WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
Home - Blogs - Staff Blogs - Latest Blogs
by Rick Pender 06.21.2013
Posted In: Arts community, COMMUNITY, Theater, Visual Art at 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
stage door image for human races avenue q - katie pees & andrew ian adams - photo scott j. kimmins

Stage Door: The Droll Days of Summer

Most of our local theaters are cooling their jets for the summer months, but you still have two more weekends to catch the hilarious, three-actor Sherlock Holmes spoof of Hound of the Baskervilles at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. This one is definitely fine-tuned, featuring a trio of Cincy Shakes best actors — Jeremy Dubin, Nick Rose and Brent Vimtrup — directed by Michael Evan Haney from the Cincinnati Playhouse. It's a revival of a hit from last summer, so they have the comic timing of quick costume changes and fast-paced tomfoolery down pat. I understand that this weekend is almost sold out, but don't let that keep you from trying. Final performance is June 30. I hope you've deduced that you need to get for it this time around, even if you saw it before. (If you did, you know how funny it is.) It's elementary! Tickets: 513-381-2273, x1

The Showboat Majestic is a venue that floats along every summer with solid entertainment. Right now you can come on board for a classic piece of comedy by Neil Simon, The Odd Couple. It's a hit from 1965 in a production featuring a couple of great local actors: Joshua Steele as the prissy Felix and Mike Hall as the messy Oscar. They're a pair who know their way around a funny script, so it's a fine show for a summer's laugh. Tickets: 513-241-6550

Maybe you thought Sesame Street was funny when you were a kid. How'd you like to see some raunchy puppet behavior? Avenue Q is onstage in Dayton at the Human Race Theatre. The 2004 Tony Award-winning musical offers laugh-out-loud musical mayhem. But leave the kids at home: This one is aimed at those who are twentysomething and up, offering answers to a simple question: What happens to the kids who were raised on Sesame Street when they grow up? You'll find the answers — in songs like "It Sucks to Be Me" and "The Internet Is for Porn" — at the Loft Theatre, 126 North Main St. in downtown Dayton. Tickets: 937-228-3630

 
 
by PF Wilson 06.17.2013
Posted In: Comedy at 08:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
steveheadshot

Sullivan & Son Comedy Tour Tonight at the Funny Bone

Stars of the TBS hit show come to Newport for one night of stand-up

When most sit-coms have a day off from taping or filming, the cast takes it easy. Not Sullivan & Son, the TBS sitcom that launched its second season last month. 

The show’s star, Steve Byrne, along with fellow cast members Owen Benjamin, Ahmed Ahmed and Roy Wood Jr. hit the road for a series of one-off gigs. Tonight they perform at The Funny Bone on the Levee. “We have four episodes left to film, so on the weekends, when we have free time, if we have the opportunity to do a live show we’ll jump out," Byrne says. "The Funny Bone asked us to come out, and we’re really excited to do the show.” 

Each comic will do about 20 minutes worth of material. The show closes with all four doing an improv sketch. The four are great friends, as is the entire cast and crew of the show. Often they’ll have a grill out and Dan Lauria’s place. He plays Byrne's father on the show. “He’ll make us watch these old black-and-white films,” says Byrne. “He’ll say ‘Watch this cut. There’s no cut for eight minutes. That’s acting. That’s what you boys should be doing.’ And we’ll say ‘Dan, we’re on a sit-com on TBS!’” 

The Sullivan & Son Comedy Tour stops at The Funny Bone on the Levee, tonight (Monday, June 17). Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 859-957-2000. funnyboneonthelevee.com.

 

 
 
by Rick Pender 06.14.2013
Posted In: Theater at 08:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
circque

Stage Door: Cirque du Soleil and More

Head to Dayton's Nutter Center this weekend to see Cirque du Soleil's classic show, Quidam. The show, at the time a big top production, spent several weeks in Cincinnati in August and September 2006 in a "grand chapiteau" on the Ohio River bank near the Suspension Bridge. It's the story of a bored kid named Zoé whose parents ignore her. We enter the world of her imagination when Quidam, a headless wanderer under an umbrella, hands her his blue bowler hat. As her self-absorbed parents float away, the story moves into the magical reality her imagination, populated by Cirque's physically astonishing performers. There's a "German Wheel," a pair of man-sized double hoops with a guy rolling around the stage; an amazing silk contortionist, high above the stage); and "Statue," a mesmerizing performance by a muscle-bound guy and a powerful woman who slowly balance in various positions. My favorite was Banquine, the finale by 15 acrobats, launching tumblers high into the air and catching them. Through Sunday. Tickets: cirquedusoleil.com

Other productions to consider for your theater calendar this weekend: The Odd Couple (just opened on the Showboat Majestic, 513-241-6550); The Hound of the Baskervilles (Cincinnati Shakespeare, 513-381-2273), Nunsense (Commonwealth Dinner Theatre at Northern Kentucky University, 859-572-5465) and, if you're looking to make a theater weekend in Dayton with Quidam on one evening, how about filling the other with the outrageously funny X-rated Sesame Street-inspired Avenue Q at Human Race Theatre Company (888-228-3630).
 
 
by Brian Baker 06.13.2013
Posted In: Comedy at 12:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
richardpryorcollcover72dpi_1

Long List of Pryors

A new box set celebrates the incendiary genius that was and continues to be Richard Pryor

In the beginning, there was Lenny Bruce. And Lenny Bruce said the word "fuck" and the word was good. 

Unfortunately, the word killed his career, and heroin killed his body, but he softened the ground for the Holy Trinity of comedy to follow; Robert Klein (keen observationalist with a social/cultural conscience), George Carlin (an acrobatic magician's use of language in the service of every possible subject) and Richard Pryor, the heir to the throne and, in Pryor's own parlance, the baddest motherfucker of them all.

In the liner notes to No Pryor Restraints: Life in Concert, a new seven-audio CD/two-DVD box set from Shout Factory further illuminating the legendary comic's brilliance, great-in-his-own-right Robin Williams suggests that, just as baseball honors its heroes by retiring their numbers, comedy should retire the word "motherfucker" as a tribute to "one of the best there ever was, ever shall be, comedy without end. Amen."

Pryor would never go for that, of course. He would tell you that he fought long and hard to transform the word "motherfucker" from a horrifying epithet relegated to other-side-of-the-tracks establishments and their low clientele to a uniquely descriptive word that punctuated his bits with conversational ease. If he'd gotten wind of that campaign before his death, I'd be willing to bet Pryor's response would have been, "Retire it? You motherfuckers are going to have to start saying it twice as much because I ain't gonna be here to hold up my motherfucking end. Ain't nobody retiring shit, motherfucker."

No Pryor Restraints is not the first collection to attempt to encapsulate Richard Pryor's revolutionary comedic brilliance. In 2000, Warner Brothers released ...And It's Deep Too!, a definitive (and Grammy-winning) box set which largely served as the CD debut of the bulk of Pryor's catalog, and five years later, just months before Pryor's death from multiple sclerosis, came Evolution/Revolution, a two-CD set that cherry-picked his 1971 Craps (After Hours) album, his appearance at Wattstax and a handful of unreleased bits. 

To dip into that same well a third time seems perhaps slightly redundant and mercenary, but producers Reggie Collins and Steve Pokorny and Pryor's widow Jennifer Lee Pryor (who all oversaw ...And It's Deep Too!) have assembled a completely satisfying and beautifully presented collection that features a lot of old favorites and an impressive amount of unreleased material.

No Pryor Restraints begins at the dawn of Pryor's career in the mid-to-late'60s when he was still working in the general confines of conventional comedy. Even then, his increasingly unrestrained use of the word "nigger" served to defuse its inflammatory intent (it was used in the the titles of three subsequent albums and ultimately created a new self-awareness and empowerment for the Rap/Hip Hop generation), and by the early '70s, Pryor was bravely referencing his prodigious drug use, his rampant sex life and his complicated and often violent relationship with whoever was his wife at the moment, not to mention calling out America for its racist attitudes, both blatant and subtle. 

If Lenny Bruce's approach to those subjects in the '60s could be viewed as subversively distributed underground texts, then Pryor's expansion of them in the '70s would be considered wildly unedited and graphically illuminated manuscripts hawked from sidewalk tables right out in the open.

By the mid-'70s, Pryor had gotten signed to Warner Brothers and was quickly becoming recognized as one of comedy's quickest and most scathingly brilliant minds. By then he had also embarked on an eclectic career as an actor, and proved conclusively that he had dramatic chops that were every bit as finely tuned as his gift for stand-up. 

As Pryor's life became more chaotic and tumultuous, his routines became more honest and soul-baring; one of No Pryor Restraints' unreleased gems is a greatly expanded version of "New Year's Eve," Pryor's account of shooting his wife's car after an all-night party and an argument.

One of the things that No Pryor Restraints accomplishes — in a well designed and gorgeous book — is an accurate charting of Pryor's progress, from an edgy yet still relatively orthodox comic to an unbridled social critic who was not afraid to call a motherfucker a motherfucker. One of the problems with the Laff albums was that they were all shows recorded at the beginning of Pryor's career and yet their releases were interspersed with his far superior Warners albums. In this context, the listener can actually witness Pryor's evolution as he becomes more and more confident, not merely in the writing and honing of the material but in his swaggering presentation of it.

In addition to the (loosely) chronologically sequenced bits culled from the early material that comprised the albums that came out sporadically on Laff, Pryor's legitimate releases and the unreleased pieces that came from his archive, No Pryor Restraints also contains two DVDs that offer three of his most notable concert films, 1979's Live in Concert, 1982's Live on the Sunset Strip and 1983's triumphant Here and Now. 

After seven audio CDs of heart-stoppingly hilarious bits, it's almost a revelation to see Pryor do the exquisite dance that accompanied his obscenity-laced symphonies. No Pryor Restraints doesn't necessarily tell us anything we didn't already know about Richard Pryor, it merely reinforces the things we did know in a beautiful and effective way. We already knew that Pryor didn't just change the way people thought about comedy, he changed the medium itself by expanding the parameters of what was acceptable to discuss and the manner in which it's done. He also single-handedly changed race relations in America; with a criminally genius sense of humor, Pryor identified and skewered stereotypes (and obvious flaws) on both sides of the racial divide, ultimately bridging the chasm by bringing fans of every diverse ethnic group together under his all-encompassing umbrella (and poking them in the eye when they arrived).

And in changing the comedy landscape and narrowing the racial gap, Richard Pryor changed the culture in the United States. Television, movies, music and art have all been touched in immeasurable ways by the influence that rippled outward from Richard Pryor's 30-year comedy reign. That's all that motherfucker did, and it was more than motherfucking enough.

 
 
by Rick Pender 06.13.2013
Posted In: Theater, Dance, Visual Art at 08:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cirque

Cirque du Soleil's Quidam Is a Flight of Imagination

Onstage at Dayton's Nutter Center through June 16

Cirque du Soleil's classic show, Quidam, opens with Zoé (Alessandra Gonzalez), a bored little girl whose parents ignore her. We enter the world of her imagination when Quidam, a headless wanderer under an umbrella, hands Zoé his blue bowler hat. (This imagery will resonate with those who know the surrealist paintings of René Magritte, a 20th century artist whose paintings challenged traditional perceptions of reality.) Zoé's self-absorbed parents float away and we are transported to the magical reality of Cirque's physically astonishing performers.

The "world" presently inhabited by Quidam is Dayton's Nutter Center, on the campus of Wright State University, through Sunday, June 16. The show, which originated as a big top production (it spent several weeks in Cincinnati in August and September 2006 in a "grand chapiteau" on the Ohio River bank near the Suspension Bridge) is now an arena show, and it works beautifully in the Nutter. Five giant metal arches are used to suspend performers in mid-air, but you quickly lose sight of the mechanics thanks to the artistry, visual and musical, of Cirque.

To me, the greatest wonder — beyond the physical precision and discipline of Cirque's athletic artists — is the universality of shows like Quidam, which tour the world. (In a few months, this company will be performing in Europe, playing to audiences in cities including Vienna, Munich and London, where it has a month-long engagement at Royal Albert Hall.) The performers are ethnically diverse and the storytelling spans cultural boundaries: Wordless clowning (Quidam features a segment about making a silent movie that recruits a few audience members as "actors") is laugh-out-loud funny, and the ringmaster John (Mark Ward) borders on intentional incompetence in a way that endears him to the crowd even as he moves us from act to act without saying a word.

And what acts we see: German Wheel (a pair of man-sized double hoops containing a guy who rolls around the stage); Diabolo (spinning Chinese yo-yo's tossed high into the air from a string and caught); Aerial Contortion (Tanya Burka is an amazing silk contortionist, many feet above the stage); Skipping Ropes (using 20 acrobats); Aerial Hoops (three women spinning and pivoting through the air); Hand Balancing (incredible strength and flexibility by a woman on yard-high canes); Spanish Webs (five fellows on high, hanging and twisting on ropes); Statue (a mesmerizing performance by Yves Décoste and Valentyna Sidenko who slowly and powerfully balance in various positions); and finally Banquine (acrobatics). The latter section, Quidam's finale, uses 15 artists, launching tumblers high into the air and catching them. At one point they build a tower of four humans atop each others' shoulders. Each assemblage or toss seems more daring than the previous.

Quidam might be the product of Zoé's boredom, but the show expands imaginative horizons. It's definitely worth a one-hour drive from Cincinnati.
 
 
by Steven Rosen 06.12.2013
Posted In: Visual Art at 10:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
vent haven diane keaton, matthew rolston

Vent Haven Museum Book Gets Star-Studded L.A. Party

Release features large-format prints, documentary, celebs

The publicist for photographer Matthew Rolston's book, Talking Heads, The Vent Haven Portraits (featured in this 2012 CityBeat article), recently sent photos from Rolston's book-publication party in L.A. Here's an excerpt from the accompanying release:

"On Friday, May 10th, actress and author Diane Keaton, renowned art collector Kay Saatchi and Joel Chen, owner of Los Angeles' top resource for antiques and vintage furniture JF Chen, celebrated influential American celebrity photographer and director Matthew Rolston’s new book at JF Chen. Featuring 100 ‘headshots’ of a rare collection of ventriloquist dummies unearthed from the intimate and obscure Vent Haven Museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky (the world’s only museum dedicated to the art of ventriloquism), the book is a departure from the celebrity portraiture for which Rolston is known and marks his first foray into the world of fine art."

A documentary about Rolston's project also was shown. Other guests included actor John C. Reilly and songwriter Diane Warren. Vent Haven, incidentally, is planning an exhibit of the photos, though not the large-format prints shown at Chen's store.