Gaiman, Poorhouse & Round Rock

Recently I’ve been at a string of sneak peeks and opening nights. Here are my reactions to three. I am not reviewing these works, and it’s really not appropriate to do so at the times when I only see a rehearsal. My reactions will center around the experience and whatever kept bouncing around my head after seeing each show.

I will be transparent as to when I got comps, but all opinions are truthful and my own, not associated with any employer or colleagues or even my dog (though she’s quite opinionated).

Poster outside Sacred Fools LA

Poster outside Sacred Fools LA

Neverwhere

by Robert Kauzlaric
adapted from the novel by Neil Gaiman © 1996
directed by Scott Leggett

Disclosure: Saw a dress rehearsal, no cost. Except what I spent at The Faculty pub after the show. Get the spicy mac-n-cheese.

I was invited to the dress rehearsal of this epic onstage, and tried to manage expectations. Not of Sacred Fools specifically – they have an excellent reputation and I doubted they would produce this piece without knowing what it would take. What concerned me were my expectations to see how envision the novel onstage versus Scott Leggett and his creative team’s vision.*

Jonathan Kells Phillips as Marquis de Carabas checks his crossbow prop.

Jonathan Kells Phillips as Marquis de Carabas checks his crossbow prop.

Even in rehearsal, it didn’t take long to let that concern fall to the side. This massive story translates very well to the stage. In fact, their abstract unit set and use of the space sparked a very personal, necessarily theatrical reaction in my brain, so in a way I got both my Neverwhere and Director Leggett’s Neverwhere without the two ever feeling at odds. They chose the right things to specify and the right moments to blow their wad, theatrically speaking. The audience fills in the rest with their own interpretations. Sort of like reading a good book, coincidentally enough.

The video projections feel most effective in London Above (the ‘real’ world we know), whereas London Below relies on words, the ensemble’s honest acting and the audience’s imaginations.

And boy, do they do it well.

*(I love the book, have hardly watched the series, and I am grateful they welcomed me into a rehearsal. I thank everyone for trusting me to see the sausage being made.) WATCH my broadcast with Paula Rhodes (actress who plays Door) a week after I saw rehearsal. Total coincidence: The Geekie Awards arranged it.

April 5 – May 11, 2013

Fridays & Saturdays @ 8pm
Sundays @ 7pm

Tickets: $25
(310) 281-8337 or Buy Tickets Online

—–

poorhouse

Take Me to The Poorhouse

A middle class African girl dreams of becoming poor to have “soul” and win the heart of her classmate ♥.

Disclosure: Invited to staged reading in private home. No cost to attend.

I’ve been hearing about this show because the Assistant Director/Producer attends my workshops. The story is fascinating and has all the ingredients for success: a POV I’ve never heard, the right balance of humor and gravity, a dynamic performer, plus partnership with a like-minded organization:

We pledge to donate 10% of all ticket proceeds to MAMA HOPE, a non-profit with a mission to “Stop The Pity and Unlock The Potential” in several African communities. We dig that :-)

I dig that too.

With two more months until it’s premiere in the Hollywood Fringe Festival, it will be exciting to see how it all shapes up. Femi does a beautiful job of letting the words create the world instead of describing it. Poorhouse really got me thinking about how much better other solo shows could be if they simply tell the story, if even biographical events are experienced by a character rather than narrated by themselves. The basic Show, Don’t Tell mantra. I’m very interested to see in performance.

Also an integral point to this invited reading: we were asked to give any questions and feedback on cards while watching; more importantly, the producer gave the description of the show and asked if what they were saying matched what we just saw. What a great way to test run your marketing blurb!

June 8-28, 2013. Dates/times differ.

——-

Round Rock

presented by Theatre Unleashed

Written & Directed by Aaron Kozak

Disclosure: I was offered opening weekend comps. I wrote a play in their 24-hour festival based on Pink Floyd songs. But most importantly:

I do love a Texas Sunrise.

Beyond those theater doors, I would never touch a Texas Sunrise. I am usually not a fan of sweet covering up the taste of my alcohol. Truly, it’s the novelty of the drink themed for a play that I love. And so my evening began.

I included Round Rock with these other pieces I saw in process because I also saw their workshop at last summer’s Hollywood Fringe Festival. Audiences can leave responses on the Fringe site, and since I’ve worked with Aaron, decided to essentially give it a dramaturgical  once-over. Last summer he simply had too much plot, not enough story. It was very fun to see how the show progressed. If I can, I’d like to see it again before the run ends, as I’m sure the actors settled deeper into their roles.

This full production offered the same story, with much more of the meaty stuff; characters have room to breath without losing the pacing needed for a good ‘ol western with a heart of gold. I left with a deep sense of family, including: the artists involved, the audience at opening, and the special definition of family that Kozak explores though typically outcast characters.

Theatre Unleashed always offers good fare at the Hollywood Fringe Festival, and Kozak’s directing their 25 Plays Per Hour tradition. Last year that evening tossed my emotions around like a gourmet salad, and his keen eye should serve it well.

Another important part about the experience to note: Kozak and the team remembered my first response, and were all very exited to hear what I thought of the new production. Their attention to one audience member’s honest opinion goes a long way, and if more organizations opened their workshops and process to their audience, really taking and using the feedback, they might find it easier  to retain loyalty in the long run.

UPCOMING SNEAK PEEKS: Gracie N Rose by Anastasia Coon (reading at Celebration Theatre) & live-tweet of Long Way Go Down by Zayd Dorhn.

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