Saturday, November 28, 2015

Staged Reading of WRECKS at Tacoma Little Theatre

For one night only, Tacoma Little Theatre will present Neil LaBute's Wrecks as a staged reading.

Wrecks is the story of a man coming to terms with the death of his wife, and the dark secret that brought them together. The revelations in his internal monologue are woven into his more general disapproving commentary on a culture too prone to public confession and emotional display. (What we, the audience, are hearing is what’s happening inside his head.) As befits a character whose story has parallels with a certain Greek myth, he speaks occasionally of the role of “the happenstance of life” and “the way the universe likes to play it.”

Tickets for the December 3 performance at 7:30 p.m. are $10.00 for non TLT Members, and FREE for those who are members. Tickets may be purchased online at, or by calling our Box Office at (253) 272-2281.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Tis the Season

A Holiday Theater Roundup

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Nov. 25, 2015

Liam Loughridge as Raphie in A Christmas Story at Tacoma Little Theatre. Photo by Dennis K Photography.
December is upon us, and that means a smorgasbord of Christmas stories at area theaters, but not so much the tried and true holiday sentimentality that’s usually trotted out. There are some twists on the usual holiday fare this year, including a holiday whodunit and the traditional A Christmas Carol presented as a one-man show.
The holiday whodunit is The Game’s Afoot! Or Holmes for the Holidays, a comedic murder mystery at Olympia Little Theatre written by Ken Ludwig, the celebrated writer of Lend Me a Tenor and Moon Over Buffalo, directed by Kathryn Beall, 7:55 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 1:55 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 27-Dec. 20,Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Ave., NE, Olympia,
Centerstage in Federal Way once again thrills audiences of all ages with a traditional British Panto, this one a repeat of their hugely popular and outlandish version of Sleeping Beauty, with rocking popular music, and screamingly wicked humor aimed at children and adults, through Dec. 20The Knutzen Family Theatre
3200 SW Dash Point Road, Federal  Way,
Tacoma’s exciting new fringe company Tacoma Actors Repertory Theatre is producing A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story as a one-man show using Charles Dickens’ original script and performance notes narrated by Byron Tidwell. There will be four performances only at 2 and 8 p.m., Nov. 19 and 20, Tacoma Armory, 715 South 11th St., Tacoma. Tickets are available online at
Korja Giles (as Lucy) and  Isaac McKenzie Sullivan (as Charlie Brown) in A Charlie Brown Christmas at Olympia Family Theater. Photo credit: Dinea DePhoto
Olympia Family Theater is doing the ever-popular A Charlie Brown Christmas 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 27- Dec. 20 (Dec. 20 matinee sold out). 612 4th Ave E., Olympia,
For something completely different, The Changing Scene Theatre Northwest, presents David Sedaris' irreverent holiday one-man show, The Santaland Diaries about a starving actor in New York City who reluctantly takes a job as an elf at Macy's. This one is recommended for ages 16 and older due to mature themes and language.  It runs Dec. 3, 6, 10 and 13 at 8 p.m. at Tacoma Musical Playhouse. TMP is also doing A Charlie Brown Christmas, Dec. 19-24. 7116 Sixth Ave., Tacoma,
But tradition can’t be ignored, and to prove it, Tacoma Little Theatreis proud to present the holiday show that sends everyone right back to their most prized childhood memories, A Christmas Story, Jean Shepherd's touching and hilarious tale of Ralphi’s quest for a Red Ryder BB gun. You know the story, it’s the one with the tongue to the lightpole and the lamp with the lady leg. 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 27-Dec. 20, 210 North I St., Tacoma,
And finally, Harlequin Productions is doing its 20th installment of their original, locally written and hugely popular Stardust Christmas series. This one, The Stardust Christmas Dazzle, is a popular music extravaganza set in Manhattan’s Stardust Club in 1959. Nov. 27-Dec. 31 State Theater, 202 E. 4th Ave.,

Joe Batt “In the Cloud’ at Tacoma Community College

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Nov. 25, 2015
Installation view of Joe Batt’s ‘In the Cloud.’ Photo by Rachel Payne.
South Puget Sound Community College art professor Joe Batt has created a world of charcoal, wood and ceramic adults and children, mostly children.  Digital media have taken control of their lives — a comically surrealist world not too far removed from the world most of us live in today. I’ve seen bits and pieces of this world in exhibitions at SPSCC and Tacoma Community College and a full-scale installation at Salon Refu a year ago this month, but never have I seen his In the Cloud world presented as such a complete environment as in his current installation at the gallery at TCC.
The first thing to greet the eye upon entering the gallery is a life-size drawing in charcoal on paper of a group of young girls standing behind a rope line, hanging on, leaning to the right and looking to the left. They are strange looking girls, staring wide-eyed in fear or wonderment at something not yet seen as if waiting for the first part of a parade to arrive. Hanging from the ceiling above them is a satellite in orbit rendered in charcoal and pastel on a cut-out wood shape. The satellite casts a double shadow on the empty white wall to the left in front of which stands a strange little ceramic child wearing large futuristic goggles.
Behind this entry the gallery opens up to a profusion of similar drawings and sculptures of children and young adults captured by their electronic media, many talking on smart phones or holding tablets in hand, many wearing these goggles or visors (somewhat like the one Jordi on Star Trek wore, only larger). The ceramic children stand or sit on sculpture stands. Two of them are on a tall ladder reaching out toward the satellite just above them, and there are more cut-out paper drawings on the wall. The space is filled with them. It’s almost claustrophobic. It’s a futuristic environment the viewers do not so much look at as immerse themselves into. It is frightening and comical, and perhaps all too true to the world we live in.
Iinstallation view of Joe Batt’s ‘In the Cloud.’ Photo by Rachel Payne.
The drawn and sculpted human figures have an almost primitive, “outsider” quality. Charcoal and pastel are the perfect graphic media for the sketchy drawing on the overhanging satellites, which have the surface quality of paint on weathered boards but with a sweet glow that comes from the natural wood color shining through. 
On one wall there is a set of three digital collages that are different in technique and appearance than everything else in the installation, even though the same strange children and satellites can be seen. The description, “digital collage” on the wall labels is insufficient to explain. They seem to be photographs of Batt’s drawings and sculptures along with photographs of live models, digitally collaged together in transparent layers. Everything is in soft focus, and the overall coloring is gray. There is a dreamy quality to these pieces. Despite their striking differences from the rest of the show, they fit quite well because of the tonality and imagery..
It is a breathtaking installation. I get the feeling that with this show Batt has taken this theme as far as it can go and will now have to look toward finding a new direction for his art. I look forward to seeing what he does next.

Joe Batt In the Cloud, noon to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, through Dec. 11, Tacoma Community College Building 5A, entrance off South 12th Street between Pearl and Mildred, Tacoma, visitor parking in Lot G.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Olympia’s Story Slam

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Nov. 19, 2015
Elizabeth Lord hosts StoryOly Story Slam, photo by Austin C. Lang
StoryOly premiered its monthly Story Slam Tuesday of last week with a dozen funny, poignant, and in at least once instant harrowing stories told by local storytellers. StoryOly is a project of Olympia Actor’s League, hosted by Elizabeth Lord and produced by Amy Shephard. Community members come together every month to share and tell stories based on a specific theme. The theme for this premiere events was “First Time.”
Storytellers put their names in a hat and are picked one by one, to take the stage. Ten featured stories are scored by a team of judges selected from the audience. There is one winner each month, and the winners will face off in a Grand Slam Championship next September.
Last night they broke their own rules — nice start, StoryOly — by allowing one extra story plus an “icebreaker” tale by professional storyteller Sam Miller, who told a funny tale about his father getting a haircut every day. It took young Sam years to figure out what his father was really doing with his so-called haircutter.
First contestant up for the evening was Devin Felix, a Mormon kid who told about learning from another first grade kid in school that you could flash a middle finger but it didn’t “count” if you held a thumb up behind the offensive finger. His story was about what happened when he demonstrated his revelation to the entire school. Like Miller’s story before him, Felix’s tale turned out to be a touching father-and-son story.
Ingrid Bond talked about being a military kid and seeing an otherworldly light in Santa Fe.
Robert Perez-Rosales told all about his first kiss and all the many failures to connect with the opposite sex as he was growing up an extremely shy kid. The story rang true, and the audience reaction indicated that many listeners must have had similar experiences in their childhoods.
Rebecca Hom’s first time had a surprise ending, as all of us in the audience fell for her intended purpose of making us think she was leading up to her first sexual experience.
Next came Paul Current who told about finding out his first girlfriend worked in a brothel. His story was hilarious and possibly made up, which is against the rules since all stories are supposed to be true. I thought it should have been the overall winner; but the judges didn’t agree.
Cameron Comb told another first-kiss story. It was a first same-sex kiss story preceded by a first opposite-sex kiss story, and Comb said the latter was by far the best, not to denigrate poor Chip, who gave it his best.
Brian McCracken’s story about demonstrating at the Democratic National Convention was interesting but a little disjointed.
Billie Mazzei told a harrowing story about having a potentially fatal accident the first time she ever drove alone. It was a powerful story with lighthearted relief at the end.
Ned Hayes told about his days as a chaplain in a hospital and how an art appreciation class helped him possibly save a wounded soldier.
Michelle Murray once worked as a funeral director and embalmer. She told about a time they almost buried the wrong body.
And finally, Heidi (didn’t get her last name) told about daydreaming as a child and how it led to work as a librarian and helped her discover the power of stories — a fitting story to end the night.
The judges gave the highest score to Felix for his middle finger story.
The next OlyStory Slam will be Dec. 15 with the theme “Tis the Season.” Admission is free with a suggested donation of $5. Half of all proceeds are donated to Safe Place Olympia.
StoryOly’s Story Slam, 6-8 p.m. every third Thursday, Rhythm & Rye, 311 Capitol Way N, Olympia,

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Murder for Old Time’s Sake

Photo, from left: Stephanie Nace, Harrison Fry and Vanessa Postil in A Murder for Old Times’ Sake. Courtesy Open Road Productions.
 Musical Murder Mystery at Pellegrino’s Event Center!
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Nov. 19, 2015

Rob Taylor (left) and
Kyle Henick.
Courtesy Open Road Productions.
Presented by Pellegrino’s Italian Kitchen and Open Road Productions, A Murder for Old Time’s Sake is a musical murder mystery dinner theater extravaganza that just might have you laughing so hard you spit out your Tuscan Pork Loin (or Parsnip Steak Marsala). It’s funny, it’s got great music, and a complicated mystery plot that you, the audience, will be asked to solve. And to top it all off, it comes with a three-course dinner from executive chef Sam Pellegrino.
I attended a dress rehearsal the night before opening night and came away thinking this is the funniest of the three dinner theaters I’ve seen at Pellegrino’s.
It’s the 20th reunion of the South Pattersfield High School class of 1995, and gathered together is a quintet of former lovers and enemies plus the school principal. There’s Biff (Kyle Henick), the class clown, football hero and bully; Nancy (Vanessa Postil), Biff’s ex-wife who also “like-likes” David (Rob Taylor), the class nerd who invented a self-cleaning toilet and became fabulously wealthy — take that, Biff, for giving me that swirly. And there’s Lucy (Stephanie Nace), who was nobody special in high school and is now a famous mystery writer whose latest novel, Murder Comes to High School, eerily mirrors what is about to happen at the reunion; and Billy (Harrison Fry), class president and most likely to succeed, who ends up as the janitor at South Pattersfield High. Finally, there’s the drunken, idiotic school principal, Horace McGuffin (Dennis Rolly).
from left: Stephanie Nace, Harrison Fry and Vanessa Postil in A Murder for Old Times’ Sake. Courtesy Open Road Productions.
Right after a great rocking song. “It’s Biff” sung by Henick, somebody gets murdered. One of the five survivors must be the murderer, and it’s up to them, with the help of the audience, to figure out who did it. In the process, we’re treated to more great music and comedy plus a couple of spoof commercials.
The entire ensemble is outstanding — good actors and singers, with the bonus that physically they’re even cast to type, not that we even know what any of them look like, but they certainly look the way I would picture them. It was an especially enjoyable treat to see Henick, an actor I have seen only once before, and it was great to see Nace back on stage again after a long hiatus. Rolly and Taylor were both solid, and this is the best acting I’ve yet seen from Fry.
If some of the music is reminiscent of Harlequin’s A Rock and Roll Twelfth Night, it’s because some of them are adaptations of songs from that show and were written by the same composer and lyricist, Scot Whitney and Bruce Whitney, with lyrics for three new songs written by Daven Tillinghast. The band is the Wildwood Orchestra, led by Brad Schrandt (keyboard), with David Broyles (guitar), Cameron Arneson (bass) and Andy Garnes.
There are repeated intermissions during which second and third courses and dessert are served, and during which cast members wander through the audience in character so audience members can quiz them in order to suss out the killer. Audience members can fill out a sleuth sheet with their guesses about who the murderer is and how and why he or she did it. There are prizes awarded from those.
A Murder for Old Time’s Sake was written by Andrew Gordon and directed by Jeff Painter. Including dinner and intermissions, it runs a little more than three enjoyable hours.
A Murder for Old Time’s Sake, Nov. 20-21 at 7 p.m., $45 general seating, $55 front table seating, Pellegrino’s Event Center, 5757 Littlerock Rd SW, Tumwater, tickets online at