In the Telling

For Profit Theatre with Scott Holman

November 06, 2019 Liz Christensen / Scott Holman Season 1 Episode 18
In the Telling
For Profit Theatre with Scott Holman
Chapters
In the Telling
For Profit Theatre with Scott Holman
Nov 06, 2019 Season 1 Episode 18
Liz Christensen / Scott Holman

Interview guest is the President, Artistic Director and Associate Producer of Desert Star Theatre Scott Holman.

Theme music by Gordon Vetas.
You can find out more about “In the Telling” at lizzylizzyliz.com 

Show Notes Transcript

Interview guest is the President, Artistic Director and Associate Producer of Desert Star Theatre Scott Holman.

Theme music by Gordon Vetas.
You can find out more about “In the Telling” at lizzylizzyliz.com 

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/LizChristensen)

Speaker 1:

You know the old saying, laughter is the best medicine. No one's ever disproved that. I don't think it's ever been scientifically proven, but it's never been disproven. But we all know what happens in our bodies and what we feel like when we laugh and what we feel like when we laugh really hard and how it changes things that are happening chemically in our body. The voice you just heard belongs to Scott Hallman. Hello, I'm Scott Holman and I'm the president of desert stir theater, artistic director and associate producer

Speaker 2:

who sat down with me to discuss comedy parody and satire theater as a for profit business and the unique brand and product of a desert star show. I'm your host Liz Christiansen, and it's all in the telling. Welcome to episode 18 with my guest, Scott Hallman. I met Scott during my first show working at desert star 19 years ago. In my time working at desert star on and off for almost two decades. I learned a lot about performing comedy and making a successful business in the arts and entertainment sphere. But even with all my background knowledge and firsthand experience, I still discovered more speaking with Scott throughout our interview president because this is a for profit business. Correct. How does that work most every,

Speaker 1:

anybody else, if not everybody else is doing this, not for profit with a board of directors. So how do you guys pull that off? Sometimes we don't. Um, no, it's, it's like any other, and I mean no offense to anyone else, but this is a product at the end of the day. And so it is at the not-for-profit places. We want people to fill the seats. I think the major difference is we have to fill the seats. We have no choice. We're not able to say this show didn't work out as well as we'd hoped. It didn't have the legs we thought it might have. Hopefully the next show will go over better. We never have that option. We have to fill the seats. I'm never against the not-for-profit angle of things, but I wish there was more of a pressure sometimes because I think that that safety net, you know, sometimes limits what people, you know, the effort that they put out.

Speaker 1:

And again, not, not to be specific to any, any one could say there's a lot of great and wonderful things out there, but yeah, for profit is a, puts the pressure on us and, and it allows us, quite frankly, to do what we do and then have the ability to do other things. Like when we started our youth program, you know, I mean, we just do it today. Um, we don't have to go before anybody and say, Hey, what do y'all think about this? And, and get the opinions of a lot of people, um, on a daily basis we're able to just do whatever we want.

Speaker 2:

Do you think that because you're a business and you get to be nimble and fast

Speaker 3:

like that, that that helps with your quick turnaround between shows?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I do. I also think the quick turnaround is, is something that happens because it has to happen because we don't have the ability to be off for a week. This business is unique because sometimes people forget that we have a food service, you know, that goes along with it and, and a lot of other people whose jobs depend on us being open every day, not just periodically. Um, I know a lot of theaters have, you know, a graphic designer and, and that kind of thing in house it people and people who take care of their social media aspects of their business and whatnot. We definitely do. And those people need to be able to come in every day so we can never be closed. So that turnaround is, uh, is necessary for sure for us to just be, you know, open with one show Saturday night and then essentially reopen the following Wednesday night. That's technically a preview, but really another performance. It's really, you know, kind of a soft opening. And then we opened the show the next day on Thursday.

Speaker 3:

A lot of not for profit theaters there. Their backbone is their season ticket holder base. Is that true here or is it, what'd did you say? Like just the the menu or or something else?

Speaker 1:

No, absolutely. It's the same way here. We, we rely on it and it's very, very important and our season ticket holders are really everything to us because they're so loyal. I mean we have people who've been coming for literally the entire time we've been open, they've raised a family and their children are now raising a family and in some cases, you know another generation starting and they're our best advertisers. You know? I mean if you've done anything for 30 years, you know, you enjoy it enough that you're telling people about it and that kind of advertising you can't really buy in many, many ways. Our season ticket holders are our VIP [inaudible], our heroes.

Speaker 3:

Talk to me about what makes your show a desert star show because you have a product but you have like a really specific brand. What makes that brand

Speaker 1:

outrageous comedy? Hilarious kind of experience for the audience. I was in a meeting the other day with some folks that are helping us with digital media and that kind of thing. And we were talking about this very thing and that we have to make sure people know that our goal is to not just make our shows funny. Our goals are to make our shows funny enough that you leave with your stomach, hurting, your sides aching. And that's really our product. Some of that outrageous comedy comes from the fact that you know, there's certain amount of adlibbing that can take place. And you know, honestly, as you know, the adlibbing isn't necessarily ad-libbing. It's things that happen in the rehearsal process to become something that looks fresh every single night. But may or may that may or may not have happened every performance. But we want our audience to think that everything that happened happened tonight for the first time.

Speaker 1:

And so, you know, we will sometimes say that we, if you see in today's headlines, you'll see it in the show tonight. That's still true. So I think that also makes people fake that Hey, we've just got, we're looking at a cast of talented people and a couple of talented musicians that are literally just putting on a show for us tonight. And uh, that's kind of what we want it to seem like. So adding in what happened today and keeping the show fresh, even though it's maybe a 12 week run, adding in what's happening currently helps us to do that. And I think creates the uniqueness of the product,

Speaker 3:

uh, to use a business term. How do you have quality assurance when you have such a long run and so many performances and variables that can be spontaneous.

Speaker 1:

That's where the ranch term hurting comes in. Where are you? You just really kind of have to be here. You have to rely on the stage managers letting you know that so-and-so had a really funny bit and it's been getting great laughs, but now it's turned into a scene of its own. I don't get too out of shape if it's like a scene that we're adding, but when it's an act that we're adding, then then we need to come in and kind of, you know, steer things back onto the road.

Speaker 3:

You have a pretty refined product. So what's, what's the time that the show's run? What's the page number of the script? What's the cast number? How many scenes, how many songs?

Speaker 1:

That's a really good question cause that's, that is true. Although lately for some reason the page numbers have been able to go up. And I think it's because we've added songs, songs tend to go quicker in a script and dialogue. Obviously we've added more songs, you know, over the years. But typically anywhere between 38 39 to 45 pages is typically a desert star script and anywhere from 10 to 12 songs. But because of the nature of parody, we're doing a lot of little snippets of songs, you know, and just like we do in our lives, you know when something happens and then there's a line from a song, you know, you throw that line into your life whether you can sing or not. And you know that happens a lot in the shows here too. So reference number of songs referenced in the desert star show a lot number of actual songs parodied and performed 10 to 12

Speaker 3:

talk to me about legality and copyright because your changing things and poking fun, you can use stuff that you wouldn't have otherwise available to you as content

Speaker 1:

over the years. That's been a hard question to answer for people. One of those things where you know the answer but you don't have to explain it. About 10 years ago, I just started using the Saturday night live is the point of reference. You know, they went on the air in the mid seventies doing basically what we do. But the actual legal answer to the question is anything involving satire is protected because it's your ability as your constitutional right to free speech to express yourself in any way. And, and if you're not using the material for its original intent, for example, we may take a love song that really in all of our lives, it has a great effect on us and we all love it only to make it a parody. We changed the lyrics, so it's a bumbling love song. A guy who's not going to get the girl singing it and the audience is laughing because their frame of reference is this is that great love song.

Speaker 1:

You know where the guy's going to get the girl on our stage. He's not. And it's gonna, you know, and comedically, if a couple of twists are thrown in, you know, about politics or things that affect our daily lives, you know, then it becomes satire as well. And, and then you're, you're really protected that way. So it's not really a matter of using things because we don't, you know, want to create our own song. In fact, some of our most successful shows we've ever done shows that I've written actually had complete original scores. But our audiences want that. They want that frame of reference of something that they know and they're familiar with twisted and it really gets their attention and it gets the message across quite frankly too.

Speaker 3:

Is that getting harder because culturally we have so many different niche groups for media. Is it getting harder to find like a common frame of reference for the audience in terms of a song or a story or a,

Speaker 1:

it's getting almost impossible because years ago we used to say there's something, a disaster for everyone from, from grandma right down to the kids, you know, and, and we've never stopped saying that, but you're exactly right. It's now such a wide range of things that, Oh my gosh, it's hard to to do. So this current show we're doing Adam's family, we, I kind of put in a a policy, if you will, a loose policy a while back that we're always going to use a very popular song so that we do have young people. It's kept me, you know, listening to radio stations that I might not listen to ordinarily. Our musical director, David Slack, came to me this time and he goes, have you heard of the time, the song old town road? And I said, no I haven't and I'm listening for it. What's happening? Why don't I know this?

Speaker 1:

But he told me that, Hey, all the kids know it and here's the link. Take a listen. No offense to old town road. But I thought it was joke. I was waiting for the punchline because of just, it was kind of this rudimentary song and I didn't really understand it. I took Dave's word for it and pretty soon I'm on the radio, that radio guy boys this Sunday night, the country awards show featuring this person, this person and this person. And then for the first time ever old town road performed live and I'm like, Oh our older audience just like never heard this, never will. But right now it is. That song is huge and everyone knows the word. I mean young people, not people of advanced years.

Speaker 3:

I learned a whole lot more about music teaching elementary school than any other

Speaker 1:

sixth graders. They know what's out there. Oh yeah, that and see, that's right. That's right. The cuss, because you're, you're not a little kid. You're just at that age where you want to know things. You want to be an adult. And so yeah, we should, we should hire a sixth grader to be a consultant on our shows to say what are the two songs we need to have in this show?

Speaker 3:

I want to take you back to parody and satire because I think there's so much the same thing, but there's gotta be a difference because we have separate words for them.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. There is parity is if like, if you do an impersonation of Barbara Streisand and it's really good and we're amazed, but then you go into the kitchen and get the hors d'oeuvres you're going to serve out and you serve them as Barbara stress in saying ridiculous things that Barbara Streisand probably would never say that's parody. If you come in and do it as Barbara Streisand and tell us that you completely disagree with the way our government is being run or something like that and use that ability to create that impersonation as a vehicle to send that message, that satire.

Speaker 3:

Okay. So I, there's like three tiers and I didn't even think about impressions being one of them, but like just basic copying of the person impression, using the person to be funny parody using the person to be funny but also like pointedly at a sensitive social commentary or political commentary. Satire

Speaker 1:

[inaudible] okay. Yeah and it doesn't have to be an impersonation of a person. It can be personation of a show or a scene or a reference of a movie. Just anything that culturally we kind of know and accept as you know, something that we all are familiar with or not we all but you know, a good number of people.

Speaker 3:

Is it too reductive to say that that parody is just using it? A frame of reference as a vehicle to make me laugh. And satire is using a frame of reference as a vehicle to make me think and left.

Speaker 1:

That's very good. And I'm going to write that down

Speaker 4:

and the next time I'm asked this question, that's what I'm saying is I understand it now. Yes,

Speaker 1:

better than I do. So where does melodrama fit in with all of that? I think that melodrama, most things are a melodrama. I mean, years ago when I was in film school, I was surprised to learn right off the bat that most every movie we see is melodrama. I mean, anytime you've got, I mean, when you think about all the movies, if there's a person that we're rooting for and there's a person who's trying to foil what they're doing, that's a melodrama. Very seldom do you not have a love interest. There's somebody who either is rooting for and loving and supporting the good person and sometimes even at their own peril and tragedy, uh, doing the same for the bad person. But all of those things are elements of melodrama. You know, here we think of it as strictly comedy. It does cover both sides. Dramatic and comedic elements.

Speaker 3:

Is it, is it the starkness of like protagonist versus antagonist or like good versus evil that

Speaker 1:

that's what I think. I mean that's, that's my interpretation of it for sure.

Speaker 3:

Okay. I kind of want to get all geeky about it on like a craft level for a minute.

Speaker 4:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

Do you start with the protagonist or do you start with the antagonist?

Speaker 1:

I think here, and I'll use the desert star terms, the, you know, hero versus villain is what people come to see in terms of the actual story. And you know, you might recall, I remind cast this all the time. If we took away all the comedy, take away anything that's funny. Even anything that's remotely funny, we have to have a story that people could watch once. They might not watch it twice. It might not be. It's like, well, yeah, that was a good story, but you know, I've seen it, you know, but there's got to be a beginning in a middle and an end. There's gotta be all those elements. The best shows that we do are the ones where you can tell the audience likes the villain. And you know, we were talking about this a little bit before when, when there's somebody who's doing something that we think, Oh my gosh, I can't believe he did that, but I liked it.

Speaker 4:

Kind of glad you did it just not to me.

Speaker 1:

And so, you know, the, the antagonist is somebody that's, you know, definitely got to be interesting. I think if we in the very first show I ever did was actually a lot of years ago, let's not be specific that, but there were, there were some people on the front row that actually stood up and threw popcorn at me. You know, Mike Todd who owns desert star and his wife Elise, he came up to me and he was like, that's great. I mean I thought, man, I'm outta here. But you know, this can't be right cause it's, you know, it's not something you think of. If people are throwing things at you that's not good. That might be a signal to get off stage. Yeah. There's a signal there. And he was like, no, this is great. This is exactly what you want to be. And, but over the years, I, you know, in playing a few villains myself, I kind of decided that, you know, I want people to kind of, you know, like that. And then as I've noticed, we've had so many great people who are just literally experts at playing villains and it's always fun. And lately we, we know we've had a lot of, uh, female villains. That's been a good time and there's a lot of, been a lot of success there. You know, it's, it's been interesting. It's like, you know, you don't want to think of someone sweet, but you know, you'd be a great villain. All of your stuff is original, like you or someone you commission

Speaker 3:

the house is writing these things. These are scripts that desert star owns, but because it's parody and satire, do you feel like you're doing adaptations or remakes or that it's original? Like, how do you, how would you categorize it if I try to make you categorize it?

Speaker 1:

Let me just, let me depart from typical desert star for a minute. You know, dinner theater, I did a show called rat pack remembered and we, it was basically a a concert show, but with elements to explain to people who the rat pack were. And then we played Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis jr and sometimes joy Bishop and a few others thrown in and I quotes in the air wrote that show. But that's the question I asked myself. You're not really writing a show here. You're compiling information almost in a documentary form and then presenting it. I wrote a lot of jokes in the style of the rat pack with desert star. Yeah, I think it's a lot of compilation. I've used that term and interpretation of things and I think that's where the writing comes in. Is that that, yeah, since you're using characters that we're familiar with, then you know, the either just gotta be a little bit of an asterisk there and I, you know, kind of a disclaimer.

Speaker 1:

However, having said that, if today we sat down together and wrote a show, completely knew about a suburban mom who finds herself in a perilous situation where she's got to fight crime and you know, blah, blah, blah. Hasn't that character had been done and hasn't, I mean, aren't, those aren't the elements. I mean, even if we're writing a drama aren't the elements of a character of any character characters that we've all seen before. Not only on stage or in film or in any other, in storytelling, but in ourselves. Because that's what really draws us to any story, right? We see a little bit of ourselves or something we recognize. So the characters, none of them are new. Really. Someone has this kind of an accent or this kind of a voice and we recognize, Hey, that's that guy from television or that's that woman from movies.

Speaker 1:

But these are all characters we know in it. I mean, when you boil them all down there, you know, unless somebody creates some being from some planet we've never seen before or speaking in a language we haven't seen before, that's brand new because I just created it. But is anybody gonna watch it? Cause they don't know anything about it. They can't understand the language. They don't get it. So yes and no on that. And if you think about it, yeah, things are ever, everything's the same. I tell casts all the time, look, all the jokes have been made. All the formats for jokes have been that there's really nothing new out there. And the presentations, I mean when like we see memes and social media and stuff, that's kind of a new presentation we think. But if you look back, there's always been something like that.

Speaker 1:

So it's just a little twist and turns of, of things that we find funny as a culture. I'll, all the jokes have been told we're just packaging them differently. That's exactly right. And then nobody's doing original work anywhere. Well, I don't want to say that, but, but, uh, but I do, I do think it's a fair point to say that all, you know, characters, it's just how we put things together really. And truly, I mean, isn't that what makes a great chef or a great anything is, you know, it's like we, we, we've all got broccoli and we've all got these ingredients, but can we put it together in something that, you know, people want to eat? And I think that's where I think that's where the art comes into it really. And, uh, makes it, makes it fun and exciting and challenging because the ingredients are there for everybody and it's just how you put it together.

Speaker 1:

And, um, I don't know at what point you're writing and at what point you're interpreting, but it's all creation. So what makes a good desert star performer? What do you, what are you looking for with somebody who can take the ingredients and what ingredients are they bringing that they're going to be successful here? I think that's kinda changed a little bit over time. A number of years ago. We back up a number of years ago, I kind of recognized when I caught myself, uh, looking at this new thing called YouTube and I found myself, you know, fascinated that, Hey, look at this funny thing. Hey look at this funny thing. And it was like an a couple of hours later I realized I've been sitting here all this time looking at funny things. And that was in the beginning of that. Now you know, you and I could go get lunch and just go park at the park and break out our phones that we carry with us everywhere and sit there and look up funny stuff and spend the day doing it.

Speaker 1:

And it would cost us the cost of our phone subscription we're already paying. That's our competition. And I recognized it many, many, many years ago and now it's worse than ever. So what creates a desert star performer is someone who can motivate people to leave that leave, who leave Netflix, leave the ability to say, remember that movie we saw 20 years ago? That one funny scene. I wish I could just see that again. You can, a bunch of people have uploaded it to YouTube. Um, so the, we need people that can motivate you to get out of the house, put on something nice and come down here and sit with other people. Like are our forebears intended. Sit together and see a show. Watch people tell stories in light, energetic, enthusiastic, someone with energy, someone who walks on stage and the audience, you know, collectively and individually say, I have to watch that person.

Speaker 1:

That's what makes a good performer. Your, your purpose of, of doing these interviews isn't to collect compliments, but I'm going to give you one now you have that when you walk on stage, you have a charisma, you have an energy, you have the ability to connect with audience and they want to see what you have to say. And that's what makes it does a star performer. And there are a lot of talented people who sing well, seeing great dance, well move great or can create characters. And sometimes they don't have it. I mean there's a, there's something to the fact that people say comedy is hard and not everyone can do comedy. That's a true fact. That's not just a, you know, just an easy thing to say. That's a true thing. And that's what we're looking for are people that can do that. People who come onstage and just grab the audience.

Speaker 1:

You have a really short rehearsal process. How does that help you and how does that create obstacles? It helps us because in this day, people are busy. There's a lot going on. It's a difficult life. And a long time ago I was trying to figure out what could do to motivate people to want to work here. You can talk about making money all you want, but the one thing that makes you and I on the same level as, you know, the richest people in the world is we all have the same amount of time. Today we are all on the same, you know, there's no one, uh, Jeff Bezos is not richer than you are. I today we have the same amount of time ahead of us. Maybe not ultimately

Speaker 3:

assuming we don't die today.

Speaker 1:

Giving people back their time was a way that I could make this experience more valuable to people in a way that I didn't see. Uh, and again, without offending any other performing group, there is a sense of, Hey, we're going to put on a show. It's going to take all this time. We want it to be great. I agree. I want the same things, but if I can give you back as much time as possible, then that's your most valuable asset. So that's really the motivating factor and why we make it so short. The other thing is people in this, you know, people tend to out schedule themselves. They, I mean that's why we, we kind of stop putting out audition notices six months in advance because with eight people in the cast in most all of our shows, you get a month out and you lose somebody every time because they forgot about, or my sister decided to get married and I'm the maid of honor. And you know, very important things that you do say, yeah, I can't do that show now. So we cast fairly close to the show because we know that people really are aware of what my plans are for the next three months.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. When they say this is what I've got there, they're accurate.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, exactly. And there's nothing coming up. I mean, it's amazing how many times, you know, uh, people have discovered that there's a new baby coming into their life between now and the time that they originally had said they could do the show. So I think it, it, uh, helps us in those ways too, to have a short period because it's not, you're not looking at two months and then the show. And I think that creatively it helps us because there is an energy that happens when you know, you've got four weeks of limited time. I mean, we don't rehearse every day. We rehearsed typically two days during the week, two nights during the week, and then Saturday mornings. So there are three rehearsals for four weeks. There are 12 rehearsals. It's 40 hours. And then we have tech week.

Speaker 3:

That's, that's one, that's one solid work week spread out over a month. Exactly. And yeah,

Speaker 1:

to be honest, that, I mean, when I was, when I was a student at the university of Utah, I noticed that they didn't bring in actors from New York and wherever they were bringing them from and tell about a week out and then they rehearsed all day every day and then the show opened. That wasn't always the case, but it was something that I noticed and I thought, geez, if they can do that, then that, that really should be the standard. So be it. Talk to me about olios because that is a thing that is only here as far as I'm aware. I wish that were true. It's not there. There's other places that have olios. Um, sometimes people will come up and they'll say, we were at this place years ago when buoy, we love the olios, but they didn't, they'll say, Oh, Leo's a plural. Sometimes the Oleo will be before the show as like a warmup.

Speaker 1:

Anyone that's attended a, any kind of a taped show for television? No. There's typically a warmup. Comedian singers both come out and kind of, you know, be the opening act that you might see at a live concert. Some theaters have used the OEO is that, I think I looked up Oleo one time and it was some kind of stew, some kind of ethnic stew or a collection of things unrelated to each other. I think where the actual definitions, the latter is probably more applicable, but, uh, what the Oleo always needs to be here is something completely different. And for people that might be listening, thinking, I still don't know what you guys are talking about. So we'll have the show, we have our show and then an intermission. And then the Oleo and the OEO is typically a 20 to 22 minute variety shows. So if you're any 30 minute sitcom on television tapes for 22 minutes.

Speaker 1:

So it's essentially the length of a sitcom. And uh, but it's a little variety show, little mini variety show with a focus on comedy of course. But, uh, an opening and opening mentally a closing mentally. Most shows we'll have our pianos do, you know, some kind of solo or whatnot. And it's, but, um, unlike the, uh, the Stu idea, this is basically one theme. We've recently done a lot of eighties themed olios over the last few years. We've done a couple of those, been super popular because of how popular eighties music is. And then of course a lot more comedy and satire in there. And with you think back those old enough to remember what people dress like in the 80s. The parody and satire writes itself and it's never, it's never connected with the show other than Christmas time when a Christmas Oleo is, you know, obviously going to be about Christmas.

Speaker 1:

If the show is a Western, we might have a rock and roll. Oleo so you're is complete opposites, but it gives people a chance to see something completely different. And I don't want to say that this is the reason. It's like we all see shows that we think, Hey, I liked it, I liked it, but I don't really like westerns or I really don't like, you know, superhero theme things. But it was okay, but if the oil comes up and it's, you know, the eighties or rock and roll or country, it's like, Oh, but I love this people. It gives them two completely different things to love about coming to desert star. We have a lot of people, I don't want to say that it's mostly older grandmotherly types, but that might be true. Um, who will come up and say, Oh my favorite, I love coming here and we love this shows. But my favorite is the OEO, you know, so that's, that's always fun. Cause there, there are a ton of people who really do just, I mean they really look, they, they love coming to shows, but they really look forward to the Leo.

Speaker 5:

What

Speaker 1:

over the years has been your evolution working here? Like what, what have you learned or how have you changed? I've become a lot more patient. [inaudible] allegedly. And if someone says, I can't believe, I can't believe you didn't say that. Um, well check the records. I mean, you might be surprised at the improvement even if what you see today. Isn't that great? Um, I think that the biggest change for me has been, you know, coming in as a, as an actual performer at one point it was easier because I felt like I had a direct, I could have an effect on the show if I felt like an audience wasn't, you know, if they'd come in and you know, and when traffic's bad or it's super hot outside or it's super cold and the roads are bad, the audience comes in and reflects it. I mean they give you a weather report, you know, when they get here and, but you can feel like you have an effect on him, you know, and it's, and that's the whole point of coming here is we want to, whatever you've been going through in your life, you've paid for the opportunity to come and get an attitude adjustment.

Speaker 1:

And that's what we want to do. We want everybody in the building give their best to make sure that you leave here having forgotten whatever it was that were your worries when you came as an actor. I felt like I had a better ability to steer that. And over the years as I, you know, was phased out of that. Um, I feel like it's been harder and it's been finding ways to sort of without saying, well, if I was in this show, here's what I would do. It doesn't matter what I would do, these people, whoever's in your cast today, you have to really kind of find a way to relate to what they can do and what they want to do and, and then pull all of that out to present an audience with what they have. And so think that over the years people have changed.

Speaker 1:

You know what's it's, yeah. Yeah. I mean it's, it's, it's different, you know, I mean, um, I mean any number of, I mean, a long time ago, you know, people spoke like this on the radio. I remember that. I remember whenever wouldn't talk like this. Allegedly it's different, you know, uh, comedy changes and it's changing now. I mean, it's difficult. I don't want to be serious, but this is a, this is a really challenging time because so much is placed on being politically correct about things. I don't want to create a controversy by saying this, but comedy is not politically correct. The first definition I ever heard about comedy is comedy is tragedy that happens to somebody else. And that's not politically correct. There's nothing about that. I mean, laughing at anyone's peril in any way is not politically correct. So do we give up on comedy?

Speaker 1:

I mean, years ago we did characters that were all kinds of different ethnic backgrounds and whatnot and, and no one had anything to say about, you know, is that politically correct to do that or not? And I'm not saying it is or it isn't. I'm just saying what we did today currently in the news, our daily stories about people who are guilty of cultural appropriation. And those are debates for outside of comedy. But inside of comedy there is a challenge of, okay, well what do we do about that? I've used the example for years around here when people were concerned about those things because we've, we've tried to conform with, you know, what people's expectations are. Sure. Still an interesting question is if I appeared on stage and did a character that wasn't my ethnic background, people might be upset about that. But if I appear on stage and I portray an English Butler and I do that accent and those mannerisms, no one says anything at all and that's not my background either. So trying to find a way of figuring out where all that fits in today is vastly different than it was even 10 years ago. Certainly 20 and 25 years ago when I may or may not have been involved as well here. So, um, that's the, that's been the biggest challenge is finding where as a group you can bring people into a room and still make them laugh and still entertain them and in that outrageous way that we're shooting for and not offend anyone.

Speaker 3:

I imagine no matter what you do though, you're getting letters or your complaints or, I don't know if it's letters anymore, but emails, calls, comments.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. We still get all of those and still still letters and thankfully we get very few complaints, very few complaints. But when we do get complaints, they are harsh.

Speaker 3:

What kind of responsiveness do you have to what you're hearing from your audience, from one show to another, or even within a show, not just on a negative or critical level, but on a positive level? Like how, how responsive are you to feedback? Do we respond to it or, or does it, does it influence what shows you're doing, how you're, um, how a joke disappears or reappears within the course of a run? Oh yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

Speaker 1:

And it, and it definitely, we have to be aware of things. I mean, we, we do a lot of our humor. In fact, a lot of people say, and I don't like it when they say this, that, Oh, well if you're from Utah, you'll get all the jokes you've got. You know? But it's kind of a local thing. I don't think that's true. I don't think that's true anymore than, you know, when you go to see a movie and you relate to some of the things, but there's jokes in all things that UN and elements that you don't, you didn't get one over your head. You didn't understand it cause you didn't have a reference point. But we do a lot of local humor. There is no question about that. But you know, our predominant culture is the church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints.

Speaker 1:

And that's always been something that every church member has loved. They come in and they're like, I can't wait for you to do some funny primary songs in a parody way or any other thing that you can, you know, sort of, you know, make fun of in a fun and nice and respectful way. But things have changed there too because there's a lot of, you know, there's been a lot of criticism of the church and uh, president Nelson has done a lot of things too, you know, and just the naming of the church and some of those things that have been, you know, at issue of late that have made members of the church more aware of, of being respected and knowing that that's important. And we respect that, of course, obviously. But it has made a lot of church members more sensitive to anything that we do about the church.

Speaker 1:

So if we have, you know, characters or elements or, I mean we did one of our shows this season was Sunday school musical and there were a couple, we got a couple of letters before it even came out. How can you make fun of Sunday school and how, and I talked to one very nice woman when I called her, people tend to write letters a little bit more angry and negative than they are when they answer the phone and you say hello, this is Scott Holman from deserter Playhouse. They got nicer when you call him. But uh, but no, it was the, it was the notion that, you know, we're gonna make fun of the church. And I was like, well you haven't even been here yet. And not only that, but there are other, you know, lots of churches have Sunday school. You know, it's not just, this isn't, I mean we happen to be here, but I assure you there's Sunday school isn't a lot different than our Sunday school.

Speaker 1:

You know, you got bunch of rowdy kids, you're trying to, you know, teach them something about your religion. But there is, there is way more of a sensitivity now and then we have to be aware of. But just on the other end of the spectrum, if we do a show, we get letters a lot where people will say, well, I, I wish you to make fun of this and they'll use that term, you know, made fun of which I think most people think of as, you know, I mean now especially think of it, they don't think of it as a positive thing. So positive and made fun of you're bullying me, you know, when you're making fun of me. And so it's just, it's just a balancing act. It's, it's juggling. Uh, one of the best letters I ever got and subsequent conversation was a number of years ago.

Speaker 1:

In fact, I think it was when we were doing gun smoking. Uh, this man sent the most eloquent letter that I maybe have ever read on any subject. And he was blind. I mean, there was an angry tone to it. I am a blind man. He said, and I'm tired of going to shows and there's no jokes about me. It makes me feel like I'm not part of things. It makes me feel like people are afraid to include me and that exclusion hurts. And I was so moved by that letter because that's something that I guarantee most people have never thought of. We think we're always doing the right thing by not making fun quotes in the air of someone or in or making a joke or making light of something. But this was a guy who was saying that makes it worse when you don't include me.

Speaker 1:

So I called him, I didn't, I didn't want to respond to the letter. I called him and it was a wonderful conversation, but he said, believe me, I'm not the only one. Start asking. People start asking people with, with limitations or challenges how they feel about it. And so I did, and it was shocking how many people said, yeah, one of mine. Here's, here's my challenge. Here's what I'm up against. If you made a joke about that, I would laugh. I of course, told him, I said, can you imagine for the show that you're at? I could say, ladies and gentlemen, here's Joe. He's blind. He asked me to make these jokes. So just so you know, and everyone say Greg, but two weeks from now there are no blind people in the audience and we're making jokes about blind people. We're going to get letters. Right? And he's like, yeah, I understand that. So I said, so let me know when you're coming to the show and what the Joe's Dan,

Speaker 2:

I performed at desert star in more shows than I can recall over the course of my entire adult life thus far. And there are other people still working there today who began even before I did

Speaker 1:

a friend or someone says, boy, you've been at that a long time. How do you stay interested? And that's the easiest question ever to answer because even now when I walk in the back of the theater at night just to see how things are going, if I'm here and, and I look around the room and I look at the faces of people of just that look of delight, that look of, I'm happy, I'm happy to be here and whether they're enjoying some food or you know, a nice beverage. And watching the show to know that their life outside of here is not this experience and you never know. We've, we have people come up and say they've had a tragedy in their family or something and tonight really helped. That is something that you can't, you can't buy that feeling of knowing that, that you're involved with something involved with a group of talented and wonderful people.

Speaker 1:

Everyone from our parking lot attendants, Shane through the box office, the technical staff to the actors and the, and the stage crew are all working as a team to create that. And that's the kind of medicine people don't need a prescription for. You know, you can buy it right over the counter, our box office counter or you know, our online counter. It's so important because it's, it just, it helps people, helps people get to tomorrow I think everyday. I mean I hope that they're watching YouTube. I hope that they are watching their favorite old shows on Hulu and Netflix and all that. And I, but I also hope and pray that they're reserving the time to come here and get involved and sit with other people and meet their neighbor and have that experience that really can create, you know what? I don't want to use the term life changing. It's not life changing, but it's day changing and that's really what kind of is about is you know, getting from one day to the next and we all have challenges and you know, bad times come and they go, but if we can help get somebody through today's bad time, that means the world to me. And comedy I think is the best vehicle for that.

Speaker 2:

The last time I saw Scott before this interview was that the funeral of a mutual friend. So what Scott said just then about getting people through today's bad time that pierced my heart and I'm still thinking about it. Sometimes I need art and storytelling to get my dramatic feelings out in a creative and cathartic way. And sometimes I just need to laugh so hard. My cheeks hurt, but I think the lovely thing about storytelling is that it's shared. It's not just about the artists getting through today's bad time, but the viewer, the reader, the audience, the listener, they have a chance to get an attitude adjustment too, to have a different experience within that story than they're having right now in their life for their profit. What nice business to be about. Scott, thank you so much for talking with me today. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. It's been a lot of fun. Thank you for listening to this in the telling interview with Scott Hallman. You can find out more about in the telling@lizzielizzieliz.com theme music by Gordon Venus and the telling is hosted and produced by me, Liz Christiansen. Thank you for listening.