IndyFringe: Abraham Lincoln, Hoosier Hero

This is part of IndyFringe 2021, Aug. 19-Sept. 5 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at IndyFringe.org.

By John Lyle Belden

The stage has just a chair and a 36-star United States flag – and Abraham Lincoln. Yes, I know it’s actor and historical interpreter Danny Russel, but it feels like this is the closest anyone could ever come to seeing America’s 16th President in the flesh.

He puts us at ease immediately with his famous sense of humor – one can tell he grew up in Indiana from his corny jokes – and he feels a little relieved that as much as he loved theater, this venue (at the Murat Oasis) doesn’t have a balcony.

He establishes his Hoosier bona fides, noting that at age 7 he moved from Kentucky to then-wilderness Indiana, and his father placed in the already-tall boy’s hands an axe – which he said served him well. But even more useful to him were books, including his mother’s Bible, his first “library.”

This brilliant first-person history fills in so much of what we little know or long forgot about Mr. Lincoln, including what a prodigy he was, writing all the correspondence for his illiterate father at age 10, self-educating not only from his Step-Mammy Sally’s books (he had less than 300 days of formal education in his life, he said) but later from law books to become an Illinois pioneer lawyer, arguing 5,800 cases.

The jokes and humorous observations are tempered with moments of dark drama, shedding tears not only over various family members who died, but also in rage as he saw the evil of slavery first-hand on a trip to Louisiana. “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong!” he declares.

Lincoln notes that he is the only lawyer to ever have the nickname, “Honest,” and elaborates on how he actually earned that sobriquet.

We learn of his courtship of Mary Todd, his many business failures, and his political career, including his famous verbal sparring with Stephen A. Douglas in the 1858 Senate race.

Things get a little more serious as he relates his tumultuous Presidency (1861-65) and the horrors of the Civil War, which would claim three percent of the U.S. population, he notes. Lincoln relates his proudest moment, when, with a tired but steady hand, he signed the Emancipation Proclamation – “My soul is in it.”

After one of the most horrific battles of the War, he is asked to speak at the dedication of a cemetery for the fallen. After the era’s greatest orator holds forth for over two hours, Mr. Lincoln steps up on that Gettysburg platform to say just a few words…

Please don’t miss your opportunity to see arguably our greatest President, live and in person.

IndyFringe: Deadpan Jan – My Life is Not a Sex Party, Or Is It?

This is part of IndyFringe 2021, Aug. 19-Sept. 5 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at IndyFringe.org.

By Wendy Carson

Jan Gudaitis is quite the enigma. She speaks in a monotone voice, she makes sharply hilarious observations, and her etomology of the English language is sublime.

Her flat vocal cadence is reminiscent of the great comedian Stephen Wright, and like him, her content is exceptionally funny.

Here you will learn why Bhutan is the happiest country in the world; how to kill your husband with a business card; who is on her list of people she’d “like to pull the plug on;” as well as which topics are not permissible when doing comedy at a nursing home.

If you search on Urban Dictionary, you will discover that her last name is defined as a “sex party”. This is due to a drunken posting by a nephew. But does she live up to that description? That is for you to decide. I can guarantee that there will be some intercourse during the performance, as well as a strong possibility of ejaculation.

Performances are on the Indy Eleven stage of the IndyFringe Theater.

IndyFringe: Do Jokes Still Work?

This is part of IndyFringe 2021, Aug. 19-Sept. 5 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at IndyFringe.org.

By John Lyle Belden

“I saw a homeless guy with a laminated sign,” Stewart Huff says, “he put money back into the business!”

Huff is full of funny and off-the-wall observances, such as: It amuses him to no end that the replica of Noah’s Ark in Kentucky has a “No Animals” sign.

His show, “Do Jokes Still Work?” includes bits of storytelling, memories, and observances of the stupidity of fellow humans – “You can’t hate science, and love NASCAR!”

But he has a generally optimistic outlook, noting that noisy anti-science people are nothing new – relating various historical events in hilarious fashion. Huff believes that “all human beings are artists,” that the pinata is among our greatest inventions, and if Bigfoot is real, it’s better if we don’t find him.

When you see him take the District Theater stage, it’s a little surprising, as IndyFringe publicity materials have an old clean-shaven photo. With his salt-and-pepper beard and aging-hippie ponytail, Huff looks like your cool uncle who can tell you one hell of a story.

And he does.

Huff’s show is not for the easily offended – either by language or opinions – but otherwise an essential visit for any Fringe-goer.

IndyFringe: Joyous Faggotry – The Ron Popp Story

This is part of IndyFringe 2021, Aug. 19-Sept. 5 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at IndyFringe.org.

By Wendy Carson

Ron Popp is back, and his comedy chops are as honed as ever. He chose the title for this show because it sounded like something from a Tennessee Williams play.

Topics here range from how he coped with the Covid lockdown; to his favorite book as a child; to dating, marriage, and drugs.

You will also learn some fun ways to get revenge on your conservative family members without them knowing it. Also, why are guns the only thing that someone can purchase to collect in order to make others feel threatened?

As with his last show here, I am at a loss to say more about the show without spoiling his jokes. Needless to say, he will have you close to rolling out of your seat with laughter. Popp is quickly becoming one of my favorite comedians of the Fringe and you should really see him now before he becomes so famous he won’t do shows in Indy anymore.

See him at the Indy Eleven Theatre.

IndyFringe: Chasing Temples

This is part of IndyFringe 2021, Aug. 19-Sept. 5 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at IndyFringe.org.

By Wendy Carson

It’s raining as Betsy Murphy is on the way to sign her divorce papers. It’s been ten years, she’s had four children, how did this happen? Still, she and her ex are still friends. After signing the papers, she gets a sore throat and loses her voice for three weeks.

Two years later she tries to join eHarmony (their site has pictures of how she wants her life to look) but they reject her because her personality is not optimal for a long-term relationship. She tries psychics, retreats, gurus, etc, and nothing is helping her fill the void she feels in her life.

After another 10 years her children decide to go live with their father. Still searching for her truth, she thinks she has it figured out when Menopause hits. However, she is given a chance to make a real difference in the world so she jumps on it.

She ends up in Zimbabwe during the most severe economic crisis they’ve ever endured. She’s caring for children that have been abandoned by their parents because they can’t afford to feed or care for them, The heat is unbearable, she doesn’t know anyone and she is allergic to everything.

Into her life comes a handsome professional soccer player who takes her on a journey to find her lost spirituality, connection to the earth, the truth of who she really is, and her divine destiny. These lessons are not easy and do come with a cost but they also allow her to finally find her voice.

Come witness her story.

Performances on the Indy Eleven stage of the IndyFringe Theatre

IndyFringe: Shakespeare’s Histories – Ten Epic Plays at a Breakneck Pace

This is part of IndyFringe 2021, Aug. 19-Sept. 5 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at IndyFringe.org.

By John Lyle Belden

Timothy Mooney returns to IndyFringe with the show that started his series of “Breakneck” Shakespeare presentations. He sets up a one-hour timer (also the limit of a Fringe show) and proceeds to get everything said before it hits 60:00:00.

As he had done here with “Julius Caesar,” this is more a historical lecture — giving real-world context in which Shakespeare worked — than just a presentation of a play. This is essential when dealing with 10 dramas, extending through the centuries from the infamous King John all the way to Henry VIII (father of Elizabeth I, ruler in the Bard’s era). But if you are thinking of the dull, dry lessons you had in high school or college, fear not! Mooney makes the history come alive, complete with projected visual aids, and punctuated with the words Shakespeare put in these monarchs’ and nobles’ mouths. 

The keyword to all of this, Mooney explains, is succession, and the more unclear the passing of the throne goes, the more people fight and die, inspiring some great stage drama. We “tell tales of the death of kings” as “we happy few” in the audience actually get a sense of what the Wars of the Roses were, and why poor Richard would give “my kingdom for a horse!”

We even get a few words from Joan of Arc, who doesn’t come off as a saint in Shakespeare’s telling.

Those familiar with Mooney’s work will not be disappointed, and those who aren’t are in for a treat. This rapid-fire jam-packed entertainment is on the main stage of the District Theatre — one of the bigger venues, yet this might still sell out.

IndyFringe: How I Got My Warts Prayed Off

This is part of IndyFringe 2021, Aug. 19-Sept. 5 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at IndyFringe.org.

By Wendy Carson

Mandee McKelvey grew up in a trailer park in rural South Carolina. Her family was so poor that she had to take a bath with her brother well into her teens to conserve hot water.

During her teen years she began having warts all over her hands and feet. After suffering both physically and socially for more than two years, her mom asked her if she wanted to see a doctor about them. However, she ended up in a dry cleaners with a guy named Bob praying that she would be alleviated of her burden.

While that may have worked, at 13 she became aware that she was developing another physical deformity, and prayer was not going to help this out at all. In fact, she is still coping with this situation. Yet her story is light, funny and hopeful, even if she has become the basis for medical research due to the uniqueness of her plight.

You should definitely come and witness her saga, and learn the truth of the “Pumpkin Nut Foundation.”

IndyFringe: Wife Material

This is part of IndyFringe 2021, Aug. 19-Sept. 5 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at IndyFringe.org.

By Wendy Carson

While Toni Smith has known his wife over half of his life, they have only been married for three years.

Marriage changes a person, as does any commitment that lasts until you die. It made Toni want to eat healthier, exercise more, and become a better wife — wait, what?!

Toni’s realization that, at the age of 30, he is actually a she came as a bit of a shock to him, his wife, and, of course, his family. Still, considering her parents were married in a drive-through chapel in Vegas and her sister came out as a lesbian several years ago, they shouldn’t be too shocked, right?

However, this show is about so much more than this one topic. It covers The true perversion of “Gender Reveal Parties,” the cult of the “American Girl” dolls, sex talks from your dad, and, of course, sexuality through ice cream.

Smith is a hilariously original new comedic voice and this is a show not to be missed. Also, note that being a smaller venue, the Indy Eleven stage at the IndyFringe building will likely sell out quickly.

So get your tickets now, and remember that it’s OK to order vanilla ice cream in public.

IndyFringe: Big Gay Debutante Ball

This is part of IndyFringe 2021, Aug. 19-Sept. 5 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at IndyFringe.org.

By Wendy Carson

At the age of nine, Meg Anderson discovers a word that embodies her and changes her life forever – LESBIAN.

In the world of her Big Gay Debutante Ball, she would jump on her sparkly, Lisa Frank-inspired, rainbow unicorn cloud and trot through the town with everyone celebrating her word in a scene akin to the beginning of Beauty and the Beast. However, that is not the world she lives in.

The daughter of a preacher, she is taught that this is abohorent, she is wrong, everything around her keeps telling her to be more straight. But her Big Gay Debuntante Ball world is out there somewhere.

Join Meg as she performs for us, through movement, dance, and song, her quest to find and attend her very own Big Gay Debutante Ball. After all, even a lesbian wants to wear a poofy dress and bow to a cake, too.

This show was not the wacky gay comedy I mistakenly thought it was going to be. However, it was beautifully enlightening and Anderson’s storytelling skill will have you being glad you got to attend her Big Gay Debuntante Ball as well.

Performances at at the IndyFringe Basile (main) stage.

IndyFringe: The Betsy-Patsy Show

This is part of IndyFringe 2021, Aug. 19-Sept. 5 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at IndyFringe.org.

By John Lyle Belden

This autobiographical “dramusicomedy” written and performed by Elizabeth Young-Collins, with writing and direction by Holly Hathaway Thompson, easily lends itself to comparisons to the popular show, “Always – Patsy Cline,” which would be unfair as that show is about Cline, while “The Betsy-Patsy Show” is about Young-Collins, as she looks back on her troubled life with an eye towards her childhood idol, leaning on the Country legend’s hits to put her own events in perspective.

Betsy is a recently-accomplished singer, and she shows us the path that took her here as she unpacks “the last damn box from the attic,” reflecting on running for Miss Muncie (Pennsylvania), her parents’ alcoholism, plus the discouragement – and encouragement – she received along the way. In Cline’s songs she found comfort, and in her tragic story a fellow traveler. She shares both with us with a raw sweetness and gentle humor that leaves us relieved she finally found someone “who could carry my sound system,” with hope that, maybe, we can, too.

It is a gem of a show that can use a bit of a polish, but with her willingness to be vulnerable on stage, I’m rooting for her. This is the kind of personal performance we go to Fringe for, with performances in the Murat Oasis.