Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mise en scène: 100 things that defined Memphis theater in the Aughts. Part three.

Posted By on Wed, Dec 30, 2009 at 4:51 PM

  • Hedwig

39-1 of my highly subjective list starts now...

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Mise en scène: 100 things that defined Memphis theater in the Aughts. Part two.

Posted By on Mon, Dec 28, 2009 at 9:48 PM

Our Town
  • Our Town

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...

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Mise en scene: 100 things that defined Memphis theater in the Aughts. Part one.

Posted By on Sun, Dec 27, 2009 at 9:57 PM

Dead Mans Cell Phone
  • Dead Man's Cell Phone

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.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

One Sentence Reviews: Nut Re-Mix & Voices of the South

Posted By on Sun, Dec 13, 2009 at 11:38 AM

So, impress me already.
  • So, impress me already.
I've been out and about seeing things this weekend and the reviews are in... they just haven't been written yet. Here's what I've got so far.

New Ballet Ensemble's Nut Re-Mix:
It's a tragedy that this show is a one-and-done event because Katie Smythe's New Ballet Ensemble has crafted dynamic techno-enhanced nutcracker that trades spectacle and narrative for sweetness, surprise.

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.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Will Call: Tips & Tidbits for the Theatrically Inclined

Posted By on Fri, Dec 11, 2009 at 3:27 PM

  • Sister
This is usually the time of year when I throw my hands up in defeat because there's nothing out there for a theatergoer who doesn't want to have the milk of human kindness rubbed in his or her face. Seriously, A Tuna Christmas is often the most provocative show going, which means it's time for me to go to my room and hide like a gun-shy pup on the 4th of July. That's why I'm so happy to report that Santa left three early gifts underneath this pesky critic's tree: A black comedy, a true oddity, and a variety show with everything, including Sister Myotis.

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.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Destroyer: Performance art for the Grinch in all of us

Posted By on Thu, Dec 10, 2009 at 11:32 AM

Santa Smash
  • Santa Smash
Let's face it, even when the economy is healthy the most cheerful holiday revelers can feel a bit harried this time of year. Between the hangovers, the extra work both at home and at the office, and the inability to shop without being subjected to "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," it's not difficult to understand why even the merriest among us might want to throttle an elf. That's what makes artist Gadsby Creson's planned performance so genius. On Saturday, December 12 at 3:00 p.m. anybody who feels like they just can't take it anymore is invited to gather in the parking lot behind the P&H Cafe to break things. That's right, to break things. All kinds of things.

Intrigued by Creson's performance art Intermission Impossible asked if she'd like to play three questions. Here's what she had to say...

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Sound of Music: Theatre Memphis' "Souvenir" is one of my favorite things

Posted By on Wed, Dec 9, 2009 at 2:40 PM

Florence Foster Jenkins
  • Florence Foster Jenkins
I'm not going to blog a full review of Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins. I'll save that for next week's Memphis Flyer. I will say however, that I was haunted by the immortal words of the Scottish poet William McGonagall as I strolled through Theatre Memphis' sculpture garden on the way to my car:

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.

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Christmas Pres-Ent: Voices of the South comes home for the holidays

Posted By on Wed, Dec 9, 2009 at 12:25 PM

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.

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Will Call: Tips & Tidbits for the Theatrically Inclined

Posted By on Fri, Dec 4, 2009 at 10:04 AM

Florence Foster Jenkind
  • Florence Foster Jenkind
I'll keep this week's recommendations brief. Circuit Playhouse's production of The Seafarer boasts a strong cast and a fantastic script. With a storyline that might have been plucked from a lost episode of The Twilight Zone it's a funny infernal antidote to traditional holiday programming.

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.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Bad Santaland: Three Questions with Crumpet the Elf

Posted By on Wed, Dec 2, 2009 at 2:55 PM

David Foster
  • David Foster
The Santaland Diaries, David Sedaris' bawdy and rebellious recollection of his days working as an elf in Macy's SantaLand has become an unlikely holiday classic: A Christmas Carol for people who would rather eat bugs than sit through yet another production of A Christmas Carol. Dutifully Playhouse on the Square has revived Sedaris' story about weird Santas and worse children with musical theater stalwart David Foster taking on the coveted role of Crumpet, a snarky Elf with stems and seeds in his urine sample.

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.

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