Archive for the Contemporary Variety Category

Tammy Faye Starlite is Back (and My Rave About Her is Up)

Posted in Art Stars, Comedy, Contemporary Variety, Crackers, CRITICISM/ REVIEWS, Indie Theatre, Jews/ Show Biz, Singers, Singing Comediennes with tags , , , , , , on September 21, 2016 by travsd

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I caught opening night of Tammy Faye Starlite in Holy War 2016 at Pangea and it was every bit as dazzling as I knew it would be. Read my rave here in Chelsea Nowhttp://chelseanow.com/2016/09/the-transcendent-tension-of-tammy-faye-starlite/

For Talk Like a Pirate Day: Trav S.D.’s “Sea of Love”

Posted in Art Models/ Bathing Beauties/ Beauty Queens/ Burlesque Dancers/ Chorines/ Pin-Ups/ Sexpots/ Vamps, Burlesk, Coney Island, Contemporary Variety, HOLIDAYS/ FESTIVALS/ MEMORIALS/ PARADES, Indie Theatre, LEGIT, EXPERIMENTAL & MUSICAL THEATRE, ME, My Shows, Summer Solstice/ Mermaid Parade with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2016 by travsd

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All things considered we give our plays short shrift here (and elsewhere,I think) and one of our New Year’s resolutions is to make amends by plugging them aggressively. The best way to make your New Year’s resolution come true is to get to work on it several months early.

Fortunately, we have a handy “way in” to talk about one of my plays today, it being INTERNATIONAL TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY and all. Trav S.D.’s Sea of Love is basically an extended “talk like a pirate” nautical riff, structured as a series of crashing ocean waves. It has had many lives.

It began as a two-hander about a couple on a date, which I began developing as a student at Trinity Rep Conservatory in 1987. It begins with the galling premise of a prudish young man rebuffing the scary advances of a highly open and sexual female co-worker whose trippy monologue provided its original title, Love Embrace at 50 Fathoms. It was a Gilligan and Ginger scenario, if you will.

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A couple of years later (1989) I attended the Coney Island Mermaid Parade for the first time, and that inspired me to take the play where it eventually went, an over the top fantasy scenario, where the date is first invaded by the young man’s equally sexual and forward mother “Mrs. Paul”, and then the ghost of his pirate father “Long John”. This version was produced at the now defunct Vortex Theatre, and featured my good friend Sarah McCord Williams as “Gidget” and her then-boyfriend Brian Price as the hero “Bildad”. Coney Island performer Sailorman Jack opened the show with a set of sea chanteys.

In the early ’90s I directed yet another version at the old Village Gate, which is now Le Poisson Rouge. I think at this stage I had the effrontery to call it Wet Dreams, which is gross, but actually fits the theme.

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Tony Millionaire designed the postcard for the 2002 edition

Then in 2002 came what I consider the definitive version of Sea of Love, at the Ohio Theatre’s Ice Factory Festival. For this one, I pulled out all the stops. I introduced a dance chorus number, choreographed by the one and only Julie Atlas Muz, and featuring several key burlesque dancers as the “Naughty Nereids”, including the legendary Bambi the Mermaid (THE Coney Island Mermaid Parade Mermaid), Kate Valentine (a.k.a Mistress Astrid), Lin Gathright (a.k.a. Miss Bunny Love) and others. The lovely Moira Stone sang my song “Love of the Ocean” for a curtain raiser.

Stone (right), with Sarah Jane Bunker, who played Gidget, backstage at the Ohio

Stone (right), with Sarah Jane Bunker, who played Gidget, backstage at the Ohio

And I added another wave of craziness in the person of the Great God Poseidon, played by Robert Pinnock wearing nothing but a thong and a green afro wig. Jeff Lewonczyk played Bildad’s mother Mrs. Paul (in drag, natch), and Bildad was to be played by the multi-talented writer-comedian (and former Fox commentator) John Devore. 

I was extremely jazzed to play the part of the pirate — in fact, that was kind of the whole point (see the publicity photo at top). But just before opening night Devore suffered a tragic death in the family, and (as I have had to do so often in the past), I had to understudy for him, re-envisioning the pirate by having Adam Swiderski and Dan Maccarone play the body (at different shows), with Pinnock supplying the voice offstage through a microphone. Then we closed out the show by having the entire cast sing the Donovan song “Atlantis”.

As too often happens when I write/direct/produce/ and star in something, little (sometimes major) things fall through the cracks. All too often it has happened that I forgot to arrange for photographs of the production! Thus there is no photographic record of this  show. I have video of it, but it’s kind of rough (at least my copy is), and so I really only have memories.

And then there was additional life. In 2007 we did a commemorative reading of the play at Coney Island USA, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the parade.

And then that terrific resource Indie Theater Now made it available to purchase! It’s yours to peruse and (hopefully) produce at this link:

http://www.indietheaternow.com/Play/sea-of-love

Circus Amok 2016!

Posted in Acrobats and Daredevils, Bearded Ladies, Circus, Comedy, Contemporary Variety, CRITICISM/ REVIEWS, Dime Museum and Side Show, Jugglers, PLUGS, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , on September 12, 2016 by travsd

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We were fortunate to catch opening day of Circus Amok’s 2016 touring season yesterday at the Abrons Arts Center. It’s a more stripped down, lean and mean show this year, with a smaller cast and fewer sets, elaborate masks, or costumes (and, I believe, a shorter show).

I hope I won’t get in trouble by saying I liked it BETTER. This kind of cut-to-the-chase brevity, simplicity, and economy is a vaudeville VIRTUE, and that’s what I saw yesterday. One act in particular, mixing opera and two performers playing the same accordion, was a BOFFO vaudeville turn. Another act — the sight of artistic director, star, m.c. and woman-with-a-beard Jennifer Miller escaping from a straightjacket to the tune of the old disco hit “I Will Survive” — made me weep at the sheer beauty of it, even though I’d seen it many times before! And weeping is vaudeville (it certainly isn’t burlesque, sideshow or circus). And yesterday WAS September 11 — I imagine I was subconsciously mining every particle of pleasure out of the show I possibly could. I enjoyed it that much. And that’s vaudeville, too. It was either vaudeville or sunstroke. (The concrete outdoor amphitheater at Abrons is like sitting at the focal point of a solar panel.)

But cooler weather is upon us! And Circus Amok will be playing (for free!) at a public park near you (if you live in New York City) through September 18. The full schedule is here.

And now some more pictures!

This very funny ringer did walkaround. It says something about New York that it took me a second to make her as a clown. I've seen crazy people on the street with this much powder or white cream on their face at least 3 dozen times

This very funny ringer did walkaround. It says something about New York that it took me a second to make her for a clown. I’ve seen crazy people on the street with this much powder or white cream on their face at least 3 dozen times. Anyway, she got the whole crowd to yell and scream, which is very fun, because you couldn’t help picturing what people on the sidewalk must have thought as they were walking by

Balancing the ladder on her chin was plenty impressive, but I couldn't resist wishing a little person would appear and clamber up the ladder and jump onto that nearby balcony

Balancing the ladder on her chin was plenty impressive, but I couldn’t resist wishing a little person would appear and clamber up that ladder and jump onto that nearby balcony

No lions were harmed during the production of this circus

No lions were harmed during the production of this circus

Kita St. Cyr’s New Show Tonight!

Posted in Burlesk, Contemporary Variety, PLUGS with tags , , , on September 10, 2016 by travsd

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The Overshare Cabaret

Posted in Comedy, Contemporary Variety, CRITICISM/ REVIEWS, Indie Theatre, PLUGS, Singers, Singing Comediennes with tags , , , on September 9, 2016 by travsd

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It may be as long as ten years ago since I last saw my old friend Mel Delancey on stage. Let’s just say that it was long enough ago that she was still in an improv troupe with her (now ex) husband and their headline act was John Oliver — try and book him nowadays, anybody I know! And I won’t “age” us both by revealing how far we go back, although I can divulge that it was in Ian W. Hill’s adaptation of Ed Wood’s The Violent Years, I believe. Mel and I even had a “making out” scene, although I never actually touched her face, for fear that I would smear my pencil-thin mustache. Anyway, in the years since then, she’s gotten divorced, and gone on 150 failed Tinder dates, which she made a show about and was reported in this NY Post article last year.

Thanks for taking this last night, whoever took this!

Thanks for taking this last night, whoever took this!

After months of good intentions, I finally got over to see her Overshare Cabaret at 13th Street Rep last night, and had a capital time. It is exactly what the name suggests: a cabaret-style variety show, with occasional forays into the embarrassing — usually the sexually embarrassing. It dances around the boundaries in a playful way, but I will say that you’re mighty square indeed if her envelope-pushing is too much for you (although she definitely pushes it).

One thing I particularly love about the show is its raw informality. It is precisely my preferred aesthetic, relaxed, inclusive, friendly and almost family like, and with almost no line at all between the stage and the audience.  My bete noir is technology in the theatre, and I especially hate microphones and amplifiers which to my mind separate performers from audience in an intrusive way. In Mel’s show, performers are unplugged and lettin’ it all hang out, right over there. Things they are not: perfect, artificial, soulless, song production superhuman gymnasts. Things they are: funny, charming, lovable, accessible, natural.

Last night’s theme was “Shame and Scandal” and was co-hosted by Amy Overman, who sort of played Ed McMahon to Mel’s Johnny (now I’m definitely dating myself), and also drank real or pretend vodka by the tumblerful, and recited Edna St. Vincent Millay poems. The show opened on a strong note with Mel’s rewritten version of “Try to Remember” from The Fantasticks (the jist of which can be gleaned from the fact that the recurring verse-ending word “follow” is here replaced with “swallow”). Other treats included our own Bob Laine, doing a crazy acid fueled monologue. I’d heard that he used to do these monologues years ago, but in all this time I’d never heard one. It did not disappoint, as it was hilarious, crazy and profound in its way all at the same time. We got to meet Mel’s sister Jennifer Delancey who also sang on the bill…aas well aas her old high school friend “Goobs”, who sang “Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend” by The Mr. T. Experience...the HIGHLY entertaining Evelyn Sullivan pulled off (pulled out?) the evening’s most polished all around performance in a turn that included great patter, vocals, comic chops, and (miraculously) male full frontal…Katelyn Bailey sang Gilda Radner’s “Let’s Talk Dirty to the Animals”…Bryanna Tyson and Peter Graham sang Kander and Ebb’s “Money” from Cabaret …and the whole cast sang Cole Porter’s “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” and Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”. This was just some of it.

They’re doing it again tomorrow (September 10) and the show returns in new editions with new casts every month. To stay in the Mel Delancey loop, go here.

Vaudeville Benefit for Louisiana Flood Victims This Fri

Posted in BROOKLYN, Contemporary Variety, Indie Theatre, PLUGS, SOCIAL EVENTS with tags , , , , , on September 6, 2016 by travsd

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Burlesque at Bedford Hall Tonight

Posted in BROOKLYN, Burlesk, Contemporary Variety, PLUGS with tags , , , on September 6, 2016 by travsd

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