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  • Writer's pictureHinton Magazine

Q&A : The Failure Cabaret

Lurching between the silly and funny and the dark and ominous, The Failure Cabaret brings modern topics to life, embracing them through good, old-fashioned sinister vaudevillian charm. In this dark comedy cabaret, Stephanie Dodd from Fremont, Nebraska (Vocals/Accordion) and Justin Badger from Fremont, California (Vocals/Guitar) use original music to tell their story of meeting in New York, performing on Broadway and accidentally moving to a pretentious mountain town to do everything in their power to stay sane and married at the same time.

Stephanie is a musician and writer – her plays and cabaret shows have taken her across the USA and to the UK, and she regularly works with companies and venues developing these works, including her play The Black Bride of Texas which won an Audience Choice award.

Justin is a musician and voice over artist. He’s performed on Broadway in Diane Paulus’production of HAIR and when he’s not touring with the Fremonts, he is a highly sought aftervoice over artist and has narrated several books and short stories on Audible.

We chatted to them about The Failure Cabaretand its personal background.

Is any functional marriage possible without going through therapy?

We’re not sure every marriage needs therapy to be functional, but ours sure does! We started seeing our first couple’s therapist when we were only a few months into dating. Justin is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and Steph has Major Depression, so we knew very early on that we needed a lot of support to keep our relationship in a good place.

Being in a long-term romantic relationship is complicated. Along with figuring out how to love each other every day, you have to navigate communication, hygiene, cleaning, sleeping, spending money… All those little things make it so easy for friction to arise and turn into resentment, even if you don’t have mental health issues. If you can afford a good therapist and both partners are willing to do the work, it can definitely help.

Is modern romance increasingly shaped by decreasing financial opportunities? Do we have to learn to be more pragmatic than our parents, just because our wealth is nowhere near at the same level as theirs was back in the day?

We’ve always found romance on a shoestring budget. When we met, we were both scraping by as actors in NYC, so there wasn’t a lot of money for fancy restaurants or elaborate dates. Smoking cigarettes (remember those?) on fire escapes and sharing stories over bottles of cheap whiskey were some of the highlights of our courtship days.

For years, we’ve worked full-time day jobs in order to make the art that we want to make. We were able to create our Fringe show because we met our Executive Producer (Advertising Legend, Chuck Porter) while working in the corporate world. He’s a huge theatre fan and art lover. He took an interest in our performances and, eventually, asked us to write a show that he could produce.

We’re often stressed out trying to juggle full time work and making art. There isn’t always a lot of time for romance. We can’t really compare our story with anyone else’s, but financial limitations have always been part of our experience. Being pragmatic and fiscally responsible has overall served our art and our romance.

Fremont, Nebraska or Fremont, California – which is better? Discuss!

Fremont, Nebraska and Fremont, California are like two different worlds.

Fremont, Nebraska, where Steph grew up, is very rural and surrounded by farmland. It’s home to Spam and chicken processing plants, which leave a curious scent in the air. It’s classic small-town America with a church on every corner. Politically, it’s very conservative, yet somehow, they still seem to like our music and welcome us whenever we play there! Steph grew up singing in the choir and sneaking out of her strict household at night to hang out with her theatre friends.

Fremont, California, where Justin grew up, is just outside of San Francisco in the Bay Area. A lot of people who live there commute into the city for work. It’s very racially and religiously diverse and politically liberal. Justin grew up taking the train into San Francisco to see all kinds of music – David Bowie, Rage Against the Machine, Nine Inch Nails, The Roots and a whole lot of unsigned punk bands.

It's hard to say which Fremont is better. They’re both wonderful and weird in totally different ways.

Are mountains a good provider of sanity or could this be just a myth?

We didn’t necessarily find sanity while we lived in the mountains of Colorado, but we did have access to a lot of creative inspiration and legal marijuana which didn’t hurt! The mountains are so beautiful and the sun shines about 300 days a year. Coloradoans seem generally happy and optimistic, which we just didn’t relate to. We lived in NYC for almost 15 years, so we cherish our jaded sarcasm and stormy personalities. We earned those qualities.

Is Swiss neutrality helping in the avoidance of conflicts? Can a marriage last longer in a neutral country?

Unfortunately, our personal experiences in Switzerland did not help us avoid conflicts. We were hired to teach music and theatre for a summer at a very fancy international school in Lugano. It was a stunning place but interacting with some of the wealthiest and most entitled children in the world while we were making tiny teaching salaries definitely led to a lot of tension.

Do you feel all romantic relationships are in a way intrinsically dysfunctional?

100%. Being in a romantic relationship is a huge risk. You can’t do it without making a lot of mistakes and revealing the worst parts of your personality. Everyone knows that more than half of all marriages end in divorce, yet so many of us choose to seek out committed partnerships. We’ve been married for over 10 years now. We could say that we’re still together because we worked really hard in therapy and faced our demons head on. While those things are true, the real reason we’ve made it this long is because we have an adorable little dog who crawls into our laps if we get into an argument. His name is Moose and he’s the only truly functional member of our household.

The Failure Cabaret, Underbelly Cowgate (Belly Laugh), 9.05pm, 4-28 August (not 16)


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