IndyFringe: ‘Aphrodite’s Refugees’

This show is part of the 14th Annual Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival, a/k/a IndyFringe, Aug. 16-26, 2018 on Mass Ave downtown. Info, etc., at www.IndyFringe.org.

By Wendy Carson

It’s hard to not hear the word “refugees” in the news today. It’s bandied about on an almost daily basis. This tends to numb us to the meaning and situations that cause people to succumb to this status.

When show creator Monica Dionysiou witnessed an exhibit by Doctors Without Borders in her hometown of Boulder, Col., she felt inspired to revisit her family’s stories of their own struggles during the many battles for dominance on their home island of Cypress, and how they came to America in the first place.

You can now witness the beauty, tragedy, and resilience of these people in her stunning offering, “Aphrodite’s Refugees.”

She artfully weaves the history of the island as well as its struggles for independence from the various countries warring over it. (Cypress is located in the Mediterranean near Greece and Turkey, which both have claims.) The stories begin with recordings of her family in their own words which are then interpreted by her and her partner to show the changes in the landscape of the island throughout the years.

Dionysiou’s partner, Aaron Young, literally illustrates the struggle by painting the backdrop of the ever-changing landscape of her homeland. He also illuminates important points of the story with further drawings and animations to enhance the drama. Plus, the finished landscape is available for sale at the end of each performance so you can acquire a spectacular original piece of artwork to help you remember these bittersweet tales for long afterward.

We also find out the connection to the Greek goddess of the title. She is the deity of love — but, alas, her brother is Aries, God of War, and in their immortal games he’s holding the cards.

Performances are today and tomorrow (Aug. 25-26) at 6 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday, at the Indyfringe Indy Eleven Theatre, 719 St. Clair St. (just east of the College and Mass Ave intersection).

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CCP: Artist ‘dying’ to get popular in Twain farce

By John Lyle Belden

Mark Twain’s almost-forgotten farce, “Is He Dead?” has come alive in Fishers, thanks to Carmel Community Players.

Twain, the celebrated American author and humorist, wrote the play while traveling Europe and had planned on staging it in 1898, but those performances never happened. The script was rediscovered in 2002 and, adapted by noted playwright David Ives, finally reached Broadway in 2007.

Now it’s here.

A fictional version of actual master painter Jean-Francois Millet (played by Jaime Johnson) struggles to get noticed or even sell a single painting from his shabby home in Barbizon, France. His international circle of disciples, Chicago (Matt Hartzburg), Dutchy (Adam Powell) and O’Shaughnessy (Kelly Keller) recognize his genius, as do landladies Bathide (Lucinda Ryan) and Caron (Susan Hill), who don’t mind getting art for rent payments. But moneylender Bastien Andre (Larry Adams) wants real Francs in payment for debts owed, and threatens to foreclose not only on Millet’s studio, but also Monsieur Leroux (Keven Shadle), whose daughter he desires. However, Marie (Morgan Morton) is repulsed by Andre and is in love with Millet. Meanwhile, her sister Cecile (Monya Wolf) has her eye on Chicago.

Desperate for a way to quickly raise thousands of Francs, our artists get an idea after a clueless English art buyer (Dave Bolander in one of a number of hilarious roles) states that genius is only rewarded after the artist has died. Chicago then talks Millet into “contracting an illness” so horrible as to guarantee publicity of his impending “death.” Meanwhile, Millet appears in a dress as his twin sister, the Widow Tillou, to inherit the inevitable riches.

This being a comedy, of course, things don’t go entirely as planned.

Twain’s wry humor is woven throughout this satirical farce, and little moments of 19th-century style silliness work in the overall context. Johnson plays Millet as a down-on-his-luck everyman who just wants what’s due him, playing it straight against the comic antics of his students – and his scenes in drag are “Some Like it Hot” hilarious. Chicago, our lone American character, appears to be Twain’s surrogate in the story, a fast-talking charming schemer in the mold of Tom Sawyer, and Hartzburg turns on the charm in the role. Powell is like a caricature of a caricature, but is so likable it works. Wolf gets in some great moments with the old girl-disguised-as-man gag. And Johnson is delectably “boo-hiss!” worthy as our top-hatted melodrama villain, complete with twirled mustache.

Direction is by Mark Tumey, who said he came to love the play while portraying Andre in a production in Arizona.

The show’s social commentary on art and fame resonates a bit today, but mostly this is just a fun evening with the work of one of America’s greatest writers. As CCP is still seeking a full-time home, performances for this play are at Ji-Eun Lee Music Academy, 10029 E. 126th St., Suite D, in Fishers, through June 24. Call 317-815-9387 or visit carmelplayers.org.

IndyFringe: Calder the Musical

By Wendy Carson

This little show seems to be the early contender for biggest audience (move over, DK!). It’s a touching look into the life of a man who’s name most of us have never heard, but whose artistic output we are all familiar with.

Alexander “Sandy” Calder was a typical artist – a sensitive and misunderstood little boy, a wayward, searching young man and a misunderstood genius who is responsible for giving the world the mobile. Narrated by Thalia, the Muse of Comedy, we are taken to various times in the artist’s life that shaped his creations and legacy.

One thing to note, this script is being workshopped here in the hopes of being developed into a full-length show. However, what is presented does whet the appetite for more. The circus scene alone is amazing.

The production also presents possibly the largest cast and crew of any of this year’s offerings. I am bringing up this point because the caliber of talent involved so impressively high, I am unable pick out a single member of the team to focus on.

Just know that if you want to be able to experience this magic for yourself, you should go now and buy your tickets online at indyfringefestival.com. Every single performance so far has been a sell-out and that momentum does not look to subside. One performance remains: 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27, on the Theatre on the Square main stage.

Have the time of your life

From memecrunch.com
From memecrunch.com

No big openings in local theatre companies this weekend – feel free to see continuing productions at Phoenix, TOTS, Beef & Boards and IndyFringe, as well as what Bobdirex and Eclectic Pond are up to.

Actually, there is one “new” show in town. The touring production of the stage musical version of “Dirty Dancing” is under way through Sunday at Clowes Memorial Hall. Sounds like fun, if you loved the movie, and who doesn’t love that movie?!

For us, this is one of our favorite weekends of the year. Aside from the bigger-than-ever Pride festival, there is the Independent Music and Arts Festival at the Harrison Center for the Arts at the corner of 16th and Delaware streets downtown. The IMAF is all free, and you get to see some great local art, shop among area artisans and crafters, and see and hear several great musical acts.

Meanwhile, just a block away from IMAF is the Talbot Street Art Fair, celebrating its 60th year Saturday and Sunday. Entry is free, with dozens and dozens of booths to check out. Many people complement Wendy on her tie-dye dresses; she gets them at the Talbot Street fair, from Kiss of Color. Please check them out.

Away from downtown, there is also the Indianapolis mayor’s office-hosted Veterans picnic from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Garfield Park (free food for those who served and their families), and Holy Rosary’s annual Italian Fest Friday and Saturday with lots of generously-portioned food. On Sunday, the 4th Annual Irvington Folk Festival (through June 20) gets started just a few miles east of downtown.

So there you are: Go have some fun!