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"Fortunately, we have a great director and she has an incredible eye (and boundless patience) to help us rein in our sillier impulses."

John Lampe
& Michael Wysong
The TUNEabomber Tuneabomber
21 - 27 August 2023: 16:55 (1hr15)
July 8, 2023
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Set at a parole board hearing, Ted Kaczynski (aka The Unabomber) recounts his life through song in the hope of proving that he never wanted to be a monster, he only wanted to be a star. While he may have spent years sending explosives, this is one performance Ted can't bomb. Written and performed by John Lampe and Michael Wysong, this new musical comedy dares to ask the question no one needed an answer to: What if this notorious eco-terrorist was the next Bob Fosse?


Hi Michael & John, it’s great to talk with you, how does it feel to be bringing The TUNEabomber, to Edinburgh Fringe and C Venues this August?


We’re thrilled to bring this show to Edinburgh. We’ve both wanted to come to this festival for a long time and this show was the perfect opportunity.


Any nerves setting in ahead of your run or are you both just going to ride the amazing Edfringe creative buzz?


Not yet! Luckily, we have a little bit of time to keep making tweaks to the show. We also have a short run both here in New York City and in Kansas City, in the States, before we bring the show to Edinburgh. So we’ll have a few passes at it before the Fringe.


Can you tell me a little bit about how The TUNEabomber came about, it seems silly to ask what was the inspiration behind it but I’ll ask anyway?


Oddly enough, it all started with the pun “Tune-abomber”. We joked that it would be a funny bit if the Unabomber really hadn’t wanted to be a terrorist, but a cabaret singer. We wrote the first song and it made us laugh, so we kept writing. Before we knew it, we had a handful of songs that just kept making us laugh. As we started sharing those songs with people, more and more of them laughed along with us, so we figured we might actually have a show on our hands.


Did you have any apprehensions at all about creating a satirical show about Ted Kaczynski?


Not really. The only apprehension, really, came from knowing that there are misguided people out there that idolise him. In his (in)famous “manifesto”, he did make some salient points about the environmental dangers of industrialisation. But he also made some terrible other points. It was always important to us that the Ted of our show was distinctly different from the real life person. We found it much more entertaining to view him with a satirical eye than to tell his story in a straightforward way.


And during your research what where some of the more surprising things you discovered about Kaczynski, did any of them make it into your final script?


One of the best parts of our show and the thing that surprises people the most is just how much of his real life makes it into the show. He really did live a fascinating life and was an interesting person. From his childhood in suburban Illinois, to his time at Harvard, to his time teaching collegiate math, to his total disengagement from society, it’s a pretty wild story. We both read books, watched documentaries, and even traveled to one of his former apartments in California as part of our research. We couldn’t get everything into the show.

What where the biggest challenges you’ve faced creating The TUNEabomber and are there any other divisive figures in history (or on the FBI’s Most Wanted List) that you’re keen to explore?


The biggest challenge was taking a show that started as a comedic bit just to make the two of us laugh and transforming that into a proper show. Fortunately, we have a great director and she has an incredible eye (and boundless patience) to help us rein in our sillier impulses. But spending a few years writing a musical comedy about a domestic terrorist, we’re probably both going to be writing our next projects about something a little lighter. Maybe aliens…

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As co-writers and co-performers how essential is the creative collaboration between you both?


It’s essential. Most of this show was written with the two of us together in a room, around a piano or sitting together at a table, bouncing ideas off of each other. We’ve been doing this together for a while and have a similar set of musical reference points, not to mention the same absurd sense of humour, so we’re simpatico most of the time.


If you could describe The TUNEabomber in only THREE words what would they be?


Absurd, surprising, and delightful.


When you are in the rehearsal process how much flexibility do you allow yourself and your team with the material, and when the show is running do you prefer to stick to what has been written?


We are constantly rewriting and rethinking. If there’s ever a word or a beat that feels like it could be funnier or more direct, we make a note and revisit it. Liz, in addition to being an excellent director and choreographer, is a wonderful dramaturg. So it’s been helpful that we were able to start these rehearsals with a full script and score that had been performed before, then to whittle it down to the best possible version of the course of the rehearsal process.


What has the process like for you both working with your director Liz Power?


Tremendous. Liz is brilliant as a director and choreographer, and she balances our sense of silliness so well. She’s a theatre animal. She grew up in New York and was exposed to the arts and Broadway in a way that both of us (transplants who grew up in the American Midwest) never were. So it has been wonderful to have her highly intelligent perspective to counteract our more absurd natures.


Have you always had a passion for musical theatre and performance?


Very much so. Michael studied trombone performance as well as musical composition in college. John studied acting and directing. We’ve both been doing this for a long time and we became friends, initially, bonding over a love of obscure musicals and American history.


How much has your approach to your shows changed since your debut?


For this show in particular, our approach has remained consistent since we started writing it in 2019. But, like everyone, we’ve changed in the past four years. We lived through a global pandemic that changed the world and we’ve had plenty of changes in our personal lives. We’ve also been working on other projects throughout our time developing this show. All of that has informed “The TUNEabomber”, whether consciously or unconsciously.

"At the end of the day, it takes an incredible amount of both luck and persistence, so you might as well be having fun along the way."

Do you have any advice, tips or suggestions you would offer anyone thinking about getting into musical theatre?


Read everything, watch everything, listen to everything. Take every opportunity to go to the theatre and learn something, whether the show is good or not. Meet people, make friends, and enjoy it. At the end of the day, it takes an incredible amount of both luck and persistence, so you might as well be having fun along the way.


And finally, what do you want your fringe audiences to take away from The TUNEabomber?


We hope that people can see the show and be surprised by it. Whatever you’re expecting, this show has something to surprise you. It might make you think a little differently about Ted Kaczynski or the American prison system. But most importantly, we’re going to make you laugh.

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