Writer-director-comedienne Bricken Sparacino had a busy 2008. She directed several acclaimed solo shows, including Chris Harcum’s American Badass, and co-created the monthly comedy/variety cabaret Until Midnight. For her multiple achievements last year, Bricken was deservedly named one of nytheatre.com’s 2008 People of the Year.
But she’s not resting on her laurels. Instead, Bricken has hit the ground running in 2009, as evidenced by her new show, Are We Freaks?, which opens at this year’s FRIGID Festival this week. Written and co-directed by Bricken, the show features the talents of Comedy Period, the all-female comedy group Bricken started, and bills itself as a “sci-fi comedy adventure.”
With opening night fast approaching, Bricken spared a few minutes for a visit to the ol’ blog to provide some background on the show and illustrate the advantages of being married to another comic. Enjoy…
First things first: who and what is Comedy Period?
Comedy Period is an all female sketch comedy group founded by myself with a rotating crew of wonderful women who I have been working with for several years now, including Lizz Furtado, Lori Kee, Jenn Hyjack and Jennie Inchausti. I had been working with a co-ed group of funny people back in the early part of this century called The 10:17 Comedy Troupe, which had a weekly comedy show at the Gershwin Hotel. I hosted this show with my husband Michael [Birch]. We had great fun and some success and then the space decided they wanted to have a restaurant not a theatre and our show got cancelled. Anyway, at the cross roads of “what to do next,” I thought to my self, “There are a lot of shows that have a lot of male stand-up comics, I want a show that focuses on women comics and performers” and the idea for Comedy Period was born.
Tell us a little bit about your latest show, Are We Freaks? What’s it about and what should people expect from it?
Are We Freaks? is a science fiction comedy adventure story. It’s most like the movie Crash, where you meet several groups of people and then find out that their stories all interconnect, only its not about racism and its funny. But other then that it’s just like Crash. Seriously, the audience will meet four groups of women who for one reason or another are “abnormal.” With some it is obvious (the Lobster Girl from a side show) and some seem “normal” on the outside but hold their freakishness on the inside. The stories are told by the “wonder-full twins” who are the head barkers at a circus sideshow. And all the stories tie in together in a pretty awesome way by the end. Its about friends and enemies and why people have to expect everyone to be normal. But mostly its fun and crazy.
You directed Chris Harcum’s solo show, American Badass, in last year’s FRIGID Festival, and now you’re back again this year. What do you like about doing the FRIGID Festival?
The FRIGID has a really great atmosphere and a lot of fun to be apart of. It still has an intimate feel to it that FringeNYC has lost. I love the way the plays are picked and it seems to really work. Last year was a great range of plays done by loads of interesting talented artists. And this year seems to be turning out the same way. The people from Horse Trade are awesome. Also, they really help out the “one-man show” type producers, making it really easy for a play with a small budget and not a lot of producer help to put on their show. No hidden rules, lots of friendly help and opportunities. When we finished American Badass I went home and made a note on my calendar to have something to submit for next year (at the time I had nothing) and here we are. I should write down in my calendar other things and see if it makes them happen.
What led you to pursue a career in comedy in the first place? I would imagine it’s a specialized calling.
I believe in saying yes and following were that takes you. So a series of yeses have lead me here. But If we take the way back machine to figure out how this all started I would say at the Renaissance Fair. I did one year after acting school at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Fair, we had a three-week intensive training program where from sun up till sun down we improvised. We did every kind of improv possible. And I met a lot of funny people that summer and started to jot funny ideas down. A little later I thought about putting some of those funny ideas into sketches, and put them together with sketches Michael had kicking around from his old group 10:17. We decided to become The New 10:17 Comedy Troupe. I enjoy making people laugh and think.
Your husband is also a comedy performer. What’s that like at home?
A lot of “Bricken, do I look good in this hat?” and “Bricken, do these shoes match this top?” I think most performers all have a touch of insecurity problems. So we are always helping each other out. Trying new characters out on each other or ideas. We are each other’s toughest critics, but in a good way. I think both of our “crafts” are better because of the other’s help. Sometimes Michael has to remind me to take a break and sometimes I have to remind him to do something, so we complement each other.
You and fellow comedienne Samantha Jones are the creators of the variety show, Until Midnight, which was in residence at The Zipper Factory. What’s the future of Until Midnight now that The Zipper has closed its doors?
Oh, its so sad. I’m starting to get a complex that places I work close their doors. But for us, if I think selfishly, it is an okay time to be on hiatus. Samantha just finished taping a TV show for the Home and Garden Network and if that takes off she will be too busy to do a show for a few months, and I have Are We Freaks? and am really too busy to do another show until March is over. That said, I love The Zipper, it was such a fun, eclectic venue, and the staff there were very easy to work with and supportive. It will be a shame for the city if it stays closed. We need more places like The Zipper, not less. Once we make it through this busy period we will see what Until Midnight has in store for itself. Fingers crossed.