Q Artistry’s “Bomb on a Bus” (Nuvo review)

I saw Q Artistry’s “Bomb on a Bus: a Speedy Musical” (book and music by Paige Scott) at the Irvington Lodge the first weekend it opened.  I was on assignment for Nuvo. Here is a direct link to my review.

Director Ben Asaykwee gave the curtain talk.  I was delighted to hear that Q’s “Bunny Spectacular” show for families will be back this April and their “Zirkus Grimm” will be back this summer.  You may remember that I loved “Zirkus Grimm” so much that I saw it three times during its first sold-out run.

I was also  delighted to hear Ben talk about their next “Q Kids” (I think he called it) production: “East Side Story.”  Ben said that each of the twelve (I think) kid actors would be paired with an adult mentor for the rehearsal process.  During the show itself, the kids would be the Jets and the adults would be the Sharks. (Or vice versa, I forget.)

“There is no sex in this version,” Ben scolded us, which made everyone laugh.  “It’s a story of FRIENDSHIP here on the East side of Indianapolis.”

 Three of my next four assignments for Nuvo are shows I probably wouldn’t have made time to see on my own but now that I’ve accepted the assignments, I am very much looking forward to them.  I’ll try to link to them from here on my blog, too, once they’re up, with whatever bonus news I might have that didn’t make sense to put in the official review.

I think I’d also like to put the basic “who did what” from each show here on my blog, too.  It will be more searchable that way than merely keeping paper programs in a drawer or relying on theatres to keep the info on their own websites once a show is over.

But I find that kind of record-keeping tedious so we’ll see.

‘See you at the theatres…

Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com and @IndyTheatre on Twitter.

“I and You” by Lauren Gunderson at the Phoenix Theatre (Nuvo review)

My first review for Nuvo went up on Friday!  It was of the rolling world premiere of Lauren Gunderson’s “I and You” at the Phoenix Theatre.  Read the review for yourself here: http://www.nuvo.net/indianapolis/i-and-you-at-phoenix-theatre/Content?oid=2789509.

It wasn’t as hard as I had expected to decide the stars. (Whew!)  And my editor, Scott Shoger, gave me some kind, clear feedback on my words, which was lovely.

As I mentioned when I first shared the news that I would be reviewing for Nuvo, Scott said I could share additional thoughts here on my own blog if I wanted to.

Hmm.

I don’t actually have a lot more to say about “I and You” except that if you are a high school theatre teacher or coach, I would encourage you to consider this script for your students.  There are some curse words but no one has sex. (‘Sorry if that’s a spoiler.)  The adults in your audiences will laugh at different things, probably, from your students but that’s okay.

‘See you at the theatres!

Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com and @IndyTheatre on Twitter.

Three Playdates at Indy Actors Playground

11-18-13 Indy Actors Playground at Indy Reads Books - H Baugh

I attended my third Indy Actors Playground last week.  Lou Harry and Bill Simmons host it, usually at 7pm on the third Monday of every month at Indy Reads Books, which is at the northeast end of Massachusetts Avenue in downtown Indianapolis.  The Best Chocolate in Town store stays open until 7pm on Mondays, so after work you can pick up some exotically flavored chocolate truffles for later and then cross the street to eat crawfish etouffee’ or red beans and rice at the new YATS location before you walk a few steps to the bookstore to hear some of Indy’s best professional actors reading aloud a play just for the fun of it.

Actors take turns choosing the play and casting it. They may or may not rehearse it together ahead of time, but since they are donating their time and talent and since most of them are working a lot already professionally, it is not meant to be a big time commitment for them.  No one except the hosts and that month’s participating actors know what the play will be ahead of time.  This is so the selecting actor does not have to think about a play’s marketability.  He (or she) can choose a play for his own reasons, simply because he likes it.

There is no charge.  There are also no promises to the audience about appropriateness so leave your kids at home and keep your mind open.

Continue reading Three Playdates at Indy Actors Playground

Two Vacation Days (includes a review of Claire Wilcher’s show at Chef Joseph’s at the Connoisseur Room)

My storytelling went well, if I do say so myself.  Thank you, again, to all who participated in any part of the Basile Emerging Stories Festival earlier this month!  If you missed Matthew Roland’s lovely preview article about it in the Indianapolis Star, here is a link that should let you read it for free if you haven’t already read 30 free articles from the Star: http://www.indystar.com/article/20131101/THINGSTODO/311010017.   Its headline is “Storytelling is slow entertainment in fast-paced age.” Slow entertainment like slow food.  I feel more relaxed just thinking about it.

After that very full weekend and the anxiety leading up to it, I successfully completed a very full week at my day job.  Then I finally went on vacation and…I RESTED.  No Facebook, no Twitter, no work email, no clocks, no appointments, no promises, no plans, no expectations, no lists, no goals, no answering questions of any kind from anyone, no public sharing, no promoting, no entertaining, no coaching, no managing, no work, NO COMMITMENTS for a whole week.

Well, okay, I had two commitments.  And of course they were theatre-related.

Continue reading Two Vacation Days (includes a review of Claire Wilcher’s show at Chef Joseph’s at the Connoisseur Room)

“Ghost Brothers of Darkland County” – Theatre Review Part One

Several years ago I applied for a job at the public library in Seymour, Indiana.  I met a LOT of people during the interview process, including some of the regular patrons (customers), and at some point I brought up the topic of rock star resident John Mellencamp.  I said something gushy like, “Maybe I’ll run into him at the grocery store!”

Whoever I was talking with made a face and said, “He’s no saint, you know. We’re proud of him, but he’s no saint.”

Now, years later, after driving down to Bloomington, Indiana last night for the premiere performance of the Midwest tour of “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” that’s kind of how I feel about the show: it’s not perfect, but I’m proud of John Mellencamp (music and lyrics) and Stephen King (libretto) for trying something new while still letting their audiences enjoy their musical and storyelling strengths.  I’m glad I paid $65 and drove two hours there and back after work to be with a gazillion other excited fans in the Indiana University Auditorium on opening night of the tour.

Should you go see “Ghost Brothers” when it comes through Indianapolis next week?  Well, you know my first answer is always, “Of course you should go see a show that interests you.  Go see it and form your own opinion!”

But in this case I’ll add that if you already are a Mellencamp and/or a King fan, then yes, you should definitely go, because the a) the songs are fresh but have that relatable, tormented-yet-honest Mellencamp feel and the singers and instrumental musicians performing them are outstanding.  And b) the story has that Ahh-I’m-so-comfortable-no-wait-I’m-in-a-nightmare-no-wait-no-what-oh-awesome feel that Stephen King does so well and it is told in this production by excellent actors.

As a theatre piece “Ghost Brothers” disappointed me a bit.  I always hope for a core-shaker when I go to the theatre, but this was merely interesting, not immediately transformational.  I’m going to try to figure out why by writing about it at length in another post without worrying about spoilers.  After I do that, I’m going to read and respond to two or more other local reviewers that I know blogged about last night’s performance, but first I want to see if I can figure out “what I think” all by myself.

So please check back for Part Two of this review, and in the meantime, if you go see “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” I hope you’ll leave me a courteous comment, too.

I suspect that even though I didn’t join in standing and cheering at the end last night, I will be thinking about this piece for a long time.  It is no accident that delayed transformation is one of the themes of “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County.”

‘See you at the theatres!

Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com and @IndyTheatre on Twitter.

Theatre Review: “Zirkus Grimm” at Q Artistry

"Zirkus Grimm" Q Artistry

I’ve been thinking about “originality” a lot lately.  Artistic director Ben Asaykwee often describes Q Artistry as a theatre company that is devoted to producing original works.

Ironically, most of the shows they’ve done in Indianapolis so far have been adaptations of other works.  “Cabaret Poe,” for example, was a musical adaptation of the stories of Edgar Allan Poe.  “Bot” was a robot opera based on the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice.  “Perry Haughter” was a musical spoof of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter.  And so on.

Even the first show I saw from Q Artistry, back in 2010, “USO: Songs of War,” was basically a collection of popular songs from World War Two, loosely tied together by a frame story about letter writing between soldiers and the folks back home.

I am not complaining about any of this.  Of the several Q shows I’ve seen so far, every single one has brimmed over with creativity, freshness, wit, skill, talent, and successful collaboration.  Every single one includes in its adaptation some totally new material in the form of music, choreography, dialogue, perspective, and more.  That is definitely a kind of originality.  I mean come on: “The Fowl” was a two-part musical re-enactment of Hitchcock’s film “The Birds” by an all-child cast except for the Ostrich, with the second part told from the point of view of the birds.  If that is not original, I don’t know what is.

Most importantly, all Q shows include a love and a mischievous respect for the previous works.

I mention all this in prelude to talking about the world premiere of Q Artistry’s newest show, “Zirkus Grimm,” as a way of saying yes, there are umpty-billion adaptations of the spoken stories that folklorists Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm collected and wrote down from the everyday people that were telling them (and adapting them!) around their hearth fires in Germany in the late 1700s and early 1800s.  Some adaptations are quite bad, some are ho-hum, and some are informative and/or enjoyable.

I bet none of the others is as all-out intriguing as this one is. 

Here are the main three reasons I love this show and had to see it twice. (I would see it again if I could.)

  1. It actually combines two iconic things – Grimm stories and the circus – seamlessly and gives us a lot to think about.  I love shows that give me a lot to think about.
  2. It is richly layered artistically.  It includes dark-yet-sparkling music, poetry, dancing, storytelling, juggling, flirting and more.  All are performed exquisitely on a very cool set with costumes that tell stories of their own.  All are well blended into a coherent, if almost surreal, whole that addresses all of the senses.
  3. It is richly layered psychologically.  Being in the audience feels like being in a lucid dream.  You observe things like a clown pulling a rope from a guy’s fly and it turning into Rapunzel’s hair but you don’t question it because you know you’re dreaming.

There is a lot to take in.  I’m going to write about my two experiences of the show below as a way of processing them for myself and not worry about spoilers.  If you’re thinking of going (and I always encourage people to experience a show for themselves and form their own opinions), I would make reservations right away, not just because the first five of seven nights sold out but because the Irvington Lodge venue has been transformed into an intimate circus tent with the audience sitting around the edges inside.  The large cast uses every square inch of unoccupied floor space under the black “big top.”  Management will not be able to cram in extra chairs to accommodate crowds.

If you do get in, you’ll literally be rubbing elbows with the circus folk.  They are as thrilling as live wolves.

So leave the little kids at home.  This isn’t a Disney show.

Continue reading Theatre Review: “Zirkus Grimm” at Q Artistry

Theatre review: “Menopause the Musical” at Beef and Boards

"Menopause the Musical" at Beef and Boards - photo by Julie Curry

The other morning I found myself telling my doctor about how good “Menopause the Musical” had made me feel.  It has been around since 2001 but I saw it for the first time on April 2, 2013 at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre on the northwest side of Indianapolis.

Continue reading Theatre review: “Menopause the Musical” at Beef and Boards

Theatre Review: Stageworthy’s “Nocturne” by Adam Rapp

A few Saturday nights ago I drove over to the United Methodist Church at 29th and Fall Creek to see Stageworthy’s production of “Nocturne,” written by Adam Rapp and directed by John Kastner.

It was a treat.

In that same weekend I also saw Carmel Community Players’ production of “Steel Magnolias” and the Broadway Across America touring production of “Sister Act.”  I enjoyed those two very much but Stageworthy’s production of “Nocturne” is the experience I want to write about because it exemplifies so much of why I never automatically rule out all-volunteer shows even when I’m looking for art more than community.

Continue reading Theatre Review: Stageworthy’s “Nocturne” by Adam Rapp

Theatre Review: “Yellow Wallpaper” by NoExit at Q Artistry

A week ago Thursday night, a friend and I minced our way over icy sidewalks, clutching our umbrellas against sleet (not snow, not rain, SLEET) to see the opening night of NoExit Performance’s production of “Yellow Wallpaper” at Q Artistry’s venue: the Irvington Lodge.  The weather was so challenging, I think there was only one other paying audience member.

I tell you about the weather not only to brag about our dedication as theatre-goers, but also to tell you that the struggle to get to and from the theatre that night was worth it.  “Yellow Wallpaper” is a treat:  an intense and beautifully done theatre piece that continues to resonate with me a week later.

Continue reading Theatre Review: “Yellow Wallpaper” by NoExit at Q Artistry

Five Theatre Reviews for Next Weekend

I have had such a good time seeing live theatre shows lately!

However, whenever someone asks me, “Hope, what’s good?  What should I see this weekend?” I hesitate to answer.  I am a professional librarian, so I’ve been trained to never just hand someone a book but to instead ask a few nonjudgmental questions in return so I can understand more clearly what the person is looking for when they come to the Readers Advisory desk.  “A good book” means different things to different people.  It even means different things to one person in different moods or at different points in his or her life.

The same goes for shows.

Answering is made even trickier by the fact that unlike books or movies, live theatre productions are available for a very limited time.  You really have to “seize the day” with live theatre.

So what should you seize, I mean, see next weekend?  I have no idea without talking with you directly. 

And even then, whatever I suggest, you’d still be taking a risk.  Thank goodness!  The risk is part of the fun of having a live theatre habit.

Below are some thoughts about five shows that I enjoyed recently and which will still be on next weekend.  The shows are (in alphabetical order by title):

Continue reading Five Theatre Reviews for Next Weekend