It’s Raining Democracy! An interview with Brett Boham
Brett Boham and Forever Dog Productions have had a long way towards their show Dream Date in the Fringe Festival this year: they’ve produced the show in various lengths for Chicago and New York to showcase the best of their actors. We caught up with Boham to wax process, politics, and awkward Thanksgiving dinners.
FringeArts: What’s Dream Date about?
Brett Boham: The play didn’t start this way, but the easiest way for to us explain it now is that it’s this darkly comic retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic America where there’s these American artifacts around but nothing that’s recognizable as contemporary, on this island. And there’s this wizard who lives there who’s this really sadistic version of Prospero; he has all the powers of Prospero except he just exploits them to the fullest. He has a family but he tyrannically controls every aspect of their lives, and he has this den full of creatures that do his bidding. He doesn’t have any memories of his own, and there’s this character called the Memory Jester who contains all his memories, so if he wants to remember something he has to prod this creature. The incident is Thanksgiving Day, which is this wizard’s favorite day because everybody has to be thankful and grateful to him. And on this day a band of pirates crash lands on this land and they bring this new kind of philosophy. They’re into freedom and free will, which the people on the island haven’t been exposed to. They all interact and crazy things happen.
FringeArts: What point did you guys realize the connection between your play and Shakespeare’s?
Brett Boham: Pretty early on. I guess like the first day I realized, “This is about a wizard on an island . . . ah, damn it, there’s already a play like that.” I think we used the analogy to our advantage. We’re definitely not precious with the material. It’s definitely a comedy. It has some ambition to say things about politics, and history, and memory. So we use the Tempest analogy when it’s convenient for us, but we don’t feel tied to it.
FringeArts: Who are the people behind the production?
Brett Boham: Forever Dog Productions started last summer. It was the brainchild of my two friends, Joe Cilio and Alex Ramsey, and me. This is our first big production; we also have a few podcasts and blogs and small film projects. I wrote Dream Date last summer with Joe and it got performed in New York in November and December of last year. We have the tendency to think big first then think practically, so we came up with the idea of a production company that would do all sorts of projects, and the first project was this play. Joe and I outlined it together over the summer, then he moved back to New York and I wrote it and sent it out to him; and he and Alex got it produced and found the cast. I didn’t really know Forever Dog was going to be a reality until we got this produced. Joe, Alex, and me are the core of it, and then there are several other people that flow in and out in differing capacities.
FringeArts: You mention politics. How does what you say relate to the political climate of now?
Brett Boham: Any political statement that can be read from the play is very much macrocosmic. It’s looking at America as a concept, its relationship to itself. There’s very little that can be applied to some contemporary issue. It’s the way America gets mythologized, idolized, all the little identity crises it has had in its history. Another theme we explore a lot is the role of memory, in how we claim to be a country that embraces its past but we have a tendency towards amnesia, towards forgetting as a way of moving forward. We didn’t start with these themes in mind. We think of characters and situations that are interesting and then themes sort of rise out of that. But you can still ignore all that and enjoy the experience of the play.
FringeArts: How would you describe your process?
Brett Boham: It was a pretty gradual process. We’ve stressed collaboration all along. We knew we wanted to write a play, so my friend Joe and I just started free-associating. For some reason Thanksgiving kept coming up, like an awkward Thanksgiving dinner. Bob Hoskins was a character at one point. All these ideas came and went until we finally honed in on something. Collaboration is not something I can pick up with anyone. With these guys, we all have the same sense of humor and we all want the project to be good. We always seem to agree on the tone, then it’s just a question of hitting that tone repeatedly. Now we produce better in collaboration.
FringeArts: Did you think you were going to be working in writing in your formative years?
Brett Boham: I always wanted to be a writer but my idea of how you did that was antiquated and impractical, like writing in a room and not showing it to anyone until it was perfect. The real benefit I’ve had in meeting these guys has been [the questions], “Okay, how are we going to show this, publish this, etc.?” It’s better this way. It’s never perfect but it allows the thing to have a life.
FringeArts: So you were like a solitary wizard on an island?
Brett Boham: Ha! Our characters tend to be absurdist, we don’t really write psychological realism. We definitely like surrealism and absurdism. We needed a butler in the play, and we decided to make him a giant egg. We don’t write for realism but you will see weird echoes of your life show up in your work sometimes.
Thanks Brett! Catch Dream Date’s opening night on September 20th, 5:30, at Vox Populi. You can buy tickets by clicking this link!