Want drama? Forget the theater, go to a bar. For over two years Thomas Blake, co-producer and director of the wildly popular stage show Point Break Live!, has been turning traditional theater head over heels over bar stools with the uproarious DIY adaptation of Kathryn Bigelow's 1991 adrenaline-soaked big-screen blockbuster, Point Break. This Sunday June 6, the “punk rock theater impresario” brings his new weekly production Drunk Talk to the Dragonfly, a show that transforms a real bar into an interactive, wild-card comedy where the lines between actors and audience are completely blurred. Think Swingers meets Cheers meets Empire Records, with a lot of real booze and a dynamite cast of improv experts that are bound to keep you on your toes and out of breath, laughing. What do I suggest? Go see Point Break Live! Saturday night at the Dragonfly and then the next day when you're hung over, go back to see Drunk Talk.
L.A. Weekly caught up with Thomas Blake at the Dragonfly after a recent Drunk Talk rehearsal to chat about this weekend's debut.
L.A. Weekly: You still do Point Break Live! every week so what led to your wanting to start this new show at the same venue?
Thomas Blake: I was looking for another show that I could get people drunk at because then they'd think it was funny (laughs). I figured then they'll probably laugh more. It's the easy way out. That's how comedy really works.
That's been the secret this whole time. Nobody knew!
The secret is just get 'em drunk (laughs). But no, I was looking around and met Lance Whinery, who is a writer for Rules of Engagement. He had the script and obviously I'm looking for a certain type of script — I don't want to do a “regular” show. Lance and I met at a bar and he was drunk and we were talking about Point Break Live! and he said he had a script that was supposed to take place in a bar. He actually had the script on him so he said, “Here, take it.” I picked it up and thought I could spin it into something interactive. That's how it started. As for choosing a venue, I knew the Dragonfly had this empty room with a cool bar already that it wasn't using.
You also have a good history with the Dragonfly because of Point Break Live!
Yeah, there aren't many venues in L.A. that you can do theater and have a bar. They're hard to find. That's why we do Point Break Live! here and now this show, Drunk Talk. I wanted to do this show completely on my own. Point Break Live! is awesome but this show was my opportunity to do something that was just me. I've learned so much from doing Point Break Live! over the years that there were some new things I wanted to put to the test. I can do Drunk Talk without spending a ton of money and I can try out a bunch of things that I think are cool. It's definitely a different vibe than Point Break Live!. It's got similar interactive elements but it's more like Cheers. It's probably more interactive than Point Break Live! actually because there's no separation between the audience and the actors. The audience is at the bar. We're all at the bar, and there just happens to be this story going on. With that concept in place, there's really no separation between the audience and the cast. You don't know who's who. There's no stage. It's all out there, everywhere.
There's no rise of the curtain…
There's no curtain, there's no off stage, there's no backstage… once the characters are on stage they're in the bar. You come in, you enter the bar, McSwiggin's, and then all of a sudden a show comes out of it. There's no black out or lights up. All of a sudden the show starts and the guy you've been talking to for the last 30 minutes might just end up being in the show. You don't know.
Where does you interest lie in audience interaction and also in alternative venues for theater?
Yeah, everyone's like, “Oh, you're interactive theater guy.” Yes that's true, but everyone's copping our style on that now. And not that it was “ours” to begin with, people have always been doing it. But I have noticed it become a bit more popular lately. It's also about bringing shows into different venues. For me, it's this bar because people can drink. Just like with Point Break Live!, if you're going to invite your friends to come see a show with you, you don't want them to think, “Uh, this sucks, a normal fuckin' theater show…”
Where they're stuck in their seats, can't make noise…
Yeah. I want to do shows where I can invite my friends to and they'll be like, “That was fun, I got drunk, I got to enjoy a show in a weird place, it was funny…” I did a lot of theater before Point Break Live! where you're almost embarrassed to invite your friends.
There's also the return visitor aspect. When it's interactive and things change each performance, people who have fun can and will want to go again. It doesn't get old because things change each time.
Yeah. And I want to do shows for a younger crowd. I'm doing $15 tickets for this one and you get a free drink, so it's not breaking the bank. I want my crowd to be able to afford it. I want my crowd to be able to get shit-faced during it. You want to be that show where when your friends do come into town, you're like, “Let me take you to this show…this is the secret crazy underground shit.” Those are the kind of shows I want to do. But this show is different than Point Break Live!, there's no water…
You don't spray beer on anybody?
(Laughs) I can't promise that.
How did you round up the cast members? Because with Point Break Live! everyone kind of came with the show from New York.
It's similar. There might be someone from Point Break Live! in it, who knows? With this cast we held auditions, some are friends of friends, I went to Second City and scouted a couple kids from there because there is a lot of interaction so you have to be ready to roll with the punches. The cast is amazing. So we've got a couple kids from Second City, we've got a chick that writes for Saturday Night Live, she wrote and directed the Betty White episode, we've got a couple of newer kids to the scene… but they're good. The entire cast was good out of the gate. Great comic timing.
How much will be left to improv?
You have to have a script or else it just becomes a sketch show. But with the sheer concept of it all there's a lot of room for improv. You pick your spots, stay on the script so we can get through the story and people know what's going on, but also leave room for the unexpected. That's a hard thing to teach because people learn theater a certain way their whole life, the rules of theater, and basically my whole deal is to break all those rules and make our own rules up. Once the audience gets here, everything changes.
What are you going to do if some girl from the audience gets belligerently drunk during the show and accosts a cast member?
Well, I'm sure that will happen. (Laughs) That's why I hired a bunch of improv actors; they'll deal with it. I'm excited to see how bad they're going to rip into the audience.
Should people prepare to get picked on?
We don't pick, we just state the obvious. If you've got a bad haircut, we might tell you about it (laughs). Drunk Talk is a new thing, a new concept, and I haven't seen anything like it. I like not knowing what's going to happen every night; that's what keeps it fun. Drunk Talk is cool because it's not quite as wild as Point Break Live!. If you're pregnant you can still come…
Well, hopefully if you're pregnant you're not drinking.
Right, of course. It's less crass but, again, it's called Drunk Talk. You know what you're in for. It's only as wild as you make it, audience, so bring it.
DRUNK TALK opens Sunday, June 6 at the Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood, CA. Every Sunday at 8 PM. For more information and tickets go to drunktalktheshow.com.