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: Amaze & Amuse

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

Trino, who appeared on television in “Masters of Illusion,” brings his “Modern Day Magic Show” to the District Theatre stage.

With “Amaze and Amuse,” we learn animals like to dress up as balloon dogs, how to do a trick (sorta) and that no matter how long you’re married, you still misplace a sock in the laundry.

Also, one lucky audience member gets a prize, and Trino finishes by escaping a straitjacket he wears “under water.”

This all-ages hour of silly jokes and interesting illusions starts its final IndyFringe performance just minutes after I post this, but we can hope Trino returns to “Amaze and Amuse” us at a future date.

IndyFringe: The Session

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

Taylor Martin has been involved in every year of IndyFringe, and he keeps up this streak with “Taylor Martin’s Indy Magic presents: THE SESSION.”

The concept is, as he puts it, “four magicians walk into a bar…” Basically, at the District Theatre cabaret stage, it’s like we’re looking in on a corner table of some establishment where the magicians relax while Taylor brings in bags of random objects in CVS bags, which they start to play with, including the famous yard-long drug store receipt. As they can’t help themselves, they also ask anyone else in the room to help with some of the tricks.

Because one of the scheduled performers, “mind reader” Brendon Ware, took off for sunny Spain for a job opportunity (seriously!), there were just three magicians when I attended: Martin, Mastermind Jim Keplinger, and The Amazing Barry. At today’s performance (as we post this), he is joined by Fringe favorite Cody Clark to round out the foursome.

The more laid-back concept allows for a playful approach to magic, including how loose paper and cups can make a quick and easy routine that not only impresses your employer, but also your future wife. Barry gives a famous example of “don’t try this at home,” and Keplinger does a couple of mentalist tricks that Taylor told me later even has him astounded.

If this performance comes to your event, don’t be shy about joining on the fun when asked. (A 10-ish year-old boy from my audience nearly stole the show.) And no matter how many times you’ve seen Taylor manipulate soft foam balls right before your eyes, you’ll still find yourself losing track to everyone’s amusement, including your own.

A little storytelling, a little dazzle, and a few ruined playing cards mark “The Session” which wrapped its IndyFringe run today, but will no doubt convene again. Follow for information.

IndyFringe: meSSeS

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

By Wendy Carson

It has been a few years since we have had a clowning master class at IndyFringe, but this year, with “meSSeS,” Janoah Bailin brings us a spectacular one.

First, each audience member is given three scarves with which you will learn the rudimentary skills of juggling during the show and will only get better with practice (he also has a QR code link to his teaching online).

Janoah shows us his juggling prowess using balls, swords, pins, as well as popcorn kernels at one point. His is also a master of not one, but two unicycles of varying heights. He performs some very original gags and spectacular feats of balancing, but it is in the allowing for some of his stunts to go wrong that his humor shines.

I honestly can’t give you more details without spoiling some of the humor but suffice it to say that the show is a family friendly delight. Bring out the kids and see who ends up being the best juggler in the family. Performances are 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27 (today as we post this), and next Saturday (7 p.m.) and Sunday (5:15 p.m.), Sept. 3-4, at the Indy Eleven stage in the IndyFringe Theatre.

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: A Magic Show with Jordan Rooks

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

Family-friendly Las Vegas magician Jordan Rooks has returned to Indy, by way of Hogwarts.

When you enter the District Theatre cabaret stage for “A Magic Show with Jordan Rooks,” you will be guided to your seat in near-darkness. Don’t worry, this will all make sense once things get started. A brief video (shot on a phone by his Mom) shows Jordan getting a genuine Olivander’s magic wand at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (theme park in Orlando).

Now that he has magic, granting him control over gravity, cards, and Froot Loops, he shares it with us by giving audience members their own magic wands (unicorn hair may be replaced with ink, though) that we get to use by the end of the show. Rooks also calls on audience members of all ages for aid, as well as sharing his entertaining twist on the classic straitjacket escape. You might even get to meet his Mom.

His souvenir wristbands are glow-in-the-dark this year, and if you get one on the way out after the performance, any donations you give for them all go to worthy causes. Remaining show dates are Thursday and Sunday, Aug. 25 and 28, and Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 3 and 4.

IndyFringe: Glad Libs with your Hostess, Jan Shirley Ann

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

By Wendy Carson

Janai Downs has created her own brand of comedy, which she has named, AutoBioComedy comprising on several very funny stories about her past. Growing up in Gary, Indiana. in the shadow of the Jackson family makes for great story fodder.

Her life is a mixture of opposites: She has gone on nine different mission trips but she doesn’t care for being outside in nature (it’s dangerous); she wants a pet monkey but is terrified of monkeys; she’d love to own a moped but would never drive it anywhere.

Perhaps her biggest desire, though, is to host a game show. Now that she has an audience, her wish is coming true – and we are all a part of it.

Yes, “we are all a part of it” means that there is audience participation. While I know this can freak out several people the means of playing are simple and fun for all. 

Our hostess reads out a characteristic (someone without holes in their jeans, someone who has a dog, someone without a Facebook account, etc.) and all the audience members who fit in that category raise their hands. She then selects two players to come up.

Once you are at the podium (make sure you don’t look at her notes!), she will simply ask for you to give her some sort of word and will use whatever the fastest person to ring in says. This is much like a game you might have heard of where you input parts of speech so you can’t get the answer wrong.

After all of the blanks have been filled, the resulting story is read out to the delight of all.

This show is a fun family event for all ages. Remaining performances are Friday evening and Saturday afternoon at the IndyFringe Theatre, 719 E. St. Clair.

Another go-round with the ‘Girls’ in LAFF parody

By John Lyle Belden

Here we go again! The gang at Loud and Fast Funny Shows present “The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes, Vol. 2,” Friday and Saturday nights through March 21 at the District Theatre.

It’s been nearly a year since LAFF put on the dresses and thanked us for being their friends. Most of the “girls” return: Dave Ruark as Dorothy, Pat Mullen as Blanche, and Jim Banta as Rose, joined by Frankie Bolda as Sophie. 

As with last year’s show, this is a parody originally by David Cerda and David Lipschutz of Hell in a Handbag Productions of Chicago, complete with mature language and immature behavior. And, to get us in the mood, we’re again treated to old sitcom themes and commercials while we wait for the show to begin. 

For an hour, we are treated to two quick episodes with a Golden Girls trivia game show in between, hosted by Christian Condra, complete with audience participation and prizes.

Condra also returns as sexy Jazzercise Jeff — short-shorts and all — and takes a turn as Rose’s blind sister. Joining the cast in multiple roles are Mark Cashwell (including as Dorothy’s date to the Sadie Hawkins Dance), Kayla Lee (playing Sophie’s rival), Tyler Lyons (roles include Dorothy’s ex-husband) and David Mosedale, whose major part is Jessica Fletcher in a “Murder, She Wrote” crossover.

This heartfelt jab at the old TV hits is hilarious as usual, though there seems to be even more sexual innuendo this time around, so it’s best for those old enough to remember the source material. 

Each night has two performances, 7:30 and 9 p.m., at the District, 627 Massachusetts Ave. in downtown Indianapolis. Get info and tickets at

For young audiences, IRT presents the power of positive playacting

By Wendy Carson

Our new friends, Devan (Mathias), Isaiah (Moore), and Frankie (Bolda) have decided to put on a play for us.

Devan has drawn a picture of a train and wants to deliver it to her other friends who live a long way away on the other side of the big, big hill. So it is decided that Devan will be a train engine, Isaiah wants to be everything but finally settles on being a doggie passenger on the train, and Frankie will help out by making all the proper sounds throughout.

This is “The Little Choo-Choo That Thinks She Can,” the return engagement of a play for very young patrons at the Indiana Repertory Theatre, a familiar story made new by IRT playwright-in-residence James Still.

Once the train is all loaded up with passengers, Devan begins the trip up the big, big hill. However, the hill is just too big for her to make it over. She tries to enlist the assistance of various other engines but they all can’t, or won’t, help her out. 

She keeps trying, and each attempt gets her a little farther up the big, big hill — but quite not over it. We, her friends in the audience, offer encouragement to assist her in believing she has the ability to actually make it up the big, big hill by herself.

Will she make it? Will her special delivery get through to her friends? What sound does a giraffe make? These questions and others will be answered in terms that preschoolers, special-needs kids, and even the grown-ups who brought them will understand..

This show is a wonderful introduction to live theater shows for young children. It never talks down to them and encourages them to have fun, be themselves and maybe even learn a thing or two.

The room is divided into three seating areas. Each actor takes one section and gets to know their new friends (the individual kids in the audience) prior to the show. We are all asked to participate in the show, but only to our levels of comfort. 

This was especially evident in the performance I attended, one of their “Sensory Friendly Performances:” The lights are kept brighter; there are fidget spinners, headphones, and other toys available to use during the show; and it is acceptable to leave and return as the need requires. There is also a guide for parents to assist with knowing when loud or potentially off-putting things will occur. This allows all attendees to enjoy the show as much as possible. In fact, I hardly would have known it was not a regular performance if they had not brought it up beforehand.

The play was a delight for myself and my companions, especially the precocious little 4-year old for whom this was her first live show. She liked meeting Isaiah, both as an actor with skin like hers, as well as the purple puppy. She told me and her mother she can’t wait to see a play again.

This IRT Exploring Stages production (targeted to ages 3-8) is directed by Benjamin Hanna. Performances are held in the “cabaret” space, which isn’t too big and allows for easy interaction, through March 1. Tickets start at just $8 for a child to sit on the floor near the action, $17 for an adult to join them. The IRT is at 140 W. Washington in downtown Indianapolis, close to Circle Centre. For more information, call 317-635-5252 or visit

IRT: Happiness is a long list

By Wendy Carson

Depression, suicide, and mental illness have all been highly stigmatized subjects. Only recently have we as a nation been broaching these topics, yet still refer to them in hushed tones.

In the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s staging of “Every Brilliant Thing” by Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe, we are presented with a unique look at someone dealing with the above issues through personal accounts of his experiences.

This is the story of a Man (no name is given) whose mother’s first attempt at suicide is when he is 7 years old. To somehow make sense of things, and help her heal, he begins to make a list of things that are worth living for. No matter how hard he tries to get this across to her, she seems to not listen. After a while the list is abandoned in the pages of a favorite book and forgotten.

During his college years, he begins wooing a girl and inadvertently loans her the book containing the list. She delights in the idea and returns it to him with a few of her own additions. The two continue adding to the list and he continues to send its contents to his mother, but to no avail. Her suicidal tendencies overwhelm her no matter what.

Since this is not a fairy tale, nobody lives happily ever after. The man and his girlfriend marry, then separate. The abandoned list resurfaces, only about 1,000 items shy of one million. How many more Brilliant Things can they add?

The story overall is quite endearing. It’s never too dark or too syrupy, but very true to the realities of the world. What sets it apart is the manner in which it is presented.

Prior to the show, lone performer Marcus Truschinski hands out postcards and other scraps of paper to various members of the audience. Each has a word or phrase on it along with a number. When he mentions that number – an item on the list – during the show, the person holding the corresponding card must shout out the information for all to hear.

There is a small section of audience seating at the rear of the stage which patrons can choose. Of course, these people will be incorporated into the show, as the script requires various other people to interact with Truschinski in order to tell the story. However, in a stroke of misdirection, audience members from all over are actually used.

True to the show’s fringe-festival roots, with its audience interaction each performance is entirely unique. Add to this Truschinski’s amazing improv skills and you have an evening of theater that is uplifting, thought provoking, touching, and enriching throughout.

Make a note to add this experience to your own list. Performances are through Feb. 10 on the upperstage of the IRT, 140 W. Washington St. in downtown Indy; call 317-635-5252 or visit