NOTE: PortFringe will be profiling PF14 Artists and their shows on this blog in the weeks leading up to the festival (June 24-29, 2014). The next snapshot is of Tim Ferrell – comedian, teacher of stand-up comedy, and a first time PortFringe Artist. PortFringe recently had a chance to spend time talking with Tim about his original play being presented for the first time at PF14.
Artist: Tim Ferrell
Show: The Boston Trial of ‘The Naked Lunch’
Description: NAKED LUNCH: This book made quite a little impression “‘Disgusting,’ they said … ‘Pornographic’ … ‘Un-American trash’ … ‘Unpublishable’ … Well, it came out in 1959, and it found an audience … Town meetings … Book burnings … And an Inquiry by the Boston State Superior Court .
PF: Tell us something we don’t know about you or your PortFringe Show.
Tim: Best-Looking’ cast in town. There. I said it. THE BOSTON TRIAL OF ‘THE NAKED LUNCH,’ — with Burke Brimmer, Brent Askari, James Herrera, John Hickson, Erik Moody, Mike Dow and James Noel Hoban
PF: So, Tim – many of us in the Portland area know you as teacher of stand-up comedy, and an accomplished comedian yourself. Intriguingly, your PortFringe show sounds like it’s covering some pretty serious material. In your opinion what’s harder to perform (or direct? or, teach, even?): Comedy or Drama?
Tim: Well, as a performer, director, teacher and now playwright I’d have to say comedy presents more of a challenge.
You need some understanding of the human mind for comedy because with drama, sad is sad and anger is anger. But humor is different for everyone. We all have a different sense of humor. In order to appeal to your audience in full, you must truly be in tune with the thoughts and quirks of not only your characters and their dialogue, but your audience. I wouldn’t go so far as to say drama is easy, because in order to portray believable and genuine emotion, you still need great writing, acting and direction. However, the contrast lies in the fact that with drama, a sad line, even portrayed very poorly and with fake emotion, is still a sad line as the audience sits there silently. With comedy, the stakes a higher when the actor delivers a line of clever, hilarious dialogue and the audience responds with silence. In comedy the sound of silence is deafeningly loud.
PF: What makes something funny?
Tim: My favorite way to answer this question is a quote from E.B. White, “Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it”
Comedy is not a science, it’s art. Therefore there are no rules and it can be very subjective. What one person finds funny another might cringe at. There is no simple answer to why something is funny…Something is funny because it captures a moment, it contains an element of simple truth, it is something that we have always known for eternity and yet hearing it now out loud for the first time.
So my one frog-killing thought: Funny relies on the unexpected, it’s a major ingredient in humor. The idea that when something is found to be funny, then what was just happening, or what precipitated it, is something that was unexpected. That surprise triggers this response in the brain to laugh.
PF: Without giving any plot spoilers, it’s safe to say censorship plays a role in your PortFringe show. How free, do you think, is our free speech today? Is censorship still of concern for artists/writers today in the same way it was during the “Naked Lunch” era?
Tim: The author and the publisher of Naked Lunch dealt with censorship through United States Court System. Those days are over. Artists and writers today deal with censorship through the court of public opinion. If someone doesn’t approve of what you wrote, said, or did…within seconds, anonymously, they’re on social media putting you on trial and the consequences can be more damaging than any ruling a court of law could ever hand down.
PF: What drew you to writing this play?
Tim: In the 1966 printing of the book NAKED LUNCH, William Burroughs added “EXCERPTS FROM THE BOSTON TRIAL OF NAKED LUNCH” as part of the introduction to his novel. It’s just five pages of actual trial transcript and only includes the testimony of Allen Ginsberg and Norman Mailer. The drama and humor captured in those five pages planted the seed, I wanted to write a play based on the trial. Last October I got ahold of the entire transcript, 18 days of testimony with twenty two witnesses. Now I’ve got eight great actors and a one act play ready for an audience.
PF: You’ve got some great local talent in your show. If you could describe your rehearsal process in three words, they would be…
Tim: Trust their instinct.
PF: What are you most looking forward to about PortFringe 2014?
Tim: Seeing six months of collaboration with seven terrific actors finally come to life.
PF: Can you tell us What else is going on with your company? Anything exciting coming up after PortFringe closes?
Tim: Top secret mission.
PF: Indulge us as we get a bit philosophical:
What does the term “Fringe Theater” mean to you?
Tim: Focus on the work and keep everything else simple.
PF: And as we get even more existential:
Why is theater important?
Tim: We all need a little danger in our lives.
PF: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given (on any topic)?
Tim: Take a chance.
PF: Lobster or Steak? Discuss.
Tim: As a symbol of solidarity, the cast and crew has committed themselves to a diet of rice cakes only until the production is over.
PF: If we came over to your house for a (naked?) lunch after PortFringe, what would you prepare for us?
Tim: Grilled cheese sandwich with tomato and bacon.
SEE TIM FERRELL’S “THE BOSTON TRIAL OF THE NAKED LUNCH” AT PORTFRINGE 2014!
Friday, June 27 at 7:00pm – Geno’s Rock Club (21+)
Sunday, June 29 at 1:00pm – Geno’s Rock Club (21+)
or more information about PortFringe, visit www.portfringe.com