Mar 21, 2019

Solo Performance Lessons from Ruth Draper | Histrionic Kablooie



As a contemporary solo performer I have a great deal of appreciation for Ruth Draper, iconic solo theatre performer of the first half of the 1900s. She was often billed as "Ruth Draper and Her Company of Characters." For thirty-seven years she performed alone, on an empty stage, with a hat or shawl, and perhaps a table or chair. The nearly sixty character sketches she carried around in her memory through all those years, which she performed in repertory, were solely of her own imagining and ranged from satirical comedy, to sentimental melodrama to heart-rending tragedy. She spoke multiple languages (and performed in multiple languages) and traveled the globe, presenting her monologues on every inhabited continent. She was organized and frugal, but tasteful and sophisticated. She traveled alone and kept her own reciepts and negotiated her own contracts. Her influence and fandom has been monumental: Mike Nichols, Lily Tomplin, Katharine Hepburn, John Gielgud, Uta Hagen, George Bernard Shaw, Noel Coward, Arturo Toscanini, John Lithgow, Simon Callow and on and on... Histrionic Kablooie is a YouTube series where I talk about different aspects of theatre and performance.


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Feb 13, 2019

Acadiana Repertory Theatre presents Que Será, Giant Monster

A new work of mine is recieving a developmental production in Lafayette, Lousiana. It opens this weekend and I recieved a few great pics. I made it down during tech week and seems like a good group of folks.





Steven R. Landry and Erica Jure, Michelle Colon
Here's the rundown...

Acadiana Repertory Theatre presents the first production of their 2019 season, the developmental production of Que Será, Giant Monster by Brad McEntire

Charles is having a very rough day. It only gets worse when he runs into an ex who is, herself, having a ridiculously rough day. The giant monster destroying the city doesn't bode well, either.

This fast paced and smart comedy is directed by Debbi Ardoin and features company members Steven R. Landry (as Charles) and Erica Jure (as Katherine) along with Michelle Colon (as the Uber Driver).
Que Será, Giant Monster will take place at Cite Des Arts (109 Vine St.) Performances are February 15th, 16th, 21st, 22nd, and 23rd at 7:30pm with a 2pm matinee on February 17th. Tickets are $15.

Tickets can be purchased by calling 337-291-1122 or by visiting acadianarep.org or citedesarts.org Tickets may also be purchased at the box office, starting an hour before the performance.

Jan 15, 2019

Cultivated Playwright podcast episode 13 is up


In episode No. 13 of the li'l-podcast-that-could The Cultivated Playwright, I offer a little talk about Comedy as a genre of theatre and how the structure of it has changed through the centuries.

Listen HERE or...
Listen on itunes (and subscribe)
Liten on Stitcher (and subscribe)

Oh, and also: Smiling Robot T-shirts are now available... HERE

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Perhaps you would be interested in adding more excitement and romance, adventure and intrigue to your life. If that's the case, I don't know what to tell you. But I would suggest you subscribe to my newsletter. I mean, who knows? Life is full of surprises. I only send stuff out occassionally, but it is good stuff. Hit the button below...


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Jan 2, 2019

Looking Back on 2018

For the last several years I've been using this website as a kind of portfolio to collect together my creative projects (really, that's pretty much the only reason I keep up this website). I have also been doing a little year-in-review sort of thing since 2012 (here's 20122013201420152016 and 2017). So, here’s all the goings-on that happened in 2018...

I released the 10th episode of my podcast The Cultivated Playwright right at the beginning of the year. I would only produce three more episodes all year after that. The project is not dead, but it has become more ambitious than I have time to pursue consistently. There seems to be an expanse of time between each episode. I am hoping 2019 will see the creation of at least half a dozen more episodes.


Audacity Solo Salon, March 2018
In March I workshopped a bit of Roberts Eternal Goldfish at an Audacity Solo Salon (the only one of the year). I hosted the salon as well and Blake Henri and Shayne Larango presented pieces-in-progress.

In April I held a one-night fund-raiser at the Margo Jones Theatre for ther 2018 Dallas Solo Fest where I presented a full performance of Robert's Eternal Goldfish. The show was shakey, but I did raise about $160 in donations for the Dallas Solo Fest.


Robert's Eternal Goldfish at the Margo Jones Theatre, April 2018

In early June, I produced the fourth Dallas Solo Fest, after skipping last year due to new parenthood. It was held at the Rosewood Center for the Arts (home of the Dallas Childrens Theatre). It was a six person roster with only one jam-packed weekend of shows. It was mixed. The venue was both better and just as challenging as the Margo Jones had been. Audiences were enthusiastic, but not abundant. The shows were a bit uneven and the performers, though all pretty nice, ranged from stand-offish to immensely surly to, well, John Michael. The staff was great, though, with Shea Smith and Grant Knutson returning to help and Cain Rodriguez stepping in to handle social media stuff. I am determined to do one more before leaving he DSFs behind for good.


Working the box office for Dallas Solo Fest 2018
The summer was filled with travel. My family (my folks, my sister and her family as well as my wife and kiddo) all rented a cabin in early July for a long weekend in Pigeon Forge, TN. We went to Dollywood and whitewater rafted and ate well.


Rafting outside of Pigeon Forge, TN

A new play I have been developing for a while, Que Se, Giant Monster, was selected as one of three winning scripts for the Texas Playwrights Festival by Wordsmyth Theatre in Houston. The director, Cynthia Garcia, and cast did a fine job with it and it really did serve as a great workshop experience. Ruth and the kiddo accompanied me down at the end of July. My cousin Debbie came out to see one of the two staged readings over three days. I also caught up with my old friend Wes Copeland and his partner Tony who came to see the reading as well.




My show Robert's Eternal Goldfish was selected to be part of the Minnesota Fringe Festival in Minneapolis. Ruth and the kiddo and I drove up in two cars over two days. They stayed the first few days to see the show, even though I had to go up early to tech. Ruth did get to meet my old friend from College of Santa Fe days Phil Gonzales and his kids. 

Ruth and the kiddo drove back after I opened my show. I was a bit sad they had to leave, but it was easier to concentrate on the show when I was finally on my own.

The Minnesota Fringe was much bigger than I had expected. My shows went well and were well attended, but I do not feel I did enough flyering and handing out postcards at other venues. I did get to catch up with my colleague Martin Dockery who was also in the festival (who is also a new dad). I was impressed with how he had videoed his old solo shows and was selling them on DVD as merch after his show. I got to meet a friend I had only known from the internet, Travis Bedard. I saw him play Cyrano in a funky little DIY, fringe-y adaptation of the Rostand play.

Phil and I got to hang out several times. Like my friends Will Harper (who is off making it big as a tv show actor on NBC's The Good Place) and Greg Romero (playwright and enviromentalist recently moved back to Austin), Phil is one of those people I genuinely miss in my immediate life and am so grateful when I get a chance to catch up with him in person. I even got to be a guest on his podcast about the Berenstain Bears books.



Directly after the Minnesota Fringe I flew to Seattle. My friend Jeff Hernandez came up to Minneapolis with his dad, Carlos, and they drove my car back to Texas for me, making a hilarious father/son road-trip out of it all the way back.

I stayed in Seattle with my friend Grant who was kind enough to drive me up to Canada so I could get to the Nanaimo Fringe. It is a small festival in British Columbia that I attended in 2015. This time I was performing Robert's Eternal Goldfish, which was by now becoming bullet-proof from the road-testing.


Robert's Eternal Goldfish at the Minnesota Fringe
The Nanaimo Fringe was experiencing a down swing with a turnover in administration and out of touch with their local audiences. I stayed with the same peeps who hosted me in 2015, the wonderful Val C. and Dave Read. They had been super into the fringe back then. Now, they didn't even know about it until I reached out to them to ask for a place to crash.

Everyone was hospitable, but the fringe was spotty on acts, with some performers with real chops and others who seemed like they were brand new to performing. In fact, this fringe was the first I've been to where not one other performer in the festival came to see my show ( I made it out to see about half the other shows in the fest).The organizers, to their credit, did catch my show and I had a chance to chat with them at the end of the fest. They are aware of improvements needed and seemed really enthusiastic to make them happen. I am hoping the Naniamo Fringe gets back on its feet in the years to come.

I did like reconnecting with Val and Dave. They are a super-artsy couple. Dave has a indie metal band and runs an indie record label. Val paints and spouts theories about devised art works. They are a hoot. This year they also opened an arts space which is awesome and they traded their boat that they had last time I saw them in for a #vanlife van, which they take when they tour for music gigs so they don't have to get hotel rooms. They definitely offer an aspirational glimpse of what I potentially want to work up to (performance space, running a profitable indie company, etc.)

I made a video of my time in Nanaimo. 



Grant came up and got me, bringing along his wife Heather, who cam and watched the show, which was nice. They drove me back to Seattle and I flew back to Texas in late August to start teaching the day after I got back.

I taught Intro to Theatre at a community college again. I like that job, though I have hit the ceiling on pay there.


This is one of my 1MPF pieces, Rethinking Affordable in
rehearsal. Directed by Jeremy Wilson.
While I was traveling two of my one-minute plays were included in Kitchen Dog Theatre's One-Minute Play Festival here in Dallas. This was the third of fourth time I have particpated in it. I was told my pieces went over nicely, one directed by Jeremy Wilson and the other by Jake Nice.

In mid-September I attended the Elgin Fringe Festival. It was a small fest about 35 miles southwest of Chicago. Again, I performed Robert's Eternal Goldfish. I only had about 4 shows over a long weekend, but my li'l show became the sleeper hit of the fest. In fact, I won a "Spirit of the Fringe" Award on the last day (my birthday). I was hosted by the two main fringe organizers, Erin and Tanner, who were awesome. I had been wait-listed for this fest, but was called mid-summer to be put in and accepted. I'm glad I did.


Robert's Eternal Goldfish at Elgin Fringe
I got to catch up with magician Cody Clark (who had performed earlier in the year at the DSF) and see his new show. And, my friend and solo performing colleague John Michael made the trip out from Chicago to hang out and catch the show. So, huzzah!


Hey, look, John Michael is at the Elgin Fringe to catch my show.

After getting back to Texas, I went back to teaching and watching my toddler-age son during the days. I resurrected The Cultivated Playwright podcast for a single episode. I also arranged to perform Robert's Eternal Goldfish at a relatively new theatre venue in Dallas called Stomping Ground Comedy Theatre. It has been open only about a year or so. I actually helped spread the word and donated a small amount on Kickstarter back when they were getting the theatre off the ground. I connected with Chad Cline at Stomping Ground who got me set up, after an idea from fellow solo performer John S. Davies (hat tip to that good sir).

I performed 2 Fridays at the beginning of October. I had decent audiences, but my deal with the theatre meant that I paid nothing up front to rent, but they kept the first $200 in ticket sales per show (or, at $10 per ticket, the first 20 audience members). I never got the official counts back from Lindsay, the Stomping Ground person who served as my contact, but just from general observation, I think I came out  around 20 folks per show. My friend Kris Noteboom came the first weekend and we got a chance to get some beers and catch up after. Tiffany Finan and her then-fiance Tiffer (they are now hitched) came out to see it. Even my friend Jeff Hernanez caught it.

I actually returned to Stomping Ground at the end of the year to play Santa in a play written by Greg Silva. They called me out of the blue to fill in for an actor who had dropped out. The play was called Deck The Halls... With Brains. It had a fun cast of folks I had not worked with before and the director, Jacie, and assistant director, Jonathan, were also pleasant. The piece was a light little "zombie Christmas play" and played three fridays in December leading up to just before Christmas. My folks came to see it twice and even brought my niece Kylie for one show. 



The very end of the year was spent with family and friends. All in all, 2018 was a definite step up in activity - breadth and depth - over 2017. Not sure 2019 will be as active, but I am excited to get my strive back.




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Perhaps you would be interested in adding more excitement and romance, adventure and intrigue to your life. If that's the case, I don't know what to tell you. But I would suggest you subscribe to my newsletter. I mean, who knows? Life is full of surprises. I only send stuff out occassionally, but it is good stuff. Hit the button below...



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