Tag Archives: Actor’s Express

Theater Tales: ‘Book of Mormon,’ ‘Fun Home’ Storytelling Lessons

Book-of-Mormon-690x310fun_homeStorytelling thoughts from a recent trip to New York, where I caught a couple of master classes about character, point of view and theme on Broadway — both with some great songs, too.

“Book of Mormon” and “Fun Home” aren’t just Tony-winning musicals. They’re both fascinating examples of art that’s about art – in this case, writing about writing.

In “Mormon,” a young missionary has to wing it when Africans ask to hear the story of his religion’s, uhm, genesis. It’s funny and profane and super-tuneful – and his impromptu take on the meaning of life unexpectedly proves as inspiring as any version any believer could hope for.

With “Fun Home,” a woman looks back on her troubled father and, through her cartooning and writing, tries to make sense of her family chaos.

Both shows reveal themselves to be about the power of storytelling – how we all create or consume art to make sense of things we can’t understand. You laugh at “Mormon” and get goosebumps at “Fun Home.”

Walking around the Theater District, I couldn’t miss ads for “Wicked,” another musical about storytelling — about looking at one of the most famous characters of all time from a different point of view.

wizard_of_oz_0456_wicked_witch

Oh, she’s wicked, all right. And that’s enough for me.

I’ve never wanted to see it because, to me, the Wicked Witch of the West neither has nor needs a back story. She is evil, pure and simple. She wants to kill Dorothy to get the ruby slippers so she can rule Oz. That’s it.

Still, back in Atlanta, I saw the Alliance Theater’s production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and wondered what that tale  would look like from Nurse Ratched’s point of view.

Call me crazy.

All this reached its apex when I saw “Stupid F—ing Bird” at Actor’s Express in Atlanta’s West Midtown.

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A scene from “Stupid F—ing Bird” at Actor’s Express

Theater folk can tell you it’s an update of Chekhov’s “The Seagull.” I can tell you it poses interesting questions about art and how much is too much – even whether we’d all be better off under a 100-year moratorium on the stuff.

“Bird” takes the self-gazing one step further, into meta-fiction. Characters address the audience and talk about the play they’re in. It’s amusing, maybe insightful, definitely an attempt to goose theatrical devices.

Turns out I didn’t have to fly to New York to find that.

And this is all good fodder for anyone writing anything. What’s a story? What material is presented? From whose point of view?

As communicators, what do we want the audience to feel, think or do?

Curtain up.


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What I Learned from 3 Musicians in Their Underwear

The Skivvies, Atlanta, Westside Cultural Arts Center, West Midtown, Chappuis, Fay Gold, art gallery, Actor's Express, Broadway Bares, musicians playing almost naked

In Atlanta Saturday night. Yes, they did “It’s Gettin’ Hot in Here.”

So there we were Saturday night, watching a buff young man in nothing but tiny briefs and a curvaceous blonde woman wearing only a Victoria’s Secret bra and panties. He was singing “Love to Love You, Baby” and playing the glockenspiel while she accompanied him on the cello.

This was sometime after the Rhianna tune but before the Carole King number.

Just another fund-raiser in Atlanta? Or a chance to see three essential truths of communications and business brought together by two hot, young Broadway performers who sing and play their barely covered butts off?

The Skivvies, Atlanta, Westside Cultural Arts Center, West Midtown, Chappuis, Fay Gold, art gallery, Actor's Express, Broadway Bares, musicians playing almost naked

In People magazine

They call themselves The Skivvies. From their website:

The Skivvies are Lauren Molina and Nick Cearley, award-winning NYC singer/actor/musicians performing stripped down arrangements of eclectic covers and eccentric originals. Not only is the music stripped down – cello, ukulele, glockenspiel, melodica – but the Skivvies literally strip down to their underwear to perform. The Wall Street Journal calls them “smart, sophisticated…ingenious,” and Out Magazine says, “The Skivvies have managed to carve out a niche that we never knew needed to exist: part Weird Al-parody and part sexy burlesque…and unusual explosion of satire and sultry.”

The duo (along with a percussionist — older, rounder, in boxer shorts) played a benefit for Actor’s Express at the Westside Cultural Arts Center in West Midtown. In other words, an audience used to a high level of performing excellence. And the group delivered so well and definitively that you had to wonder: What’s up with the underwear thing?

And that’s where we get to the three lessons I mentioned before.

  1. Sex sells. No kidding, right? Because who would pay to watch a couple of unattractive Broadway babies in their drawers?
  2. You Gotta Have a Gimmick if you wanna get a hand. Says so in a showtune, right?
  3. Build your brand. “The Skivvies” brand covers the gimmick and the music, and it’s cute and memorable and gently naughty, like the act itself.

There might be a fourth lesson, as well. The Skivvies play fast – mashing up songs, sometimes playing just enough for the audience to recognize one before zipping off to another, usually connected by a theme (generally sexual, some unprintable). A friend pointed out the lesson for today’s communicators and marketers: Don’t take too long. Nobody has time or the attention span. Hit the high note, flash the abs and move on fast.

OK, a fifth lesson: Get back to Pilates.


 

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Re-telling a Classic Story in Sexy Style at Atlanta’s Actor’s Express

Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Actor's Express, Atlanta, theater, Dangerous Liaisons

At Actor’s Express in Atlanta

I saw a play Saturday night in Atlanta, the premiere of “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” at Actor’s Express. It’s a rockin’ good time for the most part, but what struck me most is that this story has been told so many times in so many ways — and it’s still just as juicy.

The tale of sexual politics, cruelty and manipulation set in pre-revolution France started as a novel in 1782. It then became a play and an Oscar-winning movie, “Dangerous Liaisons,” and then another big-time movie, “Valmont,” by an Oscar-winning director. And there was even a teen knockoff in the ’90s called “Cruel Intentions,” with Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe and a very young Reese Witherspoon.

Rich, mean, sexy people doing nasty things to each other and the innocents around them… juicy dialog ripe for actors to tear into… What’s not to love? Did “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” set the template for soap operas? Maybe not, but it’s easy to see why storytellers in various media keep going back to it, and Actor’s Express handles it admirably. So go and have a fun time at the theater.

Or at least join me in renting “Dangerous Liaisons,” which I haven’t seen in ages.

While I was at the show, I missed the Atlanta BeltLine’s Lantern Parade. I would’ve gone otherwise and I’m sorry I missed it. But here is a great roundup from the great Maria Saporta that does what I would’ve tried to do, but lots better.

And while we’re sharing cool blog posts about cool weekend events in Atlanta, check out this nifty replay in GIFs of the Falcons nail-biter over the Saints from Breslanta.com.


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