Since their debut at the Minnesota Fringe Festival, Levi Weinhagen's and Joshua English Scrimshaw's Harty Boys have attracted an audience looking for bright fun with a satiric edge. The two -- who are also the brains behind Comedy Suitcase -- will bring back their clueless teen detectives for a second year of The Harty Boys Save Christmas, opening Black Friday at the Bryant-Lake Bowl.
We took a moment to speak to the two as they prepared for the show's second go-around.
Has the show changed from last year? Did you learn anything from the first production?
Levi Weinhagen: We rewrote some of the jokes, and tweaked a bit of action here and there. Andy Kraft is taking over the narrator role in place of Matt Rein, who performed it last year. This led to some different beats and moments, but the overall structure of the show is the same.
Joshua English Scrimshaw: Audiences really liked the show, which is why we decided to bring it back. That's the main thing we learned from last year's run: Don't change much. Twin Cities theatergoers have spoken, and apparently they want to see us dress in boy sweaters and sit on Karen Wiese-Thompson's lap. Their wish is our command.
Has the success of the Harty Boys surprised you? Any ideas on what drives it?
LW: Any level of success surprises me.
JES: Especially in theater. It's like TV you have to drive to and pay for, and then when you get there all the actors are average to just plain funny looking. Frankly, I'm not sure how anybody gets an audience.
LW: I think part of the attraction is the original Hardy Boys books. We have a true affinity for them, while still recognizing the absurdity of the genre.
JES: It's an affectionate parody. The subject matter is nostalgic, but the satire puts it in a modern context and allows the audience to appreciate it whether they're familiar with the books or not.
LW: Plus, excited-but-not-too-bright characters are infectious.
There's a lot of skewering that goes on of local institutions -- is this a playful poking of fun or a sign of raging bitterness?
JES: I'd like to say playful poking, but it's a family show. So raging bitterness it is!
LW: Pretty much any institution deserves a certain amount of ridicule. The only way to avoid ridicule is to acknowledge your own ridiculousness. Luckily, most cultural institutions in the Twin Cities and beyond take themselves pretty seriously, so we have plenty to work with.
JES: Lots of the original Hardy Boys books centered on mysterious local landmarks like old mills, secret caves, and other abandoned structures that any responsible city would do something about. We decided to create that same sense of place by setting our spoof in the Twin Cities.
LW: So really it's not raging bitterness at all. Simply an artistic choice. We express our actual bitterness in much healthier, non-theatrical ways, like eating entire wheels of cheese or forcing our children to live out our dreams of joining the circus.
What's next for the company?
LW: We're working on some web-specific content to supplement our live productions, including a podcast about the fun and dangers of mixing comedy and parenting.
JES: Our next live show is called Baby New Year's Time Traveling Diaper Party. It will have two performances only: 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. December 31st at the Bryant-Lake Bowl. It's a chance for parents, kids, and other socially-challenged people to enjoy an early bird New Year's comedy show and still be home in time for bed!