By Brian Griffin
Directed by Tyrus Holden
Produced by AqUa MeRcUrY Creations
Nominations: Tyrus Holden is nominated for Outstanding Director; Thomas Kleinert is nominated for Outstanding Costume Design; and The Pregnancy of Angela Freak is nominated for Outstanding Production of a Musical
About this Production
The Pregnancy of Angela Freak is a dark comedy science fiction musical about a creepy, janky circus in the middle of nowhere. Little Angela Freak the fire dancer is pregnant with triplets and her father, Bart the Ringmaster, is manipulating their genetic composition from the womb. Featuring a corde lisse aerial rope act, the misadventures of this group of carnies and their ill-advised dabbling in the code of life asks “What is family?” and how far will a person go to sustain it?
What attracted you to working on this project?
Brian: Before this production of The Pregnancy of Angela Freak, the show existed in a very different short form. I really wanted to work on this production because Tyrus (my co-producer and the show's director) asked me a wonderful question a writer never hears: "Can you make this longer?" Some of the best characters, music, jokes, and story moments came out of this expansion, and I was incredibly grateful to be given the time and opportunity to create them and this darkly comic, sci-fi world.
Thomas: I have worked with the director Tyrus Holden on several projects in the past and have loved the mutual respect we have in our collaboration together. The freedom and trust he has given me as a costume designer has helped me build confidence in finding a creative outlet later in life. Plus he would not allow me to say no to the project!
Tyrus: At its core, The Pregnancy of Angela Freak is about loving the family around us and doing whatever it takes to protect and care for them. I wanted to do a simple musical about a mother's love, but was also drawn to the script's futuristic biopunk themes and creepy circus setting. Plus, the score is beautifully written and the lyrics are pure circus poetry.
What was your favorite part of working on this production? And why?
Brian: I think the best part of any scrappy, hopeful Off-Off-Broadway effort comes from the community that comes together to make the show happen, and I lucked out with our Angela Freak family. There were lots of talented people, many performing double duty. For my own efforts within the production, working on the music was the most rewarding. I composed and arranged all of the music, and Tyrus gave me a lot of freedom when he asked what kind of instruments I wanted to have. I kept it somewhat reasonable, I think--though others may disagree. I loved figuring out how to compose for the violin and incorporate delays on the guitar.
Thomas: I had the opportunity to be the original costumer for a new bio punk circus/sideshow musical and work with a talented and gorgeous young cast! I served a stage hand and prop master for the production and was part of the set design as well.
Tyrus: My favorite part of working on this production was watching everyone bring their best work to the table. The music, for example, is at times harder than Sondheim, but I was working with a group of dedicated actors and a creative team that genuinely loved the piece. We could have a music rehearsal where every song was a challenge and we'd struggle just to make it through everything. Then the next day, because of the work people put in outside the rehearsal room, the songs would suddenly just flow like melted butter. It was beautiful watching everyone grow and lovingly give life to such a challenging piece.
What was the most challenging part of working on this production? And why?
Brian: The space was very much a challenge. We loved our home at The Muse in Brooklyn, but it was initially a challenge finding a space that would let us send aerial performers through the sky while singing. Once we found our home, it was then a challenge to get people to come out to Brooklyn to see a show.
Thomas: Finding time to sleep! Working full time, rehearsing evenings, weekends and traveling from Manhattan to Brooklyn to Queens is exhausting and cost me a lot in cab fare!
Tyrus: Every aspect of this production was difficult. But the biggest challenge was coordinating all of the different components together. Musical numbers required not only making sure the actors were prepared to sing and perform this challenging music, but also bringing in the band and often a Corde Lisse routine (which posed the biggest hurdles financially and logistically). Creating a set that could be put up and taken down before and after every show required some creative thinking. But everybody pitched in to help—one cast member became our makeup designer, another unintentionally became our Technical Director. And miraculously, everything seemed to come together at the 11th hour.
What was the oddest part of your experience with this production?
Brian: One of the audience bathrooms at The Muse has a shower in it, and one day someone decided to take a shower during a performance, which could be heard very clearly from the audience. That was a moment where as a creator and producer, you're feeling your first heart attack come on. Can you interrupt a stranger's shower? I'm still not sure what's appropriate. Fortunately a little atmospheric rain sound effect is not entirely out of place in our show.
Tyrus: We had to get really creative with rehearsal space due to our show's "special" requirements. On the 4th of July, a week before opening, we were rehearsing on the roof of my costume designer's apartment. Fireworks were going off as the cast sang and practiced scenes. We ended the night with a barbecue.
Another time, there was a communication error between the venue and I during one rehearsal and we wound up running the whole show in a park in Williamsburg, using a boombox to play instrumental tracks.
Thomas: Well I would say it does not get any odder, quirkier, or more innovative then when you are called upon to costume a teenage fire dancer pregnant with triplets, a pair of Siamese twins- one a male clown, bio-genetic doctor, the other a female gossipy, Hollywood glamour chatter box. In addition there was a six foot aqua half woman half reptile , a mad scientist ringmaster and a hunky half-dressed aerial acrobat who also plays an 80 year old strong man. Add in a funny script and musical score and you have something noteworthy!
What do you want the audience to come away with after watching your production?
Brian: I would like the audience to come away singing some songs--and they do! I would also hope that people start to think, in an age where sci-fi and comics are increasingly near the center of pop culture, that there is a comfortable home for those things (particularly original stories) in the musical theater world as well.
Tyrus: I want the audience to remember why love is important and to challenge their notion of what really ties a family together. Is it shared space and experience? Is it a shared mission to "save the circus"? Or is it based on something deeper? I want an audience to think that maybe love can be enough to hold us together when everything looks like it's going to fall apart.