The interwebs are a magical place—filled with twisted minds, pockets of humor, and the gradual blurring between reality and Cyberspace.
And it is in this place where the creative minds of Ellen Warkentine and Andrew Pedroza discover the future they feature in their meme-centric opera. The world of 2084—where the meaning of life is buried somewhere beneath mounds of captioned LOLCATS, and the latest Internet meme is as priceless as the Mona Lisa.
With surging power ballads and swelling crescendos, LOLPERA touches upon the audience’s human (and animal) desire to connect with each other…in any way possible.
And to use the eloquent words ripped from LOLPERA’s own website—
“Call it 1984 set in a virtual litter box. Call it Brave New World with bad grammar. Just please, please, don’t call it Cats.”
We at Cheezburger HQ were lucky enough to catch up with co-creators Ellen and Andrew about LOLPERA and their upcoming stint at New York Fringe in the following interview.
How did the idea for LOLPERA come about?
Ellen: LOLPERA started as an innocent musical improv with a few friends. We set the Astrocat meme to music with accordion, bass, and piano. It was glorious. I showed Andrew what we’d created and we began setting more memes to music. We have a tradition of writing epic absurd plays and Christmas albums together, doing a lot of musical improvs and ridiculous power ballads. It came about very organically.
Andrew: I don’t think it really started to take shape as an opera until we began working on “I’m in Ur” where we included multiple images rather than one meme. That’s when we began to see how we could put all the pieces together.
How did people react when you first told them about this idea?
Andrew: They said “WTF.” We were misunderstood.
Ellen: A lot of my closest friends said “I don’t get it.” Or “It sounds terrible.”
Andrew: …but because The Garage Theatre knew us from other Long Beach theatre projects, they trusted our creative instincts and they helped develop our workshop.
Ellen: Especially Jessica Variz, our director and friend at The Garage. She was very enthusiastic about it and …
Ellen/Andrew: …on a blowy, leafy, fall night…
Ellen: …she decided to take on the project and there was no turning back.
Did you ever think that LOLPERA would be this successful and get this much exposure?
Ellen: Did the universe think the stars were going to be successful?
Andrew: Did Shakespeare think Hamlet was going to be successful?
Ellen: Honestly, I didn’t. It seemed like an interesting “found lyrics” performance experiment, but Andrew insisted on taking it beyond that and moving it into a more traditional story structure. We have a history of working well together on projects, and the response from our friends and peers has been overwhelming. It’s really the community and performers that took it to the next level. Which is appropriate for a meme-based musical!
Andrew: I did think it would be, because it’s a very unique production and we’ve put so much time and effort into it.
Ellen: I don’t think we would have put this much into it if we didn’t think it would appeal to larger audiences.
Why do you think cats are so popular on the Internet?
Ellen: Maybe because cats are so serious, and the internet is serious business. Only cats can truly communicate just how serious that business is.
Andrew: Cats are like the cool kids. Humans are like the stupid kids who want to hang out with the cool kids.
And how is that transitioning into mainstream culture and entertainment like musicals?
Ellen: I think any popular content can be successful in a different medium if it’s done well.
Andrew: Though I think something unique in this opera is using the LOLCAT meme to represent the entirety of the interwebs.
What is your favorite scene in LOLPERA?
Ellen: I think the Act 1 Finale is my favorite scene. I like how it recaps every character’s story arc and it was really fun to write, using Les Miserables musical devices to create something truly stirring and epic!
Andrew: I like all of them. That’s not fair. Why would you ask that? …I love “I Has a Flavor.” It’s a magical song. There are such things as magic songs, and for some magical reason, that song is one of them.
Favorite lol? Favorite meme? If you could be a classic lolcat character, which would you be?
Ellen: I like any serious cat or corporate/capitalist cat meme. If I were any meme character, I’d be Keyboard Cat, obviously.
Andrew: Taco Cat.
What’s next after LOLPERA?
Ellen: I want to continue making absurd music + theatre and collaborate with Andrew forever. I’m also planning on continuing working with The Four Larks Theatre group and exploring creative work as The Epic Futurists.
Andrew: Until LOLPERA’s on Broadway- nothing. …Or perhaps a third chapter of Phantom of the Opera?
Any plans to make a musical after another lolcat character or, how about a dog character?
Andrew: You must be referring to a Goggie? No thank you.
Ellen: I think we’ve covered all of our LOL bases. Come see the show and you’ll see why!