is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Playwright Brian Hampton in town for Studio Players' Presentation of his The Jungle Fun Room

Even though this summer's weather has been drier than one of my Dad's martinis, the stages of Lexington have been filled to the brim with shows that have literally  popped our corks with classics, contemporary works and outlandishly entertaining concerts.  As the season waits for its final curtain call, there are still a few sparkling bubbles of creativity waiting in the wings, and it is such a pleasure to watch the enthusiasm ignite for the yet another new show that is going to leave audiences smiling and wanting for more as Studio Players presents the regional premiere of The Jungle Fun Room, by Brian Hampton.

Just mention Hampton's name in local theatre circles and you will see faces light up and smile as they recall his hit show Checking In premiering at Actors Guild of Lexington five years ago. Now Hampton is headed back to Lexington for tomorrow's opening night of Jungle, and it's hard to distinguish who is happier about that, Hampton or his throngs of fans.

Hampton says, "I'm so excited about coming back to Lexington.  It’s been five years since Checking In at Actors Guild in 2005.  Wow.  In some ways, it feels like a long time and in some ways it feels like yesterday. While I was performing in Checking In, I was also starting grad school in Louisville at Spalding University in their MFA in Writing Program, so I’ve been back and forth from Kentucky and New York a lot in the last 5 years.  I love Kentucky, and Lexington is a very special place for me because it was where my writing career really started.  I owe a lot to Lexington and the support that they’ve given me.  Even now, seeing all the excitement and love for The Jungle Fun Room -- it blows me away.  I feel like I’m coming into town for a family reunion.  I can’t wait to see everyone.  I’m thrilled and honored that this is all happening."

Debbie Sharp, Allie Darden and Amy Faust at SummerFest in July - Sharp was instrumental in bring The Jungle Fun Room to Studio Players; Darden and Faust both have roles in the show.

When asked about how Jungle made its way to the Carriage House, Hampton was quick to tip his hat to several people who were instrumental in helping facilitate the event. "I’m not sure how it all worked on the Studio Players end, but from my end, there are three people that I personally have to thank for the The Jungle Fun Room getting its regional premiere at Studio Players: Allie Darden, Bob Singleton, and Debbie Sharp.  Because I was the only guy in Checking In, I didn’t want to be in a dressing room all by myself.  There was no way I was going to sit in a big dressing room by myself alone with my nerves.  So I asked the cast if we could all be in the same room.  There was a big bathroom in the dressing room, so we all would take turns dressing in the potty.  It was hilarious.  It was a great group of people, and Allie and I sat beside each other.  Allie and I had one major thing in common – we both loved to get to the theatre EARLY.  So we talked and talked and talked and became fast friends.  I began telling her about the new play I was writing in grad school (then called Jungle Fun), and she was telling me about another theatre in the area that she loved -- Studio Players.  An idea popped in my head."
Allie and Amy rehearse a scene from The Jungle Fun Room

"When I finished the play, Allie told me about Bob Singleton and what a great director he was.  So I sent the play to Bob.  And he really liked it and connected with it.  Then, when Checking In started getting buzz again in New York, Allie came to play Brooke at The Blackbird Studio Theatre here in NYC.  She brought her friend, Debbie Sharp, with her.  I had met Debbie briefly in 2005, but we really got to hang out and get to know each other in New York. Over an amazing seafood dinner, I asked her if she thought Studio Players would consider doing The Jungle Fun Room.  She was really excited about the possibility, so I gave her a copy of the play on the spot.  And then Bob submitted it for the season.  The rest is playing out now!
Checking In at Actors Guild of Lexington.  In the picture, from left to right are Allie Darden, Brian Hampton, Micah O'Connor, and Laura Blake  (directed by Richard St. Peter)
Bob Singleton works out a scene with Eric Seale for Studio Players' Wait Until Dark
"Bob has been amazing.  He has a wonderful vision for the piece and a very clear understanding of its meaning and message.  I’ve simply served as a resource for him (as well as Natalie Cummins who is doing props).  Bob has intentionally kept me both posted and not-posted on the show.  I told him I wanted to be surprised, so it’s been fun.  We’ve both been dying to talk about details, but we always have to stop each other over the phone or email before he gives anything away or I ask too many questions.  I even purposefully decided not to read the play when I found out Studio players was producing it so I’d forget some of it.  Bob once was asking me a question about one of the lines over the phone, and I was like 'How does the exchange go?'  -- I had no idea.  I couldn’t remember."
Bob Singleton and Gareth Evans in a scene from Run For Your Wife. 


I asked him with an opening night like that which is soon to be upon us at the Carriage House, who did he  think is more nervous, himself or the performers?  "Oh, jeez not me!  I’m excited!  And I keep telling Bob to let the cast know that yes, of course, it’s natural to be nervous when you are getting ready to go on, but there’s no reason to be nervous because I’m there as the playwright.  Oh, please.  I’m just an audience member who knows the plot and A LOT of backstory.  I’m easy.   I’m just excited that so many people get to hear its message and escape into this insane backstage world of children’s birthday parties that will really (I hope) move you and crack you up."

So, what's  Hampton's next big project?  "It’s so funny, but I don’t really know what the next big project is.  The Jungle Fun Room is going so well right now, and Checking In (which is in the stages of pre-production filming) is getting less of my attention, but things constantly change.  For example, in October, I'm going to go look at a hotel who is willing to let us film the room scenes for Checking In, and then I have a high school production of The Jungle Fun Room in Virginia in the winter.  I feel like these two plays are my Venus and Serena (Williams), and I never know which one is going to win in the finals until I get that wonderful 'Yes' from someone out there."

As far as writing, Hampton is a man after my own chaotically artistic heart, and states, "I am writing all the time.  As much as I try to take a break from it, I can’t for long.  I’ve started two new projects.  One is a play and one is a book, but it takes me years to get them just the way I want them.  So, they are both babies right now.  Actually not even Babies.  They are in their first trimester.  Twins though.  As usual!  I don’t know what’s wrong with me having two again," he laughs.

The Jungle Fun Room was first presented at the Creative Center at the Manhattan Theatre Club, Friday Night Footlights at the Dramatist Guild, and was the winner of the Audience Favorite Award at the Penobscot Theatre’s Northern Writes New Play Festival.  It received its World Premiere at the Actors’ Playhouse in NYC in the 13th Annual New York International Fringe Festival last summer. Studio Players marks its Regional Debut.
Brian Hampton is a Virginia native who now lives in New York City.  His first play, Checking In received its developmental reading at the Creative Center at the Manhattan Theatre Club, was a finalist for the Arthur Stone Playwriting Award, and received its World Premiere at the Actors Guild of Lexington.  It premiered in NYC in the 10th Anniversary of the Midtown International Theatre Festival last summer in the June Havoc Theatre.  The book adaptation as well as a film is in development.  For more information, please feel free to take a scroll through KimmyVille, where you will even find out what his secret talent is!  Also, photos, news, and Brian's blog can be found at

As an actor, Brian’s acting credits include:  Ben in Checking In, Screg in The Jungle Fun Room, Young Wilber Wright/Lorin Wright in Flyer (Lamb’s Theatre, Disney/ASCAP workshop), Perry in The Three Pigs (Town Hall), Huck in Big River (Dominion Theatre), and four seasons with Virginia Musical Theatre.  Brian is a graduate of Christopher Newport University (BA Theatre), Spalding University (MFA Creative Writing), and a member of both the Dramatist Guild of America and Actors Equity Association

The Jungle Fun Room was first presented at the Creative Center at the Manhattan Theatre Club, Friday Night Footlights at the Dramatist Guild, and was the winner of the Audience Favorite Award at the Penobscot Theatre’s Northern Writes New Play Festival.  It received its World Premiere at the Actors’ Playhouse in NYC in the 13th Annual New York International Fringe Festival last summer. Studio Players marks its Regional Debut.

THE JUNGLE FUN ROOM by Brian Hampton

Directed by Bob Singleton

The Jungle Fun Room centers on a group of struggling actors who spend their days working children's birthday parties at the New York City Zoo. When an eager new worker arrives fresh off the musical theatre conservatory boat, followed by the birthday girl's Oscar-winning Mom, it throws all involved into an emotional and hysterical loop where they're faced with past and ...present realities of their roles in show business and in life.

The Jungle Fun Room premiered at the New York International Fringe Festival in 2009. Studio Players will be presenting the Regional Premiere of this award-winning script.


Screg.....Matt Seckman
Eve.......Jennifer L. Workman
Shelly.....Allie Darden
Trevor....Alex Maddox
Hilary.....Amy Faust

September 16-19, 24-26, October 1-3, 8-10
- Opening night, Friday and Saturday performances begin at 8:00pm
- Sunday matinee performances begin at 2:30 pm


There is also a midnight performance after the October 1st show. Doors open at 11:00 pm. It's a pay-what-you-can performance. All donations go to support our friend and local actor Bob Johnson (right) in his fight with cancer

All performances $16.00
Students: $10.00

859.225.0370 or visit

And so it is with great anticipation that I am counting down the hours until I finally get to meet Brian, who has quickly become one of my lambchops because he's been such a great penpal over the last few months,  so I feel like I already know him -- and I can't wait see his most recent work of genius. 

With all the hoopla surrounding the World Equestrian Games, the motto we've all heard a lot lately is "The world is coming to Kentucky."  With great authors like Brian Hampton, who has so many close ties to our Commonwealth, I prefer to think that it's more as if Kentucky is coming to the world. 

See you at the show!
peace, y'all,

Debbie Sharp and Kimmy at SummerFest

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