Go Deeper Happy Hour on the Fringe: Dito van Reigersberg

Happy Hour on the Fringe: Dito van Reigersberg

Posted December 11th, 2019

On this episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe, we sipped tea and spilled the tea with Dito van Reigersberg AKA THE Martha Graham Cracker. As one of the founders of Pig Iron, Dito shares his experiences with the very first Fringe Festival, his artistic journey since, and the development of Martha Graham Cracker as we know her today. Intro features “Let Me Sit On It” from Martha Graham Cracker’s newest album out December 12, Lashed But Not LeashedAvailable to stream on Bandcamp. Martha Graham Cracker will be performing for two nights at FringeArts on December 19 & 20 at 8pm.

Listen to the episode and read the transcript below.

Feature Photo: Plate 3 Photography

[Music Intro]

Raina: Hello and welcome to Happy Hour on the Fringe. FringeArts as Philadelphia’s premier presenter of contemporary performing arts. I’m Raina Searles, Marketing Manager here at FringeArts.

Katy: And I’m Katy Dammers, Artistic Producer here at FringeArts. We invite you to pour one up and enjoy our conversation with some of the most imaginative people on this plane of existence. Today, we are thrilled to be joined by Dito Van Reigersberg, known for his work as a theater and cabaret artist who has upcoming performances here at FringeArts as Martha Graham Cracker on December 19th and 20th. Dito, welcome to Happy Hour on the Fringe.

Dito: Thank you. I’m also drinking.

Raina: Yes. Well, so our first question is always what are we all drinking.

Dito: Oh, yeah. I’m drunk. No. I’m drinking some crazy rose tea, sweet rose tea. So I’m not drinking anything alcoholic.

Katy: It is 1:00 in the afternoon.

Dito: It’s only 1:00.

Raina: I’m having a morning moringa organic tea.

Dito: Oh, is it good?

Raina: It is. I think it’s a honey something.

Dito: Honey situation.

Raina: Yeah.

Dito: We got some real teetotalers here that are not drinking a thing.

Katy: I know. We’re so boring over here. Janet’s drinking water.

Dito: Should I just start answering questions? Is that what we should do?

Raina: We’ll start asking questions.

Dito: Yeah, yeah. I was like, “What’s the question?”

Raina: So just to take it all the way back. You’ve been working with Fringe Arts for a while now.

Dito: From the beginning.

Raina: From the beginning. Tell us about that?

Dito: Should I tell you about the beginning?

Katy: Yes.

Raina: Yes.

Katy: What’s the origin story?

Dito: Okay. The origin story is this. In 1997, Pig Iron Theater Company had only been in existence two years but we only worked in the summer times. We would make shows at Swarthmore College, a small liberal arts college outside of Philadelphia. And then we would take these shows to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Then in 1997, which was our third summer, we made a piece at Swarthmore and then we brought it instead of to Edinburgh, we brought it to the very first inaugural brand spanking new Fringe Festival in Philadelphia. We were like, “Well, we’re thinking about moving here, but we hope this city welcomes us and is cool.”

Dito: So we made a piece called Cafeteria, which maybe some of you remember, you oldies. It was a piece that only had three performer, myself, Quinn Bauriedel, and Suli Holum. And it had no words and it was set in three cafeterias to represent the American lifecycle. The first cafeteria was the junior high cafeteria. Then it moved to a corporate cafeteria. And the last cafeteria was the retirement home cafeteria. It was kind of a gestural ballet, maybe you could call it, telling the story of these three cafeterias. It had a big, enormous set with a cafeteria table and all these chairs and then this ramp that went along the cafeteria setup with mashed potatoes and the milks and it was all set up all on this one light.

Dito: Anyway, we had been to Edinburgh so we knew that in Edinburgh in order to get anyone’s attention because it’s the largest arts festival in the world, you just have to run around and busk and tell people your show’s great and hand out fliers and be obnoxious and sing songs and make a fool of yourself. So we thought we should do that in Philadelphia and no one had ever done that before so I think people were like, “Well, we better go because these people are crazy and maybe a little desperate.”

Dito: So a lot of people had heard about the show and we were about to perform the first ever performance in Philadelphia of Pig Iron and we were performing at the Seaport Museum Theater, which is huge. And our stage manager came backstage and said, “We have to hold for 10 minutes.” We were like, “Is something wrong? What’s going on?” He said, “There’s a line of people to come to see the show around the block.” Here we were, we were worried. We were like, “Will people come see our show? Is Philadelphia the right place for us to put down roots? Is there an audience for this kind of more experimental work?” I guess the answer was yes.

Dito: So that was a very good omen of things to come. So I think that’s the origin story. And that was the beginning of a year where Pig Iron did I think at least three shows. We did Cafeteria, Joan of Arc, and Gentleman Volunteers. Gentleman Volunteers became … That was the first ever, during that year was the first performances of that show and that show became the most toured show we ever created because it’s a show where the audience moves around and we can adjust it to any space. That was in the ’90s, when you were just a glimmer in my eye.

Katy: And the rest is history.

Dito: And the rest is history.

Katy: Pig Iron has been in almost every Fringe Festival thereafter. We’re now heading into our 24th Fringe Festival in the fall of 2020.

Dito: Congratulations.

Katy: Crazy.

Dito: That’s insane.

Raina: Where were you working before? If you were thinking about making Philadelphia your home, where were you primarily working?

Dito: So I went to acting school in New York. Most of the rest of the company went to acting school in Paris at a place called Le Coq. So I was at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theater, which is a Meisner based acting program. I think we were deciding between are we all going to move to New York, are we going to move to Chicago? We were young and had all our lives ahead of us. We just graduated from college. We were like, “What should we do? The world is our oyster.”

Dito: So I think we were just trying to decide what would be the smartest move. I think we made a really smart move because we were like, “Not only is New York expensive, but it’s distracting.” Because if you’re trying to keep an ensemble together and keep a cohesive group working and developing together, it’s hard if you have the distraction of like, “Oh, there’s an audition for a movie over here and I could be on Broadway.” In Philadelphia things are much more inexpensive and also you have the lack of distractions where you can really focus in on what you want to make and there isn’t as much noise and chatter around the art. You can really band together and make an ensemble, which I think is a lot harder in a place like New York.

Dito: So I think we chose wisely. We’ll never know what it would have been like if Pig Iron had moved to Chicago. But who cares? It’s a very nice town, Chicago is. Yeah. I think we made a good choice.

Raina: Yeah. I think that’s so interesting, because when you first said distracting, I thought you were talking about for the audience like ‘there’s so much to see in New York.’ It’s interesting that you brought it up from the artist’s perspective and actually being able to make your art without as many distractions.

Dito: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Which is not to say that there wasn’t even back then a big scene in terms of people making work. Actually, Andrew Simonet was just here. When we performed Cafeteria … Actually, this is another part of the mythical story. It was on stage. Dan was directing and Suli, Quinn, and I were performing on stage. Headlong was in the audience and Headlong was also two men and a woman. They saw us and they were like, “What is going on?” We were dancing or moving. This is very weird. We found a sister company that is … And they also chose Philadelphia a little randomly. Or not randomly but they were like, “We could choose a number of cities,” and they chose Philadelphia maybe for similar reasons, like avoiding New York, but within proximity of it.

Dito: But anyway. Early on in our time in Philadelphia, Pig Iron and Headlong were really like sister companies and we had a lot of … We encouraged each other and also had a lot of good advice for each other. We’ve survived. That’s encouraging. Yeah.

Katy: Then you both went on to start schools and be I think really big players in the arts community of Philadelphia, not only as these ensembles that created work but then also steward a next generation of work. I think those two groups and then Fringe Arts are these three pillars of the experimental scene in Philadelphia that all started at the same time.

Dito: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Katy: Now, nearly 25 years later, looking around and being like, “Wow. We did something actually really big, really amazing.”

Dito: Yeah. And there’s a lot of overlap between all three organizations and there’s certainly people who have studied at HPI who have then gone on to perform with Pig Iron and Pig Iron teachers teaching at HPI, which is the Headlong Performance Institute. And then both companies, both performing in Fringe stuff and sending our students in to also perform things. Yeah. It does feel like it’s sometimes hard to know what the chicken and the egg is, but it does feel like when you look back, there was a wave that was starting to crest and in 1997 all these things started to happen where there were just a lot of great coincidences and that set some of the fertile ground for what was to come. 24 years of Fringe. Yay.

Katy: It’s crazy.

Dito: Yeah.

Katy: Well, and in those 24 years you have done many works, of course, with Pig Iron as part of Fringe.

Dito: That’s true.

Katy: But also some solo works as well. Do you want to talk about some of those pieces?

Dito: Oh, yeah. Well, so many things. This is the one I’d totally forgot about. I did a piece with Lee Etzold and Sarah Sanford was in it too. We played husband and wife. It was a clown piece about … I’m looking down at my spoon. Etiquette. Lee was really interested in etiquette and how we could think about etiquette in our more modern world and is etiquette just an old fashioned thing or does etiquette evolve over time and still have something to day to us in these days, which certainly it does. If you’ve ever tried to get the attention of three people who are on the phone, not that that’s happening right now, but that happened to me recently where I was in a room with only people who were on their phone. Weirdly if felt rude for me to interrupt them. I was like, “Oh, they’re busy.” But then I was like, “This is also rude of them.” Everyone’s tuned out.

Raina: it evolves.

Dito: it evolves and there’s got to be a kind of … And I think people are starting to determine kinds of etiquette around phones, like do I leave my phone off the table at a meal?

Raina: I have my phone sitting right on the table.

Dito: You do, but-

Raina: So rude.

Dito: But it is face down.

Katy: But it’s face down.

Raina: That’s true, face down or face up.

Dito: It’s face down. No. I don’t know. I’m fascinated by how that stuff … I mean, I don’t think there’s anything about cell phones in this piece which was called Dear Sir or Madam, which I totally forgot the title. But anyway, that was a physical theater piece we did at the Ethical Society upstairs. That was a lot of fun being directed by Lee.

Dito: And then I Promised Myself to Live Faster was a piece I guess we did two or three years ago here. That was a piece we had brought to the Humana Festival, which is a big theater festival in Kentucky, in Louisville, Kentucky, and Actors Theater of Louisville. It was a piece that we made … I guess I’ve always been inspired and moved by the story of Charles Ludlum who had a theater company called the Ridiculous Theater Company, which I think also is related to Martha Graham Cracker in some ways. I think I never had read any of his plays but I saw pictures of him performing in the 70s and 80s and he was an impresario who wrote his own plays. He directed this crazy company of downtown weirdos. And he performed.

Dito: He performed most famously Camille, which is a famous melodrama where he’s wearing bit ringlets and false eyelashes. His face is all made up and he looks feminine in the face and hair department and then he has a hairy chest and then he has a beautiful gown on. I guess maybe when I was starting to do Martha Graham Cracker, I was like, “Oh, that’s a forbearer of mine.” So in Camille, it’s one of those classic stories. I think there’s operas written about Camille too, maybe La Traviata. But anyway, it’s the story of this woman sacrificing everything. She falls in love with someone of a higher class but his father tells her to stay away. So she sacrifices her love and she tells him to go away even though she doesn’t want to. And then she’s dying of consumption and he comes and he’s like, “I heard that you pushed me away not because you wanted to but because my father told you to.” She’s like, “It’s true. Hold me. It’s so cold. I’m dying.”

Dito: So he would perform this melodrama as this partially ridiculous man/woman. But then people would say, “Oh, you get to the end of this play and you would cry.” He was very moving in his portrayal of this woman who dies kind of love and kind of of consumption. And then the sad truth is that Charles Ludlum then contracts HIV and dies of AIDS. I’ve always felt like that’s such a weird story where this person in the 70s became famous in acting from this person who dies over and over and over again, dies every night, dies every night, dies every night. And then it’s almost like he’s practicing dying and then he contracts HIV and then dies. Maybe because he feels like an ancestor that I feel like, “Oh why? Why was it him and not me?” There’s a real … You know when you see a person from the past and you’re like, “Oh, that person is related to me in some spiritual way.”

Dito: That was all to say that we made this piece called I Promised Myself to Live Faster, kind of inspired by Charles Ludlum but in terms of it’s big ridiculous style. It was set in outer space. There was a gay every man named Tim who gets swept out into … On a dark and stormy night he gets swept out to outer space and he gets embroiled in this galactic fight between the nuns of Virginea who have lost or someone has stolen the holy gay flame. They give birth to homosexual babies but they’re like, “We need the holy gay flame in order to give birth.”

Dito: Then there’s an evil planet and they’re the ones who’ve stolen the flame. I play this evil bishop who is also from the evil planet who wants to retain control over the holy gay flame. And I’m using the earthling to get me to the holy gay flame and it’s a race between the nuns and us. And then wouldn’t you know it, the angry bishop is actually a closet homosexual himself.

Katy: Of course.

Dito: Because he was adopted maybe from Virginea. And so he falls in love with a humanoid who’s been his prisoner and things get very complicated after that and there’s a betrayal, double betrayal, triple betrayal and finally the holy gay flame gets given back to the nuns. And of course, the bishop sacrifices himself for his love. So we made this ridiculous piece but in a way, that piece sounds totally just like a romp, which it is, but I think there is some connection to … There’s some underneath layer of connection to the AIDS crisis and also we were talking a little bit about assimilation and about how as Ru Paul’s Drag Race becomes more of a thing that everyone has seen, even if you don’t have a TV, you’ve seen it on your computer.

Dito: Anyway, people have seen Ru Paul’s Drag Race. People know what drag queens are. People are very well versed in what used to be more borderline or underground gay culture, which means in a way that there’s a loss there and there’s also a gain. I somehow think we wanted to capture that feeling in a play in a crazy mythical story. We wanted to capture the idea that there’s losses and gains in terms of becoming absorbed by the majority culture. This idea of the holy gay flame, which is totally goofy, there is a weird responsibility of people, of the youth going forward to not forget how they got to where they are and the sacrifices that were made. Stonewall was a really terrifying and difficult event that set things in motion so that people have some more comfort and some more safety than they would have normally or would have before.

Dito: So that was a very long winded answer about I Promised Myself to Live Faster but it’s a piece that began with a homage to Charles Ludlum.

Katy: Well, I think this question of what is gained but what is also lost is really important. Even just thinking of Stonewall for people of a much younger generation, I can imagine people now seeing it first as that terrible movie that came out. It’s like, “Oh, my goodness. That’s actually not what it was at all.”

Dito: Can we erase this movie?

Katy: That movie was really awful in what it did to that history. But it in some ways amazing that people don’t necessarily know what Stonewall is and that they live a life where they don’t have to think about that. But it’s also so crazy and so terrible. One thing that I love about Martha Graham Cracker is that that persona, that character thinks so clearly about the predecessors, Charles being one of them, but Martha Graham also being one of those.

Dito: Totally, totally.

Katy: So I wonder if you can talk about other predecessors to that character and how you developed it?

Dito: Oh, well, yeah. There’s definitely … I studied at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, which was amazing, and also was kind of like … I got there right after Martha had died. So she was even more of a mythical figure because people would tell different stories about her and there were different views about how nice or not nice she could be or how much of a diva she was or how much of a … But everyone agreed that she was a genus. Some people were like, “Is she is a mad genus or was she a genus who then drank too much and then became a weird cruel genus?” But she’s a super fascinating figure.

Dito: Again, there’s Charles Ludlum and I guess when I was studying at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York, I was also going out at night and seeing other drag queens. I don’t want to say other drag queens. I was not yet a drag queen. I was seeing drag queens and especially singing drag queens. There’s one who’s performed here named Joey Arias who is a big influence of mine, a big … I just was like … You know, you’re in scene study class and you’re in acting school and there’s a drudgery to it. It just doesn’t seem … It’s fun in a muted or understated way. But then you go to a bar and people are carousing and being crazy and in the center of it all is this person who can sing Billie Holiday Songs and is also the most filthy mouthed hilarious person. That person is having so much fun, is whipping the crowd into a frenzy of enjoying themselves.

Dito: I was like, “Oh, maybe that’s more what I want to do.” Or maybe that’s part of what I want to do as opposed to just learning my lines and reciting them for a scene or in a play, which is also something, of course, that I do. But yeah. It blew my mind that there was this naughtiness that was available to me. Because I think … I don’t know. I guess I grew up very … My poor dad. I always give this as an example because I think my dad … We grew up in a house where my dad was like, “We don’t swear in this household.” There’s a beautiful thing to not swear and you actually use more complicated words and vocabulary. But then there was something forbidden about swearing or talking about dirty stuff. I think there was something to it when I saw Joey Arias. I was like, “Oh, I really want to do that because it’s something that has been a little bit forbidden to me.”

Dito: Yeah. I think in general cabaret is a place where you have permission and hopefully when I’m performing as Martha people also feel that permission and I think there’s a freeing and also … This sounds too highfalutin, but communion where there’s like a, “Oh, we spent so much time on our individual computers, our individual phones.” I find that in modern life there’s very little chance for people to bump into each other and actually interact and feel a part of a group in a way. Even when you go to see a play, you feel each other watching the play but you don’t really interact as much. There’s not as much breaking the fourth wall.

Dito: I don’t know. That’s one of the things I really enjoy the most about Martha is feeling there’s a weird communion/meeting/I don’t know, some sort of ritual that’s happening where we’re like, “We’re all here together.” And one of the things I … I’m actually teaching cabaret right now at the Pig Iron school and one of my favorite things, and every once in a while you’ll even have this happen in the fourth wall play where clearly an actor is distracted by something and will say something. Sometimes it’s bad. It’s like, “Can you shut off your phone?” But something like that wakes everyone up. Sometimes the power of just saying what is in your real life or in the cabaret is a real superpower and it wakes people up.

Dito: It also happens sometimes in a play where there’s a technical difficulty and they have to stop. That also wakes everyone up in the audience. And when they start again, the audience is that much more invested. They want it to succeed. So there is a lot of failure built into Martha Graham Cracker so that people really root for me to succeed at least a little bit.

Katy: When you performed here, you walk up and down the isles. There’s no audience member that is off limits, so to say.

Dito: No.

Raina: You sit on laps.

Dito: No one is safe. Yeah. I’m very … What’s the word? Intrusive. Yeah. I definitely get my leg workout because those-

Katy: It’s the whole mountain we have in our theater [crosstalk 00:26:38].

Dito: That seating is steep, the K2 of cabaret.

Katy: Yes, absolutely.

Dito: Yeah. I find that to be really fun. It’s sometimes hard to get down those rows though because they’re quite skinny.

Katy: Yes.

Dito: And usually there’s more tables and I can easily thread. But I make my way. People move their feet.

Katy: Nothing stops you.

Dito: Yeah. We were talking about ancestors and I somehow got into … Phones.

Raina: I think you were talking about this relationship to the isles, which I think is crucial in cabaret, that of course, you’re rehearsing and particularly with all the singing numbers and the special guests and the band, and all that. But so much of that can’t be rehearsed. It’s really in the moment. It’s reactive with the audience. So what has it been like to develop the Martha Graham Cracker character with audiences over the years?

Dito: It’s been a real training. I feel like the first … So I want to say it was 2005 when L’Etage, which is my home base on 6th and Bainbridge, they said, “You can have a monthly gig here. We give you our permission.” Which was a real gift because I could hone that kind of skill. Because at first I think I was really afraid and I think I would just sing the songs. I don’t know what I would say in between but I think I was more nervous about interacting with the audience. I think I developed an ability to interact and be playful and read people.

Dito: At first, you’re operating on nerves and then after a while you’re like, “Oh, I can see. This person would be a fun person to interact with. This person is clearly saying, ‘Do not speak to me.'” And then sometimes it’s fun to say, “Oh this person doesn’t want me to speak to them.” That’s another example of I’m telling the truth and that sometimes will open them up. Yeah, sometimes, especially in this day and age where people are worried about consent, I have also had my moment where I’m like, “Am I okay in terms of the theme consent?” I do think I’m pretty good. Just pretty good. No. I’m pretty good at reading people and knowing when no is no.

Dito: But usually people who come to a drag performance are looking forward to some sort of interaction, I think. Let’s just say, I haven’t gotten any complaints. No. Probably I have gotten complaints. But I think in general, I think that’s part of what makes it unique is that you see me working in real time and I’m doing a juggling and so that’s the risk that is being taken, I think. I’ve done pieces where all the material is set and all the pattern is also set. And there’s a joy to that and it’s almost more like doing a play. But I do think that the audience can feel. Just because they can smell it, they know if this has been prepared or not.

Katy: Definitely.

Dito: They’re like, “Oh, this is off script.” Or “She’s going on a crazy tangent now.” So normally, I think people enjoy the tangents. Sometimes I’m like, “Oh, that tangent took too long.” Yeah. We’re starting to craft how many songs is the right number of songs. I think I used to do less patter and we would do more songs. I think our golden rule used to be plan for 11 songs in the set list. We make a list of 11 songs. And then it got cut down to 10 maybe with an encore. And now it’s usually nine. Am I getting more long winded in my old age? Yes.

Raina: Because you have more life lessons to pass on.

Dito: Exactly. So soon it’ll be three songs and just me talking and the band will be like, “We quit.” Just sing to some Karaoke tracks, you crazy lady. Yeah. So the banter is developed and I guess we have more and more repertory in terms of music. So 2005 was when we started. We’re in 2019. Yeah. We’re over 14 years of doing it once a month plus shows here, shows other places, now Joe’s Pub in New York. So there’s a lot of material there. Yeah. Now I have to go through the encyclopedia of set lists. I keep every set list. Every once in a while Max, who styles me and often makes my clothes, will be like, “That was a particularly good set list. Remember that one.” She’s like, “Asterisk that one.” So I do.

Dito: Max also, she’s watched a lot of shows. Poor thing. She’s like, “Oh, the rule for her, the Max rule is Martha Graham Cracker is all about flirting and that is you have to do that toward the beginning of the show and then everything follows from there.” Because different cabaret performers have different presences, obviously, and different kinds. Within flirting there’s more innocent flirting, there’s more aggressive sexual flirting, there’s … I think of Martha as more of a romantic, which is maybe why also people haven’t complained too much about her being handsy. I think she’s much more like, “Do you want to fall in love with me? Can we fall in love with each other?” As opposed to like, “Do you want to bone?” Which is fun and I’m sure there are cabaret artists who are more down and dirty. Let’s make it happen tonight.

Dito: Yeah. There are just so many kinds of cabaret singers, some who are much more aggressive and much more angry and some that are more introverted and quiet. I don’t know. It’s such an interesting form because it can really absorb a lot of kinds of presences. I was talking to my class about this just the other day that there’s some cabaret singers who are very … I think of them as introverted maybe or they are not pushing out to the audience. They are like-

Katy: They’re drawing on it.

Dito: They’re like, “Come into me.” Sometimes they sing very quietly or they speak very quietly or they’re really thoughtful. I love that kind of performer but I also love the kind of performer who’s like, “I’m crazy. I’m coming.” Obviously more in maybe the extroverted camp, but I like coming out touch everyone. I’m talking about you and you. You’re not safe. I’m coming to get you. But I feel like even a Martha show has both of those in the spectrum. I feel like it’s not a complete Martha show unless there is a moment of introspection or sadness or some sort of emotion that’s not just, “I’m so excited to flirt with everyone.” Which is a primary color.

Dito: Yeah. For a long time we’ve been doing this medley called The Beatles Medley where we sing Beatles songs but we do them in different arrangements. We do a version of “Ticket to Ride” that’s very sad and very slow. I always loved that version. Not only is it like I’m hearing this song in an entirely new way but also it allows you to jump on the bandwagon of her heartbreak. She’s a clown and wants you to laugh. I think one of the things that people often hopefully say is that my face hurts from laughing so much, and that’s the main thing I want people to come away with. But sometimes people are like, “Oh my God, that song made me cry” or “That song made me really feel something deeply. It made me feel sorry for Martha” or whatever. But that’s also part of the colors of a successful Martha cabaret.

Raina: Well, I think now is the right time to talk about what audiences can see that’s upcoming. The last few shows that we have here at FringeArts, A Choral Extravaganza on the 19th and then your last show of 2019 on the 20th. Can you tell us about who’s going to be there?

Dito: Yes. It’s going to be a quartet of background singers, as Patti LaBelle would say. Jess Johnson, Rachel Camp, Alex Bechtel, and Jamie Branagh are all going to sing arrangements by various members of the band and I’m excited about that. We’re going to have some new tunes. I think Alex Bechtel’s going to arrange a tune.

Katy: Oh, great.

Dito: I’m a sucker for harmony, so they’re going to be singing four part harmony. It’s going to be really lovely. School of Music, School of Rock, they’re going to sing a song with me. I won’t tell you want it is but it’s very hard rock. Shannon Turner from Glitter and Garbage is going to sing at least a couple of duets and maybe a solo. Yes. With me. Ernest Stewart who often is on the trombone will be sliding his big long sliding thing on stage. This is always very heartwarming, we hope, children of the members of the band, the two children of Victor, our pianist and the one child of Andrew Nelson on bass, they will be playing their instruments, which are harp, cello, and piano, I think as Shannon and I are singing. We got to rehearse that, but we will. Yeah. That’s what you have to look forward to.

Katy: And I will say it’s Martha’s last show of 2019, but also of the whole decade.

Dito: Oh my God.

Raina: Oh, wow.

Katy: Last show of the 2010’s.

Dito: Last show of the 2010’s.

Raina: Is that what we’re calling this?

Katy: I don’t know, actually.

Dito: The teens.

Katy: The teens.

Dito: The 20-teens.

Katy: I like that. I like that.

Dito: Yeah. Because we’re going on 2020’s.

Katy: Our 2020’s.

Dito: Hindsight is 20/20.

Katy: Good vision coming forward.

Dito: I hope.

Katy: I hope so too. We need it.

Dito: There’s something I really want to see in my rear view mirror and that is the pres.

Katy: That is true.

Dito: Oh, I can also say that this December for the first time I wrote an album of original tunes called Lashed But Not Leashed which is now available for preorder on Band Camp and will be streaming on all your streaming apps. The album is called Lashed But Not Leashed and I wrote the songs at the Kimmel Center in residency with Eliza Hardy Jones, David Sweeny, and Vince Federici and we will be doing the album release on 12/12 at the Kimmel Center, so come check that out. I should be plugging something else, I suppose. But I can plug the album, right?

Raina: Yes.

Katy: Absolutely.

Raina: Please do.

Katy: Check out the album and then come to Fringe the 19th and the 20th. Make sure you get tickets for both because they are two very different shoes.

Dito: That’s true. That’s true. I’m excited. Many dreams have come true here at the Fringe, the FringeArts Theater. I think this is the first time, first place where I got to sing with a string quartet and that was amazing. It was really like a pinch me moment because my parents are very tolerant of all the rock and roll but they really love classical music. I was like, “This is a moment where my parents will be super proud.” They’ll be like, “You’re actually playing with classical instruments.” It’s just so arresting to hear string quartet do it’s thing and then I’m like, “I’m going to sing with these people.” That’s a dream that’s come true here.

Dito: I’ve sung with a choir here. I sang while members of Ballet X danced here. Other dreams? I have other dreams though.

Raina: In what?

Dito: What they are? I mean, I don’t know. Should I enter on a horse.

Katy: So many possibilities. I’m seeing you descending from the ceiling.

Dito: Yes.

Raina: Like an angel.

Katy: Like an angel. Oh, Raina, yes.

Dito: Exactly, exactly. With wings that actually function and operate.

Katy: Yes, yes.

Raina: Yeah.

Dito: Maybe Yannick from the orchestra would conduct me.

Katy: Collaborations in the future.

Dito: He’s real cute. You know, I have dreams. Maybe a bunch of xylophones. No. I don’t know. Yeah. There’s other dreams to come. Maybe Rufus Wainwright will come and sing a duet with me. I was hearing that duets are the future.

Katy: Duets are the future.

Raina: Yeah. I’ve heard that too recently.

Katy: 2020. So much to look forward to.

Dito: Yeah. The two and then the other two.

Katy: Exactly.

Dito: So maybe the next dream is either that I arrive as an angel from the ceiling or horse, arrive on a horse, or singing horse, or duets with famous people like, hey, Rufus Wainwright, hey … Who else would be cool? Aimee Mann, my favorite. Hey, Mary J. Blige, you want to come sing a song with me? You know.

Katy: Stay tuned for future Martha dates and dreams to be announced.

Dito: That’s right. Maybe Patti LaBelle.

Katy: Yeah.

Raina: Yeah.

Dito: Where’s my background singers? Do you guys know what I’m talking about?

Katy: Yes.

Dito: Okay. Do you? You don’t know what I’m talking about.

Raina: I don’t.

Dito: Oh, you don’t know? So look this up. There’s a video, I think it’s from the ’90s. Yeah, the Clinton administration. She is singing (singing) and she starts singing. The band comes in but her background singers don’t come in and the guy who has the lyrics on pieces of paper isn’t moving them [crosstalk 00:41:47].

Katy: I’ve seen this.

Dito: She’s panicking. She’s like, “Next card, next card.” When she doesn’t know all the lyrics she goes, “Whoo.” She just hoping that she can just do a Patti LaBelle to cover. She’s like, “Oh my God.” There’s a moment where she definitely says, “Oh my God.” And you’re like, “Patti LaBelle, you want to start over, don’t you?” But it was live so she couldn’t. Then the background singers eventually arrive. You’re like to the stage manager, “Now check what’s going on.” It’s recommended holiday viewing.

Raina: Okay.

Dito: Patti LaBelle.

Raina: Well, so we have one I think final question. Perhaps we can invite Martha to answer this question. We are wondering what are you highbrow and lowbrow inspirations for your work?

Dito: All right. Well, sometimes … To really help me, I like doing this old timey voice. That helps me go, a mushy mouth voice. I’m a little tired and a little drunk. Oh, God. What are my highbrow, lowbrow inspirations? Well, I have mentioned Patti LaBelle messing up. That’s an inspiration because I love nothing more than failing but then succeeding then failing then succeeding. What else do I love? What’s highbrow? Shakespeare is highbrow. I once was in a Starbucks and Hellen Mirren was in the same Starbucks in New York City. I went up to her and I said, “You’re great. You don’t know who I am. I’m also great and one day we should do a duet.” She didn’t know about but my people are talking to her people. She’s a very attractive woman. I don’t know if she can sing a lick.

Dito: Let’s see. So she’s highbrow. She’s done Shakespeare. I’ve done Shakespeare. I could do Shakespeare. You know what I should do, I really want to do … I’ve talked about this with my dear friend Alex Torra, who does … What’s it called?

Katy: Team Sunshine.

Raina: Team Sunshine.

Dito: Yes. The Sincerity Project. He was like, “You know what I’d love to do with Martha Graham Cracker?” And I said, “What?” And he said, “I would like to see you as Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra by Shakespeare.” And then I was like, “Could I put some pop songs in?” He was like, “Of course you could.” So that could be something to look forward to. Think about that one. And then I’ve also talked to Eric Jaffe a little bit about Avita and how I’d love to play Avita. I want to see if he’ll return my calls. And then lowbrow … Lowbrow? I don’t know if Dolly Parton is lowbrow but I love this new … Have you listened to Dolly Parton’s America? It’s a podcast.

Raina: No.

Dito: It’s so good. It’s great. It’s so good. It’s very inspiring and makes for a very demential figure. It talks about my favorite movie, Nine to Five, which if you haven’t seen and you don’t know anything about feminism, watch it and you’ll understand what the heck is going on. So Nine to Five is a movie I watched a lot as a child because I was a latchkey child. It’s fine. And so I watched that movie over and over again on my VHS player, which do you know what that is?

Raina: Yes.

Dito: VHS? Okay. What are my other lowbrow inspirations? Let’s see. All I can think of is cheap underwear from Target. I love cheap underwear, buying cheap underwear at Target.

Katy: Important.

Dito: And who doesn’t?

Raina: I go to Costco.

Dito: Oh, you get your underwear at Costco?

Raina: Yeah.

Katy: Value package.

Raina: They have value packs.

Dito: You heard it here first. Wow. Is it comfy? Do you have to wash it first or do you just put it on?

Raina: Just put it on. They also have really good pajamas.

Dito: That’s the most highbrow thing you’ll hear all day. Oh, and I have not tried it yet but my stomach was growling and I haven’t eaten lunch yet, and I hear the new chicken sandwich at Popeye’s is incredible. It’s a limited edition. The secret is three pickles instead of two, aioli sauce, and you can choose whether you want a spicy breast or a regular breast, and a brioche bun. If that isn’t the most highbrow thing I could say, brioche bun. Right?

Raina: Yeah.

Katy: You heard it here, people. That sounds amazing.

Dito: Run to your nearest Popeye’s. I’ll be there singing a song.

Katy: Well, thank you so much for joining us for this episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe. Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and download the FringeArts app. Visit to see our upcoming programming including the Martha Graham Cracker cabaret.

Dito: Yippee-I-ay.

Katy: December 19th and 20th. Get your tickets, people.

Raina: Thank you.

Dito: Do it.

[Exit music]