Monthly Archives: March 2012

Our gadgets are smart, so we don’t have to be

Here’s a column that’s set to appear in the April 6 edition of The Flamethrower’s Kitsap A&E section:

Smart phones are making us stupid. It’s the ultimate irony.

It hit home yet again the other day when I was having a conversation with an acquaintance during a recent early-morning Bremertron-Seattle ferry ride. Or, more accurately, trying to have a conversation, since any time the back-and-forth called for anything from him (not his real gender, which has been changed to protect his identity), there was a pause while he consulted his smart phone. Before he could answer any question, make any comment or add to the dialogue in any meaningful way, he was obliged to whip up the appropriate application and check the information or instruction contained therein.

I casually mentioned that I was headed out to Issaquah. My companion responded with a finger in the air — a request for my indulgence — and a locked gaze onto the screen of his smart phone, from which he sent an inquiry off into cyberspace via his two lightning fast thumbs in blurred action over the instrument’s tiny keypad. After what seemed like only a few seconds, he informed me that the normal 14-minute drive to Bellevue was, on this occasion, going to take me 16 minutes.

I considered the nugget and shrugged. “So? It’s two minutes. And it’s not like there’s an alternate route.”

He seemed deeply hurt, and scuttled off for a muffin, never to return.

***

An illustration of just how attached we are to our gizmos is how much trouble folks have putting them down, even after they’re asked to. I often see people at stage plays — “the thea-tah,” as I like to pronounce it — who squeeze out every last second of whatever the crap it is they’re doing through the announcement asking them to silence, through the curtain, through the overture, often through the opening lines of dialogue — before they finally, grudgingly, shut their little doohickeys down.

I recently saw a show that was divided into a number of brief segments (instead of the traditional two acts with intermission). A couple rows in front of me were a family of four, all armed with their phones, which glowed with their own individual messages or games right up until the first monologue began. And then, between monologues — breaks of between 30 and 60 seconds, usually — on they came again.

It could, I suppose, have been worse: At least they all were plugged in to earbuds.

***

One of the enduring images I have recent years was one evening when I was walking through a near-deserted Kitsap Mall, and a quartet of teenage boys passed me going the other direction. They were elbow-to-elbow, and each of them were feverishly working their phones, churning out various text messages, seemingly taking no notice of each other, and definitely oblivious to everything else. If I hadn’t slid over towards the wall, they’d have mowed me down and threshed me like a shock of Kansas wheat. It wasn’t until they actually passed me that I realized they were texting … each other.

I grinned at first, thinking they were sending messages back and forth to each other about the girls they were seeing in the mall … until I remembered there were practically no people in the mall. Were they just more comfortable communicating that way? That couldn’t be.

Could it?

***

Our obsession with cell phones and other hand-held gadgets never resonated quite as strongly with me as during my most recent visit to Disneyland. It’s the happiest place on earth, you know, and it didn’t earn that designation for having crystal-clear WiFi (although it might well, now that I think of it).

On one sun-drenched mid-morning, a father and son walked haphazardly in front of us on our way through Frontierland, the youngster dancing around Dad and begging for a left turn that would take them to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Dad seemed oblivious, nose nearly touching the screen of his phone, thumbs blazing, trudging straight ahead. “There’s only a 15-minute wait for the Autopia, buddy.”

“But I don’t want to go on the Autopia! I can’t even reach the peddle!”

Dad stopped in his tracks and fixed the boy with a knowing, sympathetic, vaguely fatherly gaze, and then gestured toward the phone. “Fifteen minutes. Dude,” he said, and resumed both his trek toward Tomorrowland — offspring still bounding around him like a puppy, completely ignored — and his rapt pursuit of cyber knowledge.

I shook my head and asked my daughter what she wanted to do next, knowing full well what her answer would be with her favorite ride that close by.

“Thunder Mountain? The line’s pretty long,” I said.

She said she didn’t care, and we headed for the entrance. “Anyway,” she said, looking up at me, “I know two people who won’t be in front of us.”

Auditions that will have local actors chomping at the bit

Local actors will have a couple of out-of-the-ordinary opportunities in the coming months, but only if they audition:

Changing Scene Theatre Northwest is auditioning for Harvey Fierstein’s “Torch Song Trilogy,” while the Admiral Theatre is looking for local cast members for the upcoming return of “Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding.”

Changing Scene’s auditions will be 2 p.m. April 8 and 7 p.m. April 9, both at the Bremerton Eagle Aerie 192, 205 Sixth St. in Bremerton. Auditions for three men and three women will be via cold readings from the script, except for one of the female roles, which includes singing torch songs. Hopefuls for that role should contact director Pavlina Morris at 360-813-1820. The lead role of Arnold already has been cast. Performance dates are June 22 to July 21.

A touring company of “Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding will perform at the Admiral May 31 to June 3, but needs a number of local male and female actor-singer-improvisers ages 18 to 65 to complete its cast, including many paid positions. Auditions are 6 to 10 p.m. April 27 and noon to 4 p.m. April 28, both at the Admiral, 515 Pacific Ave. in Bremerton. No experience is necessary, but improv skills and acting experience both are helpful. RSVP with name, e-mail address and phone number to 360-373-6010 or admiraltheatre.org by April 25 to set up an appointment. Rehearsals are May 27 to 30.

Bremerton Community Theatre announces 70th season

The 39 Steps,” a farce constructed from the 1935 suspense film of the same name by Alfred Hitchcock, will open the 70th season presented by Brermerton Community Theatre, according to a recent announcement.

The play opens Aug. 31 and runs for four weekends, the first of five mainstage productions at the playhouse on Lebo Boulevard. A highlight should be the spring production of “Urinetown (a Musical)” from April 5 to May 5, and the season concludes with Dale Wasserman’s drama (based on the Ken Kesey novel) “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

Other plays in the season lineup are “Postmortem,” by Ken Ludwig (Oct. 26 to Nov. 18) and “Jest a Second” by James Sherman (Feb. 1 to 24).

BCT still has two mainstage productions to go in its 2011-12 season — the musical “Curtains” (April 13 to May 13) and the drama “Rabbit Hole” (June 8 to July 1).

More information on both the current and just-announced seasons are available by calling 360-373-5152, toll-free at 800-863-1706 or online at bremertoncommunitytheatre.org.

CSTOCK’s ‘Guys and Dolls’ auditions 21-and-younger

Central Stage Theatre of County Kitsap (CSTOCK) will conduct auditions for its 21-and-younger production of the musical “Guys and Dolls” from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 21 at the playhouse, located in the Silverdale Community Center, 9729 Silverdale Way NW. A required dance audition will follow at 3 p.m.

Auditions are open to ages 8 to 21. Auditioners should prepare a song that shows vocal range, and provide either sheet music or a CD accompaniment. They’ll also read cold from the script, and should come ready to dance.

Information: Sherry Knox, pmknox@aol.com, or CSTOCK, 360-392-9940, cstock.org

Here’s hoping ‘Hunger Games’ star gets opportunity from her superstardom

Here’s a column by yours truly that’ll appear in the March 23 print edition of Kitsap A&E:

I’ve got mixed emotions about this week’s opening of “The Hunger Games,” which will place Suzanne Collins’ series of novels alongside “Twilight,” and “Harry Potter,” and “Lord of the Rings” as a mammoth page-to-screen franchise, and elevate the actress portraying its iconic heroine, Jennifer Lawrence, to film superstardom.
Years ago, I predicted big things for Lawrence. And now that she’s achieving them, I can’t even gloat; in fact, I feel a little bluesy.
She’s been an X-Woman. She’s been nominated for an Academy Award (for the indie film “Winter’s Bone”). And now, at 21, she’s Katniss Everdeen, in the first of three (at least) “Hunger Games” movies that will make, conservatively, a buhzillion dollars. And she’s not my little secret any more.
Before I became a Food Network junkie, and during those months of the year when the Mariners aren’t playing, I used to do a little channel surfing in the evenings, after I put my daughter to bed. One night I happened across “The Bill Engvall Show,” a sitcom featuring yet another stand-up comedian as the head of a dysfunctional household, where the humor came mostly from Dad being the cause of the bulk of the dysfunctionality, while the long-suffering wife and kids coped as best they could. I’d seen some of Engvall’s stand-up, and thought he was pretty funny, so I watched an episode.
It was terrible. Despite a pretty decent cast, which included Nancy Travis and “Saturday Night Live” veteran Tim Meadows, it was a mess, cable TV-level writers trying to adapt Engvall’s comedy routines into half-hour episodes of hilarious family foibles.
But Lawrence, playing the eldest of Engvall and Travis’ three offspring, impressed me. In the midst of all the banality, she stood out like a tulip in a mulch pile. She seemed to have the ability to elevate even the most imbecilic comedy, and at the same time there was a warmth and a naturalness to the way she played her more dramatic scenes — often negotiating with Engvall as her overprotective father.
Since then, Lawrence has done all the right things, taking a variety of movie roles after Engvall’s show got the plug pulled on it, and scoring a plum with the indie gem “Winter’s Bone.” The buzz around her started then, resulting not only in the Oscar nomination, but in opportunities to do big blockbuster films like “X-Men: First Class” and, ultimately, “The Hunger Games.”
Now Lawrence is known not only as a great actress, but as great box office. She’ll have the chance to be in blockbuster after blockbuster, and the big studios will throw millions at her because they know, with her name on the marquee, they’ll make millions upon millions in return.
It makes me remember my college radio days, when I did some of the programming for the fledgling KGRG-FM at Green River College in Auburn. A new student volunteer arrived from New Jersey, raving about this guy Springsteen, who was going to be huge, and telling us we should be playing at least one Springteen record (that was back when we played records) every hour.
I don’t remember the guy’s name, but he was right. Bruce Springstreen, with the 1975 release of “Born to Run,” went from being a Jersey phenom to one of the biggest stars in the world, selling out huge stadiums, going insta-platinum with every new release, and standing at the elbows of presidents and kings. He was, at once, as “important” as Dylan, but with a lot more show-biz appeal.
I bring up Springsteen not to show that I still remember any of what went on in college, but because of what he did with the power and freedom that superstardom brought him. Yes, he played to 60,000 a night in concerts that were sold out minutes after they went on sale.
But he always found time for smaller projects and causes that were meaningful to him, and to others. He stayed grounded, based, and he never stopped growing and learning, finding time and inspiration to go back to his musical roots, taking his fans along with him.
I hope Jennifer Lawrence can do the same thing. For every “Hunger Games” she’s going to have a chance to do in her career, I hope she finds — or creates, with her Katniss-generated power and Oscar buzz-induced clout — opportunities to do more “Winter’s Bone” type films — story-driven, small films that depend more on acting than on special effects — and take her fans along with her.
If she could could make me sit through “The Bill Engvall Show,” she can do anything.

Intiman hosts Cornish production of ‘Edwin Drood’

On the subject of Kitsap student-actors with big things going on in Seattle, Port Orchard’s Sara Henley-Hicks is in the cast of Cornish College of the Arts’ production of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” which will be performed April 10 to 14 at the Intiman Theatre on the Seattle Center grounds.

Sara will be familiar to regular attendees at Port Orchard’s Western Washington Center for the Arts, where she’s appeared in a number of shows — most recently last summer’s “Into the Woods” — before moving on to Cornish.

“Edwin Drood” is Cornish’s first production at Intiman. It’s a musical based on an unfinished novel by Charles Dickens, and the audience at each performance is invited to decide the ending.

Performances are 8 p.m. nightly, with a 2 p.m. matinee on April 14. Ticket prices are $15 to $8. Information: 206-726-2787, cornish.edu.

Kitsap well represented in 5th Avenue “Oklahoma Project”

Yours truly ran into Bremerton actress-singer Allison Verhofstadt on the Seattle ferry the morning of March 11, which reminded me that the 5th Avenue Theatre‘s continuation of the just-completed “Oklahoma” with an all-student cast is set for performances March 16 and 17.

Why did seeing Allison remind me? Because she’s in it, that’s why. The veteran of many plays at CSTOCK, Bremerton Community Theatre and Kitsap Children’s Musical Theatre is one of three Central Kitsap teens included in the cast.

Home schoolers Allison and Corbit Sampson — a veteran of eight shows at CSTOCK — both are in the chorus for the show, and Allison is also serving as dance captain. Michael Bryan, a Central Kitsap High School student with credits at both CSTOCK and BCT, earned the meatiest role of the three and will play Jud, the villain. The cast also includes Gig Harbor’s Maddie Kate Scheutzow in the ensemble and Kingston’s Evelina Svensson as a featured dancer.

The “Oklahoma Project” gives young actors from around the state a chance to follow in the carefully blocked footsteps (and sets and costumes) of the professional company that just finished their run of the show there. The youngsters rehearsed with director Mathew Wright and the same crew that was involved in putting on the mainstage production. Their three performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. March 16 and 17, plus a 2 p.m. matinee March 17.

Tickets for the “Oklahoma Project” performances start at $19, and are available by calling 206-625-1900, or online at 5thavenue.org.

The play’s the thing … as long as it’s 10 minutes long

Bainbridge’s Island Theatre is seeking submissions of original short plays by Kitsap County playwrights for its Ten-Minute Play Festival. Submissions are due May 15, and a readers theater-style performance of selected plays will be Aug. 18 and 19 at Bainbridge Performing Arts, 200 Madison Ave. N.

Two top plays — on in the adult division and one in the teen division — will receive cash prizes.

A free workshop, “How to Write a Ten-Minute Play,” will be conducted by Seattle playwright and instructor John Longenbaugh from 1 to 5 p.m. March 24 at the Bainbridge Island branch of Kitsap Regional Library, 1270 Madison Ave. N. Pre-registration is required, by calling 206-276-7732 or by e-mailing info@islandtheatre.org.

Specific guidelines for submissions and more information can be found at islandtheatre.org

Laughs aplenty in Kitsap in late March

Not one, but two comedy benefit shows will bring excellent stand-up talent to Kitsap the weekend of March 23 and 24.

Venerable Seattle comic Brad Upton (left), one of the most consistently funny guys based around Puget Sound, will headline a Bremerton Symphony Association benefit at 7 p.m. March 23 at the Cloverleaf Sports Bar & Grill, 1240 Hollis St. in Bremerton. Tickets for “Laugh Out Loud to Support Our Symphony” are $15 and are available through the BSA, 360-373-1722, bremertonsymphony.org, or at the door.

The next night, March 24, McCormick Woods Country Club in Port Orchard hosts a benefit for Marine Corps Security Force Battalion Marines hosted by Bremerton’s own the Great Cris and featuring national leadliners Dwight Slade, David Crowe and Kermet Apio. Doors open at 6 p.m. for the 7 p.m. show, and tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door ($15 advance, $20 at the door for military). Information: 360-551-1129, 800-838-3006, brownpapertickets.com.

Classic TV sitcoms you just know will end up as Broadway musicals

If the entertainment biz is nothing else, it certainly is adaptable.
More and more, you see characters and stories that began their lives in one medium being adapted to others. TV shows become movies; movies morph into TV shows. Stage plays, musical and otherwise, are re-imagined for the big and small screens — and more and more often, TV shows and movies are going the other direction, to the stage.
Mel Brooks probably gets more credit — or blame, depending on your disposition — than anyone else for that, taking his hit movies “The Producers” and “Young Frankenstein” to Broadway, with blockbuster results. If it wasn’t for all the horses, and the blocking problems they present (if you know what I mean), you can bet we would’ve had a stage adaptation of “Blazing Saddles” by now.
The 5th Avenue Theatre’s just-announced 2012-13 season illustrates the continued traction of this trend. The second show on the slate is “The Addams Family,” based on characters and situations from the 1960s TV comedy (who were, in turn, adapted from Charles Addams’ comic strips). The third is “ELF — the Musical,” which springs from the 2003 fish-out-of-water holiday movie starring Will Ferrell.
And there’s no end in sight. I mean, there are plenty of old TV shows and movies that are ripe to be set to music and brought to the stage.
Which ones? Here are a few candidates:
Gilligan’s Island”: The series originated in 1964, ran forever, was ubiquitous in reruns, retools and even a movie, and we’re still not tired of the castaways. So a musical about Gilligan, the Skipper too, the Millionaire and His Wife, the Movie Star, the Professor and Mary Ann … is a no-brainer. You could make a perfectly good show out of the episode when producer Harold Hecuba (played by Phil Silvers) washed ashore (people were always washing ashore on “Gilligan’s Island;” it helped keep the story lines fresh) and the castaways mounted their own musical to showcase the talents of starlet Ginger.
Big production numbers might include the opening “Three-Hour Tour,” the Gilligan-Skipper duet “Little Buddy,” the Millionaire’s lament “Money to Burn” and the full-cast showstopper “You’re Either a Ginger Guy or a Mary Ann Guy.”
(It’s worth mentioning that, moments after this column was posted on the Internet, I was informed that “Gilligan’s Island” has indeed morphed into a musical, cowritten by series creator Sherwood Schwartz. I’ve posted more info on my blog: http://pugetsoundblogs.com/kitsap-ae)
Get Smart”: The 1965 series about the exploits of Secret Agent 86 could get Brooks back onto the musical-theater map. The lampoon of the spy genre popularized by James Bond movies has action, romance (86’s awkward wooing of 99, the longing of Hymie for a robot partner, etc.), villains (remember Bernie Kopel’s Sigfried? Leonard Strong’s The Claw?) and potential hit songs galore: “Sorry About That, Chief,” “Would You Believe?”, “The Man Who Talks Into His Shoe,” “Cone of Silence” … Never mind the flop that was the 2008 movie version; this one’s got success written all over it … or, would you believe, over most of it? Part of it?
F Troop”: More can’t-fail stuff from the mid-’60s (1965 again). O’Rourke and Agarn are really just a Vaudeville comedy team, dropped into a post-Civil War cavalry outpost in the wild west and testing their ability to pull the wool over the eyes of their gullible commander, Capt. Parmenter (whose courtship with Wrangler Jane also provides a romantic component).
The relationship between the troopers and the neighboring Hekawi tribespeople will have to be updated, of course. It’ll be up to the songwriters to figure out how to replace “paleface and redskin both turn chicken” with some lyrical form of the more politically correct “Caucasian insurgents and indigenous Native Americans agree that discretion is the better part of valor.” The aforementioned romantic element makes “F Troop” an easier sell than other military comedies of the era, like “McHale’s Navy” and “Gomer Pyle” … although a subplot hinting at a relationship between Capt. Binghamton and his lackey, Carpenter, would bring a nice edge to things.
Laugh-In:” Dan Rowan and Dick Martin are both gone, but the comedy-variety show that made the stand-up comedy duo household names back in the late Sixties could be easily adapted for a modern-day revue, with its topical songs and rapid-fire gags delivered from the “Joke Wall,” or during “The Party.” Because of the catchphrases spawned during the show’s run, potential song titles are plentiful: “Sock It To Me!,” “You Bet Your Bippy,” “Look It Up in Your Funk and Wagnalls” and “Beautiful Downtown Burbank,” just to name a few. It would be — dare I say it — verrrry in-teresting.
M*A*S*H”: The long-running 1972 series about surgeons on the front line during the Korean War sprung from the popular film by Robert Altman, and its antiwar theme is just as relevant now as it was then. The high jinks around the 4077th would be perfect for musical comedy, with production numbers swirling out of the mess hall and onto the muddy streets. There could even be a number titled “Operating Theatre,” replete with high-kicking nurses and wisecracking doctors. And romance? The first song title that came into my mind was “Hot Lips and Who?”
There are plenty of others, of course, from “I Love Lucy” and “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Cheers” right through to the groundbreaking comedy of “All in the Family.” Imagine, if you will, the hilarious possibilities of “The Meathead Song,” or “Stifle Yourself, Edith.” Or what about “Married … With Children: The Musical?”
Of course, there are hundreds of shows that it probably wouldn’t be a good idea, for obvious reasons, to try to adapt. “Rosanne” is one that instantly springs to mind …
But the sitcom field is a fertile one for Broadway to till, and the TV-to-stage trend could easily continue on for decades. Now, let’s see: Who’s your choice to follow in the footsteps of Buddy Ebsen and Jim Varney for the coveted part of Jed Clampett in the Broadway blockbuster “The Beverly Hillbillies?”

 

This column ran in the March 9 print edition of Kitsap A&E and online at kitsapsun.com/entertainment