My Inner Nerd is a Theatre Nerd. But Not a Snobby One.

4 Jun

It’s not really a secret that I am a theatre nerd. I was pretty much raised to be one. My mother made sure we had season tickets to the local amateur theatre company by the time I was five. I even ended up working for the company throughout my teenage years (I was a backstage tech, but the experience taught me a lot about life). I even went to a performing arts high school where I focused on theatre. Sadly, as I went out into the world as an adult, attending theatrical productions has been one of the things that has suffered- it’s generally too expensive. I made it to maybe 3 things while I lived in Chicago- a fact that deeply saddened me (though the things I made it to were well worth the effort). I vowed to make it a possibility to see theatre productions when I moved to L.A. So far, I’ve managed to quick that vow.Β 

Mind you, there is a lot of theatre in L.A. and I’m pretty much sticking to one theatre company, but I think that as long as I get to see shows… it’s all good in the end. And I will also admit that the first show I saw with this company was because of the actor in the lead (or in this case- only) role- one Nicholas Brendan playing Crumpet in a production of The Santaland Diaries. Yes, I went to see a show because I like the actor in it. But I came back to see more because I liked the theatre that the company was producing. That company was The Blank Theatre company.

On Sunday, June 3rd, in celebration of the company’s 20th year producing their Young Playwrights Festival, they had a gala celebration. I’m a wee bit broke this month so I cannot afford to see this years run of the festival, but I bought my ticket to the gala to support future festivals and see what they presented. Essentially, for 2+ hours, performers from previous years of the festival came and dazzled the audience with scenes, monologues, and even songs from some of the 20 years worth of shows. The truly phenomenal cast had names like Ed Asner, Barbara Bain, Steven Webber, Virginia Madsen, Nicholas Brendon, Kirsten Vangsness, Tom Lenk, Rex Smith, Daisy Eagan, and Allison Mack, among many more. Noah Wyle, the company’s artistic director began the night with a monologue from The Why, a show that apparently dealt with the subject of school shootings. When he walked out on stage it appeared as though he would begin with a welcome or a speech, but instead he dove head first in a deeply emotional monologue that threw the audience into a night of brilliant works.

The first act rode high with more comedic works rather than dramatic- though Scott Lowell performed his role as a dog from last years festival and nearly had my in tears again because I know how the play ends. The true highlights for me from this act were Ed Asner performing a monologue as a grumpy ol’ volunteer fireman, Barbara Bain teaching D.B. Sweeney’s former minister about life and death, and the act’s finale, a rock duet from Kirsten Vangsness and Tom Lenk that roughly amounts to what kind of fortune goes in the cookies.

The second act ran the opposite with more dramatic pieces- taking the audience from rage to deep loss. Highlights included Allison Mack portraying probably the most bubbly and adorable young girl who happens to be able to control the weather that you will ever see, Nicholas Brendon’s righteous anger at what his character perceives as life giving him the bird, Mark Damon Espinosa and Thea Gill as parents whose lives have been fractured when the police investigate their family, and Jessy Schram’s deeply lost little girl who is starving herself away. Each performance forced the audience to dig deeper into what they could take because the show was going to keep on giving it.

Much like the annual festival itself, this one night only show covered everything from losing a pet, losing a spouse, finding a date, not being understood, boys who like boys, girls who aren’t girly, and even a look at how we see the world. And as an added bonus, many of the playwrights were in attendance and either participated (a few of the record holders hopped up to say a few things) or came on stage during the bows to once again take a moment to shine. I hope they all go one to either continue writing or working in the theatre or continue to shine throughout their lives.

A last highlight for me was a performance by Rex Smith. I say this is a highlight because I have loved this man since 1982 or 1983- whenever we got the VHS of Pirates of the Penzance and it became my favorite musical. The honor of being in the same room- not even 40 feet from him!- when he sang anything… blew my mind. Fantastic! Awesome! I may have swooned. My one regret of the evening was that I did not have the guts to say hello and maybe get a pic. I know, I don’t understand it either.

I did manage to snag a minute with Tom and Kirsten after the show to share my love for their performance. And tell Nicholas he was fabulous. But the best was telling Virginia Madsen she was great and that I loved her dress and getting to grab a photo with her. Β My photos are all on this page. I suggest, if you want to see some photos from the actual show (I know I do!) that you keep an eye on The Blank’s facebook page. And I hope that you all go out and take in a show.

Oh and a note about that theatre company I started with… they helped performers like Christopher Gorham and Audra MacDonald get their start in acting. So that’s kind of cool. πŸ˜‰ (Both went to my high school as well)

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4 Responses to “My Inner Nerd is a Theatre Nerd. But Not a Snobby One.”

  1. Aimee June 5, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    A friend and I were going to go to see Jennifer Garner host. How participatory was she in the events or did she merely do introductions for the actors/plays?

    • elizabeth ann June 5, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

      Unfortunately, Ms. Garner was unable to be there as she was caught up working and has a new baby. She sent a beautiful note, that Daniel Henning read at the end of the night, in which she said wonderful things about the theatre and the festival and apologized profusely for not being able to be there. Personally, I didn’t miss her because the flow of the program, and each of the pieces, was so well done that you didn’t have a chance to miss there not being a host. I think, actually, someone introducing each piece would’ve taken away from the night and the emotional connection the audience felt with each piece. If that makes sense…

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