Tommi Talks ‹ The Orlando Fringe

Tommi Talks


Fringe Spotlight – Sam Hammersley – Punslingers

 In 2016 Samuel Hammersley co-wrote Simpleton: The Legend of President Trump (winner of Fringe 2016’s Best Musical award) with Thom Mesrobian and Seth Brown. This year Sam brings us a new original comedy Punslingers: A Western Wordplay Musical for 7 performances in the Yellow Venue.

Can you tell us a little bit about your show? Punslingers: A Western Wordplay Musical is a scripted comedic musical set in the Old Western town of Zingfield; a place where puns can hurt like bullets!  We took the essence of our monthly game show (Punslingers: A Game Show for Word Nerds) and adapted it to the stage. All the typical western tropes are present (a city-slicker out of his element, an over-confident sheriff, a villainous outlaw wreaking havoc, a wise old bartender).  Think of the movie Airplane!, but with saloon drunks!  We have a brilliantly talented cast, who have thankfully signed up to get Fringe viewers laughing as they sing cheesey, groan-inducing puns.

Our cast: Brett Waldon, Michael Carr, T. Robert Piggott, Melissa Vasquez, Charles Stevens, Hannah Beth Neal, Mark V Harriot, and Gregory Coleman.  It’s directed by Ana Eligio Hammersley, co-written by myself and Seth Brown, with music by Zachary Simpson and Kristin Eley.  Our Stage Manager is Tiffany Lyn Meadows, our scenic/graphic designer is Derek Marunowski, and our costume designer is Laura Young.

What about Orlando Fringe appeals to you as an artist? I see Orlando Fringe as a wonderful annual creative outlet.  Whether I’m performing or writing, it is a pleasure and an honor to get to share in the city’s theatrical art scene and mingle with such talented, kind, and supportive people for two weeks.  I moved to Orlando 6 years ago and have been itching to put out an original show of my own.  It’s not every day that an artist can have a platform as big and an audience as receptive as this!

Has Orlando Fringe enabled/enhanced your artistic career in any way? I have met countless contacts and new friends through Fringe; contacts that have led to performance opportunities during all the other months of the year!  I’ve done beatboxing, freestyle rapping, script writing, and most importantly, a ton of networking with some fantastically talented folks. Orlando’s talent pool cannot be understated; not to get political, but it’s a shame that Hollywood / TV aren’t here filming.  Fringe is an annual reminder of this!

How long and in what ways have you been involved with Orlando Fringe? I started as a fan, watching my wife (Ana Eligio Hammersley) rap as Amy March in Lil’ Women: A Rap Musical in 2013.  I first performed in Tony Bolante’s Liquid Courage – a DIY musical in 2014.  And of course, in 2016 I co-wrote the lyrics for Simpleton, which was a joy.

What piece of advice would you give to a first-time Fringe artist and/or patron? See as many shows as you can afford, and be willing to take a chance on something that looks interesting! And, of course, network your butt off; grab a beer and chat it up with a stranger. You never know who you’ll come across.

Have you performed/produced at any other Fringes? I have performed at the Frigid Fringe in NYC.  It was a joy to be in the Big Apple, but I missed the fact that Orlando Fringe has (almost) everything conveniently in walking distance.

Besides your show for the May festival, what other projects are you involved in?  Punslingers: A Game Show for Word Nerds happens nearly monthly at SAK Comedy Lab; it’s a really fun, nerdy time, and anyone can perform (or just come for the groaners!). I’m also in the Straight Outta Food Truck show, rapping alongside some of Orlando’s most talented hip-hop/improvisers!

What’s next for your production company? Anything top-secret you can hint about? Punslingers (both the scripted musical and the unscripted game show) will continue to grow, and we’d love to see it become a big, annual event.  There are similar pun-themed shows in other corners of the U.S., and we think this has potential to draw in crowds from all over!

Any last words? Go see Punslingers: A Western Wordplay Musical at Fringe; that’s a good buy, and this is goodbye!

 Make sure to check out Punslingers on the web for upcoming shows and purchase tickets and follow Punslingers on Facebook

Fringe Spotlight – Stephanie Morin-Robert

Stephanie Morin-Robert brings her corky eye-popping comedy BLINDSIDE to Orlando Fringe for a second year. Accompanying her is another Canadian based bad-ass multidisciplinary artist, Ingrid Hansen, with whom she created and performs a ground-breaking women-empowering physical comedy called The Merkin Sisters. You can catch BLINDSIDE in the Yellow Venue and The Merkin Sisters in Pink. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your show? Both shows are so different from each other, yet they both celebrate honesty, vulnerability, and bad-ass women power.

BLINDSIDE is an award-winning physical comedy about my personal account of growing up with a glass eye, and the struggle of overcoming that disadvantage. Integrating live video projection, contemporary dance and riveting comedic storytelling, I recount my life as a feisty 7-year-old who wields a disability as a weapon. BLINDSIDE is a raw, elegant and literally eye-popping comedy. Literally.

The Merkin Sisters is a no-holds-barred physical comedy show about a strangely hilarious sibling rivalry. These formerly-famous Canadian sisters leave the house for the first time in a decade to present their Ultimate Piece of Art.  A mash-up of uncensored live theater, comedy, dance and puppetry, The Merkin Sisters may just be the most outrageous show on offer at the Orlando International Fringe Festival.

What about Orlando Fringe appeals to you as an artist? The proximity of the venues and beer tent are a huge part of why this festival is so amazing and successful. I’m thrilled to be presenting BLINDSIDE in what I see to be one of the best venues of the Orlando Fringe.

Last year, I performed at the St. Matthews tavern (what a lovely place), where I quickly discovered that no matter how hard I promoted the show, it still felt near to impossible to get patrons and even artists to leave the main Fringe site.  I look forward to finally sharing this show with you all!! Oh and The Merkin Sisters are going to blow your socks off!

Has Orlando Fringe enabled/enhanced your artistic career in any way? The Orlando Fringe has allowed me to be recognized as an international touring artist.  I was recently awarded an 0-1 visa, meaning I’m recognized as a Canadian international touring artist of outstanding caliber, and I really couldn’t have done it without the Orlando Fringe’s tireless support.

The Fringe is where I met and fell in love with my partner Alastair Knowles.  He was touring with James & Jamesy back while I was on the core production team of the Montreal Fringe and at first, I actually thought he was British. We now have a show together, a home together and even talk about starting a family. It’s crazy really. The Fringe is such a huge part of my life. The Fringe is such a culturally, emotionally and artistically rich place. You can really be yourself here. And if you don’t really know who you are yet, it’s the perfect place to try and find out. This level of artistic freedom, acceptance, accessibility, and community is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

How long and in what ways have you been involved with Orlando Fringe? This will be my second year participating as a touring artist at the Orlando Fringe festival.

What piece of advice would you give to a first-time Fringe artist and/or patron? See as many shows as you can (heck, let’s go see some shows together!) and bring someone who has never been to the festival out to see a show.  And if you like a show (especially if it’s one of the shows listed above) tell everyone about it!!!

Have you performed/produced at any other Fringes? As a full time touring artist, the Fringe is by far the best platform you can find to tour your work. About 8 years ago, I discovered the Fringe through a job posting website back when I was based in Montreal.  After a successful interview with Festival Director Amy Blackmore, I dove head first into the production and administrative side of the Fringe for about half a decade.  But then I realized that I felt trapped and unable to give my artist practice as much attention was it needed.  So I backed down from the production team- but my love for the “mission” of the Fringe lived on.

Over the last 3 years, I’ve created and toured to almost a dozen different Fringe festivals (London, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Victoria, Vancouver, St-John, New York) all of which are very unique and special in their own way.  However, due to the amazing team, enthusiastic patrons and over all warm welcoming, Orlando is by far my favorite Fringe Festival in the world.

Besides your show for the May festival, what other projects are you involved in?  Between Ingrid and I, we will be performing over 127 times over the next 4 months.  I’ll also be touring a show with my lover Alastair Knowles (also known as Jamesy from the Comedy duo James and Jamesy) called Bushel And Peck and Ian Ferrier and I’s contemporary dance and spoken word company For Body And Light.

What’s next for your production company? Anything top-secret you can hint about? I now have an 0-1 visa, and I’m hunting down international touring opportunities.  I’m also in the process of writing a children’s book and adapting my solo show BLINDSIDE into a short film. So many things. So many secrets.

Any last words? Look up the word “merkin” and yes, I take out my eye in the show.

Check out the Facebook events for BLINDSIDE and THE MERKIN SISTERS where you can keep up with news and find links to purchase tickets. You can also follow Stephanie and The Merkin Sisters on Twitter.