Monday, February 21, 2022

Theatre: Beat Box Baby

Freestyle Love Supreme - Conceived by Anthony Veneziale, Created by Thomas Kail, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Anthony Veneziale, Directed by Thomas Kail, Seattle Rep through 13 March.

So, let me be honest with you. I go into these plays pretty blind. I may read the summary when we ordered season tickets, but that was months ago. I don't read the preliminary press, the interviews in the Seattle Times, the promos over on the Stranger. Yeah, Lin-Manuel Miranda's name is evoked for this one in that awed "before he got famous" tone. My first warning of what is to come is usually the program book. Of course I still get a program book. I'm not an animal, you know.

In any event, my first warning for Freestyle Love Supreme (FLS from here on in) was the magenta and blue lights that swept the audience and got in our eyes. The stage itself is a wall of speakers with FLS logoed prominently (All about the branding). The actors all have rap names. The program book has a bug-splat qr code that allows you to suggest a word to be worked into the performance. The crew arrives, and, after a number on "Mike Check" introducing the team, start taking suggestions from the floor on what to rap about.

Yep, it is hip-hop improv. Lord have mercy on us all.

And yet, despite settling deep into my seat, pulling my cap down to protect my eyes, and preparing to grumble my way through the hour and half performance, I had a good time, and by the end was bopping and rocking with the rest of the audience, a mix of older regulars and younger families (I blame Encanto). It was light. It was fluffy. The rhymes were dope without being dopey. One of the suggested words was "narwhale". It was cute, and most of all, it was entertaining.

The crew is tight without being a fright (OK, I will stop doing that). Andre (Jelly Donut) Bancroft is one of the founders of the FLS academy and acts as MC, wheedling words and situations out of the audience, who in turn quickly warms to him. Anthony (Two Touch) Veneziale is a founder and one of the show's creators, and comes off as sort of the Dad of the group. Jay C (Jellis J) Ellis is the most physical of the assembly, twisting and turning as he raps. Aneesa (Young Nees) Folds has a wonderful, powerful voice, but the breakout is Kaila (Kaiser Roze) Mullady, who is a fantastic beat-boxer. Yeah, yeah, for all you folk who haven't thought about beat-boxing since the guy on Police Academy, let me say the craft has advanced and she's a wonder to behold. Musical beats are provided by Richard (Rich Midway) Baskin Jr and James (Not Draggin) Rushin. 

So, Jelly Donut wraggles words and situations out of the audience, and they tangle their raps around it. Word choices, things you hate (Big score there with "Girl Pockets"), things you love (Nature), embarrassing situations (someone who as a kid confused exlax with chocolate), and wrapped up with rapping about someone's day so far. They hit gold with that one - a young woman who was attending the show with her mom, boyfriend, and five aunts, who had been teaching belly-dancing that morning and had a local-legend, now-retired belly dancer named Mish-Mish attend the class. Those are the mileposts of this particular show, and the journey the crew weaves through them is both entertaining and impressive. Your mileage WILL vary, because that's the point of it all. 

So. Not the deepest of dives ever to develop on the Rep stage, but still pure enjoyment and a very pleasant way to spend an overcast, rainy day in Seattle. Just keep the lights our of my ancient eyes.

More later, 

Sunday, February 13, 2022

The Political Desk: Quick Shot Results

You folks know the drill. It takes a while to process all the ballots for a mail-in election, so it will be a little while before know for certain. Still, early results see that most of the School Board measures are passing, including Kent School District No. 415 Proposition No. 1 Replacement of Expiring Educations Programs and Operations Levy.

The KCD results are a little quicker, in that they were totally on-line this year. Kirsten Haugen is dominating the race with 70% of the vote, but only three-quarters a percent of eligible voters (of less than 10,000 voters total) cast their ballots. That ain't a great result.

But here's an interesting thing. One of the candidates, Dominique Torgeson, gave a nice, balanced candidate statement, finishing up with "KCD is a non-partisan organization. I shall not seek the endorsement of any politician or political party." She may not has sought it out, but this spam DM showed up on my phone right before the deadline.

"Hi, Richard. I am Jay for ElectTorgeron-R. Official Online Election of King Conservation District has begun. You will not get a ballot in the mail., We need every conservative Vote for Torgerson! Please go to the official website [Link] Tks STOP to Stop"

Yeah, first of all, I'm not Richard, but I get messages for him all the time - usually conservative pitches. But that's not the thing - The thing is that while such positions are listed as non-partisan, the candidates may be as partisan as they choose to be - they just don't have to tell you. So we have to dig a bit more to find out where the support is coming from. 

So NOW we're done. At least until the next primary. I hope.

More later,

Sunday, February 06, 2022

Theatre: They Did The Mash

Monsters of the American Cinema by Christian St. Croix Directed by Lamar Legend, Arts West, through 20 February

Let me not bury the lede on this; The Lovely Bride loved this play. I did not care much for it. Yes, our marriage will sustain such a bitter disagreement.

Let me tell you what The LB liked about it. The actors were excellent, the characters felt real, and the story was poignant. Lamar Legend (also the director) is Remy, a 30(mumble) gay black man who runs a drive-in in the deeper-red part of San Diego County. He got the drive-in from his late husband. He also got a white, straight step-son, in the process - Pup (Alexander Kilian). And the two have a great relationship, bound together both by their love of monster movies and the ghost of their deceased spouse and father. Legend brings out all of Remy's mother-henning and protectiveness, while Kilian get's Pup's gangly teenagehood and affability as well as his haunting nightmares. But when there is a gay-bullying incident at a homecoming dance, Remy has to face up that Pup is growing up, and not in the best possible way.

All of the above is true. So what's my problem?

It's all in the delivery. The set design, of the interior of their trailer, including the roof where they watch monster movies on the big screen has too many blocking sight lines for the seats. One of the climactic scenes of Pup crawling about on the floor would be more poignant if the sink hadn't been blocking the view. The final scene, on the roof of the trailer, might as well have been on radio. There may have been great acting involved (and no doubt there was), but I didn't see it. 

Theatre in the round often demands a sparsity of props and the ability to play to all angles easily. We've Battled Monsters Before did this. The wood-frame of the trailer basically forced the actors to the perimeter and held them there, so they played to a fraction of the small audience at a time. 

But wait, their's more. Protracted blackouts between scenes for minor set changes broke up the flow. The pacing of the play itself was a collection of present-action, monologues, memories, and nightmares, and telling which one was currently running and how it fits into the larger story was difficult. Putting the audience off-balance is not a bad thing, but too much of it became frustrating. 

The worst of it was that, during the play, I started thinking about what would fix this. That's a terrible thing, and something I do while watching movies too much (which is why you don't see a lot of movie reviews here). Probably a more traditional stage design, pushing the stage back into the north seats would provide better sightlines (I know they've done that before). But the point is, I should not be trying to implement change when the play is in motion. It is not quite as bad (or as visible) as falling asleep in a performance, but still bad in view of what is happening on stage. 

And that's frustrating, because what the Lovely Bride said was right. Legend and Kilian have a great chemistry together, and both created characters that were very human in their mix of strengths, passions, and flaws. But their expression of their personal baggage was blocked, like the sight lines, by the amount of structural baggage dominating the stage.

More later, 

Wednesday, February 02, 2022

The Political Desk: Quick Shot Edition

 Wait, its not November! Why are you talking politics? I cry shenanigans! 

Nope, that's the way things go. New ballots have shown up at Grubb Street, and they may or may not be at your address as well in King County. If it has shown up, it is most likely a ballot with one thing on it.

For us, that single thing is the most localized of local elections - School Funding. Yep, boring, exhausting, eat-you-vegetables school funding. For our locality the measure is Kent School District No. 415 Proposition No. 1 Replacement of Expiring Educations Programs and Operations Levy. Yeah, try saying that in one breath. It puts a rate of a buck-eighty-eight per thousand dollars of assessment for 2023, and $1.86 for 2024. There is no raise in the rates here - it is just a replacement for funding that will help fund the schools.

And, to no one's surprise, I say YES on the matter. Check your local listings for your own neighborhood's funding. Deadline date for getting in the ballots is 8 February.

But wait, there' more. There is an entire OTHER election that you don't know about. The King County Conservation District is filling a position, and because of the way these elections are set up, does not share the regular ballot operation. But you can vote electronically, so go HERE to get a ballot. The candidate statements are here. The Stranger leaves its urban bubble to comment on it here. The candidates all seem like rational, reasonable human beings with concerns about our wild spaces, I recommend the incumbent, Kirstin Haugen, based on record and her attempts to actually get people to vote on this. But that's just me.

One last thing. Our state legislature is a part-time job, and is currently in session. There are matters great and small snaking their way through committees and approvals and, hopefully, votes. Here is a list, and their status. 

Even though the state legislature works of a short schedule, politics (and elections) is a full-time thing. 

More later,