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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
John just got finished updating the Stage Calendar to add the very full season just announced at Theatre on the Square, as well as a few shows presented by Wisdom Tooth. The TOTS season includes “Batboy: The Musical,” Sondheim’s “Passion,” Tony nominee “Skylight,” the return of “Miss Gulch Returns” and “8 Reindeer Monologues” – the latter of which runs at the same time as the stage version of “A Christmas Story” – the intriguing “Porn Stars at Home,” and wraps up next summer with a production of the musical “Rent.”
As for fresh theatre this week, local playwright Casey Ross adapts and stars in the 1700s comedy “She Stoops to Conquer,” opening Friday at Grove Haus, 1001 Hosbrook St., near Fountain Square. Since it’s too hot for powdered wigs, the play is reset in 1980s Florida. Given the level of insanity the state is known for, this should be good.
The city’s oldest beer fest, Brew-Ha-Ha, returns Saturday to the street in front of the Phoenix Theatre (700 block of N. Park Ave.), for which the event is a fundraiser. The price is $30 in advance, $35 on site, but you get as many samples as you can handle from 29 local and area breweries. Hours are 3 to 7 p.m., but if you get the advance VIP ticket for 50 bucks, you can start at 2 p.m. Rather than drink and drive, you could consider sobering up at the Phoenix’s “American Idiot” at 8 (costs its own ticket, get a reservation in case it sells out again).
Thursday night we are checking out the 10@10 Comedy Open Mic at ComedySportz, 721 Mass Ave. Looks like it’s a weekly event until CSz gets tired of it. Aside from its regular all-ages improv comedy “games,” ComedySportz also has mature-audiences long-form improv late on Friday nights – lately they have been skewering the “Wizard of Oz.”
No big openings in local theatre companies this weekend – feel free to see continuing productions at Phoenix, TOTS, Beef & Boards and IndyFringe, as well as what Bobdirex and Eclectic Pond are up to.
Actually, there is one “new” show in town. The touring production of the stage musical version of “Dirty Dancing” is under way through Sunday at Clowes Memorial Hall. Sounds like fun, if you loved the movie, and who doesn’t love that movie?!
For us, this is one of our favorite weekends of the year. Aside from the bigger-than-ever Pride festival, there is the Independent Music and Arts Festival at the Harrison Center for the Arts at the corner of 16th and Delaware streets downtown. The IMAF is all free, and you get to see some great local art, shop among area artisans and crafters, and see and hear several great musical acts.
Meanwhile, just a block away from IMAF is the Talbot Street Art Fair, celebrating its 60th year Saturday and Sunday. Entry is free, with dozens and dozens of booths to check out. Many people complement Wendy on her tie-dye dresses; she gets them at the Talbot Street fair, from Kiss of Color. Please check them out.
Away from downtown, there is also the Indianapolis mayor’s office-hosted Veterans picnic from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Garfield Park (free food for those who served and their families), and Holy Rosary’s annual Italian Fest Friday and Saturday with lots of generously-portioned food. On Sunday, the 4th Annual Irvington Folk Festival (through June 20) gets started just a few miles east of downtown.
Theater on the Square is currently presenting the world premiere of a new play, “The Perfect ’10’,” by local musical talent, Sean Baker. Baker has a long musical history in the Circle City, comprising of being part of several bands, The Leisure Kings being the most well known. He is also the house pianist for Chef Joseph’s at the Connoisseur room, the current and more upscale incarnation of Agio.
Being an autobiographical piece, the story is a new artistic offering for Baker. However, it does fall short of its goal. It plays more as a play being workshopped than a finished product.
This is not to say that it is entirely unwatchable and does not show some promise. The story development in the second act is quite compelling and does prove that, with some polish and rewrites, that this play will work.
There are quite a few good laughs to be had, especially Sean’s encounter with “Beaux Derek.” Maybe with the trimming of unneeded characters, Justine and Allyson in particular, it would flow better. The interactions with Sean’s therapist might be better reflected with her in voice-over, save for a late-night phone call which plays perfectly. Also, while the bartender’s actions are quite funny, he does tend to upstage and draw attention from some of the more vital dialogue. A reining in of his antics is needed. Plus, it wouldn’t hurt to add a few more songs and eventually turn the show into a full-fledged musical.
I would advise you to either watch or re-watch the movie, “10” (1979, directed by Blake Edwards, starring Dudley Moore and Bo Derek) prior to the show as there are quite a few inside jokes and nods to it in the play. Still, if you’d like to catch a rising talent at beginning of his writing career, go and check out “The Perfect ’10’” at TOTS, 627 Massachusetts Ave., Indianapolis. Call 317-685-8687.