08 Fringe: “The Birdmann”

The Birdman, Trent Baumann

At 9:00 on the first Friday of the 2008 Indianapolis Fringe Festival I went to the Theatre on the Square to see “The Birdmann,” Trent Baumann.  He is based in Australia and calls himself a “vanguard of vaudeville.”  You can watch a video of clips of his work via his MySpace page. (Update 8/27/14 – ‘Sorry, no, those links no longer work.  But the Trent Baumann link is still good.)

His show is idiosyncratic.  Quirky.  Oddly sexy.  And, surprisingly, deeply relaxing.

It is composed of carefully and brilliantly assembled bits of seeming randomnesses (how’s that for a word!)  including some life wisdom – “Father always said all you really need in life is a passport and a swimsuit” – some adventurous costume changes, some very gentle references to environmental issues and freedom, some juggling, some crab dancing, some paper folding, some knife throwing, and more.  It is all accompanied by perfectly chosen music – jazz and other kinds – that is perfectly planned to coordinate with the rest of the show.

This piece is performance art, but it is also…well, not “New Age-y” at all, but healing nonetheless.  The artist first grounds the audience in a funny way by “calling the role” from a thick, Indianapolis phone book.  Later, he guides us out onto the ocean in an eyes-open meditation.

For most of the show he wears on his tall, skinny body a tight, black suit with a white shirt and a narrow, black tie, and teal-tipped black dress shoes.  There is a touch of black eyeliner around his eyes.  His black hair is slicked up and back into a cross between Elvis’s ducktail, a punk rocker’s Mohawk, and the curl on Frisch’s Big Boy (thank you, Adrienne Reiswerg, for identifying that last element!)

I was entranced by his soothing voice (and yes, an Australian accent can be soothing as well as seductive.)  I felt rewarded whenever I saw his all-too-rare smile.

The Birdmann says at the beginning that he hopes we will be saying, “Thanks for nothing” at the end.  For me, the emphasis is on the “thanks.”

Note: The Birdmann will only be at the Indy Fringe through Thursday, August 28, 2008.  After that, he goes to a big, collective vaudeville show at Coney Island in New York.  I don’t usually say “Don’t miss this show” because everyone’s art needs are different, but this IS a special show, and if it appeals to you at all, be sure you don’t assume that you will be able to catch it during the second weekend of the Fringe.  You won’t.

Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com

8 thoughts on “08 Fringe: “The Birdmann””

  1. Seriously? I guess art is in the eye of the beholder. I’ve now seen five offerings from IndyFringe and the Birdman was by far the worst of the bunch. I kept waiting for the show to start & it never did. In fairness, I saw the Saturday performance and this review was of the Friday show.

  2. I appreciate your leaving a comment, John. I agree with you completely that “art is in the eye of the beholder.”

    I guess the Birdman’s quirky show just really spoke to me.

  3. I hope I can get to see this. I’ve heard some people say this is one of their favorites and some are like John above and completely hate it. I, for one, tend to get into this stuff so I’m looking forward to it. Thanks for the reminder that he leaves on Thursday!

  4. I like that you said this show was deeply relaxing, because I saw it Sunday, and felt so relaxed and had such a blast during it! It was the only show I saw this weekend, but I was very glad I do. I found the utter randomness of everything quite brilliant.

  5. Last night (Sunday night) a man called out to me from the park bench that is outside the ComedySportz Arena. He wanted to know what had happened to all the crowds that had been on Mass Ave all weekend.

    I said, “They probably have to work tomorrow morning.”

    “So do I,” he replied, “but I’m here.”

    I knew what he meant: I was there, too, even though I was several posts behind on my blog.

    We got to talking and I gave him my blog business card.

    He looked at it and said, “YOU’RE the one who liked ‘Birdman’!”

    “Are YOU ‘John'”?

    We laughed. He called his wife over, too, and said, “Look, honey, this is the one…”

    “…who loved The Birdman,” I finished for him. She looked at me as if I were crazy. I shrugged.

    Ah, art. It brings people together even when it divides us.

    (It was fun meeting you in real life, John!)

  6. It was fun meeting you too, Hope. I’m looking forward to reading more of your reviews.

    Enjoy the remainder of the festival!

  7. Thanks for your review and pleasant smile around the festival Hope.
    It was a very nice experience to drop in to Indy and do my show.
    Good to meet folk and bring something a little different.
    Well Wishes, The Birdmann

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