Salina, Kansas native Ben Hensley has been seen by Los Angeles audiences in his StageSceneLA honored starring role in the West Coast Premiere of Splendora at the Celebration Theatre, as well as roles in 1776 (Actors Co-op), Fiddler On The Roof (CLOSBC), A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum (Downey Civic Light Opera), and numerous others. Most recently Ben covered Perry Ojeda in the hit production of Michael John LaChiusa’s See What I Wanna See at the Blank Theatre. Ben has also tried his hand at producing (Problem Child at the Actors Workout Studio), and has racked up considerable film and TV work as well.  Ben’s very next project combines his talents as both peformer and entrepreneur. It’s the Hollywood Fringe Festival’s Ain’t We Got Fun: A Vaudevillian Entertainment, which Ben describes as a “pastiche of old forgotten (yet remembered) vaudeville sketches and comic songs. Two performers, disenfranchised with the plastic lack of authenticity in our modern ‘point-and-click’ instant entertainment world, discover a dusty trunk that takes them on a musical journey to yesteryear.”

So Ben, tell me about how Ain’t We Got Fun came about?

My partner Michael Montiel and I had wanted to find an opportunity to work together for quite some time.  Unfortunately there were not many “multi-ethnic” or “color-blind casting” opportunities to audition for that we could perform together, like All My Sons or perhaps The Wiz.

What inspired you to create this particular type of show?

We were very inspired by other original musical performance artists like Joey Arias, Split Britches and Lesli Margarita. Originally we wanted a show that we could tour around to nursing homes so we could tell our grandmothers (and other peoples’ grandmothers) that we love them and that they make us who we are today.  So the piece at this point has a semi-autobiographical element but is infused with a vaudeville tone and style.

What made you pick vaudeville as a genre?

We liked the world of vaudeville as a jumping off point for our production.  There’s so much simple theatricality and flair that is inherent in vaudeville that sometimes gets lost in our modern entertainment world and its various bells and whistles.  We wanted to have a transportable show that is entertaining without the technical finesse of a large production. Ain’t We Got Fun is simple and relies solely on two actors, songs and skits, and of course, props.

What made you pick the Hollywood Fringe Festival to debut Ain’t We Got Fun?

We were very happy to become involved with the first Hollywood Fringe Festival.  The Fringe has such an accessible means by which original performances can come into fruition.  Also, they are a great cultivator of artistic entrepreneurship which we found immensely gratifying as we performed the various producing responsibilities for our own work, such as finding a space, hiring a choreographer, procuring insurance. 

What does it feel like to be part of the very first Hollywood Fringe Festival?

It’s exciting to be a part of such a diverse offering of artistic performances.  There are close to 200 projects in this year’s Fringe and it is thrilling to be a part of that creative frenzy. An additional benefit was that it provided us deadlines—which are mandatory in creating a show.  Sometimes it’s a challenge to impose deadlines when your work is self-driven. Luckily the Hollywood Fringe is not ongoing and forever like our lives.

What can kids and their parents expect from Ain’t We Got Fun?

Audiences can expect a whirlwind mini-tour of vaudeville, including comedic skits and songs. Some you may know like “Oh You Beautiful Doll” or “Be A Clown” others will be new like “Ma, He’s Makin’ Eyes At Me” and “The Zucchini Song.” The show is 40 minutes and is performed without an intermission. It’s a brief entertainment that you can enjoy in the afternoon or evening if you’re attending the Hollywood Fringe Festival but still be able to catch an evening performance or even a matinee of another show that you might want to see.

What do you see as the future of Ain’t We Got Fun?

This is the first incarnation of Ain’t We Got Fun. We’re not sure yet what we’re going to do with the piece next, webisodes or a longer run… This is a movable trunk show so it might be something that we would like to tour.  Of course, Steven, if you have an upcoming birthday or Bar Mitzvah, we’d be happy to provide entertainment for your event.

What’s next for you Ben?

Later in the summer you can catch me in the role of Rick in Three: Songs From The Heart, by Frederick Keeve.  It’s an original musical directed by Lance Roberts and will be performed at the Electric Lodge Theatre in Venice as part of the Festival of New American Musicals. 

I understand that Michael recently recreated a TV icon on stage. 

Yes, Michael recently performed as Screech in the new musical Saved by the Parody, a spoof of the television series Saved by the Bell, at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks.

I wish you both much success with Ain’t We Got Fun.  The first performance happens to be my first day off from work between Spring and Summer quarters, so I hope to be there for your noon show!

Ain’t We Got Fun: A Vaudevillian Entertainment
June 18 & 25 at 12:00 noon and 5:00 p.m. 
Hollywood Presbyterian Church “Middle Terrace”
1760 N. Gower St.,

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