Dominique Salerno is a multi-hyphenate writer and performer based in New York. As well as acting, singing, and improvising, she also makes comedy music videos as part of the duo Feminarchy, and crated the web series Characteristically. ‘The Box’s show is her debut Fringe show, in which she performs the entire show in a small cupboard. We spoke to Dominique about the show, the physical demands of performing such a show for an entire month, and her hopes for an inspiring August.
Can you tell us about ‘The Box Show’?
‘The Box Show’ is a solo show where I play 25 characters inside of a small cupboard. I never leave the cupboard, and every time the doors swing open, we enter a new reality with completely new characters. Some of these characters include: a ravenous spy, a frustrated painter and her abysmal paintings, and the entire Greek army inside the Trojan Horse. It’s wacky, physical, heartfelt, dark, hilarious, and sincere. Some people describe it as a great night of SNL performed by one woman inside of a box! Other people describe it as a fever dream of terror and delight!
It’s a unique concept for a show. What came first, the idea to perform in a confined space, or did the characters come first?
The space came first! I wrote the first version of this show as part of a festival at my MFA program where students could develop their own independent work. The room they randomly assigned me had a small cupboard in the wall and one day when I was overwhelmed by having nothing to write, I crawled inside there to think. That’s where I had the idea to start the show from inside the cupboard as an element of initial surprise. My wonderful advisor Stephen Buescher swung by at the end of the day to see what I had been working on, and when I showed him my idea to start the show in the cupboard, he said: “What if you did the whole show from in there?” And that’s when things locked into place, creatively. I was off to the races, climbing into the cupboard, working with a mirror, inventing characters, and shaping the first draft of the show in under two weeks. Creativity loves constraints and I was like a kid at a candy store! There are so many characters that have lived inside of the box. I sadly can’t bring them all to the Fringe, because I need to cut the show to 60 minutes, but, trust me, there are so many more! The possibilities are unlimited when you’re inspired by your limitations!
It seems like performing in such a small space ensures a certain discomfort, both in performance and physical terms. How do you prepare for a show such as this?
Yes! There are specific bruises I get while doing the show, but I love each and every one of them. Whenever I remount this show, I need to get into a specific kind of “box shape” to pull off some of the moves the show requires. This “box body” mostly comes from exercise, core work, and getting into a good rehearsal schedule where I run the show multiple times a week. Even more important is a good vocal warm-up and cool-down from the variety of character voices! As you can imagine, being in a small box and performing non-stop for the whole show requires a unique physical and vocal endurance. Doing it everyday at the Fringe will be a new challenge for me… so pray for me and my bruised body!
This is your debut Fringe show. What are your hopes and expectations for August?
I hope that people laugh and enjoy themselves at my show. I hope for packed houses and wonderful memories. I hope I get to meet other artists from around the world, watch their fantastic work, and walk away inspired to create!
Beside ‘The Box Show’, can we expect to see you performing elsewhere during August?
I’m focusing all of my performance energy on ‘The Box Show’ this August, but when I’m not onstage or flyering, you will probably find me at a cafe, scribbling away on my next project. I hope that seeing all of the amazing shows around the festival will get my creative juices flowing and inspire me to finish my next draft! If you do happen to see me working at a communal table like a frantic mole person, please come say hi!
Apart from your show, what else are you looking forward to (or even perhaps dreading) about the Fringe?
I’m looking forward to exploring Edinburgh while I’m there and seeing all the amazing work from artists from across the globe. I know that performing at the Fringe and getting an audience is going to be a seriously challenging and exhausting endeavor, so I hope that I will have the energy and stamina to make it through the month! I think coffee will be a key component of my strategy to keep myself energized.
Are there any other acts at the Fringe that you would recommend audiences see?
I’m really excited to see Hello Kitty Must Die, a musical about smashing stereotypes!
‘The Box Show’ runs from 2 Wed Aug to Sun 27 Aug 2023 (except Wed 16) at Pleasance Courtyard – The Cellar at 15:00