A ‘Hot Mess’ of a zombie jamboree

Fertile Ground: Mark LaPierre and Ian Anderson-Priddy's zombie comic-book musical will make your pulse rush. If you have one.

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Sex! Music! Zombies! Comics! 

Do I have your attention? If I don’t, you might not have a pulse. But don’t fret: Hot Mess—a comic-book musical by Mark LaPierre (music, lyrics, and book) and Ian Anderson-Priddy (art and animation)—is the province of the undead. A combination of Scooby Doo and EDM, Hot Mess – A Zombie Musical is almost certainly unlike anything you’ve seen before. “It’s shamelessly attention-seeking,” LaPierre says with a laugh. Hot Mess premieres at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4, as a part of Fertile Ground’s online festival of new works. Festival projects remain available to stream for free through Feb. 15 on Fertile Ground’s Facebook and YouTube channels.


ONLINE FESTIVAL: FERTILE GROUND 2021


The musical opens on Tiffany (voiced by Erin Tamblyn) and her hair-raisingly crass boyfriend “Playya” (voiced by LaPierre) wandering a graveyard at 4 a.m. The couple are supposed to be attending a joint funeral for three of Tiffany’s friends (who died under mysterious circumstances), but it turns out Tiffany got the time wrong. In the graveyard there are unexpected run-ins with old friends, a hilarious ode-to-sex sung by Playya, and a chorus of the walking dead (who also dance). The comic-book musical feels like something that would air on Adult Swim (Aqua Teen Hunger Force comes to mind); it’s kind of alienating to watch, but nevertheless it’s campy, catchy, and downright funny. 

Comic-book zombies and a “Hot Mess.” image by Bowan Hampton and Ian Anderson-Priddy.

Hot Mess is an adaptation of LaPierre’s stage musical, originally titled Zombie Strippers, that premiered at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2016. “The entire idea behind the festival was: things you shouldn’t do in musical theater,” says LaPierre. Ergo, Zombie Strippers. The musical has undergone many changes over the years, growing from a one-act to a full evening of theater; Hot Mess marks LaPierre’s most recent return to that material. 

LaPierre says he’d been wanting to combine graphic novels with musical theater for a while. Fertile Ground’s all-virtual festival presented the perfect opportunity. And, as with everything, Covid played a role. “Me and Ian, we both make our lives in theater completely,” says LaPierre, “so we got some time.” LaPierre says the whole process—storyboarding, animating, recording dialogue with actors (the music had been finished as a demo pre-Covid)—took about three months. He hopes the genre catches on. “I want to make this a form,” LaPierre says. The film, subtitled “Fun and Games,” runs nearly twenty minutes and is intended to be the first installation in a series. 

LaPierre says he wants Hot Mess to serve as an “amusing respite” to an already horrifying past eleven months. “I want to take the idea of something you can catch that might kill you and put it into a much safer metaphor,” says LaPierre, “which is zombies running around.” 

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  • Hot Mess debuts at 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4. All festival projects will be available through Feb. 15 to stream on Fertile Ground’s Facebook and YouTube channels.

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PREVIOUS STORIES ABOUT FERTILE GROUND 2021:

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  • Fertile Ground 2021: Digital seedlings sprout. Bennett Campbell Ferguson previews the festival and talks with director Nicole Lane about the switch from live to online viewing.
  • Interactive cookies and scares. Bennett Campbell Ferguson writes about two plays with interactive aspects: Fold in Gently and RE: Lilith Lopez.
  • Martha Bakes in Black & White. Bobby Bermea talks with playwright Don Wilson Glenn and director Damaris Webb about Martha Bakes, a play about race and history and the nation’s first First Lady in her colonial kitchen.
  • Tough questions, tough answers. Lisa Collins’ “wonderful and exacting” new play Be Careful What You Ask For delves into a Portland killing and matters of race, Max Tapogna writes.
  • The rhythm and meaning of lilies. Poet Joni Whitworth and filmmaker Hannah Piper Burns find the mythic amid the reality of Covid-19, Max Tapogna writes.

About the author

Max Tapogna is an actor, singer, and writer who hails from Portland, Oregon. He graduated from the University of Puget Sound in the spring of 2020 with a BA in Theatre Arts. Max is currently a 2020-21 acting apprentice at Portland Playhouse.

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