Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Lion in Winter: A Game of Thrones for People who Prefer Implied Sex and Violence

Theatre Memphis' wooden production might benefit from some flesh and blood

Posted By on Tue, Feb 2, 2016 at 6:48 AM

Christina Wellford Scott as Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine comforts Gabe Beutel-Gunn portraying her son Richard, in The Lion in Winter at Theatre Memphis on the Lohrey Stage, January 22 - February 7, 2106.
  • Christina Wellford Scott as Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine comforts Gabe Beutel-Gunn portraying her son Richard, in The Lion in Winter at Theatre Memphis on the Lohrey Stage, January 22 - February 7, 2106.

The witty, ornamental banter that makes The Lion in Winter such a joy when it clicks can also be the filigreed anchor that drowns the 47-year-old show in its own stilted cleverness. What the dialogue reveals about the play's characters is never half as interesting as what it hides.

On the surface, James Goldman's play appears to revolve around a power struggle between King Henry II of England, his steel-cut wife Eleanor, Queen of the Aquitaine, and their three horrible sons who all want to succeed daddy on the throne. Personal dramas are built around the squabbling royals, but the play's central conflict — a furnace that should keep this plays engine sparking for ages to come — is raw barbarism in all out war with the veil of civilization. Director Irene Crist's production at Theatre Memphis cuts much closer to the heart of this play that the costume drama version she starred in on the same stage a dozen years ago. But Crist, and her able cast, have fallen into the same traps that turn what should be a tense encounter into a light Medieval drawing room dramedy. Let's call it Noel Coward's Game of Thrones.

Crist's Lion gets a lot right. Jack Yates' unit set projects an air of impregnability, but his compact castle is a subtle shape shifter, and as pliable as it needs to be. André Bruce Ward's costumes are the perfect mix of thick fur pelts, rough textile, metal and and fine fabric. Jeremy Allen Fisher's lighting lacks texture, but that's a small complaint. It's also one of the very best examples I've seen locally of using lighting to edit out all the stuff we don't need to see. The problem is, there's just not a lot action to frame. 

Charles K. Hodges (seated, center). He is flanked far left by Jeff Posson and far right by Nic Picou and surrounded by (clockwise from bottom left) Damian Stuchko, Emma Vescovo, Christina Wellford Scott and Gabe Beutel-Gunn.
  • Charles K. Hodges (seated, center). He is flanked far left by Jeff Posson and far right by Nic Picou and surrounded by (clockwise from bottom left) Damian Stuchko, Emma Vescovo, Christina Wellford Scott and Gabe Beutel-Gunn.

Maybe it's wrong to say there's not enough action. What's missing is life. Passion. Greed. Pettiness. Loathing. Envy. Lust. World without end. The actors take polite turns speaking well crafted lines, move on cue, and pose regally. There's never much tension, even when the knives and swords come out. 

I haven't read enough of the Game of Thrones backstory to know just how much fantasy author George R. R. Martin borrowed from the history books. I do know his barrel-chested, pot-bellied King Robert Baratheon has always reminded me of an amalgamation of Henry II, and his father William the Conquerer, right down to the character's death in a hunting accident. Like Henry, Robert's a pistol — an able, sometimes brutal warrior who's happy to make a law now and then when he's free and when he needs to — but he'd much rather be out hunting, drinking and fathering bastards. Charles K. Hodges is a strong performer and a good choice for Henry, but there are key aspects of the character he simply fails to communicate. Henry's not some sage older gentleman, full of restraint and reflecting on youthful indiscretions. He's still a man able and willing to behead rivals while bedding contessas, milkmaids, courtesans, novices, whores, gypsies, jades, and little boys. Hodges talks a good show, but the stories his Henry tells are always at odds with his gentle bearing. Hodges is never dangerous, even when he's holding a sword. There is something basically decent about him and we get the sense Henry might even make a damn fine husband to any wife who didn't lead civil wars against him.

I make the comparison to Game of Thrones here because those three words so accurately sum up what The Lion in Winter is. Also, dialogue written for the enormously successful HBO series, can be quite clever and civilized. But viewers are never allowed to forget that the royal inhabitants of Westeros, no matter how finely arrayed, are serial killers and gluttons who guzzle wine, fuck indiscriminately, bathe sporadically, and shit in chamber pans by the bed. The Lion in Winter can't just tell us about characters, the play also has to show us who they really are. Audiences should think they can smell rotten breath behind all those pretty words. We need to know, no matter how much Henry's family, friends, and foes may attract or amuse us, none of them can be trusted when backs are turned. To that end, Hodges' Henry is too grounded and affable — too much the victim of his family tragedy, and not enough the swinging dick whose preoccupations set all the bloody nonsense in motion.

Emma Vescovo as the determined Alais has a flirtatious moment with Charles K. Hodges.
  • Emma Vescovo as the determined Alais has a flirtatious moment with Charles K. Hodges.

The brothers Richard (Gabe Beutel-Gunn), Geoff (Jeffrey Wellford Posson), and John (Damian Stuchko) are all superbly cast, and each player has his moments. But they don't always play well together. As a group they can be wooden, with little sense they'd all be happy to knife one another in the dark. Stuchko nails aspects of John, the venal little shit who Henry loves best. But there's so much more to his character than stomping to some remote corner of the stage and plopping down in a huff.

Much of the Lion in Winter's plot is pegged to Alais (Emma Vescovo) — the sad Sansa of this story. She's having an affair with Henry, who wants to marry her to John, but she's promised to Richard, and her brother King Phillip of France is prepared to make sure promises are kept. Unless something better comes along. In a contest of kings, queens, and princes, she's the only pawn, and treated as something of an afterthought. Nic Picou is purposeful and effective as Phillip, and possibly the play's most fully realized character.

I feel like a one note singer in regard to Memphis actor Christina Wellford Scott. So often I find her to be a spark of life in otherwise wooden ensembles. That's not entirely the case here, but it it often is. She shares some nice moments alone, with both Beutel-Gunn, and with her real life son Jeff Posson, whose Geoffrey is one of this productions most pleasant surprises. Poor Geoff is often reduced to a sore-tail schemer — part Varys, part Tyrion Lannister. Posson never goes too arch and sacrifices easy laugh lines to flesh out a middle child character who's taken too many knocks to make jokes.

Eleanor is such a plum role, and Scott's a good fit for it. Like Henry, she's wild at heart, and war hardened. She'd hang jewels from her nipples but it would shock the children. It's Henry who says, "be gaudy and to hell with it," but Eleanor has always lived that line out loud. It's easy to make her the Beatrice to Henry's Benedict, or the Kate to his Petruchio. But she's so much more Cersci Lannister — a dangerous would be monarch cursed to be born female. We feel every one of her feels, and enjoy her manipulations but, as with Henry, it's the danger that's missing.

The Lion in Winter didn't make much of an impact when it landed on Broadway in 1966. That was also the year of Peter Brook's groundbreaking Marat/Sade, and a talky, old-fashioned plays like Goldman's seemed like yesterday's news. It wasn't reconsidered until 1968 when the film version was released with Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn as Henry and Eleanor, and a supporting cast that included Anthony Hopkins, Timothy Dalton, and Nigel Terry. With good editing and a soundtrack to help it move along, the film brought an intimacy — and sometimes a claustrophobia — to material the that's difficult to mirror on stage. What wouldn't I give to see a production as thoughtful as this one moved into a smaller space, with modern flourishes and the stakes raised tenfold. If an up close Lion can't be every bit as engaging as an episode of GOT, maybe it's time to let this play — so beautifully preserved on film — fade away into history.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Turn it Up: American Idiot Doesn't Get It

Punking it up at Playhouse on the Square

Posted By on Fri, Jan 29, 2016 at 11:09 AM

When Johnny met Whatsername
  • When Johnny met Whatsername

People who are bored are also boring. The junkie life is a study in redundancy. And it’s impossible to muster sympathy for a couch potato stoner dodging life’s responsibilities.These are hurdles any production of American Idiot has to overcome. Playhouse on the Square’s production of the Green Day musical fails to clear any of them, though it might get some extra lift if somebody would just TURN UP THE BAND!

Director Gary John La Rosa likes to tell stories and he's good at it, usually. La Rosa felt like many of American Idiot's words — and subsequently much of the musical's story — had been lost in Broadway’s noisy sensory assault. To correct for this he placed the band behind the scenery, and pushed it to the back of the theater, effectively turning punk-inspired guitar buzz that should be the real star of this project, into a supporting player in the drama. It’s a good theory, and an enormous miscalculation.

Turn up the band.

Whether it's Green Day or Lady Gaga, or something great that only you and your five closest friends know, so much of how we experience pop music is contextual. Radio hits and cult classics serve as a markers for who we are, who we were, and who we wanted to be way back when we wore our hair like whatever. Sure, the rock era has produced its share of top drawer wordsmiths, and Green Day's Billy Joe Armstrong may even be one of them. But when it comes right down to the creation of meaning, a popular song’s verses aren't nearly as important as the hook. How else does one explain the creepy “Every Breath You Take,” as a prom theme? Or Ronald Reagan pairing an optimistic motto like “Morning in America,” with Springsteen’s ”Born in the USA?” And what about that deeply meaningful song you fell in love with in high school and have sung wrong ever since? The idea I’m trying (and probably failing) to express is at the heart of what went wrong at POTS. American Idiot isn’t a show where you need to hear all the words, but you absolutely do need to feel all the feels. With the band turned down and pushed into the background, I just wasn’t feeling any of it it.

Turn up the band.

American Idiot
isn't a musical in any traditional sense. It's more of a  an angry, youthful screed responding to 20th-Century excess and 21st-Century wars — a collage of sights and sounds that remind us of just how fractured and confusing life could be at the turn of the century. The story — if you can really call it that — revolves around three young bros from the burbs striking out on their own and making life choices that turn out badly. Plot points related to addiction, a failing marriage, and combat are prosaically grafted to a generous heap of mostly catchy songs from Green Day’s similarly titled concept album. The record was released in September 2004, as Republicans held their national convention in New York. It was a noisy and contentions time. 24-Hour cable news was expanding. Talk radio was at its zenith, The Daily Show was entering its prime and internet blogs were proliferating and bending toward the mainstream. All this red and blue fracturing and image saturation is alluded to in POTS’s Idiot, but the dots don’t connect.

Mark Guirguis’ set reminds me of the windows in rundown industrial blocks just off the L-line in Brooklyn about five minutes before gentrification hit. But without the flavor. John Horan’s lights spend too much time in our eyes. Caleb Blackwell’s costumes look like he may have consulted with my mother on the finer details of punk fashion. The only thing this misfire production really has going for it is a fearless cast that can sing its ass off. And does just that.

Turn up the band.

It’s not Rock-and-Roll unless it upsets the parents, and to the show’s credit, people of parenting age got up and left when Alexis Grace (Whatsername) and Nathan McHenry (Johnny) stripped down for the big sex scene. Like all the little birdies being flipped, it’s an easy way to stir the pot, but it gets the job done. I knew how the bolting couples felt though. I too became embarrassed and wanted to leave the theater on a few occasions when an actor who’s clearly not a very skilled guitar player plunked and plodded his way through music he never should have been asked to play in the first place.

Turn up the band.

I’m inclined to go on, but I’ll end before this turns into a tantrum. And with a reminder that most of these complaints might be neutralized by concert level decibels.

Turn up the band.

It’s a great fucking band.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What's the Matter with BYHALIA, MISSISSIPPI? (Spoiler Warning)

Posted By on Tue, Jan 26, 2016 at 4:49 PM

Was it Emily Post or Miss Manners who addressed the topic of farting at dinner? Whichever maven it was, the advice went something like this: ghastly, mostly involuntary embarrassments should be ignored by smeller and feller alike. I mention this even though all the important farting in Evan Linder's new play, Byhalia, Mississippi, happens somewhere other than the table, because his play is a comedy of manners. It illustrates, among other things, how easy it is to go "nose blind" to the noxious things we tolerate and even pardon in the name of good taste and breeding.

Also because the show — good as it is — may have some nose blind spots of its own.

Byhalia, Mississippi plays really, really well. I caught a fever for the work Linder does with his creative partners at The New Colony when Rhodes College produced The Warriorsa staged collection of interviews with survivors of the  mass shooting at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The Warriors wasn't just good theater. The New Colony's stubborn refusal to sensationalize tragedy felt very nearly groundbreaking. I didn't love Linder's comedy Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche, but I liked. A unique theatrical voice was clearly emerging. His latest play is the most impressive so far. Still, as previously noted, there were things that got under my skin — Things difficult to talk about without dreaded spoilers. So...


I'll dispense with plot summaries and start by underscoring some things the play gets really, really right.

Byhalia works because the characters and their relationships are true to life. It's fiction, but if you've spent any time in the Memphis or the surrounding region, you'll recognize every person on stage. In that regard it reminds me a lot of The Warriors where actors played real people. Linder knows his subject matter. He may have set up shop in Chicago, but more pertinent facts may be discovered by clicking this link, and scrolling down the page until you see THE PICTURE. You'll know it when you see it. This is a guy who gets us in ways only a few other writers really do. He gets us in ways that compliment and counterweight the romantic firefly-infested stories we like to tell ourselves.

Jillian Barron, who plays Laurel, Linder's female protagonist, is especially strong here. Barron, it seems, can do no wrong. She was one of the more fantastic things about Jo Lenhart's  fantastic As You Like It at Theatre Memphis. She followed that with an award-worthy turn as a talky millennial in Rapture, Blister, Burn in the same space. Her Laurel doesn't always make good choices but she's always trying (sometimes failing) to choose better. She owns her worst mistakes — eventually— and she learns from them, kinda. She's flawed but decent, and constantly, awkwardly evolving. It's a terrific role on the page and Barron wears the character like school colors.    

Jim, Linder's philandering male protagonist, is what passes for "post racial" in the American South. Evan McCarley plays him as a laid back good ol' boy who can't understand why Ole Miss abandoned Col. Reb, but "some of his best friends "... etc. The play trades old Jim Crow stereotypes for new Jim Crow stereotypes so Jim, an unemployed construction worker faced with the prospect of taking a job at Walmart, isn't frothing at the mouth because his wife slept with an African-American. Sure, he immediately assumes the worst of his best friend Karl, but, end of day, the baby's blackness is only an issue because it's an indelible mark of Laurel's infidelity. It makes her mistakes worse than his own because her mistakes can't be swept under the rug. Pop culture's usual cartoon rednecks who hate on women and do racist things because they're cartoon rednecks have been replaced here by something more banal. And more awful. Something that loves you like your mama. Something that hides behind heritage, embedding itself in values and institutions where nobody will look because looking is rude. 

But what about that Nativity scene conclusion, really? The one where the affable, adorably inept white people (babe in arms) get something close to a happy ending? Maybe it's not storybook perfect, but is does call to mind the holy family in its hopefulness. The play's pivotal couple is reunited. They don't leave town ahead of scandal (or worse). They're going to be okay. The troublesome brown baby at the center of their marriage crisis gets to keep one actual parent while young Jim learns to embrace his recent shame as though it were his very own flesh and blood.

Isn't "white father learns to love non-white baby," an awfully patronizing (from "pater") plot point? 

I opened my original, and generally positive review with a question about closure. Is it for caucasians only? The play ends with Jim and Laurel doing some variation on what audiences will experience as "the right thing." But outcomes are less certain for Byhalia's remaining African-American characters. They remain caught up in incidental counter-narratives about diaspora and sperm donor dads. On one hand Byhalia, Mississippi refines images of white racism while seeming to affirm unfortunate African American stereotypes regarding cheapness of life and hyper-sexualization.

Absent fathers are a staple of the American family epic and like Tennessee Williams' Glass Menagerie, Byhalia, Mississippi is sometimes a haunting portrait of a man who isn't there— The story of a man taking no responsibility for his progeny. This invisible dad does pay an indirect price exacted by his (angrystatus conscious wife, Ayesha when Laurel runs a suggestive birth announcement in the newspaper. Ayesha predicts a coming scandal that her husband, a small town high school principal, can't endure. She persuades her flatulent, philandering spouse to leave his his job and relocate to Jackson — which is conveniently where she always wanted to live anyway.

Ayesha offers Laurel $4,000 to get out of town. It's enough to relocate, but in the absence of meaningful sustained support, the bargain becomes little more that a payment for her husband's extra-marital sex, priced at a rate that buys discretion. Days later Ayesha and the invisible daddy put the brown-ish baby, Byhalia, and whatever those two things might mean in the rearview mirror, and drive away.

Jessica Johnson's Ayesha is a force of nature. The actor finds dignity in disgust. She finds grace, even in a Jerry Springer moment where she goes all Martin Luther and nails a message to Laurel's door. 

Karl, who's known Jim, Laurel, and Ayesha for most of their lives, may be Linder's most interestingly developed character. His ending is certainly the play's unhappiest and Marc Gill — another actor who can do no wrong — nails it. Gill is very good at emphasizing the things his character doesn't say, and sharing perfectly framed glimpses of the things he wants to keep hidden.  Ayesha calls him an "uncle," and the word lands hard with double meaning. Karl and Jim are best friends, co-workers, and serial roommates. But the relationship is out of balance. there's a dishonesty between them that only becomes apparent when Jim assumes the worst. And there's dishonesty on top of that. 

Karl's pants are down when we meet him. He's been caught whacking off to pictures on his laptop that he really doesn't want anybody else to see. That kind of introduction lingers.

Byhalia, Mississippi ends with Jim and Laurel free at last. They're free— momentarily, at least — from Laurel's hateful mom (Gail Black in top form).They're free(ish) from the bonds of other people's stupid rules. They're free to laugh. They're free to feel good bout naming their kid for a hate crime victim they'd never heard of until his memory was invoked to shame Laurel. They're free to sit on the roof and smoke pot while the little one sleeps. The are also free and isolated from all their black friends. And all of their black "friends."

Talking about these sorts of things can be tricky. Hopefully nobody involved will experience this supplementary review as an accusation of bad faith. I liked Byhalia, Mississippi. As an evening of entertaining theater, I can recommend it. But no matter how hard I try, I simply can't experience it as a finished piece of work. And if it is finished, I can't experience it as the hopeful work I believe it's intended to be. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Night Miss Fanny Davenport Sang the "Cuckoo Song" in Memphis

The story of a Famous 19th-Century American Actress and the Hotel Clerk Who Stole Her Diamonds

Posted By on Tue, Jan 12, 2016 at 3:55 AM

I only wanted to find evidence of the event. A program would have been great. A poster would have been fantastic. Instead I found a story about a popular 19th-Century actress pleading for the freedom of a Memphis hotel clerk who stole her diamonds (value disputed). 


Some time ago my mom (who gives the world's best thoughtful mom gifts) gave me a framed page from The Theatrical News, a publication advertising cigars, hardware, and rooms at the Peabody Hotel for $3.00, $3.50, and $4.00 per day. Neat, right? 
  • Fanny

Neater still for theater geeks, it advertises a performance of Shakespeare's comedy As You Like It starring Fanny Davenport, a notable performer and business innovator working in the last quarter of the 19th-Century. The flyer pricked my curiosity. It made me want to know more about the Memphis Theatre, which was located at the corner of Jefferson and Main, and about the night of November 28th, when Fanny Lily Gypsy Davenport — the American Bernhardt— introduced Memphis audiences to the "celebrated Cuckoo Song." Then I hung my gift on the wall in a place where it could be easily seen, and I forgot about it for a long time. But not completely.

Davenport was a tall English-born actress raised in Boston. She was known for uncommon generosity toward stage hands and for giving physically strenuous but not overly emotive performances.  She was only12-years-old when she started acting on Broadway, securing her reputation with roles like Lady Gay Spanker in London Assurance and Nancy Sykes in Oliver Twist.  She was also famous for performing in dramas by Dumas and Sardou and for draping her handsome frame in diamonds that — according to many gossips — eclipsed those worn by other stars.
(Diamonds which — according to many other gossips — were primarily talked about by people who know nothing about diamonds). 

Theater was the first art form to receive serious attention in Memphis, according to Judge J.T. Young's 1912 book A Standard History of Memphis, Tennessee. By1829 a club calling itself the Thespian Society was staging amateur theatricals and booking professional actors. By the middle of the century the Bluff city boasted a thriving theater culture with stars of the day visiting regularly to play venues like the Olympic, the New Memphis and the Greenlaw Opera House. Davenport was one of those stars and on Feb 1, 1887, while she was in town performing the Sarah Bernhardt role in Sardou's Fedora, a charming young Gayoso hotel clerk stole a casket full of diamond jewelry and somewhere between $100-300 in cash.

There are many accounts of the event and they all differ, especially when it comes to the spelling of "Gayoso." But essential facts remain consistent.  

From the New York Times:


From the Chicago Tribune: 

Charles Talbott, aged 19 years, employed as night clerk
of the Gayoso hotel, is missing. After the per-
formance of “Fedora” at the theatre Mon-
day night, Edwin H. Price, Fannv Daven-
port’s husband, left with Talbott a jewel
casket which contained Miss Davenport’s
diamonds, consisting of brooch, rings, neck-
lace, earrings, etc., valued at $35,000. Mr.
Price took a receipt, and with his wife re-
tired to their apartments in the hotel.
The casket was not put in the safe, as it
had been locked, and Talbott did not know
the combination, but was placed in the
cash drawer, together with several pack-
ages of money which late guests had deposit- ed, and which amounted to about $300. This
money, together with the jewels, is miss-
ing. The last heard of Talbott was at 7.30
o’clock yesterday morning, when he visited
[unreadable] and bade farewell to his
girl, who is an inmate there.
Talbott had only worked at the hotel three
weeks. No trace of him bas been found.

The wayward clerk was apprehended in Kansas City a few days after the theft. Money and jewels were  
More Fanny.
  • More Fanny.

Two years later Davenport divorced her leading man/manager, became her own manager, and married her new leading man. Also, like the hero of a grand romance, she swooped in to save her transgressor from jail and teach teach him a valuable life lesson. Or something like that.

MISS FANNY DAVENPORT, the actress, made a successful personal intercession in behalf of the Memphis hotel clerk who stole $25,000 worth of diamonds from her two years ago and was sent to prison for six years; secured his pardon and release; sent for him, gave him two hundred dollars and a lecture, and bade him “go and sin no more.”

I'm guessing there's more to this story which was a big enough media event to merit satirical mention in Billboard twelve years after the fact. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

"The Brothers Size" opens at the Hattiloo Theatre

Posted By on Thu, Jan 7, 2016 at 12:37 PM

"The Brothers Size"—  the standalone centerpiece of Tarell Alvin McCraney's Brother/Sister trilogy — is easily summarized, but hard to encapsulate. McCraney takes a cue from William Faulkner, building a fictional, but intensely representative Louisiana town similar to the Mississippi author's Yoknapatawpha, Co. The plot revolves around Oshoosi, a young ex-convict torn between two competing visions of freedom. Oshoosi's brother is committed to his his car shop and the idea that success is the result of sacrifice and hard work. His former cellmate offers alternatives that grow less tempting in light of a sticky, biased justice system.

McCraney takes a formal approach to his intensely theatrical storytelling. Actors speak their stage directions. His narratives aspire to myth and are often driven by percussion, calling to mind 20th-Century reformers like Peter Brook and Sam Shepard's work with Joseph Chaikin. 

I don't have any clips from the Hattiloo's production of The Brother's Size, which opens this week and runs through Feb 7. There are, however, a few available scenes from the theater's recent production of McCraney's In the Red and Brown Water.

Also, here's a fantastic compilation video from Tea Alagić's production of The Brothers Size

The Brother Size - excerpt from M. Milanovic on Vimeo.

Star Trek in Concert?

Posted By on Thu, Jan 7, 2016 at 10:46 AM

Yes, Star Trek in concert. And I'm not talking about Spock Rock either.


On January 29 Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage is coming to the Orpheum Theater. Fans can see their favorite characters from the past 50-years of film and TV shows projected on the big screen while a live orchestra plays selections from the iconic soundtrack.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Mömandpöp Bring a Rocking "Pizza Party" to GPAC

Posted By on Tue, Jan 5, 2016 at 2:21 PM

At home with mömandpöp.
  • At home with mömandpöp.

Okay, there probably won't be any actual pizza involved, but I'm betting this song gets played at least once. There may be encores.

mömandpöp isn't "kid rock." The band's "Comeback Special" may be aimed at the shorter short people in our lives — and younger kids really do love it — but the musical variety show quickly transcends. Husband and wife duo Bobby and Virginia Matthews are terrific writers with a knack for improv and a gift for crafting infectious pop ditties so full of love and life they defy easy categorization. If you're physically able to take your kids (or somebody's kids!) to see mömandpöp at GPAC Saturday, you really should. If you don't have access to kids, you'll  have to go it alone. It's only 50-minutes. You won't be sorry. 

The gimmick goes something like this. Once upon a time mömandpöp were rock stars, but they abandoned all that to become plain old mom and pop. Now after many (many, many, many) years off the scene, they're pulling their British Invasion/folk revival-inspired act out act out of mothballs and retooling it for younger listeners. Think Schoolhouse Rock meets the Partridge Family, but more mod 60's than groovy 70's.

Click the video below to listen to one of my favorites. (Okay, my very favorite. But "A Week in the Life" is also pretty spectacular. So is "Take Care.")

So good.

The Matthews family has deep roots in Memphis. Bobby was an art teacher here and played alongside the Grifters' Tripp Lamkins and Stan Gallimore in a band called Dragoon. Virginia worked with Voices of the South for years, composing original music for the company's shows and developing original scripts like An Old Forest Fairy Tale. 

For event details and tickets click here. To watch a deeply silly (and wonderful) reenactment of old ladies in tennis shoes saving Overton Park, click below. 

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Saturday, January 2, 2016

Emergency Medical Fund for Theater Artists Hosts Fundraiser, Seeks Donations

Posted By on Sat, Jan 2, 2016 at 1:30 PM

A few years back Memphis Theatre stalwart Jo Lynne Palmer suffered a stroke while performing in The Fantasticks. Thankfully, that event had a happy ending and Palmer has returned to the stage better than ever. It also lead to the creation of the Emergency Needs for the Theater Artists Community fund — ENTAC. 

Memphis actor Ron Gordon has been working to raise ENTAC's profile, spearheading an effort to create an annual fundraising event. For his first outing Gordon has enlisted more than twenty area musicians to perform a concert Sunday, Jan. 10 at Neil's Music room. 3 p.m.

Event organizers are still seeking donors for a silent auction. According to Gordon's post to the #theatre901 Facebook page, all kinds of products and services are welcome:

"House cleaning service, voice lessons, sculptures, hair stylist, a slot at theater camp, that unwanted Christmas gift that is a hassle to return, tickets to Graceland... we need it all."

 Donations for the silent auction can be dropped off at the box offices of Germantown Community Theatre, Playhouse on the Square, or Theatre Memphis. 

Roles Available in New Offenbach-Inspired Rock Opera

Posted By on Sat, Jan 2, 2016 at 11:50 AM

Original Rock Star.

Memphis theater veteran Andy Saunders has teamed with his musician son Jonathan Saunders to write a satiric pop opera inspired by Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann. Haint playwright and I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change standout Justin Asher directs.
Scene I Demo. 

The play is slated to premiere in Memphis in July of 2016. AUDITIONS will be held February 1st and 2nd at 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm in the main auditorium at Memphis University School, 6191 Park Avenue. 

Scene V-VI Demo

The Saunders and Saunders adaptation transforms Offenbach’s E. T. A. Hoffman-inspired poet into a hedonistic rock star. For more information about auditions and rehearsals click here. 

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