You may have seen the crew of the new web series “Thespian” shooting around Baltimore in bars, markets, shops and galleries. With the first season of the home-grown comedy already available on Amazon Prime, the show’s indie producers are hoping for a mid-December release of season two.
The show focuses on Adam Kelner and his wife, Abby. He is a 50-something former stand-up comedian trying to recapture his youthful dreams of being a dramatic actor. She is a teacher and a loving, supportive partner and foil for Adam’s anxiety-ridden quest.
But the plot thickens when you look behind the camera to find the web series’ co-creators are Marc and Maria Unger. He is a longtime stand-up comedian, actor, writer and director, and she a longtime teacher and more recently a filmmaking jack-of-all-trades.
The Meet Cute
The two met at Magooby’s Joke House, the comedy club co-owned by Marc and his brother, Andrew.
“I saw this really, really beautiful woman kind of floating.” Marc recalls. “That’s how Maria walks. She floats.
And I was blown away.”
That was 2008, and the couple married two years later. Since, they have been more than marital partners, but creative partners and “Thespian” co-producers who collaborate on every aspect of the web series.
“It was always, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this together,’” Marc says.
And although working so closely together isn’t without its challenges, both Marc and Maria say the partnership has only enhanced their relationship.
“I’ve been a writer for years, I knew how to direct. But Maria had never really been on a set before,” Marc says. “She had to learn it all. She’s become a real jack-of-all-trades. And she’s somebody who helps me craft a story. So, we’re both full in it.”
Script for success
This is the nature of producing a low-budget, crowd-funded project: “You have to learn all of the everything. And it turned out I like all of the everything,” Maria says, listing the jobs she’s learned, including assistant director, script supervisor, editor, location scout, wardrobe coordinator and production manager. Even the PA (production assistant) who fetches the ice.
“There’s so much planning that goes into it in terms of breaking things down and making sure everybody’s in the right place at the right time,” she adds. “I really love being on set and living in it after all the planning.”
Off the set, Maria teaches children with autism at Sudbrook Magnet Middle School. Before that, she taught at Kennedy Krieger Institute for 10 years. He teaches comedic storytelling classes at Magooby’s.
Marc and Maria seem to have found the perfect creative partnership that they plan to keep nurturing and growing because, even though it’s a lot of hard work, it’s also a lot of fun.
“She is the best-looking person who has ever held a slate,” Marc says. “I just look at her, and I melt all over again.”
“I love working with my husband.” Maria says. “A lot of people ask me, ‘How do you guys do it?’ I don’t want to say it’s easy, but, if anything, it makes the relationship even stronger.”
“We spend so much time behind the scenes creating things together, and when we get on set, we’re on the same page,” she added. “Well, we’re humans, and we’re not always on the same page, but it just feels so fluid. I’m so proud of the work that we make together.”
Marc and Maria Unger will show Episode 1 of Season 2 on Friday, Nov. 1 at 8 p.m. as part of the Baltimore Next Media Web Festival, held at the Baltimore Museum of Art. For more info on the show, visit thespianseries.com.