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I enjoyed it. But I kept thinking "ghod they didn't even try to adapt this to film. It's just a consolation prize for people who couldn't see it on the stage. Maybe that's inevitable, given the nature of the beast... maybe it could never have been a proper film."

Apparently some critics agreed.
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The Mum Puppettheatre is closing forever. I am shocked and saddened by this news.

It was definitely sudden, judging from the fact that they have cancelled a planned show but have no other closing-related information on their home page. I only learned of it via an email sent out today.

The only clue I have is that Robert Smythe, who was the backbone of the Mum for 20 years, resigned in May. I'd have to guess the organization did not survive his departure.

I've seen several shows at the Mum, both adult- and child-oriented, and always intended to see more.

This Sunday they are selling off their puppets in order to close the operation's books in the black. Which is absolutely positively awful. But if you have the scratch to give a boy and/or his dog a good home, please do. I don't, but maybe I'll bag a few of those wonderful cheese-grater lamps after my performance class.

Not mentioned below: the Mum Puppet Theatre is at 115 Arch Street, Philadelphia.
Details of Sunday's Mum puppet selloff. )
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Specifically, I'm going to see [ profile] ladyandromeda (aka Moriah) in Going to See the Elephant.

"Set outside a sod hut somewhere in the Kansas wilderness sometime in the 1870s, Going to See the Elephant brings together four diverse pioneer women, each dealing in her own way with the harsh realities of living on America’s frontier. As they try, each in her own way, to cope with life on the prairie, they talk of 'going to see the elephant' or crossing the next hill to see what they might find. The result is a powerful and beautiful play."

I have had the pleasure of watching Moriah perform in three plays to date. The Cherry Orchard, The Little Foxes and A Shayna Maidel. All of them were awesome, and she was awesome in them. Strongly recommended.

(And I reckon I can just barely get away with ten minutes at this month's Benna's opening first... never say no to free wine, cheese and art)
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select email, realname from loginusers where created between '2007-12-20 00:00:00' and '2007-12-20 23:59:59' and verified = true;


In other news, last night [ profile] trishylicious played an out of control holiday shopper. Today I was an out of control holiday shopper.

When the blood was dry it was clear to all that Market Street is mine to rule by divine right.

No elves were harmed in the making of this merriment.

In yet further news, Eleanor is wearing the purple dress I bought her today and is currently making up a ballet to Bowie's Changes. God I love this kid.
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Whackadoodle costumes, impeccably selected songs, and such a total absence of good taste that it sort of adds up to good taste, in a "square of a negative number" sort of way.

A++. Good times, good times. And then the main bit ended, with the promise of a greatest hits show to come after the intermission, and I got a chance to be halfway sane and scurry home. Must pick up daughter at 7am. Yes. Sleep. Sorry I missed the rest, but not as sorry as I'll be if I don't close the laptop oh let's say right n—
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Four women who make Philly a more awesome place to live every time they get out of bed in the morning:

Bobbi Block, goddess of all things improvisational. Most recently I saw her long-form troupe Tongue & Groove. That's only the tip of the iceberg, she's also been a head honcho of Philly's Comedysportz and a part of many other long-form groups.

Sonya Elmore has taught salsa every Wednesday at Brasils for six years. Every two weeks she teaches us the joy of being alive... and on the alternate weeks, she teaches it again for those of us who were drunk. Oh yeah, she also has her own studio out in Bensalem.

Vixen Van Go-Go is co-captain of the Broad Street Butchers and a vital part of the Philly Roller Girls organization. She's on LJ as [ profile] vixenvangogo. As [ profile] trishylicious she's also a disturbingly good DJ, the sort who pulls something out of your youth that you can't quite place and mixes it with something you've never heard... then discovers roller derby and then stops spinning for a dozen years or three. That's her prerogative.

Nancy Trachtenberg owns and operates Benna's Cafe, pretty much the best "third place" (er, in my case, second place) anyone could ask for. At least, at hours inappropriate for drinking. Where else can I fail to finish the crossword while seated between two beautiful women much, much smarter than me who have already finished the puzzle by the time I finish my maté?

Meme:: post about four remarkable women (or men, or whatever you care to mix up) where you live.


Oct. 28th, 2007 02:34 pm
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There will be a Broadway adaptation of Xanadu, the dumbest movie on skates.

That is sort of awesome, as long as I don't have to go. Well... maybe with a flask. Maybe with two.

Edit: actually it sounds like they really get it:

"Just like Starlight Express?" [director] Beane was asked. "Yes," he joked, "minus the depth. That's what we're going for!"

Evidently they've noticed that the movie actually has a premise (a greek muse comes down from Olympus to inspire someone to open a roller disco) and that this actually offers interesting elements (Greek mythology, roller disco) from which someone might make a good story.

I might have to see this.
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We saw Eugene Ionescu's Rhinoceros at the Mum Puppet Theatre... well, some of us saw it. Others bailed at intermission. Ouch.

It was a preview. A dress rehearsal preview. $5, y'know. I recognize this. Just because other previews I have seen at the Mum have been damn near flawless doesn't mean that's an iron law of nature. And it is entirely possible that five days from now, when the show opens, the actors will know their lines and emote flawlessly.

But the lead was reading from his script throughout the show, and one of the other actors constantly needed prompting, and it was obvious from a number of unfunny non sequitur moments that key lines were being dropped or muffed.

Still: it was a preview. So I'll say this: I hope for their sake that they plan to rehearse A LOT over the next five days.

As for the play... it was written in 1960 and you can tell. Everyone is abandoning their role in society to become a rhinoceros. Everyone who doesn't is stuck in the usual ruts. First in society, then in marriage, and finally in their own stale company.

Yeah, yeah— it's a straw man argument. Life as we know it, with all its well-known flaws, versus an unseen other that never has to justify or explain itself. Countercultural escape as magic bullet.

Shows at the Mum are not all puppetry by any stretch. The first act contained quite a few puppet characters, as shadows. Dave pointed out that they didn't move very convincingly and it was difficult to understand which one was supposed to be speaking. Those could be legitimate rehearsal issues. A few major punctuating moments meant to suggest a rhinoceros on the other side of the screen were very good, as was a shadowplay at the beginning of the second act. But most of the second act was entirely puppet-free.

Bottom line? The play has a few sharp things to say, but it's a period piece and has to be read as such. Also, fair warning: people who hate translations, absurdism or philosophical wordplay will hate this play really a lot.

The performance... the actors are clearly good actors, but they need to pull it together pretty hardcore in the next five days. They may well do that. I'm perversely tempted to come back and see.

Afterwards we went out dancing at Brasils. Which was almost empty all night. At Brasils on a Friday, it turns out I'm one of those really good guys who teaches all the newcomers how it's done.

However, this is strictly relative. At Brasils on a Wednesday, I'm just Good Ish. And at the Reef on a Tuesday, I'm Newbie McN00berston. Well not quite that bad, but close.

We had fun but eventually wound up moving to Cuba Libre, which has the opposite problem and a tile floor that's tough to dance on, even if you could move. Still, I lucked into the arms of a lovely, skillful and friendly dame on arrival. Mmm. Cha-cha ensued.

I haven't attempted the cha-cha in quite a while. I'm a whole lot better at it than I remember, adapting salsa moves to it wasn't such a pain.
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I'm seeing Bobbi Block's show "LEAP: The Improv Acting Experiment" tomorrow. I've had my head down, literally, laying Pergo all week and had limited time for other things. So this is my one big Philly fringe theater festival outing.

The concept behind the show: Bobbi is an experienced (VERY experienced) improv instructor, and these are experienced actors. But they are not experienced improv actors. Bobbi has convinced a bunch of A-list Philly "serious" actors to try the improv thing. Mayhem is sure to ensue.

Here are the details:

Where: 40 North 2nd (Arden Theatre), Philadelphia
When: 9pm, Saturday September 8th
How much: tickets are $15. You can buy them in advance here:

I believe [ profile] swingchickie may be volunteering at this particular show. So if you're very lucky, you might even get ushed. Oh, yeah.
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Speaking as someone who is... skeptical about the value of LARPs (Live Action Role Playing Games), this impresses the hell out of me.

Where's the line between "real improv" and LARPing at this point? I ain't seein' it.

Someone should design a Hamlet LARP.
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Last night I attended the Mum Puppet Theater and caught their production of A Christmas Carol with Eleanor and [ profile] florafloraflora, who drove up special because she knows what's important! Also she is awesome.

The show featured a pair of actors onstage, which I wasn't expecting. Puppetry was used for all of the other parts and effects, said puppetry done by the onstage actors themselves. Rather effectively. Once I got over the presence of... PEOPLE! (hey, it worked for The Muppet Show), I was into it.

There was one bit that made me think of Pink Floyd: The Wall, but hey, there's some thematic unity there no? Scrooge as Pink... a Freshman English essay waiting to happen.

The clichés of the piece were teased and played with to very good effect (like I'm going to say more and ruin the fun).

The web site warned that "ghosts are scary," and some of them were, but Eleanor managed to stay in her skin. She's a goth kid lately. After seven years of wanting to be Princess Fluttershine, suddenly she's down on the "too girly" stuff and all about rockin' the lady-vampire costume on Halloween. I'm going to be vain here and take some credit - Eleanor was asked me flat-out this fall why anybody would ever choose to be "weird," and she got back an impassioned impromptu speech about the wages of conformity.

There's nothing wrong with Princess Fluttershine when you're seven, but I'm getting a big kick out of her new direction.

We all enjoyed the show and meeting [ profile] florafloraflora rocked. I'm always excited when an interesting LJ friend materializes on the RL plane. And I didn't feel like I was watching a dress rehearsal at all. Dirt-cheap preview seats still available!

... And now we're off to Eleanor's dance performance. 9:30am pancake breakfast at the school 99% of her dance classmates are from. Yay - she decided to be brave!
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My daughter Eleanor and I make an annual pilgrimage to the animatronic version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol that used to be in Strawbridge's here in Philadelphia. Believe it or not it's tasteful and fun and kinda uplifting.

Strawbridge's is no more. Fortunately, last year's revamp of the show was enough to convince the powers that be at Macy's to bring A Christmas Carol to the new Macy's at 13th and Market Streets (in the former Lord & Taylor building, aka the Wanamaker building).

The new Macy's, by the way, is awesome. I'd been in that building before but I... don't think they were using enough of it to really give a sense of how classy it is. I understand now why other people weren't that upset about losing Strawbridge's.

Their "trees of Christmas" window displays rock. Especially the one with the dragon collaborating with the glassblower. That's some creative shit. And somebody very, very geeky was clearly involved. I approve highly.

Also: they have Frangoes.

But anyway, Eleanor and I checked it out and had a great time - everything was just as we remembered it, except that you are now ambushed by a "photo with the ghost of Christmas Present" and given a price card as you walk out. Heh, heh, heh. I can't blame them really. Fortunately Eleanor wasn't really interested. Certainly not $25 worth of interested. As long as you can get out of there without buying an unwanted and unheralded photo, it's still free free free. Definitely worth checking out if you're a Dickens fan, have a child in your life, or both.

... Which brings me to the not-so-free but oh-so-worth it Mum Puppet Theatre and their imminent production of A Christmas Carol! Starting in previews tomorrow!

The thing about the Mum is this: it's not a children's theatre. It's an honest to god puppet theatre for grownups and, in some cases, kids. They rate their shows, in fact, to help parents decide what's appropriate and what isn't.

Their regular prices reflect the seriousness (and expense!) of their art. As in $25-$30 for A Christmas Carol Tickets.

But: this week it's in previews! Meaning dress rehearsals open to the public. So the shows start out with tomorrow's first dress rehearsal at only $1 (!) and ratchet up to $7 on Tuesday the 12th... before jumping to $30 for opening night, Wednesday the 13th.

I've seen two Mum shows: "A Boy and His Dog on the High Seas" and "The Velveteen Rabbit." Both kid-oriented, needless to say. The detail on the Velveteen Rabbit puppet was one thing. The detail on the "now the Velveteen Rabbit is REAL" puppet was breathtaking.

I strongly recommend you get yourself at least to a preview, or splurge on a regular show if your budget allows.
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Last night I caught a production of Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard at The Stagecrafters' Theater, with [ profile] shellefly and Mark-who-has-no-LJ. Featuring the lovely and talented [ profile] ladyandromeda as Dunyasha, no less.

My expectations shot up as I read the program -- the director understands that Chekhov intended The Cherry Orchard as a comedy. Um... a tragicomedy that knocks you on your ass. But still, a comedy!

I was not disappointed. The translation was good, the actors really got it, and Chekhov newbie Mark didn't have to say "so what the hell was that?" afterwards.

Speaking of afterwards, Mark is an unstoppable machine. Specifically, an unstoppable salsa machine. He talked us into a second consecutive night at Brasil's. [ profile] shellefly's first salsa experience!

And it was very good. And I am very sleepy.

But: now to take Eleanor rollerskating with her May-June-July-August birthday peeps from school! The fun never stops! Whether morale improves or not!

It's a good life, if you don't weaken. Yeah, I'm sure you're oh so sympathetic to my plight.
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Two hours ago I hopped on the Betsy Ross House tour bus for what I had expected to be an "alternative" guided tour of parts of Philadelphia rarely visited by the Big Bus Tour Company. The playwright, Bruce Walsh, has -- according to some sources -- been sacked from both major tour companies in the city for presenting an overly nuanced view of city history. His bio, however, says only that he has worked as a tour guide here in the city for several years.

The play -- and it is a play -- concerns the psychological well-being of a tour guide who just can't take it anymore. His cardiologist has informed him that the stale jokes he's supposed to slay the passengers with are... well... killing him. And from there we go on to learn the ins and outs of unemployment, check cashing, overpriced saints and life without health insurance. Which, of course, justifies a bus trip through less-than-tony sections of the city.

All of this is well and good, and the spectacle of the Betsy Ross House Tour Bus winding past the boarded-up windows of Point Breeze was undoubtedly something to see. But I couldn't shake a certain lack of respect for the places we were passing. I felt that most strongly along Passyunk Avenue. Are Pat's and Geno's really so horrible?

Still, stores that sell suits and water ice are funny, and the King of Jeans does beg to be parodied. And the protagonist's sentiments weren't at all implausible for a burned-out tour guide.

A low-flying jet ended the show by startling all of us into unsettled glances at the skyline. That's the chance you take when you stage a show in a nontraditional locale.

The playwright isn't at fault for my inaccurate expectations, but I'm still interested in taking the tour I was expecting. Someone who knows the city well enough ought to give that idea a go.

There are three more sold-out performances of Guided Tour next weekend. If you show up with $15 in hand, and someone else doesn't... you might just squeak aboard.
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[Playwright appears in door, just before performance, wearing look of concern]

"Excuse me, does anyone here have a cell phone?"

[Many heads bob]

"Turn it off." [Smiles, departs]

I am always the guy who needs the Official Reminder To Shut Off His Cell Phone.
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Tonight I returned to the Print Center to see the main event: Mounted and Framed, a pair of short plays set and staged in an art gallery.

The first play, Mary Jones' Turpentine, concerns the business of art in post-revolutionary Iran... or right here at home, if things go badly. Think Handmaid's Tale, but the bad guys pick on culture instead of women, per se. A play with an A+ theme. Personally, I did see the end coming, and I found that to be a bit of a distraction from a generally interesting piece of work.

The second play of the evening, Lindsay Harris' Hanging, concerns the etiquette of mounting an art show with your ex. This could easily have turned into situation comedy, and it is amusing in many places. But the script reaches for more -- and succeeds. Subtle details of character and motivation are marvelously conceived and acted. Both the script and the cast were numerous rungs above what I normally expect from fringe. I didn't see the end coming a mile away, either, though I felt like a ditz for missing one big ol' clue.

These shows, especially Hanging, deserve a wider audience. Still, I hope future performances will always include free box wine, no matter where they are held. Even the Kimmel can feel like an art gallery, with the magic of Franzia.

A final performance of Mounted and Framed takes place tomorrow night, Saturday the 10th at 8pm. Tickets are available at the door and at the Fringe Festival box office. Strongly recommended.

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