Posts Tagged ‘Theater’

Burn The Floor Interview with Creator Jason Gilkison

September 8, 2010 1 comment
Burn The Floor

Burn The Floor

Dance has become a huge part of popular culture. Between TV shows “Dancing With The Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance”, more people are familiar with a wide variety of dance styles than ever before.  Jason Gilkison, Director and Choreographer of Burn The Floor (as well as choreographer for So You Think You Can Dance), captures the excitement of dance into a show that’s fresh off a successful run on Broadway and London’s West End.

We spoke to Jason Gilkison about the impact of dance moving into the popular culture, the challenges of putting together a huge dance production, and his experience with Pasha and Anya from So You Think You Can Dance.

Read more…

The Lion King Broadway Tour in Portland Review

June 20, 2010 4 comments
Lion King in Portland

Lion King in Portland

As a musical, The Lion King doesn’t measure up to a lot of its contemporaries. Outside its three signature songs “Circle of Life“, “Hakuna Matata” and “Can You Feel The Love Tonight“, the music of The Lion King is pretty clunky, uninspired and sometimes even awkward. Oddly enough, the music of The Lion King really isn’t the star of the show. Many of the musical numbers act as connective tissue between grand scenes awash in color, movement, dance and puppetry. It’s this wondrous magic and not the music which makes The Lion King the grand spectacle that it is.

Following fairly closely to the film, The Lion King Musical tells the story of the ‘circle of life’ of one lion cub from infancy through adulthood including his life challenges and adventures. The story is a fairly dark one where characters are often put into peril. One of the most important things to know about The Lion King Musical may be that is NOT really good viewing material for younger children. At least half of the show contains content that would be very challenging for kids under the age of 7 and some of the scenes are downright graphic. One scene depicts a fairly graphic death onstage, something far more intense than in the animated version. Read more…

Snow Falling on Cedars at Portland Center Stage Review

January 17, 2010 2 comments
Snow Falling on Cedars Portland Center Stage

Snow Falling on Cedars at Portland Center Stage

I honestly didn’t have huge expectations for Kevin McKeon’s adaptation of David Guterson Snow Falling on Cedars. So many popular books and movies have been poorly adapted for the stage recently and
Scott Hick’s 1999 film adaptation
of Guterson’s best selling book simply left me cold. Imagine my shock when I was blown away by one of the best productions I’ve seen on a stage in Portland. McKeon’s adaptation is simply amazing and coupled with Chris Coleman’s pitch perfect direction and uniformly excellent acting, Snow Falling on Cedars at Portland Center Stage is nothing short of a triumph.

Set in the late 40’s and early 50’s, Snow Falling on Cedars follows the trail of Kabuo, a Japanese American fisherman accused of murdering a fellow fisherman in a small northwestern island town. The play flashes back and forth between the trial and the years leading up to it, covering the interweaving stories of the characters. Smack dab in the center of Snow Falling on Cedars is a look at the Japanese internment camps in America, enacted after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Although Snow Falling on Cedars covers an important point (and arguably one of our lowest points) in American history, the play is more about the relationships and connections between the people involved than the history itself. Olivia Oguma and Vince Nappo play Hatsue and Ishmael, two childhood playmates who flirt with something more. Their relationship comes to a head with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. There’s a devastatingly beautiful moment when Hatsue turns to Ishmael and says, “Look at me, look at my face, I have the face of the enemy!” It’s within a moment like this between characters that brings everything together and adjoins the greater narrative, the historial context and makes this play work so well.

A lot of credit goes to Kevin McKeon for his masterful adaptation of Guterson’s book. McKeon covers considerable ground in his stage play and really has a sense of how to capture and present the soul and essence of the book. McKeon often gives us just enough of a glimpse at something as he weaves back and forth throughout the lives of the key characters. This results in some truly magical moments, and while fleeting, they give us a tremendous amount of insight and connection with the story. One of my favorite moments of the play involves the coupling of Hatsue and Kabuo, a short scene played perfectly, almost magically; I’ll surely be thinking back to it a long time from now.

Director Chris Coleman, who has been playing around with inventive and minimalistic staging this year, really hits his groove working with McKeon’s adaptation. The staging transitions from scene to scene, emotional note to emotional note flawlessly. At one point we flash between the front lines in the South Pacific to a quiet and tender scene between two of the characters on the field of an internment camp and back again. Coleman’s actors never seem lost in the shuffle and he gives them a tremendous amount of faith and trust to carry off some of the most important elements of the play. In one scene two police officers, played by Scott Coopwood and Casey McFeron, pull a body caught in a fishing net out of the water and onto a boat. This entire scene is done using pantomime, and it executed so well you’d swear they had a real body on stage. I couldn’t help but think back to Coleman’s work on Ragtime and the show-stopping scene where Gavin Gregory (who plays Coalhouse Walker) sits down to play at an invisible piano.

It’s this kind of deep trust in the artform and the capacity of his actors that makes Chris Coleman a truly great director, and under his direction, the actors rise to the occasion. Olivia Oguma gives an award worthy performance as Hatsue, carrying her character through a huge life arch from pre-teen to a married woman with kids. Vince Nappo takes his character Ishmael on a similar journey and caps the show with an emotional moment that is simply amazing. Bruce Locke gives the role of Kabuo a rich texturing despite the fact that his character is extremely reserved.

Across the board the performances in Snow Falling on Cedars are excellent even though many of the cast members double and triple up, playing a variety of roles throughout the show. My one and only gripe about the production is its opening. The characters come on and speak in narrative to set things up. It works but not nearly as well as when we see the characters interact with dialogue. Admittedly, this is a minor issue and in many ways is like complaining about the frame on a true masterpiece, which is what this is.

Kevin McKeon’s adaptation of Snow Falling on Cedars is so good and Chris Coleman’s Portland Center Stage production is so well performed it has the potential to become a truly classic piece of theater. McKeon works magic with Snow Falling on Cedars, crafting a truly contemporary theatrical experience using classic theatrical tools, and in the hands of Chris Coleman the result is simply amazing. Snow Falling on Cedars has the potential to be the kind of show that moves on from its Portland debut to New York and then beyond. It’s a truly great piece of theater and is absolutely not to be missed.

Snow Falling on Cedars plays at Portland Center Stage 1/12-2/17. Tickets Start at $35.

For more information:

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Xanadu The Musical in Portland Review

January 13, 2010 1 comment
Xanadu The Musical in Portland

Xanadu The Musical in Portland

It’s hard to write a review of Xanadu The Musical with a straight face. Part of me is thinking, “Really, you’re going to pick apart a musical based on one of the cheesier films from the 80’s?” and in truth there will be some people who click off their brain and just enjoy the brief 90 minute staging of this kitschy musical no matter what faults it has, and that’s fine. The problem with Xanadu The Musical is that it actually far, far worse than the movie it’s based on.

Adapted from the 1980 film with Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly and Michael Beck, Xanadu is a fantastical story of a Greek demi-god sent to Earth to be a muse for a struggling artist. In the process she breaks some cardinal rules, including falling in love and getting involved with the creative process itself. Peppered throughout the story are some classic songs from the film including “Magic“, “Suddenly“, “I’m Alive” and the theme song “Xanadu“. None of these songs are pure classics in their own right, but they do really capture some of the delicious elements that make the 80’s so fun to wax nostalgic over.

Musically this gives Xanadu a fairly solid base. Like Mama Mia, there’s enough of a musical foundation for a fun night of musical theater. Unfortunately the music is so subverted in favor of cheap gags and poor staging that it’s hard to genuinely enjoy it.

Elizabeth Stanley, who performs the lead role, has a fantastic voice, similar in tone to Oliva Newton-John, with a depth and breadth that truly fills the auditorium. But she so hams it up while singing that it’s really difficult to enjoy her genuine talent. When she isn’t singing, Elizabeth Stanley’s performance is really subpar. For part of the show she sports an absolutely horrid Australian accent. The accent is yet another aspect of the show played as a gag, but it’s so poorly executed it’s painful.

Stanley’s co-star Max Von Esson, who plays Sonny Malone, has such a small stage presence that he’s absolutely eclipsed by Stanley. Von Esson reminds me of the kind of performer you see on a cruise ship or at Disneyland. He awkwardly hams it up and then completely under delivers when it comes time to really sing. Von Esson even comes up short in terms of skating – in the grand finale he doesn’t even skate. With all the talent out there (including the cast-offs from all the seasons of American Idol), it’s hard to believe they couldn’t find a better performer to play Sonny.

Of all the other cast members the only other real highlight of the show is Larry Marshall, who has the unenviable task of performing a role originated by the great Gene Kelly. Marshall is one of the only genuinely talented and well rounded performers on stage. He seems to be the only one to be able to balance both the humor and the narrative of the musical and both sings and acts wonderfully.

One of the biggest problems with Xanadu The Musical is that it seems to have a fairly strong disdain for the time period which the film and story are set in. Throughout the show the 80’s are often referred to as ‘culturally devoid’ and references to most of the 80’s things are more pejorative than positive. The musical also seems to have a disdain for the very artform of the musical itself. It constantly pokes fun and commentates on the very institution of art that it is. This creates an undertone to the piece which is far from celebratory. Rather than trying to be so self referential, Xanadu had an amazing opportunity to celebrate the absolute over-the-top aspects of the time period and musical theater art form; instead, it seems more interested in bashing it.

The staging for Xanadu The Musical is an absolute mess. Rather than embracing the crazy and wonderful styles of the 80’s the stage looks more like a cheap, dull ampithere with columns and risers that accommodate on-stage seating. Having audience members sit on the stage has become fashionable after plays like The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Spring Awakening. In both those productions the placement of these audience members served a purpose. Here it’s just another element tacked on to make the show more ‘hip’.  These audience members are out of place in this period piece and are only really there to help make the stark staging feel less empty.

My absolute biggest gripe with Xanadu The Musical is how nearly every moment of the show is played for laughs. The show is littered with so many cheap jokes and gags that it leaves very little room for anything else. This completely subverts the characters and the narrative so it becomes extremely difficult to care about anyone or anything in the show. I think it’s possible to play Xanadu over the top and still have some genuine moments between characters.

Ultimately Xanadu is one huge opportunity lost. The original movie had an element of huge spectacle which gets completely lost in the adaptation to stage. Xanadu could have been a flamboyant and unrestrained celebration of an era that wasn’t ever aware how ‘far out’ it really was. But, I don’t think the creative team behind Xanadu genuinely loves the material or the era they’re presenting, I think they saw a good opportunity to mount a Broadway production that would attract a 30something audience who would place very little demands on the play and would appreciate its short running time.

Xanadu plays at the Keller Auditorium January 12-17th. For more info:

(ed note: Portland Opera informs us that Max Von Esson sprained his ancle prior to the performance I saw and so did not skate as much due to it.)

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Portland Center Stage Ragtime Review

October 12, 2009 1 comment
Gavin Gregory in Portland Center Stage's Ragtime

Gavin Gregory in Portland Center Stage's Ragtime

Portland Center Stage didn’t take the easy road in selecting Ragtime for their 2009-2010 season. Ragtime is a huge production, with a large cast, quickly changing scenes and children who play two key singing roles. Given the complexity and scale of the show, it’s a little surprising that a regional theater company would try to tackle such a large production, especially in a recession when production funds don’t flow as freely.

Director Chris Coleman seems aware of the issues of scale in his production of Ragtime and places his trust in his performers and their ability to come together to fill in the spaces where set pieces and backdrops would traditionally be. At first I didn’t like the stark staging of Portland Center Stage’s Ragtime. G.W. Mercier’s design consists of a bare patterned wood floor, a few chairs and four massive swinging doors that open and close throughout the production. That’s it. As the production rolled on I found that I did really warm to the set, due in large part to the phenomenal lighting design and pitch-perfect staging of the actors. By the middle of the first act I found myself completely lost in the world of Ragtime.

In addition to the phenomenal lighting, a lot of credit goes to the performers, who absolutely commit to seeing and interacting with objects that aren’t there on stage. There’s one moment when actor Gavin Gregory (who plays Coalhouse Walker) sits down to play at an invisible piano that is truly magical. There’s no doubt that he’s playing piano, it’s just not there. As the production progresses there are a number of pretty sophisticated transitions which happen seamlessly – no small feat when you have twenty four people on stage.

One of the reasons Ragtime has such a large cast is that it is much more a portrait of a period in American history than a conventional narrative. At its core is a story of a Ragtime piano player and the struggles surrounding the woman he loves, but the show uses this main throughline to tell dozens of little stories. Terrence McNally does a fantastic job pulling E.L. Doctorow’s novel together for the stage. All the right pieces are there to present a mural of a pivotal time of change in history. Unfortunately the lyrics aren’t as strong as the adaptation.

There are some strong moments musically in Ragtime, especially when the ensemble come together and their interweaving narrative threads unite into a single chorus and there are at least two solo numbers which are strong enough to bring down the house (one performed by Gavin Gregory and the other by Susannah Mars). But none of the songs get stuck in your head and I can’t see myself humming anything from Ragtime anytime soon.

In terms of the performance, there’s a lot to like about Portland Center Stage’s Ragtime. Most notably is Gavin Gregory who is the absolute stand out of this cast. Gregory brings such an amazing emotional presence to stage and is so vocally talented that it’s impossible not to be captivated. I’d recommend running out to see this production of Ragtime for Gregory’s performance alone. He’s that good. Ragtime is an ensemble piece and while Gregory is the standout there are a number of other extremely strong performances including Susannah Mars who is excellent, Danny Rothman who does a tremendous job with a role that could have easily fallen into the background, and Alex Thede, a sixth grader who is an absolute inspiration to any young aspiring actor or actress.

The only performance I didn’t care for was Leif Norby who is horribly miscast as Tateh, an immigrant from Latvia who comes to America to find a better life. Norby, decked out in a horridly fake beard, does a caricature of an immigrant that is cartoonish and amateurish. His character goes through a transformation in the show that is played so rough by Norby that it’s completely lost, and the following duet between Leif Norby and Susannah Mars is the real low point of the show. The only saving grace of Tateh’s storyline is Anna Jane Bishop who plays Tateh’s daughter. While she doesn’t have a lot of lines, Bishop’s stage presence is extremely strong, especially for a ten year old.

Norby aside, the production of Ragtime in its entirely is really something to experience. Director Chris Coleman has demonstrated with Ragtime how a regional theater can tackle a very ambitious production intelligently, thoughtfully and skillfully. There are a lot of choices out there for Portland Center Stage to select from and I’m very pleased to see them aim high and tackle something that other theater companies might dismiss as ‘too big’ or ‘too complex’ for a regional theater.

Ragtime is a very satisfying evening of theater, and when you add Gavin Gregory and his performance to that mix it makes it an evening of theater not to be missed.

For more information on Portland Center Stage’s production of Ragtime:

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Josh Kornbluth’s Ben Franklin: Unplugged – Reviewed

October 7, 2009 Comments off
Josh Kornbluth - Ben Franklin: Unplugged

Josh Kornbluth - Ben Franklin: Unplugged

History is an interesting animal, in some ways it is like a dinosaur. We can look at the bones of the once mighty dinosaurs and pontificate: How did it live? What did it look like? What might its life been like? With more contemporary history we often have the luxury of texts, letters, documents or diaries to refer back to. But there will always gaps between the bones to fill in and moments that were never recorded or are lost. The telling of these stories often speak volumes about the person telling the story, who can’t help but bring their bias and perspectives to the telling. Perhaps this is why it makes sense for an autobiographical monologist to explore the world of biography in the telling the story of “the first American”, Benjamin Franklin.

For Josh Kornbluth, the story of Ben Franklin, his relationship with his son and his complicated position in history is an ideal canvas to express and explore Kornbluth’s own life and relationships both to his father and history. These themes run thorough out much of Kornbluth’s autobiographical work and so it’s no surprise that they are present here. What is a surprise is how Kornbluth ultimately sets aside his own narrative in service of the greater story of Benjamin Franklin. It’s a pretty huge step for someone who has spent the majority of his career in the autobiographical space and it shows that Kornbluth has an immense maturity as an artist and an enormous amount of trust in his material.

Josh Kornbluth’s Benjamin Franklin: Unplugged begins with Kornbluth reenacting the day he discovered he bore a striking resemblance to Benjamin Franklin and then follows an adventure into Kornbluth learning more about the historical figure. That adventure is extraordinarily entertaining and Kornbluth feels a lot like a slightly nerdy Jewish Robert Langdon in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code (with out all the car chases and murder mystery).

Through out the piece we learn a tremendous amount about Benjamin Franklin as Kornbluth literally wrestles with the fact and fiction surrounding one of the most recognizable figures in American history. For fans of American history this show is a literalsmorgasbord, an immense feast of knowledge and insight that will leave even the most ardent history buff spinning. But the piece doesn’t work because it’ll thrill history buffs, it works because it’ll thrill those who aren’t particularly enamored with history. Kornbluth manges to make the world of one of our founding fathers come alive and contextualizes it in a way that makes it exciting and entertaining. He literally dusts off the history books and shows the humanity contained within. Merging that narrative with his own he creates an evening that is extraordinarily entertaining.

In the case of Benjamin Franklin: Unplugged, entertaining doesn’t always mean funny. Many contemporary monologists use humor extensively as their conduit to entertaining the audience. Here the occasional quip feels extemporaneous as Josh moves beyond humoring us to truly fascinating us. By conjuring up a cast of very real characters, both from history and from Josh’s own life, Kornbluth takes us on an incredible adventure and he does this as a single performer on a lightly dressed stage.

For me it’s exciting to see the art of monologue grow in this way. I grew up on tales from Spalding Grey who sat behind a simple desk with a glass of water and his notes. That’s the image I’ve always had of monologue. Josh Kornbluth explores the possibilities of this art form with a set, props and staging. In the second act of the piece he emerges dressed in costume as Benjamin Franklin and the impact of that is considerable.

Benjamin Franklin: Unplugged is utterly entertaining, it brings Benjamin Franklin to life in a way no ‘reenactment’ could. By making the story of such an iconographic historical figure personal Josh Kornbluth inspires the audience to connect to history in their own way, to look beyond the commemorative poster of historical figures the into the real people behind them.

Josh Kornbluth’s Benjamin Franklin: Unplugged runs at Portland Center Stage Oct 1- November 22nd.

For more information on Josh Kornbluth’s Benjamin Franklin: Unplugged:

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Interview with Josh Kornbluth – Ben Franklin Unplugged

October 2, 2009 1 comment
Josh Korbluth in Portland

Josh Korbluth in Portland

In 2002 I picked up a copy of the film Haiku Tunnel. It was described to me as “Office Space” if Woody Allen had directed it rather than Mike Judge (a pretty spot on description). It was hilarious.  Since then I’ve followed the career of Josh Kornbluth (the star of the film), as he’s established himself as one of the nation’s most sought after monologists.

Over the years, through Josh’s email list, I’d hear about his many shows in Berkley, California and wonder what it would take to get him to perform in Portland?  When Portland Center Stage announced that Josh was bringing his show Ben Franklin: Unplugged to Portland for a seven week run, I couldn’t contain my excitement.

Josh Kornbluth’s monologues are a unique mix of history, biographiy and observations. His disarming style sucks you into his world and leads you along on a fantastic trip.

Josh Korbluth’s Ben Franklin: Unplugged runs at Portland Center Stage September 29 to November 22, 2009. It’s a rare opportunity to see one of the nation’s best monologists in one of his most acclaimed works.

Watch On Portland’s Interview with Josh Kornbluth:

Josh Kornbluth on Ben Franklin Unplugged from On Portland on Vimeo.

For more information on Josh Kornbluth:

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Patton Oswalt One of The Funniest Comedians Alive – A Portland Concert Review

September 14, 2009 1 comment
Patton Oswalt

Patton Oswalt

It’s hard to remember a time when I laughed harder or for longer. Of the over ninety minutes in Patton Oswalt‘s Portland concert I found myself laughing (nearly to the point of tears) through almost every minute of it. Joke after joke hit its target dead center, and when something wasn’t quite a bullseye, Oswalt tweaked it into something even funnier.

Patton Oswalt doesn’t look or sound like he’d be the next great comedian. He’s short, stocky, and his voice strongly resonates his character from Ratatouille. Don’t let his looks be deceiving – Patton Oswalt stands on the shoulders of comedic greatness. His comedic ability, timing and spontaneity puts him solidly in the company of Robin Williams, George Carlin and Richard Pryor.

After you clear the tears out of your eyes from laughing so hard and look at the wide variety of styles of comedy and types of comedic elements that Patton hits in a single show, it’s absolutely mind blowing. From ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ stories, to witty observations and total off-the-cuff riffs, Oswalt seems to have an amazing tool kit to pull from on stage and he’s completely fearless in doing so.

In his Portland concert, Oswalt covered about 25% of his material from his current concert film My Weakness is Strong. Many comedians who tour for a major concert film release would rely on much more of that content. Oswalt seemed to use it as a wire frame for his show, only falling back to it when he seemed to want to get things flowing forward. Some of the funniest material of the evening came from Oswalt’s completely improvised interaction with a member of the audience. It was equivalent of a high wire act unhooking the safety line and doing somersaults on the tight rope.

The Newmark theater was filled to capacity for Patton Oswalt and the uproarious standing ovation brought Oswalt back on stage for a series of ‘classic’ material that seemed remarkably fresh. To date, Oswalt has built a very loyal and eager following but has been working just below the radar screen of many comedy fans. I don’t expect Oswalt to continue to be one of the best kept ‘secrets’ in comedy; he is absolutely destined for greatness and I’d be surprised if his next trip to Portland doesn’t have him selling out a venue twice or three times the size of the Newmark.

If you missed out on Patton Oswalt in Portland, be sure to pick up his concert DVD My Weakness is Strong and then make sure you catch him the next time he comes to Portland. It’s one of the funniest nights of comedy you’ll ever experience.

For more info on Patton Oswalt:

The Last Cargo Cult by Mike Daisey – A Workshop Review

August 2, 2009 Comments off
The Last Cargo Cult

$20 from The Last Cargo Cult

It would be completely unfair to write a review of Mike Daisey’s newest monologue The Last Cargo Cult. Saturday’s performance of the monologue was only the third time anyone had ever seen it performed.

Mike Daisey doesn’t rehearse his material, he doesn’t write a script, and he will only perform in front of an audience.  Daisey’s monologues are living, breathing entities which morph, reorganize and change considerably over their lifecycle.

“At this point, the monologue may change up to 40% from workshop to workshop,” comments Jean-Michelle Gregory, Mike Daisey’s director, editor and wife.  She goes on to explain the painstaking process that they go through after each performance as Daisey’s notes get annotated, patched up and reorganized.

I had the opportunity to sneak a peek at Daisey’s notes for the show and they consisted of bullet-pointed words and phrases like “Uh oh” and “Getting back on the plane”.  These mile markers represent the core of the story and enable Daisey to follow tangents and connections that may spontaneously occur from night to night without worrying about how he’ll get back on track. As an audience member, the experience of witnessing Daisey discovering a nugget of gold off a seemingly random tangent is indescribable.

The Last Cargo Cult may not be as polished as a work like Monopoly! , but it does have an amazing energy surrounding it, as if you can almost feel something  actively growing and building.  Seeing a work at this stage of the creative process is extremely rare; most artists shy away from showing anything that isn’t completely done or perfected.  This isn’t to say that The Last Cargo Cult isn’t already an extraordinarily enjoyable, insightful and hilarious monologue – it is.  The imperfections act in many ways like a beauty mark on a stunning model and add to the experience of seeing it live and grow.

As I promised, this isn’t a review of The Last Cargo Cult. I won’t tell you why I was handed $20 by the usher as I entered the theater, what happens on the little island of Tana, what the John Frum Movement worships or what exactly fiat currency means.  These are all part of the amazing journey of Mike Daisey’s The Last Cargo Cult, a monologue which is set to have an extraordinary life including three weekends of workshops in Seattle, a premiere at Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, a run at the Playmakers Repertory Theatre in Chapel Hill, and a prime-time spot in December at the Public Theater.

I will tell you that Mike Daisey has become one of the preeminent monologists alive today. If Mike Daisey finds his way into a city you’re in, you should jump on the opportunity to see him. The workshop performance of The Last Cargo Cult sold out in a couple of days and I expect the next time he comes to town it will be even faster.

Here’s the tour current tour schedule for Mike Daisey’s The Last Cargo Cult:

Aug. 1 at 8 PM at the Wieden+Kennedy Atrium in Portland, OR
Aug. 7-22 at 8 PM at the Richard Hugo House in Seattle, WA
Sept. 4-13 at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival in Philadelphia, PA
Sept. 16-20 at the Playmakers Repertory Theatre in Chapel Hill, NC
Sept. 24-25 at the Perseverance Theatre in Juneau, AK
Sept. 29-30 at the The Whitehorse Centre in Whitehorse, YT Canada
Oct. 2-3 at The Banff Centre in Banff, AB, Canada
Oct. 9-11 at The Gamm Theatre in Providence, RI
Dec. 3-13 at the Public Theater in New York, NY
Jan. 11-Feb. 7, 2010 at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington, DC
March 4-8 at the WaterTower Theatre in Dallas, TX
March 19-April 11 at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, GA
April 26-May 9 at the Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago, IL

1 at 8 PM at the Wieden+Kennedy Atrium in Portland, OR
Aug. 7-22 at 8 PM at the Richard Hugo House in Seattle, WA
Sept. 4-13 at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival in Philadelphia, PA
Sept. 16-20 at the Playmakers Repertory Theatre in Chapel Hill, NC
Sept. 24-25 at the Perseverance Theatre in Juneau, AK
Sept. 29-30 at the The Whitehorse Centre in Whitehorse, YT Canada
Oct. 2-3 at The Banff Centre in Banff, AB, Canada
Oct. 9-11 at The Gamm Theatre in Providence, RI
Dec. 3-13 at the Public Theater in New York, NY
Jan. 11-Feb. 7, 2010 at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington, DC
March 4-8 at the WaterTower Theatre in Dallas, TX
March 19-April 11 at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, GA
April 26-May 9 at the Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago, I

For more information on Mike Daisey and The Last Cargo Cult:

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Mike Daisey – If You See Something, Say Something

September 15, 2008 1 comment
Mike Daisey in If You See Something, Say Something

Mike Daisey in If You See Something, Say Something

This year at TBA I had a little mini “Mike Daisey Festival“. I saw Mike Daisey perform his ‘MONOPOLY!‘ early on in the fest, then attended a companion workshop ‘extemporaneous, autobiographical, monologue’ and finally finished with ‘If You See Something, Say Something’ at the end of the festival..and I enjoyed every minute of it.

After seeing Monopoly!, I attended Daisey’s workshop. It was a lot like watching the behind the scenes content on a DVD. Daisey opened window into his work, his process and the art form of monologue. One of the key points Daisey emphasized is “there are no messages in good extemporaneous monologue”. This perhaps is the key to why Daisey’s pieces work so well. Daisey deals with incendiary topics in his work, rather than rant and rave, beating the audience over the head with messages, he deals with core themes and trusts his audience enough to process that material and make their own conclusions.

In the workshop, Daisey also emphasized the importance of imperfection in art, a concept which spoke to me. “If you smooth away the edges you leave no point of entry to your work,” Daisey remarked. “Hamlet is a truly fucked up play. If I submitted it to a MFA program without including who wrote it, they would smooth out the edges to make it ‘better’…I mean why doesn’t the ghost of Hamlet’s father come back, we need to have him come back… and what about these fucking Pirates!” Daisey teaches weekend long workshops in New York and after getting a two and a half hour taste I’d say it’s required education for anyone pursuing a career in monologue.

After the workshop I had the opportunity to see Daisey’s newest piece. If You See Something, Say Something previewed at this years TBA festival prior to its run at The Public Theater in New York (Wednesday, October 15 – Sunday, November 30). If you See Something is a poignant and engaging musing about security, what makes us feel safe and how governments use fear as a leverage point. Like many of Daisey’s monologues, this one weaves several stories together to form the whole including: Daisey’s trip to Laos Alamos in New Mexico to see ground zero at the Trinity Site, the story of Sam Cohen and his involvement with both the Atomic and Neutron bombs, the complete history of Homeland Security and 9/11.

What struck me the most about If You See Something, Say Something was just how many levels that it played on. The audience roared with laughter as Daisey exploded with self effacing comedic moments including eating the worst hamburger in history and then barely uttered a breath as he talked about the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. True to form, Daisey doesn’t beat his audience over the head with messages about how bad Homeland Security is or the insanity of the Patriot Act, instead he dissects the history of both and muses on the relationship we all have with it.

If You See Something, Say Something is an exceptional monologue and Mike Daisey has shown this week that he is one of the premiere monologists performing today. Daisey hinted that he may be back again in Portland in the near future and mentioned an off the record piece he’s proposing for a future TBA, I can’t wait.

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