Last week Rising Youth Theatre wrapped up another production of their delightful Light Rail Plays. Here’s my take on this year’s crop of short theatrical works written for the mass transit stage for PHX SUX.
“A lacklustre orgy suffers from all of the same problems as boring theatre. People go through the motions, they do what’s expected, they make the sounds they’re supposed to make, but it’s really not as surprising or exhilarating as you hope or imagine it will be. I mean, there are so many people in the room! How can we not be making something great happen here? Obviously sex is not the problem, just like theatre is not the problem. We’ve got all the ingredients to make something really dynamite, but we’re just not getting it right. Most of us are left on the sidelines watching, trying to get off, getting bored, giving up and going home ungratified… Like a bad sex partner, boring theatre doesn’t feel present. The actors do not feel truly in the same room as you. You are not affecting the action and the action is not affecting you. The actors might as well be onscreen, and you might as well be watching porn.”
–Jordan Tannahill, “Theatre Of The Unimpressed”
This Saturday we’ve got another “7 Minutes” show happening at Space 55: “7 Minutes Down The Rabbit Hole”. It’s one of my favorite shows to be a part of (considering that I’ve been organizing them now for the last two years, it’d be weird if they weren’t!). Part of what makes these shows so fun is that it gives people a chance to do incredibly strange, fun, and just plain-batshit performances that wouldn’t make sense anywhere else.
One of my all-time favorite 7 Minutes bits was “The Mouthfull Shakespeare Company” put together by Lauren Karp, Ian Murdock, Jen Michelson and ensemble cast members (Marcella Grassa & Amy Ouzoonian) from The Firehouse Gallery’s production of “King Lear”. Local poet Joy Young also stepped in for a bit of the performance, and I reprised my role as dick-head extraordinaire Edmund for our very-short, sandwich-chewing version of “King Lear”.
I could explain what the premise is, but you’re just better off watching it and seeing it for yourself. I wish I still had a copy of the programs we handed out: In lieu of actor bios, we had very detailed descriptions of the sandwiches we had onstage that Ian made. They were delicious.
THE MOUTHFULL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY:
Opening this Friday at 8pm at Space 55! Running for two weekends (Feb. 26-27 & March 4-5), “Titanic” is directed by Jen Michelson and stars Dennis Frederick, Margo Brookover, Marcella Grassa, Nathan Evangelista, Jesse Abrahams, and yours truly as The Captain.
Years and years ago I saw a listing in the Phoenix New Times that some small theater I had never heard of was doing a performance of “Ubu Roi”. I had been wanting to see a performance of “Ubu Roi” for years, so I hurried down to catch the show on its closing weekend. I almost missed the show: I drove past the building four times before I realized where it was. I’ll never forget walking into the theater and seeing trash strewn all over the floors, a toilet set up as a throne onstage and Johnny Thunders’ “Chinese Rocks” playing as the house music. I sat in my chair and immediately thought “This is my home”. That was my first night at Space 55.
I had never been a “theater person” growing up. Too many bad memories of being forced to watch bad productions of Shakespeare in school and having to practice singing “Seasons of Love” over and over and over again in drama class instilled in me an almost instinctual hatred of theater. I started going to plays a few years back to broaden my horizons. I saw a lot of really great shows at places like Stray Cat and Nearly Naked and iTheatre. But I never came away from those shows thinking “There’s a place for me here” or “I could do that”. It was like watching Olympians practice in an arena: The display of skill and talent and raw force of will was awe-inspiring, but also alienating. I would watch shows like “Columbinus” and think that if I ever tried to do anything like that I’d probably just trip over my big feet and break my fool neck. Better to sit in my chair and watch the professionals do it.
“Ubu Roi” was different. I watched a group of extremely talented people get onstage and act like cartoon characters, like gibbering lunatics, like nothing I had ever seen before. If those other shows were Olympian athletes, this show was a gleeful drunk fan stripping naked and running through the center of the field hooting and hollering and passing out in the middle of the race track in a pool of their own bright pink vomit. It was rude and messy and preposterous and glorious. I watched it and for the first time ever thought “This looks like fun… I COULD do this”.
So why am I bringing this up? Because last Saturday a revamped production of “Ubu Roi” closed at Space 55 after a month long run. And instead of watching someone play a deranged fat idiot onstage, this time I was the deranged fat idiot. This is my home, and I’m living the dream.
Coming Soon to Space 55: Christopher Durang’s “Titanic”! Two nights only: February 26th & 27th. Directed by Jenny Michelson. Starring Marcella Grassa, Dennis Frederick, Margo Brookover, Nathan Evangelista, Jesse Abrahams and yours truly as The Captain.