Dark side of humanity and academia explored in new play

By Wendy Carson

With “The Profession,” Marcia Eppich-Harris has written a play that encompasses our current political and social climate just a little too well. I was privileged to attend a staged reading of the script a couple of months ago and it has stayed with me ever since. Her script roots out not only the dark underbelly of male dominance and what men will do to protect their own, but also the appalling lack of power or support women have when confronting a system stacked against them. Needless to say, nobody emerges from this story unscathed.

Two main storylines intertwine here. One is about Valerie (Becky Schlomann), a dedicated literature teacher at a small, private university who is desperately fighting to keep her job. Secondly, we have Marina (Trick Blanchfield), the impassioned student every teacher longs for, just trying work her way through college no matter how she has to swing it.

Valerie’s nemesis in her plight is Mark (Brad Staggs), a dean still smarting from her questioning of his decisions last fall and ensuring that her future employability is forever doomed. Department chair Jill (Jeri Jackson) has no desire to ruffle feathers herself. Meanwhile, Theology professor Paul (Brian Stuart Boyd) is also relieved of his job, but with a much better settlement check, wonderful references, and a promising spot at a major university.

For her dedication to learning, Marina deals with the exorbitant fees and ends up working as a stripper in order to stay in school. At the club just off campus, she is mentored by the lovely, yet jaded, Lucy (Lola Lavacious) and watched over by the club’s tough but fair manager Flint (Tom Smith).

Seeing Valerie, her favorite teacher, getting a raw deal, Marina divulges to her the seedy goings on by college staff at the club. Valerie’s personal morality keeps her from using this dirt, at first. But as the situation gets ever more serious, and dangerous, she knows she will have to do something.

This drama pulls no punches in all it entails. It does contain vivid discussions of sex work and abortion. As I noted above, the abuse of power and workplace discrimination are rampant as well. Still, it shows vividly how gender politics, as well as other ills contained within, play out in a realistic manner. Eppich-Harris and director Elisabeth Speckman both drew on their experiences in academia in creating this work and bringing it to painfully vivid life.

The cast is sheer perfection with each one embodying the true soul of their character. While Schlomann and Blanchfield are easy to root for, and to understand the impulsive decisions they feel necessary to make, Jackson and Staggs come off so oily with corruption you may need to remind yourself they’re just good actors if you see them off-stage. Boyd has two faces to work with in his character, and plies them well. Smith, a natural at paternal roles, is no angel, but feeling no need to put on a façade, Flint comes off better than the learned men who frequent his club. Also, a shout-out to Ms. Lavacious – while she has years of stage performance under her belt, this is her first performance in a scripted show.

I cannot recommend this play enough. The concurrence of its opening on the same date as the state’s abhorrent anti-abortion law taking effect feels like a sign that maybe with enough encouragement, we can make some real and lasting changes for the good of all. I honestly hope you leave the theater in this frame of mind as well.

Presented by Southbank Theatre Company, performances of “The Profession” run through Sunday, Sept. 25, at Fonseca Theatre, 2508 W. Michigan St., Indianapolis. Get information and tickets at southbanktheatre.org. (Note: Venue requires masks due to close proximity between audience and stage.)

Mothers know best in Epilogue comedy

By Wendy Carson

Parents – we all have them; we all love them; they all give us both good and bad advice; and they all drive us crazy. This is the basic premise of Katherine DiSavino’s “Things My Mother Taught Me,” presented by Epilogue Players.

Young Olivia (Erynne Sutton) and her long-time boyfriend Gabe (Ethen Romba) are in the process of moving in together. However, the new chair they picked out together is stuck in the doorway, which also alludes to how they are still stuck under their parents’ careful scrutiny, even after moving halfway across the country.

Since Gabe is a mama’s boy, he, naturally but to Olivia’s surprise, invites his parents to come help with the move. Lydia (Serita Borgeas) is the classic definition of a “Smother,” and her husband Wyatt (Tom Meador) is easy-going and totally oblivious to her overzealous nature. Once they arrive, Lydia takes over everything and poor Olivia is overwhelmed.

Things go even more haywire when Olivia’s parents Karen (Karen K. Temple) and Carter (R.C. Thorne) arrive as well. Add to this their moving van being stolen and the crazy antics of their building manager, Max (Stephen E. Foxworthy) and you can see how the laughs just keep on coming in this delightful farce.

Sutton gives Olivia a tender hopefulness that everything will eventually work out for everyone while Romba keeps Gabe at wits end trying to keep all of his plans together, no matter who spoils them.

Borgeas shows the caring side of Lydia that is often overlooked due to her commandeering ways while Meador shows Wyatt is more interested in finding a fix to a situation that the repercussions his actions might have. Temple brings Karen’s fears of her child repeating her own mistakes to the forefront of her own neurosis while Thorne brings so much light-hearted sweetness to his role as Carter.

Director Brent Wooldridge keeps the laughs coming, while allowing the solid parental advice within the script to be heard.

Learning can be fun – at least when you’re in the audience. Take a lesson at Epilogue, “Hedback Corner” at 1849 N. Alabama, Indianapolis, through Sunday, Sept. 25. Get information and reserve tickets at epilogueplayers.com.

IndyFringe: Gloria Mundi

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

By John Lyle Belden and Wendy Carson

Gloria (Kayla Jo Pulliam) is not having a good day. She is an addict, out on parole and living in a halfway house. Last night an angel, Harold (Bryson Kramer), came to give her the news that she is to be the parent of the new child of God. When she tells her ex, Jody (Cameron Pride) this “happy” news, is it any wonder he,* and social worker Harold (Kramer), suspect she is using again?

This sets the plot of “Gloria Mundi,” Pamela Morgan’s tale of recovery, parenting, relationships, and faith presented by Nomad Theater Company under the direction of Ashleigh Rae-Lynn.

Morgan and company have created a story that is full of hilarious moments (“the doughnuts have suffered the consequences”) and heartbreaking emotion (the fate of Lanie, Gloria’s first child).

“Don’t f*** it up this time,” angelic Harold advises, and it’s possible that Gloria already has. Through twists both dramatic and funny, we’re taken on a wild ride that ends in a miracle of hope no one expects.

Witness this blessed event, 5:15 p.m. today (as we post this) and 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 3-4, at the District Theatre.

(*EDIT: Character’s pronouns are he/they, we were informed by Morgan after this initially posted, and pronoun and name spelling have been updated.)

IndyFringe: Dadbod

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

By Wendy Carson

Local standup comic Brad Hinshaw has once again managed to escape his wife and kids (and not just by hiding in the bathroom) to come out and spend time with actual adults again, bringing another hour of family-centric comedy (not to be confused with “family-friendly,” some words would be bleeped on TV).

Hinshaw returns to further refine his act, “Dadbod,” in anticipation of filming it. While most of his material is the same as last year’s show – if you haven’t heard about the joy of “lactation cookies,” you really should – the newer stories are hilarious. Who knew the dangers of toddlers and super soakers?

As I said last year, this is a delightfully relatable show for parents and non-parents alike. So, take the chance to escape your own family so you can laugh at yourself as well as Hinshaw’s situations.

Today’s performance (as we post this) is 1:45 p.m., and the last is 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4, both at the cabaret stage of the District Theatre.

IndyFringe: Gray Pride

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

By Wendy Carson

Norman Lasiter, with musical director Christopher Marlow, teamed up to bring us one of the most enjoyable hours of cabaret theater I believe I have ever seen.

Lasiter’s stories of growing up in a small town south of Indianapolis, pursuing his career in New York and California, and being an out and proud since 1980 (he was literally born in a closet) are punctuated with familiar songs that further enhance the tales.

Even during the darkest memories (living in New York during the worst of the AIDS crisis), he finds hope to keep enduring in memory of those lost.

The whole show is upbeat and cheeky, and Lasiter’s voice is sheer beauty. Marlow even gets a chance to shine on his own during their rendition of “I Love a Piano.” I know I say this a lot, but this show is certainly not to be missed.

However, there are very few tickets left for his next two performances at the IndyFringe Theatre – 7 p.m. tonight (as we post this) and noon Sunday, Sept. 3-4 – so get yours immediately, grab a libation, and settle back for an hour you won’t forget.

IndyFringe: Ballet INitiative – A Social Media Experience

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

By Wendy Carson

This is Ballet INitiative’s first presentation at IndyFringe and hopefully the beginning of a long string of performances for years to come. The troupe in dedicated to inclusion, inspiration, and innovation through multi-genre dance as well as traditional ballet.

The show consists of six offerings, of which, two are unique to each week’s schedule (the other four are on a rotation where each will play twice but in varying order). Taking to social media to have fans chose the set list for each week, they have managed to curate a very solid line-up to highlight all of their troupe’s talents and skills.

Prior to each number, the audience is given some information about what the intention behind the choreography is meaning to portray. There is also a pause afterwards for you to ruminate as well as allowing the dancers to change costumes.

Highlights of the show I saw were their jazzy rendition of Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife,” (originally a part of a past tribute to Darin); their more traditional ballet dance, “A Far off Spring” (being the only one performed “on pointe”); and the weekend exclusive number “Icarus” (showing the passion of flight and striving to be more than you are now).

My personal favorite dance was their delightful tribute to the musical, “Chicago” with the number, “All That Jazz.” While being sheer, sexy fun, it also highlights the physical talents of each dancer beautifully.

Choreography is by Anneka Bellman, Cheyanne Claerbout, Amanda Hickey, Trudy Martin, Lauren Nasci, Michelle Quenon, Candace Reiner, Shannon Stone, and Ola Tarnowski. Company members also include Lexie Carlson, Sarah Farnsely, Brynn Roudebush, and Lauren Smith.

With their talented cast and such a diverse number of offerings, this is the perfect show to see for anyone who is a novice to dance. Performances this weekend are 7:15 p.m. Friday and 1:45 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 2&4, in the Basile Auditorium at the Athenaeum.

IndyFringe: Ship of Dreams

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

By Wendy Carson

First of all, I must warn you that this show is one of the hottest selling tickets at this year’s IndyFringe and every performance has and will sell out. Get your tickets immediately, or regret missing the greatest parody of an Oscar-winning tragic film in existence.

Even before the show begins, our captain, Jason Adams, is inviting the crowd to draw some artworks for the overhead projector used during the show

All of the movie’s major plot elements are covered here, including only referring to one character by the name of the actor portraying him. The show features extremely pun-filled dialogue, visuals on the projector, and simple cardboard props used so well they raise the level of each scene where they appear.

The spectacle reaches epic proportions encompassing karaoke, kazoo ballet, a singing iceberg, and the spectacular dance number showing the dramatic ending to the ship.

Paige Scott and her amazingly talented Party Island troupe of performers (Elysia Rohn, Courtney McClure Murray, Aaron Stillerman, Taylor Daine, Chad Woodward, and Brittany Magee) are each spectacular in all their numerous roles. Adams’ work on the overhead projector is just icing on this deliciously witty cake.

The 7:15 p.m. Friday performance is sold out, so act quickly to get on board 1:45 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4, on the Indy Eleven stage at the IndyFringe Theatre.

IndyFringe: Women’s Work

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

By Wendy Carson

One may think it odd that the first person on stage at this female-centric show, “Women’s Work,” is a man (Dave Pelsue), but his musical presence helps to mark the flow of the story as well as punctuate the ever-present position of men always existing even in the shadows of a woman’s life.

We are then introduced to a young girl (Pearl Parker) giving a report on what she wants to be when she grows up. Using data from “The Employments of Women: A Cyclopaedia of Women’s Work” by Virginia Penny, as well as interviews from woman she knows, her tale is acted out by an octet of women playing two sides of each of the four career paths we are shown.

The younger counterparts begin each story reflecting the sparse number of opportunities available to women in previous generations. Other actors present the characters’ more mature perspectives.

We begin with Betty, who has chosen to become a teacher. Kallen Ruston portrays her bemoaning how everyone she knows is constantly trying to marry her off, regardless of her own preferences – she has dozens of children each day, so is not lacking for the pangs of motherhood. While standing up for her principles and refusing sexual advances from coworkers cause her to change schools, Beverly Roche keeps her optimistic, continuing Betty’s efforts to show each of her students their true potential.

Anne (Katie Carter) relates the challenges of becoming a nurse. She is excited about the importance of her job, as well as the overwhelming information she must remember. As time progresses, her knowledge grows to the level that she inherently knows a patient’s needs; however, gossip and backbiting by other nurses and condescending doctors keep her from doing her best. Miki Mathioudakis shows how Anne’s aggravation has grown as even the young residents disregard her advice, with deadly consequences.

Turning to Carol, we find the rare woman who dares enter the traditionally male field of business and make herself a success. Anna Zimmerman shows the balance required as we catch her doing affirmations to help relieve her high stress levels. She must also deal with a husband who feels his job is more important than hers, so she should naturally be able to blow off her opportunities to pick up the kids because he doesn’t have the time. Her sexist boss is just another hurdle she must overcome. Karin Stratton keeps Carol on an even keel, especially when dealing with inept temps who refuse to stick with a job long enough to actually learn it. She muses about the two years she took away from her job to devote to her children and clawing her way back up to where she was before – and beyond.

We end on Diane (Michelle Wafford), who feels that just being a mother is all of the fulfillment that she needs. While she wonders if she really loves her husband (he’s certainly no Prince Charming) because the moment she held her baby was the first time she ever truly felt it. She is expecting her second child, whether her husband is on board with the idea or not. Then, Gigi Jennewein injects the solemn bitterness Diane feels when her husband leaves her for a much younger girl, forcing to go to work at a local screw factory just to make ends meet. She misses spending time with her kids and realizes none of the other mothers she sees have any idea how hard her life is.

Liv Keslin gives an insight to the future of our narrator, and is glad that she has so many more opportunities afforded her, but still wonders what all of this means.

To find out the answer, have your heart warmed and your inspiration lit, see “Women’s Work,” presented by Betty Rage Productions, in its remaining performances 9 p.m. Friday and 1:45 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 2 & 4, at the IndyFringe Theatre.

IndyFringe: Type Cast

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

By Wendy Carson

The show, “Type Cast” by Steve Freeto, tells us it is improvised poetry, poetic improv, stand-up comedy, and maybe music. What it consisted of for me was some fantastic comedy from the special guests.

We started out with a nice performance from James Avery (Your Handsome Neighborhood SpiderJames), who aptly describes himself as looking like Harry Potter got slapped with puberty. His set was a delight and I greatly look forward to hearing more from him in the future.

Our second performer of the evening was Shannon. I didn’t get her last name, but I hope she won’t hate me for that (I do know she masquerades as Marie Antoinette occasionally, but you’ll have to ask her why). She was also a fresh comedic voice whom I also hope to see again soon.

Afterwards, we get to the main three performers of the group doing what they call “Sad White Boy Improv”. This portion of the show had a rotating guest poet from one of the other IndyFringe shows included.

Their goal is to take a suggested word from the audience and have one of them tell a story involving it. The other two members then enact scenes from the story, and the poet creates a poem involving the word. While this sounds typical, they were not prepared for our audience. We were told that traditional silly words were not to be used so we ended up hitting them with words they had to look up online to be able to use (example: petulant). Still, they did their best and the show overall was pretty funny.

Freeto, who studied at Second City in Chicago, is the founder of GoProv of Goshen, Ind. For more information, visit his site, goprov.org.

IndyFringe: The Ballad of Blade Stallion

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

By Wendy Carson

Matt Kramer and the troupe at Defiance Comedy have brought us another kooky laugh-fest for our enjoyment. From the opening scene of “The Ballad of Blade Stallion” – in which yoga balls are bounced upon to simulate spaceships – you know to expect a silly great time.

Having been hired to retrieve the only copy of some very important secret plans (Who doesn’t make a copy?) as well as a kidnapped girl, Astria (Emily Bohannon), Blade Stallion (*sting* “Blade Stallion!”) sets off to get his paycheck.

Stallion (Zack Joyce) was not aware of the choreography included in his theme song, but manages to make it through that obstacle, only to find that he must also babysit two young children once he gets to his ship.

Cobalt (John Kern) and Skye (Rachelle Martin) are not only familiar with his legend, they feel he might even be “Space Jesus.” As much as Stallion hates telling stories, he manages to control the kids somewhat by telling them his backstory.

We learn he was raised by witches, as well as the origins of his Space Nemesis, The Dandelorian (Clay Mabbitt). This chapter also introduces us to his fellow Space Pirate Academy graduates: cyborg Ann Droid (Meg McLane), with whom he shares a sordid love; and Bando (Kelsey VanVoorst), an anthropomorphic feline who may or may not have his best interests at heart.

Add to this a lot of crazy songs, improbable plot twists, the entire cast milking every bit of humor out of the entire script, and some bizarre characters thrown in, and you have another typically hilarious Defiance show.

Witness the marvel that is “The Ballad of Blade Stallion (Blade Stallion!)” at the District Theatre, 5:30 p.m. Thursday and 8:45 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 1 and 3.