Tag Archives: alternative theater

Once upon a robot

“Heddatron” robots invade Stray Cat Theatre in Tempe through June 9

Walls surrounding the Tempe Performing Arts Center courtyard were plastered with tidbits of robot trivia and images of robots once seen on screens big and small for opening night of Elizabeth Meriwether’s “Hedatron” — which imagines a pregnant housewife’s capture by friendly robots. It’s her “Calgon, take me away” moment and it’s glorious.

As “Heddatron” opens, five robot operators donning black garb and headgear form a tight circle on stage. They’ve got remote controls in hand during what looks like a pre-game huddle complete with “all for one and one for all” hand gesture. Once they’re seated in the front row, various characters begin to fill in different spaces on the stage.

The kitchen and living room of a home shared by two parents and a school-age daughter. Also parts of a home shared by writer Henrik Ibsen, his wife and the resident “kitchen slut.” Think maid in the missionary position. And yes, “Heddatron” is most certainly a mature content play — so leave the little ones home to play with their own dolls and robots.

Mounting a show takes plenty of blood, sweat and tears. But injecting this show with robots also took wiring, wheels and gears. And heart. Every robot has it’s own personality, reflected through design, voicing, sound effects and more. Robot designers, builders and operators all deserve high praise. And a good night’s sleep after working nearly round the clock in some cases.

I sometimes run into folks who lament the Valley arts scene, feeling it lacks originality, imagination or truly inspired artistry. And “Heddatron” makes me wonder. Maybe they’re not spending enough time with stray cats like Ron May, artistic director for Stray Cat Theatre and director for this show.

Johanna Carlisle (L) and Thea Eigo “Heddatron” (Photo: John Groseclose)

May’s imagination must be a marvelous place, because beauty and biting humor are born there — then delivered with real insight and grace. His many strengths include casting just the right person for each part, as evidenced by Thea Eigo’s performance as “Nugget Gordon.” We’ll all be saying “I knew her when” about that one some day. In a good way.

Eigo plays the daughter of Jane Gordon (Johanna Carlisle) and Rick Gordon (Todd Michael Isaac), and spends much of the play sharing snippets of school reports on Ibsen and other writers while sporting Ibsen-esque sideburns and running through visual aids that look like cue cards. She’s a hoot — and incredibly cute.

Eigo is a Childsplay-trained actor whose bio notes that she’s a 5th grader at Villa Montessori School. Seems she “enjoys music, photography, and collecting sock monkeys” and has a wonderful big sister named Willa. Eigo told me that “Heddatron” is about “a housewife who gets kidnapped by robots.” True enough, but she’ll find other themes in the work as she grows.

Opening nights at Stray Cat Theatre include post-show gatherings in the courtyard, complete with nibbles and libations. I lingered after Friday’s performance to chat with folks about “Heddatron” — asking everyone I talked with a single question: “What’s that play about?”

My first observation was this — in groups of men and women, only the women had a reply at the ready. It’s about aliention or boredom, they told me. About longing for something beyond suburbia, marriage and motherhood. Sorry guys, but more than a few of you drew a blank on this one.

Johanna Carlisle as Jane Gordon in “Heddatron” (Photo: John Groseclose)

The most notable exception was Damon Dering, artistic director for Nearly Naked Theatre (yup, they go there). It’s about learning to love the very thing that traps you, he told me — but with a bit more eloquence. “Heddatron” is fun fare for folks steeped in the study of existentialism, or those who wake up living it each day. Think art meets angst.

A fellow former stage mom told me it was about Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler,” the play mama Gordon is forced by robots to read in the rain forest after her abduction. True enough, but you needn’t read it to enjoy the show. Trying too hard to understand “Heddatron” won’t up the fun factor, so it’s perfectly fine to just show up and be entertained.

Still, those with an artistic bent will appreciate the play’s ponderings about the nature of art and artist. Where you live will likely influence your view of the “Heddatron” landscape. Some will see the struggle for women’s liberation. Others the clash of society with self. Some the tyranny of technology or commercialism. And some their own lives.

A local actor turned entrepreneur honed in on the scientist whose musings about “synchronicity” are projected onto a screen hanging over the back of the stage. That, and the snappy bow tie, earn him big points for originality. Seems folks once feared dark consequences if robots grew self-aware, unmindful of the perils facing humans grappling with their own automatization.

Stray Cat Theatre performs “Heddatron” through June 9, and they’re already looking ahead to season #11 featuring “punkplay” by Gregory S. Moss, “Wolves” by Steve Yockey, “Sons of the Prophet” by Stephen Karam and a Trista Baldwin play with a rhyming title best not mentioned in a parenting publication. (Snaps to literary manager Emily Rubin, who helped snag rights to perform the Karam piece.)

Theater works come and go, but on-stage robots are rare and worth the journey into alternative theater Stray Cat style even for folks who’ve yet to develop a taste for such things. Leave your prim and proper behind, and head to Tempe for a performance that’ll reduce your own roboticism. Great theater makes us more human. Thank Meriwether and May for that.

— Lynn

Note: “Heddatron” includes scenes depicting sex, suicide and other mature themes. Click here for information on local and national suicide prevention resources. Click here to explore The Ibsen Museum in Oslo.

Coming up: The press tribe gathers to honor its own


Art meets asphalt?

The Weekend Pilots perform during the 2012 Phoenix Fringe Festival

Art meets asphalt next weekend as Asphalt Arts performs “Food for Thought” — a work featuring spoken word, drama, dance and audience participation — at Warehouse 1005. It’s part of the 2012 Phoenix Fringe Festival that kicks off Fri, March 2 — and includes more than 20 original works performed at five different venues.

“Food for Thought” was created in collaboration with homeless youth served by the Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development. Asphalt Arts also collaborates with ArtsWork: The Kax Herberger Center for Children and the Arts, a program of the ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, to bring “the expressive power of the theatre and digital story-telling” to Tumbleweed youth.

Actors Alchemy also performs three short plays during this year’s festival. Their “Short Play Festival” consists of “The Yard Sale,” “Holly,” and “Make This Go Away.” Sounds like a tour of my garage, though I’m certain it’s something more. “Short Play Festival” is being performed March 2-4 at Space 55.

Come Thurs, March 8, you can enjoy a performance of “The Weekend Pilots’ Musical Comedy Show,” the only other Fringe offering at Space 55 that looks tame enough to mention here (though looks can be deceiving). These three snappy dressers (pictured in pink above) promise a “fusion of comedy, rock, rap, electronica, dancing, and costumed characters.” Let’s hope they leave a certain politician’s new hairdo out of the mix.

The 2012 Phoenix Fringe Festival (March 2-11) features theater, dance, music and poetry

This year’s Phoenix Fringe Festival has a pair of offerings particularly well-suited to dance and music lovers. Dulce Dance Company performs March 2 & 4 at Warehouse 1005. The venue welcomes “Cool Like That: A Tribute to Miles Davis” March 2, 3 & 10. It’s “a poetic narrative by and about Miles with chronological sequencing that reflects upon the social and political climate of his time.” Think poetry/spoken word, live music, vocals and dance.

Five works are being performed at Modified Arts and three at the FilmBar in Phoenix. The four works being presented at The Studio at Phoenix Center for the Arts include “The Other Side of History,” written and performed by The Soul Justice Project and “SWAN dubstep” performed by SWAN (Devan Martinez).

The Soul Justice Project describes their work as a piece of hip hop theatre that fuses poetry, dance and music to “address key political issues facing the AZ community.” Martinez is “on a mission to educate the world about common misconceptions” surrounding pop music (think Top 40 tunes).

Learn more about the 2012 Phoenix Fringe Festival, and their projects supporting Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development, at www.phxfringe.org.

— Lynn

Note: Many Phoenix Fringe Festival works include mature content and language suitable for adults rather than youth. Review the Raising Arizona Kids Magazine calendar in print or online to find family-friendly fare.

Coming up: Five festivals for families, The fine art of Freud?, Celebrating World Theatre Day

Update: The Soul Justice Project performance has been cancelled. Click here to find this and other updates on the Phoenix Fringe Festival Facebook page.

Who’s munching who?

It’s a pity so many seats went unfilled for Thursday’s opening night performance of “Munched” at Space 55 in Phoenix. The work, written by Kim Porter, is excellent and worthy of a bigger, brighter venue. I hate to think that the theater company’s location, at the corner of Pierce and 7th Streets might be preventing folks from giving it a try.

Listen, I know it’s hip to have a shabby little joint that feels anti-establishment when you specialize in “under-represented” works. But there’s a difference between “under-represented” theater that sucks and “under-represented” theater than soars. Deal with it. You folks need a better piece of real estate.

When someone removes a mother's sleeping chair from beside her daughter's hospital bed, it all goes horribly wrong

“Munched” is the tale of a woman accused of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a disorder in which a parent feigns or causes a child’s illness in order to get attention. Also the story of her daughter, and how they reconnect after the many years one has spent in prison and the other in foster care. I suppose you might call it a mystery laced with motherhood.

The play opens with images on a television monitor and the voice of a young child singing a refrain of “no more monkeys jumping on the bed.” Soon we see daughter Katie (Michelle Kable) sitting to one side of the stage on a seat apparently wrenched from someone’s midlife-mobile, and mother Marybeth (Kim Porter) standing on the other behind a sad-looking set of mini blinds.

Katie has a box filled with letters both to and from her mother. And a burning desire to know more about her past than the strangers who’ve followed the strange case of convicted baby killer Marybeth Paxton in the media. Scenes of Katie exploring her past alternate, and sometimes collide, with scenes of Marybeth doing the same.

Along the way, audience members get to grapple with issues ranging from breastfeeding to mental illness. They witness a cult of celebrity like that seen everyday in the lives of those who follow Nancy Grace just a bit too closely. They watch mother and child wrestle with issues of innocence and guilt, their own and others’.

And they start to wonder. If it could happen to Marybeth, could it happen to me? Is it better to bury the past — or to dig for it? How reliable, really, are things like experts and memories? It’s entirely too much material for a single work, and yet it works — in large measure because it bursts with humor rather than taking itself too seriously. And because of fluid yet finessed direction by Duane Daniels.

Loved the minivan seat and mini blinds, but the plastic ivy was distracting and simply all too much for me

I’m less enamored with Daniel’s scenic design. Fond as I am of ivy in real life, it’s more than a little distracting to see it strewn across walls that form the backdrop for a thought-provoking tale. The story feels real, and the plastic plant matter, complete with visible tape — is too fake to be funny.

Shawna Franks gets the plum role of “Woman” and David Weiss the equally malleable “Man” gig in “Munched.” He’s a police officer, physician, lousy husband and more. She’s a nurse, an expert on the speaking circuit and an incredibly funny “hippy dippy” counselor schooled in simply wishing away all things “toxic.” Julian Kaplan is “Young Katie” in brief snippets of film footage. A stuffed animal is just that.

Folks who’ve shot their attention span wad on the likes of “Sponge Bob Square Pants” may deem the work a bit taxing, but those schooled in the ways of masterful storytelling will find “Munched” mesmerizing — leaving the work with just one burning question: Who’s munching who?

— Lynn

Note: “Munched” is being performed through Oct. 22 at Space 55 in Phoenix. Click here for details and ticket information.

Coming up: Art meets Wall Street, Touring the Anne Frank Center in NYC

A playwright’s journey

Arizona playwright, performer and director Kim Porter

“I was an actor first,” recalls Kim Porter, a Valley mother of two whose play titled “Munched” opens next month at Space 55 in Phoenix. It’s the tale of a mother with Munchausen syndrome and the grown daughter who asks “Why?”

Porter says she began “noodling around with writing” in high school, fantasizing that she’d one day write novels while wearing sweaters in New England. “I’d turn out a few pages,” muses Porter, “then crap out.”

“No one ever taught me to write,” shares Porter. Instead, she learned by doing. Porter toyed with sketch comedy before tackling solo shows. “I had funny ideas, but no conflict.” Porter recalls needing a “writing 101 class” but instead taught herself how to write.

Soon Porter, living in San Francisco at the time, became the “go to person” for theater folk eager to pen their own plays. She’d found her “niche” in teaching and coaching others. “By watching others make mistakes, I learned more about writing,” reflects Porter. “That’s my heart’s work,” she says.

When career opportunities opened for her husband here in Phoenix, and the “arcane process” of choosing the best school fit for daughter Colette felt too frustrating, Porter and her husband headed to Arizona — where Porter is now a member of the Space 55 ensemble. Porter will be performing the lead role in “Munched,” a work first conceived shortly after her daughter was born.

“Munched” originated during wee hour (think 1 am) nursing sessions. “I had one arm underneath the baby,” recalls Porter, “and another clicking arond on the mommy boards.” She discovered “all these stories of judging mothers, but also anger towards the medical establishment.”

The mommy blogs were full of birth stories — Porter calls them “horror stories” — in which the childbirth experience so many expected to be perfectly blissful went awry. But Porter read more than mommy blogs. One book, titled “Geek Love,” stuck with her. “I was moved and horrified,” she recalls, “by all those people who had self-mutilated.”

“What kind of person,” wondered Porter, “mutilates themselves or others?” Each time Porter encountered a story of mutilation, medical malpractice or maternal misconduct, she found herself going back and forth about whether the person at the heart of the story was innocent or guilty.

Porter coupled these musings with her belief that everyone yearns “for a time when they were a lap baby.” Even grown-ups, she says, feel a primal longing to be cuddled by their mothers. “What,” Porter wondered, “would the loss of a mom or child feel like?” She wanted to explore the interconnectedness of mother and child “in all its healthy and unhealthy” ways.

Munched by Kim Porter is meant for mature audiences

The result was “Munched,” which Porter describes as “a who-done-it and a love story.” She’s careful to halt her description there, preferring that parents experience the work for themselves rather than hearing her take on what they’re likely to think or feel while encountering it.

The Space 55 production of “Munched” is directed by Duane Daniels, who previously directed the work in Los Angeles. Shawna Franks, a Space 55 founder who serves as artistic director, praises Daniels for being open to his actors while keeping his own vision.

Franks credits a series of Tuesday night dinners she once hosted for fellow playwrights with launching Space 55. The company will revisit their very first production, “7 Minutes in Heaven,” for its seventh anniversary next June.

Franks hails from theater-rich Chicago and, like Porter, is a proud mother of two. So what does Franks think of Porter’s work? “I’m deeply committed,” shares Franks, “to her writing, her talent and her voice.” Franks sees “Munched” as the perfect fit for Space 55, noting that the ensemble-based company favors “new, original and rarely seen” works.

Like Porter, Space 55 is on a journey. During the next several years, Franks hopes to increase funding for Space 55, give birth to offshoots producing fresh new works and help launch works like “Munched” onto the national stage.

They’re off to a good start. The Space 55 production of playwright Greg Kotis’ “The Unhappiness Plays” was part of this year’s New York International Fringe Festival, and “Munched” will be performed by Sugar Valley Theatricals at Manhattan Theatre Source come November.

Porter’s days of “crapping out” seem well behind her, replaced by the ability to steadfastly shepherd an idea from conception to maturity. How lovely to travel the joint journey of parenting and playwriting with the sheer joy and terror that each can bring.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about Munchausen syndrome by proxy, here to learn more about Space 55 and here to learn more about playwright Kim Porter.

Coming up: MLK takes center stage, Opportunities for young writers

Definition of a dream

Call those babysitters! The 2011 Phoenix Fringe Festival starts tonight!

Many of us wake up every day in warm, secure houses with pantries full of food and closets brimming with clothes. We dream of smarter phones, faster computers, bigger television screens.

But the dreams of homeless teens are very different. You can get a rare glimpse into the lives of homeless youth in Phoenix by attending a play titled “Definition of a Dream.”

It’s being presented April 1-3 by homeless youth who developed the original work in conjunction with Sarah Sullivan and the Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development. The Center describes the work as follows:

“Through the artistic experience, young people take their stories to the stage, looking to change the conversation about homelessness in Phoenix, one show at a time. This year’s play takes a look at dreams — the dreams we have for ourselves, for the people in our lives and our community as a whole.”

“Definition of a Dream” asks a powerful question: “What are the things we have to fight for and against to make these dreams a reality?”

The play is one of many thought-provoking works being presented as part of the Phoenix Fringe Festival, which runs April 1-10 at various downtown Phoenix venues.

Tickets for tonight’s performance of “Definition of a Dream” were not available online when I checked Friday afternoon, but tickets for the Sat, April 2 (5:30pm) and Sun, April 3 (8pm) performances may still be out there — but don’t delay in checking the Phoenix Fringe Festival website if you’d like to attend this or other works.

“Definition of a Dream” is being performed at “Modified Arts” at 407 E. Roosevelt in Phoenix. Additional venues for 2011 Phoenix Fringe Festival performances (most appropriate only for mature audiences) include Phoenix Theatre: Little Theatre, Third Street Theatre, Soul Invictus, Bragg’s Pie Factory and Space 55.

You can check out the full “Fringe” schedule (which also includes after-parties and such) at www.phxfringe.org. After reviewing the schedule the other day, I noticed that there are works dealing with religion, sexuality, border issues and a whole lot more. Even Greek myth and Shakespeare manage to get in the game.

Several “Fringe” works, including “Twisted: Greeting Card Moments Gone Bad” by “Tom T. and Twisted Tidings,” are presented by a single artist. Some are presented by local artists, others by artists from other regions (including Australia). A few include students from Arizona State University.

You can get a good feel for the festival by considering the titles of some of the pieces being performed. Schreibstuck. Oppressed. Borders and Bridges. Hamlet Machine. The Panic Opera Sacraments. Too Close to the Sun. Your Teacher Never Told You….

There’s even “Confessions of a Mormon Boy,” which may hold special appeal for those of you who, like myself, have yet to snag tickets to the new Broadway musical titled “The Book of Mormon” (billed by some as an atheist love song to believers).

The Phoenix Fringe Festival is an edgy, off-the-beaten-path experience that’s fun for date nights, outings with friends or solo adventures. Think of it as a way to up the job numbers for all those babysitters out there.

Consider an afternoon, evening or weekend out with the “Fringe.” You might be offended. You might be educated. You might be inspired. But I doubt you’ll be bored. It’s a great way to explore our smaller community theater venues, enjoy affordable performance art and meet folks who probably wouldn’t recognize a remote control if they saw one.

— Lynn

Note: Attend the Phoenix Fringe Festival and you can save $10 off your ticket to “Liz Lerman Dance Exchange: The Matter of Origins” Monday, April 11, at ASU Gammage (use the code FRINGE when ordering tix from the ASU Gammage box office or 480-965-3434).

Coming up: Jellly bean dreams, Chicago envy?

Presidents and performing arts

2010 Kennedy Center Honors (Bill T. Jones, far left, President Obama, far right) Photo: Joan Marcus

I got to musing about presidents and the performing arts recently after learning about an upcoming performance at ASU Gammage that explores perspectives on Abraham Lincoln and the civil rights movement.

The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company brings “Fondly Do We Hope…Fervently Do We Pray” to ASU Gammage in Tempe for a single performance on Fri, March 5. The title is taken from Lincoln’s second inaugural address.

2010 Kennedy Center honoree Bill T. Jones (Photo: Ron Sachs-Pool for Getty Images)

Bill T. Jones is described as “one of the most celebrated choreographer/  directors in the world.”

He received a MacArthur “Genius” Award in 1994, a 2007 Tony Award for his choreography of “Spring Awakening” and a 2010 Tony Award for his choregraphy of “Fela!” (a musical he also directed).

Jones is also a 2010 Kennedy Center honoree — as are Merle Haggard, Jerry Herman, Paul McCartney and Oprah Winfrey.

With this work — a “fusion of dialogue, dance, multi-media, original and traditional music” — Jones is “seeking a way to articulate if not reconcile the view of Abraham Lincoln he had as a young boy growing up during the civil rights struggle.”

A photo on his website showing Jones standing in front of Lincoln’s carefully preserved hat gives a sense of the poignancy of his ongoing encounter with Lincoln’s ideas, words and actions.

It’s a far cry (or meow) from this season’s earlier Lincoln-related piece presented by Stray Cat Theatre in Tempe. But both demonstrate the ongoing fascination of performance artists with presidents and politics.

We’re rather cynical about holidays around here, so I joked with my daughter Lizabeth after hearing a song from the musical “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” on the radio recently that we should run right out and buy a copy of the original cast recording as a mutual Valentine’s Day gift. (For sweeter holiday fare, follow the adventures of the Blomquist Family.)

Last year Valley theater-goers enjoyed political performance art in the form of “Capitol Steps” at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and “Second City Does Arizona” presented by Arizona Theatre Company at the Herberger Theater Center (their latest offering is “Sex and the Second City 2.0,” coming in March).

The Valley welcomed Ed Asner performing “FDR” last year to benefit the Arizona Jewish Theatre Company, and the Cort Theatre on Broadway was home for a time to “You’re Welcome America: A Final Night with George W. Bush” starring Will Ferrell.

But I’m particularly excited about the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company performance because it sounds like a beautiful blend of storytelling with stagecraft.

There’s nothing like live performance art that leaves you not only entertained, but inspired. Pensive yet pushing forward. Screaming, perhaps. But also dreaming. Wondering and working hard to forge a reality more fitting of our personal and collective calling.

— Lynn

Note: Poet Maya Angelou (for whom President Obama’s sister was named) will perform at ASU Gammage in Tempe Sun, March 20, at 3pm (with a special appearance by “Broadway in the Hood“). Angelou is one of 15 people recently awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Learn more at www.uniquelives.com.

Coming up: Art goes Irish!, Musings on modern dance, Valley student directs his first one-act play

Cats v. dogs, theater style

There are cat people, and there are dog people. 

The differences might make for an amusing Broadway show, but for now we have to settle for productions that feature one species or the other (the pets, not their people). 

Scene from "Seussical"-Photo by Sara Krulwich appeared in "The New York Times"

There’s “Cats” from composer Andrew Lloyd Webber—based on poet T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.” I never got this one, despite being a cat-lover. 

There’s “Seussical” from Flaherty and Ahrens, a 2000 Broadway musical based on the works of children’s author Dr. Seuss. Who doesn’t love the song “Oh, The Thinks You Can Think?” 

And there’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” a Tennessee Williams play that has nothing to do with cats, but still strikes my fancy. 

For dog lovers, you’ve got “Annie”–featuring the lovable mutt “Sandy”–which will soon enjoy another Broadway revival.

There’s “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” with everyone’s favorite: “Snoopy.” You gotta love a canine who sits atop his doghouse banging away at a Smith Corona

If you’re not old enough to know what that is, you aren’t old enough to see the shows I’ll be previewing after another couple of paragraphs.

I should confess at this point to being more of a cat person, though I try to be open minded. I grew up enjoying the companionship of both.

Scene from the musical "Annie"

My first pet was actually a little chihuahua named “Nikitita” (no relation to ABBA’s “Chiquitita”) who broke my heart by running away one night during a fierce Colorado thunderstorm. 

I was raised by a single mother who always felt safer with dogs in the house (though our Doberman was milder than milk toast). 

Still, I’ve never gotten the hang of enjoying another creature licking my face. Cats lick themselves. That I can live with. 

If there’s a local theater company dedicated to dogs, I have yet to discover it. (Those of you who find your minds racing with tacky humor at this point need a good lick in the face.) 

Scene from the musical "Cats"

But I so love the alternative theater folks whose name seems a bit of an homage to those fabulous felines. 

It’s Stray Cat Theatre in Tempe, performing at the space once occupied by Childsplay, another Tempe titan of irresistible theater. 

While Childsplay delivers mostly “G-rated” fare, Stray Cat has more of an “R-rated” feel. 

You won’t find anything outrageously controversial in Childsplay’s 2010-2011 season, which includes “Go, Dog. Go!” based on the books by P.D. Eastman. 

Scene from "Reasons to be Pretty"-Photo from "The New York Times"

But Stray Cat Theatre, home of artistic director Ron May, is another story… 

Stray Cat’s ninth season opens with Neil Labute’s “Reasons to be Pretty” directed by April Miller. The show (Sept. 24-Oct. 9) is “a love story about the near impossibility of love.” I can’t wait to see Greg and his girlfriend Steph go at it after he casually mentions a few of her physical imperfections. 

Next up is Enrique Urueta’s “Learn to be Latina” directed by Ron May. At this point, I’d settle for merely learning to speak Spanish. The show (Dec. 3-18) is a comedic look at serious issues of cultural identity and making it in the music business. I’m eager to witness pop singer Hanan’s attempt to transform herself from Lebanese to Latina! 

Stray Cat’s first production of 2011 will be Steve Yockey’s “Octopus,” also directed by Ron May. How terribly thoughtful of them to choose something in keeping with my animal theme. Isn’t it just like a cat to do it’s own thing while leading the humans to believe it was all their idea? This baby (March 25-April 9) deals with the fallout of group sex, so leave the kittens at home if you go there. 

"Abraham Lincoln's Big Gay Dance Party" at SF Playhouse-Photo by Zabrina Tipton

Finally, there’s Aaron Loeb’s “Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party” directed by Ron May—who clearly takes pride in being a provocateur par excellence. This piece (no pun intended) closes out Stray Cat’s 2010-2011 season with a bang (May 20-June 11). It features the “trial of the century” in which Lincoln’s teacher faces charges of asking whether Lincoln might have been gay. I’m not sure how you get from courtroom drama to dance party, but have no doubts that May will pull it off and more. 

For those of you who prefer tamer fare, I’ll offer a future post on the 2010-2011 Childsplay season. I have to wonder, though, whether their choice of “Go, Dog. Go!” reveals a clear canine bias…