By KELLY EMMRICH
“Solid 8” is a witty, intelligent and startlingly real depiction of the dog-eat-dog world of acting. The webshow follows the early beginnings of the acting career of Nicki Shannon, played by co- creator, Magan Carrigan, as she tries to break into the New York acting scene.
Several University of Mary Washington alumni have been working on “Solid 8” including 2012 graduate Peter Mumford, 2010 graduate Maggie Bausch, 2011 graduate Taylor Williams and 2011 graduate Carrigan. A handful of other UMW graduates have done smaller jobs on the show.
“It was really cool employing so many people from UMW because it was like a fun friendship activity as well as a professional project,” Carrigan said. “Taylor and I talked early on about how we wanted to consistently cast and hire from our alumni pools because supporting our community is a huge deal to us. These communities helped us and taught us and gave us a place to call home. You gotta pay it forward, you know?”
The webshow, addresses the real, uncensored fears that every actor just starting their career has. The character Nicki is this spunky, likeable actress who is at a crossroads. She questions her life choices, how to start her career as an actor and if the struggle is even worth it in the end. In the first episode, the most relatable pilot that I’ve ever seen, is shot in Nicki’s bedroom. She makes the devastating mistake of searching “how to be an actor” on Google. As a result, she spirals down into a pit of despair that many college students and struggling artists can relate to.
The idea for “Solid 8” came to Carrigan and Williams in their second to last year of grad school at the Actors Studio Drama School. They, like many others, were starting to kick around ideas of what they would do after they graduated.
“The idea came from a confluence of events,” said co-creator and writer Williams, “seeing Jenny Slate being absolutely fearless and vulnerable in the movie ‘Obvious Child,’ feeling underrepresentation of our generation’s particular struggles and worldview, and a desire to create something relatable and funny.”
In the beginning, Williams and Carrigan had a protagonist, Nicki. They ran with the character and developed her into a hapless actress in NYC who is trying to start her career but has no idea how to. This project was originally supposed to be pretty small, but one script turned into 10 and soon after they had Emily Marquet, a DC producer on their team. The only problem was funding.
The “Solid 8” team started an Indiegogo campaign. In just 45 days, with no PR or marketing team, they raised more than $15,000. With that money they have shot, edited and released the first three episodes. In order to make the remaining seven episodes of the season, they need more funding.
When at UMW, everyone on the “Solid 8” team was hungry for any theatre opportunity they could get their hands on. Whether it was acting on the mainstage, directing Studio 115 plays or taking every theatre class offered, these graduates did it all.
“I took every class I could fit into my schedule, I then tried to get involved in as many plays as I could, both in Klein Theatre and with Studio 115’s black box,” said actor and writer Mumford.
“Once you’re in you only want to spend your time working on theatre projects.” Bausch, a “Solid 8” actor and writer has some parting advice for the UMW theatre students.
“Solid 8 wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the hard work and collaborative skills of Magan and Taylor–and they had that passionate drive in school too,” Bausch said. “Current theatre students need to know that it’s going to be hard work after school, and nothing will get done if they don’t work together and push for it every day.”