The following is an interview with actress Brooke Baumer (Fresh Off the Boat, Parks & Recreation, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) regarding the upcoming appearance of her one-woman production, October Baby, at the 2017 Hollywood Fringe Festival. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Baumer about the inspiration behind the show, balancing more than 20 different characters, what she hopes that viewers will take away from the show, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: The play, October Baby, will soon appear 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?
Brooke Baumer: October Baby is the story of my attempt to time the birth of my youngest daughter to happen during my favorite month of the year. Without giving away too much, things didn’t go according to plan.
Once our daughter came home from the hospital, and people started stopping by for visits, I would tell them the story of how crazy this pregnancy went – from right after conception through the birth. I told the story so many times over the course of four years, that I had it committed to memory. In summer 2015, I started doing LA’s storytelling scene and participating in events like “The Moth.” I wrote a 10-minute storytelling piece of October Baby and performed it around town. But, it was just the story…no characters or fully fleshed out scenes.
In spring 2016, I met my director, Jessica Lynn Johnson, at a solo theatre workshop at IO West. I hadn’t written a solo show in 13 years and was eager to “entertain” the idea of another one – but had no idea of the topic. I adored Jessica’s workshop. I went home and started mulling over potential topics. I began sifting through old journals and saw numerous passages that captured that time in 2010 when I was pregnant with my daughter. I remembered that I had penned the 10-minute storytelling piece, and I thought, “Hmm…perhaps this could be shell of a full-length show.” I approached Jessica with the idea, and she gave a resounding, “YES!”
And so it began. I wrote the show over the summer 2016. Using the 10-minute story as the foundation, I found portions of the story that I thought would be fun to bring to life via scenes and characters. And then I used the “narrator voice” to cover general exposition moments. I met with Jessica each week to review latest drafts, and she would provide feedback and additional ideas on how to bring the story to life – via characters, multimedia, lighting, voiceover, etc. By the end of August, I had a fully developed show.
I performed a scene from it at the Soaring Solo Showcase in October 2016, getting tremendous feedback. The buzz began. In February 2017, October Baby made its world premiere at the Whitefire Theatre as part of Solofest 2017. It was a complete sell-out … standing room only.
BD: Given that the performance is a one-woman show, how do you balance the workload of performing over 20 characters within the production, and do you feel that the various roles enhance your creative process?
BB: I think the characters are the best part of the show. It’s an opportunity to completely lose myself in someone completely different. I also think the characters give me permission to speak parts of my truth that I might not have the courage to do when I am in narrator mode. While there are 20+ characters, it isn’t so many that the audience is confused. I feel like the characters are placed nicely throughout the show. There’s a natural up-and-down rhythm to the show, and the characters help me establish that.
BD: What do you hope that audiences will take away from the show?
BB: Well, first I hope they laugh. Second, I hope they can relate. While on the surface, it’s a story about motherhood, on a deeper level, it’s about that intense need in so many of us to plan and have control of our lives. And when that control goes out the window, it can be very frustrating and scary. I hope people – whether they are parents or not – leave saying, “I so get it.”
BD: What makes the Hollywood Fringe Festival an ideal venue for October Baby?
BB: The Hollywood Fringe Festival is all about celebrating the brave artists who fiercely step forward with an idea, pouring their heart, soul (and finances) into bringing their visions to life. Then, there are the audiences, who are hungry to celebrate these performers and be entertained. It’s the perfect mix. I felt this instantly when I attended Fringe last year for the first time. I knew this is where I wanted my show to ultimately land…and I couldn’t be more excited!
BD: The show will be appearing at the Sacred Fools Theater Black Box from June 4-24, 2017. Are there any future plans to perform the show at other venues?
BB: Yes, I am in talks now with a set of producers in Texas to possibly bring the show to my hometown of Houston in October 2017 for a 4-day run. I am also planning to submit a condensed version of the show for the 2018 LA Women’s Theatre Festival. Beyond that, I would love to pare the show down even further and be able to tour it to venues/events that cater to parents. I’m open to whatever the universe brings my way.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects that you would care to share with our readers?
BB: October Baby is my primary focus right now, in addition to juggling my duties as a wife and mom! In terms of acting, I am a recurring character on the hit ABC comedy, Fresh Off the Boat, so hopefully my character, Mrs. Uveda, will be back next season for some in-classroom shenanigans!
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about and purchase tickets for October Baby?
BB: Visit www.octoberbabyshow.com and that will take you to my ticket page on the Hollywood Fringe Festival website. My preview on June 4th at 5 p.m. is free, but you still need to reserve tickets online. For the other four performances, use the discount code “octoberrocks” to get $2 off your ticket. I would love to have five sold-out performances. Come and celebrate October with me!