2016 Philadelphia Fringe Festival Interview: Amanda Holston, Director of ‘Nip’

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Amanda Holston is a Temple grad based in Philadelphia. She is a multi-faceted director, actor, and producer. She is directing the brand new piece, written by her partner, Noemi Charlotte Thieves, called Nip which will be playing at Tattooed Mom September 14-16 and 21-23.

While she normally feels more comfortable in the devising world, this work is a fully scripted show that was written for each of the dynamic actors in the cast. It is a fast-paced comedy that takes you on the road with a Blonde Mona, a burlesque dancer with an appetite for blood. Along with Mona are her to two friends who willingly ignore all the clues in front of them. This play is sure to be a ride you won’t forget.

Could you give me a quick synopsis about your play?

Amanda Holston. By Noemi Charlotte Thieves.
Amanda Holston. By Noemi Charlotte Thieves.

Amanda: Blonde Mona, a punk burlesque dancer with a killing streak, embarks on her farewell tour across Canada, leaving a trail of dead girls in her wake. Banking on good company and an even better alibi, she enlists her childhood best friend as the driver and ends up with a teen tag-a-long coming of age in the backseat. A macabre look at the hypocrisies of contemporary womanhood, Nip asks us who’s really sucking on who?

How did you come about this play?

We ended up writing the play for Tattooed Mom. It really excited us about this project and we went to see a show in the space called “Drunk Lion” by Chris Davis. We were sitting in that space, looking around, and thought: Oh man! We HAVE to do a play in here. We were really inspired by the bumper cars and the graffiti on the walls, floors, and ceiling. Noemi, my partner, had a project in mind, a film called Nipple. So we thought: why not adapt this for a play for the space. We shortened it to Nip. It’s great because I’m really interested in adapting film to theatre. There is a so much that those two mediums can learn from each other. I want to make sure I put in here a HUGE thank you to Robert, who is the owner of T-Mom as well. T-Mom is an art bar that walks the walk and we COULD NOT do this project without his generosity and support.

What are some challenges you’ve come across in this process?

Well, we learned quickly that nothing goes as planned. I really wanted a traditional process, or as traditional for a Fringe Festival, as I could get. However, the first week of rehearsal, we realized that we needed a whole new script. Luckily, I had allowed enough rehearsal time to allow for that. The first couple of weeks were just script revisions and trying to figure out what this play really is. Luckily, I had the brilliantly intelligent and talented actors in the room to help me do that. Every time I get in the rehearsal room with them, I know it’s going to be fun, and filled with laughs, and there is going to be some really good work that comes out. It’s been an absolute dream.

What do you want audiences to take away from this show?

I want people to have fun, first and foremost. I think that’s also what I wanted out of this process as well. I tend to take my work and myself so seriously, that my challenge to myself for this process was: how much fun can you have? How much fun can you have with this play? How much fun can you have with your actors? How much fun can you have with the staging and the performances of it all? So far, I think I’ve been able to accomplish it all. I just want people to really have fun, laugh, and maybe get a little titillated. There’s some sexiness going on in this play for sure. And, maybe just to see if they see themselves in these characters.

What surprised you most about this process?

Noemi Charlotte Thieves. By Noemi Carhlotte Thieves.
Noemi Charlotte Thieves. By Noemi Carhlotte Thieves.

ctually, how much I saw myself in these characters. I know I shouldn’t have been surprised, but definitely was. When it was first being developed, it felt like we were writing about separate characters, and I had a moment, where I was like: Oh wait! I’m writing about myself! It’s a bit of a campy comedy, so it can be very easy to distance yourself from the characters. Of course, there are a lot of questions that come out with that discovery. When I realized that I couldn’t distance myself from them, and that is was the place where to build the comedy from, then everything started sinking into place. I hope people are able to enjoy the discomfort that also comes from identifying with these women, because that is definitely what I felt.

Could you give me an example of one of the questions that came out from that discovery?

About halfway through rehearsals we realized that everything these women are saying to one another is sort of a device they are using to ignore, or downplay, or refute what is actually happening. So, once I realized, this play lives almost entirely underneath the text, that really opened things up and made me realize, that’s how many of us get along. Spewing a bunch of B.S. all day long and really, there’s a whole other life living underneath that language. We are either afraid to acknowledge, or ashamed to speak about the emotion. The language of this play is kind of like that “bro comedy”, it’s joke, joke, joke, and that felt really familiar to me.

Anything else you would like to add?

There’s burlesque dancing which is sure to excite audiences. We are really no holds barred with a lot of the sexuality that is expressed in these women. There’s serial killing! Between all these jokes and laughter, one of these women has been killing women in the bathrooms of every bar they’ve gone to on this burlesque tour and nothing is being said about it. It’s sort of like a very fun 80s thriller version of the Elephant in the Room.

Jillian Shwab as Blonde Mona, Christine Doidge as Jessie, and Lani Skelley as Meg. Photo by Noemi Charlotte Thieves.
Jillian Shwab as Blonde Mona, Christine Doidge as Jessie, and Lani Skelley as Meg. Photo by Noemi Charlotte Thieves.

Nip plays September 14,15,16, and September 21,22, and 23, 2016 at the 2016 Fringe Festival performing at Tattooed Mom – 503 South Street, in Philadelphia, PA. For Tickets, call the FringeArts box office at (215)413-1318, or purchase them online.

Note: Nip is for mature audiences 21+. Strong language/nudity. Not handicap accessible.