IndyFringe: Oh Look, It’s Magic!

This is part of IndyFringe 2022, Aug. 18-Sept. 4 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at

By John Lyle Belden

Jordan Allen has been an awesome presence at this year’s IndyFringe. The magician has been around the festival all three weekends, doing a little bit of busking, and a lot of attending and talking up other performers’ shows. So, it’s only fair we say a bit about his own performance, which ran the third weekend (Sept. 1-3) at the main-floor stage at the Athenaeum.

“Oh Look, It’s Magic: ADHD Advocacy Show” combines a lot of clever tricks with an honest first-person account of growing up – and living with – Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, which is a real disability, and not something one grows out of (“I wish,” Allen adds). He notes that aside from Houdini’s maxim that magic not only amuses and amazes, but also awakens hope, he feels it can also educate and advocate.

In that vein, Allen maintains a show that is family friendly, and accommodating to all neural patterns. He patiently grins through impulsive outbursts, and gives the neurodivergent their own moments of wonder – as well as to audience members of any brain, even silly folk like me.

It’s cards, ropes, scarves, stories, balls, cups, hope, ripped paper, flashes of color, moments of comedy, and a kind reminder that none of us are alone, if we’re open to life’s magic. And it’s a work in progress, so watch for its next return by following “Jordan Allen – Magician” on Facebook or visiting

IndyFringe: Ballet INitiative – A Social Media Experience

This is part of IndyFringe 2022, Aug. 18-Sept. 4 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at

By Wendy Carson

This is Ballet INitiative’s first presentation at IndyFringe and hopefully the beginning of a long string of performances for years to come. The troupe in dedicated to inclusion, inspiration, and innovation through multi-genre dance as well as traditional ballet.

The show consists of six offerings, of which, two are unique to each week’s schedule (the other four are on a rotation where each will play twice but in varying order). Taking to social media to have fans chose the set list for each week, they have managed to curate a very solid line-up to highlight all of their troupe’s talents and skills.

Prior to each number, the audience is given some information about what the intention behind the choreography is meaning to portray. There is also a pause afterwards for you to ruminate as well as allowing the dancers to change costumes.

Highlights of the show I saw were their jazzy rendition of Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife,” (originally a part of a past tribute to Darin); their more traditional ballet dance, “A Far off Spring” (being the only one performed “on pointe”); and the weekend exclusive number “Icarus” (showing the passion of flight and striving to be more than you are now).

My personal favorite dance was their delightful tribute to the musical, “Chicago” with the number, “All That Jazz.” While being sheer, sexy fun, it also highlights the physical talents of each dancer beautifully.

Choreography is by Anneka Bellman, Cheyanne Claerbout, Amanda Hickey, Trudy Martin, Lauren Nasci, Michelle Quenon, Candace Reiner, Shannon Stone, and Ola Tarnowski. Company members also include Lexie Carlson, Sarah Farnsely, Brynn Roudebush, and Lauren Smith.

With their talented cast and such a diverse number of offerings, this is the perfect show to see for anyone who is a novice to dance. Performances this weekend are 7:15 p.m. Friday and 1:45 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 2&4, in the Basile Auditorium at the Athenaeum.

IndyFringe: Doghouse Moon

This is part of IndyFringe 2022, Aug. 18-Sept. 4 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at

By Wendy Carson

Let me begin by awarding this troupe the Best Program and Cast Bios in the festival this year.

This show is particularly hard to explain. “Doghouse Moon,” by Matt McDonald and the band Camp Culture, is part concert, part sci-fi epic, part skit show, part social commentary, and entirely hilarious.

After an opening song welcoming us to the world, we meet up with Tanner (McDonald) and Doc (Eric Marquis), who literally carries the fate of the world in his hands. We then find Beige (Shelby Myers) hosting “Looking Like Cooking” where today’s dish is chicken sushi wrapped in bacon. After a brief commercial and a plug for her latest invention, we are privy to the story of how she spent her 21st birthday.

We then rejoin Doc searching within himself for answers; however, he is being harassed/distracted by Herman (Luke Lowrance), a devious hat thief. We next join Chet Chuckles (Michael Muldowney) at Chuckleberry Finn’s, where the death of his precious fish, Joel McScale, has left him unable to make anyone laugh.

The exploits and stories of these five souls play out in story and song throughout the show – until we reach the grand moment when they must band together with Jim (Jacob Worrell) to save the earth.

It’s hard to explain how funny this is without giving away some of the best jokes, but my favorite parts were: Big Bob’s Discount Therapy Racket; the song about writing a song; Herman’s costume (straight out of the 1969 Sears catalogue); and as mentioned before, the program.

Remaining performances are 7 p.m. Saturday and 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 3-4, at the Athenaeum.

IndyFringe: The Barn Identity

This is part of IndyFringe 2022, Aug. 18-Sept. 4 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at

By John Lyle Belden

“The Barn Identity,” by Erika MacDonald, is about falling-down barns.

It might seem like it’s about children’s games, the leaf-circle dance, the Fourth of July feeling, bringing the outside in, her mystery illness, or that night she stood on the sidewalk with 5 percent of her brain – How many times has she told this story? – but she insists, it’s about falling-down barns.

MacDonald gently brings a kaleidoscope of storytelling fragments into focus as we dive into her world of seven-year-old Old Ladies in snowy beds and bent old structures that you wonder how they still stand. Her view out the window, and looking within, take us on a fascinating journey that is both deeply personal, and the essence of a great Fringe performance.

And why she doesn’t go to movies. And how she’s obsessed with falling-down barns.

Wonderful to the last “theatre sigh,” with recorded music by fellow Fringe performer Paul Strickland, “The Barn Identity” has performances 5:15 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27, and Thursday and Sunday evenings, Sept. 1 and 4, in the Athenaeum.

IndyFringe: Scars, by Sears

This is part of IndyFringe 2022, Aug. 18-Sept. 4 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at

By John Lyle Belden

One of the benefits of the Fringe festival format is that it allows performers to work on new and developing material. It gets a sort of dress rehearsal before an audience who bought inexpensive tickets to be part of the process, rolling with the technical glitches and jumbled lines, seeing the genius at work behind the eventual polished product.

Lissa Sears, a standup comic who has more worldly experience than most who picked up the mic only a few years ago, is developing her one-person show, “Scars” over the course of this year’s IndyFringe. Wendy saw a lot of potential in its first-ever presentation last weekend, and what I saw last night shows something truly special and inspiring in the making, and I encourage you to be part of the process.

Being a very out-and-proud lesbian is about the most ordinary thing about Sears. The first “scar” was internal, the onset of multiple sclerosis at age 25, temporarily paralyzing one side of her body. In her discomfort, she says she had rather it be cancer, which can be cut out. “Be careful what you wish for.”

As she approaches 40, a lump in her breast has her seeking “a girly doctor” and entering chemotherapy, and eventually surgery. Still, “you gotta embrace the suck, or the suck will embrace you.”

Throughout her journey, she defies any weakness in her body by taking up boxing, martial arts and distance running, even doing the Indy Mini Marathon with a walker. A chance encounter with performer and former Colts kicker Pat McAfee has her trying out and enjoying standup. She meets other celebrities, including the late Louie Anderson.

Removal of her breasts means she can go topless (though she’d rather not show her belly). This also leads her to the “flattie” community and more opportunities to spread a message of pride and empowerment.

Her personal motto is, “Don’t tell me I can’t,” and I wouldn’t dare say that of this constantly improving showcase of her ongoing brave life. Help a feisty, funny woman as she focuses her story, Saturday afternoon, Aug. 27, and Friday night and Saturday evening, Sept. 2-3, at the Athenaeum.

IndyFringe: Leland Loves Bigfoot

This is part of IndyFringe 2022, Aug. 18-Sept. 4 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at

By John Lyle Belden

Last year, standup comic and Kentucky hippie Stewart Huff asked: Do jokes still work? Well, his do.

In this year’s one-man show, “Leland Loves Bigfoot,” he revisits some of that material, but has a new central anecdote, his night with a stranger waiting for a cryptid to show up.

As he looks for that sweet spot “between chaos and capitalism,” he recommends going to a snake-handling church for entertainment rather than a major theme park. He disagrees with fellow liberals saying we can’t fix what’s wrong with America, “but WILL we fix things?” he shrugs. And he decries insults taking the place of debate, “I dream of the day we have an (actual) argument.”

And he relates his visit to the little town of Mays Lick, Ky. While drinking at the local redneck bar, he is approached by a man who asks if Huff would like to go with him to his farm and look for Bigfoot.

Against his better judgement, he goes.

While they sat outdoors in lawn chairs drinking moonshine, Huff realized, “I love Leland. But I’m afraid of Leland, because he votes.” As they discuss vaccines, Scooby-doo, condemned statues, and nude driving, he maintains a brotherly affection for the man despite not agreeing with anything he says.

And that’s the main point, if there must be a moral to an incredibly funny show, that we can disagree with someone without hating them.

His energetically delivered observations elicited constant laughter and some devious thoughts, such as, “if you see someone in old-time aviator goggles, follow him” because something crazy is about to happen.

“You don’t goggle-up in the planning stages.”

Plan to see Huff at the Athenaeum, 8:45 p.m. Saturday and 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 27-28.

IndyFringe: Beyond Ballet

This is part of IndyFringe 2022, Aug. 18-Sept. 4 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at

By John Lyle Belden

Indianapolis Ballet returns to the Fringe to showcase its talent in this year’s edition of “Beyond Ballet.”

We get the traditional ballet in pieces like “Bartok Sonata,” “Miroirs” (opening and closing with a dancer tableau), and the exquisite “Le Corsaire Pas de Deux” featuring Yoshiko Kamikusa and Humberto Rivera Blanco. In “Diamante,” classic ballet meets contemporary composition, dancing to Karl Jenkins’ “Palladio” – music you might hear in the background of a TV show or commercial that needs something intense and serious.

For the “beyond” your expectations, we get “Smile” by Charlie Chaplin, with Ahna Lipchik’s charming portrayal of Chaplin’s famous Tramp character, working with Kamikusa and Blanco in a graceful meet-cute. For the big finish, we get “Summer at the Fringe,” a salute to disco diva Donna Summer with routines to four of her hits – some truly “Hot Stuff” right up to the “Last Dance.”

Choreography is by Kristin Young Toner, Lipchik, Victoria Lyras (who also did costumes), and William Robinson (the dancer in the program photo). Other company members include Nicholas Bentz, Colette Blake, Reece Conrad, Haley Desjarlais, Eli Diersing, Brigid Duffin, Jane Gordon, Jacqueline Hodek, Scholar Idjagboro, Journie Kalous, Kaci King, Jessica LeBlanc, Sierra Levin, Maria Jose Esquivel Losada, Robert Mack, Abigail Marten, Grace McCutcheon, Lucy Merz, Jessica Miller, Ada Perruzi, Katie Pilone, Amanda Piroue, and Macyn Malana Vogt.

For a great sampler of professional ballet at a Fringe festival price, see Indianapolis Ballet “Beyond Ballet” in the Basile Auditorium at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 25 (today as we post this); noon Sunday, Aug. 28; 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1; and 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4.

IndyFringe: Experi-Mental

This is part of IndyFringe 2022, Aug. 18-Sept. 4 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at

By John Lyle Belden

Mentalist Steven Nicholas provides an interesting hour of entertainment and surprises in “Experi-Mental.”

Nicholas is apparently one of those extraordinary humans who can memorize a great deal of written information. It started, he says, when he was the slowest in his grade-school class because he thought through every math problem too thoroughly. To aid his scores, he worked on his memory, and now has thousands of digits of Pi locked in his head – this is not a boast, he is nowhere near the record.

Still, he can demonstrate that practically any grouping of numbers can be found in that famous irrational sequence. Also, he claims he can unlock the memory potential of audience members, using only 52 numbers – each written on a different playing card of a standard deck.

This opens us to some mentalist tricks that deliver the “wow” factor, and in a different way than other magician/mind-readers at this year’s Fringe.

Also, if you attended the preview show, he’s the guy who had us all touch our fingers against our will. He’ll do it again – how long can you resist?

Go “mental” with Nicholas at the Athenaeum, Friday and Sunday evenings, Aug. 26 and 28, and Friday and Saturday, Sept. 2-3.

IndyFringe: Sing Down the Moon: Appalachian Wonder Tales

This is part of IndyFringe 2022, Aug. 18-Sept. 4 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at

By John Lyle Belden

Local youth ensemble Agape Theater Company goes with something more whimsical than their usual serious projects with “Sing Down the Moon: Appalachian Wonder Tales,” a musical by Mary Hall Surface and David Maddux that presents familiar fairy tales as they would be told in the mountains of rural Virginia or North Carolina.

This show is also a little different for Agape as it highlights its younger performers, which enhances the innocent fun of the stories’ presentation. In this production, we get three tales you’ve heard before, but not quite like this:

In “Jack and the Wonder Bean,” directed by Brynn Hensley, crafty Jack (Rachel Majorins) climbs the beanstalk to encounter a huge Giantess (Anastasia Lucia, with puppet support by Nate and Jacob Osburn) and escapes back home to his Ma (Harmony Quinn), bringing goods including a magic Hen (Caroline Hildebrand) and enchanted Fiddle (Evangeline Hillebrand).

In the hoe-down song-and-dance number “The Sow and Her Three Pigs,” directed by Kiron Branine and Rebekah Barajas, narrators Ellie Barajas and Rachel Majorins tell of a Mama-pig (Laney Ballard) who worries what her offspring will do after she is gone. Martha (Nora Moster) and Mary (Joanna Barajas) go cheap on building materials, while Nancy (Eden Majorins) finds something even stronger than bricks. Here comes the Fox (Flannery Partain), hungry for bacon. The simple set includes a cloud-wagon for deceased piggies to sit on while awaiting their relatives’ fate, while most of the cast get involved in the do-si-dos (the dance, not the cookie).

Finally, we get the Cinderella variant, “Catskins,” directed by Grant Scott-Miller. An orphan girl (Lacey Pierce) finds a home with a Farmer (Aubri Cottrell) and his Wife (Harmony Quinn). When the Wife dies, the Farmer, embittered by grief, becomes abusive. The spirit of her adopted mother comes to Catskins’ aid with the help of a magic trunk, and the girl ends up a servant to a fine Lady (Anastasia Lucia) and her Daughter (Flannery Partain). It happens that in that land, a Rich Boy (Jacob Osburn) is holding fancy dances to find himself a bride. Our heroine is a bit crafty and doesn’t need talking mice to help her in this interesting version of the old tale.

The presentation is fun and entertaining, and the Giantess puppet is impressive. Remaining performances are 1:45 p.m. Saturday and 5:15 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 27-28, in the Basile Auditorium at the Athenaeum.

IndyFringe: In the Company of Women

This is part of IndyFringe 2022, Aug. 18-Sept. 4 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at

By John Lyle Belden

Though (as I’ve often noted) I’m not expert on dance, I have long appreciated the works of Crossroads Dance Indy. And once again, they did not disappoint with their latest Fringe festival offering, “In the Company of Women.”

Choreographed by company members Brittany Gaither, Nicole Dean, Sammi Kindler, Daniella Conti, Paisley Gibson, and Katie Porras, CDI pays tribute to womanhood, as well as specific women.

The beginning piece weaves in words suggested by audience members describing the women in their lives. The number that follows highlights the various professions and roles that women take in life and the workplace. At the center is the Teacher, who helps make the others possible. And in a world that allows women to do more than teach, we see the Executive, the Healer, the Fighter, the Caregiver – all beautifully rendered.

A tribute to Jane Goodall portrays a woman standing alone, not conforming to the human jungle, and finding empathy with the denizens of the natural world. A tribute to Julia Child reveals kitchen activity to be more fun than drudgery, reflecting Child’s upbeat attitude and brave life.

Dean created a duet for Taylor Brown and Lindley Hipsher inspired by the hypnotic style of turn of the 20th century choreographer Loie Fuller, which is a wonderful highlight of the show.

Another great piece portrays how the patriarchy of the 1940s and ‘50s saw Rosie the Riveter and Susie Homemaker to be opposites, a choice of giving up one for the other. As the music gives way to an old radio show, “What Makes You Tick?” the Rosies and Susies unite to confront shallow, outdated attitudes.

The company also includes Hope Frey, Alexis Julovich, Nicole Kelter, Clarice Nolan, Hannah Scott, and Ashleigh South.

Crossroads dance gives an inspiring performance, with the grace, flow and energy I’ve come to expect from this dancer-driven company. They take joy in what they do, and so will you.

Upcoming performances are Thursday evening and Sunday afternoon, Aug. 25 and 28, in the Basile Auditorium at the Athenaeum.