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Fringe Reviews – Days 10 & 11

Sole MatesI spent a lot of time at the Fringe this weekend and while reviewing shows makes no difference for anyone’s attendance at this point, I’m still going to write about what I saw.

I’ve developed a lot of friends at the Fringe over the years.  At first, I would try very hard to see all of their shows because that’s what friends do.  Over time, I’ve reached the point where watching every show by a friend could mean I’d never see anything by someone I don’t know.

So I reached the point where I realized that everyone I knew was in the same boat as me.  Making a choice to miss a friend’s show isn’t personal.  You are only going to see so many shows over the course of eleven days.

When you reach that conclusion, it takes a little bit of the pressure off.

So if you are a friend of mine and I missed your show this year, I’m sorry.  If you missed mine, that is OK too.  I’m sure we can all still be friends.

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Friend a Day – David Traylor

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Photo by Peter Verrant

David is another very new friend.  I’ve known him for less than a year.  He tried out for Vilification Tennis at this year’s amateur show.  He didn’t make it into the cast because I only have room for one person this year but we did invite him to be a part of Fearless and that has proven to be a great choice.

I have so much respect for anyone who tries out for Vilification Tennis through the amateur show.  It’s about the scariest possible proposition I can think of to try out for a show in front of a live audience.  It’s a lot like American Idol without the slightest possibility of achieving any kind of celebrity.

David is well-known in geek circles as Captain America.  He’s got the look and the costume and he clearly exercises a lot more than I do.

As a part of Fearless, he’s been willing to jump into just about anything we need him to do.  When we wrote the halftime show for CONvergence this year, we decided to plug Captain America into the show because we had the perfect Captain America.

His small role underwent a whole lot of changes between first draft and final staging and he was a complete pro about all of it.  As a producer, it is great to have people who you can plug into a small but important role and know that they are going to rock it.

There are a lot of people who try out for Vilification Tennis and only a few make it into the cast.  The ones who don’t make it into the cast are typically pretty gracious and I don’t see much of them ever again.

The cool thing about Fearless is we have an opportunity to bring some of those new people with us into other performing opportunities.  I’m really glad that we made that decision because it has allowed me to get to know David a lot better over the last few months.

Friend a Day – Salsa Sterling

Photo by Manna Jaeger

Photo by Manna Jaeger

I’ve known Salsa since the day he asked me if he could try out for Vilification Tennis.  He got up on stage that day and did…OK.  But he’s gotten a lot better since then.  In fact, I think he has improved with each passing year.

Salsa is always trying to get better.  He is very analytical by nature and that means he spends a good amount of time looking at what he is doing and trying to figure out how to do it better.  It also means he is very good at analyzing what others are doing well and doing poorly.

As part of Fearless, he is putting together some new shows and I really enjoy watching him work to expand what he is doing creatively.  He’s been doing that for a while now with the Fandazzi Fire Circus as well.  He’s got that bug to create new things and I think that’s great.

He’s grown more confident on stage in the last few years as well.  It has really made a big difference in his stage presence and in the audience’s response to his material.

He’s also completely willing to give something new a try.  When I decided I wanted to do a radio play at a Vilification Tennis show, he volunteered to do sound effects.  That turned into a regular gig with Big Fun Radio Funtime.

Why did he agree to do it?  It wasn’t because he had any experience.  It was because he wanted to try something new.  He’s been learning as he goes but it sure does seems like he’s enjoying the process.

Since I met him, Salsa has gone from a young guy trying to figure out how to be good at things to someone who is viewed as a leader and a mentor.   He has gotten there through hard work and careful thought.

It has been a pleasure to watch that process happen.

Salsa is a co-host of the Apropos of Nothing Podcast.  You should check it out!

Friend a Day – Eric Thompson

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Photo by John Solberg

I’ve only known Eric for a little over a year.  He tried out for the Vilification Tennis and won the amateur show in 2013 and he’s been another one that surprised me.

Eric appears to be pretty laid back and I didn’t know if that would work on stage.  With the material he writes, it works tremendously well.

Since he joined the cast, he has proven to be an asset because he has good ideas for more than just Vilification Tennis.  He brought the idea for Double Blind Improv to me and it was clearly a great fit for Fearless Comedy.  Then he went through the trouble of setting up everything for the show.

It’s great when someone comes to you with a good idea.  It’s even better when they are willing to do almost all of the work to make it happen.

He’s got a dry, patient wit.  He will sit back and wait for an opportunity to be funny, which makes him dangerous because the audience loses track of him.  Then he says something wickedly clever and they fall in love with him.

Eric has a lot of irons in the fire.  In addition to working with Vilification Tennis and Fearless, he is also doing a regular podcast and, apparently also has a job.  I guess I like him in part because I’m a little bit reminded of myself.

Another trait that impresses me is his willingness to do just about anything.  He’s a cast member I can count on to just stand up and make something happen.  When we needed someone to handle challenges for Die Laughing, he was the person who stepped up and coordinated.

It was a lot of work.  But Eric is someone who will put in a lot of time when he believes in something.

I’m glad that Eric tried out for Vilification Tennis.  He’s a great guy and I probably wouldn’t have met him any other way.

Check out the High Five Guys Podcast!

Friend a Day – Matt Allex

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In the old days, we didn’t have amateur shows to try out new performers.  I put them on stage at the festival and waited to see if they would succeed or fail.  Most of the time, it took more than one show to figure out how well they would do.

That’s how Matt Allex joined the vilification tennis cast and unlike many of his fellow performers, he was impressive the first time he set foot on stage and he’s been impressive almost every time since.

What amazes me is knowing that Matt is terrified of stepping on stage and he does it anyway.  The more an idea scares him, the more willing he seems to be.  His ability to rise above his own fear and consistently be one of the best people on stage is an inspiration.

Matt has a remarkable intellect that, I fear, goes unrecognized behind all the dick and fat mom jokes.  He is blunt with an opinion when the direct opinion is required.  He is unflinching in his ability to laugh at himself.

He’s also one of the most emotional people you will meet.  You want to find a guy who cries at the end of movies?  Matt is your guy.  Make fun of him all you want but how many people do you know who are that open with their emotions?

When I was in college, one of my professors talked to me about the “um” meter.  Simply put, if you are speaking in public, pay attention to how many times you say “um.”  Most people say it more than once a minute.

When Matt starts speaking, he hardly says “um” at all.  He can engage in stream of consciousness talking for minutes at a time and he will remain interesting the whole time.  It’s a skill that few people possess and because I always have the “um” meter running on myself, I always notice how frequently he beats me.

Matt will do whatever it takes to make something work.  If he only gives 99% to something, he will view his participation as a failure.

I’m glad Matt walked on to the Vilification Tennis stage that day so many years ago.  My life would be a great deal less interesting if he hadn’t.

Matt has a couple of podcasts you should follow.  He’s co-host of Apropos of Nothing and Horrorshow Hot Dog.  Check them out!

Geeks Without God Get Into a Mexican Standoff

Geeks Without GodThis weekend, we recorded two podcasts at Die Laughing.  On Friday night, we talked to local comedian Patrick Bauer about his favorite filmmaker, Quentin Tarantino.

I, of course, felt the need to discuss how Bill is completely wrong about Batman at the end of  Kill Bill, Vol 2.  Because if you are going to talk about the awesomeness of Tarantino, you need to spend a little while talking about his most egregious mistake.

We traverse the whole of his filmography, spending strangely small amounts of time on Django Unchained.  As one might expect, I enjoy a nerdy film conversation so this one was a treat to record.  It was also a treat to record in front of a live audience.  Thanks to everyone who came out!

 

 

Putting it Together – Die Laughing

I’m moving my Putting it Together blog to Sunday.  It used to be on Monday but I decided to switch things up.  If you are OCD, this is probably messing with you. Otherwise, you probably don’t care.

As I write this, we aren’t even halfway through Die Laughing.  I don’t know if we’ll manage to raise the funds we hope to raise with this insane idea.  I really hope we make it (looks like we will).  I’ll tell you one thing about this crazy show I already know – I want to do it again.

Running a theatre company is expensive.  And the more you want to do, the more expensive it gets.  I would love to tell you that everyone can raise all the funds they need from ticket sales but the truth is, there is hardly a company in existence that makes all of their money that way.  Fundraising is a reality that most companies will have to face.

So we have to raise money.  The idea, however, is to find ways to make the fundraising enjoyable.  Because nobody likes asking for money all the time.  And people get tired of being asked.

Making it enjoyable for the audience is obvious.  I’d like people to show up for some percentage of a fifty hour marathon.  I’d like to believe they will enjoy some of it.

But it also has to be enjoyable for the people putting on the event.  Any event that lasts fifty hours is a lot of work.  If you aren’t having any fun, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

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