Friday, May 16, 2008

Colorful Theatre

Last night the Vampire Cowboys came en masse to see Colorful World, which made it a particularly fun night for us here at Nosedive Central. Thanks so much, guys! You truly rock.

I'm feeling really pumped about this show and am really looking forward to more people coming to see it. So get your tickets soon.

Amidst being in production for the play and plugging the living hell out of it, I did have a chance to see two very good shows this week that I wanted to bring to your attention (especially if you've either already seen Colorful World or have already purchased your ticket in advance).

The first is Mike Daisey's How Theater Failed America, an absolute must-see for anyone who's worked - or is working - in theatre. In his show, which is a 100-minute monologue, Daisey talks about his experiences in theatre, ranging from his first post-college job running a theatre company with six other friends out in Nowheresville, Maine, his gig teaching theatre in high school, and jokes about how most stage actors literally work for cheese (hoarding up the blocks of cheese given out at the post-opening night receptions).

He also explains how theatre literally saved his life and offered him an identity in this world.

It truly is a funny, engaging, insightful and touching piece of theatre.

Despite the title, How Theater Failed America is actually a very upbeat and optimistic take on theatre in America. Or rather, I should say, I found the show upbeat and optimistic. I'm sure there are others who may disagree with me. Daisey actually opens the piece poking fun at the clichéd scapegoats we often like to pin on the decline of theatre's validity in our culture: arts funding ("Why can't America be more like Sweden? Over there the government shits money in the mouths of artists!"), modern media ("It's the iPod's fault!"), The New York Times ("Oh, Isherwood...Charles Isherwood Ruined Theatre!"), reminding us that theatre's apparent decline has not been caused by easily definable outside forces.

Although he points out the serious problems and flaws with our current model - the institutionalization of theatres, the growing number of theatre professors who have little-to-no "hands on" theatrical experience, the artists being removed from the equation in making theatre (some of which he discusses in his essay here) - Daisey offers some very practical suggestions as to how to keep theatre alive and strong (or rather, he reminds us that it still is and can continue to be).

One of them is to bring the artists back the equation and having repertory companies be a recognizable creative team (not unlike sports teams that fans recognize and can root for). In other words, use the Cult of Personality to theatre's advantage (rather than sulk and dismiss the concept). Another is to simply keep making as much theatre as possible.

Daisey's How Theater Failed America shows and reminds the audience what's so fun, vital and engaging about theatre. Many of his stories reminded me why I got into this bizarre gig in the first place.

How Theater Failed America is now playing at the Barrow Street Theatre on 27 Barrow Street. For tickets go here.

* * *

The other show I saw was the Beggars Group's Armor of Wills, written & directed by Randy Anderson, a bizarre funhouse mirror-maze of a show about a young man on the brink of death and trying to escape nefarious forces through the underworld.

In Armor of Wills, a young man named Kalib (Brian Morgan) is trapped in a purgatorial world after a violent accident and with the help of a creepy figure named Doc (wonderfully played by Harrison Williams) trying to escape his Maker - some characters dispute whether or not this is God or god or an entity completely unrelated to God - while trying to find closure with his family members, including his overprotective and zealous mother Norma (Jennifer Harder) and fiancée Beth (Kristi Funk).

The play also features Scott Rad Brown and Josh Krebs in ensemble roles.

Armor of Wills plays with the concepts of leaving people behind, family members abandoning one another, the power plays parents inflict on their offspring, theology, and metaphysics, but is in no way heavy-handed or belabored. The show (which is only about 70 minutes long) is fast-paced and filled with energy (both from the staging and the cast).

Also, being in the underground space that is UNDER St. Marks, you don't need to stretch your imagination too far to believe you're in some sort of subterranean purgatory.

Watching Armor of Wills, I realized that a.) it had been quite a while since I've seen Anderson's directorial work (with such companies as Stone Soup Theatre Arts and Stages 5150) and b.) I really missed it. He has a very distinct and imaginative visual style that works beautifully for the stage.

It has only three more performances, so I highly recommend you check it out before it goes up into that Great Production in the Sky.

Armor of Wills is playing UNDER St. Marks on 94 St. Mark's Place until Saturday, May 17. For tickets go here.

* * *

So, those are a couple shows I'm glad I caught before going back to the 78th Street Theatre Lab. Check them out if you can. Then go see my play (heh, heh).

Okay, that's it for me. I gotta set up the box office. Have a good weekend, folks.

Finding Applebees poetic,

James "Nervous Agnostic" Comtois

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