He also serves as the unofficial "keeper of the mythos" for the show. He also wrote the series bible outlining character and background information for other writers, actors and crew to consult.
I would guess that most of the 30-plus people who gathered in the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's SaGaJi Theater on Wednesday wondered at first who that stranger was greeting us from the stage. It was none other than Producing Artistic Director Scott RC Levy himself, almost unrecognizable without his trademark goatee. Turns out he shaved it off for his official local acting debut as Man in Chair in the upcoming production of The Drowsy Chaperone. Oh, the sacrifices we make for the theater.
Levy wasted no time getting to the reason we were all there: the announcement of the FAC Theatre Company's 2013-2014 season. And while he seems to be skewing away from the envelope-pushing works of his first season two years ago (Assassins, In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play)), the upcoming season does offer a comfortable balance of new and old, light-hearted crowd-pleasers and deeper, more challenging works.
Noises Off by Michael Frayn
Sept. 26 - Oct. 20
Longtime New York Times critic Frank Rich called it "the funniest play written in my lifetime." Now the FAC takes its stab at this backstage farce about the most incompetent actors ever to grace a British stage. One of my personal faves.
The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum with music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg
Dec. 5 - Dec. 29
For the holiday season, the FAC offers this family favorite adapted by the Royal Shakespeare Company and based almost word-for-word on the classic 1939 film, except for the addition of an entire song ("The Jitterbug") that was cut from that film. Levy promises some serious pyrotechnics in this one.
Play It Again, Sam by Woody Allen
Jan. 30 - Feb. 16
Before it was a successful movie, it was a wildly successful Broadway play, running an amazing 453 performances starting in 1969. Here a neurotic writer who turns to Humphrey Bogart's famous tough-guy character from Casablanca for guidance in wooing women.
Agnes of God by John Pielmeier
March 21 - April 6
Next year's multidisciplinary theme for the FAC is Religion in Civic Life. To tie in with this, the theater company offers a play about a young nun who claims that her dead baby is the result of a virgin conception. An unusually small work for the main stage — in Levy's words, "It's three women and a chair" — this incisive drama raises compelling questions about miracles and faith.
Forever Plaid by Stuart Ross
May 8 - June 1
The ever-popular musical revue about a 1950s close harmony group. Features a boatload of easy-listening tunes like "Three Coins in the Fountain" and "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing," linked together by the whitest of white-bread gags.
Floyd and Clea Under the Western Sky by David Cale, music by Jonathan Kreisberg
Not only will this be the Colorado premiere, but the first licensed production of this dark, off-Broadway musical about an alcoholic country songwriter and his talented young protegé. In fact, this work is so new that the score hasn't been published. "We have the chord progressions and the recordings," Levy said. "But we're actually going to be writing down the score so that other theater companies can produce it."
Levy also ran down the schedule at the FAC's Second Stage, where the focus has been on smaller shows and experimental works:
WYNOT Radio Theatre: The Short Hello by Cory Moosman and Sammy Gleason
Nov. 14 - Dec. 1
You've laughed your butt off at this comedy troupe's previous parodies of old-time radio. Now you can catch the world premiere of their fifth stage show, The Short Hello, with all new commercials and serials and a send-up of Casablanca starring everyone's favorite detective, Rick Luger. And yes, the famous smoking baby will be back.
The Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris
Dec. 19 - Jan. 5
If you listen to NPR's This American Life, you already know Sedaris is one of the funniest men on the planet. Here he dramatizes his real-life and extremely uncensored experience as a department-store Christmas elf.
Pinkalicious the Musical by Elizabeth Kann and Victoria Kann
March 27 - April 6
A cute children's musical based on the popular picture books about a girly-girl who loves cupcakes so much she turns pink.
2013 Rough Writers
April 24 - May 4
This month, the FAC will do a staged reading of the four full-length and six short plays that were named finalists in the inaugural Rough Writers play festival. Next year, they'll give a full production to the full-length play dubbed the winner.
Special events just penciled in for now are a concert performance by comic Paula Poundstone and the return of The Civilians' controversial look at the Colorado Springs evangelical community, This Beautiful City. The play was given a script-in-hand performance at Colorado College in 2009, but Levy is hoping to do a full production this time.
On a side note, Knuffle Bunny is currently going strong in the FAC's Music Room, and the run has just been extended for one more weekend. If you haven't seen this sweet musical about a little girl who loses her favorite stuffed animal, you've got only five more chances to catch it: Friday, April 5, at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m., and Saturday, April 6, at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Call 634-5583 or visit csfineartscenter.org for tickets.
In case you missed it, TheatreWorks recently announced its lineup for the 2013-2014 season, and as usual, it's a heady mix of classics and new works. Without further ado ...
• Cymbeline by William Shakespeare for TW's Shakespeare in the Park
• Seven Guitars by August Wilson
• Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Oct. 24 through Nov. 10
• It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play by Joe Landry
• The Weir by Conor McPherson
Jan. 23 through Feb. 9
• Woyzeck by Georg Büchner for the UCCS Student Production
• Venus in Fur by David Ives
March 20 through April 6
• The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni
April 24 through May 11
And with each show, TW hosts a free Prologue Lecture, featuring, for instance, John Douglas Thompson in conjunction with Cymbeline. Thompson, according to the website, is "considered the greatest Shakespearean Actor [sic] in America." For It's A Wonderful Life, Scott Simon of NPR will speak, and dominatrix Mistriss Djuna will present at Venus in Fur.
Visit the website for more information on each play, including prices, other events, and a write-up on each choice from TW artistic director Murray Ross.
If you read the March 6 issue, surely you rushed to get tickets to the March 9 stage show, Immortal Solstice.
If you got your tickets, then you also realized the show was canceled due to organizational issues with the Damon Runyon Theater.
It's time to stop all that moping around and pouting.
Caretaker and the Graveyard Girlz quickly took action to make sure the world gets another chance to see this mixed-media story of their (pseudo) origin.
At 7 p.m. April 13, doors to the Pueblo Community College Hoag Theatre will open. Tickets will be $12 for adults, $6 for students, and $10 for presale tickets. Already-purchased tickets will be honored at the new venue.
Families are such powerful subjects in art. Take any image of Abraham and Isaac for the high drama, or some Dutch Baroque-period works for serenity. Both situations are gripping, at least in their own way.
But what about families of today? They certainly look different now, with same-sex couples, more single parents and the like.
That's the aim behind the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's next multidisciplinary show, Families, which kicks off Feb. 23. Like Conflict | Resolution and NASA | Art: 50 Years of Exploration before it, Families will encompass the museum, the theater and the Bemis School of Art.
The museum has scheduled A Family Affair: Selections from the Progressive Art Collection and Mother: Photographs by Carol S. Dass. The former is a multimedia exhibit from the insurance corporation, which has accrued more than 7,800 pieces since it started collecting contemporary art in 1974. Mother, meanwhile, is a series of pictures taken by local artist Dass, as she grows to experience her mother as a person beyond "that role of the woman who carried me in her womb, raised me the best that she could, and will in many ways continue to view me as a child regardless of my age."
Over on the theater side, the FAC will produce Other Desert Cities, a new play that follows a fictitious, semi-famous Palm Springs family about to unravel when one daughter brings home her draft of a tell-all memoir. Other Desert Cities was nominated for five Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize in 2012. This show will be the Colorado premiere of the play.
As part of its second-stage season (a handful of plays and events held in the Music Room upstairs), the FAC will also put on Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical, an all-ages musical about a trip to the laundromat that goes terribly wrong. (For those of you who've ever lost a beloved toy, you know what I mean.) It's based on the award-winning children's book by Mo Willems (a big-time Emmy winner), who helped convert it to the stage with Grammy-winning composer Michael Silversher.
Come April, the second-stage season will also bring about Rough Writers: A New Play Fest. For this, the FAC put out a call for scripts that respond to one of three works in the Families exhibits. About 12 chosen submissions — which can be 10 minutes, or one act, or a full full-length play or musical — will then be read to the audience for feedback, and then those will be judged by "a panel of theatre professionals" which will decide on a winning script to be fully staged in the FAC's big theater next season.
By the way, you can still submit a script; entries are due Feb. 14.
Ormao Dance Company will also perform an original piece for the FAC from April 12 through 14, and the Story Project will hold a session based on the idea of contemporary family struggles April 5.
Lastly, Bemis has scheduled a full slate of classes for all ages, from kids museum tours to a wine and watercolor course.
Got an old set of brushes? Glass mason jars or paint cans?
You're probably an artist if you have ephemera like this lying around, and if you want to rid yourself of it, or help TheatreWorks, take it to the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theatre lobby any time today, tomorrow or Monday for the company to use in its upcoming production of RED, a play about artist Mark Rothko.
TheatreWorks is currently building the set and asking folks via Facebook for donations. Unfortunately, anything you give won't be returned, so only bring old cast-offs, nothing you'll want back.
For more information, call 255-3232.
But that’s the best word to describe You Can’t Take It With You, the Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy that opened at TheatreWorks last weekend. While most plays from its era are forgotten now, the humor in this play still works, the story still sings.
And typically, that's its biggest problem. A longtime favorite of high school and community theaters alike, You Can't Take It With You has been seen so often and by so many people it’s easy to forget how radical its message of individuality was when it debuted in 1937. (See our preview of the play here.)
Thankfully, it's not a problem here. By mining George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s witty dialogue for new meaning, Denver-based director Geoffrey Kent makes this production not just timeless, but timely.
It all takes place in the main room of the Sycamore house, which in David M. Barber's design is so warm and inviting you’ll wish you could move in. And for a time, you do. One of the brilliant touches to the design is that the entrance to the home is built right into the entrance to the theater. To get to your seat, you have to step through the foyer of the house.
This made it a little confusing when early in the first act, a pair of latecomers made a rather dramatic entrance of their own. But there's no denying that this layout pulls you right in, making the story your story too.
It’s here where the members of the wildly eccentric Sycamore family pursue their passions. Mother (a charmingly scatter-brained Gabriella Cavallero) is writing several plays, some religious, some brimming with sex. Daughter Essie (a comically gawky Missy Moore) pirouettes around the house in a pink tutu. Father (the always dependable Tom Paradise) manufactures firecrackers in the basement. And Grandpa (an infinitely likable Ken Street), having dropped out of society after adopting the identity of their deceased mailman, now spends his days attending high school commencements for fun.
“The world’s not so crazy,” Grandpa says. “Just the people in it.”
Into this chaos enters younger daughter Alice. Played by the extremely versatile Jamie Ann Romero (you may remember her heartbreaking performance as Nina in TheatreWorks' production of The Seagull), she's the only "normal" one in the family. At least, she's the only one with a job.
She's been dating her handsome young boss Tony (the impossibly suave Sean Scrutchins), and now she believes he's on the verge of proposing.
The only problem? Tony insists on bringing his terminally strait-laced parents for dinner, and Alice knows their relationship will never survive the fireworks (both literal and figurative) that are sure to come.
It’s a setup that has launched a thousand sitcom episodes. But here it takes on a depth that's really quite surprising for such a lighthearted play. It's not just a conflict of personalities. Instead, it strikes to the very heart of how we choose to live our lives.
There are so many wonderful performances in this production, it would be impossible to describe them all. But I’ll highlight three more.
Logan Ernstthal steals every scene he’s in as the booming-voiced Russian who’s supposed to teach Essie how to dance but spends most of his time dispensing unasked-for — and hilariously mangled — advice to the other members of the family. And that black broom-head of a beard he's got is so impressive it should get its own credit in the program.
Bruce Carter turns prudishness into a high art form as the stone-faced father of Tony.
And I can't forget Ashley Crockett, who makes an all-too-brief appearance as a hammy, washed-up drunk of an actress (see figure on couch above).
If you’re wondering how all this insanity fits into the holiday season, don’t worry. In the end, one character makes a transformation as far-reaching as any made by George Bailey or Ebenezer Scrooge.
The difference? This one’s a whole lot funnier.
You Can't Take It With You
Through December 23, Wednesdays through Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday matinees, 2 p.m.; Sunday matinees 4 p.m. TheatreWorks, Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater, 3955 Regent Circle. Tickets, $8-$35, free for UCCS students. Call TheatreWorks at 255-3232 or visit theatreworkscs.org for more.
"You'll shoot your eye out!
"I triple-dog dare you!"
"I can't put my arms down!"
Is there a more quotable movie than A Christmas Story? Around my house at least, it’s the one film no one ever gets tired of. With its dry humor and unsentimental look at middle-class American childhood, this 1983 comedy provides the perfect antidote to sappier holiday fare.
Which may explain why it’s the basis for not one but two very different stage productions. The musical version, famous for its leg lamp kick line, debuted on Broadway in November. The one that just opened at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center is the decidedly non-musical but wildly funny version published in 2000 by Philip Grecian, a Kansas playwright who has a long association with Colorado’s Creede Repertory Theatre.
The play, like the movie, is set in 1938 in Hohman, Indiana, a fictionalized version of the real-life hometown of radio personality Jean Shepherd, who wrote the original stories. There, 9-year-old Ralphie Parker wants nothing more for Christmas than “an official Red Rider carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass and this thing that tells time right in the stock.” But everyone from his parents to his beloved teacher to Santa himself gives him the same ominous warning: “You’ll shoot your eye out!"
Potential land mines abound in adapting anything so well-known and well-loved for the stage. But Grecian balances a very narrow tightrope, resurrecting the most iconic dialogue to make long-time fans happy while adding enough new material to keep it fresh. And director Joye Cook Levy adds plenty of comic touches of her own. (Read the Indy's preview of the play here.)
One of these is making the adult Ralphie more than just a narrator but a character in his own right. Here he moves in and out of scenes, watching the action up close and egging his younger self on when all seems lost. Still wearing the oversized spectacles of his youth, this Ralph is played by Jason Lythgoe, a multi-talented actor who must have figured out a way to clone himself because it seems as though he’s appeared in every local play this year.
At times, I did think his delivery was rushed, preventing the audience time from soaking in all of Ralph’s colorfully phrased commentary. But Lythgoe gave the character a nerdy, self-effacing quality that contrasted nicely with his more folksy persona in the film.
The most dangerous part of any theater critic’s job is reviewing kids. To be honest, it’s often more convenient (and safer) to ignore them altogether. I can’t get away with that here because the seven young actors in the cast form the heart and soul of the piece. So I’m glad — and more than a little relieved — to say that they’re all terrific.
Ralphie is played by Evan Lennon, a spirited seventh-grader who brings a winning pluckiness to the part. Finn Dufford is hilariously obnoxious as little brother Randy, getting laughs each time he whines, "I gotta go wee-wee!" And London Lyle lends an innocent charm to a new role created for the play, that of Esther Jane, Ralphie’s budding young love interest.
My only critique (here goes!) is that some of the kids could have projected a little more, as their smart-alecky banter was sometimes hard to hear.
I may be committing heresy here, but I've got to admit there's one weakness with the film. I’ve always thought the story was too episodic, with nothing tying one scene to the next. That’s not the problem here. Grecian extends many of the scenes and ties them all together in ways that heighten the tension and provide a much bigger payoff.
For example, in the movie, the turkey is little more than an afterthought. But in the play, the Old Man (an amusingly grumpy Tom Auclair) spends quite a bit of time planning for and mooning over and rhapsodizing about the big bird, so when it finally disappears in a perfect storm of furry fury, the whole scene comes across much funnier.
The elaborate set, designed by R. Thomas Ward, is its own Christmas miracle, effortlessly transforming from classroom to department store to the simple but cozy home where Ralphie dreams his spectacular hipshot-fueled dreams. That house is used to full advantage in a very funny, wordless sequence in which Mother (the always good Eryn Carman) and the Old Man battle for control of the legendary leg lamp.
That leg lamp, by the way, can be yours for a measly $5, if you’re lucky enough to win the raffle that the FAC is holding.
But if you do win it, be careful. It’s fra-jee-lay.
A Christmas Story
Through Dec. 23, Thursdays through Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday matinees, 2 p.m. Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, SaGaJi Theater, 30 W. Dale St. Tickets, $27-$37. Call the box office at 634-5583 or visit csfineartscenter.org for more info.
It must be exhausting, being Cory Moosman and Sammy Gleason. Not only do they write all of the material for WYNOT Radio Theatre, not only do they maintain one of the craziest performance schedules in the Pikes Peak region, hauling their 200-plus props from gig to gig, but this year they've also been hitting up regional theaters across the country, hoping to break into the big time.
"There's booking conferences that we're looking at," Moosman says. "And we're looking at a couple of different regional fringes, going back to Boulder Fringe, looking at Phoenix Fringe. I mean, it is as close to door-to-door-sales as you can probably get —"
"Without having a vacuum cleaner in your car," Gleason adds.
Next year, they hope to land some of these gigs so they can go on their first real tour.
There's just one problem. They don't have a good way to get there.
Which is why, on Nov. 4, they launched their first crowdfunding campaign. Working through Indiegogo, they hope to raise $10,000 so they can buy a gently used van as well as a 5- by 8-foot box trailer to carry all those zany props. (To visit their Indiegogo page, click here.)
Contributors get some nifty premiums. Donate as little as a buck and you get your name listed on the side of the van. For $100, you get an autographed copy of their hilarious CD. Throw in a cool grand and you get your name written into a future show.
They're off to a respectable start. As of this morning, they'd raised $1,305 with 45 days left to go.
In the meantime, they continue to juggle that crazy schedule. This weekend they're performing their last four shows of Death Wore Elevator Shoes at the Millibo Art Theatre (1367 Pecan St, themat.org). Then it's off to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (30 W. Dale St., csfineartscenter.org) for their Christmas show, It Came Upon a Midnight Deadly. That one runs Dec. 13-30.
And they continue to tweak, perfecting the show so they'll be ready when that big break comes.
"We've had time to develop and grow what the show is," Moosman says. "A lot of it's been finessing and just speeding and trimming because you get it right or you die."