYWOOD FRINGE FESTIVAL! - a month of scrappy independent theater projects in small local venues. It's going into its eighth year and is bigger and better than ever, with more venues, more shows, and more opportunities.

I got involved with the Fringe in 2014 after a three year hiatus from acting and directing. I've had a quarter-life crisis, decided I hated Los Angeles (and my life) and did what it felt like everybody else was doing: I applied to Grad School so I could teach. Fortunately for my credit score, I did not get in.

But I was still stuck, miserable, in L.A. It took a while for someone to finally ask me the simple question: if you could do anything without worrying about money, where would you be? The answer was immediate: I'd be in a black box theatre working with actors… someplace on a Hawaiian island. It turns out that half of that was actually achievable! Call it fate, call it luck, call it karma, but a day later I met a group of people who needed a director for a new stage show. I interviewed and got the gig.

GEARHEAD AND THE REALBOT (Unknown Artists, Fringe 2014)

It was a fun comedy with the Unknown Artists that opened at the Complex in January '14. I had such a blast and was so eager to work with them again that I floated the idea of re-using the whole cast for a goofy play I'd written decades earlier called Romeo and Juliet In Hell. I soon discovered how much it typically costs to run a show for six weeks – a lot of money! - and instantly decided that this was a bad idea. But then my friend Beki quickly suggested that I look into doing it at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. I'd never heard of it.

Well, brothers and sisters, hallelujah, I have seen the light!  Not only did the Hollywood Fringe Festival model make it financially easier to produce a play, but it gave me access to a crowd already interested in seeing theater, made it easier for ME to see new projects, new actors and writers (I'm always looking for new collaborators), and I suddenly had a hundred new friends!

I'd forgotten that there were lots of “my kind of people" out here. But seeing tons of intimate theatre pieces, one after the other, and being able to talk with other artists about shows and art at Fringe Central, I've made more and closer friendships in the three years I've done the Fringe than I had in my previous fifteen years in Los Angeles.

Because of the 2014 Fringe, I was asked to direct two other productions that year which led to five the following year. I met writers and actors with whom I would collaborate very successfully, I got to direct film again, I had one of my plays produced as part of Theatre Unleashed's Fall Season, and most importantly, I started to see theatre again year-round. Many people I've met have had the same kinds of successes through these “Fringe-ships.”

At Fringe 2015, I met a guy named Benjamin. He'd written a great Tarantino-esque play called ZIP TIES, and we were hanging out at the Three Clubs bar talking theatre and asking what was next for each of us?  I'd had an idea for a few years - a scene, really: A film noir set on stage where a detective is driving in a car (two chairs) next to a femme fatale, and chase music is blaring. It's blaring so loudly that the audience can't hear the dialogue. In fact, the detective can't hear the femme fatale. So he turns off the “car radio” and the chase music stops. I had a few other shaky ideas for a “stage noir” but nothing much came of it. “I had the same idea,” Ben said. “A stage film noir where the characters were painted black and white!” We started brainstorming, thought it would be a GREAT show to do at a place like There Clubs (a few feet from where the idea originated), and the following year, we partnered with the Cherry Poppins burlesque company and mounted ANGEL'S FLIGHT, which won the Fringe ‘16 “Best Cabaret/Variety” Award.

If I hadn't seen Ben's show or talked with him that night, there is no way this would have happened. And while, sure, you could argue that this kind of kismet can happen anywhere at any time, the camaraderie and proximity to fellow artists at the Fringe and the sheer electricity of creativity in the air creates possibilities that could never happen at any other time. It's like a theatrical Brigadoon.

ANGEL'S IN FLIGHT, Fringe 2016 PHOTO CREDIT: Matt Kamimura

I love the Fringe because you can go watch a lavish production of a new Robot Teammate musical on the Sacred Fools Main Stage and then cross the street to someone's apartment for a one-person show that will disturb you for weeks. I saw a one-person show called MURDER BLOOD BEAR in the '15 Fringe and it reminded me of why I love theatre when it's pure, using the art form in a way that can't be replicated on film or TV. I stepped into a van to experience HAMLET in a way I'd never thought possible and my mind was truly blown, inspiring me to think further outside the box for future projects.

I try to learn something new with each show I work on, and Fringe has been a great place to experiment, get new ideas, and see new points of view.  There's something for everyone at Fringe and if you go in with an open mind, it could change your life – like it changed mine..