Sunday, May 25, 2014

DSF responses from performers

Brad here. I 've been concerned that the out-of-town performers coming in for the Dallas Solo Fest haven't had really big crowds. I didn't want anyone to leave with a bad taste in their mouths about the Fest or Dallas. Luckily, even if attendance has been low there have been other trade-offs (great press, good vibes, successful workshops, etc.) to help make it a positive experience for everyone. Wonderfully, some of the performers have taken the first ever DSF in stride and rolled with it. Here are two of my favorite responses from performers...

"I started my show a little down, as I only had an audience of 5. (10:30 time slot for an hour-and-a-half dramatic show, so...) And then they were a PIN-DROP quiet audience the whole way through. (C'mon! Some of this shit is comedy gold! PLEEEEEASE? But they were all holding hard eye contact, and barely shifted in their seats the entire time. Then they spontaneously made a 10 minute Q and A happen at the end, which has never happened before, and one of the gentlemen was a producer who says he wants to book me for a weekend of performances elsewhere in Texas next spring, with real money and travel costs and everything. So I guess you just never know.... "
~ Veronica Russell, A DIFFERENT WOMAN 

"Sometimes I get slutty and demanding and wanting a hundred people at every show I do. But then I have an amazing show, really, a beautiful wonderful experience where everyone is having a blast, with 8 people in the room. That feeling of soul-freeing, spontaneous community is why we do what we do. Numbers do not mean shit in the long run."
~ Deanna Fleysher, BUTT KAPINSKI

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Dallas Observer: Opening Night at the Dallas Solo Fest

Danny O'Connor in Bouncing Ugly

Dallas Solo Fest's Opening Night Overflows with Heartfelt Stories and Poop Jokes

Dallas Observer | Lauren Smart | May 16, 2014

Have you ever noticed how funny drunk people are? Danny O'Connor has. In fact, he's turned it into an entire solo show. Bouncing Ugly chronicles his time as a bouncer at New York City's infamous club Coyote Ugly. His stories about the bar patron's revelry and drunkenness elicited ews, aws, and guffaws from Thursday night's audience. 

Opening night of the first-ever Dallas Solo Fest was the perfect combination of heartfelt storytelling and inappropriate humor. The 10-day fest kicked off with our own Elaine Liner's Sweater Curse, which we reviewed in its last iteration. Her sweet yarn about love and loss sets the bar high for the festival, demonstrating how a solo show can be used to create a character and share a universal story. 

This ability to connect through similarities, rather than differences, is the subtle distinction between a one-man show and stand-up comedy. While comics tend to demolish the barriers we put between one another by mocking everyone, one-man shows unite us through the power of storytelling. And there's certainly a sense of community at the Dallas Solo Fest, which received funding from a Kickstarter campaign. 

Bouncing Ugly followed Sweater Curse for opening night, adding a sardonic edge to the night. O'Connor's story starts during his time as a theater student at the one of the best drama schools in the country, following him to New York City where he stared in an Off-Broadway show across Broadway from Daniel Radcliffe's performance in Equus (you know, the sexy psychological thriller about horses). O'Connor is at once goofy and charming, only to surprise with grotesque aspects of humanity (so many stories about bodily functions) and hardening truths about love. His immediate affability is only tripled when he alternates his story of heartbreak with a dance break to Tom Jones' "Sex Bomb." 

The late-night show of the festival's first night is John Michael's Crossing Your I's. This is John Michael's fifth solo performance piece, all of which he's performed locally to an ever-widening group of dedicated fans. He uses real-life tales to build truths, from his struggle to build an identity in a social media-soaked world to trials working as a gay man at an Oklahoma McDonald's. And with each show critics have sung praises of potential, which it seems he is finally reaching in Crossing Your I's

By far his most mature show to date, John Michael chronicles his time working at a nursing home that specializes in the care of elderly with dementia. He's leashed his frantic energy into a wide-eyed, brutally honest tale of working with people who, as he puts it are "losing their shit" (sometimes literally). And what could easily degenerate into a critique of the hospice system, instead explores the fear of mortality and compassion for those who've traveled the world before us. 

If the first evening of Dallas Solo Fest is any indication of the nine days to follow, this city is in for a treat. Thursday was a charming, hilarious, poignant evening of theater. Read about all eight shows in Danielle Georgiou's preview and grab tickets at There are two more chances to see Crossing Your I's, Bouncing Ugly and Sweater Curse as well.

Original article HERE 'Promising and Provoking Fare From Local Artists at Solo Fest'

                                                                        [credit: Ron Heflin for]
John Michael, Elaine Liner and Danny O'Conner are the local artists
in the inaugural Dallas Solo Fest by Audacity Theatre Lab

Promising and Provoking Fare From Local Artists at Dalla Solo Fest | Nancy Churnin | May 16, 2014

Her picture hangs proudly in the lobby near the Margo Jones Theatre that bears her name. Whether you believe in ghosts or think someone’s spirit lives on as a result of efforts by the living, it’s hard not to feel the memory of Dallas’ theater pioneer permeating the Magnolia Lounge in a leafy oasis of Fair Park. 

Audacity Theatre Lab has launched its first Dallas Solo Fest where Jones encouraged fresh voices, including Tennessee Williams, in 1947. Whether greatness emerges from these eight artists remains to be seen, but Thursday’s three Dallas performers proved promising and provoking. 

You don’t have to be a knitter to fall under the spell of Sweater Curse: A Yarn About Love by Elaine Liner. Best known as the theater critic for the Dallas Observer, Liner powers her funny, poignant and engaging 70-minute love story with knitting references from history and literature. She starts with Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, pulls in the Fates weaving human destiny and gives Hamlet’s speech a redo: “To knit or not to knit, that is the question.” 

Sweater Curse is the tale of a woman who yearns for love. Each boyfriend leaves her before she finishes the sweater she has begun to knit for him — that’s the sweater curse. As Liner sits on a yarn-bombed chair onstage, her needles clacking away, she makes a case for how the compulsion to knit is like the desire to bring two lives together as one. 

Using knitting terms, she compares “casting on,” the beginning of a new project, to a new relationship, noting that one must not be too lax or too tight. She talks of knowing when to unravel or “tink” — knit spelled backward — when you’ve made a mistake. 

Liner took her show to last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland and, after additional polishing, plans to perform it there again this year. I was impressed with Sweater Curse when Our Productions Theatre Co. presented it at the MCL Grand Theater in Lewisville in December. I’m more impressed now. 

Danny O’Connor’s Bouncing Ugly enthralls with colorfully told tales of his days as a bouncer at the Coyote Ugly Saloon in New York City. O’Connor is a terrific storyteller who shows you how tough he is, then reveals his vulnerability by sharing his dream of being a famous actor. He brings up painful questions: What do you do when your dreams don’t come true? What do you do when the person you love gives you an ultimatum of your dreams or her? Can and should dreams change over time? These are rich ideas worth further exploration; one wonders how many of the people he bounced struggled with these issues. 

John Michael’s Crossing Your I’s grabs you immediately as he enters on a bicycle arguing with unseen motorists. He takes you on a journey of an angry young man who learns unexpected lessons from dementia patients. He doesn’t like lying, but learns how lies can get a particular patient to eat. He doesn’t want to tell an adult whom he’s helping with a diaper that he loves him. But after telling the patient that, he starts to feel it. 

This world-premiere show is rough around the edges. Michael introduces elements that he needs to clarify, but it’s a thoughtful show with smart visual details, including vivid masks by Ely Sellers used to suggest patients. It’s worthy of further development. 

Plan your life Continues through May 25, with Bouncing Ugly (55 mins.) Saturday and Sunday; Crossing Your I’s (40 mins.) Friday and Sweater Curse: A Yarn About Love (65 mins.) Sunday and May 25 at the Margo Jones Theatre in the Magnolia Lounge at Fair Park, 1121 First Ave., Dallas. $12 per show, $55 pass for all shows. 214-888-6650.

Original post HERE

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Dallas Observer: Dallas Solo Fest preview

Deanna Fleysher in Butt Kapinski

Inaugural Dallas Solo Fest promises Laughs with Eight Shows

Dallas Observer | Danielle Georgiou | May 14, 2014

Are you ready for some kick-ass theatre? Brad McEntire is ready to give it to you, if you think you can handle it. Opening Thursday and running until May 25, the Dallas Solo Fest, under McEntire's helm, is packed full of entertainment to take you out of your weekend rut. 

With an aim to expose Dallas audiences to a variety of solo performances, the Fest is actually helping to establish a new turn of phrase. We can say bye-bye to the old "one-man show" routine. There are no gender specifications here. It's just about the solo act, now. From men, women, and a few sweaters. Coming together at the Margo Jones Theatre inside the Magnolia Lounge inside Fair Park (it's like one of those Russian stacking dolls). 

Forgive me for a second while I give a brief geography lesson: It can be a bit difficult to locate the Magnolia Lounge. If you're lost in Fair Park, just look for the balcony draped with twinkling colorful lights. That's the Magnolia Lounge, and thus, the Margo Jones Theatre (also, it's across from the Old Mill Inn). 

Now, back to the single, sole, solitary matter at hand: The Dallas Solo Fest. In its inaugural year, McEntire is reaching high. Not only has he curated 3 local artists for the two-week run--crowd favorite John Michael (Crossing Your I's), up-and-coming comedian Danny O'Conner (Bouncing Ugly), and our own Elaine Liner (Sweater Curse: A Yarn About Love)--he has reached out to the national community inviting five artists to come in and spend the first part of their summer in Dallas. Those five artists are: Deanna Fleysher (Butt Kapinski), Veronica Russell (A Different Woman), Zeb. L. West (Innocent When You Dream), David Mogolov (Eating My Garbage), and Alexandra Tatasky (Beast of Festive Skin). Collectively, these performers represent a wide variety of solo performance styles from storytelling, puppetry, and improvisational clown pieces, to pieces that defy easy explanation. 

"I'm hugely excited about the fest," says McEntire. "As it has moved closer and closer and I have gotten to know the performers more and more and I have grown more excited about the shows...particularly the weirder ones from further afield." 

He's right, there are definitely some weird ones in the bunch. Shows that you don't usually get to see in Dallas. I asked McEntire to give me a quick and dirty lowdown on each weekend, and what he was particularly excited about for each offering. 

For the first weekend, his selections are Tatarsky's Beast of Festive Skin and Mogolov's Eating My Garbage

Tatarksy is from New York and had a spat of Internet infamy last year as Andy Kaufman's alleged daughter. She has a background in Russian Literature and a love of Absurdism. With her show, she takes us to an open mic night in Hell. 

"She's got all these sorts of failed performers, people who had dreamt big and been forgotten, you know, people who desperately wanted to be something other than they were. They all kind of meet up in the afterlife and are forced to reinvent themselves anew through performance. She seems really interested in the idea of what happens when you have no other option but to create," says McEntire. 

It sounds like this show is going to spur those pesky Existential questions, like, "What is life?" "What is pain?" "Am I dead?" "Are you living?" "What happens when you have to face your demons?" Well, luckily, Tatarsky is in the hot seat this time, so she can answer those questions.  
Another reason to catch this show: One of her characters is a talking mound of dirt. Beckett is both laughing and crying from his grave right now. 

Imagine if Mike Daisey and Spalding Grey had a that your brain has quietly exploded, that baby would be Mogolov. A Boston-based monologist, his work is inherently autobiographical and confessional. He always directly addresses the audience and keeps his stage bare, but of a few scenic elements such as a chair and a desk. Yet, unlike Daisey's bombastic anger or Gray's rambling introspection, Mogolov has a slightly bent sensibility that blends naive optimism and hardened cynicism. His work is personal, layered, hyper intelligent and relentlessly hilarious. Actually, he reminds McEntire of George Carlin. Winner! 

David Mogolov in Eating My Garbage at the 2014 Dallas Solo Fest

"Eating My Garbage explores the fragmented state of the Union. It kicks off when David receives a phone call from a political pollster who sounds like Laura Linney," McEntire explains. "She asks him, 'Do you believe that the nation is going in the right direction or that we've gotten off on the wrong track?'" 

With President Obama is in the midst of his second term, this piece couldn't be more apropos. Then, in the second weekend, the ladies are taking center stage, with Fleysher's Butt Kapinski and Russell's A Different Woman. 

"Fleysher is coming in from Los Angeles and overlaps a lot of the worlds I dabble in: improvisation, clowning, and solo work. Her title character is this crazy detective that is a kind of a cross between Elmer Fudd and Sam Spade," says McEntire. "She incorporates the audience in this manic film noir mystery. If I wasn't producing the fest, this might be the show I'd make sure I didn't miss as an audience member." 

Russell, who is from New Orleans, takes us back to Texas, with her obsession with Gertrude Beasley, a Texas woman from the early 1890s who grew up in the harshest poverty to become a world-travelling journalist and feminist. Her life is incredible and mysterious, and Russell takes a chunk of Beasley's childhood and adapts a large part of it from the controversial 1925 banned book Beasley wrote called My First Thirty Years. The piece, A Different Woman, centers on her growing up in Abilene. It is relentlessly haard-hitting, punctuated with these moments of pitch black humor. 

While these are just a selection of what McEntire is hosting, we can't forget about our hometown friends. The local acts are killer, I can attest to that, as I've seen John Michael's previous works and I saw Liner's A Sweater Curse this winter. 

There is also Austin performer Zeb West, whose show Innocent When You Dream has our main man trapped in the belly of a whale. A heartbroken castaway swallowed by a beast is driven mad by the only two books the whale has so kindly gifted him to read--Don Quixote and Moby Dick. He acts out the books using puppets and masks fashioned from flotsam (environmental/green theatre is so hot right now) and sings sea shanties to help set the mood. 

"Just make reservations and come out to the theatre," says McEntire. You had me at weird and sea shanties, sir. 

Single tickets and festival passes are on sale now. Festival passes include one admission to each festival show and are $55. Individual tickets prices for each show are $12. Reservations can be made at the Dallas Solo Fest website or by calling (214) 888-6650. Details about the shows, artists' biographies, the full schedule, and ticket information at:

Original article HERE