In an effort to raise money for the Fringe show, two performers brought laughs to the London Grill.
The London Grill was overcome by laughter and local Philadelphia talent on April 2 as a fundraising variety show that brought back everyone’s favorite lunch lady at the Red Square Theatre.
The duo of Lunch Lady and Frank, comprised of Bella Weil Saltzer and Adam Rzepka, came back for the Second Annual Red Square Skiffle – a party to raise rent for this year’s Fringe show. Entry cost $15, but the event left audience members’ sides hurting from laughter.
The event featured a one-hour variety show that included Puppet Tyranny, an experimental theater puppet troupe, Mas Moudi, a belly dance troupe, singing by company members and multimedia components. A mystery box, raffle and silent auction featuring items like two tickets to the Arden Theatre, a Polish rolling pin, two tickets to Wait Staff Sketch comedy and much more were also offered at the event.
Saltzer’s character, the Lunch Lady, is a bold woman who despises bacteria and entered the show with a bottle of Febreze.
“The Lunch Lady is a character I created for last year’s Fringe show, ‘Lunch Lady Tarot.’ She’s a composite of just different people, and you know what’s really strange for me, is [that] I usually remember the exact moment when an idea comes to me,” Saltzer said. “I think I’m channeling her. She’s a psychic, and her day job is that she’s a lunch lady. There is no filter between her brain and what she says, and then her sidekick is Frank.”
Saltzer and Rzepka, along with company members Garwood and Robson, spent six months writing, editing and piecing the show together.
Their hard work shows through the fluid transitions of live performance and media components. The commercials and home videos of Lunch Lady and Frank added to the Public Access TV story line of the show.
“The character Mike, Joe Garwood, did all the cinematography,” Saltzer said. “Adam and I wrote the whole script, took turns directing and shot in all different locations.”
Audience members were able to enjoy drinks and appetizers from the London Grill as they waited for the performance to begin.
“It’s just a lot of fun. I live 15 minutes away in Cherry Hill, [N.J.], and love the show,” Susan Monsour, the Lunch Lady’s sister-in-law said. “I came last year and fell in love with the boyfriend Frank.”
The show was a collaborative effort by Saltzer, Rzepka, Joe Garwood, a film student who helped with the multimedia components of the show, and Mark Robson, the managing director of Red Square Theatre.
“It was just a matter of taking all of our skills together and reprising new characters to come up with a great show,” Robson said.
Robson played the director and Irish singer during the show and added to the madness created by the Lunch Lady and Frank.
The inclusion of the audience made the show feel like a live taping of a pilot show for television. Garwood’s character held up cue cards signaling times for the audience to applaud, remain in stunned silence, “Ooh” or “Ahh,” and, of course, laugh.
“The show was very eclectic and a good representation of the theater,” Jeff Lettermoser, an audience member, said. “It was a good variation. Last year, they had a live band and was more about music. This year, it was more comedy.”
Puppet Tyranny was both a crowd favorite and loved by the theater.
“I loved Puppet Tyranny. I really thought they were amazing,” Rzepka said. “I’m so glad they did it with us. They blew me away.”
Through mutual friends, both Mas Moudi and Puppet Tyranny were connected to Saltzer and Rzepka.
“It’s nice for us to get out of our neighborhood [Kensington] and perform in other neighborhoods,” said Zach Palladino, one of the members of Puppet Tyranny. “You know, there are other places to perform, and it’s good to see that and be welcome.”
As far as the future is concerned, Saltzer and Rzepka are looking to expand and continue writing.
“Clearly these two characters that we’ve created, the Lunch Lady and Frank, are becoming wildly popular with our followers, so were going to have to continue to write short films and commercials,” Saltzer said. “[Having] more live-based shows, I have a feeling they will return for every skiffle we have. I don’t think our public would be happy if we didn’t.”
“I hope that we can tour around areas and get booked at local clubs and see where it goes from there,” Rzepka said.
This show was able to bring together a crowd of people who were ready to laugh and be entertained. Red Square Theatre accomplished this by being original, fresh and funny.
“I thought it was excellent, brilliantly put together and very well-written,” Andrew Basioe, an audience member, said. “It was just really funny.”
Alexandra Olivier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.