Thursday, June 26, 2014

Lil Buck's New York Times Close Up

Posted By on Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 1:56 PM

New Ballet Director, Katie Smythe, with Lil Buck (center) and dancers MK Thinnes and CWebster on the Promenade at New York State Theater after Lil Bucks world premiere with famous Parisian photographer and social advocate, JR.
  • New Ballet Director, Katie Smythe, with Lil Buck (center) and dancers MK Thinnes and CWebster on the Promenade at New York State Theater after Lil Buck's world premiere with famous Parisian photographer and social advocate, JR.

Memphis' own Lil Buck is just about the hottest thing in dance these days. The New York Times has noticed.

At 26, Lil Buck, born Charles Riley, has already carved out a niche that almost no other dancer can fill, bouncing from music videos (that’s him, slo-mo spinning through Janelle Monáe’s “Tightrope”) to a Super Bowl halftime show (2012, with Madonna) to Lincoln Center, where in April he was a star soloist in the debut of a ballet by the French artist JR. He introduced mainstream audiences to jookin, a style of street dance born in his hometown, Memphis, whose intricate freestyle footwork has captivated critics.

Read the whole thing.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Magic Tim Wants to Take You to "The Miracle Zone."

Posted By on Fri, Jun 13, 2014 at 3:34 PM

Magic Tim Friday has a new show in the works. It's a magic show. It's an experience. It's a happier place than the Twilight Zone.

He's pretty sure, "You're gonna get miracle zoned."

Details and such here.

A Sordid Interview: Del Shores Dishes on Graceland, Leslie Jordan, Olivia Newton John, and Stacey Campfield

Posted By on Fri, Jun 13, 2014 at 9:39 AM

Del Shores
  • Del Shores

How perfect is this? Just this week I discover the existence of a Stacey Campfield musical, and the next thing you know I’m interviewing Del Shores, the divine Campfield agitator and Sordid Lives creator who is coming to Memphis to perform at First Congo in conjunction with Sister Myotis and Voices of the South. It’s the first time Shores, also a producer/writer for Queer as Folk and Dharma & Greg, with a long list of writing credits including Southern Baptist Sissies, and Daddy’s Dyin’, Who’s Got the Will, has ever played the Bluff City. His most famous (and most sordid) creation has some important history here though and he’s shared all of that (and so much more) with Intermission Impossible.

Intermission Impossible: I’ve been dying to ask. Did you know there is a new musical about Stacey Campfield?

Del Shores: Yes. And it’s so funny you said that. I’ve just been talking to them. I sent them all of my emails with him and Facebook messages with him. He’s fucking crazy. I got into legal issues with him because of his asking me for $1000 to debate him. I had many conversations with the Attorney General of Tennessee. They just warned him but were going to punish him somehow for soliciting funds while in office. At one point they were talking about flying me in to testify and I’m going to walk in like Lana Turner with a big hat. Sashay right into that courtroom: I’m here motherfucka.

Wow. Are they going to use any of that in the show?

I told them they were welcome to.

That whole thing with Stacey was quite a show in and of itself.

It was a fun time for me press-wise. Who would have ever thought that I’d get into a pissing match with a state senator and that he would actually write back? And you just won’t believe the emails he wrote to me. I would copy and paste them and send them to all the Senators. Republicans and Democrats. I’d send it to everybody and then to the press.

So when does all of this get transformed into some kind of sordid political satire?

I’m very political in my life. I’m certainly addressing the equality movement that we’re on now in my sequel to Sordid Lives, A Very Sordid Wedding. I bought the franchise up to 2014. It was always a period piece because Sordid Lives was set the day Tammy Wynnette died or the day after Tammy Wynnette died. died. So I’ve brought it up to speed and the big issue in the town is that they’re having an anti-equality revival. So there’s certainly a lot of politics in the new movie all sort of pointing at how ludicrous it becomes when you put it down in those words: Anti-equality. Yeah, we’re against equality.

I know you were a Sister Myotis fan. Is that how this show came about?

It’s so crazy. I was a crazy rabid fan of Sister Myotis. I told Steve [Swift of Voices of the South], you know I’m responsible for a half million of those YouTube hits. I have a good friend from Mississippi, McGhee Montieth who’s an amazing actress out in LA. I told her I’d never played Memphis before. Whenever I’ve been on tour I’ve never been able to get a bar or a theater to support me or bring me in. So she said let me make a few calls. Within 24 hours I heard from Steve and we talked for a good while and he said, “You know you know who I am, right? I’m Sister Myotis.” I said, “Noooo!” I went crazy and said, “You have to open for me if we do this.” So that’s how it all came about.

Well, welcome to town.

I’ve never played there but there is a huge piece of Del Shores Sordid Lives history in Memphis. Sordid lives premiered in Memphis. The very first public screening was at the Memphis International Film Festival. We flew in, Leslie Jordan and myself, and Ann Walker who played LaVonda and Kirk Geiger who played Ty. I remember that screening so well for two reasons. First I’d never seen it with an audience. And to be in the South with just a packed audience and hearing the response for the first time was just a huge moment in my career. Because it was in Memphis that I realized “I may have something here.” And we went on to win the festival and the audience award.

I was at that screening. I wrote about that screening. I’d forgotten it was the world premier.

Then you remember what happened. This was back before they were doing DVDs in theaters and the reel actually caught fire and they had to stop everything and tape it back together. I got up and did a little tap dance while they were fixing it. It happened right as Doctor Eve took off her top and spread her legs. That’s when the film caught on fire and I said, Oh my God, the Baptist prayers are working!” Now, Ironically I’m coming back to Memphis and performing in a church.

Well, at First Congo. It’s a different kind of church.

While we were in Memphis I did go to Graceland as any good white trash boy has to.

I was a tour guide there in college before they had the headset tours. A lot of locals roll their eyes, but I recommend it.

Oh, it was wonderful. It was me and Leslie Jordan and Ann Walker. We walked into that room with those things on our ears with Priscilla narrating. Well Ann Walker is just a huge Elvis fan and she burst into tears and Leslie and I lost our minds laughing at her. She has never forgiven us for that.

Obviously I know your film and TV work, but I’m less familiar with your live shows. What are they like?

I’m a storyteller and humorist. I’m not a standup although I play a lot of standup gigs. So, it’s not jokejokejoke, it’s story, story, story. I always feel like I’m just sitting t my dining room table just shooting the shit with my friends. And that’s how all of this started. My ex-husband— who was actually born in Memphis— encouraged me to get back on stage. So I wrote a show called Dell Shores: My Sordid Lives and it was very well received. From there Caroline Rhea, my friend who was doing standup, said let me help you pull some of these stories and you can open for me. So I opened for her for some gigs. And of course you get on stage and people laugh, and you get addicted to it. I love doing this. I collect stories. And I like to tell the stories behind the stories that have made my films. I’m doing a piece about my cousin who shot a policeman and went to jail for 35-years. The story is in my movie Southern Baptist Sissies. My father was a Southern Baptist Preacher and my mother was a drama teacher so, since I’m in a church for this one, I’m doing some church stories too. And also one amazing story that a fan told me. And also, a little trash. A little dish, if you will. I can certainly talk about Mr. Leslie Jordan a little bit. We’ll see what comes up. I always have a map, but I like to fly by the seat of my pants.

Leslie Jordan as Brother Boy, the man who thinks he’s Tammy Wynette. Talk about being born to play a role.

I wrote it for him. We’d been friends for a long time before before I wrote Sordid Lives. He was in my first play, Cheatin’ and we had worked in TV quite a bit. We were best friends. I always say it’s frightening that he’s the godfather of my oldest daughter. I don’t know what the fuck I was thinking to think that Leslie could give any sort of spiritual guidance to my child at any level. But he has been this amazing uncle who gives great presents. And I guess he did give spiritual guidance because he’s given her a lot of laughter and sometimes that’s a spiritual gift. He is truly the most gifted comedian I’ve ever worked with.

I called him one day and said, Leslie, I’ve written something for you. It was “The De-Homosexualization of Brother Boy,” and he said, “I have never played drag before.” I said, “Oh, come on,” and he said, “Well… not publically.” So I asked if he’d do it and he said, “Well, of course, who else is going to do it.” His manager at the time advised him not to. She said it would ruin his career. Thank god he listened to me and not her. It’s become one of two of the most popular roles he’s ever done, along with Beverly Leslie on Will and Grace. Leslie has more talent per inch than anybody I know.

I’m sure I’m not the first to ask. But Sordid Lives has become a cult film.

It is.

Was there some point that you knew it was different? That it had this whole other life?

So many people think it’s all I’ve done, which is crazy. I’ve written so much outside of that. But I am okay with being the Sordid Lives guy. Still, when you write something like “lug nuts,” who thinks somebody is going to scream that out in a theater? I just write from the point of view of an actor. Okay, now I’m Brother Boy and I’m writing these lines for Brother Boy. It was shocking.

I imagine.

We’re re-releasing the video. We got into one of those things where we weren’t being paid by the production company so they returned the title to me, I re-sold the video rights. And so I filmed many of the cast members talking about Sordid Lives. We all just did it thinking it was fun. We made it for a little over $500,000. And thank God I have no… no… well, let’s just say I always get to work with people I don’t deserve to work with because I’ll just ask: Hey Olivia [Newton John], I promise I’ll get you out of there in three days. Olivia made $700 for Sordid Lives. $700.” Anyway, when I’m filming I asked the cast the same question you just asked me: When did you know? At what point did you know this film was different than what you thought it was. And everybody points to this one event where it had been playing in Palm Springs for a full year. And we kept hearing about that. So, they wanted me to bring us all down for this celebration: A Year at the Camelot. So I remember pulling up on the bus and there are hundreds of people just screaming. Leslie Jordan was like Madonna. Its the first time when I saw Leslie Jordan become a star. He walked off that bus and he was a star to that crowd. And then we look around in the crowd and it’s like, look over there, there’s a Brother Boy. And there’s a LaVonda with the yellow blouse. There were all of these people dressed like the characters and they were all popping their arms with rubber bands, and wearing lug nuts around their neck. And then we watch the movie with them, and they start screaming out the lines. We all thought, “Wow, this is nuts.”

You know you’ve made it when you get cosplayers.

There’s a parrot in Palm Springs that can say, “Shoot her Wardell, shoot her in the head!” And that’s how you really know you’ve made it. When a parrot starts quoting you, that’s when you know you’ve made it. It’s been an amazing journey, and I keep thinking it’s going to stop, but it doesn’t. Last year I was Grand Marshal of Atlanta Pride, and was one of the headliners for Alabama Pride last week. So there you are in that convertible driving down the street in the South and people are screaming, “Can you see my pussy now?” It’s ridiculous. But I’ll take it.

An Evening with Del Shores: My Sordid Best
Sunday, June 15, 7 p.m.
First Congregational Church
For ticket information, here's your click.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Coming Soon: Stacey Campfield: THE MUSICAL!!!

Posted By on Tue, Jun 10, 2014 at 12:11 PM

Theres a place for us... Somewhere
  • "There's a place for us... Somewhere"
This is the best news I've heard in a long time.

According to reports from Nashville, Sen. Stacey Campfield, the man recently honored as "Legislative Shitmuffin of the Year," is getting his own musical!

From The Tennessean:

A local theater group, Music City Theatre Company, is planning an "original political satirical show" around one of the state's most outspoken Republican lawmakers. "Casey Stampfield: The Musical" debuts June 27 at Vibe Entertainment Complex on Church Street and runs through July 12, with a special performance on primary day, Aug. 7. Tickets are $9.99.

I'm sure everybody will leave the theater singing, "It Was One Guy Screwing a Monkey," and "Don't Say Gay," but I'm really looking forward to "Shuck & Jive," "Slow Train to Auschwitz," and the big Sex Week dance break.

Okay, so none of those songs are in the show, but here's one that is:

And you can hear all the rest here.

UPDATE: Okay, so apparently there are two, count them, two Stacey Campfield musicals. And that's just Stacey Campfield musicals that we know of. As it happens, the one I linked for sound clips— Stacey Campfield: The Musical— ISN'T the one being performed which is Casey Stampfield: The Musical. It's like a mirror held up to a looking glass reflected in a puddle— I can't tell which way is up.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Remembering Dorothy Blackwood. Services Set for Monday, June 9

Posted By on Sat, Jun 7, 2014 at 10:13 AM

Dorothy in the Dressing room. In a tiara.
  • Dorothy in the Dressing room. In a tiara.

I wanted to say a few words about Dorothy Blackwood, a wonderful performer whose elegant and seemingly effortless work will never be seen again. And I hope that the few insufficient words I offer will encourage others who've either worked with Blackwood or enjoyed watching her on stage, to leave their own stories and memories of a great lady and grand performer.

The Memphis theater community lost a gem last month, when 89-year-old Dorothy K. Blackwood passed away. She was a first generation American, born in New York, the daughter of Greek immigrants. She lived and worked in New York, Michigan, and Ohio, before settling in Memphis, where she acted on almost every stage from Front Street Theatre to Theatre Memphis to TheatreWorks, winning numerous awards along the way including the Eugart Yerian Award for Lifetime Achievement in Memphis Theatre.

Blackwood's 2003 Eugart Yerian acceptance speech was a heartfelt outpouring of affection for Memphis' familial theatre community that left not a dry eye in the house.

Dorothy (front, seated) at the Nicholas Nickleby reunion.
  • Dorothy (front, seated) at the "Nicholas Nickleby" reunion.

Blackwood's last performance was the lead in a difficult developing work called Killing Louise, produced by Playwright's Forum at TheatreWorks in 2007. Killing Louise was a serious look at assisted suicide.

"And she was amazing, if you'll pardon a proud daughter saying so," says daughter Kara Diana Blackwood.

She usually was.

The epic 8-hour Nicholas Nickleby at Rhodes College was my introduction to Memphis theater in 1985, and Blackwood was part of the massive ensemble cast. I saw her perform many more times over the years, but will always think of her as the ham-sandwich wielding grandmother in Joe DiPietro's Over the River and Through the Woods, a rare, wonderful comedy that manages genuine sentiment without becoming mired in sentimentality. No matter what the family dynamic might be at any given moment, her character had priorities: the people she loved would be fed. It's one of the most perfect alignments of performer and material I've ever seen, and not a terrible metaphor for Blackwood's own artistic spirit.

Dorothy, standing with a ham sandwich in Over the River and Through the Woods.
  • Dorothy, standing with a ham sandwich in "Over the River and Through the Woods."

Services will be held Monday, June 9, 2014 beginning at 2:30 pm in the Rotunda at West TN Veterans Cemetery on Forest Hill Irene Rd.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Endgame: Bleak, Black, and Twisted, "The Lyons" is Nicky Silver Distilled

Posted By on Fri, Jun 6, 2014 at 5:57 PM


The Lyons is the bleakest show you'll laugh your head off at.

I don't think that's a good English sentence. But that's about the size of it. I'll be writing more about the Circuit Playhouse production with Irene Crist and Ron Gephart. In the meantime, here's a video that doesn't really do it any justice.

After roles in Endgame and Sunset Limited, Gephart was primed for the part of a foulmouthed nobody dying badly while his wife picks out new furniture. Funny stuff if you can take it.

Ticket info here.

I Remember Ghost: Can we Have More Plays Like Justin Asher's "Haint," Please?

Posted By on Fri, Jun 6, 2014 at 3:11 PM

We need more new plays. Good plays, terrible plays, mediocre plays, musicals, comedies, dramas, campy TV show adaptations and so on. I don't really care what kind of plays they are as long as they are new and everywhere. We need them in experimental theaters, institutional theaters, on street corners, in shop fronts, living rooms, on the Internet, and hovering near the top of everybody’s to-do list. New work is what makes theater exciting. Nothing makes developing playwrights better than the experience of production at various levels. It’s good for emerging directors, and a special challenge for actors. New work defines theater communities and makes them stronger.

Haint, a new and promising play by Memphian Justin Asher, has been given a lush, richly-detailed debut by director Leigh Ann Evans, the New Moon Theatre Company, and a strong cast of Memphis A-listers. The result is an impressive, if uneven night of homegrown Gothic goodness. Ironically, for a show about a woman who loses her child under mysterious circumstances, “Kill your babies,” is the best advice I can offer the playwright. And I sincerely hope to see the play produced again—and soon— by a more impartial group, with a single aim: ruthless tightening. There’s one doozy of a 90-minute Jim Thompson (meets George Saunders) noir hiding inside a two and a half hour show puffed up with southern imagery and showy monologues all sounding too much like Memphissippi actor/playwright Jerre Dye riffing off Tennessee Williams' Glass Menagerie.

Memphis audiences probably know Asher as the extremely tall singing and (reluctantly) dancing actor who played the monster in Young Frankenstein, stood in for William Holden in the musical adaptation of Sunset Blvd, and who, more recently, directed Germantown Community Theatre’s production of Twelfth Night. Haint is a strong first playwriting effort, inspired by a grandfather’s ghost stories. For those keeping count, that makes Asher a quintuple threat, and an artist to watch.

Although Haint’s prose occasionally drifts toward the purple end of the spectrum, and certain outcomes seem inevitable, it’s still an intriguing tale loosely modeled from stories about a woman wandering the highway looking for her lost son. Janie Paris, an always powerful on-stage presence, plays Mercy Seer, a caustic medicine woman and midwife who whips up weed-and-seed home remedies, hangs jars full of memories on trees, and occasionally pretends to talk to spirits for the townsfolk in order to pick up a few extra bucks. She lives on the edge of town with her son Charlie, who dies but never goes away.

Sometimes age matters, and Steven Burk is too young for the role of Sheriff John Thomas Dourghty, a decent-seeming fellow with marital problems, a taste for booze, and a dark, depressive side he mostly keeps hidden. But Burk is a reliable performer, and fully committed in the role. He gives one of his best performances. He’s paired with an equally strong Aliza Moran who plays his wife Evangeline, a struggling young mother who has never lost the reputation she acquired for youthful—and maybe not so youthful— indiscretions.

Randi Sluder takes to the role of Miriam Jessup like a duck to water. Jessup is a comparatively wealthy and influential busybody who aims to score big when highway expansion brings opportunity to town. She has some of the play’s best lines and some of its worst, as she lists in the direction of a Scooby Doo villain. Through it all, Sluder’s spot-on performance keeps things believable, even when the part becomes predictable.

Haint is fun because it brings together elements of rural noir, classic ghost stories, Southern family drama, and sews it all up with dark, disarming comedy. The pieces, which could easily be blown apart by too many windy Tom Wingfield-like flourishes, are held together by Leigh Ann Evans’ invisible direction and Chris Sterling’s highly functional, and fantastically detailed set.

Did I mention that we need more new plays? Because we do. That point was driven home when I left TheatreWorks and turned East toward the new Hattiloo Theatre, a thoughtfully-imagined new venue with deep roots. I first met the Hattiloo's founder, Ekundayo Bandele, when he was staging I Remember Ghost, a collection of his own original plays in a second hand clothing store on Madison Ave. We need as much of that as we can get, and in spite of any complaints leveled here, Haint is the kind of play that can, and should inspire other artists to sit down to the keyboard and bleed.

Slow clap.

More details here.


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