Sunday, July 24, 2011

FFA 1 - Nightmare Man - Wow, I'm Really Gay, part 2

Back during Fringe 2009, director Paul von Stoetzel was #5 on my pre-Fringe Top 10 list that year for a double feature of Fringe directing (I don't know how directors, actors or anyone else does one show, much less two or more, but there you are - some people are more energetic and efficiently scheduled than me.)

This year he's back again, and doing double duty again. He's one of three directors on the "bring your own venue" short play showcase The 612 (which we'll get a sampling of at Fringe-For-All #2), and he's the sole director on

Nightmare Man

Studio Alethea Productions

which previewed in the second half of Fringe-For-All #1

Here's their spiffy video trailer...

Here's their Fringe-For-All preview...

And another sample song...

More Than You

And here's the Twin Cities Theater Connection interview...

Fringecast 2011 - Nightmare Man

Honestly? The reason this blog post is called, Wow I'm Really Gay, part 2, is that, well, I'm glad Derek Meyer is talented, because it makes me feel less guilty about just liking to watch him onstage. Doesn't really matter what he's doing. He makes it very easy to pass an hour watching a Fringe show.

I first saw Derek in a couple of wonderfully bizarre, if sometimes slightly uneven, sci-fi Fringe shows from Electric Telescope - The Cold Dark Matter At Hand and Virginity of Astronauts - and again in a Flowershop Project production of the new play Dawn's Inferno (directed, not coincidentally, by Paul von Stoetzel.

Now normally, a production that looks like the trailer above, with a title like that, and is described thusly below...

"A new musical written and composed by Nathan M. Schilz, this World Premiere performance of Nightmare Man is directed by film and stage veteran Paul von Stoetzel.

Nightmare Man is a tale of guilt and heartache as Thomas (Derek Meyer) struggles to come to terms with his past. He meets Jade (Madelyne Riley) in a dream, who tries to help him alleviate his suffering. Featuring Martin Ruben, appearing courtesy of Actor's Equity Union, this intense musical is based on the original short story by bizarro fiction writer Jeremy C. Shipp."

...might have a tough hill to climb with me. Paul's tastes as a director tend to run a little darker than my standard choice for entertainment.

But it's Derek Meyer. And he's singing. Which is something I wasn't previously aware he had in his bag of tricks.

The Fringe-For-All preview had its issues. The volume of the backing track was a little overpowering, so Derek beginning the song at a low volume was sometimes a struggle to hear. But when he let loose on the second half, I stopped worrying. OK, the guy's got a set of pipes on him.

So he's singing about the bloody dismemberment of his late girlfriend in some horrible accident. It's Paul von Stoetzel directing - I wasn't expecting a light fluffy musical comedy. In fact, it's partly the disconnect between the concepts of "Paul" and "musical theater" that has me so intrigued.

But truly, if Derek Meyer wants to stand there, barefoot, in a T-shirt and slacks, singing for 45 minutes, I'm down with that. Sign me up.

(Wow, I'm really gay.)

Fringe 2011 - Fringe-For-All previews

Some thoughts on a handful of the previews that were part of the 2011 version of Fringe-For-All...

7/24/2011 - Fringe-For-All - Uncle Tom's Condo - "That might be the first sing-along I've ever seen at a Fringe preview..."
Twin Cities Daily Planet version
Single White Fringe Geek version

7/24/2011 - Fringe-For-All - SCOTUS! - Go, Playwright!
Twin Cities Daily Planet version
Single White Fringe Geek version

7/24/2011 - Fringe-For-All - A Good-Natured Gut - Dancing From The Neck Up As Well As Done
Twin Cities Daily Planet version
Single White Fringe Geek version

7/24/2011 - Fringe-For-All - A Little Bit Of Vegas - Wow, I'm Really Gay, Part 1
Twin Cities Daily Planet version
Single White Fringe Geek version

7/24/2011 - Fringe-For-All - Nightmare Man - Wow, I'm Really Gay, Part 2
Twin Cities Daily Planet version
Single White Fringe Geek version

FFA 1 - A Little Bit of Vegas - Wow, I'm Really Gay, part 1

So the first Fringe-For-All preview of the 2011 season was

A Little Bit of Vegas

Offspring Productions

"It's 1958. Sensual showgirls are all the rage on the strip. High glamour and soft mystique allure and captivate a true gentleman into the passionate world of a woman willing to risk everything to reach the top."

A young woman (they have a cast of 18, so I have no clue which young woman but that's not really necessary to understand the preview) emerged from backstage with a red and black feathered/sequined headdress on her head, covered in a silky bright red robe. She took the microphone from Robin Gillette after the show introduction, and got ready to belt out her big torch song number "Don't Rescue Me" (basically, don't save me from my "bad" impulses, I want to live in a big way).

She opened her robe, let it fall from her shoulders and tossed it to the side and...

All I could think was, "Wow, I'm really gay."

The young lady was standing there in a skimpy black bikini accented with butterflies and I'm thinking, "Hmmm, I'm sure if I were a straight guy this would totally do it for me but... huh... nuthin'"

I did appreciate her voice, quite a lot. In fact, she didn't even need the microphone. At times she overwhelmed it. She had a voice big enough to fill the whole room all by herself, well before the "big finish" notes at the end. All this bodes well for the show. If the other performers in it are this good, or even half this good, should be an interesting production. Can't speak to the quality of the script or story or anything, we just got a song here. But it was a damn good song, done well. It was a solid way to kick off the evening. She even got done while the warning light was still in green mode, inside the initial two and a half minute mark. Most efficient.

Will I be seeing this show personally? Probably not. I think I am very much not its audience. It strikes me as a very hetero show (and since the Fringe audience can very well be 90 percent hetero, this is a good thing - for both show and audience). I have just never felt less heterosexual watching something in a long time. It was a most odd feeling. And an interesting way to kick off my Fringe season - and scheduling plans.

FFA 1 - A Good-Natured Gut - Dancing from the neck up as well as down

The third show in the trio of previews that caught my eye by surprising me at the first Fringe-For-All was

A Good-Natured Gut

(which for some reason, I mistyped as A Good-Natured Girl)

LS Dance Collaborative

Again, it's a pity that the video for this preview couldn't be posted (Robin Gillette mentioned that they'd be posting any videos that had no copyright issues involved. Guess anyone using music that wasn't original ran afoul of that just like people doing established scripts in their previews. For video, I guess it needs to be all original, or with permission of the artist - or a long dead artist, like Shakespeare - wow, is there a lot of Shakespeare this year)

I'll try to do the dancers justice with simple words. I have the Fringe to thank for my expanded appreciation of dance. I find myself noticing things that I don't think I would have noticed before. For instance, the reason these three young women stood out where some other dance previews didn't was in the way they carried themselves.

Three brunettes (I'm assuming Coralee Kaivo, Liz Schoenborn, and Jessica Schuett, since they're the only three listed on the Fringe show page) in silky flowing metallic colored fabric moved with real precision together. The bluesy singer in the background sang and song with a refrain of "my soul is weary."

What I appreciated the most, though, was that they weren't just dancing from the neck down. A lot of dancers with dance with a completely blank expression on their faces, like they're runway models or something. Maybe they need to concentrate, maybe they don't want to draw attention away from the footwork. Whatever the reason, I find it kind of off-putting as a spectator. These women, however, seemed fully engaged. Their faces registered emotion - either internally, or in response to their dance partners, sometimes even to the presence of the audience watching them. It was refreshing to see fully human beings in motion. Because they were more emotionally engaged, so was I.

Plus, dance never ceases to amaze me. I have zero coordination. The control these artists must have to get their bodies to do exactly what they ask them to do, in time to the music and the other dancers around them, boggles my mind. They didn't even take the whole 3 minutes they had for the preview. They had the lights fade out while the warning light was only yellow, as they were still the process of executing moves (letting us know that the dance was a larger piece that would continue, we'd just need to see the show to catch it all). Nicely done.

And their show page mentions they also have a hip hop spoken word artist, and a cellist involved. This sounds more and more like a fun and different sort of show. Another one to squeeze into the schedule...

Show description -

"Darwin once speculated that human emotion was the product of natural selection; gut feelings that proved to be advantageous in furthering the survival of our species. While today’s Homo sapiens have evolved to experience a nuanced array of feelings, A Good-Natured Gut harkens back to the basic roots of our emotion. Through innovative and original movement, LS Dance Collaborative explores the physicality of our fear, sadness, anger, disgust and joy. Set to a constellation of alternative rock, classical cello and spoken word, this show examines the inner workings of our hearts, heads, and guts."

FFA 1 - SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) - Go, playwright!

Another Fringe-For-All preview that unexpectedly won me over last Monday was

SCOTUS! (Supreme Court of the United States!)

Serious Hedgehog Arts

The reason this was so unexpected was I had pretty much written this one off based on its original show description (wisely now replaced with something else online)...

"It's like The West Wing, if it were about the Supreme Court. And was written by the writers from 30 Rock. And was about a government about as dysfunctional as it is in real life."

So... nothing like The West Wing. OK then.

The cast and director were in rehearsal the night of Fringe-For-All, so the playwright/producer Brandi Brown filled in for them instead ("I'm the writer. I feel like I'm qualified to talk about it, so let's do this."). And talk about the right person for the job. Brandi Brown was charming and very, very funny. It's a pity they didn't post the video for this one because she was a perfect ambassador for her show. I said as much to her afterward as the audience was running the great postcard gauntlet at the end of the evening. Brandi was sort of chiding herself for not getting all of the plot out, but honestly it didn't matter. She was so clever in the way she introduced us to all the characters of the play that I didn't need any further convincing.

About one character - "You know how you want to be an actor, but then you have to take some terrible job to support yourself, like waitressing - or being a Supreme Court justice? That's her. You'll love her. Maybe not."

About another character - "It'll be fine, just get the Constitution out of the shredder."

In addition, there's a stand-in for NPR, called NER (National Elitist Radio) - "They act as a Greek chorus. I hear you people love that sh*t."

In the cast, two who I recognized from previous work were Sandbox Theatre regular Heather Stone, so great in the creepy 2009 Fringe comedy June of Arc, and as Chief Justice, Danielle Siver.

The cast list reveals that the balance of this Supreme Court is tipped more toward the women than the men, and I'm all for an alternate reality where that's the case. I'm very interested in wedging this one into the schedule now as well.

The new improved show description is -

"SCOTUS! (Supreme Court of the United States!) takes a look at the problems facing any new chief justice, especially one hardly old enough to be partner in a law firm: maintaining her idealism, getting her only-slightly-insane colleagues to work together, stopping Wisconsin from repealing the oppressive laws of physics, and is her boyfriend really going to break up with her?

The other justices aren't much help: one is more interested in his acting career than the law, one is more interested in what the Founding Fathers would think than, well, the law, and one won't stop using really, really annoying sports metaphors.

Can the chief justice figure out how to keep the country from falling apart? Does she want to? Can she figure out the other justices' sports and pop culture references? Can she figure out how to make time for her jealous boyfriend? Whatever your politics, everyone can agree on two things: making fun of Wisconsin is fun and the Supreme Court is just messed up."

FFA 1 - Uncle Tom's Condo - "That might be the first sing-along I've ever heard at a Fringe preview..."

There's a fellow Fringer I know who prides themselves on getting their whole schedule locked down before the first Fringe-For-All even happens. Sure there are other previews in advance, and this person sees a lot of theater and knows a lot of theater artists. So maybe their Fringe schedule is a no-brainer. But one of the things I love about Fringe is the spontaneity, and the joy of being surprised by someone who comes out of nowhere and their preview just says, "You need to see me."

That happened three times for me at the first Fringe-For-All this year. One of those times was the preview for

Uncle Tom's Condo

Milliepadd Productions

First, you've got a big guy with a tiny little haircut. Then you've got an electric guitar, with a funky mini-amp. The performer then says that the following song will be "full of conjecture but completely devoid of opinion." The song was so odd, and the refrain so catchy, that we couldn't help ourselves. A couple of people were moved to sing along to the little ditty, and once that happens, the floodgates open. Once one or two people feel confident enough to sing out loud, the rest of the audience gets permission. Timid though we be, I think you can still hear us begin to sing along at the end (prompting Fringe Executive Director Robin Gillette to say the thing that gave me the title for this blog post)

Come on, everyone. Sing along!

"There are no chicken wings in heaven
'Cause angels
wear them
on their backs..."

It's not often I have that much fun in a preview, so that promises good things. Plus, he has Mahmoud Hakima in his cast (#5 on my Top 10 list last year, and a favorite of both Mom and me) I think I'm gonna check this one out.

Show description -

"Do you sound white on the phone? This and other complicated questions can only be answered by this hilarious send-up of social and racial attitudes and how they 'color' our world. Can these things be solved in less than an hour? We'll see.

Uncle Tom's Condo uses the opportunity of live stage to advance the emotional resonace of our country's ongoing struggle with racial, gender, and now, sexual equality.

Greg Nesbitt has assembled a diverse cast including Mark Beck, Jo Mary Fahey, Mahmoud Hakima and Kirsten Stevens to steer us through some confusing history and hopefully into an understanding future. America is currently replete with racial tension, even though we are supposed to be over that by now. Is is systematic? Is is personal? Often, humor is the best way to approach such delicate subjects.

Is your identity more important than your race? Who makes that decision? Everyone is affected by outside forces at one time or another, and if it is something other than a natural disaster, it's okay to wonder if it's coincidence or malicious. Just because you're labeled as disgruntled doesn't mean you don't have the facts!"

Fringe 2011 - Fringe Blog Interruptus

Hello, Fringers! (and/or whoever reads this thing)

Sorry for the delay. I feel way behind on my Fringe seasonal blogging duties. Circumstances keep conspiring to gobble up what was my free time. Good things, but they sure have cut into the blogging time.

My main day job just hired me a new boss, and he's hitting the ground running, really pushing us (in a good way) to get the new fundraising year (which started July 1) off to a strong start. Plus, we're still shorthanded since my other co-worker found and moved on to another position. So, not a lot of down time there.

I also was on a theater reviewing binge for the Twin Cities Daily Planet outside the blog, the last two weekends chock full of theatergoing - Street Scene, Waiting For Godot, Saboteur, Buttercream & Scotch, Ex-Gays, and Oh The Humanity. Phew.

In addition, there's a script I'm finishing for Project 515 (a reshuffling/expansion of this) which goes on a little college tour at the end of September, which means it rehearses in August, which is of course right after the Fringe. So, best to get at least a first draft hammered out before the Fringe hits. Nearly there...

Fringe time also means Mom visiting, which means one needs to clean, to be ready for Mom visiting.

And come late August/early September, Flowershop Project will begin rehearsals for my play Medea & Jason: Rubicon Waltz. No writing chores there, but they did enlist me as dramaturg (I know, I know, a playwright who using themselves as a dramaturg has a fool for a client, but...) Just means I need to get all my Greek mythology references dusted off. It's a comedy, but that doesn't mean it doesn't also have its own set of prodigious footnotes in need of explanation. We have a kick-ass cast, so I want to be sure I do everything I can to help them nail this thing (we'll all end up looking better if I do - enlightened self-interest).

But Fringe-For-All #1 (with #2 fast approaching), scheduling mania, the Out of Towner showcase, this year's Top 10/Top 20 list. Much to do before opening night, eh?

Let's get on that...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Interregnum 2010-2011 - Blog of the Time Between - Reviews

The Twin Cities Daily Planet has given me my own little byline page, and has me reviewing shows outside the confines of the blog, too, these days. Like anyone in the Twin Cities, I still miss more theater than I end up seeing. But here's the write-ups on the things I managed to catch since last Fringe...

7/21/2011 - Peanut Butter Factory - Oh The Humanity - 4 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

7/21/2011 - Savage Umbrella - Ex-Gays - 4 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

7/15/2011 - Butter Cream and Scotch - 3 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

7/11/2011 - Theatre Pro Rata - Waiting For Godot - 4-1/2 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

7/11/2011 - Walking Shadow Theatre Company - Saboteur - 3 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

7/10/2011 - Girl Friday Productions - Street Scene - 5 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

6/25/2011 - Workhouse Theatre - Torch Song Trilogy - 5 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

6/25/2011 - Park Square Theatre - Panic - 3 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

6/12/2011 - 20% Theatre Company - That Face - 1 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

6/9/2011 - Eat Street Players - The Red Tureen - 2-1/2 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

6/3/2011 - Jeffrey Peterson Dance - Fe/Male - 5 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version
Single White Fringe Geek version

5/26/2011 - New Theatre Group - The Debate Over Courtney O'Connell of Columbus, Nebraska - 3 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

5/16/11 The Moving Company - Come Hell And High Water - 2-1/2 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

5/12/11 Ordway Center for the Performing Arts - Next To Normal (national tour) - 5 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

5/8/11 Classical Actors Ensemble - All's Well That Ends Well - 3 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

5/2/11 Off-Leash Area - Now Eye See You, Now Eye Don't - 3 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

4/16/11 Jungle Theater - Next Fall - 4 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

4/5/11 Theater in the Round Players - Hamlet - 5 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

3/30/11 Mixed Blood - Avenue Q - 5 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

3/16/11 Live Action Set - The 7-Shot Symphony - 5 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

2/8/11 Jungle Theater - Shirley Valentine - 4 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

1/24/11 Park Square Theatre - The Odyssey - 2-1/2 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

1/10/11 Box Wine Theater - Raucous Caucus - 4 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

11/9/10 Jungle Theater - Fully Committed - 5 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

11/9/10 Classical Actors Ensemble - 'Tis Pity She's A Whore - 4-1/2 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

10/25/10 Theater Or - Broadway Bound - 4-1/2 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

10/23/10 Minnesota Jewish Theater - My Name Is Asher Lev - 5 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

10/17/10 Red Eye Theater - Iris - 2 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

9/27/10 Theatre Novi Most - The Oldest Story In The World - 5 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

9/19/10 Park Square Theatre - The Last Seder - 2-1/2 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

9/13/10 Theatre Pro Rata - The Taming of the Shrew - 5 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

9/10/10 Savage Umbrella - Leaves - 5 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version

8/23/10 Illusion Theater - Always and Forever - 4-1/2 stars
Twin Cities Daily Planet version