Comedy Scribe Monday #9: Orlando Segarra and Gabe Templin of Just Press Playhouse
It’s time for another #ComedyScribeMonday — a weekly Twitter chat where comedy writers gather in a supportive environment to share and expand their craft.
This week we’re joined by Orlando Segarra (@OASegarra) and Gabe Templin (@gabetemplin) from Just Press Playhouse (@JPPlayhouse), makers of the gangster comedy Flushed With Love and the rollicking adventure series Time Trip!
Going back in time
Sean: Can you talk about the formation of Just Press Playhouse? I’m interested in the type of work you set out to create together.
Orlando: Well, I remember it was a question of necessity really… we wanted to put on shows but had no money to pay for theater space so audio drama became a way to write/act/direct on a budget.
Gabe had the idea of adapting a Molière play called The Doctor in Spite of Himself, and once we started thinking about how we could relate it to audio drama, especially Old Time Radio, then the ideas just started taking off. That became Flushed with Love.
Gabe: We felt we were surrounded by so many wonderful and talented people we needed to just create something!
Sean: What type of audio shows were you drawn to create? Did you set any direction or constraints?
Gabe: We both had listened to BBC Radio Drama so they had a big influence on style and ambition (as many others). But our first conversation revolved around Molière and how it would translate to audio. Thus began our work on Flushed With Love.
Eli: Aside: Dang, we need to read some Molière. Historical medical comedy? I’m sold!
Orlando: I think at the beginning we were just trying to see if we could even do it, so we adhered to convention more, but then we slowly thought of ways we could subvert expectations and work in modern twists to an old-fashioned medium.
Sean: I noticed in Time Trip! that these callbacks and radio play frameworks were done in a more stylized manner with tons of nods to other audio dramas. Why I love it so much.
Gabe: We very much LOVE references and homage to other works!
Sean: Can you talk about how you found working together? Do you both write? How fraught (or not) with tension is that?
Gabe: Ha ha, I think we work well together! I will confess I am not the strongest of writers (though I try and am improving) so Orlando usually takes the lead on much of that! But we are great about bouncing ideas off one another. We have adapted our workflow on each of the projects to meet the needs so that has been fun too.
Sean: Can you or Orlando talk about the writing process? Do you do drafts with notes? Do you divide and conquer? Or is someone holding the head writer reins as a role?
Orlando: We both flesh out the stories together, we sit in a room and put the skeleton together, then I usually go off and refine the character work and write the scripts, but I’d say our load is 50/50, especially when production and editing kicks in.
Sean: Got it. And are there revisions with the cast? Do you guys record locally or with remote actors/actresses? And if so, do you do readings with the cast?
Gabe: We have done a full cast read through on each of the projects to allow us to tweak story if needed. But up to this point we have used local actors that we have worked with in some respect in the past.
Orlando: We always try to do a reading before we record because it gives us a chance to do some final editing to the script. But that’s the only time the actors are ever in a room together. We record them one at a time at one of our apartments haha
And we definitely do revisions as we record as well, we discover ways the actor’s interpretation changes a line or find a hidden joke we may have missed before. Our actors are great too so that helps.
Sean: Wow! So you get the chance to hone the script and feel out the performances as a group. But then record on a shoe string. Brilliant, actually.
Eli: Time Trip! drops Trip into a new era every couple of episodes. How do you approach establishing those worlds and their characters?
Gabe: Ooh! I love this question! We wanted to work with couplet episodes to have flushed out arc on each of the locations (though we break that rule). For Season 1 going back to the references we started out by deciding what genre the episode will nod.
Orlando: I use a lot of shorthand when establishing characters. We want them to be unique and memorable so we usually give them a defining character trait or physical (audible) quirk. Give them differing opinions. Conflict always helps character development.
Sean: So… Time Trip! is going to be a recurring series then? We have your words on that?
Gabe: LOL. I wouldn’t promise that it will be a “Forever” series. :) But I do believe there will be a Season 2!
Orlando: Time Trip! has at least one more season in it, definitely haha. How far it goes largely depends on the reception/audience I guess.
Gabe: We have a lot of ideas, we have a lot of passions as far as stories go too. That was a draw for being an anthology channel!
Eli: Without giving anything away… are there any settings or eras or genres you’ve been dying to write?
Gabe: We have explored a little with the ’30s with Flushed with Love and the ’80s with Time Trip! We are interested in a wink at the ’60s sex comedies of Doris Day and Rock Hudson. We haven’t really written anything present-day either!
Orlando: I’m fascinated by horror so I would like to do more straight horror, also steampunk… and I’ve always wanted to tell a coming-of-age fantasy story but with a female lead.
Sean: You pitch Time Trip! as Sci-Fi on your website, but I can’t help but see it as a comedy not to mention the Hector vs the Future overtones. Not to mention that the premise is hysterical. And poor Trip is so unprepared.
Gabe: We absolutely skew towards comedy. However, all great comedies will have some darkness to accompany it. I think Walt Disney said, “There should be a tear for every laughter.” I may have misquoted but I believe it was him.
Sean: We couldn’t agree more. So many look at comedy as a lower form. I’m not sure when or where that happened. Comedy is about the human condition in all its misery and glory. Why I love that you sent poor Trip off untethered into the time-verse.
Gabe: Absolutely! One of my favorite movies is Life is Beautiful. It begins as a Comedy before ripping your heart out!
Orlando: Time Trip! is definitely a comedy, and we also wanted to give the audience a thrilling adventure on top of the whacky characters and settings. We pulled a lot from how Anime shows tell their stories, there’s a little something for everyone to enjoy!
Sean: OMG. You have to go into more detail here! I’m very curious what you are looking to leverage from Anime. In structure/form?
Orlando: Well, in structure the big influence was the song at the end of every episode. Anime shows always have these cool songs at the end which makes you wanna jump into the next chapter. We knew we wanted that for sure.
Eli: Aha… I hadn’t made the connection, but that makes complete sense now!
Gabe: I believe we were both heavily in to Cowboy Bebop at the time of writing too!
Orlando: Yep, Cowboy Bebop was definitely an influence, as well as Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and Claymore… well, there are so many great ones!
Storywise, the way Anime does story arcs, getting you involved in what’s happening immediately and dripping hints as to the overarching theme is pretty great. You really have to tell multiple stories at once.
Sean: Does leveraging anime as a strong influence also change the way you visualize the scene? Something about anime seems to striking in their choice of cut/segue visually for me.
Orlando: Totally. I remember we made the decision to make Time Trip! more cinematic than Flushed with Love, but doing it realistically would be so consuming. So we decided to imitate anime’s heightened reality, which meant it lives somewhere between cartoon and cinema.
Gabe: Yeah. It came up often especially once we were editing the episodes. There were some sections of dialogue that we thought about it as if it were an anime — how would we cut between them. I believe in the episode “Puero Nuera Blues” we talked about it often.
Sean: Oh yeah. The scenes in the bar are totally imprinted in my head! I loved how it cut back and forth. And that damn Tommy gun!
Gabe: Exactly! We wanted to feel the movement between moments and giving each of the scene-lets their moment!
Sean: I love that you are playing with what you can do in audio storytelling. Treating it more like a theatrical experience. Where we can get away with so much more than just “realism” as a vehicle.
Sean: I have to ask. Who came up with the idea of putting Einstein into a McCarthy inspired hearing? Let alone have Einstein request to be called “Ally Baby”. #GOLD
Gabe: That was all Orlando.
Orlando: Haha, I don’t remember who came up with Ally Baby, but as soon as we decided Bitterman had a rivalry with Einstein, we knew he had to make an appearance. And it gave us a chance to insert commentary into the comedy.
Actually, I think the Ally Baby came from a Monty Python sketch if I remember correctly…
Sean: Doesn’t everything?
Gabe: We do try and infuse some social commentary into anything we do. So the courtroom allowed us to make some of those statements!
Sean: I love how you created Dr. Bitterman as one of the most brilliant and powerful scientists in existence and yet keep her from solving every plot problem. And I love addressing the discrimination and sexism through her story arc.
Orlando: I like to think of Bitterman as the real star of the show. Trip is the lead. We wanted her to be relatable and kickass.
Gabe: We definitely wanted to have some strong women through out the season and Dr. B is a fantastic one! Also paring her with Mully and Sculder (the agents) helped too.
Sean: You both are a classic story in Meta form. Two kids in a big city get an idea and pull together a theatre company on a shoestring budget. You create your first large-cast production with stunning performances and some acclaim. And now you have a well received and growing series on your hands. Has this changed what you are thinking of doing with Just Press Playhouse? How do you feel about what you have been able to build so far?
Orlando: I feel really lucky honestly. We have people who are willing to work with us and give us 100% and Gabe is great. We push each other to our best. We’ve built a solid foundation and I’m excited to see how high we can fly.
Sean: We are with you! So glad we are listeners and followers on your journey!
I can’t believe our time is coming to an END! This was truly a joy and an honour. We are so in love with your work. Please don’t stop! Where can people find out more about Just Press Playhouse and support what you are doing?
Gabe: Oh wow, so quickly! Just Press Playhouse can be found on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Podchaser or any PodFinder. We have a Facebook, and Instagram and our website too: justpressplayhouse.com. We would love to hear from anyone. Email, tweet, whatever at us!
Orlando: Thank you! This was fun! Definitely follow us on social media and give us feedback, we want to grow and get better, so any conversation to stimulate that growth would be amazing.
#ComedyScribeMondays are brought to you by Sean and Eli, the writers of Alba Salix, Royal Physician. Join us on Twitter every Monday at noon ET / 9 PT in North America, or 1700h UTC, wherever and whenever you are!