The Good, the Bad, and the Confusing in Happily After Ever

After seeing a new play, I like to give myself a little time to digest the piece. I do not like knee-jerk reactions. They are usually shallow and oversimplified. Instead, I like to give myself a little time to let the play work on me. I go about doing other things (yard work, painting, hanging out with the family, etc) while in the background my brain processes and finds meaning. Usually, I uncover a richness in the play that I did not see right away. Sometimes the flaws of the play become more visible. Either way, I know I can expect, after time, for the play to start to make some sort of sense to me. I start to “get it.”

Well, it has been almost 36 hours since I have seen Happily After Ever, Bloomington Playwrights Project’s newest production, and I find myself no closer to “getting it” than when the house lights went up after the show. This is not to say it is incomprehensible. In fact, I understand what the play attempts to do from a theater critic mindset. I also found some of the depictions to be not only stimulating but also relevant. Yet, I think I am getting ahead of myself. It’s easy to do with a play as confusing as this one. Read more

IU’s Drowsy Chaperone Celebrates the Wonders of Musical Theater

Caroline Huerta as the Drowsy Chaperone (Left) and Claire Logan as Janet Van de Graaf (right) in IU's Production of The Drowsy Chaperone.
Caroline Huerta as the Drowsy Chaperone (Left) and Claire Logan as Janet Van de Graaf (right) in IU’s Production of The Drowsy Chaperone.

On Thursday, April 13, the Indiana University Department of Theater, Drama, and Contemporary Dance inaugurated the creation of the George Pinney Scholarship with a special pre-opening, fundraiser performance of The Drowsy Chaperone. Honestly, I think there is no better musical to honor a person who has dedicated his life and talents to the enrichment of musical theater. The Drowsy Chaperone is a love-letter to the musical theater genre that both pokes fun at the ridiculous and celebrates the joyful aspects of musical theater.

The play features Man in the Chair, an older man who sits in his apartment listening to the records…yes, records…of his favorite musical, The Drowsy Chaperone. Man in the Chair is the audience’s guide to the play within the play. As he listens, he extols on the history of the actors, the experience of going to the theater, the strengths and weaknesses of this particular show, and the wonders and benefits of musical theater. Pinney, himself, played The Man in the Chair in IU’s production, and the role was a perfect tribute. Read more

IU’s Tempest is “Such Stuff as Dreams are Made On”

Shakespeare’s The Tempest has always been a favorite of mine both as a lover of plays and as a teacher of dramatic literature. Why? That’s easy. It’s full of beauty and magic. Prospero brings to life an “insubstantial pageant” in which he creates “the cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, the great globe itself.” He is the playwright of his own performance, and this performative layering utilizes and embodies the magic of theater in ways that Shakespeare excels over the majority of other playwrights. By tapping into new art forms and technologies, the IU Department of Theatre and Drama delivered the beauty, artistry, and magic I would expect…nay…demand of a production of The Tempest. Read more

A Dragstravaganza: Cardinal’s Legend of Georgia McBride

LGM (Photo by Blueline) 4

Last week, Limestone Post published a preview piece about The Legend of Georgia McBride by yours truly. While writing, I could barely contain my giddiness about the show. I was so excited that part of me worried the production could never live up to my expectations. We have all had that experience. After waiting weeks for that 5-star meal or that video game sequel, you have the meal or play the game. While it’s good, it just doesn’t live up to your grandiose expectations. So there I was Friday afternoon, fretting that perhaps I had oversold this performance in my article and in my own imagination.

But every once in a while, we have the exact opposite experience. We work ourselves up into a tizzy with excitement, and then the reality of the thing is so much better than we ever could imagine. The Legend of Georgia McBride did that for me. It gave me everything I wanted from a play about drag:  shade, puns, glamour heart, strength, rebellion, and laughs galore!

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Touching History in BPP’s Row After Row

We have all heard the phrase, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Philosopher George Satayana’s oft-quoted (and oft-misquoted) phrase has become so cliché and so overused that it is both overflowing with and devoid of meaning, yet it is one writers, philosophers, and politicians all like to use to emphasize the need for remembering. Forgetting the past hinders our progress toward a “more perfect” future, but can the process of remembering do the same thing? Do our reconstructions of history replace the lived reality of historical event? Can remembering also condemn us to repeating the past?

My mind has been full of questions like these since seeing the Bloomington Playwrights Project’s production of Row After Row this past weekend.  Row After Row is a short play (run time of 1hr and 10mins), but a lot of funny jokes, character development, and historical layering occurs during that short time. The play takes a close look at the world of modern day Civil War reenactments. As someone who loves performance, I have always been intrigued by the men and women that dedicate numerous hours and an insane amount of money to participating in this large-scale performance, and this play provide a nice little glimpse into that world. Read more

It’s a Wonderful Community with Monroe County Civic Theater

Last night at the opening performance of Monroe County Civic Theater’s Christmas extravaganza It’s a Wonderful Life, I got a prime example of why I love Bloomington performing arts: it creates a sense of community. MCCT teamed up with Sherwood Oaks Christian Church to bring to the stage a Christmas classic that celebrates the love and support found in a close knit community. It’s a Wonderful Life is not just the story of George Bailey’s struggle, loss of faith, and ultimate recognition of his worth, but also it is a story of a community that comes together to help each other in times of crisis and to revel with each other in times of celebration. As much as George’s absence affects the health and well-being of Bedford Falls, the town itself affected the man George became.

Similarly, the MCCT production brought together various groups and individuals from the community to build a wonderful experience for all. Read more

Big Hair, Big Attitude, and an Even Bigger Heart: A Review of Cardinal Stage’s Production of Ann

Ann, Cardinal Stage’s first offering for the 2016-2017 season, is a one woman show about the life and legend of Ann Richards, the first (well, not really) female governor of the great state of Texas. The combination of Holland Taylor’s engaging, funny, and heartfelt script and Diane Kondrat’s well-timed, well-acted performance brought Ann’s wit and intelligence to life on that stage causing the audience to laugh along with Ann during both her trials and success.

This play was a real treat for this displaced Texan. Even though I was born in Michigan and have lived the past several years in Indiana, I still consider myself a Texan. The Texan in me is always present. I believe that “ya’ll” is not only a perfectly acceptable pronoun, but it is the best way to specify the second person plural. My drawl is always hiding just below the surface, to be brought out when my perfectly measured Midwest accent just won’t do. So for me, the play had a certain nostalgia to it; it almost made me feel like I was back home. Read more