Fringe!

So much going on in Indy this week: GenCon, the State Fair, and the return of the Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival — IndyFringe 2017!

Fringe features practically everything you can get on a stage: comedy, drama, storytelling, music, Shakespeare, dance, magic, avant garde, maybe even clowns and puppets (it’s happened before!). Each performance is under an hour, all reasonably priced, with most of the ticket money going back to the performers.

It all gets under way Thursday through Aug. 27 in and around Mass. Ave. downtown, but first you should check out the big Preview Night, 6 p.m. Wednesday (Aug. 16) at the Athenaeum, 407 E. Michigan (corner of Michigan and New Jersey streets, where they meet Mass Ave.). Admission is just $5.

During the Preview, get into the Fringe spirit with quick excerpts from most of the participating shows, as well as the run-down on what all will be happening during the festival.

John and Wendy are busy Wednesday, but plan to be around IndyFringe starting Friday evening. We won’t see every show, but those we do we will get reviews out as soon as possible.

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Dig it! Phoenix breaks ground on its new site

By John Lyle Belden

The Phoenix Theatre, a downtown Indy arts institution for more than 30 years, took its next step in relocating to a bigger, better building with its Groundbreaking Ceremony on May 2 at the now-vacant site on north Illinois Street by the Cultural Trail.

Construction will begin soon, with grand opening of the new facility in spring of 2018. In the meantime, the Phoenix continues its full season of performances in its longtime Chatham Arch home, 749 N. Park Ave. (corner of Park and St. Clair, near Mass Ave.).

“This will be the first free-standing theater (not part of a school or other institution) built (downtown) in the last 100 years,” said producing director (and one of Phoenix’s founders) Bryan Fonseca. He added that the multi-million dollar capital campaign, largest in its history, had nearly reached its goal, with plans to continue fundraising for contingency funds and other future needs.

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While breaking new ground, the Phoenix Theatre “broke” its old logo, in the form of a pinata.

With two state-of-the-art stages, meeting areas and full costume and prop shops, the planned building will not only host full year-round Phoenix seasons, but be available to other community theatre and arts groups.

“We want to eradicate the distinction of ‘underserved groups,'” Fonseca said, “and become one community.”

The Groundbreaking drew numerous dignitaries, including Jeff Bennett, Deputy Mayor of Community Development for Indianapolis, who said the new Phoenix building “will transform this neighborhood, and it will transform lives.”

City-County Councilor Vop Osili was pleased with the location, just a block away from Meridian Street.

“This is located literally at the crossroads of commerce and culture,” he said.

Brian Sullivan, managing partner of Shiel Sexton contractors and member of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail Board of Directors, declared it a “happy day” and “a groundbreaking day for a groundbreaking theatre.”

“Today, it has never been more important for our community to hear from our artists,” he added.

Fervent supporter, donor and Phoenix board member Frank Basile, who proudly noted he had seen practically every one of the theatre’s productions over the years, declared, “We’ve really just begun.”

Local actors and Phoenix founding artists Deb Sargent-Shaver and Gayle Steigerwald praised Fonseca for his leadership and thanked all who contributed to the building campaign.

“We are so grateful that our legacy, and our tribe, will continue in this new building,” Steigerwald said.

Among the many past and present actors and crew members in attendance was Charles Goad, who was featured in the very first Phoenix show in 1983, as well as the present production of “The Open Hand.”

The traditional chrome-shovel ceremony featured Fonseca, Bennett, Sullivan and other dignitaries, but in true theatre community fashion, the shovels were handed over to any actors, crew, friends or supporters who wanted a photo opportunity. Several thespians eagerly turned spades of dirt, as if to speed the process of bringing in a new stage for their work.

To conclude the festivities, the Phoenix had its old bird-from-the-flames logo symbolically “destroyed” with an appropriately-decorated pinata, full of candies wrapped in the new logo, and prizes supplied by sponsors — including tickets to upcoming Phoenix shows. Several in attendance took got swings in before the party favor shattered to cheers all around.

For information on present and future shows, as well as the new location and Capital Campaign, go to www.phoenixtheatre.org.KIMG0575

Active August

By John Lyle Belden

It has been a busy month, though you wouldn’t know that here. That should change a bit: GenCon was last week, and Wendy Carson and I will be giving more attention to the “games we play” portion of the blog with some reviews and info on the games we found at the convention.

Tomorrow (Thursday) also starts the IndyFringe festival, which will be a rich time for reviews and reports both here an at my “day job” with The Word (www.thegayword.com).

To all in the Indy area, have a look at the Fringe – we’ll be having a lot of fun and it would be a shame to miss it.

IndyFringe 2015 Wrap-Up

We had a great time at this year’s IndyFringe. Though we didn’t see all the shows, we saw quite a few, so, here in one place are the links to all our reviews, for anyone wanting to look one up:

4.48 Psychosis” by Savage at Last

4Square” by AV Productions

Acting My Age” by Matt Holt

The Adventures of Les Kurkendaal” by Les Kurkendaal

Auditioning for Swan Lake” by Lou Ann Homan

The Best of Indy Magic Monthly” by Magic Taylor’d for You (Taylor Martin)

Breakneck Hamlet” by Tim Mooney

Bromance” by Farewell Tour Productions

Cabaret of Puppetry” by Peewinkle Studios

Ca-Ching” by Nomads Collective

Camp Summer Camp” by Defiance Comedy

Cocooned in Kazan” by Royal Kung Foolery

The Comedy Magic of Oscar Munoz” by Oscar Munoz

Dancing in the Mist” by RibbetRepublic

Drosselmeyer’s Magical Bedtime Story” by No Exit Performance

The Eulogy” by Michael Burgos

Fruit Flies Like a Banana” by Fourth Wall

Ghost Story” by Peter-John Byrnes

Growing Up All Over Myself” by Mat Alanso-Martin

Hannibal: LIAR!” by Chris Hannibal

Hell’s Fourth Ring: The Mall Musical” by Casey Ross Productions

Home Grown Originals” by Band O’ Leers

An Indian Comedian: How Not To Fit In” by Krish Mohan

I’m Not Gay” by Submatter Press

Interrupting the Sermon” by First Hand Theatrical

The Invisible Man” by What’s in a Name? Company

Jason Adams is a God Damn Mind Reader” by Jason Adams

Kill the Column” by MamaProductions

Laughing Sober” by Rick Garrett

A Little Business at the BIG TOP” by David Gaines

Men’s Room” by MayDay Productions

Mom?” by Box of Clowns

Mr. Boniface, the Wise” by KT Peterson

My Sister Diane” by Jim May

Not My Baby!” by Dreadmelon Productions

The Not So Secret Origin of Captain Ambivalent” by Captain Ambivalent

ODDyssey” by Blair Godshall

Orange is the New Black Keys” by ComedySportz Indianapolis

Sarge” by Clifton Performance Theatre

The Secret Book of Jesus” by Maximum Verbosity

Shakespeare’s Ear” by Early Music in Motion

The Shout” by In the Mix

The Sibling Staircase” by Sally Perkins

Speedthru” by Eclectic Pond

Threads” by Tonya Jone Miller

Tipped and Tipsy” by Jill Vice

Top Shelf: Our Last American Tour – Again” by Betty Rage

The Traveling Tap Dance Super Show” by TapMan Productions with Circle City Tap Company

Ulysses Grant: A Fluxkit Opera” by Stephen Rush

Up Yours, Indianapolis” by The Fleece Academy

VELOUR” by Schedule C Productions

Whisper in My Good Ear” by Vintage Players

Who Run The World: A Madwomen’s Cabaret” by Main Street Artists

The Wizer of Odd” by Gift of Gab

Working Titles” by Jeremy Schaefer

The Yellow Wallpaper” by Earlham Theatre Department

Pop goes the weekend

Edward James Olmos as Admiral Adama on the 2004-09 version of
Edward James Olmos as Admiral Adama on the 2004-09 version of “Battlestar Galactica.” Meme from some joker on the internet, photo from NBC/Universal

All the geeky aspects of pop culture go on display at Indy PopCon, Friday through Sunday at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis. This critical mass of gaming, internet culture, comics, costumes, TV, movies, anime, fantasy and sci-fi features celebrity guests including Edward James Olmos (“Battlestar Galactica”), Sam Jones (“Flash Gordon”), John DeLancie (“Star Trek”), Malcolm Goodwin (“iZombie”), Sophie Henderson (“Doctor Who”), “Face Off” winner Rashaad Santiago and former WWE star Chris Masters.

This is neither the only big thing downtown nor the only convention in town. A few blocks away, at Military Park, just north of the Eiteljorg Museum, is the Eiteljorg’s annual Indian Market and Festival, celebrating Native American art and culture 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. There is also a more expensive pre-party on Friday, see website for details.

As for the other con, out at the Wyndham Indianapolis West, horror extravaganza Days of the Dead returns with appearances by Tobin Bell of the “Saw” movie series, wrestling legend Rick Flair, “Phantasm” star Angus Scrimm, “Tales From the Crypt”s John Kassir, the now-grown-up twins from “The Shining,” and legendary hosts Joe Bob Briggs and Indy’s own Sammy Terry – as well as numerous other slasher and suspense stars, makeup effects artists and more.

As for fresh theatre, there is a lot of buzz around the premiere of Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre‘s “La Caza Azul,” based on the life of artist Frida Kahlo. It will be on stage just this weekend, Friday through Sunday at the Tarkington theater in The Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Carmel.

Looking ahead, we must note that, in addition to next week featuring the Fourth of July (and the arrival of the Rolling Stones at IMS – are the Brits upstaging our holiday?) there will also be another home-grown sci-fi convention, the 35th InConJunction July 3-5 at the Indianapolis Marriott East – where John&Wendy are among the convention volunteers.

– Go have some fun!

Review: Casey Ross Productions’ “Stoops” conquers

Cast of Casey Ross Productions' "She Stoops to Conquer," Friday, June 19, 2015 -- photo by John Belden
Cast of Casey Ross Productions’ “She Stoops to Conquer,” Friday, June 19, 2015 — photo by John Belden

By John Lyle Belden and Wendy Carson

It’s too easy to call the Grove Haus, the funky former church building in Indy’s Fountain Square district where Casey Ross puts on her plays, the “Groove House” – because Miss “Uncanny Casey” is so, well, groovy.

And speaking of mildly-outdated but still appropriate words, Ross takes the 1700s Oliver Goldsmith comedy “She Stoops to Conquer” and gives it a groovalicious update.

Like the 18th century, the 1980s were a time of big hair, regretful fashion and wacky music. In the meantime, Florida has become synonymous with rednecks, stupidity and all manner of bizarre behavior. Add these two elements to the script of the classic and slightly bawdy play and you have CRP’s latest entertaining diversion. The tale of arranged marriages (including one between two cousins), mistaken identities, besotted or scheming individuals, and overall confusion meshes well with the chosen setting.

Dick and Dorothy Hardcastle (David Malloy and Ross) own both a home and a motel, sufficiently tacky that one can’t tell one from the other. Dick wants charming daughter Kate (Ann Marie Elloitt) to check out his old friend’s son Marlow (Max Jones), whom they haven’t met, as a potential husband; while Dorothy wants her drunken slacker son Tony (Taylor Cox) to marry his cousin (and Kate’s bestie) Constance (Veronica Orech) to better secure their property, especially the precious jewels that Constance inherited and Dorothy is holding onto as dowry.

Marlow arrives with best friend Hastings (Tyler Gordon), who has cultivated a romance with Constance. From here on, the plot gets twisty, as Tony pranks Marlow into thinking the Hardcastle home is the motel, so the young suitor treats Dick like the hired help and pines for Kate, thinking she is a just a maid and not the lady he was supposed to meet – the girl, in turn, plays along for comic situations that would do the Bard proud. Meanwhile, Hastings and Constance conspire to run away to marry, enlisting Tony’s help in getting the valuable jewels. Everything goes wrong, and, this being a comedy, everything goes right in the end.

The play not only makes use of the small stage at the head of the house, but also the central floor area, with actors occasionally sitting with and talking directly to the audience. This intimate staging not only helps us connect with the action, but also precludes the need for sticking microphones to the actors. This is a refreshing change from most Indy-area community theatre. However, in this environment, enunciation and vocal projection are more critical, and any failings are more noticeable. Opening night only had a few unclear lines, which no doubt have been worked on during this intervening week, and the story was easy to follow.

The stage set is appropriately tacky, with a couple of in-joke posters, and Ross’s sound design includes a lot of snippets of ’80s hits, keeping the mood light and fun.

Under the direction of partner “Fedora Dave” Matthews, Ross makes a welcome return to the boards, exuding gleeful maternal malevolence under a burgundy wig. Elliott is 100 percent pure-cane sweetness; Cox does slackerdom proud; Gordon is suave and valiant; Orech is comically sharp; and Molloy is fun as the blustering patriarch. Also notable is John Garlick, who comes in late in the play as Marlow’s father. Jones does great at his complex character, having to come off as naive, shy and buffoonish, but then win us over as the romantic hero at the end (Elliott-as-Kate’s kind, forgiving nature helps).

The setting doesn’t translate 100 percent, but is close enough when one considers Southern society can be at least as idiosyncratic as Olde England. One reference to pounds instead of dollars sounds out of place, but can be forgiven.

The show has one more weekend, Friday through Sunday at 1001 Hosbrook St. Tickets are $15. Get info at facebook.com/caseyrossproductions and go get your groove on.