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INTERVIEW: Another Chat with The Realish Housewives of Edina

The 50th & France shopping district name-dropped in The Realish Housewives of Edina, Season 2.

Part 2 of Basil Considine’s interview with The Realish Housewives of Edina, Season 2‘s writers Kate James and Tim Sniffen and actresses Katherine Kupiecki and Karissa Lade.

Reality TV is often a love-it-or-hate-it thing. Where do you stand on the line? Any guilty pleasures?

KJ: I think the very fact we’ve created this show speaks to my undying love for the Real Housewives franchise. It’s my guilty pleasure that I no longer feel guilty about! (This is a support group, right?!)

TS: I feel both with equal intensity. For me the guilty pleasure is the fights – as supposedly decent people, we’re supposed to want people to get along and understand each other… right? WRONG. After a handful of episodes I had to admit that I was mostly waiting for things to blow up, for the claws to come out. And I’ve come to cherish that tiny black nugget of ice in my heart that enjoys those things.

Actress Katherine Kupiecki.

KK: As an actor, I lean towards being frustrated with it and its popularity. When it first starting really getting huge, I disliked that it took jobs away from actual performers. People who spent their lives studying and working towards these goals. It was painful.  But there’s no turning that ship around now. It’s gone to far, and I understand the financial implications of it. So there’s some acceptance on my part.

And yes, I have to admit to being entertained by it! I’m an RH fan from the original Orange County days, but I also love the Bachelor franchise and Top Chef.

This is a show where much of the humor involves sending up stereotypes in ways that could, with the right or wrong interpretation, end up being offensive. How do you negotiate that fine line?

KK: We have the best writers: Kate James and Tim Sniffen from The Second City. They are just geniuses when it comes to crafting these characters and the jokes that accompany them in the light of stereotypes or tropes.  As we workshopped and rehearsed,  if something was questionable, we stopped and discussed it.

The primary things when navigating that in performance, in my opinion,  is to be your character’s cheerleader. And when it works, be larger-than-life. We have a free pass to do that with this show, luckily. Just when something might hit too close to home, it will take a hard turn into being ridiculous. Balance that with authenticity and not a wink-wink “I know she sucks!” sort of portrayal. You have to love your character and be true to them.  I find that ensures our audiences stay with us. But, of course, sometimes people do get offended or interpret a joke in way it wasn’t intended. It happens with all comedy. We’re certainly no different.

Writer Kate James.

KJ: Our goal is to always invite the audience to feel like they are a part of the joke. It’s never our intention to put down these ladies – but instead celebrate the exaggerated aspects of their lives that they are so eager to share publicly. We also listen closely to the audience when we are first trying out material – to see what hits and what feels like it’s gone too far. Audiences aren’t shy – they’ll let you know if they aren’t feeling it!

TS: It’s fun to toe the line, to have the audience on the edge of their seats, thinking “I can’t believe they’re doing this!” But you never want that excited feeling to turn into genuine hurt or offense where people aren’t enjoying the show anymore. Often we’ll simply try things out, trusting that between me and Kate (and the cast, crew and staff) that we’ll find the right balance between “Oh no you didn’t” and “I wish you hadn’t.”

What are some of the more unusual ways that this show has been promoted?

Actress Karissa Lade.

KK: I’ve never done a show before that had a signature cocktail at the lobby bar. They don’t usually do that when you’re in Hamlet.

TS: On one of the tours, a local spa gave all of our performers day-long sessions/makeovers and promoted it all over social media. It was a great collaboration because the spa got a bunch of publicity and buzz – and our cast was buffed and polished to perfection!

KL: Several of us we able to appear on WCCO and do a mini fashion show with looks provided by our sponsor Galleria. It was especially fun because we got to be in character as we modeled the different ensembles!

What’s a favorite moment in this installment of The Realish Housewives of Edina and why?

KK: The scene in Delilah’s office in Act 2. I don’t want to spoil it, but I love the audience’s reaction to the drama that goes down in that scene!

So much fun and Karissa Lade is a comedic genius!

Writer Tim Sniffen.

TS: We have a moment in this show that pays tribute to a moment from the original Housewives canon that’s one of our all-time favorites. Let’s just say there might be an unexpected visit from a psychic at a dinner party. It doesn’t go well.

I’m also pretty thrilled that we have a newborn baby being baptized in a punch bowl. Can Tennessee Williams or David Mamet say that?

KL: There are so many! I really love the opening moments when the housewives say their “tag-lines” because it is very silly and over the top, yet it really is so much like the tv show that you can’t help but laugh at the absurdity. I also love the moments when the cast gets to interact with the audience. We have had such wonderful audiences so far and it’s fun for us because we know that no two shows will ever be exactly the same!

In his biography of the actress Eleanor Robson Belmont, Matthew White, Jr. wrote, “It is not the glamour of the stage–real or supposed–that makes most of the actors and actresses. Dip into the biographies of our popular players, and you will find that most of them drifted into their profession either by reason of their early environment, or because it chanced to be their readiest refuge at some time of need.” What started you on your path to the theatre, and what keeps you doing what you do?

KK: I’m a little of both. I was a very spazzy little kid with too much energy. Theater classes were a good place for me. I wanted to keep trying new things in the realm of performance, but I was a terrible young actor. I was a dancer, gymnast, and cheerleader, and much more talented at those things. I’d get into plays and they’d always ask me to tumble across the stage or be dance captain. As I got into my 20s, I knew I wanted to keep pursuing acting and get better and better at it. I still feel like I’m playing catch-up sometimes with my colleagues who spent their younger years actually acting.

And in my time as an actor in the Twin Cities, I’ve found so much healing and hope in many of the shows I’ve been lucky to perform in. The Realish Housewives, Season 1 started rehearsing in 2015 as I was getting divorced. I don’t know what I would have done without it and without the amazing people involved in it.

There’s never a moment as an actor or artist where you feel like “That’s it! I’ve done all I can do!” There’s always more to do, to learn, to attain. Always. There’s no retirement! And it’s fleeting. There’s not permanent record like there is for film.  We live in the moment. That’s very addicting.

TS: I had a fairly unremarkable childhood (Long Island, NY: malls, country clubs, a few too many golf courses – perfect training for the Housewives world!), but I’ve always loved writing and making people laugh. Currently, the feeling of collaborating – with an ideal partner such as Kate and also with the cast, crew, and even the audience…all of us working together towards that perfect version of a scene or a line that brings the house down – is absolutely addictive. It’s so much fun and I’m grateful for every opportunity to get back in the ring.

It’s relatively uncommon to see a play with as high a number and proportion of women’s roles as The Realish Housewives of Edina, Seasons 1 & 2. What’s another example of a women-dominated theatre that you especially like, and why?  

Regina Marie Williams as Nina Simone in Park Square Theatre’s production of Nina Simone: Four Women. Photo by Tom Wallace.

KK: I think the Twin Cities theater scene is doing a good job of answering this problem and collectively is continuing to recognize it and grow with it.  Nina Simone: Four Women just closed at Park Square, and featured some of the best female actors in town. I loved Calendar Girls (also at Park Square just last summer); our own Anna Hickey was in it.  I left the theater feeling like I just hung out with some of my best girl friends. It was a positive, loving script.

Companies like Theatre Unbound and 20% Theatre have been around for years and continue to find those plays for women and those who identify as women. We’re getting there. And I’m proud of our show for showcasing comedic women and letting us shine.

TS: Let’s see: for a classic, you can’t get much better than All About Eve. The men are almost scenery in that movie, Bette Davis is in such unstoppable form! Currently, I think Saturday Night Live is in a wonderful female Renaissance: Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Cecily Strong [among others!] are turning out top-notch work at a time when we need fearless satire. When Leslie Jones met with some unfortunate treatment on Twitter, and nearly resigned…then shrugged off all those haters and got back online, I cheered.

I think we all can take a page from Ravonka’s book and throw away any whispers of self-doubt. Just assume everyone loves you. If they don’t…they will soon enough!

The Realish Housewives of Edina, Season 2 plays through April 15 at the New Century Theatre in Minneapolis, MN.

Basil Considine