Theater

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Photos from the Beaver Sisters

Posted By on Wed, Dec 19, 2018 at 6:26 PM

The hard-drinking, fun-loving Beaver Sisters host their hot mess of a telethon. - PHOTO BY MARK LARSON
  • Photo by Mark Larson
  • The hard-drinking, fun-loving Beaver Sisters host their hot mess of a telethon.

The Beaver sisters (played by local artists Sarah McKinney, Maggie Lally and Janessa Johnsrude) transformed Eureka’s Synapsis Nova on Friday into a setting for an angst-ridden fundraiser telethon with a major problem: No one calls in to donate money. The plot’s backstory for The Beaver Sisters Present: The Beaverettes is that the toxin-laden river is threatening to destroy their lodge unless they raise enough money to prevent it. See the slideshow below for the boozy highlights.

Due to the lack of callers throughout the telethon, Marge, Musty and Betty Beaver are frantic and at interpersonal odds with each other at times in coming up with individual fundraising ideas (allowing each of these talented performers a full range of funny moments). And a bonus throughout the comedy show: It turns out the Beaver sisters have fantastic singing voices.

The Beaver Sisters Present: The Beaverettes was created in residence at Dell'Arte International, where the artists are graduates in physical theater. The show next heads out a December tour to San Francisco and Los Angeles. Do not miss the next chance to catch them locally.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Off on a Tangent: An interview with Steven Wright

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2018 at 1:50 PM

Standup stalwart Steven Wright. - PHOTO BY JORGE RIOS, COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
  • Photo by Jorge Rios, courtesy of the artist
  • Standup stalwart Steven Wright.

If you don’t know his name, you know his visage and presence. His cadence and playful monotony have made him a stalwart of the standup comedy scene for nearly four decades. If you’ve somehow missed all of the last 40 years of standup, you likely still know him from any one of his multiple major motion picture cameos. Steven Wright started standup in Boston in 1978 at the age of 23. Now, at the age of 62, he still has the market cornered on the avant strange. On Sunday, Oct. 21 at 8 p.m., Wright is bringing his must-see weirdness to the stage of The Arkley Center for the Performing Arts.

His style, though frequently emulated by newer comics like Demetri Martin, is unique in both its form and function. It’s not satire, not outright. And it’s not quite storytelling, either. His sets are almost like a series of absurd vignettes, loosely connected but flowing nevertheless. Like dreams but with the gift of extemporaneous reflection — Dali paintings with a punchline.

I had a brilliant list of insightful, well-researched questions to interview him, none of them canned, I swear. They were the perfect mix of casual professionalism, hilarity and my trademark remarkable modesty. This is something you’ll need to take my word for, as my over-prepared nerdery was no match for Wright’s curiosity.

As soon as I am done explaining just how far away Humboldt is from what non-locals refer to as “Northern California,” his voice filled with whimsy, “You live where the redwoods are!” Then, began an amazing slew of questions, not from me, but from Wright. Wright reacted to most of my answers with jocular laughs/giggles and exclamations of “Wow!” His tone was never condescending or elitist; he truly wanted to know everything he could about the odd life and history of Humboldt County. In particular, he was captivated by all aspects of the local ecology. “Nature is ... I love nature,” he says before he tells me about his own preference for a bucolic retreat: Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island. His brother owns land on the island and it’s a place of tranquility and beauty for Wright. I described Humboldt’s massive swaths of redwood rain forest, the breathtaking wonder of growing up surrounded by something so seemingly prehistoric.
When the conversation drifted toward inquiries about industry and culture (Wright’s ability to initiate tangents pales only in comparison to his ability to bring a conversation back around to its original point), he gently interrupted to say, “They didn’t cut down the redwoods did they?” I’m not sure if he actually Googled Julia Butterfly but he was thrilled to have a name to fit the description. “That must not be her real name, right?” Humboldt County, I told him. “Maybe I should spend a couple of days there. No, really, I mean it.”
He was insistent that he knew the word Humboldt from somewhere else but couldn’t place it. I gave him the obvious answer everyone from here is used to giving: Mary Jane.

“Oh, I forgot about pot,” he said with a chuckle. “Wait a minute, do you smoke weed?”
“I do.”
“Are you high right now?”
“No. I sorta wanted to be clearheaded, you know, nerves and professionalism and all.”
“Could you call me back when you’re high?” Then his brain opened another tangential tributary, “We could do two different interviews. Wouldn’t that be fascinating!” Though Wright used the words “surreal,” “insane” and “weird” as self description, I really think he should add “fascinated” to the list.
It didn’t take long to realize that second to his love of nature, Wright is extremely literary. His love of the surreal extends to books, which is evident in his taste and his own writing.

When asked why he became a comic and not a writer, his answer is quick and concise. At 16 years old, he’d watch the comics on Carson every night, then watch them head over to the couch after their sets. From the ages of 16-18 he spent every Sunday night listening to a local Massachusetts radio show that would play two comedy albums back-to-back. “I just got it in my head that this what I was going to do.”

Technically, all of this did answer my first hard-hitting question, “Have you ever been to Humboldt County?” But nearly an hour went by before I got around to asking my gotcha-follow-up: How come you don’t Twitter anymore?

Wright says he stopped tweeting because “jokes are a live thing.” This is a fairly standard response from people who have left the anxious whirlwind that is social media. From Wright, though, there’s an earnest truthfulness in the statement. In the hour-plus that Wright and I spent talking, we covered everything from the fall of the major timber industry in Humboldt, the first time we both saw a surrealist painting, the etymology of our middle names and so much more random information. Human interaction and a larger understanding of everyone’s experiences were a driving force of our conversation. And those are rare qualities these days.

It’s reason enough to take a break from the mundane coldness of reality and dip your toes into the waking-dream world of Steven Wright.
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Friday, July 6, 2018

When Worlds Collide — The Last Weekend of Mad River Festival Theatre

Posted By on Fri, Jul 6, 2018 at 8:18 AM

The play known as Embedded (apologies, the exact title causes an html error on our website) takes the stage at the Arcata Playhouse through the weekend. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • The play known as Embedded (apologies, the exact title causes an html error on our website) takes the stage at the Arcata Playhouse through the weekend.

#//<EMBEDDED>//#
and Life Beneath the Stars at the Arcata Playhouse, Eli and the Bear at the Carlo Theatre in Blue Lake all challenge our perceptions of reality and our role in the world.

#//<EMBEDDED>//#

For anyone concerned with humankind’s increasing overlap with, and dependence on, internet-connected machines, this is must-see theatre.

The central character, a young man named Cinnamon Braganza, is a stereotypical nerd, living alone with his computer and dreaming of being anyone but himself. Thanks to a well-meaning birthday gift from his mother, Cinnamon is invited by a seductive cyber-voice to discover his true self. Thus begins a potentially fatal dissolving of the wall between two worlds that challenges the audience to reflect just how much they may be allowing shadowy web presences to manipulate their minds — and how difficult it is to truly disconnect in an age when 50 million Americans have access to a smart speaker.

The stark set — computer and film projection screens surrounding a basic home video studio setup — lets us experience both of Cinnamon’s worlds simultaneously. Real-world Cinnamon (a pre-recorded Motwani with bad teeth and Coke-bottle glasses) is projected on the video screen, while his sex-symbol online alter ego evolves live on stage before our eyes. By enabling the two worlds to co-exist for the audience, the chameleon-like Motwani skillfully orchestrates the progressive melding of the two personas as we watch cyber-Cinnamon gradually shed the robotic aspects of his character and clothing and absorb more and more of the human vanity and search for belonging projected by real-world Cinnamon. Kudos, too, to Mike Foster and Caitlin Volz for their expert behind-the-scenes coordination of light, sound, and multi-screen projection.

#//<EMBEDDED>//# brings together B F Skinner’s operant conditioning experiments, the manipulative algorithms of social media, and the recognized phenomenon of internet addiction in a brave new cyber world. Everywhere we look, real and imaginary walls are being built up and broken down in the search for our true selves. But who are we really fooling? And who is really in control?

Life Beneath the Stars

Life Beneath the Stars plays on the same bill as #//<EMBEDDED>//#, but I have not had the opportunity to see it ahead of time. Knowing creator and performer James Peck, though, I expect it to deliver on its promise of a fantastical tale of experience, love and regret by a man who now roams the planet with only the stars as his shelter. The show combines mime, mask and puppets, so you know there’ll be plenty to get your teeth into (but hopefully not literally!)

Eli and the Bear

Eli and the Bear is the latest iteration of a piece created by 2017 Dell’Arte graduates Becca Finney, Tushar Mathew and Zafiria Dimitropoulou that debuted in last year’s Dell’Arte Thesis Festival under the title What Have You Done, Eli? It’s a searingly powerful encapsulation of the impact that the loss of everything familiar can have on an adolescent boy.

Eli (Becca Finney) and his mother Amanda (Laura Muñoz) find themselves exiled from their old world – an Orwellian city that requires the presence of a male “head of household” — after the death of Eli’s father. The two are forced to flee to the edge of the city, where the familiar butts up against the dystopian hinterland of death and destruction. Clutching only her box of memories, Amanda stumbles into a familiar-yet-not world occupied by Bumbles, a retired circus bear (Tushar Mathew) and his prized record player, magic rain machine and his own box of memories.

As each character explores how they might — or might not — adapt to this strange new way of life, stark contrasts appear. Bumbles is inquisitive and eager to learn new tricks from his new friends. Amanda is happy and relieved to find a new framework for living that she can trust. But Eli finds nothing comforting in Bumble’s world. With no male role model but the dictator who ruled his old world, his need to control his new world overwhelms him, with tragic consequences.

From her voice to her ungainliness and yo-yoing moods, Finney is adolescent male personified. It’s an extraordinary performance that contrasts dramatically with Muñoz’s vulnerable yet resilient Amanda, struggling to connect with her son’s descent into madness. And Mathew is so delightfully innocent and trusting as Bumbles that you just want to give him a big hug and tell him it will all be alright.

Eli and the Bear challenges us to imagine a world in which individual objects are familiar, but context and perceptions are not. What is magic, and what is real? The truth is out there, but can you find it in time?

The essentials:

#//<EMBEDDED>//# and Life Beneath the Stars are at the Arcata Playhouse Friday July 6 at 8 p.m. and Saturday July 7 at 4 p.m. #//<EMBEDDED>//# goes on tour to San Francisco, Portland and Chicago starting mid-July. More information on the web at www.embeddedtheshow.com.

Eli and the Bear is at the Carlo Theatre in Blue Lake at 8 p.m. on Friday, July 6, and Saturday, July 7, and at 4 p.m. on Sunday, July 8. This one’s going on tour as well — more info on Facebook.

Tickets for all three shows are available at www.dellarte.com or by calling (707) 668-5663.
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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Mad About Dell'Arte

Posted By on Thu, Jun 28, 2018 at 12:15 PM

Pratik Motwani in the mask as Ruzzante. - PHOTO BY TUSHAR MATHEW
  • Photo by Tushar Mathew
  • Pratik Motwani in the mask as Ruzzante.
Humboldt County’s own Dell’Arte International received a shout-out from the San Francisco Chronicle this week in an article highlighting the performing art center’s 47-year history, nearly all of which has been spent in the bucolic city of Blue Lake.

Currently ongoing is its 28th annual Mad River Festival, which features original theatrical works by the company. Read more about the event that began June 14 and runs through July 15 here and here.

(FYI: While the Chronicle article touts the performance of Ruzzante Comes Home from the War, the story of soldiers returning from battle, the last show is July 1.)
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Friday, May 25, 2018

Will We Ever Get Out of Here? A review of Dell'Arte's Let Me Out!

Posted By on Fri, May 25, 2018 at 1:24 PM

Actor Linnea Ytterlid on the immersive set of Let Me Out! at Dell'Arte. - PHOTO BY TUSHAR MATTHEW
  • Photo by Tushar Matthew
  • Actor Linnea Ytterlid on the immersive set of Let Me Out! at Dell'Arte.

Let Me Out! explores what happens when theater meets role-playing game meets escape room, wrapped up in a murder-mystery evening that may or may not be trapped in an endless repeating cycle. The outcome of a year of research and development by Dell’Arte graduates Eric William Jones, Marguerite Boissonault and Linnea Ytterlid, Let Me Out is totally immersive theatre, playing for only two more performances, Saturday, May 26 and Sunday May, 27 at Dell’Arte’s Taylor Way building in Blue Lake. And it is mesmerizing.

Audience size for Let Me Out! is very limited, maybe 15 people max, and for good reason — because everyone has a part to play. Of that audience (in the language of the production, “witnesses”), six are chosen as “players” to participate fully as defined characters in the production. These players are led off to be briefed by the three creators, who are also players, shortly before the action begins. Meanwhile we remaining witnesses are led into the performance area. Here, we are invited to select our seats from among the random chairs scattered around the “room,” which has the feel of a long-abandoned part a long-abandoned house; all the walls are covered with broken-down cardboard boxes and a large cabinet sits in the middle of the floor.

We are each given several cards with instructions to be acted upon during the performance: When X happens, give this card to Y or do Z, and we're asked not to speak again; we may move but must remain on the perimeter, bearing silent witness, no matter what happens. We are “the firing synapses of the mind.”

At first, all we hear is dirge-like music. Then we become conscious of people walking about. Dana, the central character (Marguerite Boissonault), approaches and opens the cabinet, ushers a second woman (Linnea Ytterlid) inside and locks her in. Dana lies on the floor and the lights go out. The remaining players enter, led by Gary (Eric William Jones) and guided by a flashlight, as a giant digital clock projected onto the wall starts counting down. Suddenly lights begin to flash, strange and disturbing sounds fill the space, and Dana begins to rise, as if awakened from a dream.

Let the (mind)games begin.

Everyone has a strange feeling they have been in this place before. They feel that they know each other but do not (yet) know how or why. As they explore their surroundings, each player begins to uncover pieces of his or her past (“hey, we must be married!” “I was a manager at Target!”), but there is no sense of time having passed. Dana waits for someone to recognize her and tell her who she is.
A panicked cry emerges from the cabinet. The players must figure out what combination of letters will open the lock (which they eventually do), and the woman, who goes by Sylvia, staggers out, crying that she has no idea how long she’s been trapped. Then Gary pulls a large, rusted object from the cabinet, which sets in motion the life stories and relationships of all the characters, as they gradually unfold before us.

Each set of interactions between the characters builds not just an aspect of those characters but adds a piece to the living puzzle that is Dana. We, the witnesses, add color as we set in motion different actions (“dance like Elvis!”) that reflect a particular life stage. The characters draw on a multiplicity of found objects in their environment to set off new memory-trains — a copy of Pride and Prejudice, a bottle of Zoloft — as the human synapses begin firing every which way. And at every turn, we find ourselves wondering what is real to us, to the players and to Dana. And then there’s Sylvia. As Shakespeare once asked, “Who is Silvia? What is she …?” By art or by design, it leads us to another and, in the context of this performance, very appropriate slice of Bardly wisdom:
“To die — to sleep / To sleep — perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub! / For in that sleep of death what dreams may come / When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, / Must give us pause.”

But when we pause, do we finally die? Or do we begin the dream again? And again? And again?

Let Me Out! Is an extraordinary experience and one that I hope will continue to live, evolve and expand to allow many more people the privilege of entering its alternate(?) reality.
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Friday, May 18, 2018

Hedwig Postponed Due to Injury

Posted By on Fri, May 18, 2018 at 4:50 PM

Morgan Cox as Hedwig. - COURTESY OF NORTH COAST REPERTORY THEATRE
  • Courtesy of North Coast Repertory Theatre
  • Morgan Cox as Hedwig.

It looks like the 20-odd stitches Hedwig and the Angry Inch star Morgan Cox got last week haven't quite healed up enough to go on with the show. During last Saturday's performance at North Coast Repertory Theatre, a staged struggle over a bottle went awry when the bottle accidentally slipped from actor Jo Kuzelka's grip and hit Cox in the face, leaving him with a nasty lower lip gash. Doctors initially cleared him to go on stage tonight but rescinded that decision today.


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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

SpongeBob and Sara Bareilles at the Tonys

Posted By on Tue, May 1, 2018 at 12:58 PM

Still from the promo for SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical. - YOUTUBE
  • YouTube
  • Still from the promo for SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical.
Is it us or is this year's Tony Awards lineup more Humboldt than anticipated? For one thing, locally grown songstress/composer/Broadway star Sara Bareilles is slated to co-host Broadway's biggest night on June 10 with Josh Groban (a man with a beard who is evidently also musically inclined but not from here so let's stay focused). And among the nominees announced today is Ms. Bareilles herself as a member of the team credited for composing the score for SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical. And yes, that is a thing. The video below should give you an idea.

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Sunday, April 1, 2018

Catch Sara Bareilles in Jesus Christ Superstar Live Tonight

Posted By on Sun, Apr 1, 2018 at 7:09 PM

John Legend and Sara Bareilles in tonight's live TV musical. - FROM NBC.COM
  • From NBC.com
  • John Legend and Sara Bareilles in tonight's live TV musical.
Maybe a flight to New York to see hometown girl Sara Bareilles' Broadway run in the musical Waitress wasn't practical. That's no reason to put "When She Was Mine" on repeat and cry into a lemon meringue. (Oh, like I'm the only one.) Tonight at 8 p.m., you can catch her live performance as Mary Magdalene to John Legend's Jesus in the West Coast replay of Jesus Christ Superstar Live.

What better way to digest your Sunday/Easter dinner/Passover leftovers than to hunker down on the couch and listen to Bareilles belt out the vintage (1971), Tony Award-winning Andrew Lloyd Webber tunes? Spoiler: East Coast Twitter says she's killing it. Get the pie ready just in case.
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Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Papaya Lounge is Ripe for Comedy

Posted By on Sat, Feb 3, 2018 at 6:00 PM

Sarah McKinney as Velvet Q. Jones and Alyssa Hughlett as her dowdy, clumsy assistant Nancy. - PHOTO BY MARK LARSON
  • Photo by Mark Larson
  • Sarah McKinney as Velvet Q. Jones and Alyssa Hughlett as her dowdy, clumsy assistant Nancy.

The funny, bawdy and sometimes naughty comedy and music show The Papaya Lounge met its goal of turning the Arcata Playhouse into a seedy cabaret nightclub on Saturday, Jan. 27.

Velvet Q. Jones (Sarah McKinney) hosted the cabaret, billed as a music, comedy and variety show “with a fruity attitude.” The show was supported with excellent live music by the Fruit Flies (Tim Randles, Ken Lawrence, Mike LaBolle and Greg Moore). The very loose plot line involved the somewhat frantic Velvet Q. Jones’ efforts to fend off her creditors while being a catalyst in the transformation of her dowdy, clumsy assistant Nancy (Alyssa Hughlett).

The evening performance in front of a packed house was billed as a test run and afterward Playhouse promoter David Ferney said, “We are pleased with the reception of the show and plan to bring back The Papaya Lounge as a showcase of local talent on a regular basis.” See the slideshow below for highlights.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Century Celebration

Posted By on Mon, Aug 21, 2017 at 12:28 PM

Shoshanna Rose (right), of Arcata, helped cut and serve the Creamery Building replica cake that building owners Lisa and Brian Finigan, of Arcata, brought to share with Fervor Fest attendees. - PHOTO BY MARK LARSON
  • Photo by Mark Larson
  • Shoshanna Rose (right), of Arcata, helped cut and serve the Creamery Building replica cake that building owners Lisa and Brian Finigan, of Arcata, brought to share with Fervor Fest attendees.

It took four days to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Creamery Building in Arcata this past week. Building owners Lisa and Brian Finigan, of Arcata, have spent the last 40 years rejuvenating the building and hosting an eclectic mix of tenants in the center of the emerging Creamery District — so they and friends decided to throw a party.

Arcata artist Lush Newton introduced her outdoor art installation "Golden State Creamery: The Land of Milk and Honey" at Thursday's evening reception at the Creamery District. She said her work commemorates the history, people and culture surrounding the historic Creamery building on its 100th anniversary. The billboard was inspired by designs for the original tenant, California Creameries, and her portable hand-painted figures were based on historical photos (including one of her great aunt riding a cow).

Friday evening's highlights were the Arcata Playhouse's outdoor shadow-puppet show that followed the Elemental Spectacle procession that included dancers, stilt walkers, giant puppets and a large dragon marching around the Creamery Building to live music. The Ya Habibi dancers performed next at the entrance of the Creamery prior to the shadow-puppet show.

More than 20 vendors offered unlimited samples of beer, wine, kombucha, cider and distilled spirits at Fervor Fest on Saturday. A large crowd attended the family-friendly event that included live music, food vendors and a popular children's play area. In mid-afternoon, the Finigans brought out the 100th anniversary cake shaped liked the Creamery building to share with Fervor Fest attendees.

The Creamery Festival wrapped up on Sunday with the last of the Flynn Creek Circus shows.

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