G.L.O.C. KATE TELLERS and I have collaborated on many projects including the upcoming “Disco Balls,” and have been friends since we met at UCB a certain number of years ago. Today we talk about what it takes to see a project through with a friend. We go together like Elaine Stritch and tights.
When did you ladies start working together and how did that come about?
KATE: We met in an improv class at UCB. The rest of us had already taken at least one class together and really gelled, but then Glennis came in for a make up class and I think we all said at once, “SHE IS AWESOME!”
GLENNIS: I missed one of my level 3 UCB classes (back when they were called level 3) and had to take a makeup class. I made it up with Kate’s group (taught by Kevin Mullaney) and we all just clicked. We went out for drinks after and I remember thinking I was going to become friends with Kate. She was so smart, funny, confident. So it was basically like looking in a mirror. Numnumnum.
What are you currently working on?
K: I’m directing Glennis in her one woman musical, “Disco Balls” which will premiere next month. We’ve got a cabaret simmering, “I Sing Dead People” which is an opportunity for us to bring out all of the old composers that we love. It’s just really hard to find good Gerswhin on karaoke.
G: “Disco Balls” never would have happend without Kate. I’ve gone through my life as a very secretive person so I needed to know I could trust someone with this personal material. I knew I could trust her when we connected over a shared experience of pooping our pants. Kate, is it OK if I tell people that?
Kate is a master at crafting a story so I knew she’d take my rambling and help me craft them into something cohesive and watchable. She also directed my previous solo show, “Paralyzed by Glennis”. Everyone should hire her if they want to succeed. (I’m looking at you Spiderman the musical…)
To each individually – was this your first collaboration with another woman? If not, who had you worked with previously?
K: I first started improvising with Glennis in our musical improv group, “The Pearl Brunswick” which also included Katina Carrao, Jen MacNeil and Lynn Bixenspan and was directed by Eliza Skinner. Glennis and I also wrote a sketch show with Marcy Girt and Stephen Ruddy (who is not a woman). I’ve also worked for the past few years with The Moth, which is a non-profit staffed almost entirely of women, so I guess it’s safe to say that I do most of my work sitting around a table getting into it and making shows with the lady majority.
G: I had so much fun with the Brunswick ladies. We really were like a little family of odd sisters – the best kind of family there is. And sometimes we made our pianist, Rocco Privetera, dress up like mother Brunswick. He’s such a good sport. In addition to Sketchy Showy, mentioned above, I wrote two sketch shows with Liz Black, another bestie, which also ran at UCB. Celebutantes, in which we perfected our Anna Nicole/Michael Caine impressions, and Santa Babies where we played the two most adorable drunk elves there ever were. Then for 5-years Eliza Skinner and I rocked people’s eyeballs out of their heads with I Eat Pandas. I learned so much from and by working with Eliza. She’s one smart lady.
What was it that drew you to each other initially? Shared comedic sensibility? Similar schedules? Work ethic?
K: I think a shared comic sensibility which we both sensed right off. And work ethic absolutely. And we love old musicals. So I think the combination of those things, that a conversation about Elaine Stritch’s tights would immediately yield a meeting that would lead to a show. And also, ten minutes in Glennis would have already designed merchandise. We get excited about the same things, and then we move quickly.
G: I loved Kate’s knowledge of musical theatre with the added bonus of being absolutely balls-out hilarious. Our work ethic has always come in handy. Neither of us has to push the other, it’s just like “we signed on now let’s bust a move.”
Do you hang out outside your creative endeavors? What do you typically do together?
K: Yes! We’ve lived a few blocks from eachother for most of our time in New York, so when we go out we’re often ending the night together. We used to live in the West Village and I remember one night sharing a cab home and just as the cab was going to drop us on 7th avenue, Glennis and I had a mind-meld and we ended up at Marie’s Crisis belting a few out around the piano. I think the text I sent Glennis the next day was something like, “Why do I have the business card from the librarian of the Oscar Hammerstein library in my purse?” And that’s just not so unusual for us.
If I had to pick one hang out activity that we do the most, though, it would be singing “I Know Him So Well” from Chess at karaoke. We do that a lot.
Also, I am a bridesmaid in her wedding.
G: Lots and lots of karaoke. Mid-day private room karaoke was our m.o. for a while. We take ourselves very seriously when we sing karaoke, but not like a couple of douchebags, just like a couple of classy ladies who love Whitney Houston and the Ying Yang Twins with equal fervor. We’re both getting married this year which means lots of planning, talking about planning, dress shopping – 2011 is going to see a lot of pictures of the two of us in white gowns on Facebook. Oh and when we do hang we usually switch dresses half-way through the night. (see above)
Can you describe your creative process?
K: A lot of it is just organic, we have a funny conversation and then the wheels spin. With “Disco Balls” Glennis will send me material and then we’ll meet and I’ll give notes and ask questions and we’ll do it again. Since this show is autobiographical, and we’re friends, I knew her when a lot of this was going on. It’s been fun to go back and say, “Seriously, that’s what happened that night!?!” as a friend, and then as a director say, “That should absolutely follow the story about your Rockette roommate who shaved her face.”
G: Yep. I’ll write on my own, send it to her, meet and go from there. Same goes for when Kate’s working on her column for GLOC (Time Plus Tragedy) or another piece she’ll send my way for thoughts. We know each other so well and have the same comedic sensibilities so it’s pretty easy to see where adjustments need to be made. My goal is always to make Kate laugh because, as she’ll say herself, she is not a guffawer. Is that even a word? I’ll send this to Kate to find out.
What is the hardest part about balancing your friendship and your creation? What advice can you impart to handle that aspect?
K: I think something that we do well is structure our time together. If we schedule a meeting, we focus on the meeting and then the material. We both know when to click, close the laptop and be friends, even if a lot of our conversations are just being continued. I think that speaks to the respect we have for eachother as collaborators as much as it does to the strength or our friendship.
G: Knowing when to get down to business and when to just get down. Totally imperative. Trust is huge. Trusting that you’ve done enough work and can relax with a glass of wine and go into friend mode. Kate trusts that I’ll do the work that needs to get done to show up prepared. I’m not going to waste her time by not doing rewrites, not memorizing, etc. Don’t take advantage of your friend’s time just because they’re a friend.
They say you’re not truly friends until you’ve had a fight so – have you had one? How did you resolve it?
K: We’ve never really had a fight, but we did grow apart for a little. We were both really new to New York and I think we got distracted by some of the many shiny things that dangle in your face here. I can’t remember how we got back on track. I think I remember having a piece of pizza and maybe one of us literally said, “And, we’re back.” And we were, but with renewed focus. Essentially, we took a Rumspringer.
G: I think a lot of it was my having trouble forming relationships with women. I really had no idea how to do it beyond a certain point and had a huge fear of opening up so, yeah, we definitely grew apart for a while. Thankfully Kate is the ultimate friend and took me back with open arms. (I think I remember things a lot more dramatically than she does.)
How would you define healthy competition?
K: Healthy competition inspires you to be better. It’s natural in a collaboration, because you’re doing the same thing in the same world. In a good collaboration, though, when your partner has a big win it’s exciting. It’s fun to celebrate (with champagne) and know that this only makes us better, and we’re on our way to more and more.
G: Healthy competition is knowing that her success doesn’t mean my demise. There’s enough out there for everyone and ultimately if you make each other look good more and more work will come. And yes, lots of celebrating with bubbles.
Do you think it’s important for women to work together and, if so, why?
K: I think it’s important for people to work together. All of the work that I’ve done that I’m proudest of, especially my solo work, has come from having a partner to keep me on track, give me notes and remind me that I’m not going at this alone. Without that structure and support, it’s just me, my robe, my laptop and my chihuahua.
G: I’m sure I’m not singular in my experience with jealousy becoming an issue among female friends. I think we can all agree that that aspect sucks balls. Women need to work together to get over that. I wish we were taught as children how to compete with each other in a way that doesn’t include shit-talking and sabotage. Let’s explore the crazy awesome brains we have and think on a large scale about changing the way the world views women instead of hating each other because of success, beauty, tits, men, etc. I think that all comes from confidence in your assets.
What are your future goals for your collaboration together?
K: Well, “Disco Balls” is going to be huge, Glennis can speak to that. I’d like to find a good home for “ISDP” and make it a monthly event where we can bring in some guest crooners, and keep working on the music that we love that we don’t really get a chance to sing otherwise.
G: Although I’m having trouble objectively talking about “Disco Balls,” right now I trust Kate. My goals are for us to take the show to festivals (first stop – Charleston!), a run at a NY theatre, the moon. I’d like for “ISDP” to run at The Manhattan Inn in Greenpoint with Joe McGinty on keys. Swoon.
How do you think the dynamic changes with an all-female collaboration?
K: That’s hard to say without falling into cliche. I think sometimes as women we tend to talk about our feelings more, and that can foster a really supportive and open environment, but it can also be counter-productive. My best collaborations are the ones where I feel like I’m working with a, or a group of, great person/people.
G: I think it can’t help but change. We’re different creatures, it’s just science. I think when it becomes dangerous is in the self-doubt arena. Sometimes the self-doubt spreads and can spiral into a black hole of self-hate instead of just being acknowledged and moving on. But as women we have all these great shared experiences to draw from. Also, lots of tickle fights! (Anyone?)
What do you hope to see from the future of women in comedy?
K: More of it, and “female” becoming an unnecessary adjective.
G: I’d like women utilized to the best of their abilities and that’s not happening enough right now. We’re still being reduced into sexual objects and nags – especially in commercials, lord – and we’re just obviously so much more. I think things are changing, but we need more! Sometimes I feel like the movie Network when I talk about women in comedy. Mad. As. Hell.
Disco Balls: Into the Light (The Quest To Be Fabulousballs) premiers at the Charleston Comedy Festival on Friday, January 21st at 8pm and Saturday, January 22nd at 7:30pm in Charleston, SC.