Voices from Hollywood Fringe 2017: Exclusive Interview with ‘Zombie Clown Trump' Creator

Making its premiere at the Hollywood Fringe Festival next month is the provocatively titled Zombie Clown Trump: An Apocalyptic Musical, and it's already raising hackles in the community. Hate mail started coming in very early in the show's development, so the cast and creator decided to work behind a veil of anonymity.

Zombie Clown Trump takes place in 2020, when a certain current president is running for reelection. Syria, Iran, North Korea, South Korea, and Sweden have all been destroyed. In the name of a curative vaccination, Dr. Ben Arson has unleashed a powerful virus on the United States, but now millions of people — including the president — have been transformed into zombies.

From the press notes: “Will our Zombie Clown-In-Chief be reelected and bring the hammer down on the world for good — or will a group of heroes rise up and help deport him to Twitterland forever?”

Zombie Clown Trump features a satirical score set to the music of such artists as The Beatles, Madonna and Cee Lo Green. Four actors play multiple roles, and there's a Spitting Image-style puppet — White House Press Secretary Sean Sphincter.

The creator of the piece was kind enough to answer some questions for me from the security of his underground bunker.

What's the value of humor and satire in the age of Trump?

For me, the value of humor in the age of Trump is to vent serious frustrations and use satire as a healthy form of protest.

What is it about today's political climate that's making the country so divided?

I think that is the subject of an entire book. But some people like chocolate ice cream, others like vanilla, and neither respects the other's choice, or is willing to take the time to learn about one another's preferences. Perhaps finding a bridge somewhere along Neapolitan Avenue.

Also, the very fabric of the American Dream has come unraveled. Our politicians have lost the ability to lead or inspire. They've replaced positive leadership with old-fashioned mudslinging. In today's political climate, that translates into exploiting the fear of “the other.”

Michael Moore has just announced he's doing a Broadway solo show intended specifically to destabilize the president. Do you have a particular agenda with Zombie Clown Trump?

Of course, if Broadway producers come calling, I'll gladly accept their calls! In the meantime, we're just going to have fun doing these seven performances at Hollywood Fringe. If an opportunity arises to continue the circus, we'll cross that clown car when we come to it.

Tell us a bit about the show and what audiences can expect.

The show is about Zombie Clown Trump running for reelection in 2020 while presiding over a zombie apocalypse.

We're basically conducting our comic sermon for others who, like us, are truly frightened of what's going on not only in our country, but across the world. We want to provide a safe and enjoyable space for people to come together right now and relieve some tension, aided by the magic of music and laughter.

And, perhaps they'll come to the conclusion — as I have — that the Trump Circus will one day leave town and order will be restored.

How was this piece developed? What was the inspiration?

I had previously created another zombie musical. When I woke up the morning after this last election, I knew what I had to do to exorcise my own feeling of tremendous powerlessness in the face of such a negative force.

Can you talk about the actors' backgrounds and what they bring to the piece?

The three other actors involved come from a variety of disciplines and they first and foremost bring courage and an openness to the show. This musical took me about 40 hours to cast. I looked at 600 demo tapes in an effort to find eight actors, and we ended up with four.

Not only was the project censored by the main casting outlet in town, I also discovered that it's not easy to cast a non-paying theater gig, especially in a place where everyone wants to be a star. They are more focused on themselves rather than the big picture. The Big Picture, in this case, being political protest.

What's the takeaway you hope audiences will get?

As with all my projects, I like to hear one sentence when it's through: “That was fun!”

Is this your first time at Hollywood Fringe? How are you enjoying the experience?

This is my first time at Hollywood Fringe and I haven't yet really been mingling in the Fringe scene. The experience has been a master course in respecting the creative process, going with the flow and making something work, no matter what challenges spring up on a daily basis.

Are there any other shows on your must-see list?

I definitely would want to see Trump in Space.

Zombie Clown Trump: An Apocalyptic Musical has seven performances beginning June 2 at the Complex Theatre, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd. Dates, times, and ticket information can be found on the Fringe website.

This interview was originally published on BlogCritics.org

Voices from Hollywood Fringe 2017: Exclusive Interview – Ryan Lisman, Writer/Director ‘Apathy Killed the Cat'

Making its world premiere at the Hollywood Fringe next month is Apathy Killed the Cat, a new play by Fringe veteran Ryan Lisman. This intimate piece concerns a depressed playwright, his catatonic mother, a dying cat, and some shocking secrets.

Ryan took some time out from the Fest's rigorous production schedule to talk with me about the play and about his overall Fringe experience.

Tell us a bit about the play.

It's about a playwright who feels that his life is crumbling. His mom is in the hospital in a catatonic state, and his cat is about to die. As a coping mechanism, he writes an 826-page play chronicling his entire life. He plans to give it to his mother, knowing she won't be able to read it, but he's always given her all his plays as a way of trying to connect with her. He puts the play in her hands with plans to retrieve it, but it is found by his girlfriend and his brothers before he can do so.

This unwanted exposure unravels everything in his life, revealing things he never wanted anyone to know. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I will say it's something very controversial and disturbing.

What was your inspiration for writing the piece?

I try to put a good amount of personal elements into my work. I find it makes the writing process a lot more meaningful for me. Obviously, I dramatize it a lot. I put my own cat, Rosebud, in the play. My cat is very young and healthy, but the Rosebud in the play is old and dying. I was just thinking about what it would be like to have to put Rosebud down, and how hard life would be after that.

I guess I was inspired by the fact that losing loved ones is always traumatic, and grief can often dominate your life. I think it's important to know yourself and how to work through that grief so it doesn't cripple you forever. A key message in the play is understanding how to accept death as a natural part of life, and how to let go in a healthy way as part of that process.

You've been at the Fringe before, right? How many times?

This is my third Fringe. The first time, I produced and acted in a play. Last year was the first time I produced something I'd written, and this will be the second year producing something I wrote.

How is the process going? I know there are challenges and time constraints with the Fringe.

There are definitely some obstacles that the Fringe throws at you, but I welcome them. I find the whole thing very exhilarating. I enjoy having these set obstacles. It's always difficult, I think, with independent, non-union theater. Scheduling is always especially hard. Everyone has such different schedules, with work and all. It's really hard finding a time that works for everyone. Being on a limited budget is also a challenge. You want to do something, you want to get a certain prop that's too expensive, and you know you have to just let go sometimes.

For the most part, though, it's going pretty well. I feel good about where we are.

How did you acquire your cast?

I find auditions to be one of the most fun aspects of theater. Starting out as an actor and as the person being judged, it's nice to find myself on the other side. I just find it really fun being in the audition room and getting to work with the 30 or so actors auditioning. I really enjoy being able to meet them for the first time, give them direction and see if their energy matches the character's. It's really an energy thing, I think.

I used Actors Access and Backstage.com. I also was lucky to have a network of people I'd met at the Fringe and in other theater ventures. I have a main cast of five and an ensemble cast of 10, so that took a while to cast. It's a pretty eclectic mix.

When you go into production on a piece, are you collaborative? Do you find the work changing or evolving?

Yes, especially with an original script such as this. It's the first time it's going to be produced. The way I look at is that the actors are the ones saying the lines, so I welcome the collaboration. Honestly, if there was more time, I'd like to do it even more. I'm only one brain, so the more brains I can get into the room to give input the better. I find it helpful because there can be things that I don't catch that they catch.

As a Fringe veteran, what do you like about the festival?

I just love the fast-paced nature of it all. I really try to take full advantage of it and have as much fun as possible. The past few times I saw about 20 to 25 shows, more or less. I love being able to get there in the afternoon and see three or four shows, going to Fringe Central afterward and just meeting people. I love the community. I really love talking to other artists. There's really great conversation that happens.

It's nice to see other people who are passionate about what they're doing and hearing about their experiences with their plays. And, of course, networking is fun. The more people you have a good relationship with, it's always going to help. And as a producer, it's always nice to do a comp swap. “I'll give you a ticket to my show, you give me a ticket to yours.” We see each other's show, we support each other, no one loses money. It's perfect. That's something that's really unique to the Fringe.

I also think the 15-minute in-and-out time is really fun. The energy is so high, because you know you only have 15 minutes to set up. It's just that high-energy, spontaneous environment that I feel like I really thrive in.

Since the Fringe is a community, what other shows would you put on your must-see list this year?

I'd say Chateau Rene, Pledge, Narcissus & Echo, Orange Mango Cabaret and Pagliaccis.

Apathy Killed the Cat plays June 3 (preview) through June 23 at the Sacred Fools Theatre, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd. Tickets can be obtained on the Fringe site.

This interview was originally published on BlogCritics.org.


Writer/performer David Rodwin has returned to Los Angeles to present his new solo show F*ck Tinder during the Hollywood Fringe Festival at Sacred Fools Theatre.

Lauded by the San Francisco Bay Guardian as, “an exceptional, inspiring talent,” Rodwin's show is sure to be one of the toasts of the Fringe this year.  As he prepared for his presentation of F*ck Tinder here in Hollywood, I took some time to ask David a few questions about the work, his development process, and what creative pursuits are next on the horizon for him.

1) So you're back in LA for the Fringe Festival.  Where have you been?  What have you been up to?

I moved to San Francisco a few months after doing my last solo show Total Novice at HFF'14. I moved because my girlfriend broke up with me and an hour later, when I went out for a walk to think about how I was going to have to move out, I got held up at gunpoint. The next day a dear friend in San Francisco called me up and said “I heard about what happened. You need to get out of LA. I need a roommate. Move up." So I did.

2) What's F*ck Tinder all about?

F*ck Tinder is about kinky sex, polyamory, and acid trips. But mostly it's about the crazy we dive into when we enter the world of dating on apps. It's also a love story. The first half is about the first year I spent in San Francisco where I wanted to have fun and get freaky after being in a committed relationship while I was hearing about how people were on this insane new app which I thought was all about  “Free sex. Right now. Often weird.” I found out the weird part was true, but that was more about the people. There was far less se than I was hoping. But those awkward encounters are what make comedy. People are FUNNY. The second half is when I started wanting something more. Something deeper. And that's when I really found the weird. San Francisco weird.

3) This piece isn't your first solo show.  What's your process in creating solo work?

I worked with Spalding Gray for a while years ago and I've inherited his process for storytelling. I have other solo work that is musical in nature, for which I have a very different process. My first three solo shows were one-man, multimedia operas. I used a very different process. But for the last two shows, I used Spalding's style, which is to write an extremely brief outline, a few words to remind you of each sequence (1-5 min). Talk the story out loud with your mouth. Do it again and remember what worked well. Do it in front of an audience. Do it again and again, remembering what you did last time. Finding the words with your mouth.

I don't write the shows down until a show is set which can take dozens of performances. When I do they're just a transcription. That keeps it very lively. I see too many shows where I can tell the performing is reciting words they've memorized. Even when it's their own, it can often feel stale to my ears. The process I use can be terrifying. There's nothing to hold on to. And for me the biggest challenge at Fringe is keeping the shows on time. I could do a 24 hour version of F*ck Tinder tomorrow. In fact, I might do that for Valentine's Day next year. Partially for fun and partially to bring attention to the book of F*ck Tinder which will be released then, but you can get online one chapter at a time, in serialized form through Patreon starting June 8. Sign up for it here: https://www.f-tinder.com/book

4) Has Tinder ruined the art of courtship?

When was there an art of courtship?

Seriously though, I've been awkward around girls my entire life. I actually have an entire section in my book F*ck Tinder about the genesis of that. Sadly the live show is only an hour and I can't fit it in. Suffice to say it revolves around the prettiest girl in 5th grade making fun of me in a fictionalized story she wrote about me being a mad scientist that the teacher thought was so great she decided to share it with the whole class.

But in terms of courtship, the biggest thing today is that all rules have been thrown out the window. Especially in San Francisco. No one knows what the other is hoping for or expecting. One person's idea of courtship can be a huge turn off to someone else. I ruined a perfectly good fuckbuddy once when I told her “I like you,” that was too much commitment for her. Personally, I like to like the people I have sex with. Not her. Also, I was disabused of the notion that women in San Francisco wants to be monogamous, much less get married and have kids. In two years meeting people in real life and online, I haven't met one. Out of 120 women I dated.

I think that's peculiar to San Francisco, but the non-monogamy movement has been taking hold around the country. I wish it had when I was younger. But again, the problem of courtship is expectations. And even on Tinder, which was invented as the “Straight man's Grinder,” now many people post NOT HERE FOR HOOK-UPS. But sometimes the ones who say that in all caps are doing it because they were there for just that last week. And they don't always mean what they say, which is a real problem in a world where I demand not just affirmative consent, but enthusiastic consent. Even if I'm at a sex club.

5) What's next?

I'm directing and starring in a feature film of my last one man show Total Novice. I may eventually go back to the original title “Crackwhore Pornstar Love,” but while I'm raising the funds, I'm sticking with Total Novice. Want to invest in a movie? Check out the teaser at: www.jadelake.com

Voices from Hollywood Fringe 2017: Exclusive Interview – Kat Primeau, Producer/Performer of ‘TURBULENCE!'

Making its triumphant return to the Fringe after last year's acclaimed Thug Tunnel, the award-winning musical improv group Robot Teammate & the Accidental Party is premiering its third scripted musical for the #HFF17, entitled TURBULENCE!.
The story: The 4242 Intergalympics have arrived, and the competition between humans on Earth and Mars is at a fever pitch. An epic race around the sun concludes the events, but the untimely demise of Earth's designated competitors means the haphazard crew of the S.S. Albacore and their android assistant Mambo 4 (Dave Reynolds) must go to bat.
Can Captain Davin Galaxy (Miles Crosman) win the respect of his team in time to win the race and prove that Earth isn't the shabby dirt turd the Martians think it is? Will astrophysicist Dr. Joules Johnson (Kat Primeau) be able to master turbulent energy to their advantage? Can demolition-derby mechanic Mick Cribbins (Chris Bramante) translate his expertise in space? And will nihilist navigation specialist Pattern MaGerk (Molly Dworsky) find a way to really care about it all?
Robot Teammate producer/performer Kat Primeau was kind enough to take some time out of the busy preproduction schedule to answer some questions about the show and the troupe's activities.
What was the inspiration behind this year's show?
The Robot Teammate ensemble floated a lot of ideas before TURBULENCE! was voted into development. The story is very loosely based on a zany space crew musical with the same title that we improvised in 2016 at Impro Theatre, but we had no recordings of the show, so only our best memories have made it into the script. After last year's original musical Thug Tunnel, we were really excited by the idea of doing an ensemble piece, and we love playing with sci-fi, but this show also has a sports comedy twist.
What about the development process? How did the show evolve?
We continue to refine our process through trial and error, and for the first time this year we codified how the script was to develop. Pulling what we loved from the initial improvisation, we started by creating an outline as a group, with Miles (our head writer) hammering out drafts, watching reference materials (Cool Runnings, Galaxy Quest and Noises Off, especially), researching the science behind the story (Cosmos and StarTalk Radio with Neil DeGrasse Tyson), and bringing what made us laugh to each subsequent round of revisions. It is still evolving as we get it up on its feet, and we're grateful for our improv background for allowing us to be comfortable with changes this late in the game.
Tell us about the actors involved and what they bring to the show.
Each member of Robot Teammate is contributing to the story — lyrics, production, and most importantly, their characters in this show — even the musicians! We're celebrating our 5th anniversary as a musical comedy ensemble in 2017, and know that we are our most entertaining selves when we lean in to our unique chemistry as an ensemble. When we are making each other laugh and bringing our critical eye to the table, we are able to create stories that have a larger impact than any of us could have done alone.
What about the music? Is there a particular theme or style?
We initially wanted a more electronic palette, with our spaceship's console as functional, pre-programmed synth pads the crew would play in conjunction with the action on stage. We still hope to do that one day, but we've transitioned to our music director, Sam Johnides, composing tracks and all of us writing lyrics. The style is very modern, with thick harmonies and high-intensity arrangements to go along with the sports theme, but we hope audiences will still find it to be catchy and most of all fun!
For fans of Robot Teammate (and I'm thinking along the lines of MST3K), are there Easter eggs in TURBULENCE! that will strike a chord?
There are many nods to classic sci-fi tropes. As for Easter eggs, you'll have to bring your baskets to the hunt (aka the show). We don't want to spoil the fun.
Since you've become Fringe veterans, have you become more confident with the time constraints involved in setup and staging? How have you taken advantage of it?
Making cuts for time is challenging, but always leads to a tighter, more comedic script, so we are embracing that and anticipating killing many more of our darlings before opening night. We're being more playful with our set and costumes and have a load-out joke in our closing number. Knowing what to anticipate is helpful, but there are always new obstacles in Fringe theater!
What is it about the Fringe that makes it so welcoming to projects like TURBULENCE!?
Robot Teammate performs a lot in comedy venues and weekly on the Geek & Sundry live stream, which broadcasts on Twitch.TV to audiences around the world, so Fringe really allows us to get back to our theatre roots and be a part of the immediate community. We love seeing our peers experimenting on stage, and enjoy challenging ourselves to write better jokes, songs, and heartfelt stories in response to the raw feedback inherent in Fringe.
Talk a bit about the release of the soundtrack of last year's show, Thug Tunnel. How did that come about?
We were thrilled when A Little New Music gave us the ‘Outstanding Songwriting Award' at Fringe last year as well as being encouraged by the effusive response to our music we received from audiences, so recording it for our fans seemed like a no-brainer. I work part-time at a recording studio and my boyfriend Chris Sousa (who was also the bassist for THUG TUNNEL) is an audio engineer, so we spent Labor Day 2016 recording vocals in Frank Sinatra's old room at EastWest Studios and the remaining five months recording, editing, and mixing the album at home. Check it out on Spotify, iTunes, and robotteammate.com now!
What other shows are on your hit list for #HFF17?
We're excited for Cherry Poppins' Shakeslesque, MB Productions' remount of The Video Games, Trump in Space (which Sam Johnides also composed music for), Office Beat and SLASHED! The Musical.
What's next on the agenda for Robot Teammate?
We have new live-stream shows in development at Geek & Sundry as well as three live shows, an album release, an album release party and multiple rehearsals before the end of this week, so we're taking it one day at a time. We'll have more songs, stories and narrative musicals available for more audiences soon. Stay tuned!
TURBULENCE! plays June 10 through June 22 on various dates and at various times at the Sacred Fools Theatre Main Stage, 1076 Lillian Way. More information and tickets can be obtained on the Fringe site.

This interview was originally published on BlogCritics.org.

Voices from Hollywood Fringe 2017: Exclusive Interview – Rich Silverman, Writer/Composer ‘Robot Monster The Musical'

The Hollywood Fringe Festival has a long and storied history of making musicals out of cult classic films, and #HFF17 is no exception as we witness the world premiere of Robot Monster the Musical, with songs and book by Rich Silverman.

Not only is this Silverman's first Fringe experience, it's his first theatrical experience entirely. He took some time out of the dizzying production schedule to answer some questions about the show.

Are you a fan of ‘50s sci-fi or of bad cult movies in general? If so, what are your favorites?

You know, my answer may surprise people. I'm not really a diehard fan of cult movies or “bad” movies. I'm sure I would lose at trivia night on the subject or on Jeopardy. I've never even really been into the Ed Wood catalog. I find his personal story more interesting than his work. I do love The Room, though, but who doesn't?

You're tearing me apart! Tell us a bit about the inspiration behind the show.

Robot Monster is a film I've loved for literally decades. I'm also a big fan of the Great American Songbook and Broadway's golden age – from Jerome Kern through Lerner & Loewe, really. I attempted a musical once years ago and always thought I would try again. When I attended a screening of Robot Monster a few years ago in Hollywood, it just popped into my head that it would be a great musical, and here we are!

Are there modern references in the piece that will resonate with audiences?

Like the movie, the show is set in the 1950s. It works best that way. Most of the modern references are really thematic. There are some things in there – mostly about anxiety and neurosis – that feel more relevant to today's audiences than they may have in the '50s, or at least they're not quite as repressed! About as modern as I get is Philip Glass and Lawrence Welk, and I'm pretty sure this is the first show in history to wink at both.

Obviously you don't have to be deeply familiar with the original film to enjoy the show. How did you manage delineating the plot and exposition while squeezing in 16 original songs?

Oh that's easy. The film doesn't have that much plot to begin with! There's some clumsy exposition in the movie, which I've retained for its absurdity, but at least 10 minutes of the 60-minute original is spent watching Ro-Man and other characters walking around Griffith Park.

What about the music? Is there a particular style or is it a potpourri?

As I mentioned, my frame of reference is our great standards. While I would never in a million years compare myself with those songwriters, about half my songs are in a Sinatra/‘50s vein along with my take on Broadway ballads, plus a smattering of pop, a hint of opera and a maybe a tad of Sparks thrown into the mix.

How did you go about casting the piece? How does the cast contribute to the show?

It all just kind of came together and in a really great way. We held auditions and Derek Long, the show's director, and his assistant director, Pam Paulson, brought in people they've worked with before. I also have a friend of mine in the cast, Val Peterson, who is a very talented and versatile professional singer. Talk about knowing the Great American Songbook – she probably has 1,000 songs memorized. Val's more into Ella Fitzgerald, whom I consider the second greatest singer after Sinatra, but we don't fight about it – not too much, at least.

How do you manage the strict Fringe 15-minute load-in and load-out? Did you come up with some creative solutions?

Rogaine extra strength.

Is this your first Fringe experience? How have you been enjoying it?

This is my first theater experience! And I'm Jewish, so I don't enjoy anything.

Since the Fringe is a community rather than a competition, what other productions stir your interest?

I'm very interested in other new musicals. I've gotten friendly with a few creators. I just bought a ticket to Comic-Con the Musical (also at Sacred Fools). There are other shows I find really interesting because of their somewhat obscure and/or intellectual source material, like a play about the Algonquin Roundtable and the baseball player, Mungo.

Finally, can we watch Robot Monster the Musical without 3D glasses?

Only if you don't mind getting hit in the eye with a bubble.

Robot Monster the Musical plays June 4 through June 23 at Sacred Fools Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online or by phone at (323) 455-4585. As a special offer for Fringe participants, the June 4 performance is pay-what-you-can.

This interview was originally published on BlogCritics.org.

Paul Yen's Finding His IDENTITY (SECRET Or Otherwise) in Fringe

Armed with the Hollywood Fringe Festival 2017 Fringe Scholarship, actor Paul Yen will world premiere his one-man show SECRET IDENTITY CRISIS June 3, 2017. Paul took some time off from his superheroing to answer a few of our superpowering, probing questions.

Thank you for doing this interview with me, Paul!

If you were to pitch your super one-man show to the networks, what would your three-line pitch of SECRET IDENTITY CRISIS be?

A Vietnamese-American re-establishes three iconic superheroes as Asian-American men to examine the journey of Asians in America throughout history.

What was your process of elimination in picking your three superheroes to feature in SECRET IDENTITY CRISIS?

Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man were my first three choices. Before the superhero craze, these were the three characters I most associated with the word 'Superhero.' My original intention was to develop a separate show for each one, but I eventually combined them all into one show.

Will Fringe audiences get to see you in hero masks and tights?

Elaborate costuming was my hope, but the costs of producing my first show wouldn't let me go as far as I'd like. There will be fun hints of the heroes and some key accessories, but the audience will mainly recognize the heroes through their stories.

You have acting credits going back to 2008. Why, in 2013, did you change your stage name from Paul Nguyen to Paul Yen?

When I joined SAG-AFTRA in 2013, there were quite a few Paul Nguyens on file. I wanted to hang on to my Vietnamese heritage; however, I didn't want to be pigeonholed, since Nguyen is such a common Vietnamese last name. I took out the 'Ngu' from my last name and hung onto the end, because I'm gonna work hard until the end. 'Yen' is ambiguous enough and also happens to be my favorite Vietnamese name.

What was your parents' reaction when you told them you wanted to become an actor?

My mom was supportive in that "worried-mother" kind of way. I think my dad gave me his best effort: "That's great…but how are you gonna pay the bills?" Followed by a laugh. But they've become truly supportive over the years, and one of my favorite moments of all time was when I told my dad about an audition and he gave me a genuine, "Good Luck!" I didn't care how the audition went at that point.

My only Asian movie role model was Bruce Lee. Please tell me you're not too young to know who he was? 

I didn't grow up as a big Bruce Lee fan, but I certainly knew who he was and thought he was a badass. He passed away before my time, but I think many generations have been influenced by his legacy. Bruce Lee plays a pivotal role in SECRET IDENTITY CRISIS, and through my research, I've become a firm admirer of his accomplishments, the legend he is and will continue to be.

Who is your Asian role model?

First and foremost, my parents. Then Son Goku (he's Asian), Russell Wong, John Woo, Chow Yun-fat, Tony Leung, Wong Kar-wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Faye Wong, Ken Leung, Maggie Cheung, Ang Lee, Justin Lin, John Cho, Akira Kurosawa, Bruce Lee, Jeremy Lin, Keni Stylez, Kenneth Choi, Ashima Shiraishi, Benedict Wong, Constance Wu, Ali Wong... to name a few.

Tell us the most funny 'ha-ha' audition you had.

When I booked my first network co-star. I was required to prepare the role with, and without, an Asian accent. I was determined to wow casting with no accent, but also offer a third option where the character was pretending to have an accent (influenced by Ken Leung in Keeping the Faith). I went in, did no accent, accent, and they stopped me before I got to my third option. I really didn't want to play the role with an accent, so of course, that's exactly what they offered me. I was certainly appreciative of the opportunity, but I tried to downplay the accent to the best of my ability during the shoot.

Tell us the most not-so-funny "I can't believe they said that!" experience you had.

Someone in the business threatened my acting career over a heated debate we were having about the presidential election. I thought, "Are you being serious right now?"

In my formative years in Los Angeles, armed with my S.A.G. card, I was told I didn't look 'Chinese enough' or 'Asian enough.' I did book a commercial as an Eskimo though. What ethnicities have you been cast as?

Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Nepalis. I strongly believe that in Asian/Western Asian stories, Western Asians should be able to play all Asians. I'd like to tell Vietnamese stories, but I wouldn't want to limit myself to only my ethnicity. If that were the case, I'd only ever play a Vietnamese person from the Vietnam War. Asians are complex. I'd love to play a Special Forces Soldier. A samurai. A Chinese gangster. A member of the 442nd. A space pilot. A porn star. So on and so forth.

What classic role would you like to tackle the 'Asian version' of?

Michael Corleone.

You are an avid motorcycle racing fan. Do you know of any Asian motorcycle racers?

There are many overseas. My favorite Asian motorcycle racer is Noriyuki Haga, aka "Nitro Nori." I instantly gravitated toward him when I first started following World Superbike in the early 2000's. He was the essence of cool.

What is in the immediate future for Paul Yen?

I'd love to tour this show in major cities and on college campuses. If I can inspire one Asian-American, then it will all be worth it. On screen, I'll continue to seek out roles that are complex and that challenge me as an actor and as a human being. I'll also continue researching the 442nd Regimental Combat Team for a project I'm developing. Aside from that? Spend time with friends and family, catch up on my reading, and rock climb!

Thank you again, Paul! I look forward to meeting all your superheroes!

To meet Paul and his superheroes at the Asylum @ Underground Theatre, log onto www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/4564 for available tickets and schedule through June 24, 2017.


It's almost June, and you know what that means: It's my Mom's birthday!  (And I have to put that in print so I don't forget again.) But no, in Los Angeles June means something else - THE HOLLYWOOD FRINGE FESTIVAL! - a month of scrappy independent theater projects in small local venues. It's going into its eighth year and is bigger and better than ever, with more venues, more shows, and more opportunities.

I got involved with the Fringe in 2014 after a three year hiatus from acting and directing. I've had a quarter-life crisis, decided I hated Los Angeles (and my life) and did what it felt like everybody else was doing: I applied to Grad School so I could teach. Fortunately for my credit score, I did not get in.

But I was still stuck, miserable, in L.A. It took a while for someone to finally ask me the simple question: if you could do anything without worrying about money, where would you be? The answer was immediate: I'd be in a black box theatre working with actors… someplace on a Hawaiian island. It turns out that half of that was actually achievable! Call it fate, call it luck, call it karma, but a day later I met a group of people who needed a director for a new stage show. I interviewed and got the gig.

GEARHEAD AND THE REALBOT (Unknown Artists, Fringe 2014)

It was a fun comedy with the Unknown Artists that opened at the Complex in January '14. I had such a blast and was so eager to work with them again that I floated the idea of re-using the whole cast for a goofy play I'd written decades earlier called Romeo and Juliet In Hell. I soon discovered how much it typically costs to run a show for six weeks – a lot of money! - and instantly decided that this was a bad idea. But then my friend Beki quickly suggested that I look into doing it at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. I'd never heard of it.

Well, brothers and sisters, hallelujah, I have seen the light!  Not only did the Hollywood Fringe Festival model make it financially easier to produce a play, but it gave me access to a crowd already interested in seeing theater, made it easier for ME to see new projects, new actors and writers (I'm always looking for new collaborators), and I suddenly had a hundred new friends!

I'd forgotten that there were lots of “my kind of people" out here. But seeing tons of intimate theatre pieces, one after the other, and being able to talk with other artists about shows and art at Fringe Central, I've made more and closer friendships in the three years I've done the Fringe than I had in my previous fifteen years in Los Angeles.

Because of the 2014 Fringe, I was asked to direct two other productions that year which led to five the following year. I met writers and actors with whom I would collaborate very successfully, I got to direct film again, I had one of my plays produced as part of Theatre Unleashed's Fall Season, and most importantly, I started to see theatre again year-round. Many people I've met have had the same kinds of successes through these “Fringe-ships.”

At Fringe 2015, I met a guy named Benjamin. He'd written a great Tarantino-esque play called ZIP TIES, and we were hanging out at the Three Clubs bar talking theatre and asking what was next for each of us?  I'd had an idea for a few years - a scene, really: A film noir set on stage where a detective is driving in a car (two chairs) next to a femme fatale, and chase music is blaring. It's blaring so loudly that the audience can't hear the dialogue. In fact, the detective can't hear the femme fatale. So he turns off the “car radio” and the chase music stops. I had a few other shaky ideas for a “stage noir” but nothing much came of it. “I had the same idea,” Ben said. “A stage film noir where the characters were painted black and white!” We started brainstorming, thought it would be a GREAT show to do at a place like There Clubs (a few feet from where the idea originated), and the following year, we partnered with the Cherry Poppins burlesque company and mounted ANGEL'S FLIGHT, which won the Fringe ‘16 “Best Cabaret/Variety” Award.

If I hadn't seen Ben's show or talked with him that night, there is no way this would have happened. And while, sure, you could argue that this kind of kismet can happen anywhere at any time, the camaraderie and proximity to fellow artists at the Fringe and the sheer electricity of creativity in the air creates possibilities that could never happen at any other time. It's like a theatrical Brigadoon.

ANGEL'S IN FLIGHT, Fringe 2016 PHOTO CREDIT: Matt Kamimura

I love the Fringe because you can go watch a lavish production of a new Robot Teammate musical on the Sacred Fools Main Stage and then cross the street to someone's apartment for a one-person show that will disturb you for weeks. I saw a one-person show called MURDER BLOOD BEAR in the '15 Fringe and it reminded me of why I love theatre when it's pure, using the art form in a way that can't be replicated on film or TV. I stepped into a van to experience HAMLET in a way I'd never thought possible and my mind was truly blown, inspiring me to think further outside the box for future projects.

I try to learn something new with each show I work on, and Fringe has been a great place to experiment, get new ideas, and see new points of view.  There's something for everyone at Fringe and if you go in with an open mind, it could change your life – like it changed mine..

DCA and Hollywood Fringe Present Panel Discussion: LA Theater Scene and Paths Towards Success


LA's Leading Theater Presenters Talk Strategy, Tools, and Fringe Theater

Saturday, June 24, 2017 at Sacred Fools Theater

Los Angeles – The City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) and the Hollywood Fringe Festival will present "LA Theater Scene and Paths Towards Success", a panel about theater presenting in Los Angeles on Saturday, June 24, at 3:00 p.m. at Sacred Fools Theater – Main Stage, located at 1076 Lillian Way, Los Angeles, CA 90038.

This special event is free and open to the public and features some of Los Angeles' leading theater presenters as they discuss how theater presenting works in the city and how they choose theater projects. The panel will also identify the trends in national and international theater, and provide ideas on how to amplify the local theater community.
"The Department of Cultural Affairs is excited to be co-presenting this panel exploring how LA's theater and presenting communities can work together to provide support to our home-grown artists,” said DCA General Manager Danielle Brazell. “LA has a world-class, entrepreneurial creative community, and this forum will help guide and shape our collective success at presenting quality work to as many residents and visitors to LA as possible."
“LA Theater Scene and Paths Towards Success” was created to welcome Los Angeles presenters into the Fringe community, showcase local theater, and explore the Fringe theater community's place on the global stage. The goal of the panel discussion is not only to educate and inform, but also to foster fruitful relationships that will enable small and independent productions to confidently grow and take projects into the future.
"We are very enthusiastic to partner with DCA in this manner because we believe in the power of the theater community in Los Angeles," said Hollywood Fringe Festival Director Ben Hill. "This panel will certainly help to foster relations between Fringe producers and high-profile theater presenters, and it will also set the stage for further discussion about collaboration, growth, and viability of Los Angeles theater on a global scale."
The panel, moderated by Ben Johnson, DCA's Performing Arts Division Director, includes:

  • Paul Crewes, Artistic Director, The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

  • Carolyn Elliot, Director of Programming, The Broad Stage

  • Ben Hill, Festival Director, Hollywood Fringe

  • Andy Horwitz, Director of Program, Skirball Cultural Center

  • Allen Moon, Director of Touring & Artist Management at David Lieberman Artist's Representatives and Artistic Director of Santa Ana Sites

  • Selene Santiago, Programming Director, Encuentro de las Americas Festival, Latino Theater Company

Tickets for this event are free and open to the public. Ticket reservations will open on May 1.

To reserve your space, please visit http://hff17.com/4688.

Hollywood Fringe Festival Registration Is Open

L.A.'s Largest Performing Arts Festival is June 8 – 25, 2017
Hollywood, CA -- Hollywood Fringe Festival organizers are excited to announce that registration is now open for the Eighth Annual Hollywood Fringe Festival. Artists and producers of the performing arts are invited to join the city's largest performing arts festival, held in central Hollywood this June.
Participants can also register for a new registration category - "Immersive Theatre." This category may include any kind of performance that thrusts the audience member into an interactive experience in a non-traditional environment.
Participants can register at any time beginning today. However, registrations must be completed by April 1st in order to be included in the printed Fringe Guide. Producers wishing to register after the April deadline will still be able to sell tickets through the festival's website.
Registration is a three-step process completed online (read all about the registration process here), that begins with the creation of a project page. Registration costs $250 for multi-performance projects. Free shows or shows with only a single performance receive a discounted registration of $175. Registration for educational events (including workshops, classes, or any other instructional/educational endeavors) can be registered for $50.
Registration fees pay for a listing in Fringe materials and many other benefits. There are no restrictions regarding genre, content, or length for the festival; specifics are left to participants and venues to determine.
Hollywood Fringe also launched a new support portal today that empowers participants, venues, and patrons to maximize their fringe experience. The new portal includes articles on key fringe activities, answers to frequently asked questions, and an easy way to contact the HFF support staff.
Persons wishing to learn more about registering for the festival should attend the organization's free Town Hall and Workshop Series. Town Hall I: The Registration Process is this Thursday, Feb. 2nd at 8pm. Click here for more information and to RSVP. Those unable to attend in person can watch the recordings, which will be released on the Fringe's YouTube channel and the Fringe blog a few days after each event.
The Festival will take place June 8-25, 2017 with a week of previews the week before (June 1st-6th) and an Opening Night Party on June 7th. Performances are staged in venues throughout central Hollywood. The location for Fringe Central, the social hub of the Fringe, will be announced in the coming weeks.
Key Dates for 2017:
April 1st: Registration Deadline for Guide Inclusion
June 1st-6th: Fringe Previews
June 7th: Fringe Opening Night Party
June 8th-25th: 8th Annual Hollywood Fringe Festival
June 25th: Fringe Award Ceremony & Closing Night Party
The Hollywood Fringe Festival is an annual, open-access, community-derived event celebrating freedom of expression and collaboration in the performing arts community. Each June during the Hollywood Fringe, the arts infiltrates the Hollywood neighborhood: Fully equipped theaters, parks, clubs, churches, restaurants and other unexpected places host hundreds of productions by local, national, and international arts companies and independent performers.
Participation in the Hollywood Fringe is completely open and uncensored. This free-for-all approach underlines the festival's mission to be a platform for artists without the barrier of a curative body. By opening the gates to anyone with a vision, the festival is able to exhibit the most diverse and cutting-edge points-of-view the world has to offer. Additionally, by creating an environment where artists must self-produce their work, the Fringe motivates its participants to cultivate a spirit of entrepreneurialism in the arts.
To learn more about Hollywood Fringe visit www.hollywoodfringe.org/learn.
Want more information? Contact us at press@hollywoodfringe.org or by visiting the website at www.HollywoodFringe.org/press.
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