It’s 9pm on a Wednesday night and I’m alone in the parking garage beneath the Scope. A Taylor Swift song plays on repeat in the distance. I’m either about to die or about to arrive at the Generic Theater.
(Spoiler alert: I’m alive!)
I walk inside and find myself at the funniest funeral I’ve ever attended. The cast members run their lines, Anna Sosa hits high notes like an earth angel, and Kerry Kruk harmonizes like the champ she is. When I asked Kerry later what her favorite part of the show is, she responded, “There are SO MANY surprises! Seriously, you’ll see things you would never guess you’d see. If people are sensitive to offensive things, they probably shouldn’t come. OR, they should go out and rent an open mind and bring that with them.”
What I’ve walked into is a rehearsal for A National Haunting!, written, directed, and produced by two of Norfolk’s funniest millennials, Evan Hartley and Evan Lambert. The show is an original comedy one act about the patriotic team of Ghostbusters President Obama assembles when an anti-American ghost haunts the White House.
It’s “supreme patriotism to a fault,” both Evans agreed. “It’s making fun of America but there’s a lot of love in there.”
A few weeks back I took the chance to sit down with Evan and Evan to laugh and learn a bit about A National Haunting!
AltDaily: So, tell me. What is this and where did it come from?
Evan Hartley: A very deep, weird place.
Evan Lambert: I don’t know if it’s a good weird or a bad weird. We think it’s good.
EH: Oh it’s definitely good.
EL: We were just trying to be as weird as possible then we ended up being funny.
EH: Then we realized we can do something structurally with this. It actually started as an entry for Push Comedy Theater’s 666 project.
EL: Yeah, it started off as a short piece, then morphed into a bunch of sketches, and eventually was linked together with a common story thread.
EH: Then we started adding character development and dialogue and all those things that make stuff good. There’s a plot. And an arc. And we resolve the story lines. We found romantic beats, and treachery, we got it all but we don’t want to spoil things. I feel like there’s something for everyone. I can almost guarantee it.
EL: We were joking that even if no one likes it, there will be someone jumping in the audience like the end of Little Miss Sunshine. But seriously, we’ve been having so much fun rehearsing, the audience is gonna have so much fun.
It sounds like this requires some serious character work. How did the cast come together?
EL: The cast is so talented. There are so many great improvisers in it.
EH: Yeah, it’s like we got our first round draft picks. They’re having fun so the play is fun for everyone. Since we started rehearsing, we’ve all been throwing different types of jokes out there and really coming together as a cast.
Have you written a play before?
EH: Nope, this is my/our first play.
EL: Not just writing. First time writing, and directing, and acting in a play. We just keep yes and-ing. Because we’re new, we’ve really kept it collaborative with the cast. Our backgrounds are in comedy and that’s what we love about sketch and improv in general– the collaborative effort. By the end of the first rehearsal it was clear that everyone is committed and they were comfortable throwing out ideas because they cared.
Evan H., what’s the best part of working with Evan L.?
EH: He’s always willing to step up, we share responsibilities, and he’s amazing at all things music.
EL: Yeah! There’s a song in it that we wrote. First time!
EH: Yup. If we wanted it we just did it. We wanted a song so we wrote one. The creative process was a lot like “My Super Sweet Sixteen.” If we wanted it, we got it. Luckily, we’re good at editing each other. There were a lot of ideas.
Evan H., what’s the best thing about working with Evan H.?
EL: I have a tendency to get really focused and neurotic, like “we need to just do this,” where she can understand that, and also rolls with it and brings it back to creativity. She’s such a good foil to my neurosis.
EH: You don’t understand, I need that! I will talk about an idea forever.
EL: She needs a muse, I need an editor. It’s why we’re gonna be great parents.
Bat wings or angel wings.
What’s been the biggest challenge getting this off the ground?
[At this point, we decide the Evans should MINDMELD (aka I countdown from 3) and they answer at the same time.]
EH + EL: Organization!
EL: Yeah, it’s a lot. Keeping track of all the little things we have to do; props, lighting, dates.
EH: Realizing if we write in the script we need a giant mural means we need to find a giant mural.
EL: Yup, casting. People are interested but they have work and lives, etc. Picking people is the easy part. Norfolk has so much talent between ODU, Push, and the intricate theater circles.
EH: Yeah. It’s a lot. The more I don’t think about it, the easier it is.
Is there anything you want the world to know about this?
EL: The AltDaily world should come!
EH: You will have a reaction. You will feel something.
EL: You won’t know what you feel until you come.
A National Haunting! runs this weekend only — June 3-5, Fri and Sat 8:00pm, Sun 2:30pm at the Generic Theater down under Chrysler Hall. Tix $10. Call (757) 441-2160 or surf on over to generictheater.org