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BWW Interview: DR. NYMPHO's Michael Shaw Fisher Beyond the Fringe & Into Celebration

BWW Interview: DR. NYMPHO's Michael Shaw Fisher Beyond the Fringe & Into Celebration

Theatrical hyphenate Michael Shaw Fisher brings his latest creation DR. NYMPHO VS. THE SEX ZOMBIES - A ROCK MUSICAL to the Celebration Theatre @ the Lex beginning April 26, 2019. DR. NYMPHO tracks the treacherous, but musical, 21st century journey of Dr. Nimfa Delacroix, a former nymphomaniac, as she defends her nuclear family from a lethal STD that turns all infected into zombies. I had the very fun opportunity to probe actor/writer/producer Michael's brain for his birthing of Dr. NYMPHO.

Thank you for taking time for this interview, Michael!

Thank you Gil, for your willingness to wade into NYMPHO's river of runny mascara and eviscerated fishnets!

Tell us about the birthing of DR. NYMPHO. Any particular incident/person/show inspired this musical?

To give credit where credit is due, I need to tip the hat to John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask. I was twenty-two and living in the West Village's Jane Hotel back when HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH was this phenomenon happening in the theatre downstairs. It's like there was this huge beast thrashing below my feet every night. I eventually got up the nerve to go down and see it. It changed my life - blew the roof right off my head! DR. NYMPHO is my attempt to capture the spirit of rock/sexual/freedom that exploded out of that show.

Will viewers of your Hollywood Fringe Festival production last year notice any tweaks or changes to DR. NYMPHO when they come to this Celebration Theatre mounting?

BWW Interview: DR. NYMPHO's Michael Shaw Fisher Beyond the Fringe & Into CelebrationDefinitely! I always view the Fringe as a laboratory, where I can get a first draft of the show before people's eyes and collect feedback. Also, making the original cast recording has been a huge part of the rewriting process. We wanted the album's release to coincide with the official premiere of the show at Celebration. So we had to get it done fast, but also we were super self-conscious that what we were recording was going to be FOREVER, so I got scrupulous about every word choice and every harmony. We were basically rewriting as we went. So needless to say, it revealed many changes that needed to happen. The rehearsal process was similar in the sense that it was key to keep the material fluid, and to remind ourselves that nothing is set in stone. Inspiration has to keep NYMPHO evolving.

Did any Fringe audience reactions to DR. NYMPHO take you by surprise?

Yes... I'd sent my friend, who I grew up with in Bethesda, Maryland, my NYMPHO composer demos before rehearsals had even begun. My friend has always been supportive, but, being a musician himself, also can be extremely critical. He listened to it beginning-to-end, something like three times. I was surprised by how much this raucous rock show resonated with this 40-something father of two. He thought it was really "brave," and related to Tad while at the same time marveled at the show's gaze through its woman protagonist Dr Nimfa Delacroix's perspective. To be honest, I didn't think see it as "brave." It's just filled with absurd honesty about how out-of-touch from each other, family members can become.

BWW Interview: DR. NYMPHO's Michael Shaw Fisher Beyond the Fringe & Into CelebrationAnother thing that surprises (and delights) me is whenever audience members compare NYMPHO to the ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. I came to ROCKY later in life. It has influenced this piece greatly, so I consider that a huge honor.

How would you summarize DR. NYMPHO in a two-line pitch?

Dr Nimfa Delacroix has been afraid of the "nympho" inside her for years. With the outbreak of an apocalyptic STD; Nimfa (along with her repressed husband) and detached teenagers are about to find out if they stand a chance against the Sex Zombies.

What led you to team up with Cherry Poppins Productions to produce DR. NYMPHO?

We were in a pool in Palm Springs when my fiancé at that time, Alli Miller, suggested I write something for her company Cherry Poppins. They had made a name for themselves doing musical parodies with a live band, as well as, this intoxicating art-house burlesque, incorporating incredible choreography and insanely witty comedy. We all thought how brilliant and unheard-of it would be to do a rock musical burlesque. I presented the title and both Alli and Sarah were like, "Yesssss!!!" Then in typical Alli Miller fashion she gave me five months to write it.

Did you write the character "Tad" specifically for yourself to play?

BWW Interview: DR. NYMPHO's Michael Shaw Fisher Beyond the Fringe & Into CelebrationSorta? I mean, even if I didn't play "Tad," he would be necessary to the story. I briefly considered playing other parts as well, but decided that I would be most effective as "Tad," and probably related to him the best. That's actually super depressing when I think about it... Next question?

You formed the Los Angeles Playwrights' Lab with Robert Gardner in 2012. When did you become artistic director of Orgasmico Theatre Company?

I had done a Fringe show the year before, but Orgasmico didn't become an official company until 2012. But it was a no brainer. I had the group that I knew I would continue to work with, and we had a lot of original musicals that needed to meet the world. I actually remember that October, I had two shows running at the same time on Theatre Row: DOOMSDAY CABARET at the Blank Theatre and L.A. Playwright's Lab show SEVEN CORPSES at the Complex. That was cool.

What gets your juices flowing more - acting on stage? Or watching, from offstage, your creativity performed by others?

What gets my juices flowing the most is the process of creating. Writing is creating, obviously. Acting is creating on stage in that moment. The only reason I like to act in BWW Interview: DR. NYMPHO's Michael Shaw Fisher Beyond the Fringe & Into Celebrationmy own stuff is because when I'm watching my own work off-stage, I'm divorced from the creative process. But if I had to choose, the best is writing. Sitting down with only a vague musical idea and building on it, layer upon layer, and at the end of the day, I have something tangible for all my effort. For all those years of carrying a melody or idea - suddenly there's a song or a scene, another piece of the larger puzzle that has affected me emotionally through the writing of it and tells me, "Michael! See?! You weren't crazy the whole time!" I've sobbed over characters while writing them. I rarely sob while watching my own work be performed because I'm way too nervous about it being done right. I would often laugh hysterically or get chills while watching SKULDUGGERY: THE MUSICAL PREQUEL TO HAMLET performed at Sacred Fools, but experiencing the characters' feelings through one's own musical articulation of that voice, that's pure gold. Just like acting, composing is a chance to flex your empathy muscles and break down a wall inside you didn't know you had. It's something bigger than yourself. It's sacred.

Do you have a treasure trove of lyrics and/or music that you've created over the years that you've found to be a perfect fit for DR. NYMPHO, or any of your other musicals? Or do you start from scratch with each show?

Honestly, the answer is both. Songs like "Cool Dad" or "The Ballad of Dr Nympho" I wrote from scratch, while a song like "Crying Door Frame" has existed for years for me to sing while walking my dog or driving at night, but needed the right dramatic context worthy of it. Other songs I write incorporate certain original musical BWW Interview: DR. NYMPHO's Michael Shaw Fisher Beyond the Fringe & Into Celebrationfragments which to me might express a specific character's attitude or voice. These fragments I pull out of thousands of compiled musical ideas. I don't know if I'd call it a "treasure trove"... It's more like a salvage yard. Lots of junk in there... but, occasionally you find the right widget to get the machine running.

You earned your MFA from USC in 2008, and been active in the Los Angeles Theatre community ever since. How would you describe the changes in the L.A. Theatre community in the last decade? (Quantity? Quality? Attitude?)

Theatre is so connected to the political climate. It's constantly reacting. With Obama 2008-2016, we were still conscientious; but Trump's arrival really made all of us in the Arts, including those in this particular theatre scene, take a harder look at ourselves. The attitude is like "Well, if our President has zero awareness or respect, then we need to be MORE aware and respectful." And I think we're turning that challenge of awareness into an essential next stage in our community's evolution. There's an even louder and prouder voice of support to meet that standard which should be inherent: conservative/restrictive/abusive casting or hiring practices are not to be tolerated. Together we're moving toward a scene that is exemplary of the richness that one should expect from the Arts. I love that cultural/sexual/racial diversity has become even more heralded as THE imperative to having a relevant theater scene. It's so fantastic that women writer and director friends of mine are being celebrated for their talents, finding bigger platforms in all media and that their voices have more of an opportunity than ever to elevate the entire creative culture. I think this would have found its way to the surface, but a special thanks to Trump for being repugnant enough to really get that tide to really turn against him.

I'll add that I think it's sad that there's less press for theater than there used to be. When I first started Fringe, I could get L.A. Weekly or Backstage to come. Now the press just isn't there: Another development more positive in Los Angeles is the advent of immersive theater which, with the help of my friend Noah Nelson of No Proscenium, has really emerged as being the most significant development in theater in decades. It's an immersive new world. Lots of exciting things happening.

BWW Interview: DR. NYMPHO's Michael Shaw Fisher Beyond the Fringe & Into CelebrationWhat would make you the most satisfied after DR. NYMPHO's curtain call - the Celebration Theatre audience exiting humming your finale song? Holding their sore stomachs from laughing so hard? Empathizing, instead of shunning, nymphomaniacs? Better appreciating the life trials zombies have to go through?

Ha, ha, ha! Well, nymphomaniacs do need loving too! I'm honored whenever someone takes a song I wrote with them out of the theatre... But mostly, I would just love it if they had a cathartic experience like I had at HEDWIG... Even if it didn't change their life, I'm happy if it improved their day or their week, or made them want to reach out to an estranged family member or friend, because there are just too few days in our lives to turn a blind eye to those who struggle with their imperfections, but are still worthy of love and appreciation.

But really... I'd be the MOST happy if this show made folks want to go home and have sex with their partner.. or several partners... whatever is in their heart.

Thank you again, Michael! I look forward meeting Tad and Dr. Nympho!

See you there, Gil! And don't forget to bring protection.

For ticket availability and show schedule through May 26, 2019; log onto www.celebrationtheatre.com


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From This Author Gil Kaan