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MNfusion: Chicago Writers Bring Minnesota To Spotlight In 'Realish Housewives Of Edina'

When it comes to picking a setting for major television shows, Minnesota often gets over looked.

Especially when it comes to reality television.

There's never been a "Top Chef: Twin Cities" or "Real World: Duluth," despite the reality TV gold that would be created by out-of-towners handling our winters.

But thanks to a pair of writers from the very visible city that acts as the representative of the Midwest to those in the coasts (Chicago), we now have our very own "Real Housewives."

At least on the stage.

Kate James and Tim Sniffen have created "The Realish Housewives of Edina."

Of all the "Housewives" versions I personally liken Edina to Beverly Hills. But the creators took some time to tell me what their inspiration was and what you can expect from the show.

Get to know more about the housewives as Mike Augustniak and Natalie Nyhus lunch with the ladies.

Realish Housewies of Edina at New Century Theatre
(credit: Bridget Bennett)

Being that neither of your backgrounds is from Minnesota, why did you decide to write a show set here? Both Chicago and New York have plenty of suburbs to choose from, why Edina?

James: We wrote this show so that it could tour the country and be customized to the city in which it's playing. We thought it would be most fun to have the show take place in locations that the television series hasn't explored. We are thrilled that Edina will be it's inaugural run!

Sniffen: Once the name of Edina came up, I loved it. It's true, New York and Chicago have their own suburbs, but they're getting plenty of airtime. I'm from a smaller suburb in New York and I love it when some of those smaller towns get their time in the spotlight! And what we've found is that the Housewives are such huge personalities that they're just as much fun outside of Orange Country or Atlanta as they would be anywhere else. So as a creative choice, it all seemed to fit.

I think I can fairly say that we're thrilled Edina will be the inaugural run as well! The shows usually feature women from rich or prominent towns and families. Why not do a parody of the show in an area that isn't known for having a lot of money?

James: For us, it was intriguing to play off of what the series is know for – opulence and high society – and in comedy it's always more enjoyable to lovingly spoof those who have more, not those who have less. The women that appear in the television series know exactly what they are signing up for and they love to flaunt their lifestyle. Fortunately, for us, it leaves a lot of ridiculous material to work with.

Sniffen: God willing, we will. There's already talk of traveling to other cities like San Diego and Des Moines. Personally, I think there's just as much room for parody in Des Moines as in Manhattan.

It sounds like there will be a lot of room to explore other cities and cultures. So, tell me, what did you do to learn about Edina?

James: We elicited the help of a lot of locals to find out what Edina information to include. When we are customizing a show it's important to hear from the people that actually live there, rather than simply inserting our impressions or assumptions of the location. We asked a lot of questions and then looked for similar answers from multiple sources. When we heard the same thing over and over we knew we had relatable content to include.

Sniffen: We talked with the staff at the Hennepin Theater Trust, and I reached out to friends who have lived in the area for years. We also involved our best asset of all: the cast. [They] let us know if a reference or local celebrity was the right one to go with. As one of the co-writers of the show, I joined the production a week before opening night to do a bit of extra research leading up to opening night.

It's great to hear you really took the time to hear from local residents about the town. It definitely helps make the show feel more authentic. Who are the characters based off of, if anyone?

James: The characters in our show are a great, big loving homage to the archetypes from the television series. Fans will notice a little bit of Countess Luann and Bethanny from NYC, a smidge of Lisa Vanderpump from Beverly Hills, a pinch of Vicki from O.C., a hint of Caroline from New Jersey and of course a dash of Nene from Atlanta. But of course, the ladies of Edina are totally unique and a brand unto themselves!

I love that! What is one of your favorite scenes from the show?

James: I love that the ladies in the television show are forever attending high-end fundraisers and charity events. It seems there is one for every night of the week. In our show, we poke fun at that with the ladies attending a high-profile, exclusive fundraiser, the only problem is that nobody quite knows what it's for.

Sniffen: I love the ending of Act I. In true Real Housewives fashion, we have some unexpected reveals and betrayals, and for a moment all hell breaks loose. After all, we're all waiting for the drama, right? So we made sure to bring some.

Realish Housewives of Edina Reunion
(credit: Bridget Bennett)

Kate, it appears as though you've worked on a number of different types of shows. However, the ones highlighted include other artistic elements like dance and music. How has this show been a different experience for you?

James: In the past I've collaborated on shows that include different genres like opera and modern dance. This show is just celebrating a different artistic medium – television. More specifically reality television, which is its own beautifully, dysfunctional category. It may seem very different from other things I've worked on recently, but they are all comedies at the end of the day. No matter what I'm working on, the first and more important goal is to get the audience laughing. Early and often.

Tim, how has the experience of writing this show been different from others for you?

Sniffen: My last collaboration with Kate James was for "The Second City Guide to the Opera," a collaboration with Lyric Opera of Chicago. This show involves a little more wine throwing. [But oddly enough, the same amount of divas.]

Why is it, do you think, that audiences enjoy the "Real Housewives" franchise? 

James: I definitely think there's a healthy dose of schadenfreude that goes into enjoying the Real Housewives franchise. We've become a culture that loves sitting in the safety of our own living room while getting a front row seat into somebody else's private life – the good, bad and the ridiculous. I also think there's an element of spectacle to the RHW. These are women who are savvy enough to know that they are on a reality show and that it's important to finesse their "storyline" for higher ratings and a greater fan base. But in actuality, the storyline is their life. Sort of? It's all become a fascinating blur of reality and fiction.

Sniffen: It's a guilty pleasure. We love to watch these people and think, "I may have my issues, but at least I'm not one of those people!" As always, human drama reels us in, and there's guaranteed drama in every single episode.

Do you watch any of the 'Real Housewives" shows? If so, which one are your favorites?

James: Yes! I watch them all! Even D.C. (rest in peace). I think my absolute favorite is NYC simply because I love that city so much. And how can you not love a cast that, over the years, boasts somebody who's a Countess, somebody who's a Princess and somebody who is able to throw her fake leg during a dinner party?

Sniffen: I'm a fan of Beverly Hills. Being from New York, that world feels very different from what I grew up around. Camille's dinner party with her friend the psychic is still hands-down one of my favorite [and most bonkers] moments from the show!

Watch the video at the top of the post to see Natalie Nyhus and Mike Augustyniak take two of the housewives out to lunch at Edina's Salut Bar Americain!

Realish Housewives of Edina
(credit: CBS)
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