The Chicago-based artistic team of Jessica Landis, Lisa Scott and Eileen Tull will be starring in the comedy "A Series of Absurdities" at HUGE Theater in Uptown as part of the Fringe. In the following interview they dish on their guiding creative force, the process of combing their unique talents, and the desire to meet Prince while in Minnesota.
First of all, how did it feel to "win the lottery [for a slot to perform at the Fringe]?"
Lisa: Great! I never win anything.
Jessica: We were very excited because Minneapolis Fringe is huge, established, exciting, sexy, awesome, amazing. A perfect date. A little later in the process, we learned we were performing at HUGE Theater. That’s when I really lost my mind, because Jill Bernard is one of my heroes.
Lisa: Jessica chose that name. It sucks.
Jessica: Actually the name is amazing. It combines Lisa’s name and my name and it sounds like Lysistrata, which is a play about women making a difference in the world.
Lisa: This is what really happened. Jessica and I got wine-drunk and started writing a show – FYI, it’s been edited fully sober – but we were feeling it was pretty funny and meaningful. I knew Eileen and invited her in because we wanted to add one more dimension. Jess’ training is in sketch comedy, while mine is in storytelling, which tends to be very sincere. Eileen has a strong background in performance art, very visual and visceral. The combination is really interesting. We were so impressed with Eileen at the first meeting, that we were pitching her and pitching her. She kept interrupting, saying, “I’m in, shut up!”
Eileen: That’s true.
Jessica: We wanted to create something that used our three strengths as performers like three lights, illuminating something that you wouldn’t be able to see from just one angle. It was January when we first started working on the show, and it is very dark in Chicago in January. So we wanted to create some light, and some joy, and this show is what came out. And we stole the tagline ["When a one-woman show isn't enough"] from a woman who saw us perform one of the pieces at a storytelling show in Chicago.
Eileen: Stealing is fine as long as you perform in a different zip code.
It seems like there is a little bit of everything in "A Series of Absurdities." Humor. Improv. Music. Storytelling. Nudity. What inspired you to combine such things together onto the same stage and how did you decide what would and wouldn't be included in the show?
Lisa: We wanted to use all our art forms, so each of us contributed pieces. Our main criteria were: is it a piece that brings us joy? Is it personally meaningful? Will it be meaningful to others? Will it be fun for others? Is the [result] going to give audiences food for thought and be open to their own interpretations?
Eileen: Another one of our guiding forces was to do and talk about things that scared us. And, like Lisa said: find the joy in it.
Jessica: Absolutely! We will definitely be seeing many shows, but I hope to enjoy some of your local attractions as well. For example, I would like to meet Garrison Keillor, and Prince. If you can arrange either of those things, please get at me. I’ve been to Minneapolis a few times and love the theater scene. Lisa will be visiting for the first time and Eileen visited once years and years ago.
Eileen: I remember going to the Mall of America. It was a big mall.
Lisa: I’m going to see every Fringe show I can get in, and museums, and food, and bars.
Eileen: Whenever I’m in a new city, I like to walk around and try bookstores, coffee shops, etc. Just calm, local things.
Jessica: Tweet suggestions at us at @artistmakesgood. And tweet at us if you can get me an invite to Prince’s house, or dinner with Garrison.
How do you promote your artistic work and encourage audiences to come out and experience your live performances?
Eileen: I tell everyone they can follow me on Twitter at @tullie23 or on Instagram at @tullgirl23 or on Pinterest at @tullie23 or on LinkedIn as Eileen Tull or on Facebook where I am the only young Eileen Tull. I also have cards. With my name on them, Eileen Tull, right there at the top, Eileen Tull. Eileen Tull Eileen Tull Eileen TullEileenTullEileenTull.
Lisa: OK, Eileen.
Jessica: Yeah, Eileen, pull it back a bit. We hate promoting actually, so mostly our defense mechanism is just to be friendly with people. We’re mostly just pretty friendly when we go out and when we perform, and that has worked out for us.
Where do you find inspiration when you are creating content for shows?
Jessica: Everywhere. Everything that happens to me. Inspiration is the easy part.
Lisa: Same. The dentist’s office was a big inspiration for one of the scenes in our show.
Eileen: Public transit. The Internet. Stealing from other people.
You’re traveling up from Chicago to be a part of Minnesota Fringe. What unique challenges has that created?
Eileen: For one thing I won’t be at the first show. I wasn’t able to get off work for the first Thursday performance, so we cast a local Minneapolis artist to perform in that first show.
Lisa: We were so lucky to get hooked up with a local performer, Sheila Cole, who will step in for Eileen. Our show calls for being out there with yourself emotionally and physically, and Sheila was down for all of it from the start. I think one of the great parts of our Fringe experience is going to be getting to work with local artists. Our connection to Sheila was a local stage manager, Renee Peterson, who we met through a Facebook post [and] seems like magic. Both have this great let’s-get-to-the-task energy.
Jessica: We all have additional jobs and gigs we are leaving behind in Chicago for this Fringe, and that’s challenging because of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). I coach an improv team, Lisa works as a freelancer, and Eileen runs a storytelling event and also chases kids around the Chicago public parks. I mean, that’s Eileen’s day job, she doesn’t just do that on her own time. So to combat our FOMO we are really looking to make the most of every moment of this trip and this Fringe!
Do you have a favorite quote from "A Series of Absurdities?"
Jessica: My favorite line is from one of Lisa’s stories: “Other pets. Too many. Too close.”
Eileen: It’s a Jessica line, “I want to get the Land of 10,000 Lakes wet.”
Lisa: At one point Eileen says, “Can I kiss you?” and I just love that. It’s also my favorite line in real life.
If you could describe the show in three words, what would they be?
"A Series of Absurdities" at the Minnesota Fringe Festival
Thu, 7/30 @ 10:00pm
Sat, 8/1 @ 7:00pm
Sun, 8/2 @ 2:30pm
Thu, 8/6 @ 10:00pm
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.
All Fringe shows run 60 minutes or less.