This is the first of what is sure to be at least a dozen posts over the rest of this year, sharing my progress towards opening a show at the New York International Fringe Festival in August and then a six-week run of the show at ImprovBoston in September and October. I’ll be tagging the posts with “Dumber Faster” as I go. It’ll be honest, but it won’t be a tell-all. Both FringeNYC and ImprovBoston are institutions that have done enormous work over many years to build strong reputations, and they have internal processes I wouldn’t comment on. I have enormous respect for both, and am excited to present the show with them. What I share will be things that I think are generally useful questions to ask when developing and producing a show, not a guide to FringeNYC or IB.
What is Dumber Faster?
Dumber Faster is a solo comedy, a monologue, and a 50 minute attempt to answer the question, “How can a man with a smartphone be so consistently stupid?” I use a combination of storytelling, standup, essay, and a very tiny amount of character stuff (I’m a monologist and writer, not an actor, a reminder I should have manufactured in neon and hung over my computer while writing scripts for myself). It’s my fifth full-length monologue, and the fourth that’s been produced as a solo show (another was written as part of a pair of monologues, for a two-person show called Diptych, which I wrote and performed with Sara Faith Alterman in 2007).
I started doing this a decade ago, and while each show has gotten better, I feel like the last one, There Is No Good News, was a huge leap forward both stylistically and in the quality of the writing. Dumber Faster builds on that. It’s the funniest, most honest, most relevant show I’ve written. I applied for FringeNYC with cautious optimism, feeling that I’ve finally reached a level where I can benefit from the festival, and where I bring something to the festival that I couldn’t have in the past.
My current status
FringeNYC opens on August 10th. I will get my venue assignment any day now, and performance dates in early July. While I wait for that information, I’m:
a) getting off book and rehearsing constantly
b) working with a designer to create marketing and advertising materials
c) booking guests for the Boston run (more on this below)
d) raising a child
e) holding down a good, stressful, and very real fulltime job that is currently cresting to the busiest, most important moment in years
f) getting ready for the birth of a second child, due after the Boston run
I don’t include d, e, and f to brag. I include them because almost every single person doing this sort of thing does it in parallel to a full life. Asked to rank these by priority, those three would by choice and by necessity be at the top of the list. We have to do d, e, and f, and if we don’t budget our time honestly, we do all of these things poorly.
Getting off book and rehearsing constantly
I live in the suburbs of Boston. My director lives in Philadelphia. We open in New York. As you can imagine, this creates challenges. In the early stages, while the script was still in development, we met in person as often as possible, but mostly met via Gchat, Skype and Facetime. As we move out of development and into rehearsing, blocking, and second-guessing every detail, we will continue rehearsing mostly remotely, just with the camera much further away. This Wednesday, we have an actual, in-person rehearsal at my house. I am mostly off book, and by Wednesday, plan to be there.
In the month since we last rehearsed, I’ve handwritten the script onto notecards, which have been with me everywhere. I study them whenever I get free time. I also recorded myself reading it, and listen to it while I’m in the car by myself. There is NOTHING I could listen to in the car that would be more embarrassing than driving around listening to myself talking. But damned if it doesn’t work. You hear 9000-odd words enough times, and you know them cold.
Working with a designer
I’m working with my friend Aaron, an awesome illustrator, and had Ben Snitkoff shoot photos. Ben’s photos of ImprovBoston comics are consistently excellent. I’ll post all of the art as soon as it’s final (likely in early July).
My director and I, along with IB’s managing director, Ben, Aaron, and a handful of friends, brainstormed at least a dozen creative directions, and ultimately, I can say that the art underway exceed my expectations. I think the poster and postcard are going to be really eye-catching, and the media photos look sharp.
I feel like the postcard is especially important in New York, where I’m not known. My shows have been successful in Boston because of word of mouth, not because of press. Not that I don’t want press. I WANT PRESS. HI, PRESS. I’ve had bursts of press, and they’ve helped, but show after show, my houses get better because the same people come back and they bring friends. Last year in New York, my Boston audience sent their NYC friends and family. Some friends showed up in New York themselves, which was unexpected, and I’m still taken aback by the awesomeness of it.
So, I hope for that again, but I also need to get new butts in the seats, and to that end, I believe in postcards. I believe in elevator pitches. I believe in the theater equivalent of Amazon reviews: getting people who liked your show to tell people. And while FringeNYC and IB do a lot of marketing, I don’t see any reason I should stop doing what worked when I had no audience at all: until somebody tells me I have to stop, I’m going to be handing out postcards in the street and talking about the show. The postcard has to be good, and I think this one may be the best yet.
Booking guests for the Boston run
I’m talking about this. Booking is underway. I’ll hold the confirmed names for now. I’ve found, to nobody’s surprise, that friends of friends are much more reliable than strangers. It’s going to be a really good, fun, unpredictable mix of guests.
I’ve still got a thousand things to do. I’ve got to staff up in New York, make sure I know where I’m living, potty train a toddler, and get my pregnant wife an occasional beverage. I’m determined to do all of it well, which means letting go of a few other things and not feeling bad about it. Let’s see if I can do that.