Friday, November 13, 2020

Inspiring The Show: Leslie Tsina on her show Lord of the Files

In this new series Inspiring The Show, I correspond with solo performance creators about how they came up with the ideas for their shows. What was their inspiration and how did the process unfold as they crafted that original notion into a one-person show.

Today, Los Angeles based performer Leslie Tsina  discussed creating her show Lord of the Files.

Lesley Tsina [credit: Lesley Tsina]

Lesley Tsina is Los Angeles-based writer and comedian. As a performer, she has appeared on NBC’s Community, ABC’s Black-ish, HBO's Funny or Die Presents and NPR's MarketplaceShe has performed in sketch, improv and solo shows at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater, the Comedy Central Stage, the CBS Diversity Showcase, SF Sketchfest, and the Minnesota and Vancouver Fringe Festivals. Lesley can be seen in various national commercials, most notably the Geico ad where the camel walks around the office saying "Hump Day.” Favorite shows include “Slave Leia Improv,” “Extreme Tambourine,” and “Tournament of Nerds.”

She currently writes for Cartoon Network's ThunderCats Roar. She has also written for WB Animation, Circa Laughs and was a Contributing Editor for the cult comedy anthology magazine, The Devastator. Her best-selling book: “Restart Me Up: the Unauthorized Un-Accurate Oral History of Windows 95,” is now available on Amazon.

Her solo show about being laid off from a tech company, Lord of the Files, has been performed at the Comedy Central Stage, Dallas Solo Fest and the Vancouver and Minnesota Fringe Festivals, to rave reviews. In 2012 she was selected to perform in the CBS Diversity Showcase. 

Plank Magazine wrote of the show, that it:

There is something about the story of Lord of the Files that rings so true, so close to the spinal cord of so many artists and art enthusiasts. . . it is easy to see why people are flocking to this understated wonder.

In his own words, here's Lesley's thoughts on how his show came about...

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I came up with the idea for Lord of the Files after a particularly miserable day at my job. I was working at a place that made cell phone ringtones. The company was shutting down our office and I was in a small group of employees who were there to finish up work while waiting for the final round of layoffs.

I was driving down Sunset Boulevard in rush hour, in the rain, trying to make it to a standup show and introduce myself to the booker. After a while realized that I was never going to make it and I was better off going home. I started to cry from frustration; I was trying so hard to keep doing comedy through all of this, even though I didn't feel funny at all. This day was unsalvageable. And then it struck me that this was a show. 

The whole situation, being laid off from a company and stuck working there for months as the entire company, and the rest of my life, fell apart, this was the show. It was a real story, and even though I didn’t know the ending, it would probably be worth writing about. In fact, it was one of the reasons I stayed until they closed the office down. I wanted to know what would happen.

But, at the time, I wasn’t up to writing a show yet. So, in the meantime, I wrote unfunny jokes and did those at open-mikes. I wrote (and still write) zines every couple of months, diary-like things for an audience of about 30 people. I wrote about what was happening, kind of taking notes. I wrote in my journal, which I never actually go back and read, but it helps me remember things just to do it. 

When I was packing up my desk, I kept a file of all the pictures and things I hung in my cubicle, including a particularly embarrassing excel spreadsheet I'd created in a moment of insanity. I took pictures of our increasingly empty office. I had a photo slideshow of my last day. Basically, I started making sure I was observing the most ridiculous parts. And that was the raw material for the story.

[credit: Chris Van Artsdalen]

My two major influences at the time were Josh Kornbluth’s Haiku Tunnel which is in my opinion, the definitive work on temping, and Claudia Shear's Blown Sideways Through Life, which chronicles all her crazy, terrible jobs. It was good to know what universe my show was in, even thought it took a while to figure out what it was.

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For more info on Lesley and her solo show, visit... HERE

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Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Inspiring The Show: David Mogolov on his show Eating My Garbage

 In this new series Inspiring The Show, I talk with solo performance creators about how they came up with the ideas for their shows. What was their inspiration and how did the process unfold as they crafted that original notion into a one-person show.

First up, David Mogolov and his 2014 show Eating My Garbage.

David Mogolov has been writing and performing comedic monologues in Boston since 2002. His shows are known for blending the personal and the political, and for smart, surprising insights that emerge through near-constant laugh lines. His shows include One Night at T.F. Green (2003 Single File Festival in Chicago), There Is No Good News (FRIGID New York 2011), and Dumber Faster (FringeNYC 2012) and Clenched (Dallas Solo Fest 2016). His work is published by Indie Theatre Now. 

His show Eating My Garbage finds David dumbfounded by a call from a political pollster who sounds suspiciously like Laura Linney. He searches himself for a reason to believe the nation isn't utterly doomed. When he can't quite think of one, he turns to irrational reasons. That's when his search gets more promising.

NYTheatreNow wrote of the show, that it:

...looks at the fragmented state of the Union with wit and intelligence and  a wry sensibility that blends the naive optimism and weathered cynicism that is so characteristic of American in the 21st century.

In his own words, here's David thoughts on how his show came about...

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Eating My Garbage could have been a disaster of a show, but it came together mostly because I was open to taking new ideas into it and jettisoning the ones that were personally interesting but probably bad theater. One critical element of the show came as a complete surprise, a total coincidence that arrived when I wasn't even thinking about the show. 

But as far as the foundational ideas, they came from reading. Very often, I start with personal stories and explore the connections between them, but this time the ideas were very much "ideas" in the classic sense. I was working toward a show called Carry the Two, and the original concept is slightly muddled in my memory, perhaps because it was very muddled as a concept. I was trying to marry three different strands of thought:

1) For my previous show, Dumber Faster, I had done a lot of reading about psychology, particularly about how we make and justify our decisions. All of that reading was in my head, and many of my ideas at the time were rooted in that space.

2) For a few years, I'd wanted to look more at externalities, the economic idea that our activities have costs other than those we pay directly, costs that typically get pushed to society as a whole (pollution is the typical example).

3) Separate from that reading, I was really obsessed with the idea of tribalism. Everything in the news then (I was writing from late 2012 into late 2013) seemed to get stuck in these debates rooted in what best matched to our understanding of our group identities, which were shielding us from the hard work of owning our individual actions and inactions.

The problem is, I write and perform comedies that are rooted in personal stories, so I needed to anchor these things firmly in engaging, funny stories, rather than in lectures. For externalities, I had an easy surface-level comparison that I knew was funny, but I didn't think was personal enough to really build a show around: the smell of Subway sandwiches. Subway, simply by being in business, creates an externality in that the entire neighborhood around a Subway location takes on that odor.

The show ended up containing a nearly ten-minute comic bit about that smell. Perhaps it's absurd that about a fifth of the show was spent there, but on balance, it seems right. While the tribalism bit fell away entirely and the externalities element became very short, other psychological and cultural ideas crept in to give it all purpose, and offsetting that and contextualizing it in the ridiculous suited my style and brought the audience along. 

The other essential, fundamental element of the show was entirely unplanned—an uncanny coincidence (learning from my brother that he'd had a personal encounter with a celebrity at the center of the emerging narrative) allowed me to tighten the entire thing even more firmly into a personal narrative. It required a major structural change, introducing more personal stories, and jettisoning some more ideas I'd thought were important, but it absolutely created a better, tighter, more entertaining show that was much more humane and funny.

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For more info on David and his solo shows, visit... HERE

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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Martin Dockery - RIGHT NOW Aug 7 2020

Trapped in his home for months on end, animated solely by the glow of his devices, storyteller Martin Dockery has lost the thread of his own narrative. As have we all. A reckoning with where we’re at 5 months into a bizarre, reality-bending quasi-quarantine.

Watch Dockery's narrative snapshot of the moment on his YouTube channel... HERE

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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Fleabag Live Released on Amazon for COVID-19 Charities

Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag [credit: Joan Marcus]

Solo peformer Phoebe Waller-Bridge returned to the stage in 2019 to the role that launched her career. The live production of Fleabag at Wyndham’s theatre was broadcast to cinemas by NT Livelast year. That recording is now available for streaming online on Amazon. Proceeds will help to raise money for those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Proceeds will go towards charities including the National Emergencies TrustNHS Charities Together and Acting for Others in Waller-Bridge's native UK, which provides support to all theatre workers in times of need.The U.S.-based beneficiary of the funds is Broadway Cares-Equity Fights AIDS Inc. 
Fleabag is available to stream from April 6 on Amazon Prime Video in the US and UK. The production will be available for a 48-hour download for $5, with the option to donate larger amounts of money.

Written and performed by Waller-Bridge, and directed by Vicky Jones, Fleabag is an account of “some sort of woman living her sort of life”. Waller-Bridge received a Fringe first award at the Edinburgh fringe in 2013 for the play, whose scenarios and characters formed the basis for its first series on TV.

You can check it out... HERE