Friday, 24 July 2015

Double Your Dramaturgy: James Habacker @ Edfringe 2015



7-16 AUGUST, 21:55 (22:50), THE VOODOO ROOMS (VENUE 68)

Straight out of The Slipper Room, New York City’s legendary variety theatre, comedy master Mel Frye takes you on a wild ride through his long and storied career.

A joke writer to many of the greats of the golden age of comedy, he’s been performing on stage and screen for nearly a century.

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
James Habacker: I have been performing as Mel Frye since 1999. I have quite a few characters, but he is probably my most developed. He has such a large back story that he really does have a life of his own. 
My film production company Slipper Room Players is currently in pre-production for THE MEL & FANNY MOVIE a Feature film about the travails and exploits of Mel and his wife Fanny. This show doesn't use any of the material from the film's script, it's more about Mel's gearing up for shooting the film.

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

This is a bit of a departure for me. It's actually my first one man show. I've hosted Variety shows for many years, acted in films, plays, and experimental theatre, I've done Mel in stand up shows, but I've never done a full hour that is all Mel Frye. 

There are a few bits in the show that Mel uses regularly in his act, but mostly it's all new material.

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
Well, I hope that they'll be laughing, but I want them to be thinking as well. I try to strike a balance between going for the laugh and getting my message across. I always make sure there are some poignant moments in there. The show has comedy, singing, magic, and some interactive video in it. The hour should fly by. 

The Dramaturgy Questions

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
I'm an entertainer, that's my number one job is to entertain. The more real i can keep it the more effective it is.

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?
Mel Frye comes out of the Borscht Belt, the New York Jewish post war comedy that has its roots in Yiddish Theatre from the turn of the (last) century. It's philosophical humor. Like Lenny Bruce or Shecky Greene, he has spent a lot of his career doing his act between strip tease artists. 

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?
I am constantly on the look out for what is funny in life. Some of my best bits come out of a few words overheard on the street. I develop all my material in front of a live audience, i hate to rehearse. i did co-write this show with Marc Spitz, my co-writer for the film script, however, we left a lot of room for imrov. My act is very organic, i never do the same show twice. It is an interactive process between me and the audience. They have a lot of power over where the show is going to go. My favorite moments as a performer are those times when the audience is in that state of one mind, at that moment it could turn into a riot immanently. that's exciting.

What do you feel the role of the critic is?
Well, its good to know that someone out there is watching and trying to get a handle on what's being presented. I'm my own harshest critic already so I honestly don't pay much attention to what is written about me.

Are there any questions that you feel I have missed out that would help me to understand how dramaturgy works for you?
No, answering your questions was hard enough. Thank you for including me. I hope that people who come to see my show will leaving feeling that they were properly entertained.

James Habacker, founder and Artistic Director of The Slipper Room, is known to perform as upwards of a dozen different characters. This August he brings one of his most beloved creations – aging comedy legend Mel Frye –– to Edinburgh in a one man show written specifically for the Fringe.

James has been performing in the guise of Mel Frye for over twenty years, both as host of New York City's longest running Variety show, Mr. Choade's Upstairs/Downstairs and in his own show Mel Frye's Pre-Existing Condition.

Because of his commitment to his own theatre, and to his feature film production company Slipper Room Players, James is rarely seen on tour. Don't miss this unique opportunity to experience him in action at the 2015 Fringe!

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