Theatre

Thursday Night FRINGE: “The Importance of Being Earnest” and Local Band, The Lonely Ones

Thursday night’s local music and live theatre double header at Writers & Books was among my favorite evenings at the First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival. Local folk-indie-awesome band, The Lonely Ones, performed a diverse and wonderful set of original compositions, followed by the excellent, MUST SEE University of Rochester TOOP production of Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece, “The Importance of Being Earnest” which, literally, brought the lattice down.

Let’s start with Earnest.

“The Importance of Being Earnest” @ Writers and Books

Photography by Todd Kelmar

Photography by Todd Kelmar

To be clear, I will pledge my support to student productions until the day my proverbial curtains close. That said, they are usually a mixed bag of quality, plagued with director inexperience, bland overstatement, and poor (pick of the crop) acting.

I’m happy to announce that University of Rochester TOOP’s (The Opposite of People) production of “The Importance of Being Earnest” rivals some of the best theatre I’ve seen at the Fringe this year. Ian Van Fange, only a sophomore at UR, directs Oscar Wilde’s extravagantly clever script into a tight, well performed play that had the nearly sold-out audience invested from start to finish, crying with laughter. When I spoke with Van Fange, congratulating him on the wonderful production, he gave all the credit to his actors. And I can see why. His cast was certainly amazing.

Daniel Mensel (as Algernon Moncrieff) and Michael Tamburrino (as John Worthing, J.P.) are impeccable together, eliciting a contagious chemistry that never quits. These two young actors jump into Wilde’s shoes brilliantly. Were they born to play these roles? Maybe. All we know is what we can assume: Mensel and Tamburrino were born to play many more roles after this.

Photography by Todd Kelmar

Photography by Todd Kelmar

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FRINGE Tuesday Night: “UR Diversity of Dance” and “Coffee with God”

Tuesday can be a wild card weekday. In business, it is generally known as the slowest day of sales; in art and performance, it can be the perfect night to capture an audience overwhelmed by weekend hysteria. The First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival didn’t lose a beat last night. Both events had BIG turn outs, one of which sold out. FRINGE: even midweek isn’t safe anymore.

UR Diversity of Dance @ RAPA

The University of Rochester Diversity of Dance kicked off its one and only show last night at RAPA, featuring over eight diverse performances by UR groups and clubs. I saw a little bit of everything: music-less compositions, breakdancing, bellydancing, improv—even UR a cappella group After Hours came by and threw in a few heart pumping songs.

These ladies (pictured below) set the bar high for all who followed. Listed as Dance Performance Workshop (which I think is a class at UR), the ensemble merged and adapted styles, dancing to a sound score that was super interesting: a speech by motivational speaker Eric Thomas.

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UR Stylez is freestyle breakdancing club, and last night they brought the proverbial house down. A blend of “freestyle, freezes, power moves, rocks, and footwork into one unique thing,” the UR Stylez guys (and gal) hit the ground and didn’t look to stop.

I caught up with UR Stylez b-boys Noah Woolfolk, Minsoo Kim, and TinChan Lao after the show. “We could’ve gone all night if they let us.” Be on the lookout for UR Stylez around the University of Rochester for some October performances. (more…)

FRINGE Days 3 & 4: Jay Pharaoh, “Intrepid,” and a Laptop Orchestra

The First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival continues its Tricycle tromping path throughout the city of Rochester. I’ve come to terms: as a Fringe audience member, I’m never quite sure what I’m going to see. This weekend my limits were stretched. I was witness to SNL stand up, a laptop orchestra, an hour long, prop-free, one-man show and more.

A Little Business at the Big Top

guide_photoA Little Business at the Big Top is a one man show, currently playing at the Geva Theatre and features accomplished performance actor David Gaines. He is a Fringe veteran who travels the world performing solo shows. Sans stage props, David Gaines prompts imagination. The man is pure electricity, the mime child of Steve Martin and Charlie Chaplin.

While at first, for me, the lack of dialogue and set design was a hard pill to swallow, but a few minutes into the show my brain filled in the details (like the food fight scene on Hook!), and all of a sudden the scene flooded in. I saw the circus tent, the animals, the tight rope. My imagination hasn’t seen this much action in ages. Thanks, David. It was truly magical!

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Rochester Laptop Orchestra

On the total opposite end of the technology performance spectrum was the Rochester Laptop Orchestra, hosted by Eastman and University of Rochester students. What is a laptop orchestra exactly? I’m still trying to figure that out. To the show’s detriment, composition explanations were riddled with enigmatic jargon that left me scratching my head. All this to say, I still had a really great time (even if I wasn’t always aware of what was going on).

The hosts incorporated ballerina dancing, drum circles, facial mapping, and more. Here’s a video of the orchestra creating music through genetic mapping. What were they mapping? A disease. Pretty cool stuff.

My favorite part of the performance was the facial mapping sequence: depending how the users would move their faces, piano notes would play. (more…)

Becoming a Playwright, Old Moldwarp

Good news, friends! My play, “Famous Writer is Hell” was selected and will be performed at the 16th Annual Rochester One-Act Festival. Woot! The play is about, as you can imagine, famous writers in hell. For their eternal punishment, Hemingway, Shakespeare, and Plato are forced to listen to undergrads misinterpret their great works. Insanity ensues.

“Famous Writers” was technically my first complete play. I thought the idea was pretty good, so I ran with it. I used every resource I had to refine the play, and in the end, my characters will come to life on stage. Pretty neat.

This achievement is especially gratifying considering that, last year, after my first playwright class, I came home terrified, insecure, and intimidated. The level of writing ability my classmates exhibited was well beyond my own. To quote myself, “Crap. I have some work to do.”

But if I’ve learned anything since moving to Rochester (other than how to keep the Polar Vortex from freezing your face off), it’s that good things happen when creative people surround themselves with other creative and more talented people.

Challenges emerge. Feedback fosters. Inspiration happens.

There’s a stigma of loneliness attached to writing: a lonely dark road, a closet with desk, just sit down and give yourself to the loneliness. Give me a break. Writing doesn’t need to be that way! Creative communities, I think, should be emphasized more in writing curriculums. These last few months, the workshopping and feedback processes have been just as key as the actual writing and editing part.

SIDE NOTE: All this said, I usually only write when I’m by myself. Writing, however, should never act as an excuse for loneliness, but as a motivator to experience life. (more…)

Saturday Skit: Give ‘Em God

The following is a scene from a larger one-act play I’m writing called GIVE ‘EM GOD. It’s about my experiences leading worship and growing up inside the church (very much still a work in progress). I’m hoping to have it finished as a final project for my playwright course in a couple weeks.

GIVE ‘EM GOD: Scene 5

College Nights

(Spotlight over YOUNG TAD and YOUNG DEBORAH, sitting on the floor in the corner. They are outside. YOUNG TAD is smoking. The Moonglows’ “Ten Commandments of Love” plays quietly in the background, repeating if necessary.)

YOUNG DEBORAH: I guess… I never really thought about it.

YOUNG TAD: Yeah?

YOUNG DEBORAH: Yeah. You know. You grow up in the church and learn not to question things. Certain things.

YOUNG TAD: So you just—

YOUNG DEBORAH: Shut it out, really.

YOUNG TAD: And here you are in college, and your professors tell you differently.

YOUNG DEBORAH: I guess so.

YOUNG TAD: Before you didn’t think much about it.  Now you have to think about it. That right?

YOUNG DEBORAH: It scares me. What if they’re right and biology and evolution and big bang and… explains all this? It’s Santa Claus all over again. How fashionable… lying to children. Somedays I do feel I’ve lost my faith. But I look everywhere for it. The cupboards, the closet, under the bathroom mat. The toaster if I’m hungry. Lord. Somedays I don’t find it.  (more…)

Saturday Skit: Science

The following is a short skit I wrote for my playwright class. Enjoy!

SCIENCE

(Lights. A public bathroom. There are seven urinals against the wall. NARRATOR stands on the corner of the stage; he wears a suit. When men enter the restroom, their movements and talking freeze as the NARRATOR speaks.)

NARRATOR: The Three P’s of Pissing. There are three instincts every man of good character must possess inside an office washroom: Position, Poise, & Posture. Here, you will find seven urinals—ladies and gentlemen—and three washing stations. We are at Brodducks & Sons Insurance Agency, corner of Park & Granger. Ahh! Yes. Our first specimen joins us. Barry, 32, man of one wife and infant child.

(BARRY enters. He stops and surveys his urinal choices.)

Ahh. All to himself. What shall he ever choose?

(BARRY selects the first urinal in the row.)

NARRATOR: How expected. How common. That’s what we get with Barry, isn’t. Yes. That’s what we expect. Notice, if I may point out, ladies and gentlemen, Barry’s posture. He’s slumping, relaxing in his own world. No poise to speak of, no. Can you blame the man? No one else around. Go ahead, Barry. Take a load off. The first urinal in the row is always chosen by men outside the pack. Familiarity. What anthropologists call “comfortable.”

(OLD BILL BAILEY enters. He stops and surveys his urinal choices.)

NARRATOR: Here we go! Let’s see what Old Bill Bailey will choose. Ladies and Gentlemen. This is where the show begins. The second male in a washroom has the worst fate; his choice claims everything. The third and fourth male don’t matter; their urinal selections are consequential to space. But Old Bill Bailey, he can choose whatever he wants, but be careful! Ladies and Gentlemen. To choose the farthest urinal—on the other side of the room—most certainly, no man of good conscious could. And Old Bill Bailey is a man of good conscious. See, choosing the farthest urinal—on the other side of the room—suggests one of two things:  (more…)