The final performance of Dennie & Sharp: GUMP is 8:00 p.m. this Wednesday at the UCB Chelsea Theatre. Tickets are available here: http://newyork.ucbtheatre.com/shows/view/3707.
We’ve been lucky enough to enjoy an awesome 6 month run at UCB and every show has been a blast. As I did with our last show, MANEATER, I wanted to share a few thoughts on how much GUMP has meant to me, as well as a few things I learned and think could be deemed as “advice” to folks working to get a show up at UCB (or anywhere else).
Near the end of our nine month run of MANEATER (which you can watch here https://vimeo.com/54225029), Josh and I were talking about the next show we would do. We didn’t want to rehash what our previous show was. We knew we still wanted it to be narrative, like a one act play, with seamless transitions and very silly, physical stuff. But we also wanted it to be very different. So we started kicking around ideas. One day we were walking to UCB pitching ideas. At one point I mentioned that I had always thought doing the movie Forrest Gump accurately and in it’s entirety as a stage show would be funny. When I brought it up I remember talking about it, not as a show idea, but just as an aside like, “Isn’t this a stupid idea?” Josh immediately said “Let’s do THAT as our next show!!!” And that’s what we did. Sometimes stupid ideas are the best ones. Also Josh Sharp is MAGIC!
Writing GUMP was tough! It was like a sophomore album. MANEATER was really well received and did a lot for us both in the UCB community. We wanted to top our first show, which put a lot of pressure on us. That was all self-imposed but we had to be aware of what we had done before, building upon what we did well as a duo while also surprising people who had seen what we were already capable of. There was a lot of writing and re-writing with Gump, a lot of ideas we tried to make work that didn’t, and a lot of going back to the drawing board to figure out how to make shit work. We must’ve had nine versions of some kind of god damn Vietnam scene. But we kept writing, kept going until things felt like they clicked. We were never precious about anything, and were big believers in workshopping. We asked others what they thought worked, throwing away anything what didn’t.
The first draft of GUMP was a very convoluted version where we used Forrest Gump on a bench as a launching point for era-based sketches that had nothing to do with Forrest Gump (like Forrest talking about Communism and then a Communist sketch without him in it). After doing our first Spank Nate told us, “Just make it a show all about Gump!” Which we did! And it was 1,000 times funnier and more clear than the first Spank was. It still had the same spirit but was much more easy to grasp. All said we did over 20 drafts of the script. Some with significant changes, some with minor ones. But the show changed a ton from first idea to final staging. Your first draft will never be your final show. If you are ever writing a show, don’t be precious about that first draft! Just shit it out cause it’s bound to change anyway!!!
We created a show that always makes me laugh. Your show should bring you joy. GUMP is the only thing I’ve done that makes me break at least once a show. I consider myself to be decent at not breaking, but GUMP always gets me. And it’s always in a different part. I remember when Josh recently did Bubba in such an insane way that I had to look away to not lose it and he stopped his lines to say “LOOK AT ME!” which made me laugh even harder. I am always tickled by something in the show and find something new funny every time we do it. This instilled in me to do the kind of shows and material that I love and want to see and make me laugh, not what I think an audience wants.
Once the show was written we busted ass on it to make it good. We actually did our first performance of it at Producer’s Club the same night we did our final MANEATER at UCB. By the time we got a run we’d already put the show up once at the Producer’s Club, once at UCB as a workout, and twice as a Spank. And we changed every version of the show with each presentation of it. It blows me away when people Spank a show that has never been rehearsed or performed somewhere else, or where people are still learning their lines and the director is cutting for length at tech. Would you go into an audition with half memorized lines? Would you turn in a writing packet after a first draft without looking through it? Would you do a showcase with unproven material? NO! Then why would you Spank something that way?!? Spank a polished show.
It also helped that we had a great director for the second straight show. Brandon Gulya is one of the best writers/directors/performers at UCB. Without him Josh and I wouldn’t have written two shows that got runs at the theatre, and we would surely not be the performers we are with the opportunities we’ve had. We owe Gulya a ton. It’s super important to have a great director that actually gives a shit about your project and having it succeed.
One last thing that I feel bears mentioning, especially with everything that happened last week with Harold auditions. Josh and I started writing MANEATER when we didn’t get on Harold teams and all our friends did. We wrote it because we wanted to write a kick ass show. We wanted to express what we could do comedically. We wanted to prove ourselves. GUMP has been an extension of that original energy and philosophy. As has everything else we’ve done both as a collaboration and as individuals. Dennie & Sharp is what it is, in a lot of ways, because of that Harold audition that we didn’t get on teams. And we wouldn’t be what were are today without that happening. Sometimes not having something work out is the best thing that can happen.
We are going to be touring GUMP at a few festivals this summer and with a TourCo show next week, so I am excited to keep doing it and see what comes next with it. The only thing I regret with the show is that Tom Hanks never actually saw it. But maybe someday he will and we can make him sing “We Are All Feathers” with us at the end like the golden goddess he is. Someday.
MEGA thanks to Nate Dern, John Frusciante, and Shannon O’Neill for letting us run the show at UCB. Brandon Gulya for allowing us to write a character named “Jenny Gulya” which he has knocked out of the park every show. Greasy Lake for putting up our first show of GUMP at Producer’s Club. Anthony Apruzzese and Alex French for early notes. Alex Adan for being the best god damn tech to ever exist. And to Josh Sharp for being the wind beneath my wings always and forever.
And that’s all I have to say about that.