Double (XX) Fest 2.0 Night of Solo Performance: The Birth of a Piece

by Kris Keppler

Writer/Performer in Double (XX) Fest 2.0’s Night of Solo Performance

I used to do lots of comic roasts and singing telegrams, two a month for a couple years until the economy went bust in 2008.  I loved doing them as they’re very interactive and I get to sing.  I still do them, but only a few times a year now.

I really missed these little solo performances so when a friend who ran the Balagan Theatre late night show told me she’s looking for short performances I signed up.  I work out 3 times a week and I always have unusual experiences at the gym.  I wrote down these experiences and strung them together for my midnight performance.  Balagan packed them in that night, it holds 50.  Performing for a crowd at least 15 years younger than me made me really nervous.   I didn’t totally fail but didn’t totally succeed that night.  And that taught me a lot.

I took my solo piece now aptly named At the Gym to a workshop for solo performers.  I learned even more about what worked, what came off as offensive and that I needed more commentary.  Then, I didn’t perform it for another year.

I joined Biznik, an online networking site for small businesses and joined a musician’s group on the site.  The group organized a fund raiser for the Mosaic Coffee House in Wallingford as a Biznik event.  I volunteered to perform At the Gym, as the only non musical performance of the night.  The audience was a bit older but they were business people expecting music.  I looked out of place wandering around in my work out gear.

I reminded myself it’s a conversation between me and the audience as I took the stage.  The audience laughed and continued laughing.  There is no better sound for a solo performer to hear.

I’ve added some more bizarre characters to the show and renamed it Does This Happen to You: At the Gym.  I’m looking forward to performing the show at Stone Soup’s Double (XX) Fest 2.0 on April 21.

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Kris Keppler did comic roasting and singing telegrams on a regular basis for several years until the economy went bust.  The roasting and telegrams dried to a trickle. She will be performing Does This Happen to You: At the Gym  as part of Stone Soup’s Double (XX) Fest 2.0 this year for the Night of Solo Performance on April 21 at 8pm. Tickets available for all Double (XX) Fest 2.0 programs here.

Help us build! We’re running a Kickstarter Campaign closing 4/13…won’t you donate a little to $upport our female writers and playwrights?

Double (XX) Fest 2.0: Why I Began Writing

by Machelle Allman,

Double (XX) Fest 2.0 playwright

Double (XX) Fest 2.0
What's She Building?

Master and Commander.  That’s what did it.  I watched the movie and loved it-the direction, the acting, the efficient and engaging writing-but then it hit me.  Hard.  There were no women in the movie.  None.  Zero.  Of all the women in the “industry,” nobody got a job on this film. Sure, it’s about the Royal Navy in Napoleonic times, so it’s going to have male actors, I begrudgingly told myself, so I started digging.  Production credits?  Male. Music?  Men.  Same with production design and art direction. Oh, the casting directors were female-finally!

So then I started examining my thoughts about the matter.  I liked the film! Why be “begrudging” about it?  If it’s good artistic entertainment, then kudos to them, whoever “they” are.  But I had reached a point of no return. When I watched anything else after “Master and Commander” those faceless crowds of women NOT hired were in the back of my mind.  I kept noticing roles that could have been women that were written and cast as men. Cops, crooks, doctors, lawyers, bartenders.  I also noticed behind the scenes credits for women and gave a mental high-five when I’d see one.  Agnieszka Holland.  Nina Kostroff Noble.
So when I began writing, I made sure to write for women. This doesn’t mean that I’m writing about the Royal Navy and recasting everyone as women and hoping I get away with it.  Nor does it mean that I’m writing about a maternity wing of a hospital so that the majority of the people there have to be biologically female. I’m just making sure that everyone gets a fair shake in my scripts.  When I see a cop in my mind, usually he’s male, but then I make him female, because I can do that in my mind.  I can do that in my scripts.  That’s the fun part about being a writer, making stuff up and changing it around because I can. I would submit that it’s also a duty for those of us who care about issues of equity in addition to entertainment. There are talented women out there looking for opportunities to act, produce, direct, and more, so I make sure to write for them.

The more we write and the more we produce, the less unusual it is to see lots of female names in program credits, which is still statistically unusual. Many thanks to Double (XX) Fest for providing a venue for new plays and giving us jobs. It’s important work.

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Machelle Allman is a playwright, actor and director in the Seattle area. Her play, Smell of Snow, directed by Rachel Delmar, will be produced during the 3rd week of the Double (XX) Fest (May 3-6)  – she will also do double duty as an actor in another play (Residue by Susan Sher) and write overnight for the 24-Hour All-Female PlayFest (Sat, 4/21).

Help us build! We’re running a Kickstarter Campaign closing 4/13…won’t you donate a little to $upport our female writers and playwrights?

More on Sci-Fi Tempest

by Eve Hammond

Director, Stone Soup‘s Youth Conservatory Production of The Tempest

Directors “blog”, Stardate, March 1st, 2012.  It’s hard waiting around all week for rehearsals.  You know that time in your life when everything seemed to take FOREVER…this is a little bit of what the time between rehearsals seems like when you are having a terrifically fun time directing a show.  You think about it, you post about it, you think up new ideas and wait for those hours of magic that take place between the walls of the theatre.  Looking forward to the laughter of students creating and exploring characters, doing theatre games (MAFIA anyone?) and talking “shop” with the rest of the talented production crew.  It’s kind of like waiting for a holiday…

When you wait for the holiday, regardless of what you celebrate, it’s all in the preparation.  You think of what decorations to put up, what food to cook.  As a parent I think about this all the time.  As a director, I also think about these things.  What is going to be the best experience for my actors, what makes them want to give up time and energy to come to the theatre every week and spend hours memorizing lines, remembering blocking, interacting with some very different personality types?  Is it the Opening Night itself?  Is it the HOLIDAY we look forward to?  Or is it the time and the process we go through to make it TO the holiday.  As I get older, I’m a little more convinced it’s the preparation.  Sure, Opening Night is a fabulous culmination of the work and the blood, sweat and tears (no not really, maybe sweat sometimes) we all go through to produce the show.

Ah, but the waiting, the anticipation of my Caliban coming in with yet another genius idea for another voice and body gesture that makes his lines OH so much more enjoyable, as if his last idea wasn’t genius to begin with.  The breathless moment when my Miranda really GETS it, she gets emotionally involved and so do all that watch her from the audience.

TV doesn’t do this, it just doesn’t compete with the electric “friz” that happens when good actors lose themselves in the material and the real world fades and everything becomes shiny and new and….

Well, I only have a few more hours to wait until I get my holiday fix for the week.  Maybe I can put up some stage lights in my house, or cook something that smells like the concessions or open up an old trunk just to get that “old theatre smell”  Only a few more hours….

With gratitude to Dionysus….Image
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Eve Hammond is a frequent instructor and director in Stone Soup Theatre’s Youth Conservatory Program. The Tempest runs March 23-April 1, 2012. Tickets can be purchased here or by calling the Stone Soup Box office at 206.633.1883.

Young Man From Atlanta: A Local Director’s Review

by Arne Zaslove,

Former Artistic Director, the Bathhouse Theatre & frequent local director

Good things come in small packages. Stone Soup Theatre’s Downstage, a tiny store front performing space @ 4029 Stone Way North (Wallingford/Fremont area) has only two more week-ends to run their excellent production of The Young Man From Atlanta. This American classic seldom seen by the prolific American playwright, Horton Foote, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1995 and is directed by Maureen Hawkins.

Foote wrote two Oscar-winning film scripts as well as over 50 plays.  To Kill a Mockingbird, featured an indelible performance by Robert Duvall in his film debut  and a second Oscar for Tender Mercies which also featured Duvall as an aging country western singer.  Duvall actually wrote his own songs for that role and won the Oscar for best leading male actor.

L to R: Maggie Heffernan as Lily Dale & Gordon Coffey as Will (Photo by Armen Stein)

Foote’s world was primarily the southern United States, and The Young Man from Atlanta, takes place around 1950 in Houston, Texas.   The action of the play or inaction – centers on the family of Will Kidder and his wife, Lily Dale.  The world is strongly influenced by the plays of Anton Chekhov, where nothing much happens where everyone is anguished with thwarted desires, and unfulfilled hopes.  They struggle with the changes after WWII, with financial insecurities and the uncertain future.   They are mired reflecting on a  tragic incident in their past and untold secrets in the family closet.

The performances by a lovely, tightly knit ensemble are uniformly excellent.   The cast has achieved a warm and close depth that moves the story slowly but surely towards a very moving conclusion.   Chekhov would often end his plays with deep longing and tender despair, but Foote approaches this moment with something different but equally poignant.

The space is intimate and the audience is so close they are almost sitting in the suburban living room of the Kidder family.  All the better to view the subtle and very realistic acting style – as if you were watching a film with subtle and deeply felt emotions.

Gordon Coffey as Will Kidder, the central role, is absolutely dead on.  He is tender and hopeful in the face of devastating odds; and shows vulnerability that many actors would shun.  Gordon was an original member of the first Seattle Repertory Co. who took a long hiatus to raise a family and start a business.  I hope we will see more of him in the future.   He achieves the poignancy of a Willy Loman, in Death of a Salesman.

Spoiler alert:  the young man from Atlanta is actually the catalyst to the tense plot.  But as each layer of the onion is peeled away we are not exactly sure of who he is or why he’s done what he’s done.  The puzzle is intriguing – and you will leave the theater pondering the ambiguity; to make your own decision.

The ensemble is one of the best I’ve seen in Seattle in recent memory.  Please note there only two more week-ends remaining to see this fine show.  Don’t miss this opportunity to see first class ensemble acting and beautifully orchestrated nuanced performances, in Horton Foote’s tender, merciful, classic American play.

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Arne Zaslove was the artistic director of the Bathhouse Theatre for 20 years and has directed for the Seattle Rep and taught for the UW’s Professional Actor Training Program. He studied with Jacques LeCoq and has been a consultant for Cirque du Soleil, among many other things.

The Young Man From Atlanta runs through March 10 – tickets can be purchased by phoning the box office at 206.633.1883 or online at GoldStar (HALF PRICE!) or Brown Paper Tickets.