Monday, January 23, 2017

RESOLVED TO SELF EVIDENT TRUTHS

What's that saying about opinions and how everyone has one? Well, I think New Year's resolutions are like that too- we all have at least one. Most of us have many, and a lot of them are perennial favorites. I will lose weight. I will contact all those friends who have been lost to time and tide. I will blog more often. Yes, I will blog more often. Every damned day. Maybe twice daily. I will get that raise. I will speak from my heart. I will solve all my problems. I will solve all the world's problems. I will finish watching all the movies and series on my Netflix list. Same for Hulu and Amazon. I will, I will, I will.

And why not? We must have ambitions, dreams, goals. Right?

Well, this year, I felt the need for better resolutions. This was a direct result of the improbable, illogical, and insane election of the Great Orange Monkeyman from Queens as our President. First off, he lost the popular vote by almost three million. Second, he publicly made fun of a man with handicaps- which is what I believe is called a "dick move". Third, this bully either doesn't believe in global warming, which makes him a moron, or doesn't give a shit about it, which makes him an asshole.

Fourth- he objectifies women, treats them with contempt and what seems like anger. Like toys who he can "grab by the pussy". Again, dick move.

What is his problem? My mother was a woman. My wife is a woman. Over half the world population is made of women. And he treats them like shit. He really does.

So I resolved to be more actively involved in what is happening in my community, my country, and my world.

First big step- I went to the Women's March in D.C. with my wife Lisa this past week end.

And it was beautiful, inspiring, magic, crazy- the list of adjectives needed to described this monumental event is far too long to put on this page. I have been to a lot of pretty big events in my life. I was in Santa Barbara during the Rodney King riots. I lived in NYC during 9/11, the black out of 2002, and  the RNC of 2004. I saw Obama speak in Denver in a crowd whose estimated size was over a million. And Saturday, I took part in the largest demonstration in the history of our nation.

We met so many kind, funny, concerned citizens from all over the country. A woman from Florida, a pair of ladies from Boston. A punk rock violinist from Minneapolis. Everywhere we have been, from Friday to today, the atmosphere has been both electrified but kind- like that perfect party where everyone is having a great time, nobody wants to leave, and all the music they play makes you want to dance.

And the Pussy Hats. All over the place. Pink, Purple, Orange. Fuzzy and freaky, some with whiskers, some with ears. All of them made by hand. Lisa made three: one for her son Ryan, one for me, and one for herself. They are the three coolest hats ever made. I wore mine with pride, and plan to continue to wear it for at least the next four years.

We stayed at an Air B&B near 14th Street and S street. On the day of the march, we decided to walk, as the Metro was full to bursting. Walking was a great choice. As we made our way towards the Mall, more and more people filled the streets- a sea of women, many in pussy hats, leading us forward. The walk took over half an hour, and by the time we got to the Mall, it was a full on crowd- although the word "crowd" does not suffice. It felt like when you were in high school and went to one of those super concerts where five bands played. Everyone excited, distant roars of the already gigantic event echoing through the streets. Everywhere you look, people who are smiling- at each other and at you. So much love and hope and determination.

When we got to the mall, I ran into this woman. She was 94, and had a sign on her shirt proclaiming her age, and her religion, which was Quaker. I told her my mother was a Quaker too, and she looked me right in the eye, and asked me if my mother raised me well. Something about that hit me right in the gut. I don't know why, but it made me have to try very hard not to cry.

We moved on. We raised our voices in joy, and also in anger. We flipped the bird at the new hotel owned by the Orange Monkeyman when we marched past it later in the day. We took part in something greater than ourselves.

And this is just the beginning. There will be more marches. More protest. More change. People are fired up, ready to go.

More to come. I am resolved.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

A FINE, SHEAR MADNESS

Scott RC Levy and the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's Theatre Company have done it yet again- created a unique and exciting night of theatre that is both thoroughly engaging and completely entertaining. This is no surprise. They are by far the most consistently excellent theatre company in Colorado. Their latest gem is the interactive show Shear Madness, which has the distinction of being the longest running non-musical show in America.

Ever.


It's easy to see why when sitting in the audience at the FAC. The play starts with a hilarious bit of physical comedy, segues into a clever farce, and then transforms into an interactive mystery with the audience helping to solve a murder. I don't want to say too much about the plot, as that will spoil it for you when you go to see it. (and you will go see it!) Suffice to say that the show takes place in a beauty shop, a murder takes place, and a detective shows up to solve the crime. The beauty shop is run by Tony, played with abundant aplomb by the irrepressible Nathan Halvorson, who turns in a virtuoso performance. From the moment the show begins, Halvorson owns the stage, the audience, and the greater Colorado Springs area. Keeping time with Halvorson, and equally amazing, is Rebecca Myers as Tony's co-worker Barbara. Myers is full of sass and sensuality- if not so much smarts. The two banter and gossip to music from the radio, and instantly win over the crowd as they throw local-themed jokes at each other while cutting folks hair. Into the salon walks Eddie Lawrence, play with just the right touch of menace by Michael Lee to make us think he is most likely the killer. After him comes Birgitta DePree as Mrs. Shubert- a snooty buy loveable dame of high society. DePree is brilliant- a force of nature unto herself. There is a lot of interaction with the audience in this show, and the night I saw it she had some moments going back and forth with the crowd that made me laugh so hard my face hurt. When the murder takes place, the police of course arrive, and the show, which is already hilarious to the point where you can barely hear over the raucous laughter of the audience, kicks into high gear as the gruff detective (a fantastic C. Clayton Blackwell) and his rather dim-witted but good natured side-kick (the hilarious Nathan Ferrick) begin questioning both the people in the salon and the audience about the events of the day.

The show is full of lines written specifically for the area, and a there is a lot of improvisation in the play as the story in part moves forward based on what the audience says to the police. As such, there is an immediacy to the play, a sense that this is a once in a lifetime performance, which of course it is. Mr. Levy has skillfully directed the play at a lightning pace, allowing the actors to strut their stuff where appropriate, but also keeping the pace tight so that there are no dull moments.

The design is, as always at the FAC, outstanding. Christopher L. Sheley has created a beautiful set that is lit gorgeously by light designer Holly Anne Rawls. The cast is costumed perfectly by Janson Fangio- with outfits that are comedic, and so very right for each character's personality.

The show is a quick two hours, and I promise you will laugh your ass off if you are wise enough, and lucky enough, to get a ticket to the remaining shows. (for ticket info, click HERE)

I am not kidding. Go see this play.

That is all.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

SOME DAYS ARE MAGIC


 
 
Some days are magic. Plain and simple. You usually don't realize it until after it's over, because you are too busy in Magic Land, learning secret dances and singing ancestral songs of madness and love you didn't know you knew. But later, you think back to the wonderous day that was, and say to yourself: that was a magic day.

At least, that's how it is for me.

I had one of those recently, and I'm going to try to tell you what is was like, if I can.

That's the thing about Magic Days. It's hard to convey to people who weren't there what it was like. All you can do is give inklings, sketches, partial memories.  Even so, you feel compelled to tell the world what is was like- because so much of life can be mundane and drab and sad and rough, when a day comes along and reminds you that being alive is a wonder in and of itself, you have to share it, even though you know it's impossible to share it completely. You have to- because that's part of being a human being.

I had read about Meow Wolf somewhere- I don't remember where. Just somewhere. And it sounded really cool. An interactive art installation in a converted bowling alley in Santa Fe, funded in part of whole- again, I don't remember- by George R. R. Martin (the dude who wrote the Game of Thrones books)- and what I read was something like "it's amazing and life affirming and numinous and ethereal". Or maybe that's just how I remember it being described now. Shortly after reading about it, one of my actors in Twelfth Night at Reel Kids told me he went and that it was the most amazing thing he'd ever seen. And this kid was not prone to exaggeration. And shortly after that, Lisa told me we were going to Madrid, New Mexico for my birthday. Madrid is right outside of Santa Fe. Some part of my brain- the smart part- thought "cool, now you can go to that Meow Wolf thing."

And we did.

And it was insane. In the good way.

How do I describe it? I can't. You go in, and the world implodes, explodes, shines, darkens, morphs, intensifies, and freaks you out. In the good way.

We walked into The House of Eternal Return- which is the name of the installation, Meow Wolf being the art collective that created it- and went on a journey. We went to the bottom of the ocean (or maybe it was the bottom of a fish tank and we were shrunk down); we explored a house where something strange and sad and unbelievable had happened; we walked into a refrigerator and found a path to a secret garden; we were transported to an ice cave where a glowing skeleton of I think a mastodon stood, and played it's ribs like a xylophone; we played Centipede in a throwback arcade that pulsed with color and power; we stood in the dark and touched beams of light that rewarded us with music; We pieced together a story of love and science and magic and wonder.

We became Universal Detectives.

After hours on the case, we took a break to get some green chile. We asked the powers that be if we could come back and take pictures. "We encourage that", was what they said. So we ate, came back, and took videos and pictures. And then found out there was a concert that night in the space. So we stayed for that, too. I was on the case during the first set, but during the second, this wild tribe band conglomerate known at Partizani Brass Band literally marched through the space, and we followed them to the performance area. And danced and became children.

Then Calliope Musicals came out.

Sometimes, you see a band perform, and right away, you know you are in for something special and new and personal and universal.  They rock, they roll, they sway your soul. The set they played was intense and real and sweet and savage.  Check them out HERE.

So. We entered the House of Eternal Return around 1pm. We left at 11pm. And we were different people. The magic worked, the doors of perception opened, and the journey continued.

Go. Go now. On your way, listen to Calliope Musicals.

Become a Universal Detective.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

COME WRITE WITH ME

Ok. Shameless plug time. I teach playwriting for adults at the DCPA. It is a blast. People come in, we work on their plays, and at the end of class, there is a staged reading of ten minutes from the best of each students work.

It's really amazing to help someone find their voice; to be able to make them feel safe enough to take that huge risk that is writing something and having people read it out loud; to be one of the first to hear a new play.

I've already done two sessions this past year, and they were both amazing. Really cool work- about everything from clones to submarines, sex workers to rock stars- has come out of the class already. This past class was the first where we had actors from the DCPA education classes perform the work created in the playwriting class- and it was amazing. For a playwright, it is invaluable to have your work given life by actors.

I want to hear more!

If you live in Colorado, and want to join a writer's workshop that is both challenging, exciting, and fun- then join me Tuesday nights at the DCPA.

Here is the class description:

7 sessions • 3 hr class time
Tue • Jun 14 - Jul 26 • 6:30 - 9:30pm • Kelly McAllister
Whether you’re starting a play or are in the middle of working on a script, get the notes you need to take your writing to the next level. Designed for beginner and ongoing playwrights, this lab will focus on developing characters and dialogue while moving the story forward through plot and structure. Your work will be regularly read to help development, and in the last class, actors will read selections of your play so you to hear it come to life. 8 student minimum, 12 maximum.

For more info, and to register, click HERE.

Friday, May 27, 2016

9 TO 5 AT THE FAC A FREAKIN' HOOT!

Want to have a great time, laughing and clapping and singing? Want to see amazing performers who can sing like angels, dance like devils, and charm you silly? Well, then get yourself to the FAC in Colorado Springs for their current production of the musical 9 to 5! It is one of the most enjoyable, funny, and energetic musical comedies I have seen in a long time.

Based on the movie of the same name, 9 to 5 follows three women in the work place as they deal with life, climbing the corporate ladder, and sexism in the workplace- which sadly is as topical today as when the original movie came out in 1980. (anyone who tells you different about how that's all a thing of the past is either a man or out of touch with reality) The script is by Patricia Resnick, who also wrote the film (there is an excellent article/interview with her in the program that I recommend); the music and lyrics are by Dolly Parton- who really is an excellent composer of musical theatre, it turns out. Together, they have created a really tight, fun night of theatre with just the right amount of social commentary to keep you thinking, balanced with sweet songs, exciting numbers, and hilarious comedy. For more info on the show, go HERE.

As usual, the cast and crew assembled by Scott Levy for the FAC is top notch.

Let's talk about the cast first. To a one, this cast is insanely talented. As Violet, the long suffering brains of the outfit, Miriam Roth is outstanding- strong, funny, full of heart but also a biting wit. Jennifer DeDominici, as the new girl in the office Judy, is sweet, vulnerable, but also strong and determined. Her character probably has the largest arc of the show, and she handles it perfectly. And Crystal Mosser as Doralee is unbelievable fantastic. She has a presence that makes you watch her every second she is on stage. And her voice is off the charts amazing. Mosser basically ropes the entire audience with her talent and energy and then runs the show. She is better than a lot of folks I have seen on Broadway- a true star. All three women shine throughout the show, perhaps best exemplified in the number "I Just Might", and uplifting number about overcoming your fears and taking risks. Backing up the triumvirate of amazing ladies as their foil is Stephen Day as Boss from Hell Franklin Hart. Day is outstanding as the sexist egotistical hypocritical lying bigot. He's the boss you love to hate, and a great comic actor. Not only that, his song Here For You is hilarious. As Roz, the sycophantic secretary who carries a not-so-hidden flame for Hart, Jen Lennon is awesome. As Violet's romantic interest Joe, Zachary Seliquini Guzman (as usual) rocks it, bringing humor and energy to the role and making the audience root for him to get together with Violet. In fact, on of the sweetest scenes in the show is between Violet and Joe that got a few folks in the audience pulling out their hankies. The rest of the cast is amazing. Seriously, they are uniformly outstanding.

Nathan Halvorson directs and choreographs with precision, insight, and a bit of genius. This guy has talent to spare, and uses it well. Every scene moves at a fast clip, every number pops with creativity and flair, and as usual with Mr. Halvorson, every moment of staging furthers the story, enhances the mood, and keeps the audience leaning in.

The band, lead by Jay Hahn, is incredible. But this has become what I expect when I see musicals at the FAC.

The design is also outstanding, capturing the look and feel of 1979, and the corporate world in general, while keeping it fun and a joy to look at. Scenic design is by Erik D. Diaz, who makes very clever use of the stage to take us to all sorts of locations in the blink of the eye. The costume design is by Lex Liang, and they are perfect- conveying character, adding color, and in the fantasy sections adding the perfect tone. And lighting the whole thing is light designer Holly Anne Rawls, who gives the show a colorful, perfect look, adding mood while keeping everyone looking fabulous.


Suffice to say, I really loved this show, and encourage you to get your ass to the FAC ASAP.

For more info and showtimes, click HERE.

SLEEP NO MORE

Me thought I heard a voice cry, 'Sleep no more! Macbeth hath murdered sleep!'
     MacBeth, Act 2; Scene 2



I love the Scottish play. That's what a lot of theatre folk call Shakespeare's MacBeth. In fact, I rarely say the actual word, "MacBeth". You see, it's considered bad luck. Especially in a theatre. There are varying reasons given. Some say Shakespeare actually used real spells for the witches lines. Some say it is a cursed show because it deals with some historically nasty people who really did a lot of bad things. Some say it's just a bunch of old wives tales.

I believe.

And ever since I first heard of the Scottish play, and all of its tradition and mystery, I've been fascinated. Enchanted, you might say. I've read it, seen it, been in it. And I love it. I 've written a screenplay about theatre superstitions called Ghostlight, am working on another screenplay that takes the basic story of MacB- which for those who aren't familiar is a tale of betrayal and ruthlessness in pursuit of power and how said pursuit empties the soul of all joy and hope- and sets it in the world of high school football ala Friday Night Lights. Most recently, I directed a production of the Scottish play for Colorado's Finest High School of Choice, an alternative high school for young people who have had trouble in so-called normal school. It was amazing how easily high school students were able to relate to characters who sell there souls to climb the social ladder.

Suffice to say, this is a play that is part of my being, an essential book in my mental library.

So it was with great joy that, a few weeks ago, I found myself in New York City at the McKittrick Hotel, wandering around like a ghost, silent and masked, as a mobbed up version of MacBeth unfolded all around me in the form of Sleep No More. The show is like a mix between a haunted house and modern dance and dream and theatre and I don't know what else. You enter, are given instructions on how to behave in a very cool bar where performers interact with you, cajole you to have absinthe, and call you one by one to go through the door that leads you into a world of magic, betrayal, sex, and madness.

It's awesome.

I like awesome in my theatre. Awesome and different and cool and original and dangerous.

Every person in the audience becomes part of the show as they wander through the madhouse, as each is given a mask to wear and instructed to remain silent. The effect is that, as you make your own personal journey, you see all your fellow audience members looking like fellow ghosts, lost souls condemned to take part in the ghostly events.

And when I say take part, I mean it.

One of the first things that happened to me was this lady, pregnant and clearly upset and also one of the people of the story- I knew this because she wasn't wearing a mask- grabbed me, dragged me into a closet, rubbed salt behind my ears while whispering something about how she has always tried to protect me from evil. Before she could say more, off she ran. I followed her, then came across a trio of lunatics dancing through a dimly lit hallway. As I went from scene to scene, which are all happening all over the three floors of the hotel at the same time, I could see other fellow ghosts running around following other actors. At one point, I ran into my wife, a fellow ghost that evening having her own adventure, and together we played a creepy card game with a murderous bar tender.

All I can say, with any amount of certainty, is that it was one of the most amazing nights of theatre I have ever experienced.

That is all.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

PETER AND THE STARCATCHER

Theatre, when done right, is a place of magic. For as long as people have been around, one of the things we the people do- in every part of the globe- is gather together in large groups, sometimes around fires, sometimes in large darkened rooms, sometimes in grand palaces of art, and listen to storytellers who through the power of imagination somehow take us far, far away and show us tales of adventure and joy and sorrow and wonder. It is both simple and vastly complex, this thing we do. And when it is done right, the stories we are told remind us what it means to be a human being; how scary and tragic and fun and sublime it is to exist. One of the places I love the most for these theatrical journeys of the soul is the Theatre at the Fine Arts Center in Colorado Springs, and this past week-end they yet again took my on a fantastic voyage that was thrilling, heart warming, and invigorating. They did this with a show called Peter and the Starcatcher, the best show on the boards  that I've seen in quite awhile.

The show, based on the book of the same name, tells the origin story of Peter Pan, Captain Hook, and most of the denizens of Neverland familiar to those who know and love the original Peter Pan. But while a prequel of sorts, this is a story that stands up on its own, and can be enjoyed by those who never heard of the boy who could fly. And it is a great story, set in Victorian times but told with a modern sensibility- brilliantly staged, expertly played, and magically realized. For more on the story itself, go HERE.


As brilliantly staged by Joye Cook-Levy, the show is the perfect example of how exciting, creative, and delicious theatre can/should be. The script demands, and Cook-Levy more than delivers, a director with intense creativity- where scenes shift rapidly with no time for such things as conventional scenery. It's a lot like Shakespeare in that we, the audience, are asked to use our imaginary forces. To do that- to get an audience to suspend its collective disbelief and take the required leap of faith, a director must have the cast instantly establish trust with everyone in the room- cast and spectators. This is done right at the top of the show: the lights come up, and what seems like a mob of men walk downstage and talk to the audience, and then- as if by magic, Rebecca Myers- the sole female in the cast- emerges from the surrounding throng of men. It's a simple, but clever moment that works very well. From that point on, I was ready for the cast to take me wherever they wanted, my disbelief happily suspended. And by the time the ensemble turned itself into a Dodo bird, my disbelief was not suspended, but banished completely.

The show is a quasi-musical, and the numbers are staged by another one of the many geniuses they have at the FAC, Nat Halvorson- who does yet another outstanding job. One of the many highlights in the show is a sort of English music hall number performed by mermaids that had me in stitches.

The cast is, to a person, excellent. Every performer is energetic, engaging, and inspired. Not only are
they each talented individuals, they also work insanely well together, like a well oiled machine- a theatrical Rube-Goldberg machine of some sort. They each play several characters, and give each role clarity and specificity so that there is never a question as to which actor is playing what role Along with the excellent Ms. Meyers, they are: Jonathan Andujar, Adam Blancas, Karl Brevik, Sammy Gleason, Omid Dedstan Harrison, David Hastings, Michael Lee, Jordan Leigh, Levi Penley, Kevin Pierce, and Andrew Wilkes. Kudos to each and every one of them. As Lord Aster, Karl Brevik is wonderful; as both Mrs. Bumbrake and the mermain known as Teacher, Adam Blancas is hilarious; and the boy who will become Peter Pan, \Levi Penley soars; and as Black Stache, Jordan Leigh yet again turns in a bravura performance. Leigh is a freak, a chameleon who can play pretty much anything he wants on stage. Unreal.

The technical aspects are perfection, of course. This is standard with shows at the FAC. The set, by Christopher l. Sheley, is gorgeous- setting tone, adding to the story, and evocative of another time. Perfectly complimenting the set are lights by Jonathan Spencer, and a sumptuous wardrobe designed by Janson Fangio. The music in the show is provided by conductor/keyboardist Jerry McCauley, and supported with percussion by Josh Birkhimer. These two are magicians in their own right, creating worlds within worlds with their instruments.

So, if you haven't figured it out yet, I love this show. It is what theatre should be, full of joy and wonder and Star Stuff. If you have any way to do so, get yourself to Colorado Springs and catch this shining star.