ED2023 Chris Meets ED2023 Comedy ED2023 Interviews

Dominique Salerno: The Box Show

By | Published on Monday 7 August 2023

In ‘The Box Show’, Dominique Salerno performs 25 characters from inside a small box – and when I say small box, it’s three foot by three foot by two foot in size.

“Each time the doors swing open”, the show’s blurb tells us, “Dominique transports you to a hilarious new reality”.

This box full of characters has previously popped up in various cities around the US, and this August it is in Edinburgh. I caught up with Dominique to find out more about ‘The Box Show’ and its Fringe run.

CC: Tell us what we can expect from ‘The Box Show’.
DS: Expect the unexpected! ‘The Box Show’ is a series of short comedy sketches where I play 25 characters from inside a small box. Yes, it’s as weird as it sounds!

Every time the doors open, we are thrust into a completely new reality with new characters. It’s wacky, physical and funny. Ultimately, the show tries to keep it fresh and surprise the audience with what comes next.

CC: Where did the idea for this format come from?
DS: The concept was born out of the constraints of being in a small space.

During my masters of fine arts programme I asked to create a solo show and the room that my programme happened to assign me had a small cupboard built into the wall.

I crawled inside that cupboard, started improvising characters, and the rest is history!

CC: As you say, you perform more than 25 characters in the show, what are your favourites?
DS: Ah! Don’t ask me that – it’s like choosing a favourite amongst your children! Even some of those I’ve had to cut from the show hold a special place in my heart.

In the current roster, I’d have to say that I always love the earnest sweetness of the engagement ring anxiously awaiting a proposal. Contrastingly, there’s a character I call the “car killer” that is deliciously dark and so fun to perform.

There are also others in there I really love, but I like to avoid revealing beforehand because so much of the fun of the show is the surprise of what’s next.

CC: Where do the ideas for all the characters come from?
DS: Mostly from sitting in the box, looking into a mirror and improvising. I draw inspiration from everywhere: Greek myths, small objects and overheard drunk conversations!

Only a few of the characters were written outside of the box; most come from playing with the space and seeing what’s possible.

The creative process for this show is very playful and ultimately the driving question behind the show is ‘what else can exist inside this box?’

The honest answer: basically everything you can imagine!

CC: Tell us about the creative team involved in the show – and how did you come to be working together?
DS: I have been so fortunate to have some incredible people help me shepherd this solo show into the world.

Without their support, I would have gone crazy a long time ago, because most of the creative process of this show was me rehearsing alone inside a small box while looking into a mirror and talking to myself like a crazy person. I owe them my sanity and dearest thanks.

Firstly, the unbelievably talented Stephen Buescher was my initial advisor in the earliest draft of this piece, and his feedback was invaluable!

Then, Sash Bischoff helped me take the early draft of this show and transform it to a longer version; she also connected me with Ann Beyersdorfer, the talented set designer who created our current box design.

I also had an amazing team of recurring stage managers including Rachel Heine and Lindsay Kipnis, and a music design team of Ben Quinn and Jason Pomerantz who contributed so much to this project creatively.

This Edinburgh run is being produced by the truly extraordinary company Alchemation – who have produced hits like ‘Six’, ‘Rent’, ‘Avenue Q’ and ‘In The Heights’, among many others.

The Alchemation team has been phenomenal to work with and I’m so grateful to them for making my Edinburgh Fringe dreams come true. I cannot thank them enough. It may be a small show in a box, but it took a village to bring it to the Fringe!

CC: What made you decide to bring the show to the Edinburgh Festival?
DS: The Edinburgh Fringe Festival has always been on the vision board for ‘The Box Show’.

Ever since the show’s inception, I have always thought it would be great for the Fringe. I performed at the Fringe once before with my high school acting group decades ago, and I’ve wanted to come back ever since.

Taking this show to the Fringe seemed too daunting for me to do as a solo producer, so when the amazing team at Alchemation wanted to produce the show in Edinburgh it felt like a dream come true.

I’m so grateful to be here this summer, sharing my weird little show with wonderful international audiences!

CC: How have you been preparing for the trip?
DS: Ah preparation! Well, as they say, when we make plans, the gods laugh.

I had been prepping for the Fringe for a few months – working on cutting the show down from 90 to 60 minutes, rehearsing it, getting the new show into my body, and handling travel logistics – and then about a month before the start of the Festival I got sick and was basically bedridden for two weeks.

So all my plans for an ‘intense rehearsal schedule’ went out the window. Silver lining? Luckily I healed up in time for some solid rehearsals and the whole experience served as a really good reminder that life is short, our health is precious, and we can’t control everything!

We should be using our time on this earth to create art and connect with others. And that is what I intend to do this Fringe!

CC: You’ve performed at a number of festivals in the US, how do you think Edinburgh will compare?
DS: I think the endurance required to do an Edinburgh Fringe run is unique, and the scope of this festival is unlike any other festival I’ve done so far.

I’m really excited to share my show with international audiences and meet artists from across the globe!

CC: Other than performing, what are you planning to do while you are at the Festival?
DS: I’m planning to rest quite a bit the first week of the Festival, then dive into seeing a bunch of other shows. I’m hoping to meet new artists and audiences and walk around this beautiful city.

I may try to find a cozy Edinburgh cafe to do some writing and reflecting as well. The city is too cute not to grab a coffee and scribble some thoughts down!

CC: Let’s take a step back for a moment, tell us a little about your career to date.
DS: What a question! Well, I received my MFA from the American Conservatory Theater and since then I have been largely working on self-created projects.

In addition to creating ‘The Box Show’, I’ve written and produced a web series – ‘Characteristically’ – that features the lives and trials of character actors. You can find it on YouTube.

My musical sketches from my feminist comedy duo Feminarchy have been featured on the Huffington Post, The New York Times, Now This and more. I have also been in quite a few plays in NYC, and was recently staffed as a writer and comedy producer for a show ordered by Netflix.

Although I happen to be performing a solo show at Fringe, I am a collaborative animal and love working with others. Any given week in New York City you can find me improvising with my long form improv team The Last Neighbors at The Armory or doing musical improv sets with my duo The Moustache Apologies – your favourite indie band that doesn’t exist.

I’m always creating something new and working on that next idea!

CC: You work as an actor, writer, director and improviser – do you have a favourite?
DS: I love them all for different reasons, but I think improv is closer to a spiritual practice for me than the others.

It’s something I need to do for my soul on multiple levels. No matter what city I end up in, I always find my improv comedy home base as my creative touchstone.

Improv serves as a reminder as to why I do art in general: it’s all about crafting a story together out of nothing with fellow artists and sharing it with the audience, in real time.

It’s like an instant dopamine hit of creation and human connection, and I get to scratch both the writing and the acting itch at the same time!

CC: What are your plans for the rest of the year?
DS: Immediately after the Fringe I will be on a historical research trip to Italy for another upcoming project.

I hope to have a final draft of that piece within the next year and start workshopping that material with a company of actors, producers and other artists I trust. Who knows? Maybe I can bring that next piece to the Fringe in a few years. Fingers crossed!

I’d also love for ‘The Box Show’ to have another life beyond the Fringe, so hopefully I can work on another iteration of the show. And, of course, I will be improvising as much as I can in the New York comedy scene.

Dominique Salerno performed ‘The Box Show’ at Pleasance Courtyard at Edinburgh Festival 2023.

LINKS: dominiquesalerno.com | theboxshow.org