LGBTG Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny author Alisha Gaddis, along with contributors Ilana Turner and Jamison Scala, sat down with FreakSugar to discuss the book among other topics.
Before I get into the compilation, what can you tell me about your backgrounds?
Alisha: I have been incredibly fortunate to perform all over the world in different capacities as an actor and comic (my first love). I’m in a band for children that has a kids’ television show, Lishy Lou and Lucky Too, which my husband and I created, produced and star in for PBS. Along with my husband, I also run an Artist Consulting company empowering other artists. I write books and articles, and I get to travel doing what I am passionate about. It is pretty spectacular, and I am very grateful to have success in order to keep doing what I do! (And winning an Emmy and Grammy doesn’t hurt things…)
Jamison: I grew up in NJ and went to college in Philadelphia, Temple to be exact. I moved to LA right out of college and when traditional acting classes didn’t inspire me, I got involved in improv at The Second City. I quickly fell in love and improv and sketch has become a large part of my life, taking me all over the world performing comedy.
Ilana : Having this monologue, Sugar Coat It, included in LGBTQ Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funnyis lovely because monologues were the first theatrical things I ever wrote. I’ve always written in one form or another, but when I started to take acting seriously, at Hampshire College, we had to write and perform a short solo show — basically a monologue. I was always terrified of writing dialogue, but I could write monologues. When I started to work on what became my first full-length play, O Réjane, I was trying to write myself a full-length solo show — a vehicle as an actress — but I could never get it to work. Thankfully, I fell in love with writing dialogue and the play was much better for it. I cast someone else in the lead role, played a supporting role and that turned out to be a great decision. That lead actress, Cara Pifko, won the first ever Stage Raw LA Theatre Award for Leading Female Performance and I was nominated for Playwriting — which felt like a huge win. I’ve continued writing plays ever since O Réjane premiered in 2014.
As an actress, I’ve been lucky enough to work in commercials, with some great directors, on stage and in indie film. I’ve done a bit of TV, too, like HBO’s Big Love and several what they call ‘back-door’ pilots.
Alisha. what can you tell us about the genesis behind LGBT Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny?
Alisha: LGBTQ Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny was a natural progression in the Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny series for Hal Leonard/ Applause Acting. Prior, I had put out the Women’s, Men’s, Teen Girl’s, Teen Boy’s, and Kids’ Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny versions — and there was still a large gap of LGBTQ performers left within the performing arts population. I am an advocate for trying to represent all persons in every way, so this book was a good way to start.
Ilana and Jamison, how did you become involved with contributing to the compilation?
Ilana: I used to do a lot of improv iO West, and I met Alisha Gaddis there. Alisha helmed all the books in the Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny series. When she put out a call for material for this book, I immediately sent her my pitch. Thankfully, she liked it!
Jamison: Great news, Facebook isn’t just for spending hours comparing yourself to other people! Through Facebook, my friend JP (also a contributor to the book) connected me with Alisha who was looking for writers.
Alisha, I really enjoyed the compilation, but, after having read it, I realized that there has been a bit of a guff in terms of a lack of these types of monologues available for LGBTQ actors. Was that one of the impetuses behind bringing this project together?
Alisha: This is the VERY FIRST book of its kind. That was a HUGE wake-up call for me. As an ally to the LGBTQ community- when I would go to bookshops and see my books alongside others in the same genre- I first got really excited! But then realized there is a massive hole in the representation of this community- for actors who are LGBTQ and also actors auditioning for roles that are LGTBQ (which are becoming more and more “mainstream” by the minute- thankfully!) This had to be changed ASAP! I am grateful to have publishers who felt the same.
To read the interview in its entirety, click here.
LGBTQ Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny is the first and only book of its kind. This cutting-edge and incredibly hysterical monologue book is specifically for actors auditioning for LGBTQ roles. It features works by LGBT writers and comics (and their allies) who have written and/or performed for Comedy Central, Backstage magazine, NBC, the Huffington Post, the Onion, Second City, E!, and many more. This collection is the go-to source for the comedic monologue needs of actors seeking LGBT material, as well as a paean to LGBT characters and artists.
Author Alisha Gaddis along with Alessandra Rizzotti, Leah Mann, Jamison Scala, and Ilana Turner sat down with Barbara Dillon with Fanbase Press to discuss the book: LGBTQ Comedic Monologues That are Actually Funny. They each shared their inspirations behind the collection of monologues, their approach to creating it, experiences performing the pieces, and more.
Congratulations on the recent release of LGBTQ Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny! What was the inspiration for this collection of monologues?
Alisha Gaddis: Thanks so much! After the release of five other books in the series “Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny (Women’s, Men’s, Teen Girls’, Teen Boys’ and Kids’),” my agent, Sara Camilli, and I discussed the possibility of doing an LGBTQ edition. There was no book of monologues out there for LGBTQ actors, or actors auditioning for LGBTQ roles, and with the urging of one of the contributors, Alessandra Rizzotti, I went into action and made the pitch. It is so incredibly important that this book exists for LGBTQ actors and their allies auditioning for LGBTQ roles. The book is chock-full of hardy, hilarious roles for truly anyone and everyone.
Alessandra Rizzotti: As a current volunteer and former Communications Manager of The Trevor Project, the only national accredited suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization serving LGBTQ youth under age 25, I found it important to give young people a positive outlet that could serve as a form of self-care, inspiration, and passion. I was frustrated that I didn’t see enough LGBTQ theater or media out there, so I reached out to Alisha Gaddis with this idea. I’m happy to know that the work of one of my fellow Trevor volunteers is also in this book — and he happened to train me at Trevor when I started.
Leah Mann: I’m inspired by people. It’s as simple as that. Everyone has their own perspective on the world and way of moving through it which is colored by their experiences. Love is love, hate is hate, and heartbreak is universal. It was great to give a funny take on the things every human — regardless of gender and sexuality — goes through, in voices that have been so severely under represented.
BD: How would you describe the creative team’s approach to creating fully fleshed out characters for the actors to perform in such a short period of time within each monologue?
AG: As the editor of the anthology, it is incredibly interesting to work with all the different writers and see their different approaches. Some writers sent me fully fleshed out pieces, complete with stage directions, character descriptions — the whole package. Some contributors sent an idea for a sketch of a person, in a place, and we worked together to craft a deep, interesting character that an actor can really dig into it. It is fascinating to see how different people create.
For me as a writer, I let the character talk in my head for a bit. I picture her in place, having the conversation. I see the scene around her — what does it look like, feel like, what does she look like, what does she have on? I let the character write herself. Then, I go to the paper and let her into the world!
Jamison Scala: I approached my writing coming from a background of improv. The art is instantaneous and quickly erased, never to be seen again. In improv, we’re taught to create a world as quickly as possible so it can inform our characters and our scene work, and I lent that approach to the monologues I wrote.
LM: I generally brainstorm various characters and scenarios that speak to me, creating a long list before sitting down and pulling specific elements together. I want each piece to have a clear and specific voice, high stakes (fighting for love, your life, revenge…) and a funny setting. Strong choices and small details let the actor and audience know who this person is, where they are, and who they are talking to right off the bat.
Ilana Turner: Monologues are almost always written for an actor to perform as though their character is talking to someone else — it’s just the audience can’t see the other person. (Soliloquies are written to be performed as though the character is talking to themselves — “To be or not to be,” being a classic example.) As people, when we talk to or at someone for a long time, we are usually trying to get something from them — and we usually reveal an awful lot about ourselves, even if it’s not what we expected to reveal. For my piece, Sugar Coat It, I kept the character, a middle-aged figure skating coach, focused on his what he wanted from his student, and then let all the details he maybe didn’t plan to reveal leak into his monologue.
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