Things. Yes, I decided to go with "things" instead of scenes, shows or performances. How else could I include sets, props, billboards, radio broadcasts and marriage proposals? Be forewarned, numbers 40-69 feature Steampunk, Shakespeare, and Jason Spitzer...
How would I define Memphis theater in the Aughts? I don't think I could define it. Not easily, anyway. There were hundreds of shows and of thousands of performances. It was mostly good. It could be incredibly bad. And yes, sometimes it was inexplicably ugly. Great actors passed away. New stars were born. The show always went on.
Hopefully this top 100 list will at least give readers some sense of the surprising depth and breadth of Memphis' ever growing theater scene. And since I didn't see everything I encourage readers to step in and correct any sins of omission. I'm sure there will be many.
Voices of the South's Present-Present #8: Home for the Holidays: The ending is schmaltzy y'all, but Home for the Holidays is a warm, fuzzy, funny, smart and decidedly thoughtful tour through the beating heart of Memphis-Rock-City and a fun night of theater from Sister Myotis' greeting trough a stilted self-parodying finale that finds the company quoting song lyrics as they walk about the stage coddling vinyl records like infants.
Voices of the South's annual Pre-sent Pres-ent opens this weekend and it promises to be a hot ticket. VOTS, a growing company of theater professionals devoted to producing original work with a Southern accent, has really come into its own in recent years. Their success has been aided in no small part by Pre-Sent Pres-ent, an unorthodox holiday show blending modern dance with music, storytelling, and all manner of surprises. This is the show that introduced Steve Swift's incredibly popular character Sister Myotis Crenshaw to the world so heed my sound advice: If you think you might want to attend, it's a good idea to reserve seats in advance.
If you prefer something a little more devilish Circuit Playhouse's flawed but still quite wonderful production of The Seafarer continues through Dec. 20. But this week I'm pushing Souvenir at Theatre Memphis. It's a strange and wonderful valentine to Florence Foster Jenkins, an eccentric tone deaf soprano whose devotees included Noel Coward and Cole Porter. It's an offbeat joy featuring an exceptional performance for Memphis songstress Jude Knight. Yes, I smell Ostrander.
Check the Flyer's theater listings for details
Now, for something completely different, here are some pictures from Langston Hughes' Black Nativity at The Hattiloo Theatre.
Intrigued by Creson's performance art Intermission Impossible asked if she'd like to play three questions. Here's what she had to say...
I will say without dismay
visit the theatre without delay
Because the theatre is a school of morality
And hasn't the least tendency to lead to prodigality.
So true. But I digress...
McGonagall's verse (as savvy readers may have already guessed) is renowned not for its brilliance but for its wretchedness. Yet, 180-years after his death, collections of the horrid master's work remain in print and on a good night I can quote him nearly as well as I can recite Shakespeare. There is a place, you see, where awfulness and earnestness combine to create something truly special — something ridiculous yet as endearing and truthful as a child's painting. And as comical as these abominations may be, they have the power of authenticity and are somehow more intrinsically human than any display of virtuosity can ever be. This thing of which I speak is a rare but real quality, found not only in the works of McGonagall but also in the cinema of Ed Wood, and in the recordings of Florence Foster Jenkins, a tone-deaf opera singer who, having no sense of rhythm or phrasing, presented herself as one of the greatest sopranos of the early 20th-Century.
Okay, the title is arty and a little awkward, it's true. But Pre-sent Pres-ent, VOTS all-original and ever-changing holiday grab bag, is a treat worth waiting 12 months for. If you've ever wondered if there really is a gift that keeps on giving the answer is a resounding yes. And this annual collaboration with Project: Motion is it.
Fortunately for theatergoers The Seafarer isn't the only non-traditional holiday offering this season. David Sedaris's Santaland Diaries is back, this time in a cabaret setting with the always excellent David Foster taking on the role of Crumpet the grumpy elf. This week, however, I'm most excited about the regional debut of Souvenir, a play about the notoriously horrible singer Florence Foster Jenkins and her piano player Cosme McMoon.
It's tempting to call Foster a triple threat performer but that would be unfair. Not only can the man sing, dance, and act, this year's Crumpet can dish. In the short span of three questions he not only manages to plug his current show and his next show, he also sneaks in some juicy remarks about Memphis actors Kara Winsett and Stephen Huff. Naughty and nice.