David Cerda’s going to hell (and laughing all the way)
David Cerda has carved out a great reputation with Hell in a Handbag Productions, turning out hilarious camp theater in Chicago for the last decade. Handbag will have two productions running simultaneously this fall. "Sexy Baby", which had a long run this summer at Mary’s Attic, is now running late night at Theatre Wit, 1229 W Belmont. And "SCARRIE The Musical" opens this weekend at Mary’s Attic.
Cerda’s "SCARRIE" was his premiere production in Chicago in 1998, and was a smash hit running for 18 months. It was revived by Handbag in 2005 with additional music. The 2012 version, directed by Cheryl Snodgrass, features four Handbag Ensemble members, including fan favorite Ed Jones and Cerda himself, in the cast of twelve.
Cerda says ’"Most people know the story of ’Carrie’ even if they’ve never seen the movie -- the iconic moments are familiar to everyone and we’re at a great advantage because of that. The actors are having a blast paying homage to their characters while still putting the special twist you can only find in Handbag’s shows. This is going to be a prom you won’t want to miss...".
Campy & over the top
EDGE: Why and when did you start Handbag? Was there an artistic vision that you wanted to achieve that was not seen in Chicago theater at that time?
David Cerda: I wanted to share my passion for the things I grew up loving in popular culture. B-Movies, Joan Crawford, noir cinema, exploitation films - anything that helped shape me and my generation.
It turns out everything I love is campy and over the top. You don’t realize these things when you’re young. I started with Sweetback Productions in 1997, and by 2001 it was time to form my own company.
There are companies scattered all over the country doing the same type of parodies, some actually covering the same themes and titles. That’s how I met Ryan Landry of The Gold Dust Orphans in Boston. But we are unique in Chicago because we consistently do only original camp and parody.
EDGE: What are you proudest of?
David Cerda: All of my shows are like my children. ’POSEIDON! An Upside Down Musical’ has been produced around the country and ’The Birds’ received Tippi Hedren’s seal of approval, which I am very proud of.
EDGE: Are there frustrations you feel as an Artistic Director - things you wish would be easier? Things that people just don’t get? Things you need?
David Cerda: Just the usual ’Little Red Hen’ syndrome. But honestly, if you do this you have to expect do the majority of the work if you want to reap the majority of the benefits.
Money is always a problem but it would probably be that way even if we had a lot of it. I remind our audiences, but they’re smart. I know it’s tough out there and they contribute when they can.
My other frustration is dealing with certain individuals who think that having a website makes them a ’theater critic.’ I finally thought, ’why the hell am I inviting them?’ So I stopped. If you hate my show, fine. Just know what the hell you’re talking about. I guess idiots make us all look smarter.
A love letter
EDGE: You will have two shows running soon - how is that going? Why has ’Sexy Baby’ been such a big hit? What keeps audiences coming back? And why should they come see ’SCARRIE The Musical’?
David Cerda: I think ’Sexy Baby’ has a broader appeal then some of my other shows since it’s not based on an old film. The subject of child beauty pageants is something I had been wanting to write about for a long time, and really, who wouldn’t want to see grown men play four-year-old beauty queens?
They should come and see ’SCARRIE The Musical’ because it really is the first musical I wrote, and it is really a love letter to the film. The cast is amazing and Alex Grelle (as Carrie) and Danni Smith (as Margaret White) are perfection.
EDGE: Finally, is there some misconception of you and your work you would like to change? This is your chance to have the last word!
David Cerda: Thanks to Facebook I may have too many last words...but since you asked. I think some in Chicago (press included) may not take camp, parody, and comedy in general as serious as maybe the umpteenth production of ’The Glass Menagerie.’ We take our cross dressing camp very seriously at Handbag and I think we are among the best in the country.
"SCARRIE The Musical" runs September 28 to November 10 at Mary’s Attic, 5400 N Clark Street, on Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30. For tickets call 1 800 838 3006 or visit www.brownpapertickets.com.
"Sexy Baby" runs at 11 pm on Fridays and Saturdays through October 27 at Theatre Wit, 1229 W Belmont. For tickets call 773 975 8150 or on line at www.theatrewit.org
For more information on David Cerda, visit the Handbag Productions website.