Austin playwright, director and comedian Adrienne Dawes’s list of theater productions runs deep. Her plays have been produced by Salvage Vanguard Theater, American Repertory Theatre of London, Live Girls! Theatre, Little Fish Theatre Company, New England Academy of Theater, New Jersey Repertory Company, American Theater Company (Chicago, IL), and more.
In her current show Love Me Tinder, Adrienne leads an ensemble through a critically acclaimed musical sketch comedy review.
What’s great and what’s terrible about comedy in Austin?
Adrienne Dawes: What’s great is there are so many incredibly talented people (who can still afford to live) here. People are super friendly and supportive, happy to grab coffee and talk shop. I like seeing how well the community takes care of itself – resources may be expensive but they aren’t scarce.
What’s terrible is that it’s still a pretty white, straight, and cisgendered male dominated space. You might argue, “Well that’s comedy, toots!” but you’d be both completely incorrect and a carnival barker. GET OUT OF HERE, OLD MAN. There’s space for everyone here and the more diversity we see in our producers, directors, teachers, coaches, writers, and general “gatekeepers,” the more it will show up onstage, in scenes, in shows, and in the audience.
Not that this is terrible but I also sometimes worry about our community is too focused on training and classes. It’s like watching a really talented improviser lean on the back wall when you know if they just stepped OUT THERE they would kill it. I don’t know why more people don’t venture out on their own and make work. Maybe classes are a safety blanket. Maybe producing or leading your own project is very hard and tiring and life-consuming (just a little).
It just seems like there’s a certain point when you’ve done all the levels, and you graduate that. You should really graduate. Invest that money in your own career rather than a training center’s mortgage. Keep in mind that I’m saying this to you as a human female that has spent at least $5K on comedy training alone (closer to $160K if you count my theater degree), and still DOES NOT make a living doing comedy.
Love Me Tinder has performed all over town and recently at the Dallas Comedy Festival. In the year (or more?) you’ve been doing the show, how has it evolved?
Adrienne: You are right, we are just a little over a year old! It has been amazing to see this ensemble grow. It feels like each gig they get stronger and stronger. I think the biggest milestones have been working with choreographer Lisa Del Rosario who helped give all our sketches such wonderfully silly choreography. Not everyone in the cast is a dancer (or says they aren’t – JARED ROBERTSON), but Lisa does such a great job of making everyone feel comfortable and find their own personal silly movement style. It’s amazing to watch an already really funny, solid sketch go from great to AMAZING with choreography. Brian Kremer (our composer and accompanist) has also started acting in a few sketches, which is absolutely deeee-lightful. Ward Crockett, one of our contributing writers from Chicago, wrote a sketch just for Brian, and he kills it every time. We also put ole Jared Robertson on the bass guitar for a couple of songs, which is just like, “OK. We get it. You’re good at everything!”
I see your holding auditions for the new cast. What’s next for the project?
Adrienne: David Nguyen, one our original ensemble members, has moved on to greener pastures, so we have the very unfortunate task of trying to replace him. If you’ve ever seen or heard him perform before, you know it’s just not possible. There is only one David Nguyen. We miss him.
But in order to hold down our running order, we need another ensemble member or it just gets too exhausting on people’s voices and bodies. So we’re hoping to find a new brother or sister to join the family in time for our Sketch Fest performance. As much as I love and believe in the original ensemble, I do not expect everyone to want to do this show forever and ever. People will move on, move away and get famous. I also feel like there’s a shelf life to every project (before we all get bored) but for now, we’re innit to winnit.
With a cast of heavy hitters like you have, what was the collaboration process like for putting together the show?
Adrienne: I think because the cast are all really fantastic singers, actors, writers and most have some kind of directing or teaching background (and most are Earth signs), they are pretty self-sufficient and chill. I don’t feel like I have to do a whole lot aside from general blocking adjustments or maybe ask, “Hey WHY that character accent?”
In the writing process, one of the rules we have is “Don’t bring in anything too precious.” I think it helps give everyone a lot of freedom to play with new material, no one is holding on too tightly to their original text or idea. There is a lot of improv in rehearsal, a lot of times we’ll have the song scripted but we’re not sure how the scene starts. After a few shows the cast will usually settle on some choice lines but for some sketches they keep improvising each and every performance. Really, really fun.
How did you first get into writing/directing/performing?
Adrienne: I’ve been a writer since I was a kid. I was very introverted and I still am, but I’ve just taken enough acting classes to fake my way through most social situations. I became a performer around high school (much to the amazement of my parents). The big motivation for that was I really wanted to be a playwright, and I thought if I’m going to ask people to be in my plays, I better figure out what I’m asking them to do.
Directing is newer for me. I started about a year ago. I had experience assisting some really great directors like Paul Ryan Rudd (not that Paul Rudd) and Jenny Larson from Salvage Vanguard Theater. Vicky Boone, in additional to being a casting director you hope to audition for, is also an incredible stage and film director. So I got a lot of observation time with people who really know what they are doing but it’s only been about a year totally on my own, pretending like I know what I’m doing in a strong, assertive voice.
Who are your influences?
Adrienne: My dad had me watching old Three Stooges movies and I Love Lucy re-runs at a very young age. I am not a time traveler btw. I was born in the 1980s. When I started to get really into sketch comedy, I was lucky enough that I had a friend turn me on to old school Second City and SNL. She had this point of like, “Know the history.” So that led me down a path of nerding out on books about the Compass Players, Nichols and May, etc… I had a great teacher in college, Christine Farrell, who really pushed us to find our own unique comedic voices and grab material from our personal lives. I never really considered my personal life “funny” until that class. Now, almost all of my sketch writing/songs come from things that really happened/ almost happened to me.
Gilda Radner is a huge Hero of mine. I love British comedies (save for the random blackface appearance) like Little Britain, League of Gentlemen, IT Crowd, and Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place. I will basically buy anything/everything that Graham Linehan, Richard Ayoade, Matt Berry, Chris Morris, Noel Fielding, and/or Julian Barratt make or participate in.
One of my favorite writing teachers at Second City used to direct My Mans, so I crushed super hard on them in Chicago. As you can imagine Tim Robinson’s Netflix Characters episode just killed me completely. John Early totally blows my mind and makes me seriously reconsider my “never live in NYC” rule. I feel like Key & Peele were put on this Earth just for me (Sarah Lawrence + Second City + biracial + so many jokes about weird names?). Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting is the future, past, and present.
Do you have any fun “best show” stories?
Adrienne: We had an amazing Galentine’s matinee in February during our run at Salvage Vanguard. The audience was mostly female, very juiced on free mimosas, and they laughed at everything. After the show, all the male cast members came up to me super excited like, “That was the best show! Women are our best audience!” That felt like a stealthy feminist comedienne victory. The show’s pitch isn’t that we’re a feminist comedy, but we DO feature a lot of really strong female characters who are very vocal (hahah) about their sexual desires. We also have an abundance of great dick jokes. So it’s great to showcase those kinds of comedy aren’t mutually exclusive. I don’t know what dumb person would think that they are but I’m sure they exist in Florida.
What acts are you looking forward to at this year’s festival?
What should people interested in comedy know that you didn’t know when you started?
Adrienne: You don’t need to spend $5K -$160K on classes. Trust your own voice!
What else – comedy wise – are you looking forward to this year?
Adrienne: I’m also directing an In Living Color inspired character-sketch show for The Institution Theater this summer called DOPER THAN DOPE. DJ onstage. Fly girls (and guys). I am so excited to work on something totally different and new!
We need to increase the visibility of this article. Any suggestions for a click-bait headline?
Adrienne: YOU’LL NEVER GUESS WHAT THIS VERY TIRED WOMAN SAID ABOUT HERSELF. Or really go for it: INTERRACIAL FEMALE FUNNY SKETCH DICK SAD PUPPY.
Catch Love Me Tinder Thursday, May 26th at 10:30pm at the Hideout Theater, along with DJ Faucet and Carina Magyar. Get tickets here.