Artists are working tirelessly behind the scenes and around the clock to bring to life their epic stories, ideas and art to the people of Wellington for the NZ Fringe. We go behind the scenes in to the life of Ben Powdrell as he prepares for DILF. His show opens Wednesday 1st and plays until Saturday 4th at BATS Theatre.
Kia ora koutou,
And it’s been a crazy ride getting the show to where it is. Most days this is me at work at Weta Digital, stealing moments to write/re-write script, go over lines and do producer jobs like trying to promote the show.
(BTW - This is the most you’ll ever see inside Weta Digital). I don’t do Sudoku or crosswords - but hopefully all this brain activity will help hold off early on set dementia...time will tell.
Reception desk at work. Nice to see my colleagues getting in to the spirit!
The good thing about doing a largely solo show is the rehearsals can happen anywhere anytime. I’ve been pacing around running lines and blocking in my head like a madman for weeks now. I’m sure for some thespos they can trust their brains to handle lots of script retention - but I’ve punished my brain with lots of varied chemicals over the years - so I can’t trust myself.
Rehearsing at my kids school hall. One of the perks of becoming a school Board of Trustee!
Thanks to my director/BFF Dean Hewison for all his dramaturg wizardry. The man has an exacting eye for timing and comedy - so I owe him big time for where he has been able to hone my performance. And he’s such a good writer that he’s great at throwing out line suggestions.
Here is Dean deciding if I've been a good actor or a BAD actor and what to use first - the riding crop of the whip. (Hint: I'm always a naughty bad actor that needs to be taught a lesson!)
This is me most nights...
...doing random paint/design jobs on set pieces. I’m no handy-man DIY guy. But painting little bits of set dressing still appeals to my inner caveman and helps me delude myself that I might actually have the necessary skills to survive an apocalyptic event.
Sure, in a zombie apocalypse, I’m on the shitty signage. “Caution - Zombies!!!”
I’m not gonna lie - putting on this show has put me and my whanau under a huge amount of pressure, for a number of reasons.
First there’s the uber personal material I feel compelled to tell the world about. I can’t thank my wife Fran enough for supporting me in telling these stories - considering a LOT of them involve her and are partly HERstory too. Fran has been really strong on pushing me to be sure of my reasons for putting on the show and having that clear in my head before telling the wider community about our private life.
Second - there’s the added pressure that doing the show has put on Fran and my relationship. When I do a show it consumes most of my limited brain space – so Fran struggles with my theatre-zombie headspace. She also finds it ironic that I feel the need to tell the story of how I’ve learnt from my past marital misdemeanors - and in doing so – have to be out away from home for rehearsals and up all night working on it. So I’m not really walking that talk much. So I’m really grateful for Fran’s patience, honesty and support.
One of the reasons I really wanted Fran to be in the show was because I didn’t want to be just another white male comedian on stage telling jokes at the expense of his wife and kids. It’s 2017 and I’d like to think I’ve learnt at least something about feminism. Having Fran part of the storytelling and there with me during the shows adds an authenticity and gravity to the stories, but it’s also helped me avoid a lot of sexist pitfalls. Stuff I’d written just to get a cheap laugh - Fran has pulled me up on. Sometimes I wouldn’t even be aware of how something might be taken as sexist or stereotyping towards women. So the show has benefitted hugely from Fran’s involvement.
I’m a lucky man.