Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Down and Dirty with Brendan Hunt and "Absolutely Filthy"

Awards for Absolutely Filthy:
  • LA Weekly Theatre Award: Best Comedy Ensemble, Best Female Comedy Performance (Anna Douglas) and Best Male Performance (Brendan Hunt)
  • 2013 Hollywood Fringe Festival: Best of the Fringe, Best Comedy and Best Actor (Brendan Hunt)
  • 2014 New York International Fringe Festival: Official Selection
Absolutely Filthy cast, creative team and crewat the Hollywood Fringe Festival awards.
Absolutely Filthy is a Los Angeles theatre favorite and award-winning play presented by Sacred Fools Theatre Company. This unauthorized parody about a grownup Pigpen from the "Peanuts,"Absolutely Filthy is a dark, dirty comedy that follows a character named The Mess as he reconnects with his childhood pals at the funeral of his estranged best friend.

We sat down with playwright Brendan Hunt—who also portrays The Mess—to talk more about Absolutely Filthy:

What inspired the use of these well-known characters to tell the story?
One day I was mentally loitering on the topic of the things that parents say to their kids, and the unexpected effects those things can have, and it struck me that "Pigpen" is a pretty rough nickname to endure. I totally understand that nothing ill was meant by any parent who may have actually applied that name to a messy child, but nonetheless, calling a kid "Pigpen" could be seen as saying "you are so dirty you remind of the location pigs utilize for both eating and shitting."

At what point does a label like that become inescapable? If a toddler who gets dubbed "Pigpen" grows into a teenager—who still has serious hygiene problems—is he still named Pigpen because he's messy? Or is he still messy because he was named Pigpen?

What has been your creative process of this work—both as a playwright and performer?
It has been a very unique experience and one that is hard to quantify; along with director Jeremy Aldridge we sort of had to figure it out as we went along.

I studied theatre at Illinois State University, and one of the main things I learned always to serve the piece. Whatever choice you make—be it as an actor, director, designer—let it always be something drawn from the script that serves the piece as a whole, not just any amusing whim you may have. That's been a valuable rule of thumb and very good way to find the best option when many different options present themselves.

How has this work evolved—from your original concept to what we’ll see at SCR?
It started as one solitary 10-minute episode, with absolutely no guarantee that there would ever be a second.

Photo by Shaela Cook
Sacred Fools Theatre Company has a semi-regular late-night show called "Serial Killers," wherein 10-minute episodes of five different stories are presented, like a sketch night, but sketches with a long narrative. The audience then votes which three stories they want to see return the following week, while the other two "serials" are "killed."

The show that would become Absolutely Filthywas fortunate enough to be voted back 13 times, which meant that I got the chance complete the arc of a story. At that point, the theatre was pitting together its next MainStage season, and it was suggested that I submit what was at that time called Pigpen at 30for consideration.

What I gave them was literally just the first 10 episodes, cut-and-pasted together. It was by no means a finished article, especially rhythmically and, due to the serial structure, there was a cliffhanger exactly every 10 minutes.

The powers that be at Sacred Fools eventually decided to include it in the season, with the assumption that I would continue to flesh out the script. That worked out pretty well.

What do you want people to come away with having experienced it?
A desire to go home and take a bath.

Praise for Absolutely Filthy

  • "The play is labeled as a parody... this does the play an injustice... It's the most unique play I've seen this year."—Kevin Taft, Edge Los Angeles
  • "Intense and compelling... An ambitious play... grandly served by the consistently pitch-perfect ensemble and inspired, imaginative direction."—Myron Meisel, The Hollywood Reporter
  • "Absolutely stupendous... The ensemble performances are stellar."—James Scarborough, The Huffington Post
  • "Darkly hilarious... comedy gold."—Mayank Keshaviah, LA Weekly

Absolutely Filthy comes to South Coast Repertory as part of Studio SCR, June 5-8.Learn more and buy tickets

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