IndyFringe: Behind Every Great Mariska Hargitay is a Great Kurt Fitzpatrick

This show is part of the 15th Annual Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival, a/k/a IndyFringe, Aug. 15-25, 2019 on Mass Ave downtown. Info, etc., at www.IndyFringe.org.

By John Lyle Belden

One often hopes to go from treading the boards at little festivals like this to eventually working in Hollywood and on television. Careful what you wish for?

Kurt Fitzpatrick was hoping to get his acting career off the ground, but auditions were exercises in frustration. Then after a failed attempt at a commercial gig, he heard from a friendly stripper (and fellow aspiring actor) that there was a lot of work in being a non-union extra on TV crime dramas.

As it turns out — having been a face in the background of numerous shows and movies, playing cops and bartenders, working invisibly for four Oscar-winning directors — that Fitzpatrick can’t help but see the parallels between what he’s been doing and sex work.

See this fascinating one-man show to find out what he means, and why possibly his face looks familiar (aside from his past IndyFringe appearances). An excellent storyteller, he reflects on his unusual path to quasi-stardom in entertaining fashion

However — he frames the show with a flight of fancy about the “Jungles of the Sahara” that I found hard to follow. It frustrates me that I miss what metaphorical or other purpose it served, and it made for an abrupt and confusing ending. Still, the rest of the content is strong and worth your while.

See the “Great Kurt Fitzpatrick” this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the District Theater (former TOTS location), 627 Massachusetts Ave.,

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IndyFringe: The Adventures of Crazy Jane & Red-Haired Annie

This show is part of the 15th Annual Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival, a/k/a IndyFringe, Aug. 15-25, 2019 on Mass Ave downtown. Info, etc., at www.IndyFringe.org.

By Wendy Carson

This show is subtitled “New Fairy Tales for the Playful, Witty, and Wise,” and that aptly represents what this evening will be about.

In “Crazy Jane and the Faerie Queen” we are presented with our titular characters and encounter with the Queen of the Faeries, who is not a force to be trifled with. This tale also lays out the relationship between Jane and Annie as well as showing insight into their daily lives. What starts as a question of whether Fairy wings are more akin to a butterfly or dragonfly, ends with a deadly fight for survival and escape.

The next adventure, “…and the King of the Butterflies” has Crazy Jane and Red-Haired Annie splitting up to retrieve two magical items in order to free the King of the Butterflies children from the grasp of the Evil Winter Witch. Annie searches in vain to find the heart of a Stone Giant, even though such creatures are extinct. Meanwhile Jane must locate a scale from the serpent that encircles the earth. This is also where we are first presented with the origin of her transformation into “Crazy Jane”.

Our final tale, “Crazy Jane Goes Sane” offers insight into the truth of what the most valuable thing in your life truly is. While Annie is off on her own (we all need to get away by ourselves sometimes), Jane plays a game of dice with a stranger and is then transported to a world in which she is a hardened businesswoman living a typical life. Annie shows up with a story of her own to tell, and the friends are again together.

Laura Packer weaves these tales with the skill of a spider. You are instantly transported to your childhood, when just sitting at the feet of a storyteller was the greatest feeling in the world. Packer’s amazing talents are well showcased her and the numerous awards she has won throughout her career are self-evident.

While the program recommends the show for ages 16 and up, I feel that it would be very suitable for any child with the attention span to listen to and enjoy a good story. After all, it is through these shared experiences that our imaginations are honed and our true selves are fed.

Remaining performances are 9 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday at the District Theater, 627 Massachusetts Ave.

IndyFringe: Jan of All Trades

This show is part of the 15th Annual Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival, a/k/a IndyFringe, Aug. 15-25, 2019 on Mass Ave downtown. Info, etc., at www.IndyFringe.org.

By John Lyle Belden

In what Jan Shirley Ann calls her “autobiocomedy,” our stand-up and seminarian presents a clean family-friendly show. In fact, when I saw it, a good number of family and friends were in the audience. But you don’t have to be related or have grown up with her in Gary, Ind., to understand and laugh along with her stories of life’s road that led her here.

Yes, she’s from the hometown of the Jacksons, and even was in a singing group that called itself The Jacksons’ Five (note the placing of the apostrophe to avoid confusion). She tells of dissecting frogs in Vacation Bible School, using a Jamaican accent for no reason, learning Japanese, teaching the Japanese to speak English (badly), and of the exceptionally handsome man the Lord used to persuade her to attend Butler University. 

Not often you see a comedian-storyteller who is also a minister in training, but that could explain why an hour with her feels like such a blessing.

She only has so many relatives and bff’s; y’all need to come out and enjoy this show, too. Performances are Friday through Saturday nights at ComedySportz, 721 Massachusetts Ave. 

IndyFringe: Tasty Bits – The Magic and Stories of Taylor Martin

This show is part of the 15th Annual Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival, a/k/a IndyFringe, Aug. 15-25, 2019 on Mass Ave downtown. Info, etc., at www.IndyFringe.org.

By John Lyle Belden

Locally-based magician Taylor Martin — popular for his historical and drag characters — has accumulated a lot of interesting experiences. He has been posting them on Facebook, each under the title “There’s a Story to be Told.” One reader said the snippets of his life are like “Tasty Bits,” and thus Martin had a title for his latest Fringe Show.

That’s also a story he told.

I know Martin well enough to recognize that was his Jethro Tull album playing as we entered the venue. We are totally in his element. 

We meet Rodney the Younger, Rodney the Elder, and Madame Esmarelda, but what’s more unusual, we get to know Taylor Martin himself.  He has so many “Bits” — from touring, his past as a singing telegram, and all the interesting and famous people he has met — that he has placed many of them into envelopes. In true magician style, audience members are asked to pick the next one he will tell. These he will only tell once during the run of the show, so each performance is different. Others he will tell every time, like how he came to be friends with Penn & Teller. 

Martin has performed and produced in nearly every IndyFringe, but this show is unlike any other he’s done. There will be illusions, such as his 100-year-old magic box; but you also get the story of how he now has a 100-year-old magic box. 

If you know him at all, you know this is going to be good. If you don’t, well, he has some stories to tell you. Performances are today through Friday and Sunday by the Indy Firefighters’ Museum, 748 Massachusetts Ave.

IndyFringe: A Life of Sorrow — The Life and Times of Carter Stanley

This show is part of the 15th Annual Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival, a/k/a IndyFringe, Aug. 15-25, 2019 on Mass Ave downtown. Info, etc., at www.IndyFringe.org.

By John Lyle Belden

In 1966, a man looks back on his life and career playing “hillbilly music.” He is Carter Stanley of the legendary Stanley Brothers, who, along with performers such as Bill Monroe, brought Bluegrass out of Appalachia and into our radios and concert halls.

Historian and fellow Virginian Gary Reid presents this one-man show he has developed over the last 10 years. He strums the guitar and sings some “high lonesome” verses, but this is storytelling, not a concert. Still, what stories he has to tell! We hear of Carter and Ralph Stanley’s upbringing, the father who left — twice — and the bizarre way they got their home up on Smith Ridge in the Clinch Mountains. Then, after Carter’s service in World War II, comes the music career, starting with a home-town radio show. He goes from getting into trouble for copying one of Monroe’s songs to eventually playing in his band. Along the way, we hear about characters like Suicide Jones, Fiddlin’ Powers and Pee Wee Lambert.

“I have an independent streak about me!” he declares, but notes “the music was always first.” While he didn’t stray far from the Gospel, he would still enjoy a jar of Dewey’s Finest moonshine on occasion.

Reid’s gentle manner draws you in and keeps you. Like the music, this isn’t anything loud or fancy, but it comes out just right. For anyone with an interest in the roots of “roots” music, “A Life of Sorrow” is highly recommended. When anyone asks me what I liked in the Fringe this year, this show comes first to mind.

Last performances are Friday and Saturday, Aug. 23-24, at the Firefighter’s Hall, 748 Massachusetts Ave. Reid can also be seen around the festival area, playing guitar or selling CDs of classic Bluegrass. Tell him howdy for us.

 

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).

IndyFringe: ‘Haunted – Tales Told and True’

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 John Lyle Belden

Fringe audiences should be familiar with Loren Niemi, as he has been to past festivals telling stories with a political bent. This year, joined by fellow master storyteller Laura Packer, they choose not to frighten us with the occupant of the White House, but with more traditional forms of Ghost Stories.

Including tales some have sworn are true!

The pair take turns narrating their chillers, with different stories at each show. One is so original, in fact, that with suggestions from the audience, it is made up right on the spot — or is it? Niemi is so good, the story he improvised at the performance I saw sounded like it had been told for generations.

Packer likes to research local ghost lore in every town she visits, and I — a haunted Irvington resident — had not heard the one she told about a little store on North Meridian near Crown Hill. She also spoke about living in haunted houses — no doubt she’ll have something just as fascinating for you.

No campfire to sit around — it is the Firehouse union hall after all — but a nice time for those who don’t mind braving the bumps in the night.