Archive for April, 2012

Bonecrusher’s Playbook

Posted: April 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

Spanish Bonecrusher

I know Elizabethan Theatre is not everyone’s bag, baby.  Tell someone you are going to see Shakespeare and it often conjures up the image of ball gowns and opera glasses.  That is what I enjoy so much about The Baron’s Men.  They understand that the theatre was meant for the masses, not the high brow, monocle wearing, I-like-fancy-words-and-that-makes-me-smarter-than-you crowd.  The Baron’s Men want the crowd to get into it.  If you don’t like a character, let him know by hissing.  If you think something is funny, laugh.  (And trust me, there is plenty to laugh at in The Spanish Tragedie, We like to think of it as the Portuguese  Comedy).  The point is to immerse yourself in the experience.  Suspend belief for a few hours and pretend you are going to the theatre 400 years ago.

 

Here are some tips on how to have a Bonecrush’n good time; 

Bring Cash – tickets are $15 dollars each at the gate, they now take credit cards.  Also, there are chairs for  rent and various accoutrements for sale.

Show up early – The grounds are a wonderland and it is a perfect time to enjoy a pre-play picnic.  We usually get there around 7:00.

Rent a chair – they are only a dollar and serve two purposes.  They save your seat and save your rear from the wooden benches.

Bring your own tasty beverage – nothing goes better with an evening at the theatre than a nice white wine or a fine ale.

Bring a coin to toss on stage – the finest compliment an Elizabethan actor could enjoy was having coins tossed on stage during the encore.  Tossed, my friends, not pelted.  It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.

Become a participant – cheer for the good guys, hiss the villains.  Not sure who  the villain is?  Hiss at the man  in black…usually a good plan.

Follow your senses, not your ears – Elizabethan English can be befuddling.  Don’t worry about it.  Watch the play, follow the crowd and I promise you by the end you will have had a great time.

Be Respectful – The Baron’s Men work hard to provide a wonderful service to the community, with very little compensation.  The crowd is there to enjoy theatre as is should be played.  Get into the show, but boo the character, not the actor.  Keep the extemporaneous noise to a minimum, as the actors have no microphones.  Have a drink, but abstain from  becoming the drunken fool.

The stage is set; the actors are dressed; the play is rehearsed.  All that remains now is for the seats to be filled.  Go see the Baron’s Men and  have a Bonecrush’n good time!

The Baron’s Men Present – The Spanish Tragedie by Thomas Kyd

Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays October 17th – November 9th

The Curtain Theatre, Austin, Texas

http://thebaronsmen.org/theater/directions/

http://thebaronsmen.org/tickets/

Advertisements

When I say Ben Jonson’s Alchemy I am not referring to the steroid abuse of the Canadian Olympic Sprinter in the 80’s, although this Jonson’s acerbic wit can make your scrotum tighten up.  Got your interest?  Let’s talk about plot

I wish I could tell you for whom to cheer and whom to hiss, but Mr. Jonson does not make it so easy.  There are no heroes in this play, per se, but only anti-heroes.  There are definitely three main characters: Subtle, Face and Doll, whom we follow as they connive money from other undesirables; but,  it does not make them heroic in any way.  With the plague setting  upon London, our three anti-heroes find themselves in residence of a magnificent mansion and use it as the center piece to their devious schemes.  Posing as an Alchemist, Subtle, the mastermind of our tale, uses the bait of the Philosophers Stone (Jonson did not make it the Sorcerer’s Stone for us Yanks) to cheat people out of their money.  But before we become too sympathetic to our pigeons we are reminded that no honest man can be conned, and the perspective targets are all too willing to expose their greed, lust, and wrath, marking them as easy prey for the ever-angling trio of grifters.  The lustful knight who mocks chivalric ideals, the wrathful Kastrel who wells with hate larger than his stature should allow, the greedy Pastor Tribulation Wholesome whose piety falls before his desire to counterfeit money; all these characters prove Jonson a master of creating archetypal sinners for the audience to hold up for inspection.  In the end, we welcome the open crookedness of our trio compared to the hypocrisy of their sheep.

As far as playwrights from the 1600’s go Ben Jonson is to Shakespeare as Plato was to Socrates.  The Bard came first, a storm of genius that flooded the theatre world, but Ben Jonson perfected the storm and made it dance.  Yes, Dance!  There will be dancing, a nod to the fact that Jonson was one of the first to incorporate dancing and music into theatre.  He also pioneered the grand set design and elaborate costumes, which is one of the reasons Director Casey Weed chose The Alchemist as the Spring play.  Casey Also noted that “This town is saturated with Shakespeare, I wanted to do something different.”  As to the content of the play, bring your naughty side.  “Shakespearean era comedies- and Jonson’s The Alchemist particularly- is almost always bawdier than anyone thinks, but it gets downplayed by most troupes so as not to ‘offend the cultured’” states Casey, but he tends not to agree,  “To hell with that. Play it like he wrote it.”

The modern-day con-man film can draw a direct line to The Alchemist.  The Sting, Grifters, even Ocean’s 11 (the original, not that Matt Damon crap) all borrow from the ideas Jonson put on stage 400 years earlier.  Similarities between The Alchemist and Se7en, the unblinking look at sin in the 20th century are also easy to make.  Casey Weed is providing our modern day culture with an unvarnished look at the very nature of man, as viewed by people that were much closer to death than we will ever know.  Go see The Baron’s n and glimpse into the unpleasantness that is the human soul…and get a good laugh as well.

The Baron’s Men Present – The Alchemist by Ben Jonson

Thu-Sat evenings at 8:00 from April 12th to April 28th

The Curtain Theatre, Austin, Texas

http://www.facebook.com/#!/events/278532692221245/

http://thebaronsmen.org/tickets/

Have you ever seen Historic Theatre?  Have you ever seen Historic Theatre on Weed?  That’s some crazy shit, man.  Easy there, Killer.  Get your half-baked mind back to earth and know that I am talking about Casey Weed, director of The Baron’s Men’s Production of The Alchemist.  The line still stands, though…crazy shit, man.  When I first heard that Casey was going to be directing the Spring performance for the Baron’ Men I knew it was going to be good, raunchy humor that isn’t afraid to smack the audience in the face.  Known as ‘King of the Groundlings’ by the other troupe members (the dirty jokes in Elizabethan Theatre were written largely for the Groundlings) Casey never lets ribald wit go unnoticed.  His first production with the Baron’s Men, The Bawdy Five, was actually done to prove that Chaucer wasn’t boring and stiff but lewd, crude, and downright rude.  I know his handling of Ben Jonson’s masterpiece will be equally lascivious not only because of the motley crew of characters in the cast but also because of the excitement Casey had sharing a quote that basically boiled down to “I fart in thy general direction.”

There is more to Casey’s direction than dirty words though.  What stands out most is his passionate insistence that the actors play with the audience, not for them.  He encourages every player to look for opportunities to tear down the fourth wall and have a dialogue with the audience.  Elizabethan Theatre was much more interactive than the passive theatre we have on both stage and screen.  Ferris Bueller was the last Hollywood character I can remember that had a dialogue with the audience.  It is this interaction with the crowd that drew Casey to the Baron’s Men.  He wasn’t in their inaugural production but he was in the audience and is proud to be their first convert.  He is now a veteran of nine Baron’s Men productions and this is his second play to direct.  Although he strives for historical accuracy, as do all The Baron’s Men, he is not above building a bridge to the modern to help the audience follow along.  Was that ABBA I just heard sprinkled into the soundtrack?  Could be, my friend, could be.

We are particularly lucky this season as we get a double hit of Weed (puff, puff, give!) for the Alchemist.  Casey’s wife of ten years, Cherie, is responsible for costume design this year.  And if that is not enough Weed for you she will also be playing in the accompanying band, The Nimble Marmosets.  When the Weeds aren’t pouring their souls into the Baron’s Men they enjoy fixing up their home, Chez Weed, and playing with their two dogs.  Casey is particularly proud of Daisy Mae, their female bird dog whom he swears is on wanted posters across the quail community.  Whether playing with their dogs or playing with the audience the Weeds truly know that “All the world’s a stage” and they are writing their own scene.  Go see the Baron’s Men and get high on Weed.

The Baron’s Men Present – The Alchemist by Ben Jonson

Thu-Sat evenings at 8:00 from April 12th to April 28th

The Curtain Theatre, Austin, Texas

http://www.facebook.com/#!/events/278532692221245/

http://thebaronsmen.org/tickets/

All nerds know the fable of how Harrison Ford was a carpenter on the set of Star Wars when Lucas asked him to step in and help read lines, thus propelling him into one of the most iconic roles in film history. (If you don’t know this, shame on you, turn in your nerd card at the door.) This openness to synchronicity is one of the factors that make The Baron’s Men so entertaining. With sponsored auditions held six months before a new show, they are literally a troupe of the people, for the people.  Take the late addition to the cast, Randy Egan, for example.  Randy happened to be waiting on Director Casey Weed at lunch, impressing him with his “excess of charm and personality.”  The director asked Randy if he had ever acted and was surprised to find out that no, Randy had never been on stage since his school days.  Lo and behold, a month later Randy is one of the shining surprises that form the cast of The Alchemist.  Another first time player for The Baron’s Men is Joshua Morretto.  Acting for the first time since his college days Joshua plays the part of Abel Drugger (picture Booger from Revenge of the Nerds as a shop keep who’s only desire is to be bowed and scraped to by all other shop keeps.)  The long lay-off has had no ill effects on his comedic timing, which threatens to steal each scene he isin.  Indeed, Director Casey Weed has skimmed the cream of the crop off the top of the at-large Austin acting populace and the show will reap the rewards.

That is not to say, however, that there are no veterans of the theatre in the play.  The show features several B. Iden Payne winners and nominees- Bridget Farias and Heath Thompson.  Eva McQuade’s portrayal of Kastril shows us the folly of not allowing women on stage in Shakespeare’s day.  Eva brings to her performance of the angry boy, an archetypal Napoleonic complex 200 years before the Little Tyrant was born, the experience of dozens of plays and performances, a wealth of knowledge that is sure to capture the audience.  Topping the bill for The Alchemist cast is Todd Kassens as Subtle, the homeless pimp and master con-man.  Although this is his first time with The Baron’s Men, Todd is veteran on the Austin acting scene, with performances at The Hidden Room Theatre and a portrayal of King Hamlet’s Ghost that was haunting (yeah, I went there.) From his pointy beard to his presence on stage Director Casey Weed couldn’t be more pleased with his casting of Todd. The fact is, whether it be first time player or veteran of the scene, the cast of The Alchemist is sure to tickle your funny bone, raise your ire, and all around make you glad you’re not a whore.  Go see The Baron’s Men.  Who knows, maybe you will be on stage in the Fall.

The Baron’s Men Present – The Alchemist by Ben Jonson

Thu-Sat evenings at 8:00 from April 12th to April 28th

The Curtain Theatre, Austin, Texas

http://www.facebook.com/#!/events/278532692221245/

http://thebaronsmen.org/tickets/

Full disclosure here…I love wearing super hero costumes. I have a Superman tank top that I love sporting around town and when a friend recently had a superhero costume party, I’ll be honest; I wore the rental under my clothes for the next couple of days. Not in a“Vigilante-Kick-Ass-Something-To-Prove” way, but more of an “I refer to myself as Bonecrusher, of course I have delusions of grandeur” kind of way. Let’s be honest, the clothes make the man (or woman, Bonecrusher is an equal opportunity cliché artists.) Austin was recently voted one of the worst dressed cities in America. That might sound like a slight, but I believe it is part of what makes this town so cool. If what we wear effects who we are, then we are a population of laid back, march to our own drummer, Come-and-Take-It Texans that could really care less about what the fashion world thinks. Just as we feel saucy and proper when we don our black tie garb we feel down to earth and relaxed in out cargo shorts and Keens (or heroic and adventurous in our cape.)

This power clothing has over us is part of what makes The Baron’s Men performances so captivating. The attention to detail the troupe puts into costume design serves not only to pull the shroud of illusion over the audience’s eyes but also imbues the actors with the soul of Thespis. And what detail! 300 yards of new fabric and trim for The Merchant alone.  Fostered in the womb of the SCA, a society that strives for authenticity, The Baron’s Men painstakingly research the proper dress for the period and do their best to recreate it. Sewing parties are held weekly as the troupe stitches together costumes that could have been worn by Lord Chamberlain himself. Some member of the sewing circle come from as far as Houston.  Add to that all the crowns, capes and shoes that are hand made by The Baron’s Men, and the payoff is worth the sore fingers and tired eyes. These finely crafted costumes are the thread that weaves together the stage, the authentic script and the rabble-rousing crowd into a truly magical evening of Elizabethan theater. Go see The Baron’s Men and witness the best dressed people in Austin.

The Baron’s Men Present – The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

Fridays and Saturdays April 5th-27th, Thursdays April 18th & 25th

The Curtain Theatre, Austin, Texas

http://www.facebook.com/groups/30079279771/

http://thebaronsmen.org/tickets/

As if Spaceman Richard Garriott didn’t give Austin enough by building the Curtain Theatre for The Baron’s men, the theatre is actually nested amidst his lakeside estate, Britannia Manor.  Getting there early and exploring the grounds is half the fun.  Some locals may know the property from the world class haunted houses he holds biannually, other, braver souls might know about the jousting spectacular, Lysts on the Lake, which happens in May each year (Bonecrusher knows that it sadly will not be held in Britannia this year, but Taylor, Texas.)  For those not in the know, Britannia Manor is a renaissance wonderland, complete with its own castle and pirate ship.  The grounds have a complete miniature village of tiny houses that is topped by an aerial wooden bridge.  The village is not populated during the run of The Baron’s Men, but an imaginative person can see pirates from the moored ship attacking the castle across the field as the village folk barricade their homes and shops from plunderers.  The ship even has a rope to swing from, though I recommend trying it before too many tankards of ale.  The grounds close at the end of the performance so I recommend getting there early with a picnic, stroll the grounds and climb the castle walls.  If that isn’t enough, take a spin of the play ground swing-n-spin (I just made that name up).  I mean this place is so bad-ass that Mr. Garriott once had to defend it with an Uzi…really.  I am proud that a citizen his stature chooses to call Austin home, a man who has gone to outer space.  I am even happier that he chose to come back to earth and defend us from the banality of life.  Go see The Baron’s Men and frolic in the play ground of Spacemen.

The Baron’s Men Present – The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

Fridays and Saturdays April 5th-27th, Thursdays April 18th & 25th

The Curtain Theatre, Austin, Texas

http://www.facebook.com/groups/30079279771/

http://thebaronsmen.org/tickets/