Continuing their success from the summer of 2016, Maggie Seymour ’16 and Olivia Atwood ’17 returned to the stage to perform “15 Villainous Fools” —this time in New York City.
Based on William Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors,” “15 Villainous Fools” is a comedy that follows the adventures of two sets of twins. The show has 15 characters in total, played entirely by Seymour and Atwood. The duo, with the help of stage manager Jodi Kraushar ’17, performed 13 shows at The Peoples Improv Theater (PIT) Loft throughout July and August.
Last year, the two performed their adaptation—which was originally created for Seymour’s honors project—at five fringe festivals across the country. Neither Atwood nor Seymour expected to continue performing “15 Villainous Fools” until last September, when Atwood was contacted by Stephen Stout, artistic director of The PIT, following their run at the FringeNYC Festival.
According to Atwood, working with a single theater, rather than traveling to different cities, had many advantages, such as collaborating with The PIT to rework their marketing strategy and changing some of the play itself.
“We had a home base,” she said. “The PIT was great to us. We stored our entire set backstage. We had a ton of rehearsal time at the actual theater using the light board and the sound board. It was really nice to just be at one theater. It felt like we really belonged.”
“We revamped it a decent amount so there would be something new for people who had seen it before but still keeping the original part of the show that got it picked up in the first place,” said Atwood.
“It’s morphed into something wildly crazy,” said Seymour. “It’s so awesome and fun to see something change so much and for [Atwood] and I to have so much flexibility with our creative process.”
In July, “15 Villainous Fools” was featured in New York Magazine’s “Twenty-five things to see, hear, watch, and read” list.
While Seymour and Atwood were able to share their show with more people, performing on a larger stage, as well as the schedule—13 shows in just over six weeks—proved to be a challenge.
“I wouldn’t say the audiences themselves are that different or the show is that different, but that tension and level of pressure that you put on yourself is different,” said Seymour. “Like, what if the press comes tonight or what if someone who can make a difference in our trajectory as artists shows up?”
“It was really hard to fill the audiences in New York City because we are not ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ or ‘Hamilton.’ We’re just two girls performing at an off-off broadway theater. It was hard to get the attention of people,” said Atwood. “Friday would be strong, Saturday would be strong and then you’d hit Sunday and not many people go to shows at 8 p.m. on a Sunday. Those three-show weeks were always tough; we’d have to get in the zone and really stay in the zone.”
However, Atwood said that shows remained strong despite occasionally low turnouts, especially when the audience included a Bowdoin presence.
“We had so much Bowdoin support. There were Bowdoin people in the audience for every show,” Atwood said. “We had grads coming from 2009 who had read about us. It was incredible.”
While “15 Villainous Fools” is done for the summer, Liv and Mags—the duo’s unofficial moniker—have by no means taken their final bow. The duo is currently working on some new material and have been in touch with The PIT to potentially collaborate again in the future. However, Seymour said that were an opportunity, like The PIT approaching them last fall, to come up in the future, the two are more than open to the idea of bringing “15 Villainous Fools” back to the stage.