Friday, February 24, 2012

FRIGID Festival Interview - Emleigh Wolf of "The Terrible Manpain of Umberto MacDougal"

By Byrne Harrison
Photograph of Umberto by Louis J. McCall
Headshot by Cathryn Lynne

Emleigh Wolf has been performing comedy in New York City for several years now, sometimes onstage, sometimes trying to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night without tripping on anything. With an infatuation for facial hair and all things Scottish, Umberto MacDougal was born on the stage at Penny's Open Mic. Since then, Emleigh has taken Umberto to shows all around the city, including Sketch Block, Comedy Period, Soul Glo, and Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting's Daddy's Basement to name a few. As herself, Emleigh has become notorious for things like writing zombie porn, improvising (everything), ambiguously stalking Bruce Campbell, and advocating the word, trousers, in common American speech.

Show: "The Terrible Manpain of Umberto MacDougal"

How did you first get involved in theatre?

When I was 5 years old, I was signed up for a local theater class at a place called Young Actors Theatre in Tallahassee, FL. My first role in front of an audience was meant to be that of one of the Fiddlers Three in a stage production of "Old King Cole." At the last minute, the kid playing Old King Cole had to go out of town. The teacher asked if anyone else in the class knew the role. My hand shot up immediately, not because I knew the role that well, but because I wanted more stage time. She had no real alternative but to put me in the role, and with some rudimentary improvisation, I was good to go. When I walked out onstage with a big pillow for a stomach, and I waddled over to the chair that was meant to be my throne, I accidentally sat on the edge, and sort of slid back into the chair, and the whole audience laughed. I was absolutely hooked from that moment on. Now here I am, dressed as a man and making people laugh again.

Who are your biggest influences?

I have so many influences. I’m a massive geek, so when I like something I like it in a ridiculous way, and I want to somehow incorporate it into everything. Personally, B-movie superstar Bruce Campbell is one of my biggest influences. I adore his cheesiness and somewhat self-deprecating humor as well as his interactions with his fans.

Love me some British comedy as well. I am one of those Monty Python fans who can quote sketches word for word. I can do the same with a lot of French and Saunders sketches. My love for them is something that shows through in "The Terrible Manpain of Umberto MacDougal."

Then there’s friends and family. My parents both have their own weird brand of funny, and I have really great friends who love to laugh.

Tell me a little bit about your show.

Umberto MacDougal is a very sad Scotsman. He’s been rejected often in his life, bullied as a kid, and has never really felt loved. Instead of hiding his sadness or manpain (the pain that men feel), he’s embraced it and wants to educate others about it by talking about his woes, sometimes though sorrowful poetry.

What inspired you to write it?

Well, as I said I’m a colossal geek, and I first discovered the word, manpain, on LiveJournal while reading fanfiction. If you don’t know what fanfiction is, you need to get out less. Basically, the word, manpain, comes up to illustrate media’s love of sad men. For example, Lee Adama from the show Battlestar Galactica spends the entire third season of the show having manpain, mostly because of some weird love quadrangle, and for some reason there is this huge focus on it. It’s the end of humanity, they’re being hunted down by cylons, there are traitors among them, but so much time is spent with scenes of Lee Adama getting drunk and crying, sobering up and crying, eating a lot and… you guessed it, crying. That’s one example, but think of any major work of literature, television, film, etc. and there’s almost certain to be a decent amount of manpain.

I used the word manpain a few times in front of my friends, and they insisted that I talk about it at Penny’s Open Mic, where I spend my Tuesday nights. Many of them can attest to either having to listen to or having manpain themselves. I was hesitant, but they were persistent, and finally I agreed on the conditions that I got to wear a big beard and use a Scottish accent. With that, Umberto MacDougal came into being. Now, he’s evolved into something all his own, and I love it. Even I feel bad for the guy sometimes.

Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with them?

I had the pleasure of working with my director, Bricken Sparacino, when I did tech for her show, "I’m Not Sure I Like the Way You Licked Me." She’s extremely talented and fun to work with as well as having a focus that I often lack. She co-wrote and is performing in another FRIGID show called "Death, It Happens: a girl's guide to death," which I can’t wait to see.

I met Mike Ogletree at Penny’s Open Mic about a month or so after I’d first created Umberto, and I was terrified to do the character in front of him. Mike is an actual Scotsman, and when he came to the mic, he was decked out in Scots gear and singing the poems of Robert Burns. I’m not quite sure what I thought he’d do… come running onto the stage shouting, “How dare ye make fun of m’ culture! And m’ manpain!” I really don’t know, but eventually, I had no choice because he kept coming every week, and I wanted to develop the character further, so I downed some whiskey flavored courage and went for it. I was so excited that he liked it, I asked him if he’d be willing to back Umberto’s sad stories up on guitar at a few other shows, and he was really into it.

What's next for you after FRIGID?

I’d really like to keep doing this show, honestly. This is my first festival, and I don’t want it to be my last. I just started an campaign to try to raise some money to get to Edinburgh or Winnipeg this summer.

And finally, if you could say anything to your potential audience, what would it be?

Come to my show, tell your friends about it, help me get some butts in the seats! Umberto would be SO SAD if no one came to see him.

"The Terrible Manpain of Umberto MacDougal"
Written by Emleigh Wolf
Directed by: Bricken Sparacino

UNDER St. Marks
94 St. Marks Place

Feb 26, 7:00PM
Feb 27, 6:00PM
Mar 02, 7:30PM
Mar 03, 2:30PM

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