In addition to many original stories and superheroes, the festival features a few well-known characters and comics; were there any issues clearing rights to those names and titles?
Action Philosophers is being produced with the full collaboration of the original artists, so no issues there. (Plus all those real-life dead people are public domain anyway.) Any other famous characters you might run across fall squarely in the camp of parody, which means the shows are protected by the law.
Widely held stereotypes of comic book and theater nerds suggest they're almost opposite types—awkward and anti-social vs. un-self-conscious and attention-seeking; were any such clashing personality types problematic in the process of working on the festival, or did everyone get along?
Funny, the antisocial stereotype of comic nerds is a major theme of The Bubble of Solace, which is the only piece in the festival actively exploring the culture, rather than the forms and content, of comics. But that play presents an extreme view—the truth is that these stereotypes are simply stereotypes. Most of the nerds of any type that I know are connected by their enthusiasm for that which they're nerdy about—an enthusiasm that often transcends boundaries and categories. And theater people… well, yeah, I guess you do kind of have to be insane to do theater, especially on an indie level, where you're spending vast amounts of time, energy and money without much compensation other than the satisfaction of knowing that you're creating something special and unique that never existed before. I guess here's a big difference, sad but true: comics artists expect to be paid, while an overwhelming number of indie theater artists regularly work for free. I'm still mulling over what this even means…
Which comes first for you, theater or comics?
For now, it's definitely theater. I grew up with comics and had a big fanboy phase in my early teens, and then kind of left it aside when I discovered the more immediate thrills of theater. I didn't just collect but also created, and there was a period of my life when I wondered whether I'd be a comics artist or a theater person, but the instant gratification of theater kind of decided that for me. I've been falling back into comics more and more over the past few years, though, and this festival has intensified the connection. I actually did a number of drawings for the festival brochure, and I laid out the panels, did the character designs and drew the final images for one of the sequences for my own show. It's getting me psyched to work on more comics in the future, in all that free time I have when I'm not doing theater, working a day job and being a new dad.
(Photo: Alicia Stetzer)