An Interview With Comedian Evan Wecksell

// Posted by eliza gale on May 30, 2012 – 10:22pm

Evan Wecksell is a comedian who has appeared on such shows as “I Love the 70s” and “I love the 80s”. Here is a link to his web-site:

www.evanwecksell.com

1. What made you interested in being a comedian?

It was never a lifelong dream. I always liked being funny, I liked funny people so I had an eye on it, but I was in the early stages of a non-profit and sports marketing career. Having just finished an internship at the National Hockey League, I took a Sports, Entertainment and Events Marketing seminar at NYU. During the final presentation I was really good at making the WNBA funny. The presentation was strong, but the humor was stronger. The professor wanted me on the stage so I looked up some comedy classes to take in NYC.

2. What kind of training have you had?

I took the Stand-Up Comedy class at The Comic Strip in NYC two times through. DF Sweedler was a good teacher who really gave you the theory behind stand-up. When I moved to Los Angeles, I studied musical theater with Gary Imhoff at The Beverly Hills Playhouse. He let me bring my funny songs to class and then I followed him to his own school when he left BHP. Can’t endorse him enough as a teacher for all artists.

3. What advice would you give to someone who is interested in becoming a comic?

I regularly give a seminar at Celebrity Centre International in Hollywood called “How To Make a Living in Comedy.” (Next one is June 11.) The first thing I go over is the way to make it in comedy is quantity, quality and viability. In other words, write and perform a lot of material, let your best stuff shine and make sure you have enough of it so that you can go out and really market yourself and your show.

4. What do you like about working in Hollywood?

Hollywood is not for the conventional. There are so many ways one can work in Hollywood. One day it’s a commercial, the next day it’s a game show, another day you’re on a movie set. The list is endless.

5. What don’t you like about it?

It is a numbers game so if you’re in Los Angeles to be an actor/artist/comedian, you can’t half-ass it. You really need to take massive action. I also don’t like the traffic and I think the number of medical marijuana stores you see are tragically absurd.

6. What life experiences have influenced your comedy the most?

When I moved to Los Angeles with the preconceived notion of “making it,” the only thing I made it as was a temp. So while temping at a cruise line I thought, “how am I going to make this [comedy career] work?” I immediately thought of my college fraternity Theta Chi and began contacting every chapter in the country about performing for them. Sure enough, some of them said yes and I began touring the country playing mainly colleges. My schedule has been snowballing ever since.

7. Who are some of your influences?

Jon Bon Jovi – I started playing guitar to cover Bon Jovi songs. I kind of wanted to be a funny Bon Jovi. He also has an extremely charismatic stage presence and badass work ethic.
Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey – funniest people on the planet when I was growing up, their posters were all over my wall.
Dave Attell – great straightforward, uncensored sense of humor.
Lisa Lampanelli – brutally racist which would get her kicked out of every public place, but her confidence in herself and her material and her relationship with the audience is something special.
to seth mcfarlane
– already took over TV and is about to the same with movies. We grew up watching the same shows so I love those references and his creativity.

8. How did you get on “I love the 70s”?

I was working at this non-profit job back when I was just moonlighting as a comedian. One of the people that fund raised for the non-profit happened to work at VH1. Before I knew it, I was going in for “I Love the 70s,” “I Love the 80s” and “I Love the Holidays.”

9. What makes someone funny?

First, their own decision that they are funny. Then an ability to talk about topics that audiences can relate to. Technically, it is the audience makes the comedian funny, but the comedian has to be willing to put his communication, verbal or physical, out there.

10. What is your wildest work story?

More funny than wild, but I played a Theta Chi show at Ball State in 2007 where they put me on the front lawn and amplified me pretty well. During my Top Ten Things about Theta Chi list, I mentioned “You’re not BTB (name of their rival fraternity – not actual letters)!” Well, a BTB brother was across the street and started walking towards us. Then I told the crowd to applaud him and we did and half a few brothers did some damage control he headed back. A week later I was sent a newspaper story from Ball State about Theta Chi being broken into, composites being stolen, etc… Then a few days later, I received another story about how campus police searched BTB and found all the missing Theta Chi articles. The school then chose to deactivate that chapter. So in a way, my show helped Theta Chi get rid of its rival fraternity.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Comedian David Beach

David Beach is a comedian and actor who has performed at Disneyland and Universal Studios.  Here is a link to his website:
http://www.thedavidbeach.com

 

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1. What made you want to become a comedian?

I am not sure what actually made me want to become a comedian. It was sort of a natural progression. It seemed since I moved a lot as a kid and I was always the shortest kid in the class, that I learned to use comedy as a way to protect myself and introduce myself to new situations. I turned to comedy a lot. So, I kind of studied comedy. I would watch classic comedy and comedians and then before I knew it, I was doing it. I still remember my first house laugh as a Christmas elf when I improvised with the script and threw a bucket of water at my teacher while in elementary school. That house laugh inspired me.

2. What are the advantages to living in Los Angeles for a comedian?

Comedy clubs aren’t as popular as they once were. But, considering the size of LA, there are quite a few comedy stores still around just due to the fact the size of the city means there are enough comedians to support it.
We also have the benefit of the possibility of a casting director, or producer, or whomever, catching your act and deciding to take you to the next level.
That rarely happens in Cincinnati, or some city not so attached to show biz.

3. What are some of the disadvantages?

The disadvantages here are pretty much the same disadvantages as anywhere. One could say there is a lot of competition, but there is also a disadvantage to being in an area where there is no competition. Big fish small pond syndrome. There are a lot of people that take advantage of comedians, but that too can happen anywhere.

4. What makes someone funny?

Any number of things can make someone funny. I think a more important question is, what makes you laugh.
Personally, I will always laugh at a performer that is dying on stage. It’s real. And, it’s uncomfortable. Seeing that emotional state is real and real is usually a great deal more amusing than a scripted bit. Maybe I have seen too much comedy and am no longer surprised. I have had contests on stage to see if I could guess the punch line after being given the set-up and I guess I do pretty well. So, knowing a lot of jokes, or set ups doesn’t make someone funny. What I find amusing isn’t a universal. So, what I think makes someone funny is not likely what someone else finds funny in someone. There are hugely popular movies that I can’t stand due to the sophomoric humor. I don’t particularly find blue comedy funny. But, I cant deny the success of comedians that work that way. So, maybe that is what makes someone funny.

5. Who are some of your influences?

I go old school. I remember cracking up at Harpo Marx. Harold Lloyd. I would love seeing Victor Borge. Bob Newhart. Older Bill Cosby. George Carlin before he became so political. I find that people that show anger onstage in regards to politics, like my hero David Letterman, ruin it a bit. But, our job as a jester is to be the one to point out that the emperor is naked. So, once again it’s a matter of taste.
I could go on and on about my original influences. As a variety performer I loved Carl Ballantine, Jay Johnson, The Flying Bros Karamazovs and on and on.

6. Tell me a joke about bloggers.

So, out of curiosity, I googled ‘jokes about bloggers.’ Wow. There really are no funny jokes about bloggers.

I’ve got nothing either.

7. What is your weirdest Hollywood story?

One of the first auditions turned out to be for a pervert who is, to my knowledge, sitting in jail for taking inappropriate pictures of underage boys.
I went into the audition. He wanted me to juggle. He then asked if I knew a lot of tricks with balls. It started to get odd when he asked me to sit on the couch with him and he would get me a SAG card if he did. I walked out. Before I left, I walked up to the secretary and asked if she was aware of the kind of auditions he was putting on. She stared at me and said, you think that’s bad, you should audition for his partner.
I was too stunned to do or say anything else. I walked out. I was thrilled when I saw his name in the paper for illegal activities years later.

8. What stand up comedy trends annoy you?

It’s kind of pointless to get annoyed. It won’t stop them. They will stop if the audience doesn’t buy into them. But, it is interesting to see the trend of televised comedy. If you go back twenty years, you can watch Candid Camera and see Allen Funt having fun throwing people into odd situations than appearing and saying, smile. Nowadays, we have movies that make millions by hurting people and being disgusting. Like I said, it’s pointless to be disgusted or annoyed, but it doesn’t speak to highly as to where our comic sentiment and senses have turned as a society.

9. What makes you fame-worthy?

Determination. Longevity. A sense of what makes my audience laugh. And desire. Yes, I still desire fame, which is really a ridiculous goal. Can you pass my name along to the gatekeepers, please?

10. If you could ask Lenny Bruce one question, what would it be?

What’s a funny joke about bloggers ?

And, if I were allowed a second question.. I would ask if I could have dinner with him. He was cutting edge. And now, somewhat tame in comparison. But anyone that blazes a trail is to be respected. But, I would rather enjoy getting to know him than ask him questions about the career or choices. My guess is he wouldn’t really be the type to answer sincerely anyway.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Comedian Scott Backman

 

Scott Backman is a comedian who has appeared on “Tosh.0”, “The Doctors” and “Excused”. Here is a link to his website:

 

http://www.scottbackman.com/

1. What made you want to become a comedian?

 

I wanted to be a comedian ever since I was a child.  I remember watching people tell jokes on TV and I would think to myself, that is what I want to do.  I use to watch “You Can’t Do That On Television” on Nickelodeon, a kids version of Saturday Night Live and I knew I wanted to do something like that! I loved watching sketch comedy skits, stand up comedians and funny video shows.  I always said what was on my mind and I’ve never had much of a filter when it came to using my judgment of what was coming out of my mouth.

 

2. What sets you apart from the crowd?  –

 

My big mouth and borderline wrong humor.  I think it is the early stages of Tourette’s but others say it’s just my Jersey up bringing and my fighting for attention all the time.  It might be a little crass at times too.  I’m just a unique person.  I love people and I love seeing their reactions when something crazy comes out of my mouth.  I am full of knowledge that is only useful in very specific situations but I always seem to encounter them.  Or, it’s just plain useless.  I’m a total bull-shitter… and you can’t bullshit a bull-shitter!

 

I love being unpredictable.  The only thing you can predict is that I’ll probably say something outrageous and inappropriate. Just sayin’!

 

3. What do you like about Los Angeles?

 

What’s there not to like? “This is Hollywood? What’s your dream? Everybody comes here; this is Hollywood, land of dreams.  Some dreams come true, some don’t; but keep on dreaming!”

 

Other than that, the weather! I have been living in Los Angeles for a year and I love it! I was born and raised in New Jersey and lived in Boston for 10 years before moving to La La land! It was nice to not have to shovel show this winter!

 

4. What don’t you like about Los Angeles?

 

Beside the drivers and the traffic? The people with their entitlement attitudes?  However, I accept it for what it is.

 

5. Who are some of your influences?

 

The people that have influenced me are people who go after their dreams; no matter what your dream is. A few people who have inspired me are Robin Williams, Chelsea Handler, Andy Cohen and Don Rickles! They connect with their audiences and make them feel you are in a real conversation with them.

 

 

6. What trend in comedy bothers you the most and why?

 

Comedians that intentionally say mean things to just say them really piss me off.  Also, people who talk about gross things, explicit dirty sex stories I have never found really funny.  You might be surprised but I am kind of a prude.  When you say certain things that are going to get a reaction of disgust really doesn’t do much for me.  However, comedy changes with the times and opens people’s eyes and ears to current topics.  There is so much negative things going on in the world, comedy is a great way to acknowledge them and put a lighter spin on things while bringing awareness.

 

 

7. What kind of day jobs have you had and how have they influenced your work?

 

I have worked in the marketing research field for years.  Yes…. BORING!!! All I know is that I was getting paid shit for doing work that was making a lot of people more money.  I never really had the corporate America kind of work ethic.  I always thought I should be doing some sort of work that was making the world a better place.  To tell you the truth, I really don’t care about work unless I am doing something to help the elderly, handicapped, sick, children or animals.

 

8. What role did you play on “The Doctors” and how did you get the part?

 

I played the role of a Gynecologist and had to tell a woman that she had a severe yeast infection and we have to removed part of her vagina.  …. Just Kidding….

 

I appeared on “The Doctors” twice where I did reenactments of questions/issues that were written in by viewers.  The first one I did a comedic spin on this issues a viewer wrote in about. “Every time I go out to eat I can barely make the short drive home without feeling I’m going to have an accident in my pants.  Why does this happen?”

 

My second appearance we did a skit about people who eat fast.  I played the husband who scarfs down his lunch while my “wife” took little, polite bites of her food.

 

9. What is your craziest work story?

 

Well…, probably the think that landed me here in Los Angeles.  I started a blog about things that I really enjoyed to do.  Like watch YouTube videos, comment on other blogs and surf the internet for better jobs than the one that I was forced to go to every day.  I started this blog one day while at work using Microsoft Word.  I wasn’t too sure which direction I wanted this blog to go in so I figured I would just type out some rants and take it from there.  So, I typed away about how I go to a thankless job every day where I just watch videos and job hunt all day long.  I also added that I curl my toes in my shoes so hard every time my boss would come into my office to keep myself screaming and walking out.  I do have to say that my boss was a really nice guy… probably too nice.  After all, I also blogged that he was a pussy and his wife has him by the balls.   I accidentally saved this to a public computer server and not my own computer’s hard drive.  I was then fired.

 

10. Tell me a WEHO joke.

 

West Hollywood is a great city.  It is very liberal but they pick and choose what they are liberal about.  For instance, a middle-aged man with a full beard can walk down Santa Monica Blvd. in a wedding gown and no one will say a word to him.  However, if someone walks down the street wearing fur, people go berserk and will torture them until they take it off!

 

 

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An interview With Musical Comedy Duo Picard Maneuver

Adam Fanshier and Mike Hover are the members of Picard Maneuver a musical comedy duo. Here is a link to their website:

www.PicardManeuverComedy.com

1. How did you two meet?

We meet back in college. We were both in the film program at Cal State Long Beach studying under Brain Alan Lane (MacGyver, Star Trek: The Next Generation) and disappointing our parents. Please don’t let them see this interview… Our parents think we’re in law school.

After graduating, and doing standup for a few years on our own, we decided to join forces to perform a duo act back in 2007 because we thought our comedic voices worked well together… But mostly because we wanted to use the carpool lane.

2. What made you two click?

Adam: I get lost in Mike’s eyes.

Mike: I hate you.

Adam: Fine. I think it’s really two things. Mike and I share a mutual love of all things geeky, especially Star Trek. Second, I think that comically, Mike and I see things similarly, but we process them very differentially. That combo makes for a funny outcome. And let’s face it, we’re just friends who have a good time goofing off at comedy clubs.

Mike: Adam has a writers’ background, and is very structured and formulaic. I have more of an improvisation background, spontaneous and in the moment. When combining these two styles, we create a nice balance of order and chaos that makes our shows, we hope, fun to watch.

3. What do you like about Hollywood?

Adam: People are always mistaking us for celebrities. Unfortunately, it’s usually “The Judd’s”.

Mike: Hollywood is the entertainment capital in the world. Here the stand up community is massive, talented folks from all over congregating in a 30-mile radius. Being able to meet and see them perform is pretty awesome. We’ve been fortunate to share the stage with a lot of nice comics here.

4. What don’t you like about?

Adam: Frankly, you have to be crazy to want to live in this town and try to make a career. It’s like running away to join the circus.

Mike: That’s not true. The circus would pay better.

Adam: True.

Mike: The flip side of the coin is that Hollywood is the entertainment capital. Comedy is over saturated here in Los Angeles, because it is everywhere. From coffee shops to gas stations and prison (yes, we‘ve played in prison), you can find a stage, and a mic, pretty much anywhere. Because of this, the demand for a live show is low. We find that when performing outside of the area, people are more excited about live comedy.

5. What sets you apart from other comedians?

Adam: We wear Starfleet uniforms and sing rap songs about educational software from the early 80s.

Mike: That will do it. Also, there are two of us. That doubles our chances of being entertaining.

Adam: … And cuts our pay in half.

Mike: But what really sets us apart from other live acts is our honesty. We’re nerdy guys. In our travels we’ve found there are more nerds out in the world than jocks. Even if you play fantasy football, face it: you’re a nerd. So, telling jokes and stories of how we grew up and what the world is like for an adult geek, the crowd seems to enjoy that aspect of what we do.

6.What is your craziest LA story?

One of the most unexpected was at a gig in Hollywood. We were performing at a variety night, so there were a bunch of acts. We didn’t know this, but the special guest that night was Rob Paulsen, voice actor who, with a long list of credits, voiced Raphael from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Yakko from Animaniacs. He improvised with the host with a variety of voices and ended the night by performing “Countries Of The World” as Yakko Warner. It was, without a doubt, one of the most exciting nights of our lives.

We admit that story is a little geeky… But you could always tell people that we told you a story that started with, “Once the Olsen twins brought the cocaine, Halo Night got really crazy…”

7. Who are some of your comedic influences?

We always thought the Hamburglar was hilarious.

The old guys always meant a lot to us- Jack Benny, Red Skelton, Bob Hope and Dean Martin, Steve Martin, as well as the great duo’s like the Smother’s Brothers. We’ve also had a little known hero, Michael Rayner, who has been a true mentor to us. Michael has not only helped us comically, he also lets us eat the cheeseburgers from his act once he’s done spinning them on his umbrella (really… Goggle it).

8. Mike, what experiences in life influence your work the most?
Being a kid at heart, I would say my childhood. Be it writing lyrics to a rap song, like “Oregon Trail Rap” or a love song like “Phasers Set To Love”, I tend to reference what I enjoyed growing up (Star Trek, Star Wars, Cartoons, etc) and finding the humor in them from both a child’s perspective and as an adult twenty years later.

9. Adam, same question.

Growing up nerdy. It’s funny how much of your life (junior high, high school, college) you spend hiding who you are. The mentally of “God forbid that the big canned blonde in my community college Geology class knows that I secretly love Star Trek V: The Final Frontier!” takes over when you‘re 20. You have to get away from all of the immaturity of school and hormones before you can grow into yourself. Meeting my wife, finding someone so beautiful inside and out who accepted me for who I was, really changed me, and continues to influence me every day… Even when she tells me Star Trek V is stupid.

10. I work in the health food industry, tell me a health food joke.

185 Health inspectors walk into a bar. Bartender says, “I’m sorry we don’t serve Health Inspectors here.” Inspectors say, “Why?” Bartender responds “Last time you guys came in here you shut the place down.” The 185 Health Inspectors respond “Ah, rats!”.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Actress Kristine Caluya

Kristine Caluya is an actress who appears in the film “Dirty Movie”. Here is a link to her website:

www.kristinecaluya.com

1. What made you want to become an actor?

Growing up as a kid acting wasn’t even on mind. I was in various school plays, choir and even a special school television studio. I never knew it could be a career until I became a hairdresser/makeup artist and got banned on my first film job by being mistaken as a background player. From there, a series of coincidences came along which continued to lead me to pursue acting.

2. What makes you fame-worthy?

I have had success in New Zealand and Europe through the television show “Shortland Street”. Though I am relatively “new” to Hollywood, I have been in this business for a long time internationally. Here in America I getting there. I have great ambiguity in my looks and versatility in my performances. I am a quintuple talent – I act, sing, dance, do martial arts, model. I’m all about professionalism.

3. What do you like about Hollywood?

I love Hollywood! It has a great deal of legacy and interesting character, or should I say “characters” which makes for more interesting characters for me to portray and draw from when I’m acting. Hollywood definitely keeps me plenty busy.

4. What don’t you like about it?

The traffic is probably the only dislike.

5. What is your wildest LA Story?

I have so many its insane! But the most memorable crazy one so far was being at a prestigious party at a mansion in Beverly Hills. Things were going great, then next minute a huge fight broke out between two guys, I think over some girl, and there was blood everywhere on the dance floor. The party gets shut down and about seven or so cop cars came. It was pretty insane.

6. What is “Dirty Movie” about?

Dirty Movie is an homage to the new wave filmmakers. It is a fictional account of making films during the 60’s.

7. What role do you play in the film?

I play a Asian villager named Sunlyn who is brutalized by French troops in Vietnam during the 50’s. Sunlyn is a critical character and is a shocking pivotal point in the film.

8. How did you get the audition for the part?

The director Scott Dodgson gave me the role after sitting down with him for a coffee. He loved my picture and reel and that was it.

9. How long were you in LA before getting your first role?

My first day. I actually got a role in a short film while sitting at a bus stop on sunset blvd and chatting to someone. I have no clue with what happened to that short film as of this day, I didn’t really keep good track of things back then. But after that I got cast in another short film three weeks later that ended up doing the festival circuit.

10. What would you say to someone who says Hollywood is racist, sexist and looksist?

I would say, come live in LA first. So many people make so many assumptions about this town, only hearing what the media portrays without even actually living and really getting to know Hollywood and its people. As for racism, etc that exists no matter what state, city, country you live in.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Hollywood Fringe Fest Publicity Director Stacy Jones Hill

Stacy Jones Hill is the Publicity Director of The Hollywood Fringe Festival, which runs from June 14th to June 24th at various locations in Los Angeles. Here is a link to the website:

www.hollywoodfringe.org

1. What is a Fringe Festival?

Fringe Festivals exist throughout the world as havens for underground and emerging arts scenes. The Fringe concept was incubated in Edinburgh, Scotland. In 1947, eight performance groups appeared uninvited on the “fringes” of the exclusive Edinburgh International Festival. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe has since grown into the largest arts festival in the world with hundreds of artists, thousands of performances, and millions of patrons every summer. It annually grosses over $100 million for the local economy and remains the biggest tourist draw in the UK.

Fringe Festivals have since sprung up in dozens of cities across the world.

Most Fringe Festivals are open and unjuried preferring lotteries, first-come-first-served, and find-your-own-venue systems to a formal selection process. This open means of programming fosters the work of both the well-established and the obscure; everyone has the opportunity to participate. Fringe Festivals nourish young visionaries by providing networking opportunities and production experience. They also provide large economic and cultural boosts for their hosting communities.

2. What is the history of Hollywood Fringe Festival?

Ben Hill, the Festival Director, and David McKeever, our Producing Director, got the bug for running festivals back in 2005 when they started the Hatchery Festival– a new play festival produced in Washington DC. Ben met myself and the other co-founders in Iowa City (where we were currently in school) and then moved out to Los Angeles with us in 2007 with the idea to start another festival. We were sitting around the dinner table in our apartment one day when the pieces finally came together. We knew there were hundreds of theaters and performing arts companies in Los Angeles, but there seemed to be something missing: a cohesive community, a gathering point for new and emerging artists. And the Hollywood Fringe was born. We planned for a couple of years before we put up the first festival in June 2010. In 2011 we doubled in size and we may do the same again this year based on our web analytics and ticket sales so far.

3. How does one get a show in the festival?

We are an open access festival (non-curated), meaning anyone can join in if they complete the three steps of registration:

1- Create a project on our website (http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/project/add_project). This can literally be anything.
2- Secure a venue within our boundaries. This is often the most complicated (but important!) step. We have a list of already-participating venues at www.hollywoodfringe.org/venue/list, or people can also register their own venue (we’ve had people perform in parks, churches, hair salons, etc). All the venues have different rental pricing & contracts, so it’s up to the productions to determine what works best for them.
3- Once you’ve been booked at a venue, you can pay your Registration fee. Fringe registration fees are $250 for paid, multi-performance shows and $175 for one-offs and free shows.

4. What is your strangest festival story?

I always tell people that anything can happen on the Fringe, because we’ve experienced it all! Last year, I saved a cat with one of LA’s top theatre critics– that was a highlight. This year, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing puppets! I also got a lift from a participant in their vintage jalopy just because I needed to cross the street with a bunch of camera equipment. I felt like I’d been transported back in time to the golden age of Hollywood!

5. What has been the Fringe Festivals biggest success story?

Many of our participants have gone on to produce successful runs throughout the country, allowing them to make money year-round on what they love most.

6. What makes a good one man show?

Some of my favorite one-person shows on the Fringe have been extremely personal and brave accounts of life experiences. Good writing, acting, and production value always help– but my favorite shows have always stood out simply because of the amount of heart that has gone into developing the production.

7. What separates the Hollywood Fringe Festival from other Fringe Festivals?

We run a Fringe very similar to the original Fringe that originated in Edinburgh, Scotland– if you have an idea and the tenacity to make it happen, you’re welcome to Fringe. I’d say we have a more entrepreneurial model compared to other North American Fringes in the sense that we encourage artists to make it happen for themselves. Our artists have to make their own partnerships, develop their own promotional and marketing materials, and drive audiences into their shows. Many other Fringes curate or select shows by lottery. We’re more of a free-for-all, but it makes the market more competitive, in my opinion.

8. With all the live theater in LA why should my readers attend Hollywood Fringe Festival?

A lot of the time in LA, people see shows from the same company over and over and never get out of their inner circle of friends and co-workers. Fringe provides a gathering place where people can meet new artists and companies, form alliances and new collaborations, and talk! We put a lot of emphasis on the community aspect of our festival– it’s different than anything else you can experience here.

9. How can one contribute to the festival. Are you only looking for money or are you looking for props and costumes as well?

We are currently trying to raise $20,000 through Kickstarter to help fund a number of new programs this year (this closes at 11:59 PM on June 13th). You can also donate alcohol (beer, wine, spirits), lights or decorations, or your time! We are a massive organization and always need more volunteers.

10. What is the best advertising campaign you have ever seen for a festival show?

A lot of flyers are handed out at the Fringe so we usually encourage people to get creative with what they hand out. Some of the unique schwag this year includes buttons, pill bottles (with Mike N’ Ikes instead of pills), condoms, cocktail napkins, slap bracelets, and more!

An Interview With Playwright Leonard Manzella

Leonard Manzella is the author of “CAGES” a play about group therapy for prisoners in solitary confinement. “CAGES” is currently at The Matrix Theater which is located at 7657 Melrose Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90046. Here is a link to the website:
http://cagestheplay.com/

1. What is “CAGES” about?

CAGES is a play about five mentally ill inmates in a state prison and a psychologist who has been put in charge to treat them for their psychiatric illnesses. Every Friday at approximately 2:15pm Dr. Thomas Morri reports to the administrative segregation unit where he facilitates a psychotherapy group for five inmates locked in maximum security cages, each the size of a phone booth. The play explores what it means to be human while examining the thin divide between good and evil and the inmates and those in charge of them. Cages is a true story based on my experiences while working in the prison system.

2. What inspired you to write “CAGES”?

On the very first day I walked into that stark and barren room and saw the cages bolted to a cold cement floor, each one holding a human being, I knew I had to relay my experience to others. I will never forget the awe I felt seeing their faces glare out at me from behind a thick steel mesh so tightly woven is was difficult to distinguish their features unless I walked closer to the cages. It is an image I wanted to create on stage for the public to see through my eyes.

3. What is the most common misconception about the American prison system?

One of the most common misconceptions of the American prison system is that everyone incarcerated must belong there. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that an astounding percentage of the men and women serving time in our prisons are there for non violent crimes who would be better treated elsewhere.

4. If you could change the prison system how would you change it?

If I had a magic wand and could change the prison system I would make sure that it was in the business of going out of business. I would urge the prison policy makers to rethink their mission and enlist all the great minds in this country who have studied the problem and join with the practitioners to find new models of detention that would benefit society instead of making the problem worse.

5. Are any of the characters in the play based on prisoners you worked with?

All of the characters in the play are based on people I worked with in the prison system.

6.How did you get your play produced?

How did I get the play produced? The best answer I can come up with is one I gave to a colleague, and that is, I didn’t give up. Sometimes you have to believe even when you don’t.

7, What is psychodrama?

Psychodrama is a form of group therapy that uses dramatic form to achieve its goal of healing. It is one of the oldest forms of modern day therapy and it came out of Vienna in the 1920’s. Dr. J.L. Moreno started what he called the “Theatre of Spontaneity” in which he tried to eliminate the line between audience and players. Not accepted by the conservative Viennese public, Moreno knew he had to save the form so he incorporated it into the medical model and it became a form of group therapy known as psychodrama in which group members play roles in each others dramas to help the protagonist (the person being focused on in a session) to gain self-understanding and healing.

8. What is the greatest rehabilitation success story that you have seen in your career?

I do not have any specific case reports of successful rehabilitation because my career in the prison system has been as a contractor working in different prisons around my state for relatively short periods of time, the longest being a year and a half. But the most hopeful story I can report is about a group of inmates who facilitated a prison program called, “Men Helping Men,” through the catholic chapel at their prison. I met them when I had volunteered to do a demonstration of psychodrama for the men in their program. After facilitating an incredibly moving session they contacted me a week later asking if I would come back and that they would be willing to pay me for my services. I remember smiling at their liaison and saying, “how on earth could they ever pay me?” He then handed me a check for three hundred dollars that the men had raised through their activities at the chapel. I remember being so moved that I returned and spent a couple of years facilitating a weekly psychodrama group. I remember sitting in on some of their board meetings wishing that some of the board meetings I attended in my own community could be as cordial and respectful. I still have their check, which I never cashed.

9. With all the causes there are in the world why should people care about the plight of prisoners?

You ask me why people should care about the plight of prisoners? Someone once said, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” I find this to be true. What most people don’t contemplate is that when you treat someone sub-humanly it forces you to become sub-human. This does not mean that some men and women don’t have to be separated from the rest of us because of their actions. But we must keep in mind that their punishment is to be separated from us, not to be treated sub-humanly. When we fail to realize this everyone is a victim, including the officers. To grasp what I mean one doesn’t need to look further than the high rates of suicide, child abuse, and divorces among correctional staff. People need to understand that when you change the prisons, you change the streets.

10. Why did you decide to write a play and not a screenplay?

From the first moment I saw the cages I imagined seeing them on a stage for everyone to witness. I wanted to somehow express my experience, the knot in my stomach and my desire to run, which many of the people sitting in the front row of the theatre have described as their experience. I also wanted to see the fluidity of the group process in real time, and I wanted the public to feel what it might be like if they were in prison. However, I am writing the screenplay because I know CAGES will be a very powerful film