Local comedian Mary Jane French to host new comedy series in TheatreLAB’s Basement space
The comedic stylings of Mary Jane French are an amazing mixture of hilarity and poignant self expression. Unabashed in her self-referential humor, French often riffs on her being a transgender woman dealing with life in the early stages of transition.
But she’s bringing her whit, and some friends, before a new audience at the TheatreLAB starting this weekend and she’s hoping to make a dent in the local live performance scene.
The idea started when French got covered in local news papers. Before long TheatreLAB’s Artistic Director Deejay Gray reached out to see if the two could work together.
Gray said French’s range of talents was what first attracted him to her, and their CompanyArtist program was created to help folks like her to excel.
“From comedy performance to writing to film production, mixed with a razor-sharp tenacity and passion, French is a Richmond artist that simply cannot be stopped,” Gray said.
French, who has taken on the CompanyArtist role with gusto, hopes to create something different in RVA’s live performance scene.
“The purpose of the show for me is to create as dynamic a show as possible,” said French who was excited to produce the new semi-regular shows. She hopes to give a variety of performers the chance to reach this audience, with a few surprises thrown in.
“I want the show to be exciting and for people to not know exactly what they’ll see when they come to the show,” she said. “So much stand up in Richmond is done in the back of a bar, I want this show to utilize that we’re in a theater space to allow performers to explore more possibilities.”
That TheatreLAB space is core to French’s vision for the shows, and one of the reasons she was so excited to get involved. She said the usual audience for the venue might be comfortable with live shows, but less familiar with standup or produced comedy.
“I think combining those two audiences, the theatre people and the comedy people is great,” she said. ”It brings comedy fans into a theater where they’ll see all of the other events they’re putting on… We’re not in a bar on a slow night but rather we get to draw in a crowd who are all there and have paid a (small) cover charge to see a show. And I think that kind of attention makes a big difference.”
French said she hopes the show can play a role in building up Richmond’s comedy scene, getting it out of the confines of usual venues and exposing it to folks who might otherwise miss out. She’d love to see touring acts in the future, but really, right now, she just wants to get beyond open mic nights.
“This show is a part of trying to get more showcases together,” she said. “[It] is about creating another showcase that’s in a theater space to provide comics a place to perform other than just open mics that is not as restrictive.”
The first “The Basement Comedy show” opens this Sunday, at the The Basement, 300 E. Broad St., at 9 PM.
Comedians Alex Dejulio, Jacob McFadden, David Marie-Garland, Mary Jane French, (and a very special guest) will headline the stage.
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