Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: The one-act, Up Down Stick Stuck, recently premiered at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. For our readers who may be unfamiliar with the show, how would you describe its premise?
Group: Three strangers, stuck together in an elevator, try to unstick their lives. Their thoughts and dreams play out loud and impact how they react to each other. It's an ensemble-generated dramedy with pot, panic attacks, and poop.
BD: The production is part of the award-winning Ray Burley Productions. What inspired the creation of this ensemble, and how would you describe its mission?
Group: RBP started in Seattle because a bunch of theatre artists who were also friends and colleagues through other organizations (notably, the University of Washington and Youth Theatre Northwest) wanted to work together and wanted to hold themselves to standards and ethics that they defined.
After life journeys led the founding company members down different paths, including baby-having, world-tramping, and grad school, RBP ceased operations.
When Stina Pederson and Brendan Weinhold, two of the founders, arrived in L.A., they spent a few frustrating years discovering some of the seedier theatre production companies and ways of doing business in L.A. So they could make the theatre they love, and could live with themselves as producers, they re-established RBP with the blessing of their co-founders. They set themselves a few production-side guidelines. First among them was that theatre should be accessible to all audiences, regardless of finances. Income inequality in L.A. is a huge problem, and there's no reason a millionaire deserves to see theatre more than someone struggling to make ends meet. Furthermore, the business of "bringers" is deplorable. No performer should be pressured to provide an audience so that the production can be funded. So, all shows are Pay-What-You-Can, and performers are welcome to offer comp tickets to whomever they'd like. Our suggested donation is on a sliding-scale, so if you can comfortable pay $45 for a ticket, you should, so that the person who can't afford a $10 ticket can still come and the production company can afford to keep making theatre. (This is the sliding scale formula, though probably no one uses it, since PWYC is just easier to understand: The patron's annual income minus the standard deduction, all divided by 5000. So, if the patron is a single person making L.A. minimum wage and working full time, about $20,000 a year, they'd be expected to donate about a dollar for a ticket. If the patron has a middle-class income, making $60,000 a year, they'd be expected to donate $10-ish, and if they make a million dollars a year, RBP hopes they know they can better afford a $200 ticket than an impoverished person can afford a $10 ticket.)
From a creative standpoint, RBP always has an eye on the impact of what they portray. The producers are politically minded, though the shows are not overtly political. RBP embraces the collaborative nature of theatre, and everyone's experience is integral to the development of the final product.
BD: What can you tell us about the creators who brought Up Down Stick Stuck to life, and how would you describe the creative process by the ensemble?
Group: Our artists, Kerry Nash, Dawn Alden, Brendan Weinhold, Stina Pederson, and Patrick Albanesius, began rehearsing in March, using exercises and conversations to develop the premise, the characters, and the story. They drew on their experiences as actors, movement artists, improvisers, and activists, sharing tools each of them had learned during their careers. In the beginning of May, director Patrick Albanesius and playwright Stina Pederson refined the dozens of scenes and storylines into one show that evolved with input from the performers.
These are our artists' bios, which you can find on our website:
Stina Pederson hails from Seattle, WA, where she studied creative writing at the University of Washington. She writes poetry, short and long fiction, screenplays, and stage plays, including one of the four in 2014's Hollywood Fringe First Freak award nominee Four Tree Plays. Stina is a founding member of Ray Burley Productions and a lifelong Jane Austen fan.
Dawn Alden holds an MFA in Acting with an emphasis on classical work and period style. She has studied physical theatre with Toby Jones of Theatre Complicite, Alexander technique and mask work with Sarah Barker, and stage combat in a wide variety of weapons with instructors from all over the world. She co-founded GREX, a movement/commedia/combat theatre troupe; The Young Company, a Shakespeare troupe; was Managing Director and an Ensemble Member of Footsteps Theatre Company, Chicago's premiere all-female classical theatre company; and founded Babes With Blades, an all-female stage combat theatre company. She is also a founding member of Broads' Word Ensemble here in Los Angeles.
Brendan Weinhold works to build community with theatre and film. He's a big fan of all the things he did at theatre camp when he was a kid, and cultivates that playfulness within the companies he joins. He runs Theatre Games Night at We Make Movies and plays regularly at ComedySportz L.A. Favorite roles include D in the tales of homeless youth, Polaroid Stories; Another Me in a dance interpretation of Billy Collins' I Go Back to the House for a Book; and Dogwood/Tree/Keith/Kit in Four Tree Plays. Brendan has a B.A. in Drama from the University of Washington, and most of the aforementioned theatre camps happened at First Stage Milwaukee.
Kerry Nash is an actress and improviser originally from Kissimmee, Fl. At a young age, Kerry found her love for movies while watching TMC, AMC and any other channel she could get her hands on that played classics and musicals. While growing up she did anything she could to be part of the action: theater, dance, music, anything. After college, Kerry moved to Las Vegas where she was a 'career' bartender for about 4 years, but something was missing. That thing was acting. She knew what she had to do, so she picked up and moved to Hollywood! Since moving Kerry has trained under some of the best improv teachers in LA. She currently performs as a member of the ComedySportz LA Sunday Team. She also has been seen performing at iOWest and Second City. Kerry's dream job would be acting in a show reminiscent of Parks and Rec or The Office. She can't wait for the day she calls Amy Poehler her 'BFF', like, totally.
Patrick Albanesius is a writer, actor and director from New Jersey who made the trek west with his lovely wife Madeline and their two cats. Favorite on-stage credits include playing Dr. Jim Tennyson in Dr. Cook's Garden, Feste in Twelfth Night and Gilligan in Gilligan's Island...of Death! Off the stage, he has enjoyed directing such productions as Proof, God of Carnage, Twelve Angry Men and Brighton Beach Memoirs. When not at the theater, Patrick is often seen writing television pilots, science fiction stories, baseball blogs or manifestos about the coming apocalypse. This is his first venture with Ray Burley Productions, and he is very happy for the opportunity.
BD: What do you hope that audiences will take away from the show?
Group: We hope that audiences leaving our show will be better able to remember that everybody is going through a private emotional journey. Empathy can lead to patience.
BD: What makes the Hollywood Fringe Festival the best venue for Up Down Stick Stuck?
Group: We hadn't a clue what our show would be when we began the process of creating it, and the Hollywood Fringe is a great place to experiment. There's also attention built into the Fringe, especially press attention. And now that we've been a part of the community for several years, there's are people here that we're eager to share with and whose work we are eager to see.
BD: The show will be appearing at the Hollywood Fringe Festival through June 26, 2016. Are there any future plans to perform the one-act at other venues?
Group: We have no current plans to extend its run or re-mount it, though we have applied to the Encore Producers' awards and would be happy to consider offers. As RBP builds its stable of original works, there may come a future when re-mounting shows fits into a larger season. Currently, we only produce 2 shows a year: a short holiday piece at The Red Dragon Cafe in East Hollywood, and our yearly Fringe production, but if the resources and people are there, we'll begin adding productions to our seasons.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects that you would care to share with our readers?
Group: Every December, Ray Burley Productions produces a sweet, uplifting story at The Red Dragon Cafe (4350 Normal Ave.) which donates the use of the space to us! For the past two years, we've mounted an original adaptation of The Gift of the Magi, and I expect we'll continue the tradition. We raise funds for local charities chosen by the artists, and in years past we've donated to Children's Hospital, PATH, Best Friends, Downtown Women's Center, and more. It's an opportunity for good cheer.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about and purchase tickets for Up Down Stick Stuck?
Group: Our website, andjuggling.com/rbp, has information about our artists, links to reviews, our history, and a place to sign up for our mailing list. Readers can purchase tickets for Up Down Stick Stuck at hff16.org/3609.