Let them eat theater!

Let them eat theater!

"You know, in Shakespeare’s day, people would go up and down the aisles, passing out cakes," says Robert Wray while his colleagues—Sean Chandler, Claire McGurk and Allen Van Houzen, all alumni of the invigorating production of Twelfth Night at Four County Players—nod in agreement.

"The idea," says Wray, "is that you aren’t suddenly excluded, lost in the dark while the story’s going on. You’re not just a passive witness…we want to bring it back to [Curt’s note: Twelfth Night allusion ahead!] cakes and ale."

Cake-speareans! Brand new theater company cakes’n’ale (from left to right: Allen Van Houzen, Robert Wray, Claire McGurk and Sean Chandler) encourage the masses to get off their asses with accessible productions and a BYOB informality.

The explicit charisma in 4CP’s production of Twelfth Night was generated in large part by these four performers, who enjoyed themselves so much during rehearsals and smoke breaks that they decided to pair up and start a theater company of their own. May Curt introduce to you the fine folks behind cakes’n’ale theatre company? ("Lower case and one word," says Wray a few days later. "Like ‘rock’n’roll’—in the same spirit.")
"Those people who go and see shows will go and see shows anyways," says Van Houzen. "You don’t have to convince them to consider theater an option. But maybe your average, everyday Joe doesn’t even think about it."

"When Offstage does Barhoppers, [venues] get slammed," adds Chandler. "And new people come to see it." Barhoppers, however, is a one-off; cakes’n’ale plans to keep you stuffed and soused year ’round with a show each season.

The first show, Bullet for Unaccompanied Heart, kicks off at Live Arts for a short run from November 16-18. Written by Wray (a C-VILLE 20 selection) before these ale-heads got together, Bullet follows a blues guitarist (played by Van Houzen, who nimbly strummed his way through Twelfth Night as Feste the fool) as he is haunted by the ghost of a lover with a weakness for crosswords (played by McGurk, who shares her character’s addiction). The show will also feature Don Gaylord, who was perfectly cast as awkward man-child Mitch in Live Arts’ production of A Streetcar Named Desire.

‘Til opening night, cakes’n’ale plan to remain idealists: shows will be donations only for as long as the group can make ends meet; rehearsals are freewheeling and held "wherever possible" by  "whoever’s got the bourbon," according to Chandler.

Obsess much?

Forgive him for making scenes, but local playwright Doug Grissom is a wee bit busy at the moment.

Following Grissom’s beautifully balanced adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya at the Hamner Theater, Boomie Pedersen (who acted in the Vanya cast and acts as co-artistic director of Hamner) asked Grissom to contribute a one-act play to the Festival of Hamner Playwrights, which opens on September 27 and runs through October 7. Ever the cultural divining rod, Curt decides to head to UVA’s Culbreth drama building to find out what else Grissom has been up to.

Can you teach an old play new tricks? Playwright Doug Grissom gives a few older shows a second look for upcoming productions at the Hamner and Helms theaters.

Curt parks his car in the (practically nonexistent) lot near Culbreth and negotiates the construction site to find Grissom in his office—a brown-orange box with a gray corkboard featuring pictures of Grissom’s family and posters from his shows, including Vanya.

Asked (O.K., badgered) about his current projects, Grissom mentions that he recently finished a play that opened in New York City this past summer called Elvis People, which documents Presley-philes and folks who love the King—love him downright tender and true. Grissom is also adapting Confederates in the Attic, Tony Horwitz‘s nonfiction book about Civil War reenactors and fanatics, for the stage.

"[I’m] writing about obsessions a lot, recently," says Grissom with a chuckle.

As for his local obsession du jour, Grissom will also raise the curtain on another play towards the end of UVA’s drama season at the Helms TheaterSo Careless, another mid-’90s Grissom piece that fits the typical actress majority in most drama departments.

Without giving away too much, So Careless involves a woman suffering from agoraphobia ("I don’t want to say she’s agoraphobic in terms of her being clinical," Grissom stresses), her sister the recurrent runaway and a family strained by some X Factor. So Careless opens March 20, 2008—a mere month or so after the projected finish date for the 535-car Arts Ground parking garage at Culbreth.

Bag o’ SWAG

While Curt is waiting patiently for the 2008 release of the ATO Pictures-produced Choke, an adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk‘s novel (starring—what, Joshua didn’t teach him a lesson?—Sam Rockwell as a con artist who pretends to gag on food for pity dollars), plenty of films have arrived in Curt’s office. Let’s take a gander at…

Splatter Beach: Features the tagline "Date. Mate. Mutilate." as well as the acting talent of Ms. Erin Brown, whose alias "Misty Mundae" is credited on the box as an "erotica scream queen." Because horror and sex are never paired, right?

Trailer for Splatter Beach.

Dracula’s Dirty Daughter: Take Interview with the Vampire, and replace "interview" with "sex."

The Boys and Girls Guide to Getting Down: The only movie CC received that didn’t pair sex with gore. You know, Curt thinks he’ll stick to his recently received copy of The Guide to Getting it On and will wait for ATO Pictures to put out another movie starring Vera Farmiga. Now if she were in Dracula’s Dirty Daughter

Trailer for The Boys and Girls Guide to Getting Down.

Got any arts news? E-mail curtain@c-ville.com.

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