The Minnesota Fringe Festival runs July 30 through August 9, 2015; I have been lucky enough to interview talented artists that are involved in this year's Fringe. The artist interviews that are featured on Artfully Engaging aim to provide a backstage look into the creation process, encourage participation in the Fringe Festival, and support the insightful artists who have taken the time to share their experiences with us.
Greg Hernandez is the director of the comedy "Craigslist: Not a Musical!" at Intermedia Arts in Uptown. In the following interview Greg shares the Craigslist ad that started it all, his "yes and" philosophy on collaboration, and some Fringe shows that he recommends.
Greg: We were in the middle of writing a non-themed sketch show at Bryant Lake Bowl called Summer Lovin' Some R Hatin' when I came across an ad in the "gigs" section of Craigslist: "Write me a Song". The guy wanted someone to take his poem and write a song from it. Not that unusual, but he also wanted this songwriter to physically bring himself and his guitar and serenade his girlfriend. I thought to myself "someone's gonna write his girl a song all right, and then this enterprising artist—who is carrying around a six string aphrodisiac—will be taking the girl with him when he's done crooning."
That's when I leapt to the proverbial joke notebook and started writing down the bones of this scenario.
The process: Ah yes, the writing clearly starts with the ad! We never, or almost never and certainly not this time, try to shoehorn in a pre-written sketch or bit by finding the ad afterward. We can be really annoying purists that way. Jennifer Bahe (producer, actor, and writer for Craigslist) has come up with nearly everything we have used for the show, save for the first example. She's an expert at it. The guideline to picking ads is typically nothing that is overtly trying to be ironic or funny. We like the crackpots.
Also, the ad shouldn't tell the entire story. An ad ripe for picking should leave more questions than answers. Sometimes something as simple as, "Two free dental chairs. Take them. I need the space." inspires us as it did this year; We have an evil Twin Cities dentist (sound familiar?) who is luring people to his home for malevolent purposes.
Greg: Many many things. First of all, the nostalgia of revisiting six of our favorite scenes from the past, knowing exactly where they might have needed a nip and tuck, and in a way being able to rewrite our history, if you will. Second, interjecting our stuff with four new cast members who I can't stop gushing over, and our writer and pal Sam L. Landman, who took a look at the ads and came from a completely different, yet equally insane place. That collaboration has been really exhilarating as a writer, yes-anding Sam. This is the first time I've played live incidental music (electronic keyboards and guitar) through a whole show. That has been a pretty big challenge to come up with musical bits, mostly on the spot during rehearsals, that enhance and not derail the mood of the scene.
Add the element of Fringe craziness and presenting our brand of humor to a new (and hopefully larger) audience and I think you can see why we're actually pretty jazzed about coming back to this one.
Are there any other Fringe shows that you are excited about?
Greg: Well of course Sam's other creation at Fringe, "Pretty Girls Make Graves," about the real goths who listened to The Smiths. Other picks "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Death Star," "Frankenstein," "Deus Ex Machina," "Fringe Tonight! with Jonathan Gershberg," "Melancholy London," "The Album," "We Do Every Show At The Fringe," "Looking for Fun(Bags)," and "Shelly Bachberg Presents: Orange is the New POTUS: The Musical."
Can you tell me a little about how you collaborate with others in your art? Or a recent successful collaboration?
Greg: Collaboration is everything that doesn't happen in front of a laptop with earbuds on. I feel like the ads themselves, and therefore the writers of the ads, are also collaborators, unwitting or not. The limitations of those ads make all the funny possible, like suggestions before an improv scene. And best of all, we never start out with a blank page!
I trust Jen to be the side of my brain that doesn't work. Producer is a fancy term for everything I can't do or can't do quickly, like scheduling.
Bringing in Meagan Sogge, our stage manager, was great because she is an expert at reining in the chaos and making clear cut sense of it all. No-nonsense all the way, which the right-brained weirdos like myself clearly need in our lives.
How do you market yourself, as an individual artist to get work AND as a show to engage new audiences, and what promotional tools you use?
Greg: Like make money? What's that like? I use Twitter and Facebook and buy Facebook ads. I drive my cast absolutely insane saying things like, "you haven't tweeted anything since July 15; Why is that?" When you are not in a position to hire a promo team, it's down to everybody involved to energetically and positively spread the word.
Finally, is there anything else you wanted to say that I didn't ask about?
Greg: In the end, it's all just an excuse to write some jokes and get some laughs, and maybe bring up a touchy subject from time to time to give people something to talk about, hopefully after the show and not during.
Ticket Information for "Craigslist: Not a Musical!"
Sat, 8/1 @ 2:30pm
Tue, 8/4 @ 8:30pm
Fri, 8/7 @ 5:30pm
Sun, 8/9 @ 2:30pm
Tickets: $14 plus $4 admission button; kids' tickets (12 and under) are $5 and don't require a button; discounts and multi-show passes available. Tickets at fringefestival.org and at the box office 30 minutes before a performance.
No late seating.
Appropriate for ages 16 and up.
Intermedia Arts in Uptown