How Do You Solve a Problem Like Ask Lovecraft?

or, how to adapt a 300-episode Youtube series for the Toronto Fringe Festival

I’m going to start out by being brutally honest – before this project, I was at most an occasional viewer of Ask Lovecraft.

I supported it, of course. Leeman Kessler is my fellow company member and good friend. Hell, I co-produced the festival where he first appeared as H.P. Lovecraft, and I’ve always talked up the webseries and checked in on his progress when I could. But at most, I caught an episode every month or two before offering myself up as producer / director for this stage version.

It was getting dangerously close to the beginning of rehearsals when I finally sat down to catch myself up on the 06/06/2012 to the present day of the thing – close to three hundred episodes at the time of my viewing, well over that now. In five mornings before my day job, I watched every one. I created a spreadsheet tracking the original viewing date, the episode title, and notes that ranged from, “This would be a fun digression,” to vague references to Bronies and a tentacle dildo. (Neither made it into the show as designed – but you could always ask about them yourself!) I was starting to dream in Lovecraftese.

In the end, we came up with a list of potential sample topics (the format of the show is about 25 minutes of prepared material, then opening the floor to questions from the audience) that I felt acted as a fair representation of what Leeman had created over the course of the past two years inhabiting the character. There’s a story that’s developed among the quips and queries; an observation of a literary figure brought forward in time, leaping over his rise from obscurity to an era where he is celebrated – but shocked by a culture which he never could have imagined. I wanted to be certain that the audience would get to experience that full journey even if they never chose to view a video before or after.

And, of course, to make it all entertaining. We lampooned this in a recent video clip – but there’s no doubt that a Fringe audience comes in with a different set of expectations, and we’ll do our best not to put ours to sleep.

No script was ever written, other than a list of questions to be kept on cue cards. Leeman has always kept H.P. as an improvised creation, and I wanted to retain that as well. Over our rehearsals, we have found notes that felt right and which he hits with each repetition, but there is no word-for-word memorization, and he is fully prepared to play to, or against, the mercurial changes of each particular group to which he speaks. It will be a different show with every performance.

I’m glad we’re almost to the opening. I can’t wait to see what you think of the work we bring you. I think it’s come together nicely.

Editor’s note: Do YOU have questions for H.P. Lovecraft? Bring them to the Fringe Festival – Check our Ask Lovecraft page for the details!

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