James Macfarlane chats with Dominique Salerno about her debut Fringe show The Box Show, the relationship between creativity and constraint and just what she gets up to in that box.
I'm what would happen if Jack Black and Tina Fey had a baby
Dominique Salerno! How are you?
Hi James! I’m doing well! I’m very excited for my Fringe debut of The Box Show. I’m ready to crawl back into the box and play around with some fun characters.
So, for those of us who aren’t familiar with you, how would you describe yourself?
I’m an actor-writer- comedienne based out of New York City, who has a wicked sense of humour and who is quick to laugh at myself. As an artist, I'm what would happen if Jack Black and Tina Fey had a baby, and then that baby trained in opera and had an obsession with Greek Myths and Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing. Eclectic, fun, clever, and ridiculous: that’s me.
You’re making your Edinburgh debut this year with The Box Show. What can audiences expect?
Audiences can expect a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously and that keeps things fresh! It’s a one-woman show where I play 25 characters inside of a small box, and it’s a fast paced adrenaline-filled rollercoaster ride. Every time the box doors open, we’re transported to a new reality, and the show embraces all different types of humour. It’s zany, physical, nerdy, wacky, dark, and heartfelt. I hope that audiences can walk away inspired to create within whatever limitations life throws upon us!
Was a run at the Edinburgh Fringe something that was always on your radar?
Yes! Doing my solo show at Edinburgh with the support of the amazing production company Alchemation is truly a dream come true! I always wanted to bring The Box Show across the pond for a full show at this festival, and I’m so grateful that I’m actually doing it this summer. I can’t wait to share my little box show with an international audience and experience the cornucopia of artistic expression at the festival.
You’ve described this show as 'Saturday Night Live but performed by one woman – in a box'. Where did you get all these ideas from and when did the thought of performing in a box come to you?
Well, I initially created the show inside of an actual cupboard, so a lot of the inspiration came from those physical limitations. During my MFA program I requested a space to create a solo show, and the room they assigned me had a small AV cabinet in the wall. A few days into the process of making a solo show, I was completely overwhelmed, so I climbed inside the cupboard to think. I started playing around and thought it might be a good way to open the show! The audience could get seated, and then I could pop out! When I showed the idea to my advisor (the incredible Stephen Buescher) he suggested that I do the entire show from inside the cupboard and it was like a firework went off inside my head. Creativity loves constraints! Characters just started pouring out of me. I hauled a mirror into the studio, and started playing around with who could live inside of this box. In two weeks I wrote 45 minutes of material while inside that tiny cupboard. Most of the characters came from improvising what could be possible inside the small space, but a few were written outside of the box and then staged. The guiding principle of my creative process with this show has always been: Why Not? Crawl in there, play, and see what works. There are so many characters that didn’t make it into the show audiences will see in August, and I wish there was a way to include them all! The realities that can exist within the six sides of this box are infinite!
You’ve performed the show extensively in the US. How has the feedback been from audiences prior to this Fringe run?
I have done this show a few times and I have been lucky enough to garner some accolades and awards, but the greatest blessing of the whole experience has been my relationship with the incredible audiences who have supported the show. People have come to see the show multiple times, spread the word, brought friends to see it, donated to fundraising campaigns, sent me encouraging messages, and supported this venture every step of the way. Some people are even coming to Scotland to see it again! Doing a solo show can be a lonely experience. After all, my rehearsal process is me sitting alone in a box talking to myself like a crazy person! The kind words and encouragement from The Box Show community has kept me motivated and hopeful throughout the process, and I’m so deeply grateful for my audiences!
Thanks so much for speaking to me! Finally, do you have any shows that you’re excited to see when you’re in Edinburgh?
I’m really excited to see Hello Kitty Must Die, a dark new musical about smashing stereotypes, Cat Cohen’s new show, and to support the other acts coming from the NYC comedy scene! I’m also really excited to stumble across something new as I’m wandering the streets!