Category Archives: theater

Playwright Crystal Skillman on Geek!

Becky Byers as "Honey", Allison Buck as "Danya", & Emily Williams as "Ellen" in GEEK! by Crystal Skillman
Becky Byers as “Honey”, Allison Buck as “Danya”, & Emily Williams as “Ellen” in GEEK! by Crystal Skillman

Let’s forgo the klunky introduction and jump right into the mix. Playwright Crystal Skillman‘s play, GEEK!, opened on March 21, 2013, at St. Mark’s Church 131 East 10th Street, 2nd Floor, and runs through April 13. Tickets can be bought here. She is so great to interview and covers so much ground, nothing more needs to be said.

Oh, OK, if you insist, here’s the official play description:
“With pissed-off Pikachus, steam punk armies, stood-up Sailor Moons and roller-blading monsters on the prowl, it’s easy to get lost in the Inferno-esque anime convention where the fans, the otakus, and the geeks prowl. But to score a rare signature from their comic book idol, teenage outcasts Dayna and Honey will take on obsessive magic players, Jedis and elfs, cosplayers and convention guards – through all nine flights of Ohio’s Dante’s Fire-Con – to get a chance to shake hands with their pop-culture hero.”

Tim O’Shea: Was there a certain con experience in particular that inspired this play?

Crystal Skillman: Yes! About three years ago Fred and I were at the Miami Super Comic Con. We’d been to many cons together – I love being his girl friday and taking photos of him signing and being a booth babe and all. But I adore checking out each convention and how different they all are too. I feel like at each one you’re seeing who has come in, but also those who live in the area – one of the great joys is seeing Fred meet fans from all over. The Miami con was quite big and sprawled over three levels each clearly designated to comics, anime and gameplay. It was held in an interesting space full of nooks and crannies more than other cons I’d been too. While Fred was signing at the booth, I began taking photographs that began to truly inspire me. As I captured the awkward beautiful vulnerability and tenacity and just spunk of these cos-players, coupled with the experience of watching fans for so many years coming to Fred’s table being so affected, I strongly felt there is a play here. A play the explored and celebrated fandom. The play, as crazy fun as it is, became more and more personal reflecting my own Geek past, that has so inspired and affected by whole life (for example I’m the kinda gal that made my mom drive me to school, before I could drive, to avoid being made fun of on the schoolbus :) ), suddenly kicked into high gear. I wanted to write a play that was poppy, fun and which captured the con experience, but truthful to the struggle all Geeks have to find who they connect with and who they are.

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Adam Szymkowicz on Clown Bar, Compulsive Love

Clown Bar
Clown Bar

February 27 is going to be a great day for writer Adam Szymkowicz for two reasons. First up, previews will start on the Pipeline Theater Company production of his clown noir play, Clown Bar (February 27 & 28 at 8PM) at the Parkside Lounge (317 E. Houston St., New York, NY) before starting a run of Fridays & Saturdays at 9PM performances from March 1 – March 23, 2013.

Secondly, the first episode of the Szymkowicz-written web series, Compulsive Love, will premiere on February 27. Compulsive Love has the great tag line of “A show about a man being punched in the face by love and the women wearing the brass knuckles.” In this interview, we discuss both projects.

Tim O’Shea: Am I correct in thinking that Clown Bar is partially a musical? Did you always envision the project having music?

Adam Szymkowicz: It has four songs in it.  There is a character who is the singer in the bar and he sings all the songs.  Sometimes I like to put one or two songs in my shows, though I can’t say why this play has four songs in it except to say it always did.

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On O’Toole’s Retirement: A 1963 Convo with Orson Welles

So today Peter O’Toole announced his retirement from acting. To mark this milestone, I present these three short excerpts from a 1963 BBC show, Monitor.

In the show, O’Toole (who played Hamlet in a 1963 production directed by Laurence Olivier [as noted in this 2003 Guardian retrospective piece]) discusses Hamlet with “Huw Wheldon (the host) and veteran actor Ernest Milton” as well as film and theater legend Orson Welles.

Sara Hickman on The Best of Times

Article first published as Musician Sara Hickman on The Best of Times on Technorati.

The Best of Times

During 2010, in the wake of the Texas Legislature’s budgetary cuts for arts funding, Sara Hickman, the Texas State Musician of the Year, decided to use her position to raise funds and awareness for the importance of arts education (and the funding of it) for children. More exactly, she spearheaded a collaborative effort–with a variety of Texas artists including Shawn Colvin, Willie Nelson, Rhett Miller, Robert Earl Keen as well as many more–to record a collection of Hickman’s own songs. The project, The Best of Times, was recently released as a two-CD, 38-cut collection by Waterloo Records. All proceeds from the sale of the CD set go directly to the Theatre Action Project, a non-profit that supports unique arts programs for more than 16,000 young people. To fully grasp the drive behind her charitable efforts, I recently email interviewed Hickman.

How did you go about getting all of the many fellow talented people who contributed their musical talents to Best of Times?

I knew I had, at least, a year to start lining up musicians to record for The Best of Times because Willie Nelson, who also recorded for the album, was the State Musician before my position took place. So, I immediately made a “wish list” and began calling/emailing/asking in person. I kept a giant chart on the wall with the names of artists/bands I had contacted, the titles of songs I had sent, if they had responded, if they were in the studio, if they had finished recording, if I had the recording.

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Ryan Dunlavey on Action Philosophers Play Adaptation

Article first published as Ryan Dunlavey on Action Philosophers Play Adaptation on Technorati.

Action Philosophers

Action Philosophers, the comic book series by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey, has been adapted for the theater by award-winning playwright Crystal Skillman (who happens to also be Van Lente’s spouse). The play has been acclaimed for capturing the flavor of the comics series’ comedic exploration of several world philosophers. Action Philosophers is currently in a limited run through October 16 (Thursday & Friday at 8 pm, Saturday & Sunday at 7 pm) at the Brick Theater (in cooperation with Impetuous Theater Group). Dunlavey recently took the time to share his thoughts with me via email on the comic series’ successful transition to the theater.

When you and Fred first developed Action Philosophers, did you ever envision it being adapted for theater?

Never. I arrogantly believed that it was completely unadaptable to other mediums and it would exclusively live and die on the comic book page, but Crystal Skillman, director John Hurley and the actors have done a fantastic job of proving me wrong!

Interestingly enough (maybe only to me) Action Philosophers originally came about when I asked Crystal to collaborate on a comic with me, but then Fred got to me first!

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Why I Love the Library of Congress: Marx Brothers

New York Tribune; April 10, 1921
April 1921 Marx Brothers Item

Every once and awhile I write a post that suggests ways to appreciate where our (if you’re U.S. based like myself) taxes go. The Library of Congress is a fine example of our taxes being used in a delightful (to me, at least) manner.

On New Year’s Eve, TCM aired a Marx Brothers marathon. For whatever reason, seeing the films again (I grew up in the 1970s in a family that made you respect the Marx Brothers from birth) made me wonder: “What kind of documents does the Library of Congress have on the Marx Brothers?”

A quick search turned up this collection of Library of Congress details. What really caught my attention, though, was an April 10, 1921 New York Tribune piece covering the Marx Brothers first film (which was lost seemingly forever, after only one public screening), Humor Risk. As noted by IMDb, the silent film was written by Jo Swerling, who would go on to write Pennies from Heaven, The Pride of the Yankees, and It’s A Wonderful Life. The Marx Brothers would not make another film until 1929’s The Cocoanuts.

Lilli Carré on Eyeworks Festival

A few weeks back, Lilli Carré dropped me a note about Eyeworks, the experimental animation festival that she’s co-directing with Alexander Stewart on this Saturday, November 6 at Chicago’s DePaul CDM Theater. As detailed at the festival’s website: “Eyeworks is a new film festival featuring abstract animation and unconventional character animation. Festival programs showcase outstanding experimental animation of all sorts: classic films, new works, overlooked masterpieces, and quirky footnotes of history.

Eyeworks Festival 2010 trailer from Lilli Carré on Vimeo.

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Tom DeSavia on Notable Music Co.

Tom DeSavia

Notable Music loves you very, very much.” It’s not everyday that you run across a company with a motto like that. But do a search for Notable Music Co. and that’s a phrase that the company communicates fairly consistently. A music publishing company founded by composer/songwriter Cy Coleman in the early 1960s, Notable Music has been expanding in recent years. Even though Coleman died in 2004, with his widow Shelby Coleman serving as president with Damon Booth as VP/GM and Tom DeSavia as VP/Creative, Notable Music is “as committed to representing new and developing talent as it is in promoting the legacy of what we believe is one of the great independent music publishing catalogs of our time.” DeSavia was kind enough to recently answer a few questions. My thanks to him for his time. Given the shifting landscape of the music industry, after talking to DeSavia, I’m intrigued at the opportunities and successes that Notable Music have achieved and the upcoming projects it has planned (anytime someone mentions a new Sam Phillips project, I’m a happy man). Before jumping into the interview, however, please consider this paragraph from Notable Music: “A few of the artists who have recorded & performed the Notable Music & Portable Music repertoire include: Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, Sarah Vaughan, James Brown, Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Isaac Hayes, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Shirley Horn, Sammy Davis Jr., The Jackson 5, Michael Buble, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Queen, Fiona Apple, Wilson Pickett, Shirley Bassey, Nancy Wilson, Dusty Springfield, Sam Phillips, Patty Griffin, Madeleine Peyroux, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, and Robert Plant & Alison Krauss.”

Tim O’Shea: Last year when you and Notable Music VP/GM Damon Booth were interviewed at RM64, Booth said: “One of my goals for Notable when I started was for it to be a full-fledged music company. We’re publishers primarily, but if our songwriters need to make a record, then let’s get a record made and find a home for it.” The music industry seems to be changing drastically on a regular basis. How hard is it to expand your opportunities in such a climate?

Tom DeSavia: It’s actually one of the fun parts of the job. I’m always saying it’s 1956 all over again… meaning it’s like the dawn of rock and roll… ‘pop’ music sales, for lack of a better term, is not the massive business it was, so a lot of the financial muscle behind it has lost/is losing interest in music as an ‘industry’… so it’s moving back to a ‘small business’ mentality, and the canvas is blank… the business is being reinvented on what it’s going to be for the next 40 years. You have to do everything – and half the fun of it is making it up as you go along, because most of the old rules no longer apply.

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Robert Sellers on Hellraisers

Hellraisers

Some people like to raise hell, some people like to document the hellraising. Fortunately for this interview, writer Robert Sellers is a member of the latter group. Sellers is the author of Hellraisers: The Life and Inebriated Times of Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O’Toole, and Oliver Reed, as well as Hollywood Hellraisers: The Wild Lives and Fast Times of Marlon Brando, Dennis Hopper, Warren Beatty, and Jack Nicholson and An A-Z of Hellraisers: A Comprehensive Compendium of Outrageous Insobriety. In this email interview we discuss both books and more. My thanks to Sellers for his time, as well as John Karle of St. Martin’s Press for helping to arrange the interview.

Tim O’Shea: Would you say with the 24/7 news cycle mixed with the fact PR people can no longer sweep heavy drinking under the table as easily, is the era of celebrity hellraising done to a certain extent?

Robert Sellers: I think so. Our hellraisers were lucky in that their misbehaviour was only witnessed by a select few, so tales of their debauchery have become almost mythologized. Today celebrities’ every involuntary movement is recorded on some tosser’s mobile phone and then put on You Tube in a time span that’s shorter than their dick.

O’Shea: What attracted you to documenting the partying ways of these four actors (Burton, O’Toole, Harris & Reed) in particular?

Sellers: These guy’s bad behaviour was laced with a bit of style and humour. Take the time O’Toole was refused a drink after hours so he simply pulled out his cheque book and bought the pub. There was a jaw dropping audacity about their pranks and a twinkle in their eyes that made the public forgive them almost anything, which you just don’t have with today’s celebrity yobs. Also, back in those wilder and better days drinking was very much a macho culture; a chap could hold his booze and all of these hellraisers could drink each other under the table. Today it’s almost a prerequisite to appear everywhere completely out of your head and hopeless. The new breed of bad boy is not terribly sophisticated. Burton et al could always turn on the charm, pissed or not; this new lot can hardly string a sentence together.

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Lance Roger Axt/Bill Dufris on Starstruck

Starstruck Audio Drama
Starstruck Audio Drama

Audio drama is a craft that I’m glad to see alive and well, and aiming to adapt to new technologies. One current example is Starstruck, soon to be released by The AudioComics Company. As described at the site: “Buck Rogers meets Barbarella meets The Hitchhiker’s Guide the Galaxy… The Off-Broadway Sci-Fi Comedy Masterpiece that spawned a comic book revolution comes to audio October 31! Written by Elaine Lee with Susan Norfleet and Dale Place, featuring characters from the comic by Lee and Michael Kaluta. First on compact disc, and pay-per-MP3s downloads, Starstruck rides the airwaves later this fall!” To mark the impending release, I interviewed AudioComics Company’s Lance Roger Axt and Bill Dufris.

Also as noted at the website: “Starstruck compact discs will be $22.95, not including tax and postage and handling. These are 4-panel 2-disc eco wallets … The cut-off date for CD orders is October 20, 2010. Your CD will be mailed directly to you on November 3, 2010, so when you place your order, make sure you write down your correct mailing address. Compact discs will be mailed first class USPS … Please note that these CD’s are not available in direct maket comic book stores or big box book stores like Borders, this is an item you can only purchase from the AudioComics Company webstore. And unfortunately these are only available in the States, but for our overseas Starstruck fans, the MP3 downloads are forthcoming, and worldwide. Info on MP3 downloads to come next month.” As Lance told me prior to finalizing this interview: “AudioComics has been a five year journey which is now finally taking shape, and I’m pleased to say that Bill and I have, beyond this inaugural production, at least ten other comic-to-audio projects to keep us busy between now and the end of 2012!” My thanks to Axt and Dufris for the interview. Also, please be sure to check out the AudioComics page on Facebook.

Tim O’Shea: First off, Lance, I saw your post about attending San Diego–can you talk about how much you enjoyed meeting Stan Freberg?

LANCE ROGER AXT: Some people came to San Diego to see Tron or Green Lantern footage, others wanted to see the cast of True Blood; me, I wanted to meet Stan Freberg. And I’ll tell you something, I can honestly say that I was humbled to be in his presence. It’s been brought up on many forums and comments pages, especially in the wake of the passings of Frazetta and Williamson, to appreciate the artists who are still with us. In my case, those artists are people like Stan Freberg, the Firesign Theatre, Yuri Rasovsky, Tom Lopez of ZBS. These people took radio drama out of the golden age, the “old timey” way of writing and acting, and showed audiences that with audio there are no limitations…so, yeah, meeting Stan was a real highlight of my first trip to SDCC. Not to mention he was the nicest, most approachable person, both he and Hunter. It’s hard to find the words now…the sound man’s gone silent.

Continue reading Lance Roger Axt/Bill Dufris on Starstruck