Jan 29, 2014

FUN GRIP at Tulsa's Comedy Parlor

Brad McEntire and Jeff Swearingen are FUN GRIP
Playing Friday, Jan. 31 and Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 at 9 PM
Plus! Special Guest Show! Playing with Tulsa’s own Comfort Creatures at 10:30 PM on Feb. 1st.
The Comedy Parlor, 328 East 1st Street, Tulsa OK 74120
Website here. Tix $10. Call : (918) 921-3535

ROCKET PACKS, TIGERS AND GOLDFISH - feature in StarLocalMedia.com's Going Places

Kelley Chambers of StarLocalMedia.com did a wonderful Q-and-A with me this week...

Going Places: Rocket packs, tigers and goldfish

By Kelley Chambers | Carrollton Leader | January 29, 2014
Brad McEntire stars as Robot and Jeff Swearingen as Dinosaur in “Dinosaur and Robot Stop a Train.” The one-act play, written by McEntire, premiered as part of the 2013 Festival of Independent Theatres last June at the Bath House Cultural Center in Dallas
So far, 2014 holds some new and promising endeavors for director and playwright Brad McEntire.
Known for his passion for creating small yet powerful theatre productions, the Carrollton native’s latest production of director Andy Eninger’s “The Last Castrato” at the Margo Jones Theatre in Dallas wrapped last week with glowing reviews. Also earlier this month, his production company, Audacity Theatre Lab, hosted McEntire’s solo piece, “I Brought Home a Chupacabra” as part of the YOLO Solo Fest of one-person, one-act plays.
Catch another one of McEntire’s own off-the-wall solo pieces, “Roberts' Eternal Goldfish,” when it debuts at the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival at the WaterTower Theatre this March in Addison.
“I’m trying to do high-quality professional theater that doesn’t cost much. It’s not a stepping stone to get to something bigger - the goal is the small.”

SLM: How did you get your start in the local arts community?
BM: “I started Audacity Productions in 1999 while in New York. We did a reading at Art Centre in Plano – that was the first thing we did. It was a total garage band sort of operation. We dissolved in 2006 [when] I moved to Hong Kong … and I made a new company named Audacity Theatre Lab in 2008. Now we’re trying to do real gritty, small in scale but big in scope [shows]. That’s been my rallying cry.”
SLM: With plays named “Chop” and “Dinosaur and Robot Stop a Train,” how would you describe your style? And how do you come up with this stuff?
BM: “My wife said it best when she said ‘you blend kitsch and resonance.’ I like dinosaurs and jetpacks and tiki gods; I like all these kinds of novelty things, but I like for them to serve a purpose, to serve the message of the play. I write the stuff I want to see, because nobody is writing the stuff I want to see. The Dallas theater community is pretty big, and there’s enough room in it to do [what you want to do].”
SLM: Any other influences besides your own imagination?
BM: “[Daniel Quinn] who wrote the book “Ishmael” wrote another book [called “Beyond Civilization”], and he has this theory of tribes in it. His thesis is that when humanity turned to civilization, we mucked everything up. Civilization works as a big hierarchy. Quinn's thought was if we still lived tribally, we would be more plugged in rather than living in a hierarchy where status tends to trump results.
His writing was very influential on me because it sparked this thought... what if everybody was their own "tribe?" Instead of the traditional hierarchy in theater, where designers design, directors direct and the actors act and everyone answers to someone above them on the food chain …you could have a theater company composed of people who could do all the roles in a tribe – we could even trade off if we needed to. I like this idea so much, but we’re very role driven people. Especially people in the theatre. It’s a collaborative art form. It’s very hard to convey [this tribe-of-one idea], and it’s very hard to get people who usually just interpret something someone else made to understand it. There's a risk in it. You are responsible for your idea. You are an instigator.”
Carrollton native Brad McEntire started Audacity Theatre Lab in 2008, but his humble beginnings with his production company began at the Art Centre in Plano, where he hosted a “garage band style” reading. Since then, McEntire has built upon his company and is well-versed in directing, writing, improvisation, cartooning, and probably a few other talents related to the arts community.
SLM: You write and direct on your own plays – doesn’t that keep you extremely busy?
BM: “It does, but only when I want it to. We don’t manage a space, we’re invited to play. When we’re there at the Margo Jones Theatre in Fair Park [where Audacity Theatre Lab is one of a few invited groups] we pay in sweat equity. The rest of the time we’re not there, we don’t manage the space so we don’t have to keep money coming in. If the artists in Audacity don’t have any ideas, we simply don’t do any theater, and if we have a lot of ideas, we do a lot of theater. The time schedule’s really organic. There's really low overhead, so there's really no need for a constant stream of income. Most theaters don’t operate that way. They have to fund raise constantly and stay relentlessly active in order to keep the doors open. We found that we have a lot of freedom by just not having any doors.”
SLM: Where all have you hosted your productions?
BM: “All over the place. The Bath House Cultural Center, WaterTower Theatre, Teatro Dallas, the Ochre House in Dallas. We’ve done stuff at Starbucks, in art galleries, and we’ve done stuff in lobbies of apartment buildings. We in Audacity put the project together, then we think, ‘Where can we do this?’ The goal itself is not to get as large an audience as possible but to get an audience that is as interested, as engaged as possible. Most of our shows are meant for intimate spaces, for small audiences.”
SLM: You seem to see theater a bit differently than most. What is your theory or your plan of attack when it comes to producing good stage productions?
BM: “First and foremost, we shoot for quality. That's a given. Small-in-scale theater is one of those things that often gets a bad rap, because it’s considered amateur. I’m trying to do high-quality professional theater that doesn’t cost much. It’s not a stepping stone to get to something bigger, the goal is the small. The good thing is nowadays in order to run a theater all you need is a laptop for all the administrative stuff. And for the production side, we’ve streamlined it so that all we need, most of the time, is what can fit in a dufflebag or two.”
SLM: How has the feedback been so far?
BM: “The shows have been well-received. Reviews are mostly good. The trick is getting the word out. I am actively  learning the marketing side of things just now."

"I am slowly earning recognition from my colleagues, though that is very gradual. One observation I've made, is that the more I turn to creating and producing my own work under my own banner [AudacityTheatre Lab] the more I feel kind of isolated from the greater theater community here in North Texas. This has been more pronounced since I began working on solo shows over the last few years. I now have to make more of an effort to get out and participate in the cultural landscape and to keep track of what my fellow theatre professionals are doing."

"I’m at a point in my career where I can proudly put my name on everything I make. I’m kind of now in the early middle days of my playwriting and producing , so I’ve gone through the [preliminary work] that was needed. I've been at this for over twenty years. I have a lot of experience and training under my belt. I'm proud of pretty much everything I turn out now. That wasn't always the case as I was coming up. So, that's a thrill. There’s no apology. There's no saying, 'Oh, it's okay if you don't see this one, maybe catch the next one...' Everything is pretty solid and thought-through and I'm usually really pleased to present any new project to my audiences. Now I invite everyone I know to come see everything I do.”
For more information about Brad McEntire, visit bradmcentire.com.

Jan 26, 2014

CHUPACABRA review on TheaterJones.com

One Life To Live

TheaterJones.com | published Friday, January 24, 2014

Dallas — The YOLO Solo Festival is currently happening at the Margo Jones Theatre, performed around the current Audacity Theatre Lab production of Andy Eninger's The Last Castrato, starring Jeff Swearingen and directed by Brad McEntire. Presented by Audacity and curated by Elaine Liner, the eight short plays of YOLO (the common hashtag meaning "you only live once") are each 30 minutes or shorter.

I Brought Home A Chupacabra

Written by Brad McEntire | Directed by Ruth Engel-McEntire | Performed by Lauren Moore

It’s a common enough story. A person comes across a stray animal and decides to give it a good home. It’s a particularly sweet story...typically. But, what if that stray animal is none other than the pseudo-mythical beast, the chupacabra? That’s actress Lauren Moore’s conundrum in Brad McEntire’s hilarious dark comedy I Brought Home A Chupacabra.

Moore tells the story of going on a hiking trip with the boyfriend she’s consistently drifting away from, both emotionally and physically as he bounds ahead of her on the path. Then, off in the brush, she hears a purring sound. She investigates and finds the legendary goat-sucker, known as the chupacabra.

Moore’s reaction is not fright or disgust, but rather similar to how someone might react to finding a baby bulldog. Essentially, “D’aaaawww!” She takes the beast home with her and sets it up in her laundry room. All seems well...

Until, of course, her and her boyfriend are awakened one night to “Chupy” sucking on the boyfriend’s leg. This doesn’t end well for the relationship, but ends up bringing Moore and her demonic looking pet closer together.

McEntire has a knack for taking the everyday and introducing an element of fantasy that makes it an almost absurd situational comedy, and Chupacabra is no different. The writing is really top-notch.

But, great comedic writing requires a great performer who “gets it” to be successful. And Moore is equal to the task. Her sense of timing and pacing makes for a lot of laughs, even as Chupy is randomly attacking animals and people. Her ability to keep the tone light-hearted—practically oblivious to the horror—is a major feather in both her cap and the show’s.

Taking the “what if” game to its extreme is a fun activity, and no one is better than McEntire at it. Taking home a chupacabra is everything you’d expect: horrific yet, so darn cute, cuddly and viciously funny.

Original review... HERE

CHUPACABRA a success!


In the lobby at the Margo Jones Theatre with Lauren and director Ruth.

At the bar with the girls and Assistant House Manager Jeff Hernandez

My play I BROUGHT HOME A CHUPACABRA went over super-well at the YOLO Solo Fest this past weekend. Actor Lauren Moore and Director Ruth Engel-McEntire knocked it out of the park. Performances followed by drinking and smack talk. And it was good...

Jan 21, 2014

CHUPACABRA opens this week!

'Brad McEntire'

My short play I BROUGHT HOME  A CHUPACABRA opens this week as part of the YOLO Solo Fest. Ruth Engel-McEntire, is directing the Lauren Moore performs the solo piece.

It is freakin' awesome and you should come out and see it.

It plays Thursday Jan. 23 and Friday Jan. 24 at 7 PM at the Margo Jones Theatre in Dallas' Fair Park. Info... HERE.

Jan 17, 2014

Is Recognition Useful?

Success advice from "successful" bloggers often tells would-be creative-types to fail more, Fail harder, fail often. Failure is the gateway to success, right? 

Designer Frank Chimero (definitely not in the above category) points out that, "Oddly, only successful people say failure is necessary, because anyone who has truly failed in a meaningful, unrecoverable way would advise you to stay away from that shit at all costs."

I had two interesting things happened last night.

First, the announcement that my friend Jeff was one of the winners of the Dallas Observer "Mastermind" Award (my other friend David was also a winner this year) was released.

Secondly, for the first time ever my theatre company Audacity Theatre Lab called a show because no audience members showed up. I consider this a failure.

Here's where things come together. The cancelled show in question features my friend and colleague, the same Jeff mentioned above. It is a solo show. He is, in fact, the only actor in it.

My grandfather used to have a theory when trying a new restaurant. He always looked in the parking lot when he pulled up to the establishment and if no more than a few cars were there, he moved on. "I'm not eating someplace if it is not good enough for other people to eat at," he'd say as he drove back to some place he was already familiar with. His reasoning was that the quality of the new place could not have been very good if more people weren't dining there when he drove up.

I have been thinking about the nature of recognition since last night. If we take into account, as context, only those two statements that started off this post one thing would seem to affect the other. But, as you may guess, it is not that simple. Recognition does not necessarily translate into something useful, like putting butts in seats and lack of attendance does not necessarily reflect the quality of a piece of art or performance.

The show, THE LAST CASTRATO, has had several successful runs in other places. It sold out as part of a festival in Adison, Texas a few years ago. It has been to the New York international Fringe Festival. And here at home, for this particular run, it has recieved ample marketing. It is listed on all the places there are to list productions in the DFW area. It was mentioned in one of the "best bets of the week" videos by the critic for the Dallas Morning News. In short, word about the show is out there. As I have been doing a lot of that marketing of the show, THE LAST CASTRATO particularly on Facebook, I have noticed that Jeff has been the overwhelming draw for the show. Which is good, because, like I said, it is a one-person show. 

Jeff has a solid fan base. There are a several hardcore Audacity followers and some of my community, too, who have come out to the production (but as director, producer and designer I am behind the scenes on this one), but mostly the potential and actual audience feedback has been "you gotta see this performer." This makes the irony (or is it coincidence?) of Jeff winning the Mastermind Award on the same day as absolutely no one shows up for the solo show currently featuring him pretty damn overwhelming.

I am seldom bothered by small audiences. As long as a few people see my stage work, I am content. Theatre, on the whole, never does and never will garner the same mass appeal and large audiences as other media, like television, movies or even sporting events. I have chosen to play in that sandbox anyway.  Also, I am in it for the long haul and I know that the leverage of time and persistence will ultimately be on my side. If I just keep making solidly awesome stuff, people will slowly catch on and that momentum will build and build. And I have really only just begun this process in earnest. That said, I have never had to cancel a show since revamping Audacity in 2008. There has always been some audience. It is only with this complete absence of audience that I am left to ponder on the circumstances surrounding that situation.

I am also really happy for Jeff. He is a good friend and a solid colleague and the attention he is receiving for the youth-performing-adult-material-for-adults concept of this theatre company is novel, particularly for the local scene. The recognition is warranted to a fair degree. When I refer to him above I am actually referring to his local recognition or notoriety, a thing he is both in control and not in control of. He is not, I am allowing, directly to blame for the lack of audience members. But he also, it should be pointed out, has done very little to mobilize and rally the fan base that he has. He doesn't really shout from the rooftops that he is in a show. I am not sure if this is apathy on his part or just ignorance. Either way, getting him to actively and relentlessly inform his fan base about what he is involved in (outside of his youth-performing-adult-material-for-adults theatre stuff) is nearly impossible. He usually sits back and lets the people he is acting for do the heavy lifting of promotions, marketing, and publicity. In this case, of the two people driving the production, he is the main and only draw.

Potential audiences do not respond like my grandfather does to new restaurants. Many agree Jeff is an appealing draw. But that isn't going to necessarily get them out to actually see him. Drawing in absolutely no audience members is something maybe expected or tolerated of an unknown actor. Jeff could just as well have been the equivalent of a new restaurant, or an unknown actor, with no one at it just as much as he is a familiar establishment with plenty of cars out front.

So, I am left pondering the nature of recognition. Again, what is it good for? And what take-aways can we get from this situation? Here was an actor who won, basically, a popularity award from a local alt weekly and was presented with this award, ironically, when his actual popularity was so ineffective that no audience members came to see him perform.

In a cautionary way, it presents a challenge to performers to go beyond the simply and limited role of simply performing. As a producer, I will choose and actor who has a following over a equally talented actor who no one knows about. An actor, in the contemporary theatre, can no longer just "show up" like they are doing the production a favor, perform and then leave. Instead, fan bases must be fostered and nurtured and mobilized. And this must be done specificaly by the person whose fan base it is.

If recognition is useful at all, it is useful to the degree it gets and keeps audiences involved and interested in what an artist is doing. It is possible, perhaps, that recognition, if handled properly, can put butts in seats. If not handled properly, well then... failure. 

Jan 12, 2014

CHUPACABRA in rehearsal

Ruth Engel-McEntire, my sweet wife, is directing the endlessly adorable Lauren Moore in my new short solo piece I BROUGHT HOME A CHUPACABRA. Here's a quick pic of it in rehearsal at the Audacity studio/house.

It plays Thursday Jan. 23 and Friday Jan. 24 at 7 PM at the Margo Jones Theatre in Dallas' Fair Park, as part of the YOLO Solo Fest. Info... HERE.

Jan 3, 2014

My CHUPACABRA play at the YoloSolo Fest

My short play I BROUGHT HOME A CHUPACABRA is in the 2014 YoloSolo Fest.

Hosted by my own li'l theatre company Audacity Theatre Lab, YoloSolo is the brainchild of local Dallas journalist/solo performer Elaine Liner. The festival of short one-person shows based on the phrase "You Only Live Once" will play in conjunction with THE LAST CASTRATO at the Margo Jones Theatre in Fair Park, 1121 First Avenue, Dallas TX 75210 January 21-26, 2014.

I BROUGHT HOME A CHUPACABRA is about a young woman who finds a semi-mythical beast on a hike and brings it back to her apartment. Over the eventful next few days she comes to grips with the fact that she is better with animals than with people. It is directed by Ruth Engel-McEntire and features the wonderful Lauren Moore. It plays Thursday, January 23 and Friday, Janauary 24 at 7 PM. Ticket includes other solo shows on the same bill. 

Info HERE.

Jan 1, 2014

The Last Castrato rises once more

In 2005, I approached my friend Jeff Swearingen with a script. It was a solo show written by a Chicago-based playwright, improviser and performer named Andy Eninger. Though Andy and I had not met in person yet, we had both participated in the Single File Solo Performance Festival at the historic Athenaeum Theatre in Chicago in 2004. Though I did not see his show, the blurb caught my attention. It said:
THE LAST CASTRATO centers on Joseph, who was born without a penis, and his love affair with Elena, who was born with her skin inside out. Elena, though, was blessed with a beautiful singing voice to balance her deformity, while Joseph has no talent whatsoever to make up for his missing member. "A penis," he muses, "in terms of artistic merit is worth nothing."
I contacted Andy and he sent me the script. Originally, I planned to do the piece myself, but at the time I had not directed myself in a solo show written by someone else and, truth-be-told, had not done any solo work that was not just adapted sketch comedy pieces. I figured for this piece - a real scripted play by a playwright who was not me - I would direct and design and I'll get an actor, who is not me, to perform it.

So, I approached Jeff Swearingen. Jeff had no experience in solo work, but he was a pretty good actor, I had directed him before and our comedic sensibilities overlapped enough. I submitted it to the 2005 New York International Fringe Festival (where I had produced twice before) and we were accepted.

As we rehearsed the piece, it just came alive. Jeff's energy fit the piece and between the two of us we packed tons of comic bits, characterizations and emotional levels into Andy's already kick-ass script.

Swearingen as Joseph, explaining his name, in THE LAST CASTRATO

We got pretty good press at FringeNYC, though just so-so audiences. In March of 2006, we presented it at the Out of the Loop Festival in Addison, Texas... right in our backyard. We did the first show and had about a 60% house and thought that was great. The second show was sold out. We were overwhelmed. We had been so used to performing for a dozen or so audience members. And Swearingen hit is out of the park. The reviews were great. It really launched Jeff as a versatile and comedic performer in town.

The Last Castrato: Hits High Notes By Michael Dale/ BroadwayWorld.com / August 24, 2005 
...what I wouldn't change is the casting of Jeff Swearingen, whose exuberant energy and nice-guy likability is a treat to watch. Performing with no set -- just a folding chair, two tables, minimal props and nothing behind him but a black curtain -- director Brad McEntire puts him through a cardio workout with physically demanding staging full of pratfalls and human sound effects. His fun performance of an enjoyable... script makes The Last Castrato hit some pleasant high notes. 

From Anatomical antics Swearingen shows off range in 'Castrato' by Lawson Taitte/ Dallas Morning News / March 6, 2006 
The world has been waiting for Jeff Swearingen to find a role that could contain and exploit his explosive, hilarious and truly quirky talent. He's finally got one... Under Brad McEntire's direction, Mr. Swearingen bounced between hilarity and an almost scary intensity... More than once, the audience finds itself unable to stop laughing.

After that we took the show to fringe festivals in Phoenix and New Orleans. We performed it for a weekend here and there, usually here in north Texas. It became the first of many shows that followed what would become the Audacity template... small and super-layered, portable, funny and devastating, tender and bizarre, taken out-of-town more than it stays home.

I am pleased we are remounting it for a proper run and send-off. This will be a co-production between Jeff's otherwise youth-oriented theatre Fun House and Audacity. 

It plays January 14-26 at the Margo Jones Theatre in the Magnolia Lounge, Fair Park, Dallas. Info HERE.