Dec 20, 2013

Looking Back at 2013: My Year of Making Things

I had a broad swath year as far as creating new art. I didn't do any really big projects (unless you maybe count DRIBBLE FUNK 380 for sheer ballsiness or DINOSAUR AND ROBOT STOP A TRAIN for imaginative awesomeness), but looking back, I covered a lot of ground. Here's a look back...

In January I did a PrintBomb Project, hiding my print "Anything Is Possible"
in a bunch of places at the flagship Half Price Books 

In February I directed student actors in a student-written one-act at Tarrant County College

Read my short piece BURDEN OF A LIGHT BLUE SHIRT at Austin's No Shame in March.

In March I also attended the Staple! Expo and sold a few (very few) of my books and postcards

In April, FUN GRIP played the Improvised Play Festival at Austin's Hideout Theatre.

Participated in Rover Dramawerk's One Day Only! XX, a 24 Hour Play event.
An event I founded in 2000. My play was SHARK BITES AND SIDE EFFECTS.

In April, I also saw my commissioned play CARTER STUBBS TAKES FLIGHT put on in a wonderful production by Denton's Sundown Collaborative Theatre, directed by Tashina Richardson.

In May, I taught a solo improv workshop as part of the 2013 Big Sexy Weekend of Improv
for the Alternative Comedy Theatre.

In June I premiered my play DINOSAUR AND ROBOT STOP A TRAIN at the 2013 Festival of Independent Theatres. Next to CHOP, this play is what I'm most proud of from all of my theatre work to date.

Dec 19, 2013

RUDNICK in TheaterJones

RUDNICK in performance at the Margo Jones Theatre

Nice review of A VERY NOUVEAU HOLIDAY in with a nice mention of my play RUDNICK THE CANDLE-HEADED BOY:
[Brian] Witkowicz ... also scores as the title character in Brad McEntire’s Rudnick the Candle-Headed Boy, a cheeky retelling of a certain reindeer myth.
Bring your mom (as long as she doesn’t mind quite a bit of blue language) or drag your loved one or create a decidedly untraditional tradition for the season. Hopefully this concept will return again next year.

See the whole review HERE.

Dec 8, 2013


My play RUDNICK THE CANDLE-HEADED BOY is part of an evening of holiday-themed one-acts called A Very Nouveau Holiday, produced by Nouveau 47 Theatre. The show will play at the Margo Jones Theatre from December 13 to 22, 2013.

Info HERE.

I'm thrilled to be in the company of some other kick-ass playwrights, including Larry Herold, Jonathan Norton and Vicki Cheatwood among others.

Oh, and some of the plays, including RUDNICK, are directed by my sweet wife, Ruth.

UPDATE: (12/11/13) The production actually runs Dec. 17-23.

Dec 6, 2013

Lower East Side memories

July 1999. Me outside Expanded Arts on Ludlow, the Lower East Side NYC
It is cold and dreary outside. I have spent the whole day inside, cleaning, cooking and playing on the Internet. Because of the freak Texas ice storm, my show of RASPBERRY FIZZ that was originally scheduled for tomorrow has been cancelled. Though the actors, Ruth and myself might be able to make it down there, I hypothesize little to no audience, so I called it. I'm hoping to reschedule.

The weather and my challenges with small-scale theatre enterprises has made me nostalgic today and I sit here remembering back to my younger days as a theatre artist.

In 1999 I lived in New York City. I visited the first time in late 1998 and then returned when one of my plays received a staged reading by Reverie Productions at Walker Space Theatre (the home of Soho Rep) in Tribeca. I stayed throughout 1999 and I returned to visit in the summer of 2000. I went back to live there in the spring of 2001 and stayed until September of that year. At the New York International Fringe Festival that year, where I was producing one of my own plays, I met some organizers of a festival in Austin called the M.O.M. Fest. The full name was Mind Over Money Theatrical Festival. Finding out I was a fellow Texan, they invited me to participate in it, which was going up at the beginning of October. I flew out from La Guardia and home to Texas the night of September 10, 2001. The intention was to rehearse a revue-style show based on thematically-linked pieces from a sketch comedy troupe I was a part of and then return to New York three weeks later. That return did not happen. The next day, some airplanes hit some buildings and I got stuck in my hometown. I, essentially, started all over again career-wise once I found myself back in Texas.

Lower East Side... you can see at the corner at the end of the street - at Ludlow and Houston - is the famous Katz's Deli.
That time period in New York was magical. In the summer of 1999 I directed my own play, an early work called RED PAJAMA BLUES at a small store-front theatre on the Lower East Side called Expanded Arts. Located at 85 Ludlow Street, the space literally opened up to the sidewalk out front. I was told it had been a Chinese brothel before a guy named Robert Spahr and his partner Jennifer Pias converted it. I believe it could seat maybe 40 audience members at a time. They also did "Shakespeare in the Park(ing) Lot" in an empty asphalt expanse across the street every summer. The guy I had the most contact with at Expanded Arts was a flannel-shirted dude with a scruffy beard named  Jerry McAllister. He directed a lot of those parking lot Shakespeare productions. My play was part of an annual festival called 94 Plays in 94 Days. In that same theatre, two years before, Joe Calarco had premiered his show SHAKESPEARE'S R & J which went on to an Off-Broadway run.

The Lower East Side was a hotbed of small-scale theatre activity in the late 1990s. Across Delancey Street, a block further north on Ludlow one was waist-deep in Aaron Beall's off-off-Broadway empire. Within rock-throwing distance of the corner of Ludlow and Stanton one could hit one of Beall's venues - all small and divey to a fault. There was the Piano Store (which I rented a basement room in for rehearsals), Collective Unconscious, the backroom at the Pink Pony Cafe and Todo Con Nada (which everyone just called Nada). I met Beall once in the offices of the Piano Store. He has at his zenith in the summer of 1999. An impresario known for taking the lion's share of the box office split for his operations, Beall and his empire imploded a short time later when his Pure Pop Fest went up against the New York International Fringe Festival (which he had helped start) and failed horribly.

This anonymous black basement space used to be Todo Con Nada, a semi-legendary storefront theatre space that thrived in the 1990s
A short distance away was the The Present Company Theatorium, a comparatively large space that was the home of the New York International Fringe, which started in 1997. It had been a former automobile "chop-shop." The area was still semi-dangerous with crack dens, prostitution and illegal pawn shops. There was also other performance venues, a place called House of Candles and another called Surf Reality, I believe, in the neighborhood. Seriously, I think that area bordered by Allen, Ridge, Houston, and Delancey streets had around a dozen venues operating, all open to rental by small groups.

The whole scene was more grunge than Grotowski. It was filled with artists and soon-to-be-artists. All the artistic directors seemed to have Ahab-like intensity and fanaticism. The hundreds of shows that were put on were definitely of the experimental ilk. Ian W. Hill lived in and managed Nada. Playwrights Trav S. D., Brian Parks, Carolyn Raship and Kirk Wood Browley were some of the emerging artists at the time. Future semi-household names such as John Leguizamo, the comedian Reno, and Blue Man Group all presented at Nada. Actor James Urbaniak and Drama Dept. director Randall Curtis Rand started at that time on the Lower East Side. As did the Target Margin Theatre and the avant garde Elevator Repair Service. Eccentric elf-eared humorist Reverend Jen's Anti-Slam played weekly. The interactive docudrama Charlie Victor Romeo was a hit of the downtown scene. The modesty of the Piano Store was deceptive, but among the hits it fostered were Fun Box 2000 and The Donkey Show. I seem to remember Richard Foreman's Benita Canova playing across from the Piano Store (I don't remember what it was about, but I do remember the lead actress wore a sexy school girl outfit), but I'm not sure if I saw it there or at St. Marks. Radiohole started up around this time. Beall himself put on Faust and Hamlet festivals before his Pure Pop Fest debacle. 1999 was also the year Urinetown put the New York International Fringe Festival on the map.

Collective:Unconscious Theater at 145 Ludlow in 1997

All the theatres have closed by now. The area has undergone quite the gentrification/
hipsterization that is common at a lot of formerly awesome areas (think Williamsburg, Brooklyn). In neighboring areas one can still find Big Cheap Theater. Just north in the East Village, one can catch shows at the Horse Trade trifecta: the Kraine, the Red Room, and the St. Marks Theater. But on Ludlow Street, everything has changed. The area transformed into a mini-Soho during the boom years of the fin de si├Ęcle. Upscale boutiques, chic hipster bars, and nightclubs have replaced divey independent arts venues.

I look back on this time and place in my past and realize, indirectly, it has had a huge influence on me. I knew at the time I was, even peripherally, part of something special, but the residual effects are what have stuck. 

I was steeped in independent theatre. Folks like producers Beall and John Clancy (over at The Present Company at the time) were obsessive about theatre. They approached it with a craftsman's diligence and a certain grubby magic. They were capitalistic, but not commercial. Individual voices and novel approaches were valued. New work was welcomed, especially high-energy, bare-bones, intellectually engaging and terrifically contemporary. The Lower East Side in those years when I was there (1998-2001) was the indiest of indie theatre, the kind that is independent to a fault. And I ate it up.

The Present Company Theatorium at 198 Stanton Street, between Attorney and Ridge, ran from 1998 til 2003
The kind of theatre I did and continue to do is of this ilk... weird, funny, a bit experimental, a bit satirical, but hopefully still appealing and accessible to mass audiences. Even the way I have formatted my theatre company harkens back to these indie theatres of the late 1990s. My hope is that the new venue, the Margo Jones Theatre, that Audacity is based in, will be this sort of place, too.

And here's the deal. I really barely grazed it. All told, this made up just a few years of my life, but my memories of the LES happened to me while I was young. I was just starting out on this adventure called "a career in the theatre." Everything seemed more intense and jam-packed. Back then, everything happened fast, it seemed, and the experiences were in the form of concentrate. I know this because now I am older and not in such a damn hurry.

I try to go back sometimes, but it is never and will never be the same. I have returned five times for the New York International Fringe Festival. Despite the fancy name, when I first went in 1999, I experienced it as a messy, dirty, punk-rock party. That was the epitome of the Lower East Side theatre experience in a nutshell. I went back last year to the New York International Fringe Festival with my solo show CHOP and it was nothing like that. It seemed like the word fringe should be taken out of the title. Too many rules, too much red tape, too much sprawl, too much bureaucracy, too much expense. I look at FringeNYC now and it looks like an institution. A big, unwieldy, out-of-touch, overly-commercial institution. I looked at the kids working the FringeNYC in 2012 and all I thought was, "my god it looks so dull" and "just loosen up and stop going by your damn handbook, we're making theatre here" and "poor miserable bastards, you'll never know the fun and horror of what it used to be like". 

And it is not just that I'm older now. Sure I'm not the same. But neither is it. But as I write this, it occurs to me... I guess to look backwards from time to time can be, in a small way, a reminder of how we look forward.

Dec 1, 2013

Audacity Theatre Lab keeps the spirit of experimentation alive at the Margo Jones Theatre

RASPBERRY FIZZ at the Margo Jones Theatre, Dallas TX

Nice write-up by Mark Lowry on about my "small-batch" theatre company Audacity Theatre Lab. Here's a snippet...
Dallas — Just in case you’re curious how Audacity Theatre Lab has managed to fly under the radar in DFW for more than a decade, and still make some of the most consistently entertaining shows on a budget for which the term “shoestring” seems fancy, you’re not alone. The group, run by Brad McEntire and his wife Ruth Engel-McEntire, specializes in original work, often one-person shows—or at least with a small cast.
In the past month, it has presented three such shows in the new Margo Jones Theatre space in Fair Park, two of them still running on one bill. A.V. Phibes’ play Grading on a Curve, directed by McEntire and performed by Lauren Moore, begins the show as a 25-minute curtain raiser. That’s followed by McEntire’s play Raspberry Fizz.
One of the first shows presented there after the 2013 State Fair closed was under the Audacity banner, an import from Portland, Ore., Kate Mura’s one-person mask show Suburban Tribe. It was performed twice in early November. Mura, the Artistic Ambassador of Portland’s Fuse Theatre Ensemble, wrote the work as a thank you to a New Jersey community that rallied around a family after a “freak accident.” She’s been performing it on the festival circuit for several years. (McEntire also does that circuit.)
Read the whole article HERE