Thursday, 22 June 2017

Dramaturgy Up: Peter Michael Marino @ Edfringe 2017

Written and performed by Peter Michael Marino with help from his Audience
Produced by Civil Disobedience
3.30pm – 4.30pm   3 – 27 August 2017 (no shows 13 & 20)
Laughing Horse Free Festival at The Counting House, 38 West Nicolson Street, Edinburgh

Comedy show where the audience helps create the laughs!
It’s being billed as the Edinburgh Fringe’s ‘most unpredictable show’ because each audience will help to write and direct each unique performance of comedian and solo artist Peter Michael Marino’s critically acclaimed New York production, Show Up.

In his ‘socially anxious’ solo comedy show, improvisation maestro Marino uses a box-load of Post-it Notes to collect real-life audience experiences to create a hilarious, unique and imaginative performance.

The anything-can-happen nature of the production is ramped up as audience members are engaged to cue sound, design the set - and inform the direction of the story based on their own experiences.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

Honestly? The inspiration for Show Up came from the hundreds of solo and storytelling shows I've seen over the past 20 years. I noticed many tropes and patterns being utilised (and over-utilised) and I felt the need to create a solo show that turned those tropes on their heads. I've written and performed many solo shows, but I didn't want to write and memorize a new one...and that's when I had the idea to just show up at a theater and create a show on the spot drawing from the real-life experiences of the audience.  

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

Absolutely! In Show Up I'm also "coming out" as someone who struggles with social anxiety and depression. It's been a great discussion-starter and it's been eye-opening to hear from audience members who totally relate. I didn't realize that so many people are also socially anxious. I feel like it's somewhat of a catharsis for them, because so many solo shows are a catharsis for the performer. It's nice to get people to talk and to let them know they're not alone. It also helps all those extroverts understand us introverts a bit more. 
How did you become interested in making performance?
I think it all started in middle school, and being around kids who were doing school plays. I found a real sense of "tribe" and community there. 

I love how theater can bring all kinds of people together to share ideas and art and how there are so many different roles one can take in the arts besides just being a performer. I started out as a solely a performer, but as the years went on I became interested in directing, designing, writing and producing. It's an addiction that's hard to break. 

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

The approach seemed simple. Show up and make a show happen. Easy? Not as easy as I thought. I really had to workshop the show to structure how I would get the audience to share their enlightening, challenging and shite experiences with me. Then I had to structure how all of these life-experiences would be turned into a cohesive narrative with stakes, turns, highs and lows, and of course, comedy.

That part seems to come easily. A big challenge is to take their "garbage" and not mock it, but to turn it into something real and believable. So far, it's been successful in NYC and other festivals. I'm eager to see how it works with an international fringe-going audience. It's always evolving. 

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

My shows are all solo shows, so yes. The big difference here is that the show is different every time - based on what I'm given by the audience. I like the challenge and I like having that sense of "what will happen tonight?" every night.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I hope they will laugh, think and even cry a little bit. I hope it makes them more empathetic. And I hope they have a good time not knowing what to expect while watching me dance on the high-wire of not knowing what's going to happen and where the story is going to go. 

There's a party at the end of each show, so at least they have that to look forward to. Unless, like me, they struggle at parties.  

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

Being authentic. Being still. Being vulnerable. Being silly, while being smart. Trusting my instincts and experience. And most of all, making the audience feel comfortable. I'm shattering that fourth wall and I hope we all enjoy going on the ride together. Look, it's a small show in a small room. Why even try to hide or be inauthentic? 

Show Up creates an often wild, totally unpredictable ride for the audience as Marino walks a comedy high-wire, simultaneously commenting on his own social anxiety, depression and performance challenges.
“Ultimately, Show Up demonstrates that the value of truth in autobiographical performance is totally subjective,” says Marino.
He adds, “Every day it's a different show. If you asked Forrest Gump about the show he'd probably describe it as ‘a box of chocolates’ - because you'll never know how it'll turn out since the audience steers the plot. Another plus point is it's a free show, so audiences don't even have to pay-to-play, they just need to show up.”

Show Up is semi-written and performed by Peter Michael Marino. Directed by Michole Biancosino and the audience, produced by Civil Disobedience.

Performances from 3 – 27 Aug every day at 3.30pm (except 13 & 20 Aug) at Counting House, 38 West Nicolson Street Edinburgh.

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