Fit Festival Series, Part 4: Laughter League presents “Up The Down Ladder”
Updated: Oct 23
By Cristee Cook
For the first time in Dallas’ Festival of Independent Theatres' 22 years of operation, the FIT Festival is being offered on a virtual platform. Streaming on-demand October 8 – 31, this year’s program includes 6 performance companies with new works in dance, comedy, drama, and more. Dallas Art Beat is excited to offer “get-to-know-you" featurettes with each company in a 6-part series throughout the month of October.
Part 4 of our series highlights Laughter League’s new work Up The Down Ladder, conceived and performed by Dick Monday and Tiffany Riley. In the play, two eccentrics invent an elaborate story about royals infesting their home - and chaos and comedy ensue. This story about dealing with isolation culminates with a surprising and tender conclusion. Dick Monday took the time to chat with me, sharing insights about the new work, and how he and partner Tiffany Riley have reinvented their work during the pandemic.
Can you give us some background on your project for FIT?
The work that we have done in the past has always been written and performed with clown logic. There is no fourth wall and the show can pivot on a dime, depending on audience interaction. In the virtual format we have lost this principal. Our thoughts were that doing this show would be like hitting a tennis ball against a wall. You will have the ball come back at you but its pathway will be very predictable. How could we create an exciting tennis match with a wall? That’s what we set out to do.
What positive changes have come out of the pandemic time in regard to your work - creating what is traditionally live performance for a virtual audience?
We all depend on the energy and stimulus of a live group of humans in our live performance. Without that energy, performing becomes like a rehearsal where the director asks that you use the same energy you feel with an audience. It has always been hard to really up your game before the show opens. But now, we have no choice: we have to find that mental state of right here, right now, without any feedback or reaction from an outside entity. It’s a very difficult challenge, but a challenge worth pursuing if we’d like to stay relevant and solvent.
Why do you want to tell this story NOW?
In life we change and evolve because of the influence of outside forces. Our new world involves changes that happen within our home, the influence of our partner, and our family. Mental illness is on the rise. These are difficult times. We want to survive.
What’s sustaining you during this time of uncertainty?
I have learned to breath deeper, nurture green grass, organize and install patio pavers, and walk miles without an electronic device. My partner has dug in deeper trying to stay ahead of these changing times: become a Zoom wizard, navigate our ability to continue doing our work, and to stay relevant in our field while things change daily. I have performed for the last 46 years of my life in front of live audiences. Now I am faced with reinventing myself as a virtual performer. It has made me question my life as a performer and whether it’s worth it. If I didn’t have a powerful, passionate and intelligent partner who somehow always finds the light and a way forward, we wouldn’t have given this a try. I am thankful and proud of the work we have done and the chance to continue moving forward.
Laughter League presents Up The Down Ladder as part of the 22nd Annual Festival of Independent Theatres, available for streaming (on-demand) October 8-31, 2020. Purchase a two-show block for $12, or a festival pass with access to all shows for $30. Find the complete program listing, tickets, and more at: festivalofindependenttheatres.org.