The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with nearly 3,500 shows. This year, Playbill is in Edinburgh for the entire month in August for the festival and we’re taking you with us. Follow along as we cover every single aspect of the Fringe, aka our real-life Brigadoon!
The Twilight Saga may have been at peak popularity more than a decade ago, but you wouldn't know it from the rabid audiences rushing to see Dusk: A Bite-Size Love Story. The musical, which is a parody of the hit film franchise, has already sold out their entire Edinburgh Festival Fringe run once, and newly added performances are close to crossing the threshold as well.
The parody reimagines Edward and Bella as Edwin and Bia, with beloved characters from the cult franchise coming to life through a series of inside-baseball references, in addition to more open parody and satire.
Co-written by Morgan Kennedy and Daniel Ruffing, it is virtually unheard of for first-time Fringe artists to sell out in the way Dusk has. The musical quickly gained attention on social media after clips of a Pennsylvania workshop production were uploaded online, and Dusk has already racked up more than five million likes on TikTok alone. Playbill caught up with the team to explore the who, what, where, when, and why of tapping into the Twilight renaissance for a new theatrical generation.
How long have you been working on your show?
Morgan Kennedy and Daniel Ruffing: Since late-April of 2022.
MK: Why not Twilight? With all the angst and melodrama, I felt like the story was just begging for its characters to burst into spontaneous song or dance. For years, I imagined how scenes from the books and movies could be staged and how entertaining well-designed tech could be for a musical adaptation. I never envisioned having any involvement in bringing a version of that to life, but this project has just felt like the right thing to be working on every step of the way so far. I have big dreams for Dusk and how I would like for it to look in the future!
DR: Because Morgan said so ✨. In all honesty though, I was brought on after it was already decided, but it really is a perfect time to do Twilight. The series has been slowly making a comeback, and the fanbase has been active and thriving for years, so it was inevitable that something like this would happen!
Why did you want to present your show at the Edinburgh Fringe?
DR: It's always been a huge dream of mine to perform at Edinburgh Fringe. Two of my favorite shows, Six and Fleabag, got their starts at the festival, and ever since I started living in the U.K. (York), it was all anyone would talk about when I mentioned that I write musicals! Fringe is a great place to test out material and have the opportunity to get your work in front of amazing audiences and incredible producers and reviewers, so it was a natural next step in our development process!
MK: Dusk seems to fit all the stereotypical Fringe criteria. The festival has such a reputation of being the place to go if you want to celebrate the arts and all their oddities, so it felt like the perfect place to premier a parody musical and to connect with other artists who were looking to have fun this August. I find that oftentimes I put a lot of pressure on my writing to “mean enough” before sharing, and this project has never been about that for me. It feels like one big inside joke or meme, which has made it delightful to share with audiences who just want to enjoy the company of other Twilight fans or poke fun at the absurdity of some of the story’s plot points.
What’s been the most difficult part about performing in the Fringe?
DR: Definitely the tight schedules and rules that we have to follow with our venue. There are tons of different shows at all times of the day, many using the same space as us, and things have to move quickly so we aren't ruining the spaces or schedules of other shows. We've definitely had issues with starting late and, in turn, going over our alloted time, which is extremely stressful! But if I'm being fully honest, the hardest part has definitely been receiving negative reviews over things we can't control. We love feedback of all types because it helps us learn what audiences think and can also help us adjust certain things in the show, but we've received lots of complaints about things like the heat in the theatre and the uncomfortable seats. Yes, our show being 2 hours long definitely heightens these things, but many have taken points off or given us negative reviews BECAUSE of those things. We worked SO incredibly hard to bring this show to Fringe and get it in front of an audience, so it’s frustrating to see your work being judged over things you can’t control instead of the actual material of your show that you’d love to hear, good or bad.
What has been the most rewarding part about performing in the Fringe?
DR: Hearing positive feedback on music and lyrics that you've spent months and months and months writing and rewriting has been a very rewarding experience. I’ve had a few naysayers in my life who have caused me to question my choice to pursue writing music, so this month has been incredibly validating for me. Not only that, but just hearing my music brought to life by the insanely talented cast we have has been something I still can't get over every time I hear it! We've been fortunate enough to record a cast album with this production and I genuinely can't wait to stream it every day! Working with the cast has also been so amazing. They are all such wonderful individuals and I’m so honored to call them friends They’ve all worked very hard to make this happen. I can’t wait to see where they all end up in a few years. All of them are stars! Lastly, I got to meet Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Brandon Uranowitz because of Fringe, so it’s safe to say I’m having the time of my life here.
MK: Aside from all of the incredible artistic and professional opportunities this project has provided, I’ve adored how collaborative it’s been. We’ve had the pleasure of working with cast, crew, and creative team members from eight different countries. This made our early rehearsal process unique because we had cast members spread across several time zones coming together virtually to create the characters and world you see on stage. It’s been cool to see how the merging of cultures shapes our piece behind the scenes and to establish new international friendships and professional networks.
What’s something you’ve learned about doing Fringe that you wish you knew going in?
DR: We were relatively late to the Fringe application/setup process, so we missed information on a lot of helpful grants/awards/early deadlines that would've been super useful for us to know about. This is especially true with housing! You basically need to start looking into accomodation options 10 years before you plan to attend Fringe in order to secure them! Other than that, I definitely wish I had a better game plan for my time management here. As an artist, your main purpose at Fringe is to showcase your work, but when you're basically at Disneyland for theatre nerds, it's hard to balance the work you need to do with the shows you want to see. Especially for us as the show's creators—we're often doing stuff for the show at all times during the day, so it’s been really challenging to choose from the many, many, many shows available to see.
MK: I agree with Dan about getting an early start and prioritizing time-management! I unwisely waited until my arrival in Edinburgh to start planning which shows I was hoping to see, and that approach has left me paralyzed by choice overload. I understand now why arts patrons treat prepping for Fringe like a professional sporting event.
What are you hoping to get out of your Fringe experience?
MK: We would absolutely love to take the show further. It’s been so much fun interacting with people online who connect with either the source material or what we’ve shared of Dusk, and we would love to bring live performances to as many of them as possible! We’re hoping to move towards some sort of U.K. tour before expanding and taking the show elsewhere.
DR: I fully agree with Morgan! Just having my work heard is enough for me, but being able to take the show on the road would be a dream come true. This whole process has been some of the most challenging yet rewarding work I've ever done, and I'd love to share it with larger audiences!
What other show would you recommend that people go see and why?
MK: I’ve genuinely enjoyed all of the shows I’ve seen so far! I particularly liked Austentacious, Swan Song, and The Crisp Review. All were laden with banter, energy, and the spirit of the Fringe.
DR: A Mirrored Monet was absolutely breathtaking. It's a fellow Greenside show, so while I'm on that topic, all of my fellow Greensiders deserve to have their work celebrated and seen, and they've been so wonderful putting up with our extremely large (and loud) cast!
If you’re comfortable sharing, how much did it cost you to present your show at Fringe? How did you find the funds?
MK & DR: Unsurprisingly, producing a new work in musical theatre is quite expensive. Separate from individual travel costs and money spent on the writing and development process, the project has cost roughly $25,000 to produce at Fringe. A majority of our budget has been allocated towards venue-related expenses, scenic/wig/costume design, and tech (mic rental, projector, etc). We’ve been referring to Dusk as a “shopped show” because a majority of the costumes are thrifted and none of the set pieces were built custom for the production. While this allowed some room for savings, that also meant there were sourcing fees and international shipping charges to consider. It is quite the ambitious feat, we’ve learned, attempting to produce a relatively full-scale musical for the first time in another country, especially as a production team of just three people. The project was initially entirely self-funded, but we have now launched a GoFundMe and will be selling merchandise and recordings of our Fringe show to fund the future of Dusk. The filmed performance will be available for streaming this autumn!
If you're a Twihard who cannot make it to Edinburgh, you can purchase the filmed version of the show for $15.
Playbill is currently in Scotland covering the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. To read more of our coverage from the world's biggest arts festival, click here.