Do you want to write for Ink 19?

Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for June, 2009

Cole!

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Cole!
By Benny Green and Alan Strachan
Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter
Directed and Choreographed by Earl Weaver
Musical Direction and accompaniment by Jason Whitehead

While Cole Porter started his career in the Jazz Age, today we think of him as more of a lounge composer. Tonight’s elegant New York penthouse set emphasizes the glitz of Martinis and sequined dresses, and it’s a nearly all female cast on stage belting out the Porter sound. Music flows from Jason Whitehead on the grand piano, and there’s enough choreography to keep things flowing a bit faster than a standard cabaret. The repertor leans towards Porter’s lesser songs, although standards like “Anything Goes” (Molly Busby and company) and “It’s De-Lovely” (Rebecca Galarza) highlighted the evening. Out of the lesser lights, “Lost Liberty Blues” (Lindsay Clemmons), “The Physician” (Danielle Spisso,) and “Find Me A Primitive Man” (Brooke Deacon) were noteworthy in this outstanding cast. Brent Wakelin plays Mr. Porter, and while his biographical monologues felt intrusive, he really had the best numbers and did the best job with them. His rich voice and professional projection put “Night and Day” and “You’ve Got That Thing” up in lights. If only the magenta back light on his solos didn’t make his hair look dyed pink…

“Cole!” is the sort of light entertainment that perfect for the sweltering summer heat of Central Florida. There’s plenty of seats, ice cold air conditioning, and even a helpful student golf cart to run you from your car to the box office. Dress up a bit and put on a clean Hawaiian shirt and your best flip flops to feel properly dressed, but I’m sorry to report you’ll need to stop somewhere else for your mandatory Gin Martini.

For more information on UCF Conservatory Theatre, visit http://www.theatre.ucf.edu

Brian Feldman Reads This Newspaper In Its Entirety

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

Brian Feldman Reads This Newspaper In Its Entirety
Brian Feldman Projects
Featuring “Orlando Weekly”
June 25, 2009
Frames Forever & Art Gallery, Winter Park Florida

Have you actually read a print newspaper in the past few years? I’m down to the occasional USA Today on a business trip, or a flip through the Orlando Weekly to check out a restaurant review or what the competition is saying about shows I’ve seen. In his continuing celebration of buggy whip technology, local loco Time Constrained Performance Artist Brian Feldman enters into another marathon of absurdity.

On this muggy Orlando night, entertainment options include a Michael Jackson Memorial at a local bar, or listening to Mr. Feldman read the current issue of the Orlando Weekly. He’s returned to his latest hangout, the Frames Forever & Art Gallery on Orange Avenue in Winter Park. If you don’t know where it’s located, you’ll likely whiz past it as the sign isn’t well lit. At 8:30 pm, the reading begins. Feldman wears a vest made out of the paper in question, and charges ahead, reading every single ad, article, and pronounceable symbol in the paper.

Feldman isn’t a seasoned announcer; he has trouble with some of the higher scoring Scrabble scoring words and Billy Manes’ tortured syntax. Occasional pedestrians wander down the sidewalk, vaguely curious as to what might be happening. A CSX train screams by as platoons of traffic pass, organized by the traffic lights at Denning and Pennsylvania. A desultory crowd hangs out, including three actual Orlando Weekly staffers and a young journalism major from a local community college. (Disclaimer – I’ve written for the Weekly, but not recently). An hour into the project, Mr. Feldman is around page 10, and I estimate this will take until 3 in the morning. I cheat a bit as I picked my own copy of the Weekly and scan Lulu Eightball, an article on SunRail, and the review of Judas Iscariot. Like all modern Americans, I’m impatient.

Summer is a slow time for the news, and the lead article on some sort of Ramen Noodle scandal isn’t enough to get me enraged about the injustices in the world. That vague unease is the main product of the media – something bad is happening, and the only way you can fight it is to pay attention to what we are publishing. That information filter now belongs to smaller and smaller voices, blogs and tweets or even the occasional fanatical cable channel.

Is there meaning here? Of course. Just as television dilutes its already sparse content with ads and teasers, newspapers are adding more intelligence-free content to there reporting. Call it the USA Today effect; call it News McNuggets, but the effort of collecting useful information out the print media has become so difficult it requires Australian gold mining methods to make it worthwhile. That’s the main reason I get my news on line – there are more sources and specialized providers, and for the cost of a monthly internet connection high quality content appears on my screen, and there no messy recycling and nothing I find blatantly uninteresting. Feldman’s homey stumbling though the minutia of print media recalls the past – this is how Dad got his information, but that now that’s so 1959. Just like the recent demise of analog TV and the distant loss of elegant rail transport. Newspapers are headed from popular culture to a Steam Punk conceit. Consider this – when news papers are gone, with what will we line our bird cages?

More information on Mr. Feldman’s projects may be found at http://brianfeldman.com

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot
By Stephen Adly Guigis
Directed by John DiDonna
Starring Avis Marie Barnes, Babette Garber, Stephen Lima, Roger Floyd
Empty Spaces Theatre Company
Lowndes Shakespeare Center, Orlando FL

After a good parochial education and years of studying Joseph Campbell and the Classical Philosophers, the fundamental doctrines of Christianity still seem to me a convolved, self-conflicting mess. If you have never recognized the fundamental incompatibility of Omniscience (I can see everything everywhere past present and future) and Omnipotence (I can make anything happen, anywhere, anytime) you might find some solace in this wordy and theologically wobbly piece of surrealism. And you WILL find some of Orlando’s highest power talent chewing on meaty rolls as hard as the debate between Free Will and Determinism.

Henrietta Iscariot (Peg O’Keefe) just buried her son Judas in shame, mourning that no parent should have to bury their child. She refuses the four small stones left on top of his grave, thus symbolically rejecting the power of the Judaic god YHWH. We descend from her Potter’s Field to a court room in Purgatory where Judge Frank Littlefield (Barnes) presides. She’s feisty and officious, and steadily rejects a variety of writs, all intended to get various human mega-sinners out of Hell and into Heaven, or at least into a karmic work release program. Irish gypsy lawyer Fabiana Aziza Cunningham (Garber) argues for the case of Judas, (Floyd) a now cationic resident of the ninth ring of hell. It takes the aid of streetwise nudge St. Monica (Trennel Mooring) to get on the divine docket, and then we enter the real center of the story – an oddly structured retrial of Judas, with various ancient and contemporary figures who all chime in the merits of the conviction. In the end, we find Jesus (Alexis Jackson) simply loves all, and while “Faith” is offhandedly referred to, it’s transubstantiated into a “Lack of Despair” as the ticket into the pearly gates.

Ok, all of this feels like religion as seen thorough the eyes of 20th century pop culture, but the performances are nearly all perfect. The gloomy, teary O’Keefe, the sassy and willful Barnes, and the dripping-with-depression Floyd all anchor the action, but the supporting cast makes this sing. Stephen Lima is the vaguely Arabic and very oily prosecutor (El-Fayoumy). He brown noses his way through the trial as he repeatedly attempts to seduce the defense lawyer Cunningham. Lawrence Benjamin was fine as Julius the Bailiff, but became truly scary when he appears as a Black Panther version of Simon the Zealot. Valensky Sylvain cut an elegant figure as the gentle giant St. Matthew, and Satan even appears in the form of Dennis Neal, the always suave and snappy dresser with a violent temper lurking under that Armani coat.

While “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” doesn’t cover every single facet of Judas’s guilt or innocence, it leads you around the block several times and leaves you with a spinning head in the bad part of town, wearing little more than your philosophical undies and one high heel. Some of the modern philosophers just seemed to elongate the story – while I love Marty Stonerock’s Palm Beach maven Gloria, her Mother Theresa segment dragged on and mostly points out that even the canonized aren’t perfect. Sigmund Freud (Pat Ward) drew some well deserved laughs but again, his modern and no longer fashionable psychoanalysis added little to understanding what prompted Judas.

If you have a strong faith, whether in the acceptance of the divine, or the conviction there ain’t no such thing, you will likely make it thorough this journey unscathed. If you’re sitting on a fence, I expect you’ll have barbed wire marks in your metaphysical behind when you walk out. You can chase these arguments around forever, or you can pick and choose and sign up for an arbitrary position and worship in the Church of Your Choice. Here’s the question the author ignores: Was Judas the creepiest little sneak to ever walk the earth, or did he take the real fall for Christianity, voluntarily entering and remaining in Hell so the rest of us could feel better on Sunday morning? There’s heresy lurking here, the kind that gets you burned at the stake. Tread carefully…

For more information on Empty Spaces Theater Company, visit http://www.emptyspacestheatre.org

Jukebox Cabaret

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

Jukebox Cabaret
Musical Direction by Kyle Mattingly
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park, FL

Winter Park Playhouse cabarets tend to be rather sedate events, but tonight’s mixture of wine and a public outcry system for selecting music made it feel more like a political rally. The audience received a listing of 6 songs for each of the six performers, as well as a selection of duets, and who ever yelled the loudest, that’s the song that was sung next. Between Heather Final decisions were handed down by Alexander’s peace keeping mission, but horse trading between little cliques in the row often factored into her final answers. I swapped an Etta James number for “The Song That Goes Like” this from Spam-A-Lot, but couldn’t get anyone else in my row interested in The Derailers “Bar Exam.”

The singing was superb, with three WPPH stalwarts and three up-and-coming young ladies. Todd Allen Long pulled out his best squeaky toy voice for Avenue Q’s “Purpose”, while Mark Richard Taylor and his surfabley wavy hair belted out “If Ever I Should Leave You” from Camelot. The new comers were a little less consistent, with 11 year olds Leah Winstanley oozing stage presence; although her voice needs a few more years to fully mature to fully nail “Dancing In The Streets”. Christine Pappas did the Etta James number “At Last” but felt tentative; she was faint even with a microphone. Genna Kanago hit the highs on ABBA’s Dancing Queen, and has a good voice for those ’80s leg warmer numbers like “Holding Out For A Hero.”

The best part of this show was the audience interaction – if you could talk your seat mates into getting behind a song, you really felt like you owned it somehow. Getting mid show refreshments is typically out of the question, but if the new WPPH space opening in a month or so allows for more circulation, this could turn into a real rock concert. It’s a hot show inside this Jukebox, even with the air conditioning on full.

For more information on Winter Park Playhouse, please visit http://www.winterparkplayhouse.org

And Baby Makes Seven

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

And Baby Makes Seven
By Paula Vogel
Directed by Julia Allardice Gagne
Valencia Character Company
Orlando, FL

I’m sure there’s a porn site for this somewhere, but I’m not brave enough to Google it. Ruth (Ashleigh Ann Gardner) and Anna (Samantha Faith O’Hare) are a couple, and when they want a child, they turn to Peter (Michael Martin) for support and sperm. The three live together for the best interest of the fetus, but to pass the time, the girls pretend to be a trio of prepubescent boys. Ruth is a bit butch, so she covers French transplant Henri as well as the raised-by-feral-dogs Orphan McDermott. Since Anna has a real child pending, she only performs the genius Cecil. Peter somehow puts up with this chaotic and sexless household, but at some point he puts his foot down and the trio agree to kill off their fantasy crotch spawn.

Slipping seamlessly between theatrical reality and an absurdism of the highest order, this cast takes a complete bizarre conceit and turns it into a completely plausible dysfunctional family. Martin’s Peter merely seems longsuffering until he contracts a case of fantasy rabies, and pulls off one of the most unexpected and compelling transformations I’ve ever seen. Ruth seems to be the provocateur in this game of displaced reality, and refuses to let the imaginary kids fade away without sucking the last bit of fantasy from them. If there a calm center in this story, its Anna, who seems capable of a pregnant glow without the bother of ever have to have sexual relations. She also pulls of the flat out funniest line in the play when she tells the other to “Suck her imaginary dick.”

While absurdism so often pulls you into the inexplicable, then steals your passport and runs off into the night, this gem makes the whole story as believable as Disney’s version of pirates or life-size animated vermin. There’s a complete logic to the action, and while motivation is obscured, the entire process feels as natural as slipping into an on line gaming profile and beheading a virtual dragon. I just suspect baby Nathan will spend his life in therapy or modern dance, or both.

For more information on Valencia Character Company, please visit http://valenciacc.edu/theater/

The End of Television Part III

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

The End of Television Part III
Brian Feldman Productions
Frames Forever & Art Gallery
Winter Park, Fl
June 12, 2009

In a small picture framing shop on busy Orange Avenue, artist Brian Feldman and some assistants pile derelict televisions on top of each other. From the street, the aging wood-grained plastic frames the snowy and out-of-tune pictures, while behind the scene makeshift antennas and scary power strips keeping the whole edifice of obsolete technology propped up for one last 24 viewing marathon. Today is the last day of analog television, the end of an era, and a fairly insignificant event in the lives of most Americans.

The concept of sending pictures via the aether enthralled inventors ever since radio became practical, but it took WW2 to make it a true mass phenomenon. Cathode ray tubes and reliable high frequency, high bandwidth electronics came out of military radar, and when the war ended that manufacturing capability was redirected to putting an Idiot Box in every living room in America, and eventually in most homes in the civilized universe. Sending complex information in an analog world took a mixture of clever engineering, precision manufacture and still resulted in temperamental and unreliable receivers. Color took another 20 years to arrive, and for any number of economic and political reasons, the color system was cobbled onto the existing analog systems. While this kept millions of installed TV sets useful, the complexity and compromise made for a wobbly system.

Once TV was practical, the more critical question of “What to do with it?” followed quickly. In the early days, people projected using television for education and culture with the same blind enthusiasm that check book balancing and menu planning were assumed the best and highest uses of a personal computer. Instead, we got cartoons and the Vietnam War, men walking on the moon and a three microsecond view of Janet Jackson’s breast. Turns out the ShamWOW really IS the highest and best use of color moving pictures in a box.

Analog television did keep vaudeville alive long after movies killed it. The mixture of song and dance and novelty transferred well enough from the Orpheum Circuit to the Networks, and through the ’70s the star-hosted variety show was reliable fare that made family viewing a pleasant compromise. Red Skelton, Carol Burnett, Dean Martin, and even Glenn Campbell hosted shows, along with dozen of other less well know entertainers. Now we’ve lost that togetherness, as hundreds of narrow casted shows and cheap video distributions means we rarely watch anything as a group, but retreat to our own private videodrome for narrative entertainment.

That collective disinterest fueled the public reaction to “The End of Television Part III”, only a few late night carousers stopped by, interested more in the L.A. / Orlando game than an outmoded technical display. Through the snow each station displayed a constant crawl warning that the analog signal was going away, sounding like a call form a distant civilization whose star was about to explode, and knowing nothing could be done to save them. What people stopped to watch felt a grim resignation that goes along with mass layoff from a failed employer. First the Network Affiliates went off air, then the Spanish stations and Independents, with only the religious stations clinging on to the last trumpet, hoping to get one last conversion, one last donation, or one last enragement about the liberal humanist conspiracy before the party ended. Finally only a single automated station remained, it’s out of town engineer likely to get a nasty memo from the FCC.

Analog TV Flys away!

Analog TV Flys away!


How did all this make me feel? Vaguely nostalgic, as I got my start helping dad fix old TVs when that was all we could afford. Television is a much smaller part of my life these days – Local News focuses on car crashes and 7-11 surveillance video, real news comes from the internet, and the rest of the TV product leaves me cold. My digital TV serves more as a computer monitor than the Boob Tube, and that suits my lifestyle fine. TV’s been on life support for a while, and this is as good a time to pull the plug as any.

More information on Mr. Feldman’s projects may be found at http://brianfeldman.com

Forbidden Broadway – Greatest Hits Volume 1

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Forbidden Broadway – Greatest Hits Volume 1
Created and written by Gerard Alessandrini
Directed by Steve Mackinnon
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL

After twenty years of raking in the big bucks in New York and LA, it’s about time this hysterical parody of Broadway’s biggest hits made it down here to sunny Florida. It seems the author was reluctant to let his baby out of the big city, but under the careful musical direction of Steve MacKinnon this show takes on a life of it own and soars higher than the wires holding up the lead in “Wicked.”

There’s not really a story here, of course, and a really great musical doesn’t need much of one anyway. All of these musical numbers are rather pointed parodies of the more popularly pretentious Broadway hits from precocious “Annie” to the dated “Rent” and passing through the chipped and slightly tilted icons of one-word stars like “Liza” and “Barbara.”

We open with some swipes at Bob Fosse’s glitzy “Chicago.” As Angela Sapolis belts and the rest of the cast poses for “Glossy Fosse”, one phase kept repeating in my head – “Jazz Hands! Jazz Hands!” Next up, the complex nuances and unsingable melodies of Sondheim collapse in “Into the Words” with an attempted audience sing along. You may not like Sondheim, but you have to agree – it takes a brave actor to tackle his scores.

In all this silliness, Kevin Kelly stood out in his dragged up Carol Channing wig as he lead the cast in beating “Hello Dolly” to a long overdue grave. Later he reappeared in a half mask with Ms. Sapolis to threaten us with a chandelier in “Mucus of the Night.” The charming David Chernault reminded us of Richard Harris in Spam-a-Lot singing “The Song They Stole From Us” which apparently WAS actually stolen from author Alessandrini. Irony – it’s everywhere.

I can’t say I’ve seen all the musicals on the dissecting table to night, but that’s not a requirement to appreciate the nuanced subtly of an industrial fan and an actor in a flying money mask making the Wicked Witch Of The West more an object of ridicule than sympathy. That’s what makes democracy and entertainment strong – the ability to look itself in the eye and pull off a great prat fall. This is a must see for the fans of Broadway musical, and an even bigger must see for those who hate them. “Forbidden Broadway” is an equal opportunity seat wetting comedy.

For tickets and more information on Mad Cow, please visit http://www.madcowtheatre.com

Sordid Lives

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Sordid Lives
By Del Shores
Directed by Fran and Frank Hilgenberg
Starring Wyatt Glover, David P Landry Jr, Katrina Tharin, James Zelley
Theatre Downtown, Orlando FL

Small town life is so idyllic. Neighbors watch over each other, doors remain unlocked, and all the good gossip about alcoholism and infidelity and who’s sleeping with the wrong species spreads faster than Chlamydia in a commune. There’s a lot of plot here in minuscule Winter, TX: Sissy Hickey’s (Pam Baumann) sister is dead; she hit her head after tripping over G.W. Nethercutt’s (Zelley) wooden legs when they were screwing in a cheap hotel. Her daughters Latrelle (Tharin) and La Vonda (Marion Marsh) argue over whether the corpse should wear a mink stole in the 108 degree summer heat, and whether Earl “Brother Boy” Ingram (Glover) ought to attend the funeral. He’s doing twenty to life in the nut house for blatant transvestism while his more fortunate cousin Ty Williamson (Landry) moved to New York and came out as a bit player in the Soaps. La Vonda and Noleta Nethercott (Peri Hope Goldberg) go all Thelma and Louise on the town, shoot up the bar, make all the rednecks dressing drag, and then rob a liquor store. Now THAT’S entertainment!

With enough good roles to fill a phone book, it’s hard to pin down the best of this inbreed. Zelley’s G.W. garnered the most sympathy as the alcoholic philanderer, but homophobic Wardell Owens (Dean Walkuski) looked the best the red boa, lipstick, and Fruit of Looms. All the strong characters were female, or nearly so, with Marsh’s La Vonda and Glover’s Brother Boy going mano-a-mano for the most laughs. Adding to the country feel was Bitsy Mae Harling (Victoria Burns), town tramp and a pretty decent country vocalist even if her mimed guitar chords didn’t look like the ones Chet Atkins used.

There are more than a few ways to view this small town struggle between acceptance and exclusion of the different, but I see it like this: On the sliding scale of family shame, cross dressing is worse than accidental manslaughter but a really good tuna casserole can make up for the loss of a loved one. And bad fashion sense can NEVER be forgiven. As the summer heat settles in, this is the sort of comedy we need to shake off the economy. Let’s drift back to the good old days where any sort of interpersonal conflict could be resolved by beating the crap out of the right person, and take a swipe at someone we love.

For more tickets and more information, please visit http://www.theatredowntown.net