Charlie Chaplin’s Body: A Film as a Part of Scranton Fringe

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Charlie Chaplin’s Body
Scranton Fringe Festival 2018
Pearn Auditorium, Brennan Hall
University of Scranton

In 2006, Jeff Boam had his debut film premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. His short film, Charlie Chaplin’s Body, a twenty-minute comedy about the theft of the famous actor’s remains wowed viewers, and went on to impress patrons around the world, including those at the Cannes Film Festival’s Short Film Corner and other festivals. Some locals may remember the play version of the film, which was produced at the University of Scranton in 1998. The black-and-white story of two unemployed mechanics will no doubt impress people in northeastern Pennsylvania, as will its original jazz soundtrack written by Marko Marcinko. For one night only, you can see the uncut director’s version of the film at Pearn Auditorium in Brennan Hall at the University of Scranton. The event will be held on Tuesday, September 25,  at 6:00 p.m. and is free to the public. After the viewing of the film, the cast (which includes Sam Falbo, E.L. Dougher in the lead roles), the crew, and the author will host a question-and-answer session.

Come celebrate this film’s 20th anniversary of its stage debut by seeing the film, but remember this even contains adult themes and is for mature audiences only.

For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/1804317733017871/?active_tab=about

A Stand Up Guy

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It happened in college.

That’s when Zack Hammond decided he needed to be a comedian. He experienced comedian Christopher Titus’s “Norman Rockwell Is Bleeding”—a comedy appearance treating his dysfunctional family, and Zack decided comedy could be a way for him to better cope with the dysfunctions in his own life.

A Comedian Is Born

Zack began attending all of the open mic nights he could. When he turned twenty-one, he signed up to perform at Wise Crackers (when it used to be at the Clarion in Scranton), and he shares that “it sucked.” The host announcing it was his first night to perform probably didn’t help. The guy that heckled him for being an English major probably didn’t either. Still, Zack made it through the tough Pennsylvania crowd, figuring he had to keep at it in order to be better.

Zack’s got a list of comedians who’ve influenced him to keep trying ranging from George Carlin to Richard Pryor to Patton Oswalt and Doug Stanhope, who Zack opened for in Scranton earlier this year. There are writers he encountered in his English major days that move him, too—Hemingway, Joyce, Milton, and the more contemporary David Foster Wallace, who Zack really seems to admire. He likes that the author is “clever and smart” and adds that the asides in his writing translate to comedy easily. With society heading down a sad path of stupidity, Zack is grateful for his English background that got him not only reading, but writing, too. In the recent Creative Writing Conference hosted by King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Zack shared with students that his career in writing isn’t just about jokes and being funny, but that the literary techniques of foreshadowing, plot and structure are crucial to not just setting up a good joke, but being able to carry them through a successful comedic act as a vehicle as well. You’ve got to have these to keep audiences interested, and more importantly, laughing. “Comedy has limits, unless it’s good,” he shares. Structure and mechanics of writing are clearly what helps make the comedy last.

I asked Zack about inspiration for new material. He says there isn’t anything like that. He just takes things he notices (that often annoy him) and he tries to comment on them in a way that will be funny. He adds some advice from Carlin—the idea that you have to divorce yourself from society. Zack echoes the truth in this concept. Good comedians need to put anything and everything on the table as potential material—even themselves. He writing isn’t only about the mechanics of it, but working on the analysis of material, too, including self-awareness.

Zack’s tried other creative writing with screenwriting, skits and sketches, but isn’t a big fan of writing these out, as visualizations of an idea are sometimes easier to just explain. He isn’t interested in writing comedy for others to perform either as it can be frustrating for his vision to take the form he wants through the actions of others who might interpret things in unintended ways or just disregard his direction all together. Plus, long-form comedic writing is a big commitment, and shorter forms are more Zack’s style. He believes it’s more exciting when it’s you performing and you get to see firsthand how successful the comedy has been received.

But writing comedy is challenging, to be sure. Zack shares that it’s not like performing music where you can hear it when you practice it to make adjustments or corrections. “With comedy, you don’t know it’s funny until someone laughs at it,” he confides. Then, editing can take place to see if a bit is too wordy or if there’s a better way to get an idea across. He adds, “You have no idea how much gas [a bit] has until you test it out.” You have to learn how to proofread onstage to fix it offstage for the next show.

Some Sage Advice

I questioned Zack about what advice he had for aspiring comedians who want to get on stage. He said simply, “Don’t.” I’m fairly sure he was joking, But it leads to the advice he has to give. One, be motivated—nose to the grindstone, full-out hard work will be what gets you the big payoff. Two, “Be yourself 100%.” You can’t rely only on imitation or emulation and feeding off of others. You must “bear your soul” and “suffer and such for a very long time” until –hopefully—things click into place. He adds that becoming a comedian is a “very long road of highs and very depressing lows. You question yourself all the time and have moments of doubt where you wonder why you ever thought it was a good idea. You have to be passionate and crazy to do it.”

You can find Zack Hammond (to follow him around like a groupie) on Facebook ( Zack Hammond: Comedian) or find him at the following upcoming shows, several of which he’s hosting or head lining:

December 22: Stroudsburg, PA @ The Sherman Theater at 8 p.m.
December 28: Binghamton, NY @ Peterson’s Tavern at 8:30 p.m.
December 29: Erie, PA @ The Harlequin Ballroom at 8:30 p.m.
December 30: Hershey, PA @ The Vineyard at Hershey at 8 p.m.
January 12-13: Wilkes-Barre, PA @ Wise Crackers at Mohegan Sun Casino at 9 p.m.
And hunt down his albums online: Sorrow Tree, Appalling and Utilitarian.

Man on a Canvas

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Diva Theater Productions is pleased to present local playwright Jeff Boam’s Man on a Canvas at the Old Brick Theater in Scranton. It opens on Friday, November 10.

When talking with the cast, they unanimously agreed that Boam’s play is singular.  Set in 1920’s New York at the Algonquin Hotel where members of the famous “Vicious Circle” met (think Dorothy Parker, Harpo Marx, Alexander Woollcott and the gang), the play moves forward to modern-day Scranton, Pennsylvania, where the story of boxing and boxers who won’t fight continues.  Actor David Spitzer feels the actors’ portrayals of historic personages helps add to the uniqueness of the show.  Actor Michael Madajeski jokes that all of the drinking the Algonquin Round Table members did makes the play, but his humor fits in, particularly since actor Dante Giammarco feels one of the best parts of the rehearsal process for the show has been getting the chance to watch Boam’s comedy develop in his fellow actors.  He confesses it leads to some “delicious” moments on stage.

If that’s not incentive enough to go, maybe Boam’s boxing theme will pull you in.  The production, which began as a screenplay that Boam admits he “forced anybody with a pair of eyes” to read, has his hard work and determination pay off in play form.  Director Paige Balitski was happy to take on the show, which follows other productions of Boam’s at the Old Brick including Behind The Six and The Judas Sheep.  But boxing is in Scranton’s blood.  Boam even consulted with the city’s own “Irish” Gene Reed when writing to make the boxing aspects as believable as possible.  Boam shares, as well, that the comedy would appeal to fans of plays like The Man Who Came to Dinner and You Can’t Take It With You; it is in true Kaufman and Hart style.

So come for the history and boxing and stay for the good time.  Man on a Canvas runs November 10, 11, 17, and 18 at 8 p.m. and November 12 and 19 at 2 p.m.  For ticket reservations, contact Diva Theater Productions at 570-209-7766