Almost two years after the success of Hunger Games: The Musical at the Vancouver Fringe Festival and the release of its subsequent parody, Catching Fire: The Musical, comes the much anticipated finale, Mockingjay: The Musical! It’s right about now that you may be thinking, “How did it all start?” Theatre Wire connected with Playwright Mark Vandenberg, who has written everything from 1998’s Shakespeare for Dummies to 2005’s Lord of the Blings to 2008’s The Sound of Muzak. Keep reading for an inside look into one of our favourite parody franchises.
Theatre Wire: Tell us about your script. What’s the gist of the story?
Mark Vandenberg: This musical is the conclusion of the Hunger Games Musical trilogy. Katniss Everdeen is the reluctant leader of the districts as they try to overthrow President Snow and the Capitol. While danger lurks around every corner, Katniss is also in a teen angst-filled love triangle with her oldest friend and the fellow tribute who has been brainwashed to kill her. And everything is lightened up with some pop-fueled musical numbers parodying many of today’s radio hits.
TW: What inspired you to write the show?
MV: Well this third one was pretty much inevitable after writing the other two. The reason for writing a musical based on The Hunger Games was the challenge of staging something dark and action-packed for a broad audience. The novels/films are ripe for parody with its dystopian government, teen angst, and media culture.
TW: Is the story based on a true event?
MV: I sure hope it doesn’t come to this. But with President Trump in charge, who knows. Maybe this is a chilling prophecy of the things to come.
TW: Do you read your script aloud while editing to ensure it sounds like people actually speaking?
MV: I often write in the middle of the night so I read it in a whisper in order to get the proper timing of a joke. I don’t want to disturb my wife but it ends up disturbing her in a different way because it sounds like I’m talking to a ghost.
TW: How difficult is it to hand over your script to directors and actors?
MV: As the director, it’s pretty easy. I also enjoy handing it over to the actors. We have made a point to cast a number of comedy improvisers who know how to make things funny. I’ll allow changes to lines and ad-libs to strengthen the humour of a scene.
TW: What’s the best thing about being a playwright? What’s the worst?
MV: It’s fun to have other people speak your words and use them as inspiration for their characters. It’s also great to see the ideas and conversations you’ve had in your head come alive. The worst part about being a playwright is when your script ends up being one sentence too long and ends up on a whole new page. Maybe that’s just my OCD talking though.
TW: Which other playwrights inspire you?
MV: Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men) and Craig Wright (Grace). I love their writing. My current projects are not even in the same realm as their works.
Catch the finale to District 13 Presents’ Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay: The Musical November 23-25 at Studio 1398! Visit our website to buy tickets, or consider getting tickets to the other dystopian future shows in the Theatre Wire season and save with a subscription!