GREATER LB RADIO LINK: HEAR “LOLPERA” CREATORS SEPARATE IDIOTIC FROM EPICBy Greater Long Beach
Ellen Warkentine and Andrew Pedroza are twentysomething artists who say it was the curdled cutesiness of a virally popular website for cat crazies that moved them to create LOLPERA, an epic opera of classic pathos and humor made fresh and energetic by a modern perspective.
They said it again during the June 21 episode of Greater Long Beach Radio with Dave Wielenga. Greggory Moore, theatre critic for GreaterLongBeach.com, organized and co-hosted this special edition of the weekly program that explores the most-important forces in Long Beach life through interviews with the people at the center of them.
LOLPERA was the biggest and boldest accomplishment on the Long Beach theatre scene when it debuted in 2011 at the Garage Theatre, a converted downtown Long Beach storefront on 7th St., just west of Long Beach Blvd. It dittoed all that at this year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival, where its sold-out run closes Sunday. Later this summer, the show hits the road for New York City.
But LOLPERA’s origin on icanhascheezburger.com, an Internet site that has achieved spooky-stupid popularity and profitability by posting odd photos of cats and captioning them with strange phrases of intentionally mispelled words, gives its unlikely arrival as an insightful parable of our distracted times feel like the elaborate setup for a practical joke.
“I think the cat pictures are cute and fun, but I’m not offended that you don’t think the opera sounds great,” Warkentine said cheerfully. “I think it’s great to come to the theatre with really low expectations and be blown away.”
Ultimately, Warkentine and Pedroza emerged unscathed from the hour-long interrogation, and their comportment made it clear that pulling off a prank of this complexity would present absolutely no challenge to them.
In other words, everybody can relax—Pedroza and Warkentine don’t bother with no-brainers.
That’s why they devote so much time to LOLPERA.
“One of the first things we wrote was …” Pedroza began, and Warkentine immediately picked up on where he was going, so they went there together, saying : “Cue fog and oboe.”
“We love being awkward together,” she said. “When we get together, we are really happy and awkward.”
Warkentine was referring with obvious and sweet affection to the chemistry that fills their personal relationship with deadpan comments, inside jokes, astute insights, catchy melodies and non-sequitur—a stream-of-silliness that provides counterweight to a creative chemistry that tends toward the serious.
“It works best when everybody is taking it seriously,” she explains. “With LOLPERA, the absurdity is inherent in the content.”
Pedroza joined in. “It’s like, ‘Who needs a cheeseburger?’ But these cats do,” he said. “It’s like, ‘The human race can’t communicate, except through cat pictures. They are not content. They need something outside of themselves to make them whole.”
Warkentine inserted a point: “That’s serious, but maybe it is missed in the Internet culture,” she said. “That’s why the opera had to be epic.”
“But epic is the way we live life every day,” Pedroza interjects with an extra-flat matter-of-factness, which requires a moment to reveal itself as the clue that he’s kidding. “We live epically, or we don’t live at all.”
Warkentine and Pedroza sidestep a few questions about how the burgeoning success of LOLPERA may tweak the vibe they share,or their relationship with its actors.
“We’re just trying to have a good time,” Pedroza offers. “If we are going to devote hours and hours to this project, why should we make it anything else? As far as the future? We don’t know the future so why worry?”
Pressed further, Warkentine comes a little cleaner.
“That’s a discussion we are continuing to have,” she acknowledged. “Those are lessons we are continuing to learn as we bring LOLPERA to higher levels—now to the level of Hollywood Fringe, later this summer to New York Fringe. We continue to focus, to work hard to have a vision. But our visions of success still include a particular attitude in our approach to work, in making sure we all continue to love this work, even as we try to take it as far as it can go.”
Pedroza has been nodding his head.
“We wouldn’t be doing this for years and years,” he said, “if we didn’t want LOLPERA to go somewhere.”