Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: The production, Sink or Swim, will soon be appearing as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival. What inspired you to tell this story, and how would you describe your creative process in bringing it to life?
Christopher Piehler: My dad died suddenly about a year and a half ago, and I wanted to tell stories about him. I also wanted to share what I went through after he died, which was very different than the classic five stages of grief. For this script, I actually used some elements of a eulogy I wrote of Dad, along with two radio stories that had appeared on KCRW’s show, UnFictional. And then I connected it all with this bizarre and humbling experience of learning to swim at age 45.
BD: What do you hope that audiences will take away from the show?
CP: I hope they remember to see their parents as people and learn to appreciate them before they’re gone. I also hope to inspire some old-fashioned carpe diem. I’m doing this show because there’s nothing I’d rather do, and I hope everyone who sees it will remember that, on one hand, time is short, and on the other hand, it’s never too late to try something new.
BD: Given that Sink or Swim is a solo performance, how do you balance the workload of the production, and do you feel that the various roles enhance your creative process?
CP: I sleep a lot less, for one thing! I’m more of a writer than an actor, and my writer side loves the fact that there’s no greater challenge to a piece of writing than to say it out loud in front of strangers. But this is by no means a solo process. I’m working with a fantastic director named John McCrite who has been amazing in pushing me both as a writer and an actor. Plus, we’ve been rehearsing in his garage which is the exact same width as our stage at the Fringe.
BD: What makes the Hollywood Fringe Festival an ideal venue for Sink or Swim?
CP: The Fringe gives performers an enormous sense of freedom. We have our one hour on that stage to do our show the way we want to. We don’t have anyone second-guessing our decisions, but we do have a great support team in the form of our stage manager Pam Noles, along Matthew Quinn and Bertha Rodriguez, who run the Asylum spaces. This is my third Fringe with Matt and Bertha, and they’ve created an amazingly warm and supportive atmosphere that allows the artists to focus on their work.
BD: The show will be appearing at Studio C from June 3-17, 2018. Are there any future plans to perform the show at other venues?
CP: Right now, I’m focused on making the show as entertaining as possible for our Fringe audiences. In the future, I’d love to do this show (or anything, really) in Edinburgh. And ideally, I’d love to find a home theatre in LA where I could do one of these shows a year and have it run for a few weeks.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects that you would care to share with our readers?
CP: Just Sink or Swim right now!
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about and purchase tickets for Sink or Swim?
CP: They can get tickets for $10 at hff18.org/5210, and everyone who comes gets homemade cookies and cakes that I made myself. In true Fringe fashion, I am a multi-hyphenate: writer-performer-producer-baker.