Directed by Christian De Gré
Produced by Mind The Art Entertainment
Nominated for: Outstanding Costume Design, Ashley Soliman; Outstanding Original Music, Christian De Gré; and Outstanding Production of a Musical
Photo by Ze-Castle Photography
Nelson Diaz-Marcano of Manhattan with a Twist described Fatty Fatty No Friends as “a dark operetta that explores the effects of bullying, classism, and the fragile mental state of human beings through the eyes of an overweight child living in a gothic version of our reality.” For a company like Mind the Art Entertainment, the subject of school-yard bullying seems to align perfectly with their mission to “question the principles and ideals of our society.”
Producer and writer Serrana Gay and nominees Ashley Soliman and Christian De Gré talk about the process of creating this macabre musical that explores cruelty, revenge, and consequence.
What attracted you to this production?
Ashley: Christian and Serrana Gay had approached me to illustrate the children's book of "Fatty Fatty No Friends" and as it was being developed as a musical, I was very interested in translating my illustrations into costumes for stage. Costume design had always been very appealing to me and I saw this as a chance to try it out and see if it was something I could indeed pursue.
Christian: The idea of bullying, othering and the systematic cycle of violence. We had this story of this tormented overweight kid and we really wanted to explore, using high aesthetic and almost fairy-tale storytelling, how his oppression could lead to a violent explosion. Sadly this is an all too familiar tale but we wanted to tackle it as an adult fable.
Serrana: We started with a title. Serrana called herself a "Fatty fatty no friends" one day and Christian said that would be a great title for a musical. As we discussed it further we decided we wanted to write a show about an overweight kid who eats all his friends. When we began, we considered writing a dark comedy, but as the story started to come together, we discovered that we were writing a piece about how humans treat each other. And as it developed we found that we wanted to write a piece that showed all sides of bullying. The bullies, the bullied and the aftermath of retaliation. What emerged we think is something very relevant and poignant.
Photo by Ze-Castle Photography
What was your favorite part of working on this production?
Ashley: I enjoyed collaborating with the production team- it was lovely to see the show develop in its many incarnations. The cast was very sweet and enthusiastic.
Christian: It was the symbiosis between the cast and the band. Oftentimes musicians are not considered part of the creative team and get pushed in a pit or in a corner. This piece worked like a true ensemble where the Bass Clarinet player was as integral to the piece and the narrative as the lead actor. That for me was truly magical.
Serrana: The collaboration between the three cowriters. We all have very different skill sets, but somehow we are all able to communicate our visions with each other and that is where the magic happens. I couldn't ask for a better team.
What was the biggest challenge of working on this production?
Ashley: Building three pairs of last-minute stilts pants in less than two days and figuring out ways to conceal all the fabric "gore". It's like making your own rules as you go along because what you're doing hasn't existed before.
Christian: Finding the right tone. People often assumed that Fatty Fatty No Friends by title was this glorious comedy but the show is actually quite dark and an allegory for school shootings. The hardest part was engaging the audience in the fun that is had in the beginning of the piece and keeping them engaged as the piece gets darker and darker.
Serrana: Figuring out the ending (which we still debate.) The question of whether to kill Tommy (the kid who eats everyone) or not to kill Tommy, has been the topic of many a late night argument. It is the one question that the book writer, lyricist and composer/director have different ideas about. We still don't know if all three parties agree.
What was the strangest part of working on this production?
Photo by Ze-Castle Photography
Ashley: I figured out how to make a cheesecloth eyeball!!!
Christian: Due to some crazy last minute circumstances I ended up having to work like numerous jobs on the show. By the time we closed I had worked at different times as the Producer, Composer, Stage Manager, Box Office Manager, Director, Marketing Director, Prop master, Usher, Bartender and at the very end even stilt walker in the show as a replacement. I guess that's the beauty of indie theater!
Serrana: One of my favorite moments working on this show was teaching the voices (Tommy's inner demon) to stilt walk. It was a journey of terror to overcoming fear to learning a new skill and eventually to fun. It ended up being a huge bonding experience.
What did you want the audience to walk away with after watching Fatty Fatty No Friends?
Serrana: We would love every person who sees the show to walk away considering what kind of person they want to be in the world and whether they want to perpetuate hate or compassion.
What was it like working with Mind the Art Entertainment?
Ashley: I appreciated the amount of creative freedom I had working with Mind the Art Entertainment.
Christian: Mind The Art Entertainment has a history of doing work with social consciousness that is highly aesthetic but remains accessible. We believe that art must remain collaborative and idyllic but that above all it must remain accessible. Whether our shows deal with school shootings, rape culture or the lives of the homeless it is important that the audience still see the work as relate-able, that way they are coming to the theater to be entertained but walk away with a message and hopefully a conversation starter. I love these artists for this bravery and tenacity.
What was it like working with Christian and Ashley?
Serrana: They are not only creative but they are also a pleasure to work with and actively try to build a family within the company.
You can follow Mind the Art Entertianment on Twitter - @mindtheart