Thursday, June 7, 2018

Dallas Solo Fest Q-and-A: Brad McEntire

Producer of the Dallas Solo Fest Brad McEntire [credit: Robert Heart/ TheaterJones]


Chatting with the man behind the Dallas Solo Fest, which runs through Sunday.


published Thursday, June 7, 2018



Dallas — For the final interview of our Dallas Solo Fest coverage, we chat with Brad McEntire, who runs Audacity Theatre Lab and produces the Dallas Solo Fest. This is the event's fourth year (he skipped 2017 because had recently become a father, and to rethink the festival).

The event runs through Sunday at the Rosewood Center for Family Arts (home of the Dallas Children's Theater).

TheaterJones: This year's festival is different from the first three. Tell me about the changes.

Brad McEntire: Since the beginning, the team behind the Dallas Solo Fest, myself included, really have focused on making the festival a little better year by year. This year, we’ve tightened the whole thing up. There are six performers instead of eight, one week instead of two weekends and no daytime workshops. We have also moved the festival to a new venue. We are now in the studio theatre at the Rosewood Center of the Family Arts instead of where we were previously, at the Margo Jones Theatre in Fair Park.

While we have made a few changes, we have kept the good parts that have developed over the last three incarnations of the fest.  We have continued to focus on content-diverse shows to give a good cross-section of what solo performance can offer.  We have also continued the tradition of 70% of the ticket sales going directly to the artists, who still don’t pay any form of festival fee to participate. We even arranged housing for visiting artists who were coming in from out-of-town. We want to insure that the performers get a nice dose of Texas hospitality.

What is your submission/acceptance process? Are you looking for fully formed works? Stuff in development? Both?

The application process began last fall. We received dozens of submissions. A selection committee combed through each submission and we whittled it down to the six that audiences will see at this year’s Dallas Solo Fest.

We are not a “fringe” fest, so we don’t do selection by lottery or on a first-come-first-serve basis. We curate the selection very closely because it is such a focused, intimate festival. I call it a “boutique” arts festival. In place of the big, blustery, street fair-like atmosphere audiences can get at other performance festivals around the country, especially fringe festivals, we are aiming for a more personal experience for both the performers and audiences alike. With just six performers, we do our best to fit the programming together so each show is different and offers a unique theatre experience.

To answer your question more directly, we ONLY look for developed works. In order to deepen and grow the quality of the festival, we have made it a mission to seek out shows that have already played at several venues for several different sets of audiences. There are places that cater to shows in development, allowing artists to experiment and workshop, but we aren’t looking to be one of those kinds of fests. I actually host a quarterly workshop event called the Audacity Solo Salon for that kind of thing. No, we are looking for virtuosity, originality and a bit of hard-won experience from the performers we choose for the Dallas Solo Fest.

You've done fringe and solo festivals for years as a performer. Describe how networking with other artists and presenters on these circuits helped you with Solo Fest.

Independent touring fringe festival artists, particularly those that perform solo shows, are a wonderfully tight-knit community. There are Facebook groups and performers really do kind of keep track of who’s doing what and where.

I have noticed two things again and again when meeting solo touring artists around North America. First, solo performers almost always have an overwhelming sense of enthusiasm. They are real champions for their own shows and like to talk about what they do with audiences and fellow artists. They also are amazingly self-sufficient. Solo performers aren’t just the single actor on stage during their shows, but more often than not, the driving force behind the scenes, too. They are interested in their own marketing, ticket sales, technical requirements, and a bunch of off-stage concerns that traditional actors aren’t always that into. I think this is maybe because the production for a solo performer is by its nature a rather personal endeavor.

Since becoming a dad at the end of 2016, I have, of late, had to curtail a lot of my adventuring around performing my own solo shows. Kiddos, it turns out, take up a lot of time, energy and love. I am slowly getting back into it (I’m off to Minneapolis and Canada this summer to perform my solo piece Robert’s Eternal Goldfish). I hope to strike up some new friendships, see some great new shows, talk with other festival organizers and build out my network more and more.

Despite small audiences for the previous festivals, are your artists generally happy with their experience in Dallas?

On the whole, yes, the performers from the past several years have sent us overwhelmingly positive feedback about the festival and about Dallas. This has been important because one of my personal core beliefs is that the theatre should serve the artist first, then—and only then—the artist can serve the audience and the community.

Crowds have been rather uneven. Some shows sell out, sometimes you can hear crickets. It is especially difficult to market out-of-town performers to local audiences who have little name recognition outside of the fringe touring circuit. Plus, there is a lot of other great stuff happening around Dallas this time of year, such as Kitchen Dog’s wonderful New Works Festival. My hope is that audiences don’t chose one over the other, but instead turn out to both.

The team and I have gone out of our way to really push the content of the shows when marketing. We hope people will see what a given show is about, and then, based on that, decide to come see it.

To make it more worthwhile for the artists, we video shows for performers and drum up as much press for their individual shows as we can. We also offer billeting (touring speak for housing) with local theatre artists acting as hosts. We encourage interaction with audience members before and after the show in the lobby and we do our best to make them feel welcome and appreciated.

What would you like to see for DSF 2019? 2025?

Okay, don’t get ahead of yourself, Mark. If the festival goes well this year, I will do at least one more in 2019. I originally intended to do at least five years of the festival when I started. This is the fourth one. We’ll see. This is really contingent on whether audiences show up and support the event.

I’m not producing in a vacuum. If the message is, “Hey, buddy, Dallas doesn’t want or need this in the cultural landscape,” then that will come through loud and clear. If it fills a gap in the theatre community, then, of course, I’ll keep it going.

Personally, I am an advocate for intimate, indie theatre such as these one-person shows, but I’m not aiming to shove it down Dallas’ throat if it is not wanted.

If it does continue, I can promise we will try to make it better and better. I dream of the Dallas Solo Fest, eventually, becoming a multi-week event in several close together venues with panel discussions, workshops, open mics, food trucks and a roster of the best, brightest and most diverse solo shows in the world converging on Dallas. It would still be relatively small and focused, but with a wider range of programming and, perhaps, it would make a slightly deeper dent in the universe. Dallas could potentially become known as a hub for these kinds of shows, bringing in as well as exporting one-person productions. I mean, that’s the dream.

Anything else to add?

Yep, tickets are on sale. The welcome mat is out for audiences. All info one could want is here on TheaterJones and at www.DallasSoloFest.com.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

2018 Dallas Solo Fest announced


DALLAS, TX – Audacity Theatre Lab is pleased to announce the 2018 Dallas Solo Fest, June 6 -10, 2018 at the Rosewood Center for the Arts, 5938 Skillman, Dallas, Texas 75231.  The festival will feature six distinct one-person shows presented by performers from around the country.

The 2018 Dallas Solo Fest line-up includes:
Jim Loucks in The Biscuiteater [credit - Rich Prugh]
The Biscuiteater
Created and performed by Jim Loucks (Venice, CA). Directed by Lisa Chess

Jim Loucks' rollicking solo performance draws on his Southern childhood to tell the story of a small-town policeman, loosely based on his Granddaddy, haunted by his shooting of a black man in the line of duty. As he nears the end of his life, he seeks redemption through teaching his grandson to respect life and to respect himself.
Chris Davis performing Drunk Lion [credit - C. Davis]
Drunk Lion
Created and performed by Chris Davis (Philadelphia, PA). Directed by Mary Toumanen

A lonely alcoholic lion spends his days drinking into oblivion in a cantina, until he meets Chris, a young foreigner learning how to speak Spanish. The unlikely pair forge an intoxicated bond over life, love, and alcohol.

Drunk Lion is written in Spanish and English, but it's all translated for you in the action, so no one is left behind! The writer Chris Davis lived for 3 years in Mexico, and the play documents some of his over-the-top experiences and ultimately is a dedication to his second home country. Chris embodies all of the characters exploring languages, loss, alcoholism, and how universal stories can be found in every corner of the world. Even Lions get drunk in cantinas!
Cody Clark performing A DIFFERENT WAY OF THINKING
Cody Clark: A Different Way of Thinking
Created and performed by Cody Clark (Louisville, KY). Directed by Taylor Martin.


Magician Cody Clark has a different way of seeing the world. Whether it’s finding the magic in an everyday moment, or recreating an everyday moment with his magic, the magician’s art is never far from his mind.

Cody discovered his love for magic at age 11, 9 years and 9 months after his parents discovered he had autism. Through stage magic and story, sleight-of-hand and journey of mind, Cody will show you the world through his eyes. Maybe you’ll find that his way of thinking isn’t all that different from yours.
John Michael in Meatball Seance
Meatball Séance
Created and performed by John Michael (Chicago, IL). Directed by Janet Howe.

John Michael returns to the Dallas Solo Fest after his sell-out show Crossing Your I's (later retitled Dementia Me) at DSF 2014. Meatball Séance is his latest offering—quite literally—to the ghosts of memory. John Michael attempts to summon the spirit of his deceased mother so she can meet/approve of his new boyfriend. And what better way to connect than through her favorite recipe for meatballs?


John S. Davies presents OH, JESUS! OR...
Oh, Jesus! Or… An Actor, a Cynic and a Savior Walk Into a Bar
Created and performed by John S. Davies (Dallas, TX). Directed by Matt Lyle.

Jesus is back (well, he says he's Jesus...) and he has daddy issues. The crucifixion/resurrection thing didn't work out so well the first time. The world is still in chaos, so he's convinced his Father to let him try again, but this time he's going to use 21st Century tech to get the word out. Unfortunately, he keeps getting interrupted by a cynic with a stick up his ass. Davies presents a strange and uproarious meta-journey into the landscape of faith and deception.
Nkechi Chibueze in PerVirgin
PerVirgin
Created and performed by Nkechi Chibueze (New Orleans, LA). Directed by Eritria Pitts.

​Kechi is 34 years old and has never been kissed . . . and she REALLY wants to talk about it! Join Kechi as she lays out the blueprint to becoming a super virgin, shares her cringe-worthy crushalationships with lessons in love, reveals her grandiose plans for her first kiss, and and explains how the Pussycat Dolls and Zumba are her sexy spirit animals!


The 2018 Dallas Solo Fest is a production of Audacity Theatre Lab and will play June 6-10, 2018 at the Rosewood Center for the Arts, 5938 Skillman, Dallas, Texas 75231. A full and detailed schedule will be released soon. Single tickets and Festival Passes for all shows go on sale May 1, 2018.  Festival Passes include one admission to each and every festival show and are $65.  Individual ticket prices for each show are $15. Discounts available for students, etc. Reservations will be able to be made at the Dallas Solo Fest website or by calling (214) 888-6650. Details about the shows, artists’ bios, the other festival information at: www.DallasSoloFest.com

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Pics from Spring 2018 Audacity Solo Salon

This installment of the Audacity Solo Salon series was held on March 5, 2018 and featured excerpts from solo shows-in-progress by Blake HenriShayne Larango and Brad McEntire.

Shayne Larango

Blake Henri


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Audacity Solo Salon - Spring 2018


The aim of the Audacity Solo Salon is to support and nurture both established and emerging solo performers in the north Texas area. It is also a way to extend the mission of the Dallas Solo Fest beyond just the annual festival itself. 

This quarterly series will be a way for solo artists to present, rehearse, experiement with and develop their work in front of supportive audiences. Come on out and see a new one-person show in progress...

This installment in what has become a semi-quarterly series from Audacity Theatre Lab will feature excerpts from solo shows-in-progress by Blake HenriShayne Larango and Brad McEntire.

Monday, March 5 @ 7:30 pm
At the Margo Jones Theatre in Fair Park, Dallas TX
For directions and parking information visit... HERE


Admission is FREE, but any and all donations are welcome (donations go towards the the Dallas Solo Fest).
Also BYOB!

The Excerpts:

An Illiad - Adapted by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, Perfomed by Blake Henri
“An Iliad” is a modern-day retelling of Homer’s Trojan War epic. The lone figure onstage is a storyteller, possibly Homer, possibly one of the many bards who followed in his footsteps. He is fated to tell this story throughout history, destined to document all of the wars that have happened, and, possibly, all of the wars to come. It uses the tale of Achilles vs. Hector as its vehicle, but it also explores the journey of the storyteller and his struggle with his/her own humanity. With poetry and humor, “An Iliad” grasps the heroism of war, the horrors of war, and mankind’s compulsion towards violence. The play premiered at Seattle Rep, played at Portland Center Stage in 2010 and the Undermain here in Dallas in 2012 (with two performers on stage). Now a young solo performer cuts his teeth with the piece.

Miss Something - Written and Performed by Shayne Larango
Shayne Larango has a charming affect that seduces you into submission and then bites you on the ass. “Miss Something” is one of her Ten Gallon Texas Tales about a young woman finally stepping into the spotlight created by her own hand. Come bask in the pageantry, conflict, and humor that life in Texas has to offer.

Robert's Eternal Goldfish - Written and Performed by Brad McEntire
Robert J. Roberts has a huge problem with the world. In particular he really dislikes people. All people. One day he becomes the unlikely custodian of a magical goldfish and Mr. Roberts' misanthropic view of the world is seriously challenged. Can a person be frustrated into being a better human being? The play premiered at the Out of the Loop Festival in 2014. McEntire continues to develop and tour the piece.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

TheaterJones - FIT Review: The Great Dictator

Steph Garrett is a marvel in the topical and hilarious adapation of Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator, from Audacity Theatre Lab at the 19th Festival of Independent Theatres.


 published Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Dallas — Simone de Beauvoir once wrote “In order for the artist to have a world to express he must first be situated in this world, oppressed or oppressing, resigned or rebellious, a man among men. But at the heart of his existence he finds the exigency which is common to all men; he must first will freedom within himself and universally.”

Jaymes Gregory’s re-make/re-interpretation of Charlie Chaplin’s film The Great Dictator, now playing at the Festival of Independent Theatres, is a courageous and beautiful play that shows us the questions of what men in power are capable of—and how to deal with it as an artist and as a human being are as timely today as in 1940 when the movie premiered.
First and foremost, Steph Garrett’s duel portrayal of the Jewish barber and Hynkel, the dictator of the fictional country of Tomania, is incredible. These were the roles originally played by film great Charlie Chaplin. Garrett both honors the original and remakes it into a character all her own.

Garrett’s physicality and presence is astounding. Her running gags throughout the play and individual scenes (especially Chaplin’s famous “Globe Scene”) grabs the audience by the(ir)…attention. Two aphorisms underlie the play’s universal themes: Acton’s “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” and Kevin Spacey’s character Frank Underwood in House of Cards “Everything is about sex, except for sex. Sex is about power.”

Garrett’s range is fascinating to watch. The tenderness she displays in her portrayal of the Barber (in Chaplin’s original a veteran of the first World War, reluctant to believe the country he fought for could turn against its own people) is both instantly moving and subtly delicate. For those who have viewed the final scene of the movie version before, plan on bringing twice the amount of tissues you usually require. Garrett’s speech is a symphony of emotion with a crescendo that will leave you emotionally gutted by the possibilities and disappointments of humanity.

Additionally, Leslie Patrick does an admirable job in several roles, especially as the barber’s love interest and Hynkel’s general Schultz. The costume design by Jamie Little Puente add the necessary contrast for all the characters as the actors are constantly shifting from one role to another (and important undertone in the play and reminiscent of Zimbardo’s “Stanford Prison Experiment”). The direction by Jaymes Gregory, assisted by his son Jonah Gregory, keeps a tight rein on the action of the play, which is necessary due to the vast amount of choreographed movement on the stage required. Additional effects add depth to the play’s message.

The almost requisite question then needs to be asked: what to make of art such as this in the “current political climate?” As this is not a political magazine per se, let us simply ask some questions to illuminate commonalities which the reader may meditate upon at their leisure: What is it about power that attracts certain people and how do free men and women respond?  Do the worst rise to the top in politics?

Aside from body count, how do you differentiate the morality between a U.S. President that brags of “just grab them by the pussy,” a German dictator that believes that the Sudetenland is his to take, a Russian dictator that entraps half of Germany behind the Berlin Wall, or a representative body that states “all men are created equal” followed by a founding government charter that then classifies some as two-thirds of a person?

Poet and politician Vaclav Havel once said “People who live in the post-totalitarian system know only too well that the question of whether one or several political parties are in power, and how these parties define and label themselves, is of far less importance than the question of whether or not it is possible to live like a human being.” 

Perhaps there is some answer from Chaplin. When questioned on his politics upon attempting to re-enter the United States he said “I am an individual and a believer in liberty. That is all the politics I have…I don't want to create a revolution—I just want to create a few more films.”

The Great Dictator continues in the following blocks:
        • 2 p.m. Saturday, July 29
        • 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 4
        • 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5
        Original post... HERE


        Tuesday, July 25, 2017

        A Great FIT: 'Great Dictator', 'Caveman' and More Meet at Bath House Cultural Center

        By Nancy Churnin, Theater Critic | DallasNews.com | July 24, 2017 

        A dictator, a caveman, a fiddler and an adolescent waiting for someone to pick him up from a juvenile detention center. You never know what you're going to get at the Festival of Independent Theatres, but this year, more than any year in recent memory, it's worth a festival pass to find out. 

        For 19 years, eight independent Dallas theater companies, often new organizations developing new work, get the opportunity to alternate shows that clock in at less than an hour apiece in the black box space in Bath House Cultural Center adjacent to White Rock Lake. 

        The first four shows, already reviewed, are compelling, with a fresh breakout that merits wider exposure: Sherry Joy Ward's one-woman show, Stiff, about the actress's real-life struggle with Stiff Person Syndrome, a progressive neurological disorder. The final four are riveting, too, with Jaymes Gregory's original adaptation of Charlie Chaplin's 1940 film, The Great Dictator, from Audacity Theatre Lab, and three original plays: Jeff Swearingen's The Caveman Play from The Basement; Dustin Curry's Fiddler's Cave from Dustin Curry & Co.; and Van Quattro's Tommy Cain from L.I.P. Service Productions. 

        Chad Cline, Leslie Patrick, Steph Garrett and Robert Shores perform a scene from The Great Dictatorduring the Festival of Independent Theatres at Bath House Cultrual Center in Dallas. (Robert W. Hart/Special Contributor).

        The Great Dictator, set at the start of Nazi Germany, and The Caveman Play, which takes place in prehistoric times, offer a fascinating pairing as each takes a comic sideways approach to incisive political commentary. In The Great Dictator, Steph Garrett, a diminutive, rubbery-limbed clown, takes on the Chaplin double role of a Jewish barber in the ghetto and the ruthless dictator, Adenoid Hynkel, modeled on Adolf Hitler, that looks like his double.

        A nimble cast swiftly segues from tyrants to the oppressed, a collision of mistaken identity serves as a reminder that all the differences that supposedly exist between groups don't add up to much at all. The story has bite as it mocks both the egotism of the narcissistic dictator and those who enable him through obsequiousness or fear. What surprises is its heart. When the shy barber finally gets a chance to speak to a crowd, he digs deep for that all too rare conviction — idealism — as he urges people to "free the world ... to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance" in a speech that Garrett delivers with passionate vulnerability. 

        It's the perfect complement for The Caveman Play, a story about one caveman, Ugh (Chris Rodenbaugh), who runs into trouble when he challenges the authority of a savage leader, Scrock (Doak Rapp, who also directs), and tries to show members of a resistant tribe that their lives can be peaceful, prosperous and fair. The clever script by Swearingen (who also plays one of the comically craven cavemen) is well-served by this smart new company, which is founded and run by young adults who received their training at Fun House Theatre and Film youth company. 

        Fiddler's Cave and Tommy Cain show how different one-man shows can be. Dustin Curry's wordless Fiddler's Cave offers a highly theatrical mix of magic, music and film, with Curry's live on-stage fiddler interacting with a film clip of the woman he loves. The show, directed by B.J. Cleveland, is inspired by Ozark Mountain folklore and uses techniques that are as haunting as the story. 

        Zach Leyva's raw, open performance in Quattro's blistering Tommy Cain takes you inside the head of a troubled teen in a way that makes you stop, think and ache for him and for all the kids who have been abused and abandoned by those they look to for protection. The structure, like the setting, is simple and stripped to its essence. Tommy tells us his story as he waits to be picked up by his aunt after he's served his time in a juvenile detention center. As time passes, he gets increasingly anxious that she won't show up — and so do we. 

        In four words: Don't miss the FIT. 
        Original article... HERE