The curator of monthly politically-minded cabaret Agitated!, Bastion Carboni has quickly established his Poison Apple Initiative as a Fringe Festival instution since moving to Philadelphia from Texas four years ago. Critiquing 2015’s Sometimes Callie and Jonas Die, the erstwhile City Paper wrote “This is what many people miss about the Fringe’s early years… holy fuck, this shit is real.” Phindie called it “a raw and shit-kicking show,” and described 2016’s An Obviously Foggot “the explosive, vibrant queer play we’ve been waiting for”.
Christopher Munden: What was the last vacation you took?
Bastion Carboni: I’m really bad at vacation. Like I’ll go places to see theatre and try to pick up gigs while I’m there, but sitting in some sand reading trash and drinking light beer makes me fidgety and feeling like I should be productive. I went to the beach for like two days last year and was so itching to get back to work.
Christopher Munden: What inspired A Vacation?
Bastion Carboni: I had been in Philadelphia less than a year (September marks year four). I was in a pretty dark place; I’m generally in a dark place when I conceive of plays. As for the actual impetus, I never really recall where my plays come from. The base idea is always a sort of culmination of feelings and ideas, and I don’t actually end up WRITING the thing until a few years after it’s conceived.
Bastion Carboni: Well, it started out as a story about a older woman who gets her groove back by going to Hell.
It was a terrible idea.
Then a while back I heard about the case of Otto Warmbier and that whole situation just sort of lodged in my mind like food between teeth.
Now the play about a travel vlogger (like FunForLouis) with a lust for disaster tourism.
Christopher Munden: What themes do you want to explore in the work?
Bastion Carboni: Frankly it’s a play about whiteness. Specifically: the notion of white, Western impenetrability, the legacies of manifest destiny, and the perverse side of our American, “you can do anything” values.
Christopher Munden: Does this show mark a departure for you?
Bastion Carboni: Departure. Ha. I see what you did there.
Yes, it does. I’ve never made a one-person play before, and I rarely perform in my own pieces (Sometimes Callie and Jonas Die being a major exception). Also I generally write race-neutral characters and am super-infrequently even passingly interested in the activities of straight, cis, white men. But Colton, who I both love and fucking despise, is something I just had to grapple with.
Christopher Munden: How is it similar to your previous work?
Bastion Carboni: It’s built on a foundation of anger and it’s built to be very funny until it is very not.
When writing, I think of Wile E Coyote and the Roadrunner. Audience is Wile E; Roadrunner is the play. And the audience should be racing after the piece and almost catching up with it and we’re running along having fun and then the play takes a sharp turn and the audience is off a cliff before it notices. Then it notices. That’s what I want a play to be always.
Christopher Munden: After a few years in Philly, what are your views on the state of theater in the city? Where do you think the Fringe Festival fits in the theater landscape of the city?
Bastion Carboni: Well, I think forums like Fringe are essential to give newer talent a spotlight. I think that, because theater is such an expensive gamble, that more established companies (with some exceptions) tend to go with who they know in order to take one more risky variable outta the equation. Fringe allows artists to make work that will be seen on their own terms and to introduce themselves to those companies/ producers/ audiences without waiting in line to be deemed worthy of playing with. It’s been an invaluable pipeline for me.
Christopher Munden: What do you like about Franky Bradley’s as a venue? How does it fit this show?
Bastion Carboni: Franky’s has been an artistic home for my drag/ burlesque work for a few years now and my monthly politics show AGITATED! is there. (Shout-out to Dave Morreale.) It’s probably the best venue in the bar scene tech-wise and lends itself immediately to theater. I appreciate the intimacy of the space.
Christopher Munden: What else are you looking forward to this Fringe?
What: A Vacation
When: September 9-15, 2018
Where: Franky Bradley’s, 1320 Chancellor Street, Center City
Created by Bastion Carboni, Poison Apple Initiative