< BLOG

Posts Tagged ‘The Berserker Residents’

Fringe at 20 Profile: Terry Brennan

Posted May 27th, 2016

Name: Terry BrennanTerry Brennan

Type of Artist: Devised Theater Actor/Director

Company: Tribe of Fools

Fringe shows I’ve participated in: Echo (2007), Armageddon at the Mushroom Village (2009), Dracula (2010), Heavy Metal Dance Fag (2011), Antihero (2013), Two Street (2014), Zombies . . . with Guns (2015).

2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: Antihero (remount), director

First Fringe I attended: 2004. The highlight was Pig Iron’s Hell Meets Henry Halfway.

First Fringe I participated in: 2007. The Metro didn’t review our show (Echo) because we only ran one week, but they later called us one of the “best surprises of 2007.” That was a really big deal for us at the time.

A Fringe show that influenced me as an artist: Berserker Residents—The Jersey Devil. Before I saw The Jersey Devil I was always trying to “make art” or “do what a good artist would do,” and these guys made a show that had all the kind of stuff that I loved—AND IT WAS ART. It made me realize that I was my own artist and I had the ability and permission to make the type of work that—at the time—wasn’t being made as much and that’s not only okay, that is art.IMG_1882

Artists I have met or was exposed to in the Fringe who I went on to collaborate with: The Berserker Residents. After seeing The Jersey Devil I was up in their face as often as possible about possibly helping them, working together, whatever. They needed someone to play a small role that originally was supposed to only be a mentioned character. As the process went on they realized this character was going to need to make a cameo appearance at the end of the play. Because of my intense love of The Jersey Devil and my less than subtle offers to work with them, they asked me to play the role.

Read More

Talking about The Talkback: Interview with The Berserker Residents

Posted June 5th, 2014

“We are satirizing everyone we’ve ever worked with and also our own lives as artists. No one is safe.”

Clockwise: Bradley K. Wrenn, Justin Jain, David Johnson

Clockwise: Bradley K. Wrenn, Justin Jain, David Johnson

For the next three Sunday evenings, the Berserker Residents will present in-progress showings of The Talkback at FringeArts (140 N. Columbus Boulevard). Philadelphia-based artists Justin Jain, David Johnson, and Bradley K. Wrenn joined forces in 2007 and created The Berserker Residents, performing a fantastical blend of physical theater, puppetry, music, sketch, and prop comedy. The group is in residence at FringeArts in June to finesse their 2013 Fringe Festival hit, The Talkback, before taking it to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August.

Part-scripted and part-improvisation, The Talkback begins at the end of a show the audience has never seen, leading the audience through a discussion of the unseen show, which then goes completely awry. Curious, we went to Justin, David, and Bradley for the inside scoop on creating The Talkback, and what they’ll be working on while at FringeArts.

FringeArts: What was the inspiration for The Talkback?

Brad: It started back when Justin was a FringeArts LAB fellow. We had found ourselves in a rut. We were making the same show over and over. We spent a week or so exploring new ideas and trying figure out how we could mix things up and make ourselves uncomfortable. We finally hit on the post-production discussion as a format.

We generally aren’t big fans of improv, it makes us weak in the knees just thinking about it. But our aim was to disrupt our usual patterns, and we love playing with an audience. The form also allowed us to be ourselves, literally. We aren’t playing characters really, we keep our real names and plop ourselves into a fake theater company at the end of a fake show.

Dave: We often rehearse long blocks of stream-of-consciousness improvisation that make us laugh and push the boundaries of our own comfort as far as what is funny—and go on way too long. At one point we thought: how can we make this a show?

FringeArts: How did The Berserker Residents form?

Brad: The Berserker Residents didn’t form. The Berserker Residents have always been. Just like time or love or war. We were forged in the heart of a dying star and we’ll be here long after this feeble experiment called humanity has been snuffed out.

Dave: Brad and Justin wanted to create a show and they knew something was missing. ME!

Justin: In 2006 we came together to make The Jersey Devil for the Fringe Festival of that year. We do divide the labor. An unseen Berserker is Meghan Walsh, who also takes on some of our administrative work.

David Johnson, Bradley K. Wrenn, Justin Jain

David Johnson, Bradley K. Wrenn, Justin Jain

FringeArts: What is the process for creating a show like The Talkback, which depends so much on the audience?

Dave: The Talkback is a lot like stand-up comedy. It cannot be created in a vacuum. The show lives and learns in front of a live audience. The early days of this show were like imagining the worst stand-up comic you have ever seen, bombing alongside two other crappy comics, and none of them know how to leave the stage. Now we have better material, more confidence, and ripped abs.

Brad: It’s maddening rehearsing this thing by ourselves. We have dummy questions on a chair in front of us as we rehearse, and we each take turns wandering into the audience to pretend we are asking questions.

Justin: I love seeing what has stuck since that first showing in 2012. The usher character, the way we fuck with audience members, the dance, the all-bets-are-off logic that the show takes in the middle. All of these things have survived each revision and are essential to the show. Creating an audience-participatory show without an audience in the rehearsal studio is extremely difficult.

Read More

On Talkbacks: Theater Artist Justin Jain Dissects The Form

Posted June 8th, 2012

Justin Jain is a Philly-based theater artist, member of The Berserker Residents, and a 2011–12 LAB Fellow.

Justin Jain, all set and ready to listen. And listen. And listen. Photo by Josh McIlvain.

Audience talkbacks and artist feedback sessions have always been tricky for me. Personally, if I am showing a work-in-progress, I will have already gained all the information I need for my future studio work during the showing itself. I read what resonates and what doesn’t by the audience’s reaction to the piece as it happens. The heat of performance changes everything–the performers step into a level of presence nearly impossible to recreate in rehearsal. It is this presence, and the physical focus of the audience, that allows everyone in the room to ride the wave of the piece together. I can hear the audience laugh at the parts that should (or shouldn’t) be humorous, I can feel the collective confusion or affirmation of moments in the performance, I can sense when the audience’s breathing changes—we all can.

On the other hand, more often than not, during feedback or talkbacks the information I am given from a particular audience is vastly mixed. Feedback participants need to know that the artist is in a very raw mental and emotional state. They have just shown their work—sometimes for the first time—and if they are not ready to receive general feedback, the comments made can indeed be detrimental to that artist’s process. For example, if the people giving feedback are not people I have personally gathered, whose opinions I truly value and whose tastes I understand (thus giving me an insight whether what they are responding to is genuine or simply playing into or against their aesthetic), sometimes the feedback reads as uneducated, uninformed, hurtful, or useless. And this goes for both positive and negative feedback. This is not always the case, but general audience members will speak to a moment I already know needs work, or they’re commenting on something that isn’t valuable at that particular stage in the process, or they praise something that suddenly locks that thing into place. I’ve participated in over a hundred talkbacks, both as artist and audience, and only a handful of those have been useful, practical, and poignant.

However, talkbacks are a now nearly ubiquitous part of the artistic process and can indeed be very helpful. And I, as an artist, will have to continue to participate in them. Different institutions have different models for these, and I have broken these into four models below. It is my hope that with the understanding of these models, the artists’ point of view, and how each of these can be helpful, we can all become better talkback participants.

Read More