“So my sister gave me this cello a couple years ago. It’s a nice cello. Actually, it’s a great cello. It’s probably the best cello, but I don’t really know much about cellos. Also the neck snapped off. Of the cello.”
Actress Dana DeLorenzo whines these words out while crawling on a worn couch, wearing yoga pants and a cut off tee, dipping her finger in a jar of peanut butter and telling you, in between each finger-scooped bite, how “you could saw the front of the [cello] and use it as a sled. Or give the neck to a baby as like a wizard stick for Christmas.” Free Cello is a Craigslist post performed by DeLorenzo in John Pick’s Best of Craigslist: LIVE, inspired by Pick’s Funny or Die video series Best of CraigslistA.
Each act consists of one to two actors using a selected Craigslist post as their script, and a projector positioned to the left of the audience sharing photos relevant to the scene. The skits run one after the other, leaving the audience little room to breath between deep belly laughter. The experience before, during and after the show, makes this one of L.A.’s best under-the-radar evening activities.
There are two remaining performances scheduled for October 28th and November 11th that will be held at MiModa Studios inside Paper or Plastik Café on Los Angeles’ Pico Boulevard.
The venue is ideal. You enter a two-story coffee shop paneled with windows, cluttered by the heavy line for wine and beer and people hovering by the back door. The door’s small window looks into a dimly lit room with lighting wires hanging from the roof and actors appearing and disappearing from behind a curtain.
A young man holding a cash box guards the door and a handful of $20 tickets. Hand him $20 and the exchange stops there: No tickets, no receipts—a slightly silly but refreshingly trusting interaction. The door opens and the audience sits perched on wooden benches level with the stage.
“I’m usually looking for ones [posts] that have a little story behind them- like the guy at the Silverlake Reservoir. I was like there’s a whole world that you can see, that you can enter into by the text of his post,” Pick said.
The Silverlake Reservoir refers to a posting, man to woman, where a man apologizes for hitting a jogging woman with his car. Pick’s curiosity led him to email the poster and invite him to a performance at MiModa and the invitation was accepted. At the end of the show Pick called the man up to the stage and asked why?
“I was surprised when he said the reason why he went out and made the post was because he just felt bad, he didn’t expect anything, there was nothing for him to do except make a post on Craigslist…and then he gets his experience immortalized in this show,” Pick said of the “Silverlake Reservoir” poster.\
When putting a show together, Pick browses through the Best of Craigslist, Jobs and Missed Opportunities categories, and works with his cast to discover who can capture each character.
“I’ll say, ‘oh this person will be great for it and then I’ll see them do it and they don’t quite get it or unlock it, and someone else will have a totally different, different read on it…and that sort of is what’s exciting about it.”
Pick was the only cast member in his first performance of LIVE when he was given 10 minutes in the South Coast Repertory’s late night show on February 20th of this year. Pick debated between performing a sketch of a guy who attempts an escape from a paper bag, or three Craigslist postings. Pick went with Craigslist, and after receiving such a positive response from his audience he was inspired to expand his cast and continue with the concept.
“The feeling of performing with a bunch of other people and sort of giving this to others was very much more in the spirit of the thing and it’s what I like to do, sort of gather everybody around me, and so it’s been really fun to do,” Pick said.
As for choosing a Los Angeles venue, Pick knew he needed a spot accessible to both east and west-siders. MiModa’s location and restaurant meets theater setup “matches the spirit of the thing a lot,” he said, and “[he] wanted something that people wouldn’t, in this city, be scared of.”
Pick said that with each act comes the desire to want to meet these characters.
“I think the Litmus test for a good post is that after I do a video or we perform one, someone turns to the other person and says ‘is that person real?’ Then we know we’ve done our job.’” Pick pauses, then continues to imitate the viewer, “‘That can’t be real?’”
With three shows down and two lined up Pick is knee deep in Craigslist’s postings.
“I’m really trying to find this guy named Steve McGuinness,well no, his name is not Steve McGuinness but there’s a missed connection and the [Craigslist] post is ‘Steve McGuinness man for man, looking for Steve McGuinness, we had great times in the 80’s in Vegas remember Claire was there? And the illustrious Natalie you know, hit me back bro’. I just want to meet him. I want to find him.”
Sasha is a native Angeleno, creative non-fiction and lifestyle writer, food enthusiastic, and nothing shy of a coffee snob. Yup. She just is. After spending four years in Tucson, Arizona she got way too hot and came back home. Each day begins as a quest to find a new restaurant, a new bar, and anything, well, “cool” that’s happening in this city, along with the constant planning of when her next travel venture will be.