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October 30, 2014
Whale Song and Plus 1 Solo Fest at Tongue in Cheek Theater – Interview with Jake Lipman and Karen Elliott

stacks_image_473For nearly a decade Jake Lipman has been on a mission to produce, “thought provoking comedy”. Jake is the Artistic Director of Tongue in Cheek Theater Company and this fall and as she heads into her second producing decade she presents two different productions with that mission in mind. The first is Whale Song or: Learning to Live with Mobyphobia, a play by Claire Kiechel that tells the story of a pre-school struggling to come to terms with her father's death in a Sea World tank in Florida. The second is The Plus One Solo Show Festival featuring work from four emerging writer/actors. StageBuddy recently chatted with Jake and solo festival participant and StageBuddy editor, Karen Elliott.

What was it about Whale Song that drew you to choose it for production?

Jake Lipman: I met playwright Claire Kiechel a year ago when we had both had pieces in the New York International Fringe Festival in 2011. We talked about the festival and our pieces and I asked her to send me the play. I devoured it in one sitting, laughing and crying at the wit and wisdom of the piece. It's a story about a girl going through an absurd period of mourning and moving forward with her life, and the fact it's set in NYC just made me feel like I was especially immersed in the reality of the play.

It sounds like the play really resonated with you personally and fit the Tongue in Cheek Theater mission.

JL: Yes. Tongue in Cheek Theater was started to produce comedies that make our audiences think. I love when an audience member leaves having laughed, and maybe cried, often in short order, at one of our pieces.

In addition to producing a main stage show you also produce a solo show festival. How did that come about?

JL: I started the Plus 1 Solo Show Festival in the fall of 2009, during the dark nights of my main stage show. I realized I had a lot of talented friends in the solo show community who were excited to get their work before an audience, and I had the space for the Sunday and Monday nights. It was incredibly well received from the start, and I've been doing it ever since.

My goal in producing the Plus 1 Solo Show Festival is to bring together top-notch writer-performers, often giving them their first performance of the piece in front of a supportive audience. To me, any hyphenate artist is a go-getter, someone who understands that every art form takes dynamism and determination to be executed. A person who can write and perform that same piece believes in the story they are telling and the audience is drawn into the telling of it.

Plus 1 audiences absolutely love seeing 4 short solo shows with a musical guest -- it is often an audience member's first time seeing a one-person show, and they leave with an absolute sense of wonderment at the genre. It's really gratifying for everyone involved.

Karen, your piece, HOME, will be a part of the Plus 1 Solo Festival this fall. What kind of process have you gone through to prepare for the festival?

Karen Elliott: The first step was to select a portion of a larger work for submission. I have been working on a much larger piece that centered on finding a place to live in New York City and within that there was a very dynamic and excerptable section that became, HOME. Since being accepted to the festival I’ve been working with a director, crafting and re-crafting some of the moments and fleshing out the different characters – my piece has four different characters.

The biggest and most rewarding challenge has been transforming this very personal, written piece to the stage, and finding the right tone and dynamism required for the medium. There is an entirely different kind of energy that is necessary when you act a piece - rather than simply reading it to someone. Also when you are performing your own work there is the temptation to constantly re-write and dabble. I could never do that with another playwright that would be sacrilege. Similarly, there comes a time in the process when it is better to treat your own work with that kind of respect so you can get on with the business of creating theater. I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to be a part of the Plus 1 Solo Festival. It is pushing me to the next step in the process and the rewards, so far, are immeasurable.

Tongue In Cheek Theater’s Whale Song or: Learning to Live with Mobyphobia performs Oct. 30-Nov. 8 at 8 pm. The Plus 1 Solo Festival performs November 2 & 3. Both productions are at The Bridge Theatre @ Shetler Studios, 244 West 54th Street, 12th Floor. Tickets are $18 here:

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