2014 Directory of Shows

Sushi with umbrella re-sized

(last updated January 13, 2015)

I am late getting my 2014 directory started because I am part bear and we have had a record-breaking winter here in Indianapolis, Indiana.  45 inches of snow and below-zero(F) temperatures make me want to just stay in bed and sleep until spring.

But now it is almost March and I have seen enough shows even with the weather challenges that I want to at least make a note of them here on my blog.  So…

Continue reading 2014 Directory of Shows

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)

Storytelling Preview: “Hoosier in Tokyo: a Tale of Leaving Home and Finding It Again” and the Basile Emerging Stories Festival

Photo by Christopher Anderton

“I usually tell people that I moved to Japan because I wanted an adventure…”

That’s how my “Hoosier in Tokyo” story begins.  I’ll be telling it again this Saturday, November 2, at 7pm in the Indy Fringe Theatre building as part of the Frank Basile Emerging Stories Festival.  The tickets are only $5 per telling, with your choice of eleven different tellers over the course of the three-day festival.  There is more info on the Storytelling Arts of Indiana website.  If this kind of thing interests you, I hope you can come!

In the meantime, I’d like to share some thoughts I’ve had as I’ve been revisiting this piece in preparation to tell it again.

Continue reading Storytelling Preview: “Hoosier in Tokyo: a Tale of Leaving Home and Finding It Again” and the Basile Emerging Stories Festival

“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.

A Librarian’s Approach to the 2013 Indy Fringe Theatre Festival

(Update 8/26/13 – I saw twenty-seven IndyFringe shows this year at $10 each.  I got into Stewart Huff’s sold-out show because someone didn’t pick up their pre-paid ticket.  The volunteer at the box office told me as he took my ten dollar bill that he wasn’t allowed to sell over the established ticket limit so he would put my $10 for that show into the Fringe’s building fund and give me a donator’s button instead of a ticket.  No offense to the Fringe, but I would rather that $10 had gone to Stewart.  However, I didn’t see a way to argue effectively about it and the show was about to start and I wanted in, so I said okay.  I bought Stewart’s $10 CD after the show, but that was also just because I wanted it.  I saw one of the shows a second time – $10 more dollars.  I also bought two backer buttons at $5 each.  Oh!  And I also gave $5 to a busker (artist performing on the street.)  All in all, not counting refreshments, gasoline for 10 round trips between my home in Carmel and the Fringe neighborhood in downtown Indianapolis, and the occasional parking meter fee, I spent $305 on Fringe-ing this year.

It was worth every dollar.

Below I have added my thoughts on the twenty-seven shows I saw.  There were at least fifteen other shows I wanted very much to see.  Such is life.

To everyone that made Fringe13 such a pleasure this year:  Thank you!)

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2013 is the ninth year of the Indy Fringe Theatre Festival here in Indianapolis, Indiana.  I have been attending and writing about IndyFringe shows since 2007, so this will be my seventh year of Fringe-ing.  I have seen over 150 IndyFringe shows so far, some of them twice.

There are many right ways to Fringe.

One way is to do what my friend Robby Slaughter (@RobbySlaughter) does and just find a place to park, look around for a theatre, and see whatever show is running next at that theatre.   He’s seen a few duds over the years, but he’s seen more treasures.  And a lot of them were shows he probably wouldn’t have chosen if he had read about them ahead of time.

Another way is to do what my friend, Twitter buddy (and a Twitter critic of Indy Fringe shows and other events) Heather Sokol (@JustHeather), does: Invite a friend to go with you to the Fringe and then make them pick what show you’ll see.  She calls it the “Let Your Date Pick Method.”

Another way is to do what my friend, actor Adam Crowe does: See one show where you know someone in it, and one show where you don’t.

I earn my living as a readers’ advisory librarian so my instincts are to:

First make one big list of the shows in some kind of order so that individual shows are easy to find again.  Fortunately, the Indy Fringe Festival staff  have already created a “Fringe13 A to Z” directory on their website.

Then put the shows into groups based on their appeal factors, if I know them, or at least by type of show.  Librarians are always creating lists to help patrons find books that will be a good fit for them.  “If you liked The Hunger Games, try these other books…” and so on.  We talk about quality in the reviews we write, and sometimes we form committees to identify the “best” books of the year, but in our day-to-day work with patrons (customers), we try not to judge books or people.  We’re human, and we do have opinions of our own, but when we’re on the job,  “best” means “best for YOU in this moment.”

Recreational reading, like theatre-going, is a very personal thing.

Below are some groupings (in alphabetical order, of course) that occurred to me as I went through the whole “Fringe13 A to Z” list.

As your self-appointed “theatre advisory librarian,” I hope this is helpful to you.

Continue reading A Librarian’s Approach to the 2013 Indy Fringe Theatre Festival

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

Here’s to the Dilettantes and Blockheads

I love what former Indy Star critic Jay Harvey wrote in response to my recent post welcoming him to the world of arts blogging.  Here is a direct link to his smart, delightful post entitled “And worth every penny, too: The mixed pleasure of being an unpaid writer”: http://jayharveyupstage.blogspot.com/2013/05/and-worth-every-penny-too-mixed.html.

A few years ago I was trying to figure out how to do what I wanted to do (i.e., write more thoughtfully and usefully about live theatre) without going back to school.  Much as I would love to get two more master’s degrees – one in journalism and one in theatre – I probably won’t ever be able to afford to, for a number of reasons.

I discovered the American Theatre Critics Association and thought, “Ah-HAH!”  I couldn’t afford to do the ATCA’s “critics’ boot camp” right then but I can see it, or something like it, happening for me in the near future.   It sounds like heaven! 

In the meantime, I read as much of the ATCA members’ work as I could, looking for models.

Two of the members had retired from their paid careers as newspaper theatre critics and started their own theatre review blogs.  Both had abandoned their blogs after a while, saying it just felt too much like drudgery when they were no longer getting paid for it and/or being formally published by someone else.  (I’m sorry I can’t remember the writers’ names to quote them exactly, but I don’t want to take the time to look for them again.)

So…when Jay Harvey said he was leaving the Star and starting his own blog, I wondered if he would eventually feel as they did.

But…maybe for him, something else will happen.

Blogging is hard work, even when it’s fun.  And sometimes it’s a tool for influence (with all of the responsibility that comes with that.)  And sometimes it’s a sort of spiritual practice, like meditating.  I’m also beginning to think an independent blog about the arts can become a work of art in its own right. 

Or maybe that is just what I want mine to become.

Anyway, I’m still figuring it out as I go along.  And I look forward to reading more of Jay’s posts!

‘See you at the theatres…

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

Jay Harvey’s New Gig

In 2008, I was upset when the Indianapolis Star managers fired theatre reviewer Whitney Smith and gave his beat or whatever you call it to music reviewer Jay Harvey to cover as well. 

Here in 2013, when I hear that Jay resigned from the Indianapolis Star (his last day was Friday, May 17), I just sigh and hope that the Star’s head honchos will hire someone good to replace him. 

I’m afraid that they won’t hire anyone, not even a hodge-podge of freelancers.  I’m afraid that the Star will see this as an “opportunity” to just stop covering local performance art all together.

That would be horrible for Indianapolis’ arts organizations and a shame for the city itself.  It would also be a further erosion of the Star’s already low trust capital.

But I can’t control what the Star managers do, so I’m going to focus on the good news in Jay’s resignation:

Jay has started his own arts blog: Jay Harvey Upstage. 

Jay hasn’t said anything about monetizing his blog, only that he sees himself “thriving on this blog, responding to the arts scene around me, making it clear that I’m not in love with my opinions (I hope), but that my perspective after so much practice of cultural journalism in central Indiana might contribute fruitfully to the arts conversation.  I like to think I can encourage people to develop their own thoughtful responses to the arts just by modeling that behavior. I’m dreaming that ever more significant numbers of people will join me.”

How cool is that?! 

Even if he doesn’t have to worry about earning a living, Jay may get tired of writing for free once the rush of writing whatever he wants to write wears off.  And he may find that he simply wants to try doing other things.  He wouldn’t be the first “retired” professional journalist to have started a blog and then given it up.  There is no shame in that. 

But as long as Jay keeps writing his blog, I will keep reading it because I love the way he writes and thinks.  I wish him the very best with it.  I encourage you to give it a look, too.

See you at the theatres!

Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com

©2013 Hope Baugh

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