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 playwright & director Callie Kimball’s JENNY1538 – a new play premiering at this year’s festival.

Artist: Callie Kimball (with Mark Rubin & Brent Askari)
Show: JENNY1538
Description: Nine-year-old Jenny1538 is a perfectionist. She’s going for her sixth attempt to earn her Discovery badge. It’s the only badge she doesn’t have, and her presentation is a sure-fire win—she’s found 11 lost days from the 18th century. With the help of down-on-his-luck actor Dominic Franconia, she tells the story of what happened on those 11 lost days and how another little girl, Helvetica, saved the day. A play about identity, loss, and what it means when your outsides don’t match your insides.

Tell us something we might not know about you/your company and your PortFringe show.

Our first idea for Fringe was to do Hot Pepper Monologues (we got the idea from Hot Pepper Gaming Reviews, which is a real thing and it’s fantastic). We were gonna make actors eat hot peppers and then deliver classical monologues and we thought it was hilarious until we started talking to actors who were like Oh Hell No. So then I mentioned I’d been wanting to write something inspired by this picture of my friend Ed dressed as a Brownie. (He was fundraising and said he’d train for a marathon in a Brownie outfit if enough people donated.) I also had tucked away this fun fact about England’s switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in 1752, how September was cut short by 11 days, and people supposedly rioted because they felt cheated of wages and rents. The two things seemed strange enough that if I mashed them together they might make for an interesting story. 

People seem to be really responding to the picture I posted on our Facebook invite of Mark Rubin dressed as Jenny in a Brownie uniform. Some people might expect this to be a bit of silly camp, but we’re actually telling a heartfelt story. I think many people can relate to feeling like your outsides don’t match your insides, and you feel desperately out of place. I know for me, an undiagnosed hearing problem made me feel this constant panicky confusion as a kid, like somehow I just needed to try harder and I wouldn’t feel so out of step.

Jenny has been denied her Discovery badge several times. She’s kind of a pain in the ass—she’s descended from Reese Witherspoon in “Election,” Holly Hunter in “Broadcast News,” and Anna Kendrick in “Up in the Air.” She’s very Type A, and she’s even hired an actor named Dominic Franconia (played by Brent Askari) to help her tell the story. Except Dominic doesn’t stick to the story—he brings a lot of chaos into her world, and she has to adjust on the fly. They basically clash about how to tell the story, and this natural antagonism we all have experienced even as children (“No! You’re not doing it right!”) turns out to be a catalyst for growth for Jenny. We start off kind of worried for this weird little kid who you can tell has few friends and might even be bullied, and by the end, we’re rooting for her and we know she’s going to be all right. “Every ending is a beginning,” etc.

Like so many of the other artistic teams working on Fringe shows, Mark, Brent, and I basically wanted to create a piece just so we could hang out together on the regular. Mark and I knew each other from our time acting in shows back in DC about 12 or so years ago, and we reconnected when I moved here from New York in 2012. Brent is from DC, and of course Mark and Brent are both company members at Mad Horse Theatre, which is producing my new play ALLIGATOR ROAD next spring as part of their mainstage season. So the three of us have a lot of things that align and fuel us artistically. I’m directing JENNY1538 as well as writing it, and I sometimes have to steer rehearsals when we get caught up talking about plays and ideas for future projects. I feel like I’ve finally found who my best friends in junior high would’ve been.

What are you most looking forward to about PortFringe 2014?

Oh it’s going to be so hard to pick what to see! I’m especially looking forward to The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon, The Abandoned Doll, and “geel.”

Lobster or Steak? Discuss.

I can’t. This is like Sophie’s Choice.

SEE CALLIE KIMBALL’S “JENNY1538” AT PORTFRINGE 2014!

Thursday, June 26 at 6:00pm – PSC Storefront Theater
Saturday, June 28 at 2:00pm – PSC Storefront Theater

for more information about PortFringe, visit www.portfringe.com