Shit that Pissed me Off – 10/5/18

Buckle your seat belts, y’all. This week. Holy shit this week.

Also, possible trigger warning because I do talk about sexual assault in very general terms.

Trump Corner

Let’s just start here with our shitbag of a President. What has he done recently?

Well, he mocked a sexual assault victim, he said it is a scary time for young men in America, and he said the King of Saudi Arabia wouldn’t last two weeks without American military support.

That last one might actually be true but what a way to undermine one of America’s strongest allies. And yeah – the rulers of Saudi Arabia are awful and I could get behind any President who had the courage to say so but that’s not what Trump was doing.

I’m really done being polite about this asshole. He is a sexual predator (no those women did not make their stories up). He’s a bully. He’s a racist.

And in spite of all of it, there’s a possibility the Democrats won’t win this fall because…hell I don’t know why.

Ahhh! Brown people!

Because people enjoy supporting a man child who delights in punching down at women, minorities, and the poor (who vote for him anyway)? Because they are such evangelical zombies that they will follow any man who claims to be the same (unless he’s a Democrat)?

I don’t know. Everyone of every political persuasion (with the exception of white supremacists) should hate this man. They should hate everything about him.

And yet they don’t. They go to his rallies. They laugh with him at victims of violent sexual assault. They show up at the polls to vote for whomever he tells them to vote for.

If the rest of us aren’t willing to show up at the polls and fight back this November, I’m out of ideas, folks. Because Trump and the rabble who blindly follow him into the abyss of humanity need to lose. Badly. And often.

There are more of us who are against him, aren’t there? There have to be.

So listen to me: if you think he is a good man, you are wrong. If you think he gives a flying fuck about you and your problems, you are wrong. He is interested in making money for himself. That’s what this Presidency is about. It isn’t about making America Great Again. It is about making Trump richer than he already was.

And he doesn’t give a shit who he hurts a long the way. This week it’s Christine Blasey Ford. Next week it might be you. And there will be stadiums full of people laughing right along with him.

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Shit that Makes Me Happy 9/21/18

I turned 51 this week and while I usually fill my weekly blog with things that (I believe rightly) annoy me, for the last few years, I’ve devoted my Birthday week to things that make me happy. So if you will indulge me, to celebrate 51 years, here are 51 things that don’t piss me off.

#1: I just saw “Hamilton” yesterday. I mean, I knew I was going to love the show and I did but you know the moment that really sealed it for me? “Immigrants – we get the job done.” Fuck yes they do.

 

#2: After reading an article about Chevy Chase (in which he is shown to be kind of a pompous dick), I was reminded of this video and so I watched it. Chase is kind of a jackass. But I still love the video. As a bonus, the next video to load was Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel.

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Shit that Pissed me Off – 9/14/18

Dallas Police Officer Enters the Wrong Apartment and Kills the Black Man Who Lived There

More problematic than the fact she apparently approached the wrong apartment and shot the guy who lived there is the amount of victim blaming that has happened since.

I mean, police officer or not, she is the one who screwed up. Right?

It wasn’t her apartment. The door was ajar so she just walked in unaware she’d entered the wrong apartment. She saw a person and shot him.

Turns out she shot someone in their own home for doing nothing wrong.

I can honestly understand how a woman in this country would freak out if they walked into an apartment they thought was theirs and there was a strange guy in it. I mean, that would scare the shit out of me and I’m not a woman in America.

But.

He wasn’t doing anything wrong. She apparently gave him verbal commands and he didn’t obey them (probably because he was confused since he was in his own house).

So I’ve seen people blame the victim (Botham Jean is his name) for leaving the door ajar. That one started with “I don’t want to victim blame but…”

Then there is the whole “he should have done what she asked” narrative that ignores the fact it was his house. He was probably about as freaked out as she was.

Oh, and now there is a report that he had marijuana in his house! Holy shit! No wonder she accidentally walked into his house and shot him!

This definitely would put an off duty police officer in immediate danger.

The officer is currently charged with manslaughter and I expect the Blue Lives Matter apologists will continue to blame Botham Jean for having the audacity to be a black man in his own home (with WEEEEEED). Even if she is eventually convicted.

Was the officer drunk? We don’t know because the arresting officers didn’t check. Did she issue verbal commands? Witnesses suggest that her story is not 100% accurate. Did she actually wait for him to comply before shooting him? I doubt anyone had a stopwatch.

So another black man is dead. And this time, all he did wrong was go home after work.

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Shit that Pissed me Off – 9/7/18

Nike and Colin Kaepernick

Here’s where we ask ourselves the question “why the fuck does the President of the United States keep inserting himself into this shit?”

I mean, that’s what we would ask if it wasn’t becoming so commonplace. But Trump has already made it clear that he is standing up for the American Flag against Kaepernick, who famously chose to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice. He has chosen Football as a battleground and Kaepernick as the opposing general.

But let’s back up.

This weekend, Nike released the following image:

I’m going to say something that may be polarizing.

Nobody should have a problem with this.

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2018 Fringe Festival Wrap-up

I saw 34 shows at the Fringe Festival this year and appeared in ten. I had a hand in writing three shows.  I watched one show twice because it was that good. I most likely missed at least as many good shows as I ended up watching.

The Festival is a glorious orgy of creativity. To expect any one thing beyond many different interpretations of theater is foolish.

I love that it takes nothing more than $30 and an idea to have a chance to be in the Fringe. Hell, you don’t even need an idea. You just need to apply. When you get in, maybe the idea will come to you.

Or maybe it won’t.

I saw some truly great shows this year. They were great not just by Fringe standards but by theater standards. I produced work that I was immensely proud to have created.

The experience is energizing and life changing. Every year.

Here, then, are my top ten shows at the 2018 Minnesota Fringe. As I’ve no desire to rank them, I shall list them in alphabetical order. Narrowing the list down to ten was a painful task but I’ve opted to go with ten rather than five because five was agonizing.

I should also note that these shows were, for whatever reason, my favorite. I saw many good shows that didn’t make this particular list. Some of them might have been objectively better, but these are the ones that will stay with me the most.

Blood Nocturne

Have I written about this production enough? Apparently not.

The only show at the Fringe I watched twice, “Blood Nocturne” was, to me, a masterful piece considering the difference between how history oft times redefines reality and how women with power are frequently vilified for no other reason than because they are women.

Starting with what we believe we know about the Countess Erzsebet Bathory, the play used music, folk tales, dance, and even (sometimes) humor to show how much much we don’t know.

Meticulously staged, sharply written, and brilliantly acted, this play was never boring and frequently compelling. It grabbed me from the moment the lights dimmed until at least ten minutes after I’d left the theater. There was not a single moment in the show that felt out of place.

This show will be one of the last things I forget when I have Alzheimer’s.

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2018 Fringe Reviews – Days 10 & 11

Fringe is over for another year and while I shall miss it terribly, eleven days is a good length.

Saturday was only the second day of the Festival where I didn’t have a performance and Sunday all three of my shows closed, one right after the other. So on the final weekend, I didn’t see as many performances as I would have liked.

Much as I wasn’t thrilled about Fringe Central this year, I actually spent Saturday night there and instantly regretted having waited so long. I mean, I’m still not nuts about the Red Stag. But I got to talk to artists whose work I enjoyed and finally introduced myself to the new Executive Director.

It was all very lovely and while I didn’t much care for the Red Stag, I remembered why I really like Fringe Central.

So even though Fringe is over, here is my final batch of shows I saw/appeared in on Saturday and Sunday. Tomorrow, I’ll try to do a round up post.

Not Fair, My Lady!

Watching this show will either convince you that something needs to be done about the treatment of women in musical theater or – gosh – you are a horrible human being, I guess.

Looking through the lens of roles for women in a lot of classic musicals of the mid 20th century that are still, for some idiotic reason, being produced, they point out the puzzle of being an actress looking for roles in musicals. I mean, you can love the music of “Carousel” but have you really ever thought about the play?

And what about that last scene in “Grease?” The one where Sandy changes everything about herself to get her man?

Maybe you knew all of this already. But the show doesn’t just point out the horrible misogyny in musicals you thought you loved. It points out how that misogyny manifests itself in the choices of the musicals that are produced, the types of actresses producers are willing to cast and the way women are treated at auditions.

We theater people think of ourselves as woke and yeah – I guess we are more liberal than your average non theater person. But most of us are still white and most of us are still gatekeepers when it comes to giving roles to people of color, women who are outside a very narrow age and body type standard, and recognizing that “Carousel” may be a classic but holy fuck is it awful.

The show was filled with great performances, emotional stories, and fantastic singing (of a lot of disturbing lyrics). The message was on point.

I was listening. I hope a lot of other people (in the position to do something about the problem) were as well. Read More…

2018 Fringe Reviews – Day 9

I see more theater during the Fringe Festival than during any other time of the year. Of course, it is a lot easier to see theater during Fringe.

It is all in one place (more or less). Everything is only fifty minutes long (more or less). I’m usually already there anyway.

I love live theater but you really can’t do better than the zero entry of the Minnesota Fringe. One show is ten bucks. Four shows (on a weeknight) is nineteen. Some of them might not be great shows but at five dollars a show, who cares?

For creators, the entry point is equally easy. Less than $50 to enter the lottery. Less than $500 to pay your producer’s fee. Someone else does a ton of marketing for you.

The only downside is that lottery system. Sometimes you get in. Sometimes you don’t. You are always taking a chance.

For me, the chance is always worth it. Fringe is about taking chances – whether it is the show you decide to produce or the show you decide to watch.

Here are the shows I watched/appeared in on Friday!

Shrieking Harpies

Long form improv is finding it’s way into Fringe more and more in no small part to the way HUGE Theater has been successfully cultivating the art form for a few years now.

Shrieking Harpies is one of my favorite kinds of long form improv because they add a musical element, which is hard as hell and I can’t help but admire. Rather than just telling a story (that they are making up because that is how improv works), they are singing a story. That they are also making up.

I bring this up not because it surprises me but because it impresses me.

It should impress anyone, to be honest. Lizzie Gardner, Taj Ruler, and Hannah Wydeven all have really good voices and clearly work together very well. They almost never stepped on each other, actually found harmonies when singing together (which – I repeat – they were making up), and put together a great story.

Since it’s improv, they might not put together a great story next time. But I’m fairly certain they will.

Geminae

I’ve been interested in writing a horror show for a while just because I think it poses a lot of different challenges for me as a writer.

“Geminae” is the kind of show I’d like to write.

It combines hard Science Fiction with horror elements in a way that got some great reactions out of the audience members I was sitting with. What will scare you is not so much the conclusion of the story as the revelation of the bad decisions some of the characters are making.

The staging of the show was inventive – especially given one of the characters was supposed to be weightless. The actors really sold the fantastic elements and I thought Emily Lindholm and Victoria Pyan, who were the emotional center of the piece, carried the weight of the show with a lot of skill.

Horror is a hard genre to get right. I’m pleased to have seen so many shows this year that have been making it work.

Dreaming

Gabriel Mata is a great dancer. Not just good. Great. He is powerful, graceful, evocative, and understands how to bridge the gap between the dance and his audience. Last year’s “Out of the Shadows” was one of my favorite Fringe shows. Which says a lot because in general, dance shows don’t really connect with me.

Dreaming may not have spoken to me as someone who isn’t really interested in dance the way “Out of the Shadows” did but it shows that Gabriel still knows how to bring his audience into the world of dance. What you need to understand about the show is right there in the title.

Though a series of dances, he brings us through a world of dreams that can be terrifying, comforting, confusing, and joyful. Sometimes the dreams inspire dances. Sometimes the dances inspire dreams.

I think Gabriel understand his art form like few others do. But more than that, he knows others will appreciate that art form more if he lets his audience in.

I may not go to a lot of dance at the Fringe. But as long as Gabriel is there, I’m going to keep being open to the experience.

Also – that show image? Damn.

A Family Friendly Pulp Fiction (Not Appropriate For Families)

Our penultimate performance was a little odd from a writer’s perspective. The audience was responding but not always at the places we expected. They would laugh loudly at a joke that had previously just gotten chuckles and then wouldn’t respond to a joke that had gotten a huge response in every other performance.

You have to roll with such things in a comedy. You never know what, from one night to the next, will land with the audience.

I was very gratified that the Star Tribune rated our show one of the ten best shows at this year’s Fringe. An accolade like that is great and appreciated and it also triggers imposter syndrome.

See, I love the show. I love what the actors and directors did with it. I love that I managed to write something that went beyond the simple premise that was the initial idea. I’m proud of what we did.

But to me, it’s just this silly show where we substitute words for swear words and think about what “Family Friendly” really means. It isn’t TOP TEN material. I look at other shows that just blew me away this year and think “man – I wish I could write something that good once in my life.”

I can name ten shows I think are better than the show I’ve written. Not because I think I wrote a bad show but because to me, what I write isn’t spectacular or brilliant. It’s just what I write.

So it is really humbling and awesome that someone thought this show was that good. I’m sure there are others who would rate it as one of the worst shows they saw this year.

Both responses are equally valid, of course, as theater is subjective.

I’m proud of the show so I’ll just try to stick to bragging about the fact that at least one reviewer out there was as happy with what I produced as I was.