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 | | 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

        Saturday, July 22, 2017

        TheaterJones Q&A: Audacity Theatre Lab's The Great Dictator

        Steph Garrett in The Great Dictator

        Jaymes Gregory, Steph Garrett and Leslie Patrick discuss adapting and performing in a 50-minute play of Charlie Chaplin's film The Great Dictator for the 19th Festival of Independent Theatres.

         | | published Friday, July 21, 2017

        Dallas — Opening the second weekend of shows at the Festival of Independent Theatres is Audacity Theatre Lab with Jaymes Gregory’s adaptation of Charlie Chaplin’s The Great DictatorGregory transformed the two-hour film into 50 minutes with only four cast members. TheaterJones sat down with Gregory and two performers, Steph Garrett and Leslie Patrick.

        TheaterJones: Why adapt one of Chaplin’s most famous films for FIT?

        Jaymes Gregory: It’s an adaptation I’ve wanted to do or a long time, since undergrad. I was talking to Brad and Ruth McEntire in December and they asked “Do you want to do our FIT show this year? I said, “Yeah, I haven’t done one in a while.” And on the spot they said, “Great, what do you want to do?”

        And the thing with Audacity their mission is is they only do original works so I can’t just pull something from my library. So, I thought of something off the top of my head in that conversation. “I’ll do The Great Dictator.” And so I did it.

        How did you go about adapting this for the stage?

        JG: I watched the film again a lot. The hard thing with the film is that there are so many subplots. There’s so much going on, and so much business to it. Doing a straight up adaptation wasn’t going to fly.

        Steph Garrett: It’s also like two-plus hours.

        JG: It’s one of his longer films and it’s gorgeous.  The whole thing is beautiful. So what I had to do was figure out what meat and bones are. What’s the main spine of it? And then I started hacking everything off of that. I cut characters. Like, there’s a character that’s a part of a large subplot, but he’s useless without that subplot. Some of this character’s gags had to go.

        It’s basically stripping down to the main story and what is iconic about this film. In doing that, it kept everything in there that keeps Chaplin’s vision intact, the flavor and feel of the piece intact. The adaptation also stripped out a lot of historical stuff, which I think makes it more relevant.

        JG: Chaplin resisted talking in films for forever, because that was his form. He did City Lights which was his first big film because it had one sound effect in it.

        TJ: Chaplin is known for his tramp character and silent film performance, does this film follow that form?

        JG: If I were to kind of rate Chaplin films it would be The Kid, City Lights and The Great Dictator. And Modern Times has some talking to, which is right before The Great Dictator. But Chaplin doesn't do the talking. The Great Dictator is the first one with full talking and he did it purposefully to kill the tramp character.

        Leslie Patrick: Throughout most of the movie, Chaplin talks but he doesn’t talk a lot. It’s a lot of little short lines. But at the end, he unloads.

        JG: Yeah, the tramp in the film doesn’t talk much, one-liners here and there. And in the end, it builds up and explodes.

        TJ: Steph, you’re playing the Chaplin character in this adaptation. How has that been stepping into such an iconic actor’s work?

        SG: It’s so good. I love it when it’s like let’s give a female a chance to do something bold and epic and legendary. Something we’ve all discussed about it, I’m playing the Hinkel Jewish Barber, which Chaplin did and everyone else was singular whatever. We’re bringing the essence of Chaplin to the role, but not trying to dodge the fact that I’m not Charlie Chaplin, and neither are you. No one is. And I’m a female so I’m not going to do it exactly the way he did.  I’m sort of infusing his essence in my interpretation.

        How are you breaking down the other roles?

        JG: We’re doing the two-and-a-half hour film with four people in 50 minutes.

        LP: I’m playing about five people. So it’s an interesting thing. Chad [Cline] and I were talking about it today. Jaymes gave all the meaty stuff to the girls, and the guys are more bit players that jump in and out. I have giant pages of talking and monologues and Steph talks for three pages straight. I think Jaymes gave us the heavy lifting in this play and I think it’s great.

        JG: The main character Leslie is playing, it’s like that in the film. I would say it’s the driving character in the film.

        LP: Yes, Chaplin wrote a very strong woman which is amazing, especially for that time period.

        JG: And the type of man he was.

        LP: But he loved women.

        JG: One of the things we did to make it more theatrical is to use the point of the film, that Chaplin’s tramp character looks like Hitler. So Chaplin does this doppelganger thing the whole time between the Jewish Barber and Hitler. In the end they swap places.

        When I was boiling it down to four actors I thought, “Why is it just stuck with Chaplin’s characters?” So in my adaptation, everyone has a doppelganger or another side of the coin to themselves. They play polar opposites. Leslie plays so many people, and one of her characters stages a mass massacre and kills 3000 people. And she comes back and plays a survivor of the massacre. Everybody has some double character that they have a relationship with.

        TJ: Why do you believe this play is relevant for a 2017 audience?

        SG: I don’t think we’re explicitly blatant about it in the script, because I think this is a very faithful adaptation. There are quite a few times where I had to go back to the movie because I was wondering if all this stuff was really in there. Like “fake news” and stuff, but it’s all there.

        One of the themes we’ve been talking about is listening, and also humanity. When we have these two sides that are so charged up, have we gone too far?

        In the film’s final speech it’s as though Chaplin drops any sort of character and he’s just talking to the human race. So often we’re told that humanity is doomed and that we’re awful people. But he’s saying no, men have love in their hearts. We don’t hate. We love.

        JG: Yeah, the last word of the play is “Listen.” And to me, when that moment hits it’s so completely different from the rest of the play. It’s almost like Everyman talking now. I guess it is a modern Everyman play.

        TJ: You’ve all done FIT before, what makes you come back to this festival?

        LP: It’s kind of like guerrilla theatre. It’s like going back to your college theatre and throwing something together. There’s something exhilarating about it. The rules are different. An established theatre has a specific audience and you can’t stray too far when you’re choosing shows. You have to think, “Will my audience watch this?” But with FIT it’s different. There’s something freeing about that. All of these theatre companies are working together to do this. It’s very scrappy. There’s more of a camaraderie and it’s more fun.

        JG: I had a show in FIT back in 2005 with Audacity that I wrote and directed as well [called Gospel of the Junkyard]. It was an awesome opportunity. And then, from that experience, I joined on to be the lighting designer for FIT for roughly the following five years. Now I’m back in with Audacity doing this, and back at FIT.

        To me, it’s like a certain kind of theatre you got through your college years. They tell you to enjoy it because you’ll never be able to do this kind of work again for the rest of your days. FIT is saying, “No that’s not true, we can keep doing that.” There’s an audience and place for you to do what you want to do. It’s a more relaxed place where you can see talented people make art.

        » The Great Dictator opens Friday, July 21, to be followed in the same performance block by Jeff Swearingen's The Caveman Play from The Basement.

        The Great Dictator is performed in the following blocks:
              • 8 p.m. Friday, July 21
              • 5 p.m. Saturday, July 22
              • 8 p.m. Thursday, July 27
              • 2 p.m. Saturday, July 29
              • 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 4
              • 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5
              See more info about the 2017 Festival of Independent Theatres schedule here.

              Original post... HERE

              Wednesday, July 19, 2017

     THE GREAT DICTATOR to play at the 2017 Festival of Independent Theatres

              Audacity Theatre Lab to Premiere THE GREAT DICTATOR at FIT 2017
              Steph Garrett in The Great Dictator
              by  |   |    Jul. 19, 2017  

              [Dallas, TX] – Audacity Theatre Lab has announced the World-Premiere of Jaymes Gregory’s new stage adaptation of the original 1940 Charlie Chaplin satire The Great Dictator at the 2017 Festival of Independent Theatres running July 14- August 5th.

              The Great Dictator will be adapted and directed by Jaymes Gregory. The play is set in the fictional country of “Tomania” which has fallen to the tyrant dictator Hynkel and his party, the double cross. A group of Jewish citizens led by a barber who is identical to the ruthless dictator, rebel and seek out peace.

              Featuring a four-person cast made up of Steph Garrett, Chad Cline, Leslie Patrick and Robert Shores the show will be staged to have each character represent antipodal traits using mask, mime, and an expressionist setting. Costumes by Jamie Little Puente. Stage management by Victoria Irvine. Jaymes Gregory designs and directs his own adaptation.

              As for bringing to the stage this cinema classic, Gregory cited the current political and social landscape as part of the impetus for tackling the adaptation.

              “As I was working on the adaptation, I quickly realized I couldn’t do a piece in the time we live called The Great Dictator and not fill it with at least some topical material,” Gregory said. “I couldn’t ignore current politics, but the piece offered so much to explore. It hits on perspectives of human kindness, equality, crime, nationalism and on and on.”

              “It has become a great outlet for not only myself, but the cast,” said Gregory. “I think we all are looking for a vehicle through which to say something. This project ended up being that for myself, the cast, and, hopefully, will be for the audience as well.”

              The Great Dictator is playing as part of the 19th Annual Festival of Independent Theatres at the Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive, Dallas TX  75218. Performances are July 21 at 8:00 pm, July 22 at 5:00 pm, July 27 at 8:00 pm, July 29 at 5:00 pm, August 4 at 8:00 pm, and August 5 at 2:00 pm. 

              Tickets available at: . For more information visit the Audacity Theatre Lab website at:

              Original post... HERE

              Actor Spotlight: Steph Garrett

              How a Puppet-Wielding Dallas Supertaster Strikes Comedy Gold Onstage

              Chad Cline and Robert Shore with Steph Garrett in ATL's The Great Dictator

              By Lindsey Wilson   |   7.13.17    |     CultureMap Dallas
              Steph Garrett is Dallas-Fort Worth's hardest-working character actor, having played old, young, and even canine (several times). Now she's playing male — Charlie Chaplin, to be specific — in Audacity Theatre Lab's entry for the Festival of Independent TheatresThe Great Dictator.
              Filmed in 1940, The Great Dictator was Chaplin's most commercially successful film, and his first to fully transition from silent to "talkie." It satirizes and condemns Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, with Chaplin playing both a fascist dictator and the persecuted Jewish barber with whom he crosses paths.
              In Audacity's stage version, which was adapted by director Jaymes Gregory, Garrett tackles both of Chaplin's roles. It's a challenge that Garrett, who has been consistently praised for her physical skills and has been called "comedy gold," is more than equipped to meet.
              FIT was established in 1998 as a way to showcase local theater companies that lacked a permanent performance space. The two-week festival, which is held at the Bath House Cultural Center on White Rock Lake, pairs eight one-act plays in two-show blocks that run in repertory from July 14-August 5.
              Before The Great Dictator opens on July 21 (see the full FIT schedule here), Garrett took the time to fill out our survey of serious, fun, and sometimes ridiculous questions.
              Name: Steph Garrett
              Role in The Great DictatorHynkel, the Dictator of Tomania/A Jewish Barber
              Previous work in the DFW area: I have been fortunate enough to work with Theatre Three, Upstart Productions, Dallas Children’s Theater, The Drama Club, Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts, Amphibian Stage Productions, and many more. Highlights include: FaustThe Miraculous Journey of Edward TulaneWaiting for Lefty, and the recent comedy show A Brief, Endless Love by Matt Lyle.
              Hometown: Colorado Springs, CO
              Where you currently reside: Dallas, TX
              First theater role: Blind Girl Number 4 in a production of The Miracle Worker.
              First stage show you ever saw: I think it was Beauty and the Beast.
              Moment you decided to pursue a career in theater: My mom hugged me tightly after a show one time and said, “You know, I think you’ve got something really special. I think you have quite a gift. You could do this for a living.”
              Most challenging role you’ve played: I did a one-woman-show version of 4.48 Psychosis [a play by British writer Sarah Kane, which has has no explicit characters or stage directions].
              Special skills: I can play the saxophone, oboe, ukulele, drums, and other instruments. I am a puppeteer, a therapeutic clown, and work with adults and children with diverse needs. Oh! I also make really great nachos, am an expert parallel parker, and can lift slightly more than you’d think.
              Something you’re REALLY bad at: Choosing which restaurant to go to...
              Current pop culture obsession: Does the Game of Thrones season 7 premiere count!?
              Last book you read: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
              Favorite movie(s): The Little PrinceFried Green TomatoesWhat Dreams May ComeInception
              Favorite musician(s): Muse, Rachel’s, Coldplay, S Club 7
              Favorite song: “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
              Dream role: Peter Pan
              Favorite play(s): Noel Coward’s Brief Encounter, adapted by Emma Rice; The Crucible by Arthur Miller, and Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire.
              Favorite musical(s): Finding Nemo — The Musical
              Favorite actors/actresses: Gilda Radner, Robin Williams, Amy Sedaris, Jim Carrey, Catherine O’Hara
              Favorite food: Pizza!
              Must-see TV show(s): Game of ThronesBlack MirrorThe Walking Dead
              Something most people don’t know about you: I am a supertaster. That is a person who experiences the sense of taste with far greater intensity than average.
              Place in the world you’d most like to visit: I want to see the Seven Wonders of the World.
              Pre-show warm-up: It depends on the show. Normally it involves some variation of stretching, connecting with cast and crew members, vocal warm-ups, and watching cute baby otter videos on YouTube.
              Favorite part about your current role: The opportunity to play characters originated by a legend.
              Most challenging part about your current project: Putting an iconic film on stage with only four actors and limited sets, lights, and other technical elements. For my characters, the challenge is creating the essence of Charlie Chaplin while infusing my own interpretation.
              Most embarrassing onstage mishap: I was doing a show where I had to drive a remote control car. I was driving it around the stage when another actor got in my line of sight, and I ended up LAUNCHING it off the stage and into the audience. Of course it hit an elderly lady in the face.
              Career you’d have if you weren’t in theater: Pilot, explorer, camp director, EMT.
              Favorite post-show spot: Lakewood Landing
              Favorite thing about Dallas-Forth Worth: The community of artists we have. And the queso.
              Most memorable theater moment: The opening dance sequence of Faust was euphoric. We danced to ingenious lighting, sound, and choreography and were led by the show’s fearless and inspiring creators. Being surrounded by the passion and commitment from that cast and the entire team on that dance floor is something I will never forget.

              Original article... HERE