PXP recently had the chance to ask BIG DUMMY's Mary Dimino a few questions:
1. Complete this sentence: My show is the only one in Fringe NYC that…
will tell you the story behind the secret I've been keeping close to me for a lifetime. Something no other human being knew till the debut of this play, not even my own spouse. It is a secret that colored my whole world growing up and still affects everything I do till this day. I birthed BIG DUMMY through the pains of this secret. My dad wasn’t like everybody else. I was raised by a special needs parent with a learning disorder. This play exposes my heart, my secret, my love and acceptance for both dad and myself.
2. What was the inspiration for Big Dummy?
The hinge upon which the whole law of our lives turns is this - the love we received when we were children. In order to understand ourselves, we need to look at our childhood. Why do I do what I do? Why do I feel different? I spent a lifetime hiding my father in the shadows. I was embarrassed by him. Until the day came when I realized he was brilliant. As is.
I’ve only just begun to live free from my childhood demons. How? I fell in love with Dad all over again in the writing of this piece. I am so thankful for the ability to write and when I do so, I heal.
I feel strongly that Big Dummy can heal others also. It is a significant show for our time. Over 30 million Americans have learning disabilities. 92 million have special needs. The reasons for these adult problems are as varied as the number of individuals. Leaving school early, having a physical or emotional disability, etc. Today’s educators are ever increasingly faced with special needs students, the learning disabled and autism spectrum disorder. As a compassionate society, we need to gain new understanding to help those individuals and the families touched by such disabilities.
My wish is to help others understand. To connect. My wish for those suffering from a “secret” is to know that they are not alone, even when they are in their deepest, darkest place.
It is such an honor to be debuting Big Dummy in FringeNYC. I was honored to debut my first autobiographical solo show Scared Skinny in the 2010 New York International Fringe Festival where it won an Overall Excellence Award for Outstanding Solo Show. I can truly say it is one of my most cherished, fondest memories. And the beauty that solo show writing imparted to me has inspired me to continue on this journey of writing, of healing. And I thank FringeNYC and the audiences who allow me to share my story with them, from the bottom of my heart - where my deepest secrets lie. May we always find the courage to keep on telling them to each other.
3. What is the process behind a one woman show? What are the difficulties presented with writing and starring in a solo show?
When putting up a solo show, you need to wear many hats and be proficient at them all nearly equally, to an extent. Of course, I believe the script is the priority. Writing, rewriting, and writing once again. After that, comes putting on the hat of the actor. Looking at the script as if you just got hired to do the part. Learning your lines, finding your meaning, your moments, instilling it with feeling and memory so that the words are no longer written on paper but alive in your heart. Next comes the collaborating, finding the right team that sees your same vision, supports that vision and brings it to life. A living and breathing production, with lights, sound, set, all the things you may or may not have seen when you, the writer, was writing it. Then comes the producing; marketing it to an audience, finding your brand, getting it out there so that the public knows about it. It’s beautiful to have a perfect piece of theater, but if there is no one seeing it, like the proverbial tree in the forest, does it make a noise? So in the end, you are the writer, the performer, the visionary, the marketing and branding person, the producer, the financier, and your best and worst enemy depending on the day.
4. Tell us about a memorable experience from the creative process of Big Dummy!
Christine, my director and I made many creative choices together - to cut a couple scenes that weren’t forwarding the story, and to add a couple sentences to clarify other parts of the story. One descriptive sentence we kept in was about how Dad would find “lucky coins in the street.”
Now, you should probably know that dad has passed on a few years back. And sometimes in rehearsals I would grapple with wondering if I was presenting dad in a good light, if he would like what I’m saying about him or not. It was pretty intense for me. My desire was to write a piece where dad was a hero, not just a joke. One day, after asking myself that question in rehearsals, I found a quarter in the street. I took it as interesting, not much more. The next day, Christine and I are walking from rehearsal and talking about that scene, she finds a quarter. Tech rehearsal day, we each found a quarter in front of the theater. On opening night, Christine taps me on the shoulder and says, “Your dad’s here tonight.” And hands me a quarter she just found near the stage. Once a day, since opening night, someone on the team, or me or my husband has found a quarter. I’m saving them all. And hey, I would like to think somehow, somewhere dad is seeing it and is sending me a thumbs up, but if not, I’m 13 quarters richer. Oh and today I was on the phone with my best friend, telling her this very story about the quarters, and as I was talking she starting yelling into the phone, “OMG, Mary, I just looked down and found a quarter.” We both got quiet and a bit choked up. Hey listen, if anyone reading this finds a quarter, you gotta let me know. It’s Big Dummy’s way of saying he likes you.
5. Who are the unsung heroes involved in Big Dummy and what were their contributions to the finished product?
It takes a village to write a solo show. Many months, even years go into one beautiful moment you may see on stage. The team that is a “one person” show - the members in that team - are the unsung heroes. From the graphic designer, to lighting designer, each make their own indelible mark upon a solo show. BIG DUMMY’s Important contributors, the sometimes unsung heroes, are my directorChristine Renee Miller, who sees my vision and makes it even clearer. She is a complete joy to work with. And wise beyond wise. I call her Zen Master Miller. Next is my mentor and friend, Matt Hoverman, who has been a mid-wife to the birthing of BIG DUMMY. His tutelage has been everything to me and gave me the courage to write this piece. In fact, he should find rolls of quarters throughout his lifetime. Then there is my lighting desinger, Kia Rodgers, who hears words and then sees those words as light. And countless others who may not have even known they’ve contributed, but with a kind word or smile, made Dummy what it is today.
6. What do you hope audiences will take away with them after this show?
My wish is that people will see themselves or a loved one somewhere within this play. BIG DUMMY is about dad. He could be your dad, your brother, your son, your uncle. It's about understanding someone who "is not like everybody else." The audience will take away inspiration, understanding that it's never too late to fulfill your destiny. And that simplicity is beauty.
Big Dummy written and performed by Mary Dimino directed by Christine Renee Miller
SEE BIG DUMMY
TUE 8/20 @ 4:00pm SAT 8/24 @ 6:00pm SUN 8/25 @ 2:00pm