Wednesday 22 July 2015

Trigger Happy Dramaturgy: Dandy Darkly @ Edfringe 2015

London Preview Also Confirmed at The Society Club Soho!

REMINDER — New York City's costumed, storyteller returns to the Edinburgh Fringe for his third year with another all-new “astounding," “jaw-dropping," "bedazzling” alt-cabaret curiosity.

Welcome to Dandy Darkly’s Trigger Happy!

Join Dandy Darkly for an all-American selection of hysteric, erotic, patriotic tales of sex and death. Dandy’s target, this year, is the United States, exploring concepts of happiness, fear, guns, gentrification and good ole American sodomy. Dandy Darkly’s “utterly unique” artistry blends performance, storytelling and music into a dynamic and immersive theatrical experience. His work is funny, morbid, topical, poetic and haunting.

Dandy Darkly’s Trigger Happy! runs August 8-30th (not the 19th) at CC Blooms (venue 171) at 6:45 pm nightly as part of the PBH Free Fringe. Show is free. To contact Dandy Darkly for additional information or full sized, hi-res photos please email Also follow Dandy on Twitter @dandydarkly.

The Fringe
What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
I am a storyteller and a satirist, so all of my work originates from a place of social commentary. My earlier tales were decidedly focused on traditionally queer issues allegorically disguised in camp horror -- a zombie plague as the AIDS epidemic, for example. I still present my work as such, but I feel its a little less heavy handed nowadays.

These earlier tales were typically created as one-offs for variety and cabaret shows. As I developed and grew my persona, I began crafting full hour shows with a unifying theme across all the tales, for example, last year's Dandy Darkly's Pussy Panic! examined misogyny among gay men and the classic interpretations of womanhood.

This year's show Dandy Darkly's Trigger Happy! examines America in all her ugly, violent, fabulous glory -- American happiness versus American fear. Physical gun violence versus emotional "triggering" -- as well as the loss of unique spaces -- corporations (a classically American entity) gobbling up the sacred spaces that once made America so wonderfully unique. 

Where does your piece at the fringe fit with your usual work?

Dandy Darkly's Trigger Happy!feels like my best work to date. My writing and voice has matured; it's introspective. The music that accompanies the tales is more intricate. I have high standards for my craft as a storyteller and an alternative cabaret performer. That said, I'm both incredibly nervous and excited.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
The best compliment I routinely receive following a show is a happily flabbergasted "I had no idea!"

You sort of see this creepy clown slash drag queen slash pervert flouncing about and then you're suddenly adrift in this sea of words and music. I recommend new audience members come in with as little expectations as possible and give me an hour of their time. I'll blow your mind.

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
For me, my personal style of composition comes naturally, in terms of both content and story structure -- I write playfully, full of alliteration and internal rhyme, builds and falls in terms of pacing and stresses. Beautifully ghoulish phrasing and brusquely belligerent profanity.  I think a dramaturgist would really enjoy my sort of show. 

What particular traditions and influences would you acknowledge on your work -  have any particular artists, or genres inspired you and do you see yourself within their tradition?

My earliest and greatest influence was my grandfather. I have vivid memories of him telling me Georgia ghost stories -- stories I then retold and retold. I've also got recordings of me at age five telling my first ghost stories. (Something I hope to incorporate into a show someday.)

I was also influenced early on by bitter old sissies of Hollywood legend -- Liberace, Paul Lynde and Vincent Price -- and others. Early on I could tell they were speaking a secret language of innuendo and veiled references. I knew they were somehow speaking to me from their myriad gameshows and guest appearances on programs like The Love Boat or Bewitched. My persona is very much homage to that tradition.

Dandy Darkly is absolutely the fusion of both those influences. High camp mixed with ghost stories. I've found my own unique way to honor traditional storytelling. I love it. Likewise I'm influenced heavily by pop culture, reality television, blockbuster films, tabloids and situation comedies. I see these influencers as our modern day folk mythology.

Do you have a particular process of making that you could describe - where it begins, how you develop it, and whether there is any collaboration in the process?
Sometimes a story begins with the name of a protagonist. Otis Moonshine, for example, is the white-trash military veteran who suffers from PTSD and believes his small town homosexuals are werewolves. 

Sometimes a story kicks off from a real life experience. For example, I have elderly relatives who are living in assisted living homes -- such a location was inspiration for last year's story "Fanny and Dolores" about elderly lesbian witches finding love in one such facility.

Rarely do I have a planned story structure. More often than not the stories reveal themselves as I write them.

Musical collaboration has become one of the biggest boosts to my style of storytelling. In the beginning, I told my stories without any sort of musical soundtrack -- allowing my own rhythms and words to carry the story. For 2013's "Dandy Darkly's Gory Hole!" the incredible pianist Adam Tendler helped devised a basic piano track to accompany the stories. Last year's "Pussy Panic!" saw Tendler's piano along with drums from Rachel Blumberg and additional percussion from (my husband) Bryce Edwards.

This year the musical accompaniment has grown to Adam Tendler on piano, Rachel Blumberg on drums, Bryce Edwards playing bass and Jeffrey Underhill on guitar. Additionally there's all sorts of percussive noises and electric organ as well.

The music is all pre-recorded. So I'm hitting beats and pauses as the stories unfolds. Typically spitting out a mouthful of words with every breath.

I've discovered that in the same way my original story influences the improvisation of the musicians as we record a soundtrack together, their backing track ends up ultimately influencing my resulting story in unexpected ways. Suddenly I have a soundscape to play inside of -- to let words drop in to or trail away from. It's very exciting. Ultimately I'd love to perform with a live band. But the challenge of performing against a recorded track, while maintaining a feeling of spontaneity and incorporating impromptu bits with a live audience is terrifying and thrilling.

When it works, it feels like magic.

What do you feel the role of the critic is? 

I think a critic should less focus on the specifics of a solitary performance and instead look at the bigger picture -- how does this performer or work they've just seen stack up against the things they've witnessed along their career. I read reviews, hopefully, to gain insight and feedback from someone who has seen, hopefully, more plays and shows than I have. Too often a critical review comes across as a recap -- "Actor did this. Play said that." I generally hope a critic can offer more than simply that.

Pull the TRIGGER!

"Imagine a cross between Pam Ayres, Liberace and Tales from the Crypt -- and you're on the way to picturing Dandy Darkly." ★★★★ The Scotsman, Ben Walters

Stories featured in Dandy Darkly’s Trigger Happy! include:

• Silver Dollar -- A disgraced American sniper, Otis Moonshine, struggles with PTSD as he hunts his hometown's homosexuals because only he knows the startling truth -- they are werewolves!

• Final Girl -- America's Sweetheart was found dead in her Hollywood mansion, but from low budget slashers to reality tv terrors, America's actual horrors are so much scarier than anything seen on the big screen.

• American Apparel -- Corporate cancer creeps across our safest spaces. Seemingly overnight another gay bar is gentrified. Can a little rat with drag queen dreams save the Imperial Poppycock Saloon from certain doom?

• The Ghosts of Stonewall -- A rallying cry to the next LGBTQ generation to snap the fuck out of it!

Dandy Darkly’s Trigger Happy! was awarded the prestigious Bindlestiff First of May Award — making program possible, in part, by support from Bindlestiff Family Arts, Inc. and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

Critics, peers and audiences have fallen madly in love with Dandy Darkly.

"A decidedly wicked storyteller." New York Times

"Fantastical fairytale horror, equal parts Tennessee Williams, Edgar Allen Poe and Bruce La Bruce." ★★★★ Time Out

"Bedazzling talent! A celebration of our creepiest, campest selves.” ★★★★★ Scotsgay Magazine

"Cattiness, absurdity and gore!" ★★★★★ Edinburgh Reporter

"Wonderfully alliterative and rhythmic ... hypnotizing." Onstage Ottawa

"Unsettling, hilarious and political. A searing critique of queer culture." ★★★★ The List

"Dandy Darkly is one of my favorite performers. An artist who doesn't pander to the comfort zone of the public. Go support this!" Penny Arcade (Longing Lasts Longer)

Dandy Darkly's Trigger Happy is written and performed by Dandy Darkly. The show is directed by Ian Bjorklund and features a pre-recorded soundtrack composed and performed by musicians Adam Tendler (piano), Rachel Blumberg (percussion) Bryce Edwards (bass) and Jeffrey Underhill (guitar). 

Previews: New York City preview of Dandy Darkly’s Trigger Happy! will be July 25th at Dixon Place as part of the Dixon Place HOT! Festival. Show is at 7:30 pm. Free. 

(Portrait Images credit: Bobby Miller © 2015. Bloody Flag image credit Laura Pardo © 2015.)

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