Interview with Writer & Producer Brandie June about Truly Outrageous
Truly Outrageous: A Jem And The Holograms Musical Parody
Relive the camp and fun of the 80s in this unofficial new parody musical of the iconic T.V. series, live in LA & streaming worldwide!
In this interview with playwright and producer Brandie June, we dive into the creative process behind her latest project, TRULY OUTRAGEOUS, a Jem and the Holograms parody musical that leans into the camp and fun of the 80s cartoon. Brandie shares the inspiration behind the project, the challenges she faced in finding the right songwriter and giving herself permission to write the show, and the casting process she undertook to ensure a dynamic and diverse lineup of performers and crew. We also get a peek into Brandie’s writing process and learn about her previous work at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. As a self-proclaimed geek, Brandie shares advice for aspiring playwrights who want to create their own adaptations.
GeekPost: How did the idea for a Jem and the Holograms parody musical come about, and what inspired you to create TRULY OUTRAGEOUS?
Brandie: The idea first came to me when the 2015 live-action movie JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS was being promoted. I was disappointed that the film seemed to be missing so many of the elements of the 80s cartoon that I loved. The camp and fun of the series was missing. That motivated me to start writing my own version of the first big story arc of Jerrica and her friends. Instead of ignoring the wacky retro elements, I leaned into them, even exaggerating them for comedic effects (really Rio, you can’t tell Jem isn’t your girlfriend but with pink hair?). I eventually had a book a liked, but I’m no expert at music (outside of singing in the car), so I needed to find the perfect songwriter to partner with. It took a long time but was worth the wait!
GeekPost: Can you tell us about your collaboration with Rebecca McGlynn and how you both worked together on this project?
Brandie: After I wrote the book for TRULY OUTRAGEOUS, I tried working with a few different songwriters on the project, but one reason or another, they never quite worked out. I was ghosted or they had life stuff come up and they had to drop out. Eventually, I gave up hope and shelved TRULY OUTRAGEOUS. I was pretty sure it would never see the light of day. But several years ago, it came up in conversation with my friend Becca, and she was interested in writing the songs. We met at a café and discussed what the musical might look like. She was onboard! Unfortunately, right as I was certain TRULY OUTRAGEOUS was back on track, COVID hit! The show was again shelved, though for a very different reason. Eventually, the world started doing live events again and we sat down to revisit the show. During the time between, two very important things had happened in Becca’s life, she transitioned to female and wrote/produced/stared in her award-winning solo musical, ASEXUALITY! THE SOLO MUSICAL, an autobiographical musical comedy about Rebecca’s pre-transition life.
I could not have asked for a more perfect person to partner with me for this show. At each meeting, I could definitely tell that she understood the vibe of the piece and was enthusiastic about bringing more creativity, comedy, and love to the show. I had written the book with a few places for songs, and she not only wrote songs for those spots (such as the battle of the bands scene) but came up with several other places to add music. Together, this musical has more creativity and humor than either of us could have created on our own.
GeekPost: What was your main goal in capturing the essence of Jem and the Holograms while also including modern themes of diversity and acceptance?
Brandie: I loved that there were some elements of diversity and acceptance in the original cartoon, and it was my goal to not only keep that but go further with these themes. I wanted to capture the fun and sparkle of ‘glamour and fame,’ but at the heart of the show, it’s about acceptance. To make TRULY OUTRAGEOUS feel relevant almost forty years later, I had to think about what diversity and acceptance means today. Out cast and crew is a team of men, women, and non-binary individuals who are queer, trans, straight, Black, Asian, White, able-bodied, people who use wheelchairs, people with invisible illness, people who love glitter, and all who have a love of the 80s and killer comedic timing.
GeekPost: What challenges did you face while writing TRULY OUTRAGEOUS, and how did you overcome them?
Brandie: The hardest challenge was finding the right songwriter, as I mentioned earlier, before I teamed up with Becca. Another challenge was giving myself permission to write the show. I loved the idea of a comedic retelling of Jem and the Holograms, but that’s a far cry from an actual script. I had to let go of the idea that it had to be perfect in the first draft and know that I could revise and edit later, so long as I gave myself something to work with.
GeekPost: Can you tell us about the casting journey you undertook to ensure a dynamic, diverse, and skilled lineup of performers and crew for the show?
Brandie: Before we even considered auditions, we had a final table read so Becca and I could hear the script aloud and make final tweaks. For this read, we specifically brainstormed who would be great fits for each role based on our own personal connections. We basically came up with our own wish list for a dynamic and diverse cast and then invited individuals who fit the bill to our final read. Many of the actors at the final read were then invited to participate in the show. For the roles we still needed to cast, Cindy Kapp, our stage manager, created listings that focused on who was at the core of the character’s personality, rather than simply what a character looked like in the original TV show. At the auditions, our director, Jim Blanchette, Becca, Cindy, and I also had people read for various roles, not just the ones they came in for. It helped us lose the notion of how we had initially envisioned a character and expand to see what a character could look like. I am beyond delighted with our cast!
GeekPost: Can you tell us about your previous work at the Hollywood Fringe Festival and how it has prepared you for the debut of TRULY OUTRAGEOUS? How has your experience as a playwright informed your work on this musical?
Brandie: I’ve been a performer and playwright at the Hollywood Fringe Festival, but never for a musical and this is also my first time producing. A lot of it is new, but there are some key things I learned from previous years. The most important lesson for me was to build a great team. I could never do this show on my own, so bringing on talented creators has made for a stronger, funnier show. The second Fringe lesson is the importance of taking a risk and trying something new. I love that so much of Fringe is new works. I never produced a show before, but Fringe is a great venue for first-time producers, as they have a variety of workshops, resources, and Fringe veterans ready to share their tips and tricks.
GeekPost: Give us a peek into your writing process.
Brandie: I spend a lot of time daydreaming about my characters before I even think about writing. I do this for the books I write as well as the plays. I was an actor before I was a writer, and I love the process of getting into character. I spend a lot of time thinking about what makes my characters tick, what is their motivation, and how they might react in different situations. When I have a sense of who the main characters are, I create an outline. The story might end up differing from this outline (it often does!), but it gives me a framework to start writing. I generally write the first draft chronologically. In the case of playwrighting, I like to have a table read between drafts so I can hear the story out loud. That helps me determine what areas need revision.
GeekPost: Do you consider yourself a geek?
GeekPost: What advice would you give to aspiring playwrights who want to create their own adaptations or parodies?
Brandie: Start writing! Even a terrible draft is better than having nothing at all. And do some table reads. I had several readings with actor friends sitting around the table reading the script. It helped immensely to hear when a joke landed or if something didn’t make sense. And don’t be afraid to take on multiple jobs to get the play created. It’s tough to find a producer, so eventually I came to terms with the idea that if I wanted to see this show on stage, it would be because I was producing it. I’m in the midst of producing it now, and I’ll admit, it’s a bit terrifying, but I’m learning a ton and am so dedicated to seeing this play become the best it can be. I also built a fantastic team together of people who can do elements of the production (such as directing, songwriting, costume designer…) far better than I could.
Regarding adaptations and parodies specifically, one needs to tread a bit lightly. If possible, something that is public domain is a great choice. My first play was about Oscar Wilde, so I knew there wouldn’t be any issues. For TRULY OUTRAGEOUS, we are making it super clear that our show is a parody.
GeekPost: What do you hope audiences will take away from TRULY OUTRAGEOUS?
Brandie: I hope they will come away having had a good time, laughed a lot, and maybe escaped their own problems for a time. On a deeper level, I hope they will see that the people are all people. The universe of TRULY OUTRAGEOUS is very uplifting, and while every character in the play has their own flaws (even Jem, though don’t tell her that!), they eventually come to see the humanity in each other (or robot-manity in the case of Synergy).
I’m also planning on ordering customized slap bracelets for folks who see the show. So they’ll be able to come away with a bit of cool 80s fashion to take home as well!
The Geek Post would like to thank Brandie for taking the time out of her busy schedule to tell us all about this project. We would also like to thank Brandie for the insight she shared and we look forward to hearing about future projects.
To learn more about Truly Outrageous, or to visit any of Brandie’s social media or even her website you can find the links below.
Truly Outrageous Fringe Show Page: The Hollywood Fringe Festival – truly outrageous: a jem & the holograms parody musical
Truly Outrageous Instagram: Truly Outrageous Musical (@trulyoutrageousmusical) | Instagram
Truly Outrageous TikTok: Truly Outrageous Musical (@trulyoutrageousmusical) | TikTok
Bradie’s Website: HOME | brandie (brandiejune.com)
Brandie’s Instagram: Brandie June (@thebrandiejune) | Instagram
Brandie’s TikTok: Brandie June (@brandiebooks) | TikTok
Brandie’s Twitter: Brandie June (@brandiejune) / Twitter