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Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant

December 4th, 2011 No comments


Dr. Smith, Mrs. Robinson, and Hunter take the stage.

I went and saw Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant last night at Cleveland Public Theatre and it was a blast. It was a wonderful theater experience, dining experience, and drinking experience all rolled up into one. A group of friends and I went so we had a table of 10 which set us back $400, but because we purchased tix in bulk it was $40 a pop for the tickets rather than the door price of $60, so we saved some coin by purchasing that way. For $40 a ticket, you get A LOT. The show comes with five courses: appetizers, soup, salad, main course, desert and there are 3 bottles of wine at each table gratis. After that, or more likely before, you’re on your own; but CPT had a wide variety of beverages available for purchase.

How it Works

When you show up and “check in” you’re greeted by nurses who offer you a tray of name badges from which you may choose. You choose the one that “speaks to you.” I was immediately drawn to Amish Barber, and for people who know me they’ll understand why. The nurses have names as well, my favorite nurse was named Pluperfect, a tense that she was quite capable of explaining–and she was correct in telling me that by the end of the evening I will have loved the Conni’s experience: I did.

Silver3 gives her introduction

After the name selection bit, you are provided with appetizers and mingle around the CPT bar in the Gordon Square space. You eat some, drink more, and mingle around with all the other strangely named sojourners on your trip. After a bit, a trumpet sounds out and begins playing (very New Orleans like) and a dirge-like procession begins of the main Conni’s inhabitants. One of them holds aloft a photograph of Conni, who cannot be at the event that night. Once the folks from Conni’s are in place, the ground rules for the evening are laid out. Once all is in order, a curtain is pulled back and everyone enters the main dining room and is seated. To get a sense check out Silver3’s page on Facebook.

Silver comes in and does her introductions, as Ms. Conni cannot do it herself. The grand introduction is interrupted however by Dr. Smith, who is totally naked and being chased by all of the nurses. Gee, what a predicament… The plot kicks in, which revolves around the pregnancy of Muffin Handshake, but I wouldn’t hang your hat on the plot too much. The show is more mayhem and frolic. Large amounts of drinking, eating, and merry-making ensue. Songs are sung with appropriately modified lyrics; children’s books are read, with appropriately modified thematics;

Muffin Handshake reads the Little Match Girl to Bee and Bear

Mrs Robinson the rocker took my wife and went off somewhere to chang pants with her; Miss Goodi Two Shoes caressed my beard; Dr. Smith gave several at our table prescriptions to shotgun a Pabst; a hunter shot a deer which turned into brussels sprouts; Mr. X sang fantastic rock ballads as a lounge singer; a woman was inseminated by a large purple worm; later, the resulting baby was moved from one womb to another through an astonishing moment of female-to-female scissor action driven forward by the thumping rhythms of Led Zeppelin; the chef kept cooking, everyone at the table kept eating and drinking; an interactive game show popped up at which my brother-in-law Dave Rogers did fantastically; everyone bantered with nurses and took pictures; and the general manager made sure everything worked out without a hitch.

It was theater the way theater should be: alive, filled with energy and excitement, a thing in which everyone was and wished to be involved.

Lucy’s Forbidden Fruit Salad

December 15th, 2011 No comments

Loneliness is the key ingredient of the fruit salad I am about to prepare for you.

Wrapped up the Writing from Character workshop this evening at CPT and it was a blast.

The evening started out much as the evening started Monday with a lot of intense movement work. This time we were in Parish Hall, so we had quite a bit more space and a nice wood floor to move around on. We started in a circle and did a quick refresher on names and then moved on to Sun Salutations. Again, I was happy that my P90X work came in handy–as I felt like I was working straight out of CardioX. We started with some pretty intense yoga salutations that increased in speed. There was a little bit of plyo in the jumping–you know, we mixed it up; because variety is the spice of life. Sorry, channeling Tony Horton. Next we imagined that the large expanse of floor was gridded up at 90 degree angles. We all moved along in lines, redirecting when we encountered others. We played with tempo (speeding up our movement and slowing down); we played with spatial arrangements; we kept each other in our soft vision areas–periphery–and mimicked each other; we changed our core body positions in height: slinking down, rising up, crawling, tumbling, jumping. The sweat was pouring off all of us when we were finished, and I know that my legs will be sore tomorrow.

We took a break and then came back in costume: dressed as our personas from Monday. We walked about as before, getting a sense of ourselves in our characters. Then Jeffrey divided us into groups. We were charged with creating a 5 minute ensemble piece in :50 minutes which we then performed for the other groups. For those of you who’ve seen Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant, you have a sense already of what the pieces were like, as they revolved around the creation of one course of a meal. For those of you who haven’t seen Conni’s, your time is running out. Very like Conni’s, the segments that we created had to have several components: 1) we were working with food, so we had to create a dish (the food was very basic: carrots, boiled eggs, apples, lemons, nuts, etc.); 2) the dish that we created had to fulfill a need of one of at least one of the characters in our group; 3) there had to be a song; 4) audience participation was greatly encouraged; 5) something in the piece needed to reveal more about each of our characters (deepen them); 6) there should be movement involved (i.e. no static tableaux); 7) we had to work together to create the piece, accepting as much as possible all ideas, suggestions. It was a challenge.

Fortunately, I worked with a great team. A great team! I was in a group with Lynna Metrisin, who was fantastic in my thesis play Patterns and who directed Cat Kenney’s play that ran on the same bill as mine in Springboard; Katie Nabors, who recently starred in The Underpants at the Beck Center; and the always fabulous Lauren B. Smith of concon fame. Our short piece centered on getting love for Lucy (Smith). This was accomplished by the other characters: Luna (Katie) my “hay rollin” cousin from the farm days; Bernie (Metrisin) who played a dispirited Browns fan turned coach for our team; and myself, Schnitzel Fritz: ponderer extraordinaire, who happens to be skilled at animal husbandry. Our piece started with a quick dance routine that was energetically and spontaneously created by Luna. The dance involved using paper plate bowls in either hand, choreographed movements, clapping of plates, and a quick spin around our protagonist, Lucy, as she sang about her need for love. Bernie, Luna, and I then gave Lucy a quick going over as we circled around and concluded that she needed a “stud,” whom we obtained from the audience (Randy Muchowski–who is an Actor Teacher at Great Lakes Theater Festival and who is also fantastic). Luna blew up a latex glove and Fritz gave Randy a quick instructional session on handling large breasts and how to clench a nipple firmly while pulling: Luna was quite inspired. We then guided Randy to a nearby dinner table where Lucy awaited his company. Luna dolled out some dishes to the audience while the two love birds at their appetizer course. Luna and Fritz then served up the “Intercourse” segment of the meal, but not before presenting it to the audience for inspection. Luna carried a thick, long carrot with two appropriately placed hardboiled eggs at the base; while Fritz carried a plate with the nippily ends of two lemons upward and a succulently halved and spread red pepper resembling another portion of the human anatomy. The meal was the generative portion of the supper which, after being presented to the dining pair was eaten with great enthusiasm, culminating in the orgasmically spontaneous noshing of an apple by Lucy. Then she was sleepy and laid down upon Randy. Later Lucy was heard to say that while it was not love, it was satisfying.

Such was our stint into the dynamic world of character creation and character in action, a la Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant!

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