Barbara Jwanouskos interviews Wonder Dave, “a modern day vaudeville act”.
“…I want to leave a performance with more than a sore butt from sitting in a metal chair for too long.”
This week I got connected to Wonder Dave, a writer and performer, through fellow Theater Pub blogger, Anthony Miller. I’m excited to branch out beyond playwrights and other types of folks making play-plays and into other types of performance-art and theatrical performances. The more spoken-word and stand-up comedy influence that Wonder Dave draws from in his acts, absolutely build on the creativity of an audience-driven medium and storytelling to present something interesting, engaging, and entertaining.
Below, Wonder Dave gives his take on his creative process, influences, theater pet peeves and dreams. Check him out in Oakland at Club BNB, the Oakland Metro, and the National Poetry Slam coming up next week.
Barbara: Tell me about your performances. What’s your style and what might an audience member expect/receive?
Wonder Dave: I’m all over the place as far as performances go. I regularly host burlesque, variety shows, spoken word and literary events as well as performing in all those genres. I am for the most part a comedic performer and writer. My written work involves a lot of storytelling. I aim to communicate clearly in everything.
My current monthly gigs are as the stage manager/co-host of the Oakland Variety Show, Tourettes Without Regrets and host of the monthly burlesque variety show Seduction Féroce. My job at TWR includes playing the foil to host, Jamie DeWolf, and buying pig hearts to play baseball with. As host at Seduction Féroce, I fill a role somewhere between gameshow host, stand-up comic and burlesque act. While TWR is a true variety show, Seduction Féroce has a burlesque slant – but does feature a variety of comics, musicians, circus and other non-traditional burlesque. Both shows are very audience interaction driven.
Barbara: What’s your background? How did you get into this type of theater?
Wonder Dave: I was an improviser and sketch comic that also competed in poetry slams. I had a few pieces where I said funny things about sex and some burlesque performers had seen them and invited me to do their show. I became a part of a troop in Minnesota called Stilettos and Straps and I sort of just kept diversifying the type of stuff I performed at. When a comedy show asked me to come and do funny poems I said yes, when a storytelling show asked me to come tell stories I said yes again, it all just kind of snowballed into me being this modern day vaudeville act.
Barbara: Who or what are your influences as a theater artist and performer? Anyone we should look up?
Wonder Dave: The first person I remember seeing perform on TV as a kid and thinking that was something I wanted to do was George Carlin. The idea that you could, as a job, talk about the world around you was fascinating. More recent influences in my life include writer performers like Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, Carol Connolly (who as it happens is the poet Laureate of St. Paul MN), and my friend Thadra Sheridan who early on encouraged me in the world of spoken word. Recently, Thadra and I were in a short film together centered around her experiences as a waitress.
Barbara: What are you working on now? How do you keep what you do fresh and interesting for yourself?
Wonder Dave: I’m working on putting together a new show called Literary Pop which focuses on literary work with pop culture themes. I put together the first show back in April for national poetry month and now I’m looking to expand the show beyond poetry. You can follow @LiteraryPop on twitter if you want more info on that in the coming months. I push myself by trying new art forms and really just saying yes to things that sound interesting. I hadn’t done much storytelling prior to moving to the Bay Area and now it’s a regular part of my repertoire.
Barbara: Anything that you’d like to write/develop but haven’t gotten a chance to yet?
Wonder Dave: I have a manuscript of poems sitting on my computer waiting for a second round of edits.
Barbara: In terms of Bay Area theater (or maybe just theater in general), what do you love? What do you wish you could change?
Wonder Dave: I love serious work with comedic elements or comedic work that touches on serious topics. Life has both those elements and they are so constantly right next to each other. I love work that reflects that.
I don’t like forced audience silence. I love it when something is so amazing that an audience goes silent, but if I’m at something and the expectation is that the audience quietly watch and then the performers don’t deliver, then I go stir crazy. I also don’t like duration based performance art. If the only point is to see how long you can make an audience endure something why not just stay at home and perform for your cat? I’m not saying stuff has to be fun, but I want to leave a performance with more than a sore butt from sitting in a metal chair for too long. It just isn’t my thing.
Barbara: Any upcoming shows for us to check you out in?
Wonder Dave: Check out Seduction Féroce every 3rd Friday at Club BNB in Oakland and Tourettes Without Regrets every 1st Thursday at the Oakland Metro. You can also head over to http://wonderdave.org/ for a full show listing. Stay updated and be entertained online at youtube.com/teamwonderdave, facebook.com/teamwonderdave, @teamwonderdave on twitter, wonderdave.tumblr.com
Barbara: What are your thoughts or words of wisdom for someone interested in doing something similar?
Wonder Dave: Don’t be afraid to try new things. Be nice. Being a good person makes people want to work with you. Being friendly and helpful is, perhaps, the most devious and underutilized way to get ahead as a performer. Promote your shows and yourself. Ask people to come as individuals not just through facebook invites. Also if you’re putting together line up shows, pay the artists. Even if you know the show isn’t going to be a big money maker, budget to make sure the artists are covering their costs to get the show and back and can grab a bite to eat.
You can check out Wonder Dave hosting shows at the National Poetry Slam from August 10-15 in Jack London Square/ Downtown Oakland, including the Legends Showcase. Visit www.npsoak.com for details.