For months after the shootings at Columbine High School, every story about the event was dominated by one overarching question: Why did they do it? People kept talking about bullying, teenage alienation, video games, antidepressants, Marilyn Manson, goth culture, parenting styles—as if Columbine were a play and the rest of us were theater critics trying to understand its nuances.
Now, 14 years later, the bandwidth of our public conversations about mass shooters has shrunk dramatically. The charitable folks talk about mental illness, the not-so-charitable talk about "evil," and everyone assumes their usual position for another gun-control standoff. People seem less interested in peering into the depths of a shooter's soul.
But back in 2010, choreographer Dayna Hanson was transfixed by a seven-minute video of a school-board shooting in Panama City, Florida. "It really got under my skin," Hanson says. "It's so rare to see an incident like this captured on video, where you have the opportunity to look at each person and what they did, what they said, how they moved their hands."
In the video, the school board is having a routine meeting when a 56-year-old ex-con and licensed massage therapist named Clay Duke announces: "I have a motion." He pulls out a pistol and tells everyone to leave except for the school board's six men. In an almost comical moment, a female school-board member sneaks up behind Duke and ineffectually whacks him with her purse. He gives her a second chance to leave—she takes it.
L.B. Morse's set design for Seattle Repertory Theatre's adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's second-greatest novel (number one, of course, is The Sign of the Four) is dazzling. His genius conjures up an impressive system of floating paintings, gothic furniture, hard ramps, translucent curtains, and projections of old, haunting footage of London and the English countryside.
Though many of his set's wonders were made possible by new technologies, it constitutes the most primitive element of this production. The ancient plays of Greece also aspired to this kind of spectacle, this desire to overwhelm the senses. Theater back then was all about impressing the audience, making them clap at some feat of coordination or device that made gods fly. What is new to theater now is the minimal play with no sets, just people talking. Something similar can be found in the microscopic realm of biology: Viruses are thought to be stripped-down life-forms, and so are actually more modern than the much larger and more complicated single-cell organisms—getting rid of stuff is more advanced, adding stuff is more ancestral. When the opening-night audience clapped at the end of the first spectacular sequence (the detective and his sidekick pursuing a suspect through the streets of London), with its huge but smoothly gliding set pieces and floating stairs, they were experiencing a feeling the Greeks could easily understand.
The good folks at Intiman would like to share a Thanksgiving sentiment:
I might have chosen a slightly different subject line, but it's the thought that counts!
The core members of the Habit began writing comedy together back in 1995, when they were college classmates and roommates. At the time, their sketches, filled with cops and robots and astronauts, seemed born of long afternoons on the couch watching cable TV and passing a bong around. Since then, the group has taken years-long hiatuses and some of its members have made names for themselves in other projects (Stranger Genius Award–winner John Osebold, for example, with his performance-band "Awesome," and theater impresario Mark Siano with his semi-ironic "soft-rock" comedy extravaganzas). But when the Habit reconvenes to write new material, it still feels like a hazy, mid-'90s TV dream.
Habit sketches whiz by at the speed of commercials and still feature cops, robots, and astronauts, as well as a surprising number of '80s music references (in this case, "The Final Countdown" and a number from The Little Mermaid). At their best, the sketches begin with those old tropes but disappear into a whirlpool of absurdity. In one scene toward the middle of their current show, three men walk past a despondent Aquaman who's just been snubbed by Superman. (Pop icons—check.) Someone points to the ceiling and the three begin trading rapid-fire lines: "Look, up in the sky, it's a bird," "It's a plane," "It's some clouds," and so on, from "It's a zeppelin" to "It's an associate's degree" to "It's a flock of seagulls." One of them begins humming a song, which precipitates an argument about whether it was recorded by A Flock of Seagulls ('80s music reference—check). They all consult their smartphones but get lost in their screens, oblivious to the zombies that have begun staggering toward them from offstage.
Buckshot, a new play by Courtney Meaker that closes tonight, is an exercise in prelude—it ends where the news story, based on police reports and interviews with rattled neighbors, might begin. It is also an exercise in ambiguity, picking apart how years of memories and influences can lead a person to do something that, from a distance, might seem insane.
Alana (Katie Driscoll) is a young Seattle woman with backcountry roots. She likes whiskey, trades playful insults over the phone with her brother in Tennessee, and hasn't gotten around to telling her girlfriend, Mel (Megan Ahiers), that she's a member of the NRA. Alana is a type—tough and impulsive, troubled and trying to hide it.
Alana and Mel are planning to move in together, but Alana seems more agitated than excited. She grumbles about quitting her job and, for reasons that aren't initially clear, tries to hide an impending visit from her beloved brother Saul (Daniel Wood). She gets even squirmier when Saul calls to tell her their long-lost uncle Hal (a grinning and creepy Gianni Truzzi) has come back home and has Alzheimer's. "And you don't think that changes anything?" Alana asks cryptically. "Do you want to back out?" Saul counters. "No," she says.
The rest of Buckshot is a slowly widening crack in the door of Alana's consciousness.
At a Panama City, Florida school board meeting in December 2010, a mentally ill man barged in and held board members hostage for six and a half minutes. One grandmotherly-looking woman tried to disarm the gunman, Clay Allen Duke, with her handbag. Duke died. Everyone else lived.
This isn't an event I thought I'd ever see translated into dance but Dayna Hanson's new piece at On the Boards, The Clay Duke, goes there and from what I can see in the rehearsal video above (which is also six and a half minutes), she does an damn amazing job of it. In the video, Hanson explains the foundations of the piece: "It's inspired by the [shootings] and combined with studies of Checkov and how he treated suicide in his dramatic writing as well as looking at the Death Wish films from the 1970s." This is heavy shit but pull-offable if Hanson's track record is any indication, and she's well-backed by big-time Seattle artists Wade Madson, Sarah Rudinoff, Dave Proscia, and Peggy Piacenza, as well as Thomas Graves of the Austin-based ensemble Rude Mechs. The piece combines the group's massive amount of research, dance, music, singing, and lots of cool experimental-theaterish stuff (there's a pet carrier in the rehearsal video—please, please let there be a dog in this piece. I've always wanted to see a dog in a dance performance).
Instead of going home to weep into a bottle of gin after The Clay Duke, head down to OtB's post-show salon for a screening of their first-ever Instagram Dance Film Contest for 15 Second Dance Films.
You know what I love about my profession as a theater critic? The job insecurity. It gives every day a little extra dash of spice.
From the LA Times:
Bloomberg, the New York-based financial news giant, is shutting down its Muse brand of cultural journalism and has laid off its theater critic. The shake-up was part of a company-wide reorganization that came down on Monday and resulted in layoffs around the newsroom.
Bloomberg said it would continue its cultural coverage, "but with an emphasis on luxury."
That is some serious Nero/Caligula shit.
Journalism is collapsing, arts organizations are on the ropes, the US economy is still in deep and possibly worsening trouble (even the wealthy are jumping on diamonds and other material investments because they're too afraid of the volatile equity markets), but Bloomberg gazes into the future and decides to shift its cultural coverage to "an emphasis on luxury."
The on-the-ground reality is economic crisis, but all the advertising money has flown up to the top of the luxury-chain, so that's what Bloomberg will reflect back to us in its funhouse mirror.
We live in bizarre and bipolar times.
After a few years of infamy—injuries, lawsuits, a dramatic breakup with director Julie Taymor, and the biggest Broadway budget in history—Spider-Man will close in New York and open in Las Vegas.
In case you've forgotten, here's a brief refresher on the history of Spider-Man by Neil Patrick Harris:
Spectacle, infamy, music by U2—Spider-Man is perfect for Vegas.
Today, the Seattle Repertory Theatre turns 50 years old and it's giving the rest of us a gift—$5 vouchers to any show in its current season (except for the musical Once at the Paramount, but unless you're a moony-eyed adolescent who finds the Smiths too heavy and coarse for your tender ears, you shouldn't be interested in that anyway).
The vouchers are good for the current run of Bo-Nita (which I recommend), its new adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles starring Darragh Kennan as Holmes, The Suit by Peter Brook, David Ives's kinky Venus in Fur, and the rest of 'em.
Here's how it works: You buy the voucher online, the Rep sends it to you in the mail, and you call in to schedule your show. May I suggest this as an extraordinarily inexpensive gift idea?
The Rep's site is full of stardust memories—a young Richard Gere in the 1969-70 season, Bill Irwin, the mighty August Wilson (and Samuel L. Jackson performing in Fences in 1985), Lily Tomlin, Daniel Sullivan, Peter Donnelly, Christopher Walken playing Hamlet in 1974... Who knew?
I have a few fond memories of my own—stealing a cookie from the concessions table for the sake of a review and getting a $2.50 invoice in the mail for it (they were joking, but I paid it anyway), the time a disgruntled individual took a protest-dump in the rotunda lobby and rubbed it into the carpet, Yasmina fucking Reza, Hans Altwies giving such an intense solo performance in An Iliad that a woman in the audience lost her shit and interrupted the show, the first stirrings of what would become the Mike Daisey/This American Life controversy, the Russian clown imposters and their fake cat circus (that was a good one).
And, of course, the August Wilson plays—especially their opening nights, and especially the night the Rep raised the curtain on Radio Golf, its final August Wilson premiere ever.
Thanks for the memories, Seattle Rep. Here's to another few decades of drama.
Since July of 2010, a group of friends and collaborators working under the name Ara'Kus Productions has periodically staged Aeterno Elementum, a heavy-metal opera their website describes like this:
In a world crippled by corruption and cruelty, a priest will seek to purge the world of evil and restore purity, causing the rise of four immortal generals. Once men but now twisted and corrupted beyond recognition, the generals will lead an army of twisted undead thralls in a campaign that will see the world brought down.
This weekend, Ara'Kus is opening another run of Aeterno Elementum, which in some ways sounds less like a traditional theater show and more like a community event. (It's at Historic Everett Theater, if you're interested, and you can buy tickets are here.)
In honor of the sixth run of Aeterno Elementum in three years, I asked its founder Jeremiah Johnson a few questions, including how much they have to shell out for fire insurance. His answers, and a slightly longer trailer for the show, are below the jump.
Most reviews of 25 Saints dwell on its first few seconds, when playwright Joshua Rollins lays out his story's awful stakes. The lights come up on the interior of a run-down shack, cluttered with gas masks and other telltale meth-making gear. A reggae version of John Denver's "Country Roads" plays for a few quiet bars before the door bangs open and four people charge through: two young men carrying a sheriff's deputy, and a screaming young woman. They're all panicked, shouting, and covered in blood. The young men wrestle with the wounded deputy before shoving him into a large wooden chest and beating him with a hammer until he stops moving. They slam the lid closed and sit on it, panting. One turns to the other and says: "So. Now what?"
That question is the rest of the play—Rollins could've used Now What? as an alternate title. The three young people deliberate about what to do (burn the body or sink it in the lake? Cook one last batch of meth to pay off their debts and skip town? Run immediately?), giving Rollins time to fill us in on who they are, how they got here, and the corrupt Appalachian world they're trapped in. In fact, 25 Saints is almost all exposition, which is the play's essential weakness—but the tensions are high and the lead performances are urgent, making that flaw easy to overlook.
The central presence in 25 Saints is actually an absence—a young man who racked up major debts with local meth kingpins, knocked up his girlfriend, and blew up a meth lab before disappearing.
For as long as I've been covering theater and dance in Seattle, I've heard performance-minded people complain about the "blue hairs"—a demographic of old boogeymen with conservative tastes but liberal pocketbooks who push regional theater towards tamer programming by voting with their dollars.
Even before I started covering theater, back when I worked at the ACT ticket office—way back, when people still waited eagerly for the annual announcement of the next year's season—some plays were dismissed as "blue hair shows." They can't all be exciting and new, we told ourselves. You gotta throw a few to the blue hairs. (In retrospect, I realize it was callow to assume that dusty plays are categorically less exciting than new ones. We were young.)
This assumption about a phantom constituency of relatively moneyed, relatively conservative theatergoers was borne out by the fact that when people called to complain about the newer, "edgier" plays, they were typically older. It didn't occur to us at the time that anyone who called to complain about anything was typically older.
The first time that assumption was seriously challenged happened at ACT as well. I was watching some new, grim, unsettling play—maybe The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh?—and sitting next to an ancient-looking couple. During intermission, and I think even before intermission, several people walked out, looking offended and put-upon.
They were all young—not a single blue hair on their collectively aggrieved heads.
As we settled back into our seats for act two, the lady half of the couple and I started talking about the people who'd left in a huff. "Young people are so conservative," she said (I'm paraphrasing). "We older folks have been around the block a few times, we've seen more of the world—it's harder to shock us."
I thought about that lady earlier this afternoon, when I saw an article in the Telegraph about a new, 500-seat, contemporary dance theater that will be built in London because retirees can't get enough of the new stuff:
A new generation of “daring and adventurous” pensioners are embracing edgy contemporary dance works, it has been claimed, as one of the world’s foremost venues announces plans for a new theatre to cope with the demand...
Georgie Shields, director of development at Sadler’s Wells, added research carried out by the company had shown a body of “incredibly adventurous, open-minded” older visitors were increasingly willing to embrace challenging modern works.
She added some older donors had already specified their donations must be ear-marked for “risk-taking” and “daring” new commissions, rather than continuing the status quo.
Research carried out over a recent festival showed the number of visitors over the age of 65 now matches those aged between 20-24.
Compounding the issue: This generation of "adventurous pensioners" grew up in a different cultural moment than the new pensioners of 10 or 20 years ago.
The myth of the blue hairs might be in its twilight.
Some of you out there don't have the inclination—or professional obligation—to spend this evening wringing your hands, chewing your tongues, and otherwise obsessing over election-night results. Some of you just vote, go do something else for awhile, and wait with mild, disinterested curiosity to see what'll happen—you are the lucky ones.
Some of you, on the other hand, care a little too much, you get all jittery and ramped-up, and would like something to whisk your mind elsewhere for a few hours.
If you're either of those types, may I suggest Bo-nita at the Seattle Rep this evening? It being a Tuesday, and an election night, you might be able to get a good deal on some rush tickets (and if you're under 25, you can get $12 tickets).
This week's review of the world-premiere play—with all Seattle talent, including writer Elizabeth Heffron, director Paul Budraitis, and starring Cornish grad Hannah Mootz—begins like this:
The set for Bo-Nita: A Play Performed by One Woman is a fake-out. At first, it looks like the oppressive, brutalist exterior wall of an urban American high school—it's as implacable as a cliff, with slab-like buttresses at the top angling out toward the audience, threatening to crush the well-dressed people in the first few rows. Its color is a Rothko-style study in baby-shit yellow, mottled with swaths of white, as if somebody has used a paint roller to cover up graffiti. A large basketball backboard hangs in the middle of the wall, its hoop sagging like a slacked jaw.
There's one sign of life on stage—tucked up in a corner, sitting on the ground behind a bicycle rack, a girl reading a book. Meet Bo-Nita, a 13-year-old who wears lots of layers: blue jeans with cuffs frayed at the heels, a baby-doll dress over the jeans, a hoodie over the dress, and plastic barrettes in her hair. She looks trapped and tiny in this concrete canyon. As she stands up, looks around, and steps forward to address us ("There's this guy... he's like my... well, this guy, you know?"), we realize that this set, designed by Jen Zeyl, is really just a blank canvas. Even though it doesn't have any trapdoors or rotating platforms or other tricks—it doesn't physically change at all—it becomes wherever Bo-Nita needs it to be as she tells us her epic, winding story about what happened when her mom's ex-husband was trying to beat her, and perhaps to rape her, and then had a heart attack.
Strike that—the Rep just told me they don't have a performance tonight. (Their shows used to run every Tuesday but now only on select Tuesdays.)
So look forward to an evening of hand-wringing and tongue-chewing.
There's a production of Peter and the Starcatcher at the Moore right now that's so production-rich, so dreamy looking, so fabric heavy, so storybookish, so inventive in its staging, it practically cries out for some kind of official Stranger ranking system for how stoned you should be when you see it. Dom's written about going to the opera stoned; Brendan's written about seeing children's theater stoned. Allow me to likewise recommend seeing this "grownup's prequel to Peter Pan" stoned; after all, "grownup's prequel to Peter Pan" is a little misleading, and elsewhere, tellingly, in fine print, the producers recommend it for children ages 10+. If it's for grownups, that's because grownups are allowed to smoke doobies in this town. I give this show two doobies out of three. Or whatever. (See? We need an official ranking system!)
The regional-theater premiere of Tony Kushner's Angels in America happened at Intiman Theater, under the direction of Warner Shook, in 1994. Last night and this morning, Intiman announced that for its 2014 summer season it will produce Angels in America, parts one and two, "with a third play under consideration."
After the 1994 premiere, Misha Berson wrote in the Seattle Times:
What takes 3 1/2 hours but races along, opens your heart as it invigorates your intellect, and makes you crave a sequel?
In today's theater there is only one answer: "Angels in America," the magnificent Tony Kushner drama that has at last arrived here.
In this morning's press release, Intiman artistic director Andrew Russell described Angels as "like an opera without music." (Which seems like a strange formulation—it's like X without the thing that defines X, a book without pages, a chili without sauce—but I think I know what he's getting at. It's got grandeur.)
At any rate, this sounds like a promising opportunity to revisit and take the measure of a juggernaut that towers in the imagination of modern American theater. We'll get the 3 1/2 hours and the sequel.
The Gregory Awards (official motto: "You know, its Seattle’s version of the Tony© Awards!"), presented by Theatre Puget Sound, happened last night at the Neptune. Some of the winners:
* Undo by Holly Arsenault at Annex Theater won "outstanding new play."
* Jennifer Zeyl won "outstanding scenic" for her work on New Century Theater Company's version of The Trial (Rob Witmer won "outstanding sound or music design" and Amy Thone won "outstanding supporting actress" for the same production.
* Balagan's August: Osage County won "outstanding production."
And more people won more stuff! See the full list below the jump.
Congratulations to everyone!
(Animal Cruelty plays tonight at Theatre Off Jackson. It continues on every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday until November 9th.)
It can't be easy to imbue a chicken-shaped piece of cardboard on a stick with a personality. Scot Augustson, the talent behind Sgt. Rigsby & His Amazing Silhouettes, doesn't aim for "expressive" in his puppetry: Though Chicken Jenny is onstage for most of Animal Cruelty, she doesn't move all that much, unless she's being chased by another more-menacing-shaped hunk of cardboard on a stick. So most of the credit for Chicken Jenny's liveliness goes to Stephen Hando, one of the four stellar voice actors sitting onstage during Animal Cruelty, reading their lines into microphones like an old-timey radio play. Hando's Chicken Jenny acts like a Southern lady, but she's really a world-weary dame with unmet wants and carnal needs who can't shake her rotten past, no matter how hard she tries.
Noir parodies have been done to death, but when you find a rare noir-fueled comedy that works, it's as delicious and welcome a surprise as finding a $20 bill in a $5 thrift-store jacket. Augustson and Hando's Chicken Jenny makes the perfect central character for a down-and-dirty noir. Animal Cruelty ignores the obvious jokes—no hard-bitten private eyes here, no bad voice-overs—and instead delivers a story about a bunch of shady people (or animals) with questionable motivations bumping into each other in increasingly more desperate situations. Which means it's a noir parody that actually respects and follows the conventions of the genre it's mocking.
When we first meet Chicken Jenny, she's trapped in an abusive relationship with a loser...
Exit/Exist is one of those titles that seems completely innocuous at first but takes on increasingly complicated dimensions—and can even suck you in, void-like—when you stare at it, and the thing it's titling, long enough. (Other titles in that category: White Teeth, Lolita, Waiting for Godot.) Is the "exit" of Exit/Exist a death, the exit from existence? Is exiting, as in dropping out, a way to assert one's individual existence? Is it hinting at some reversal of Heidegger's Dasein?
This solo dance piece—with live guitar and four stunning vocalists—by South African dancer/choreographer Gregory Maqoma, whose dance pedigree includes study with the legendary Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, rubs up against all of these implications. Exit/Exist impressionistically tells the story of his ancestor, a 19th-century Xhosa chief named Jongum-sobomvu Maqoma, who waged guerilla warfare against British military colonizers. He lost, as you might guess, and died under mysterious circumstances in the same prison that held Nelson Mandela for 18 years.
I'm a big fan of Seattle's Balagan Theater. I don't always love their shows, but I admire their chutzpah, and even with the occasional disappointment (like their current production of Carrie the Musical), I still consider Balagan to be one of the better deals in local theater.
So congrats to Balagan and its new artistic director Louis Hobson for being featured in the New York Times. It'll be interesting to watch the company grow.
Stone Soup Theater in Wallingford says it needs to come up with $5,000 in five weeks to keep its DownStage space on Stone Way.
As you might imagine, it's started an Indiegogo campaign to raise the money for property taxes it pays on its rental. See, Stone Soup has a triple-net lease (also known as a "hell or high water" lease) meaning it pays rent and the building's taxes, insurance and upkeep.
I'm guessing tenants typically sign this kind of lease when they're getting a break on rent—but Stone Soup artistic director Maureen Miko says the landlord has raised the rent by 40 percent in the past year.
Most landlords do not impose the costs from what I know," Miko says. "We are victims of a neighborhood that is growing in leaps and bounds around us with all the new buildings, restaurants, and changes... We really do not want to be run out and the more the public knows, the more this can help us stay."
If you have some affection for Stone Soup, you can throw some money their way—and if you're about to sign a triple-net lease in a growing neighborhood, you might want to rethink it.
I have been informed by commenters as well as an attorney or two I know personally that I've got triple-net leases all wrong. As one attorney wrote in an email:
Not sure you quite hit the nail on the head. As usual with legal issues, it’s complicated. Among other things, an NNN lease doesn’t categorically indicate any more oppression on or vulnerability of a tenant than would a “gross lease” or “fully-serviced lease.” (You were on the right track guessing that base rent might be lower with NNN leases than with other structures). It all depends on the totality of the rent structure and the other provisions of the lease (the duration of the lease, for example). Also, I have never heard a triple-net lease be referred to around here as a “hell-or-high-water lease.” That definition in Investopedia is quite awful in other respects too.
Doesn’t it sound fascinating?
Revision of the final sentence: If you have some affection for Stone Soup, you can throw some money their way—and if you're about to take real-estate advice from me, you might want to rethink it.
The winner will get to be, or choose (with permission, of course) an official Stranger Drunk of the Week. The winner will also get TWO FREE TICKETS to the opening night of Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical, which will be playing at The Paramount Theatre November 12-17th.
Buy tickets and read more about Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical here. Play to win! And win the fun!
Sinner Saint Burlesque emailed about their upcoming show cycle "The Inheritance Series," starting at the Can Can on October 24. Of particular note: They'd be doing a talk-back afterward at Storyville Coffee.
But did they know about the connection between Storyville and Mars Hill Cafe?
They did not, Sinner Saint's Sailor St. Claire said. And:
Thank you very much for sending this story our way. Sinner Saint Burlesque was unaware of Storyville's ties to Mars Hill Church. As a feminist performance group, we have no affiliation with Mars Hill Church, nor do we wish to establish one. We will be moving the location of our post-show talkbacks to a different coffee shop, and we will let our patrons know which one on the evening of the event.
The talkback sounds interesting. Do other burlesque groups do them? Dona Dei Couri provides details:
No, we haven't heard of anywhere else doing a talkback locally. We were inspired by wanting to have a voice in our community beyond our physical performances. Education is part of our mission, we wanted to connected more deeply and intimately with our audience—hearing the impact of our show on them and vice versa. We are always looking to innovate how our art reaches our audience, and given the importance and provocative nature of our acts, I wanted more than just to dance. I wanted to start a conversation about what it means to be a woman/female in this world.
Are you a smart youngster who gives a care about live performance and writing? Do you know someone who is?*
If so, the Teen Tix blog is looking for an editor. Read more about the opportunity and application process over here.
And if you don't know about Teen Tix yet, you should—organizations that provide teenagers with $5 tickets to the opera, ballet, and every theater in town are key to the future of theater, dance, and other performing arts. As everyone knows, things are changing in that world: subscription models are increasingly untenable, the engines are rattling in arts organizations across the country, and the future of philanthropy—along with the future of wealth in America—has become more of a question than a certainty.
Getting young people in the door isn't just about giving them access—it's about letting them help the rest of us think through some of the problems. Just their presence can make a difference. If theaters only see the faces of middle-aged people who can afford $75 tickets, that influences their thinking. If 16 year-olds who love theater and dance but only have $5 begin showing up (and they've already started showing up), that will influence their thinking as well.
Helping the Teen Tix blog grow, getting some of their voices into the mix of the public conversation about the future of culture in Seattle, can only be a force for good.
That's the gamble, anyway. And, over the years, Teen Tix has developed a strong relationship with The Stranger. I've gushed about it in the paper and have taught its young critics' workshops several times, as has David Schmader. Lindy West recently hosted their first-ever Teeny Awards bash.
So if you know a young person who might want some serious experience writing and editing a teen press corps on a robust blog—blogs are the new newspapers, don'tchaknow—see here.
* And if you don't, please hold your scoffing. When I started teaching for the Teen Tix program a few years (several years?) ago, I was surprised by how many people between the ages of 14 and 18 would show up regularly for an unpaid, unaccredited class in being an arts critic, of all things. But they're out there. For awhile, we called the class/corps FUCA—pronounced "fucka"—for "future unemployed critics of America," but as it got bigger, the Teen Tix ringmistress, Holly Arsenault, decided that name was too depressing/obscene. Nothing gold can stay.
RETURN TO GREY GARDENS
So, anyway, Jinkx Monsoon. She's been away for ever so damn long, you know—Vaudevillians-ing it up all over NYC, touring the lush wilds of Europe, basically living the rich and glamorous life of a current America's Next Drag Superstar™. And, oh! How we've missed her. (I, for one, was beginning to twitch and slobber.) Tonight, however, she returns to us at last (thrill!) for a brief engagement with San Francisco's shock queen Peaches Christ in Return to Grey Gardens. Jinkx is reviving that most popular and noted of her staunch characters, Little Edie Beale, and Peaches Christ is her batty old mum. But wait! The concept gets a little confusing: See, Jinkx isn't playing Little Edie, per se—she is playing herself 40 years from now, when they call her Little Queenie, and she finds herself in very Grey Gardens–like states of madness and squalor. Peaches is Big Queenie, her drag mother. So I guess it's fair to say that she's channeling Little Edie or something? See? No? Well, anyway, the two killed it with this show at Castro Theatre earlier this month, and tonight they bring it to us, complete with a screening of the actual documentary Grey Gardens just to muddle matters even more. And then an after-party at Julia's! But don't worry. Confused or not, you're going to love the shit out of this thing—just like everyone else. Harvard Exit, 7:15 pm, $33/$60 VIP, all ages.
Last weekend was only so-so for Seattle theater. ACT opened Sugar Daddies by its beloved (and prolific and sometimes problematic) populist Sir Alan Ayckbourn:
Sir Alan Ayckbourn is 74 years old and the author of 76 plays. (At least—he may have dashed off a few more in the time it took to write that sentence.) Ayckbourn specializes in comedies about rocky marriages and awkward living-room conversations, earning him his reputation as the playwright laureate of England's middle class. He's popular on the West End and in American regional theaters—ACT has produced 10 of his plays—but has also taken flak for writing slight, inconsequential, cotton-candy comedy. His champions say he is a research scientist of the human condition. His detractors say his sample size is too small.
Which brings us to the problem at the heart of Sugar Daddies, Ayckbourn's 2003 comedy about a credulous country girl who falls in with a suspicious benefactor: Is it possible to write a cotton-candy comedy that hinges on extreme human suffering?
And speaking of suffering, Balagan and Seattle Theater Group opened an unfortunately anemic version of Carrie: The Musical. (The partnership seems to have spent all its budget on talent, including Alice Ripley of Next to Normal fame, and not saved much for things like sound design—a Balagan spokesperson says they're bringing in a "sound consultant" this week to help improve things for the rest of the run.)
The good news is that Carrie: The Musical, based on the not-so-successful 2012 revival of the infamous 1988 Broadway megaflop, isn't nearly as awful as you might expect. The bad news is that this wobbly coproduction by Balagan Theatre and Seattle Theatre Group doesn't do the uneven material—or us—any favors.
You all know the story based on the Stephen King thriller, so there's no need for a spoiler alert: Carrie, the mousy daughter of an abusive and religiously fanatical single mother, is bullied at high school, resulting in the popular girls being disciplined by their well-meaning gym teacher. One girl seeks to atone for her misbehavior by asking her boyfriend to escort Carrie to the prom, while another girl plots a humiliating revenge by rigging the vote for prom king and queen so she can dump a bucket of pig's blood on the unsuspecting Carrie's head. But little do they know that Carrie is developing dangerous psychokinetic powers that ultimately lead to the spectacular mass murder of nearly the entire cast.