Tommi Talks


Fringe Spotlight – Mickey Layman – Chrickey Productions

Good afternoon and welcome back to Tommi Talks, where this week I present the Artistic Director for Chrickey Productions: Mickey Layman.

Can you tell us a little bit about your show? Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Ethel Merman is a 60-minute musical extravaganza coming to the Blue Venue of Orlando Fringe 2017. Taking a hint from the popular book or poem, this show explores the ABCs of survival in the adult world by following the wisest Diva of them all: Ethel Merman! Come along on a show tune-filled, laughter inducing, “one-man show” about growing up gay in a Pentecostal household in the bible belt where his only saviors were community theater, an old record player, and the vinyl recordings of Broadway’s greatest diva! It truly does get better, and sometimes we have to find our own ways of making that happen.

Please tell me about why you chose to apply/participate for/in the Orlando Fringe festival. What about Orlando Fringe appeals to you as an artist? Fringe continues to be a platform for works that might not otherwise be produced anywhere else. I’ve had the immense pleasure of performing in Patron’s Pick shows during my first 2 years at Fringe. The first was Steve Schneider’s The Wait List Murders, and then last year’s Murder Sleep written by Michael Freeman. In particular, Fringe this year is allowing me to finally produce a show that I’ve been writing and re-writing for about 4 years now. It has given me the opportunity to share a little about me as a person and as a performer.

Has Orlando Fringe enabled/enhanced your artistic career in any way? If so, how? Fringe has most definitely enabled and enhanced my career. My first audition was for The Wait List Murders. Laurel Clark was the director for that show. After getting cast in that piece, I was offered a role at Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows where Laurel is the Artistic Director.  It’s been 2 years, and I still love being a part of Sleuths! Fringe made that possible. Fringe is an incredible opportunity to network with other professionals in our community, and make amazing connections both personally and professionally.

How long and in what ways have you been involved with Orlando Fringe? This is my 3rd year performing at the Orlando Fringe. Last year I was a part of the Fab Fringe Fundraiser, and now I’m on 2 different committees for Fringe working with some incredible theatrical professionals. I will continue to work with Fringe as long as the powers that be will have me. There are opportunities that come along that re-define who we are as artists, and Fringe has done that for me.

What piece of advice would you give to a first-time Fringe artist and/or patron? For a Fringe artist, I would advise that you should only do one show at a time. Take the rest of the time to network, see some great shows, and immerse yourself in everything that Fringe has to offer. As a patron, buy the multi-pass. Trust me, you’ll use it and then some.

Have you performed/produced at any other Fringes? I have not performed at any other Fringe festivals. However, if our show is well-received then we are planning on applying at a few others down the road. I have spoken to others who have been to various Fringe festivals, and I have heard that there is nothing quite like our festival.

Besides your show for the May festival, what other projects are you involved in? Can you tell us about those? I’m currently in the process of writing my second professional cabaret. I’m also working on putting my cabaret on the circuit in Florida. So far we’ve been met with a lot of interest, but I’m working on tightening the material to make it a little more fluid.

What’s next for your production company (or you, as an independent artist)? Anything top-secret you can hint about? If our show is well-received, there is a very good possibility that you will see an actual season announcement from Chrickey Productions for 2018. I can tell you that an obscure Tennessee Williams piece is being considered, as well as central Florida musical premiere that might get a little “Wild.”

Any last words? Thank you for giving us this opportunity. Being a new production company, we appreciate any chance to let the community know who we are. Come see us at the Fringe!

Best of luck, Mickey, for a successful run in the Blue Venue! To learn more about Mickey’s production of Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Ethel Merman visit the show page on Facebook.

Starting next week through the festival you’ll see twice the number of Fringe Spotlight postings. Be sure to follow Orlando Fringe on Facebook to keep up-to-date with blog posts, upcoming events, and all the festival updates. 

Fringe Spotlight – Steve Schneider – Carpenter Aunt Productions

Tommi Talks is back with this week’s Fringe Spotlight Artist Series issue featuring Steve Schneider, founder and producer of Carpenter Aunt Productions. (I’m always impressed by the clever and punny company names!)

Did you make the 2017 festival lottery?  I didn’t make the standard lottery, but I will be at the official BYOV St. Matthew’s Tavern with my new show, Ominous George.

Can you tell us a little bit about your show? Ominous George is an original rock and roll cabaret show. A concept album come to life. A concert that thinks it’s a play. An hour’s worth of catchy tunes delivered with a punch to the gut by some top-shelf musical talent. And all of it linked with the same bracing, take-no-prisoners humor that marked my previous shows, Escape from Baldwin Park, The Wait List Murders and Peg O’Keef Fixes the World.

Please tell me about why you chose to apply for the Orlando Fringe festival. What about Orlando Fringe appeals to you as an artist?  The Orlando Fringe is the most affordable venue in town for original independent works. It has a built-in audience that is predisposed to be interested in that kind of theater, and the festival itself is more of a promotional partner than you enjoy when you simply rent space from a standard venue. You get a built-in audience that merely expects you to capture their attention and make yourself stand out among the other options via your ideas and your outreach.

Has Orlando Fringe enabled/enhanced your artistic career in any way? If so, how? Honestly, the Orlando Fringe created my career as a playwright. In late 2009 or early 2010, I was having brunch with an old friend, veteran Fringe producer, director and writer John DiDonna. I made a passing mention of an idea for a play that had occurred to me years before: Peg O’Keef Fixes the World. He immediately said that if I wrote it as a full-length script, he would produce it at Fringe.

The show ended up being one of most popular offerings at the 2010 festival, selling out five out of six shows. After that, I was hooked. On heroin, I mean. But I also discovered I enjoyed writing plays.

How long and in what ways have you been involved with Orlando Fringe?  For many years, I reviewed shows and reported on festival doings for Orlando Weekly. I retired myself gradually from that gig as I got more deeply involved in the artistic side, and realized that a great many of the people I would be reviewing were people I had cast in my own productions, or was interested in casting in my own productions, or whatever. Last year, 2016, was the first time in about two decades that I had no responsibilities at the Fringe other than being an audience member. It was strangely calming, though I wouldn’t want to do it every year.

What piece of advice would you give to a first-time Fringe artist and/or patron? Artist: Watch your budgeting and be realistic about the size of the audience you can potentially attract. But don’t be so cowed by the bottom line that you forget the point is to follow your muse.

Patron: Leave yourself room to indulge your own interests and tastes. Reviews and word-of-mouth are valuable resources, but at the end of the day, only you can decide what’s worth gambling your money and your time on. That said, keep your ears open whenever you’re near the beer tent, because learning which Fringe artists are sleeping with which other Fringe artists is an important part of the fun that you shouldn’t miss out on.

Have you performed/produced at any other Fringes?  Nope, no participation in other festivals so far. Up to this point, my shows have all been so locally oriented that I don’t know how they would play outside of this environment. But that’s not a direction I’m going to be pursuing forever. This year’s show, Ominous George, for example, is almost totally devoid of insider, Orlando-centric humor.

Besides your show for the May festival, what other projects are you involved in? Thanks to my work at the Fringe, I have been in the past invited to contribute playlets to various Beth Marshall Presents undertakings, like The Trayvon Martin Project and Play in a Day. I’ve enjoyed those experiences very much, so I’m putting it out there that I’m ready, willing and able to contribute more. (Tip to new and emerging artists: This is called the passive-aggressive approach to finding work. You should try it!)

What’s next for your production company (or you, as an independent artist)? Anything top-secret you can hint about?  As Charlie Brown once said, I try to only dread one day at a time. So when I’m doing a show, I’m generally not looking down the road to the next one. This is especially true in the case of Ominous George, which incorporates songs I’ve had lying around in various stages of completion for as long as 25 years. I’d like to see where else I can take them after this year’s Fringe is over. I’m already pursuing some contacts that might be interested in a touring version. We’ll see.

Any last words?  I honestly thought that looking directly into a blow dryer would be perfectly safe.

If you couldn’t tell by his interview responses, Steve is delightfully clever and I’ve no doubt his rock and roll cabaret will have you head banging and laughing simultaneously.

EDIT: Ominous George now has a Facebook Page!

Don’t forget to follow Orlando Fringe on Facebook and check back next week for the next issue of Fringe Spotlight Artist Series featuring local performer Jon Jimenez. 



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