Kickstart Your Week With A Stop At The CAKE SHOP!

Kickstarter features the creative talents of the ladies who form CAKE SHOP. SHAMIKAH CHRISTINA MARTINEZ and TRACEY PETRILLO, have a Kickstarter campaign to take things to the next level. Let’s hear more about their project and experience with Kickstarter.

comedy, sketch, kickstarter, shamikah christina martinez, tracey petrillo, charactersSay we’re venture capitalists looking to invest in an amazing new 22-minute show…Can you give us your best elevator pitch for Cake Shop?

Shamikah: Cake Shop is the Cheers for the most eccentric characters in downtown Manhattan. Every one knows their names, because they are bizarre and unforgettable. The characters are strong and audacious with a female duo driving the cast. This isn’t a lady “comedy” rooted in chasing guys around for a baby or a wedding. It’s a mix of sketch comedy, improvisation, and a lot of wigs and mustaches. We set it to a soundtrack of music from local bands. It’s a place where indie comedy and indie music coexist. And no one is trying to get married.

Tracey: I’m not good at this, I would just wear a low cut blouse and giggle a lot, then slip them my reel….Sham? (She’d be the one doing the talking anyway.)

What is your process when it comes to approaching episodes for Cake Shop?

T:  I feel it all starts with pinpointing a specific type of person who’s behavior or point of view catches our eye.  Then it’s just building on who they are, what scenario should we put them in, and what happened that made them like this.  Once the loose outline of the person is created, they’re put in an environment and then the rest is free game.  It’s definitely scripted, but with plenty of room for rapid growth and even change.  We have a lot of fun figuring out the puzzle that is each of these lunatics!

S: Exactly. There are people around this neighborhood who are such characters that I wonder if they are really just comedians practicing in public. I like to watch them and take notes. I probably look like I’m stalking them. I am. It’s a lot of the if, this – then what game? If these 80-year-old ladies camp out in front of their stoop to gossip every single morning- then what else do they like to do? What else is important to them? And why don’t they care that they’re blocking the door?  Finding out the answers is a really fun part of the process.

Since Cake Shop is so female-centric, tell me who are the most influential women in your lives. And do they appear in the show in any way?

S: My mom is such an influence. Somehow she makes her way into everything I have ever written. She is like a much taller, Puerto Rican Lucille Ball. Lucy was always showing Ricky reasons she should be in the show. Growing up, my mom was always showing me these amazing sides of her that said to me, she should be in a show! She was never afraid to show a sillier side of herself. Because of that I feel like I am more comfortable making a goofy face on stage or falling down in front of the camera if I need to, because I was raised by a lady who was comfortable enough with herself to teach me the same. She’ll likely be in the pilot somewhere, because she has requested twice to be featured.

T:  In the real world, I’d have to say that I am influenced by my Great-Grandma Linhart from Czechoslovakia.  What a character!  She ate salsa until she was in her late 90s, and told me that if boys weren’t nice to me (said in thick Slovak accent) “Great Grandma will kick ‘em in the ass.”  Just a total spitfire!  She will definitely be making an appearance in some way shape or form in this pilot. I think everyone I meet influences my characterizations helping to flesh them out.  If there’s someone I really dislike or they annoy me to the point of pure unadulterated rage, it just means I should be paying even more attention to them because something in them evokes an emotion in me.

Is there a broader message to the show? If so, how would you describe it?

S: Every one is odd and absurd to someone else. It’s a self-deprecating look at who we are and who we’ve met or seen and knowing that we might gasp at what they wear (or don’t wear) or what they are screaming at the top of their lungs on the F train. But there is another character gasping at us in the exact same way. So really, we’re all equally “normal.”

T:  Also, there’s totally an underlying theme about societal entitlement, especially when it comes to the residents of NYC.  Everyone in this city has a sense of, “I deserve this because.”  I know I do.  Chances are the people that are reading this do.  The degrees of which are all different but the intention is the same.   These characters are a total appreciation of that.

Do you already have any favorite characters? If so, which ones and why?

T: Well, I love Angel!  She’s a street smart Latina from South Side Queens who wants nothing more than to make a living doing “dancering,”  She used to usher at the Little Mermaid on Broadway, and on her breaks she would practice her moves by the TKTS booth for the tourists.  I just love feeling her physicality and the fake nails and ponytail feel unnaturally natural to me.  Honestly, (and generically speaking) once I get into the environment and the costume, there’s no way I could dislike any of the characters I’m creating.  They come straight from my vagina.  Like a mother, even if you birth a “bad seed” you end up loving it equally, because it’s a part of you.  Ew!  Also, I’m really excited to bust through those stupid gender lines of women not convincingly playing men.  Bring on the ‘stache.

S: Angel is a favorite of mine as well. I live in the LES and am pretty sure I have seen her walking out of the East Broadway nail salon many times. I also really love “Marley” she’s a yoga instructor who is very in touch with your energy. She’s a little too hands on with the people in her class so you get to revel in those awkward moments of hearing her breath and hums as she corrects your posture by scooping up your butt. I study yoga and love having the opportunity to mix 2 things I really love.

Has this project impacted you personally? In what way? How has it impacted you creatively?

S: I’ve been producing sketches for the past couple of years that are usually unrelated. Now it’s creating this long form world and filling it with characters people will want to see more than once. I think both personally and creatively it’s given me a great deal of focus. I really wanted to write and produce something that I was passionate about and work with someone I had a great chemistry with. Now I have a chance to do all of that in one project. I’ve become like an obsessed teenager about this pilot. I love it so much I want to kiss it and hang a poster of it above my bed and have underwear with its name all over.

T:  Personally, I just dig the opportunity to relay other people’s stories, Hell, I get to create peoples stories.  It’s made me get my head out of my book on the subway.  I’m listening to people I usually scowl at.  I’m psyched to attempt to make the unlikable, likable.  This is like a dreamboat playground of imaginary friends in costumes and I’m psyched to play in it! Creatively this has encouraged me to get down and 3-dimensional on these LES residents.  It’s helped me realize that there is an outlet for the craziness that lies in my head.  It’s like a dream working scenario for me, and for that I’m going deep into who these motherfuckers are, otherwise it’s just another sketch comedy show.

How have your respective backgrounds in performance training informed the tone of the show?

T:  I’ve always been a borderline schizophrenic when it comes to hearing other voices in my head. Not literally. (?) I created my first character in the bathroom mirror at age 9, “Jessica Lanthers.” She had a lip impediment and she was a hit at slumber parties.  But, she was very sad too.  Naturally my parents got me involved in theatre and dance, seeing that their crazy child needed an outlet. I loved it! Then when I moved to NY  and started making my living from theatre, it felt too rigid. The art and creative element felt sucked out if it like an animatronic at Disney World. I found improv and all of sudden it all sort of came together. So, to avoid a very LONG winded answer, (ahem) I feel my background has merged a solid blend of discipline with the skills to adapt to the present needs of a scene.

S: Most of my training has been in writing, film-making, editing. All the things that are not performance. My only true performance training was one theatre course in college (which I remember nothing from) and then studying improv when I moved to New York. I think because almost everything I’ve ever learned about performing has been making it up as I go along- and its something Trace also loves- we are able to open the show up to allowing more of that. Once we are in character there is no telling what sorts of things are going to get added to the script.

How has the project changed or grown along the way?

S: On one of those blizzard days I watched It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Little Britain, Portlandia, Mr. Show, SNL, and Summer Heights High all in one comedy binge. I created Cake Shop in the middle of the night, still drunk from laughing all day, listening to Sleigh Bells. I remember writing out the show format and then texting Tracey that I had a show idea that would need her to play at least 5 characters and she said yes before I’d even fully explained it. That felt sort of like magic. It was like paper dolls in the first stages. I had things set up but they didn’t have all the dimensions needed. Once we started working together to develop all of the characters in each story it really came to life. The paper dolls turned into giant Barbies with really neat special features.

T: It’s getting more specific the more we play with it.  The people are getting fuller, and we’re really to honing in on how it should look and feel tone wise.  It’s like if one element shifts, it’s virtually impossible for the rest of the elements not to compensate.  I think it will continue to evolve until it’s wrapped, there’s so much room for creativity on set.

What has been the most challenging element of this project?

T:  Getting funding.  Luckily we have a very skilled, albeit regimented producer on board, Shamikah Christina Martinez.   She’s the reason that our production will look amazing.  She’s got a great team lined up behind the scenes.  I am lucky enough to just get to do the fun stuff, like writing, hitting my mark and puking out craziness.  So again, getting funding is the most challenging aspect in my eyes.  Sham will probably have a totally different answer!

S: I do have a different answer. Ha! I think it’s too early to say the biggest challenge because the pilot is such a little baby right now. It’s just this newborn thing wrapped in a cozy blanket. It’s not fully cast yet, though I do want to get as many G.L.O.C.S involved as possible, and the incorporation of local indie music is really important to me, although I have no idea who or how we will get those songs. So there are things that could be huge challenges, but we don’t know yet. I do have an incredibly talented director, Kathleen Grace, at the helm and I feel really confident in our entire team.

How did you get involved with Kickstarter?

S: The first time I ever heard about Kickstarter was from my friend Kristie, who always finds out about things right when they start. I was working for a web company with people who had a lot of success funding documentaries and short film projects with Kickstarter. Then I started seeing NYC comedy projects popping up on the site. I backed a couple of projects on and really felt good about the give and take (vs. just take) aspect of the fundraising.

Is Kickstarter something you’d recommend for other creative ladies?  Any advice to them?

T:  Are you kidding?  Yes.  As an artist you have so much drive, and innovation, but unless you have a trust fund or you’re stripping on the side, getting money to make quality shit is HARD!  I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t take advantage of such a great system.

S: My advice would be to use Kickstarter for a project you are really in love with. You have to make this video asking people to support your art- so it shouldn’t be just anything. A lot of us are creating things every single day and some of it is honing your craft, some just for fun, and sometimes we have those little gems that could really be something. I think Kickstarter should be for those gems. Also—just a heads up—making a video asking for funding feels very awkward. You might want to start with a cocktail.

Where can people get more information on your project?

Twww.kickstarter.com/48911606/cake-shop-pilot?ref=search and you can see more of our work at www.youtube.com/candyslicecomedy

Would you like to add anything else?

T:  Thanks for interviewing us.  I feel cool.  Ladies in comedy have to stick together, cause we’re all pretty awesome.

S: Yes, thank YOU! I’d like to work with even more NYC G.L.O.C.s this year! Whether it’s drinking hot toddies and telling funny stories, or making some stage or video magic. I love collaboration. So yeah, I’m asking everyone on a lady date.

You can view Cake Shop Kickstarter page here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/489116066/cake-shop-pilot?ref=search

Do you have a Kickstarter campaign you’d like featured? We’d love to feature you.  contactgloc[at]gmail.com

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About Michelle Fix

Michelle Fix is an actor and improvisor who also writes. She is the creator of the Glamour Bees and is also working on a little puppet improv project. She is a member of the CI ensemble Sake Emergency and also does a podcast with Melissa Rivkin called MIME Speak, which is on iTunes.
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