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Keyword: ‘convergence-continuum’

Holiday Giving — Do Your Part

December 2nd, 2016 No comments

We’ve entered the giving season, so I thought I’d write about one organization, other than Playwrights Local that is, to which I’m giving my money.

I’m writing about a black box theater in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland. A theater company that changed my theatrical life, and radically altered my perception of how intimate, how powerful, how threatening, and how exhilarating theater can be.

petrol23I was introduced to convergence-continuum in 2007, when Mike Geither took me to see Chris Johnston’s play Spawn of the Petrolsexuals. The experience was fundamentally altering. Chris wrote a play about a dystopian, bombed-out landscape in which homeless superheroes fought brutal, oil-hungry Commandoids that I can only compare to the Enclave, for those of you familiar with Fallout. There was Angerboy, and Freegrrl, Ingen and Holyman. It reminds me, now looking back, of an early Eric Overmyer play, like Native Speech. The set the convergence created was a character in the play: fabricated steel structures, junk scattered, a broken television set, the massive east wall that was used as movie screen, a motorcycle, a garage door that really opened on Scranton Road, garbage cans, and the trap door near the west wall that leads to the cellar.

Lucy Bredeson-Smith, playing Darkangel—-a sort of black sorceress –- opens the trap door leading down to her underground lair and, as soon as she opens the door: the image of Darkangel looking down is on the movie screen east wall. I watch her descend away from me in the theater. I watch her descend toward me on the screen.

It was too meta. I was IN a B-movie and IN a real theater experience all at the same time. My head swelled to explode. The production was well-executed, but the feeling was raw. I went back two more times to see Chris’ play because I’d never seen anything like it. And this is what I hear whenever I take someone to convergence who has never been to convergence. The person who accompanies me is blown away, overwhelmed with a theater experience that they’ve didn’t know was possible: to be that close, to be that much a part of the experience, to feel so intensely.

Convergence is a true ensemble company. It’s made up of passionate, wholly committed actors, directors, light designers, sound designers, playwrights, video designers, costumers, set designers, painters, box office managers, and musicians—all volunteers: virtually impossible to believe in many ways. And they are all successful!! Critically acclaimed productions! Awards for acting, design, productions! And all working for the production itself, and not some small rapacious little thing like money or notoriety or any self-proclaimed “groundbreaking” aesthetic.

So, besides this… why give? convergence-continuum, the theater company, doesn’t own The Liminis, the theater space, in which they create their magic worlds! The Liminis space itself, that was so unique to the production I described above—-the garage door, the trap door, the movie screen wall—-all of the three-dimensional feast of experiences possible in a location—-is at risk.

What if theatre weren’t a mirror reflecting the familiar, but an opening into unknown territory? What if there were no fourth wall? What if, instead of going to the theatre to watch a play, you crossed the threshold into the world of the play to experience it? Theatre that expands the imagination and extends the conventional boundaries of language, structure, space, and performance that challenges the conventional notions of what theatre is. What sort of theatre would this be?


I’m giving to convergence right now. Please give to them as well.

Snake Oil

September 25th, 2015 No comments

Snake Oil

Snake Oil by Arwen Mitchell

Hop Fro is a delicious beer. Very delicious. A quick, seasonal from Fat Heads brewery; and a damn fine brewery it is. It makes delicious sandwiches. And delicious beer. And you know what else is delicious? Snake Oil at Ohio City Theatre Project. Very delicious. I think if you re-read this and think in your mind of Will Ferrell acting the part of George W, it works. It’s in the cadence.

Snake Oil is awesome. It was good fun. Mostly clean fun. Okay, not really. Arwen Mitchell’s piece is a Brechtian delight: overthetop costuming, outrageous plot, songs, placards, audience intimidation, with archetypal characters dashing about. And Sade Wolfkitten (Yay!!) of convergence fame stroking the accordion: adding the ooompah to the frivolity. The play has the subdued spirit of Wizbang in it’s vaudevillian shorts, but the plot is as risqué as any ca. 2015 bit of reality tv naughtiness. All of which is captivatingly captured by Kilbride (Amy Schwabauer), who dances and strides around the countryside (Canopy Collective) with a pair of torpedoes blazing across her bow. Apologies for slipping into pirate speak, of a sort. Schwabauer is a fiery streak of silk energy in a Moulin Rouge dress: kicking, dancing, and fighting her way across the landscape. Stuart Hoffman steals the show, seriously, in a bit of acting that absolutely should not be missed. Hoffman shows a strong mastery of facial expression, farcical energy, and crash characterization that carries some sections of the production. His devilish character (Dryeth) is the trickster at the crossroads and Hoffman wears all the masks. The devil has put his finger on poor Delacourt (Kyle Adam) who is only trying to sell his elixir of life, with the help of his sweet Kilbride. I’ve not seen Adam in anything before, but I see he’s in something coming up at Dobama. He does a great job of selling the huxter shtick: the song, the cadence, the energy, and the spontaneous oratory. He does a good drunk as well… in the play. I’ve no knowledge of how good a drunk he is (or isn’t!) elsewhere.

I’ll not give away the plot except to say that Kilbride and Delacourt claim themselves to be from Nice, France—which they pronounce like Midwesterners discussing the decision to bring Old Aunt Edna some flowers up in Eastern Star nursing facility earlier today. The emissaries from Nice are glad to meet their host country folk in a town they call “Best.” They sell their elixir, which turns out to be a liquid that induces somnolence in the “Johns” that Kilbride has made arrangements with. Once out, Kilbride robs the men blind inside their own houses, or offices, or whatever. A brilliant bit of New World grifting. In steps the menacing yet, strangely, happy-go-lucky journalist, Dryeth, who squeezes a story from our daring duo. Dryeth promises a sale, but instead delivers destruction, splitsville. A tale as old as the Moses testament and dangerous as God’s wrath. Angels and Insects, baby.

Sarah Greywitt directs and does excellent work using the space and no doubt the design aspects. She explains at the outset where the stage is (dashed lines of red tape in a discrete rectangle to the ‘front’ of the house). But she continues that the space will be broken. The actors will be out of the lines and about. She invites us, as audience, to move around too. Change perspective. (But don’t interfere with the actors.) The life of the wandering Snake Oil salesman is invoked, the set is excellent with highlights that create an impression, a reference to the whole. Greywitt keeps the play rolling and balances the energy of the actors and the energy of the script.

I’m not telling how the story ends. But see it. Experience it. Have fun. Laugh, cry, rejoice. Saw Peter Roth there, and his lovely wife Olivia. A wonderful eve of thee in cle. Buy some cool shit from Canopy Collective, too.

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