Coming to The Capital Fringe Festival: ‘Sacred and Scared Get the Same Score in Scrabble’ by Charles Shafer

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“What’s so funny about God? After all, he never told a single joke (with the possible exception of getting Abraham to kill his son). “This is the sort of question posed by Sacred and Scared Get the Same Score in Scrabble – a comic solo show coming to the Capital Fringe Festival. The show doesn’t really answer the questions but has a lot of fun trying.

In Sacred and Scared, Charles Shafer assumes a variety of quirky characters who have religious encounters of various sorts, including, a lovely but lonely young lady, a loudmouth know-it-all, and a rabbi/teacher/CEO along with Jesus and God himself. They appear in a variety of madcap scenes including a bizarre college class, a film noir adventure and a frantic attempt to avoid calamity.

Shafer, a law professor, is interested in the use of comedy to explore social issues. He has of late been doing such things as stand up and improv. This is his first solo show. It was first produced at the Wilmington Fringe Festival last year. “I want to present a very funny show that has embedded within some questions about god and religion. But I have to be honest, being entertaining and having a good time myself is number one goal.”

“They say that if you want to be sure you get a part in a play, write it yourself. And if you want to be sure a play you write is produced, write it for just you to perform.” With that in mind he went to New York to take a course in writing a solo show given by actor/playwright Joseph Gallo. “The first step, as I should have expected, was to pick a topic.” Joe had him go out and walk around recording himself as he ranted about whatever he wanted to. After about a week, he transcribed what he said. “Those rants became the basis of the show. In fact, a huge portion of the show is lifted directly from those recordings.”

Charles Shafer as Joe Krautman. and Benjamin Fishbein. Photo courtesy of Charles Shafer.

In the class he performed and edited what he wrote. “Joe actually saw that various portions of the rants seemed to have distinct ‘voices.’” Those voices formed the basis of the various characters in the show. Gallo also helped the members of the class to shape their shows into a more “dramatic” form. The class culminated in a production of the students’ work in New York.

“As a lawyer and law professor I must think very analytically and abstractly. But most human beings don’t think that way at all. Rather they think in stories. In fact, a good trial lawyer must know how to present a case to a jury as a compelling story. So, the challenge for me was to take my ideas and convert them into people and stories. This required me to do things I have never done in my life. One of which is creating characters both physically and vocally. “

Shafer received guidance from a variety of other people including Carol Fox Prescott, a New York acting teacher and Bruce Nelson, a Baltimore actor. “For example, one of the characters is a stereotypical New York Jew named Fishbein. I had to learn to create the character with very minimal costuming and props. I could never do accents, so I had to work hard at developing a convincing Yiddish accent. I had a sense I was doing a good job when after a performance a person came up to me and started to converse in Yiddish. My cover was quickly blown. Let’s just say I looked like a schlemiel.”

Sacred & Scared Get the Same Score in Scrabble will be performed at The Caso on F – 923 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC on Fri 7/13 @8 PM;Thurs 7/19 @7 PM;Sun 7/22 @6:30 PM;Wed 7/25 @ 6:00 PM; and Sat 7/28 @ 3 PM. You can get more information at https://www.facebook.com/SacredScared. Purchase tickets here starting June 18th.

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