Month: August 2016

Random Movement Pic

Trapeze angst. Because the best angst is trapeze angst. You can't tell from this pic, but I'm actually flying *really* fast. From rehearsal for Theatre of the Vampires, 1996. Frequent Flyers.

Trapeze angst. Because the best angst is trapeze angst. And when it’s vampire angst as well? The best angst EVAR. You can’t tell from this pic, but I’m actually flying *really* fast. And for Pete’s sake, Jenn, you’re in your early 20s: suck in that beer belly! Sheesh…
From rehearsal for Theatre of the Vampires, 1996. Frequent Flyers.

 

 

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Thoughts and Such Upon a New Semester

Something I’ve started to do here, lovely lurkers, is to muse in print about all the various stuff I’m up to professionally. Why? No idea. A sort of message in a bottle, maybe? Putting it all down in writing makes it a tad more organized? No idea. My ego likes that it seems to impress some of my readers, though, too. Anyway, here goes:

Front Range just started, and I am the host of a Comp I and a Comp II course there. Comp I is your basic essay writing class (stay tuned for the Mini-Essay contest here soonish), and Comp II is its sequel. I have begun teaching Comp II under a theme, as it makes for more interesting readings and therefore writings than just The Basics Continued. So that’ll be fun. Both groups are full and earnest and young and chipper so far so it’s a good start.img_0018

I did have a Writing The Short Story course set up for grad students at DU, but it got canceled. Low enrollment. Boo. (See The Plight of the Adjunct Faculty anywhere online and also my Facebook timeline for more Lamentations on same…)

But I do have an online section of that Staging Cultures class at Metro you’ve heard me talk about before. Also full, which is nice. So I do only have a public transportation commute twice a week regularly this semester, which is sorta nice. Of course I’d rather have the DU $, but eh. I’ll take what I can get (see PotAF above, again).

Non-academic shtuff I’ll be up to include: teaching a stage combat seminar over at the Longment Dance Theatre again. Usually I only teach for them during their summer camps, so this during the year thing should be cool to check out. I’ve also signed on to to be the fight director for Curious Theatre’s upcoming production of Hand to God. Lots of puppets and blood. So that’ll be fun.

Add to that the personal life upheavals and major life changes that’ll most likely be taking place at the end of said semester, and I can say with confidence that my plates (that I’m juggling) are pretty full once again the next few months.

BIFF Review #4: Mysto the Magi

Fringe Fest Review #4: Mysto the Magi

Review by Jenn Zuko

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Ta-daaa……or ta-don’t.

Those of you that know me personally know that I love watching Columbo. You know, that fantastic police procedural featuring the rumple-coated detective who disarms his 1970s murderers with low status strategy? Well, my favorite episode has got to be “Now You See Him,” wherein Jack Cassidy plays a suave stage magician who kills his blackmailer while in the middle of a grand illusion. This ep is so fun largely because of the cheesiness of the magic tricks they show. Obviously Cassidy is an actor and not a magician so when we clearly see The Great Santini place a scarf in Columbo’s pocket before “magically” pulling it out, we can be a forgiving audience. And when we might roll our eyes at the cheesiness of the thimble trick, or him pulling playing cards out of Columbo’s suit, we can suspend our disbelief.

When I am told via postcard and website, however, that I have never had more fun than at this magic show, and that the magician in question has been in professional practice for 30+ years, won awards, and etc., I am not likely to be such a forgiving audience when I witness clumsily performed tricks clearly taken from magic kits. When the person I attended the Mysto Mysto show with could clearly see the playing cards clipped inside Mysto’s jacket, when Mysto dropped props to the floor left and right, stumbled over awkward patter, and when it’s like pulling teeth to get anyone from the tiny audience (in the hot, stuffy room) to join him onstage, and finally, when objects are clearly visible palmed in his hands, I find myself surreptitiously looking at my watch to see if the show is over yet.

That sounds, harsh, yes I’ll admit it. What I also noticed about Mysto’s show, though,  is that a good number of people in the audience were enjoying themselves hugely. They were having a fantastic time, and were delighted by what they saw. So, you can chalk this review up to a jaded audience member if you so choose. However, this reviewer can’t recommend the Mysto show based on what I experienced. Sorry.

RATING: 2 stars out of 5

BIFF Review #3: EllieIda

Fringe Fest Review #3: EllieIdaReview by Jenn Zuko

Wow!! 

Okay, so, if I had been teaching my Stage Movement class at this time, I would have demanded, nay, required all my students to witness EllieIda. Why? Because this show, and especially these two actors’ performing this show, epitomize the concept of physical characterization. Let me explain:

Two women perform eight roles in this show. And of those eight, two of them span ages in a way that Ian McKellen’s Sherlock Holmes barely rivals. And the show does not take place in chronological order, oh no. The plot jumps back and forth in time from flashback to silent film slapstick to the two central characters at age 100, drinking and fighting over the remote in a physical way that only very highly trained clowning skill can achieve. What makes this show even more astonishing is the fact that, as an audience, you know each character immediately and thoroughly, not because the two actors change costume and makeup and hair in the blink of an eye, no. Because they both embody each character completely using posture, gesture, facial expression, and voice. In some scenes, each woman plays both the central characters and a third character, switching back and forth in a way that anyone less physically well trained would render confusing as all get out. This audience isn’t confused, though, because the physical characterization is so spot on, we know exactly who we’re looking at, even though the other actor was just playing her literally seconds ago.

image from the Boulder Fringe Fest website.


I’m trying my best, in each show review, to find something that could use improvement. You know, just to be totally honest and not be *that* reviewer that does nothing but glow and rave. I’m having trouble finding something less than positive to say about EllieIda though. Oh wait, I know!: as a stage combat professional and fight director, I do have issue with the use of the full-contact slap to the face. Even in a teensy, intimate space such as the CDC, I never think that the “authenticity” of contact slaps are worth the risk. And yet, having said that, I could see very clearly that neither woman was at all being unsafe, and the slaps did not a) stop the action with being too discombobulating, or b) look fake, with flinches, too-quiet sounds, etc. So. Maybe this is the exception to my slap rule? Naw, I’ll never succumb…..

Bottom line? As you may guess, I absolutely highly recommend EllieIda. If you have to be selective, or miss any of the shows at the Fringe, do not let yourself miss out on this one.

RATING: 5 stars out of 5.

For more of these (and other) performances, go to Boulder Fringe.

BIFF Review #2: Love and Loss

Fringe Fest Review #2: Love and Loss

Review by Jenn Zuko


The audience files in, quietly, taking in the beauty of the church sanctuary, admiring the peaked, mullioned windows and the propensity of warm wooden surfaces everywhere: floors, wall sconces, pews. The audience spaces itself out in said wooden pews, knees resting inches from Bibles, hymn books moved aside to have room to sit. After a brief pause, as the congregation admires the near-sunset sunshine, streaming in from the translucent windows, a lean, lacy-legged woman strides out onstage in impossibly high heels that tie up her leg, and awkwardly cracks a whip down center. Smiling easily, she tries another couple of times before getting a really satisfying crakk! sound, and the audience shows its approval with startled but delighted applause. She greets us, and remarks that it always takes a few tries with those things…

The woman is Madame Merci, the emcee of Boulder Burlesque’s evening called Love and Loss. She serves as an anchor of sorts throughout the hour of sexy dance pieces, and though she does perform a couple of times herself, is more the travel guide for us through the journey of powerful sexuality, sensuality, beauty, and exploration. A strip club this is not, as the evening as a whole stays under the theme of the title, Mme. Merci narrates for us in between each piece (between autobiographical anecdotes, brief performer bios, philosophical ruminations on the burlesque arts, and more), and the dancers are both less nude and more sexual than you’ll find at a strip joint. 

Things that stand out about this group include Merci herself, as she opens the evening discussing the fact that we are in a church, that in some countries doing such a thing would be punishable by death. To be reminded of privilege is a very good thing, and Merci proceeded to give the audience permission, for many things, throughout the evening. The performances were lovely, with ladies and gentlemen of various body types and shades, which again was nice to see: a much wider spectrum of real sexy beauty than one would normally find in a strip club. What was missing a little for me was the high level of dance ability I (for some reason) came expecting. Sexy and fun, lovely and creative they all were, but technical excellence in dance I didn’t find. Thing is, that’s really not the point of this show. At all. 

And there was audience participation. Not only the catcalls and applause, which were much whip-encouraged by Merci, but in one group dance, any audience members that felt the impulse were allowed up on stage in whatever state of undress they felt comfortable in, to join the dancers in one very tribal piece. 

Overall, I recommend Love and Loss wholeheartedly. It’s a lovely, sexy, fun, heckuva time. 

RATING: 4.5 stars out of 5

For more performances and tickets, visit the Boulder Fringe Festival website.

P.S. You may be asking yourselves, lovely lurkers, if I went up onstage myself in that group/audience piece. Do you need to ask, really? 

BIFF Review #1: Grimm’s Tales

Fringe Fest Review #1: Grimm Tales

Review by Jenn Zuko



Storytelling is one of those theatrical forms that is not as well known or certainly as commonly practiced as others today. I’m not sure why that is, unless it’s a matter of the general public misunderstanding the art as something only old lady librarians or tribal shamans do. Truth be told, the art of storytelling is one of the richest practices one can experience, on either side of the stage (and I’ve been both places, readers, so I should know). Stories With Spirit is the first Fringe group I was able to enjoy at this year’s festival, and I couldn’t have been happier with what I saw.

Rachel Ann and Cooper are not reciting text verbatim from a script. They’re not acting out scenes and dialogue together. Nope, they are telling the story, in their words, not because they know their lines, but because they know their stories, and this makes all the difference in good storytelling. They have chosen a variety of tales from the Brothers Grimm that span from the bizarre (a bird, a mouse, and a bratwurst living together?) to the dark (innocently murderous children, or are they?) to the familiar but not so familiar (a delightful run on commentary on an old version of Cinderella). Cooper, in particular, has a near-perfect blend of the comfortably natural and the powerful actor in his delivery, and to see him walk downstage as the angry, fooled-thrice Devil himself is enough to send delightful goosebumps up the arms.

One little thing that I did wish: I had hoped they would treat at least one of their longer stories the way they did their 5th of the Princess Bride last year: telling the story together, as a pair. This show consists of them trading off stories back and forth, which was great, don’t get me wrong, I just would have liked…maybe the last one, about the hunchback and the Princess, to be done together, instead of one at a time. Totally not a criticism, however, they’re both compelling to listen to, and it’s easy to become transported to these strange varied worlds. Though you may have told some versions of Grimm’s tales to your children, I wouldn’t bring very young ones to this show–another common misconception of storytelling is that it’s just for kids. This well-curated collection of gruesome, compelling tales well told is not. 


RATING: 5 stars out of 5

Find the rest of these performances at Boulder Fringe

Retrospective Review #9: His Last Vow

My latest retro-review for these folks.

Sherlocks Home

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Written by Prof. Jenn

As a reminder:  I am writing these as RETROSPECTIVE reviews, so I will be discussing reveals, revolutions of cliffhangers, ends of plots, etc. If you are reading these reviews without having seen the eps, a) what is wrong with you?? Go watch them now! and b) these reviews are not for you till you’ve seen them.

In the original canon, Sherlock Holmes has this to say about Charles Augustus Milverton:

“Do you feel a creeping, shrinking sensation, Watson, when you stand before the serpents in the Zoo, and see the slithery, gliding, venomous creatures, with their deadly eyes and wicked, flattened faces? Well, that’s how Milverton impresses me. I’ve had to do with fifty murderers in my career, but the worst of them never gave me the repulsion which I have for this fellow. And yet I can’t get out of doing business with him—indeed, he…

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