By Rebecca Noon, Artistic Associate for Community
Every season Trinity Rep teams up with the Providence Public Library to curate a series of conversations that consider aspects of our productions by siting them in locations which resonate with the themes of the show. The series, called Context & Conversation, is a chance for audiences to experience the real-life places that reflect the shows, while also introducing you to incredible organizations working hard in our backyard. For Pride and Prejudice we teamed up with Wage House, a two-year-old comedy venue in Pawtucket run by Kate Teichman and Casey Calderiso. Who better to help us think about Jane Austen — a true original when it comes to funny ladies — than two contemporary women lifting up the local profile of women in comedy?
Rebecca Noon: Can you describe the journey you’ve taken to manifest Wage House?
Casey Calderiso: Wage House was born from wanting to express ourselves as artists, comedians and also business women. The journey to opening our doors was thrilling, challenging and intimidating. We knew what we were doing as comedians…we didn’t know as much about starting a business! We relied heavily on our improv training to say yes and keep things moving forward rather than question everything and stall the progress.
Kate Teichman: We both had experiences separately of growing up loving comedy, learning improv, watching a million shows, performing (sometimes in extremely cruddy venues, sometimes in polished theaters), becoming teachers ourselves. When we met, Casey and I quickly admired each others work ethic, commitment, and we made each other laugh. As adults who make stuff up for a living, we wanted to create a space not only we would love performing in but others would love watching comedy in.
RN: What does Wage House look like today? What are your dreams for Wage House?
CC: Today, after a year and a half, Wage House is growing steadily! We love when people discover us for the first time and have also forged great friendships with our regulars. We are extremely grateful to be able to say that it has been even better than we imagined! In the future, we are striving to maintain the spirit of Wage House while expanding our programming, class offerings and talent pool!
KT: Wage House, today, looks like an intimate black box theater where all the fun happens. It’s great to offer performers a space to create in, and bring people together to laugh. The dream is to grow in a million ways to teach folks improv, even the ones who think they are not funny. To offer more shows each week, grow our audiences, work with more performers and talented instructors. And for me personally have Obama come to a show. We’re talking dreams here.
RN: What is one story you can tell that has happened because you “said yes to women”?
CC: One of our most popular shows to date has been Tell It Again which was produced, directed and performed by a mother/daughter duo. It was an incredible experience seeing the pair support and encourage each other as well as create a hilarious, moving and truly unique comedy experience. We were honored and so excited when they approached us with their idea.
KT: My answer is saying yes to Casey to start Wage House. And she said yes to me. It’s really special to have started a business with another woman and then share that with all the people who walk through the doors. It inspires others, which is my favorite thing. And it showed me that I have what it takes, and I found out things about my business partner I would never known if I didn’t have the opportunity to see her in this position. I knew Casey as a performer, writer, and friend, but not as a business owner. We say yes to each other just about every day.
RN: How did you feel about Jane Austen prior to this relationship with Trinity Rep?
CC: I don’t think I knew enough of her work to form an opinion prior to this. If anything, I think I assumed her writing was too layered for me to feel like I could really wrap my head around it.
KT: I felt the work was fun and funny but dated and a lot about women being in love and trying to get married.
RN: How do you feel about Jane now?
CC: I’ve realized the error of my ways! Big mistake! Huge! Her work transcends genres and Pride and Prejudice isn’t “just” a period piece. I’m excited to get to know her and her writing more and draw inspiration from her!
KT: I’m really excited Kate Hamill decided to dust off and trust that Jane Austen’s work had lots to say to today’s audience and give a voice to a bunch of funny gals.
RN: If you could erase one assumption about comedy what would it be?
CC: My answer pertains to local comedy specifically; local comedy can be great! Not every talented comedian/writer/improviser lives in LA or New York. People are often pleasantly surprised at the talent and professionalism on our stage! And we strive to provide a great night out that is unique and incredibly affordable.
KT: That you have to be funny to be a part of it. If you are a person, you can be funny.
RN: If you could erase one assumption about women what would it be?
CC: That we are all witches. Some of us are sorcerers! Or wizards! Or some sweet combo of all of those things!
KT: That you can explain women or any gender ever. I like being surprised by everybody!
RN: What is exciting about teaming up with Trinity Rep on this show?
CC: The chance for us as a small and new theater to collaborate with a much larger, much more reputable theater. We are thrilled!
KT: We love getting to meet and work with new artists and being included in a conversation with our community. And for it to be over a play written by a funny woman from the past, then adapted by a funny woman now, Wage House feels like a great place to meet each other.
RN: Why does comedy matter?
CC: Comedy matters because it encourages vulnerability. Improv comedy especially thrives on connection, collaboration and saying, “I don’t have this all figured out and that’s ok!”
KT: It’s about connection. When we bring comedy to the stage, or watch in the audience, we are sharing what it is to be a person in the F-ed place we all live. The things that make us laugh the hardest are often the things that feel true. You gotta laugh.
The Pride and Prejudice Context & Conversation at Wage House is Thursday, Oct. 18 at 7:30 pm. This is a free event and everyone is welcome. RSVP at wagehouse.com/events/trinity-rep-s-context-conversation-pride-prejudice/