Archive for the ‘Theater’ Category

Maybe “heal” is too soon to call, but I’m confident that when we look back on the reactions of people, nationally and internationally, to the horrific shooting at Pulse in Orlando, Florida, we’ll point to the broadcast of the 70th Annual Tony Awards as an important cultural milestone not only in its celebration of diversity but in its unabashed and sincere display of empathy towards the LGBTQIA community. From host James Cordon’s opening statement to Hamilton‘s win for Best Musical, the ceremony and its participants let their emotions drive their performances and their words. The victims of Orlando were truly in the hearts and minds of those performing in New York as Broadway paid tribute to the community that built it.

So let’s take a look at all of the moments that made this year’s Tonys so significant.

And as a side note, you should check out Carolyn Cox’s article about the Tonys over at The Mary Sue.


The Cold Open

Before the ceremony even began, host James Cordon opened the show with little fanfare. Just the camera on him, positioned from the back curtain, so those watching could see the full capacity of the theater; a theater full of the LGBTQIA community and their allies, a theater full of love and support, a theater full of voices crying “you are NOT alone!”


The Tonys have always made a priority out of giving it their all as a showcase of performance and passion. For many across the country and around the world the chance to see a Broadway production is slim whether because of geography or for financial reasons. And yet the lifeblood of the theater is made up of young people seeking an outlet for their creativity or a refuge from the world around them, so the broadcast takes on extra special meaning and importance for the theater community as it reaches out to the next generation.

The Hamilton Love Was Non-Stop

With a record setting 16 nominations, it was merely a question of how many awards Hamilton was going to take home at the end of the night. One shy of matching The Producers‘ record-setting 12 wins, Hamilton made an impressive haul, winning in several categories including Best Director (Tommy Kail), Best Lead Actor in a Musical (Leslie Odom, Jr.), Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Renée Elise Goldsberry), Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Daveed Diggs), Best Orchestration (Alex Lacamoire), and Best Book of a Musical (Lin-Manuel Miranda).

The hip-hop musical chronicling the “ten dollar Founding Father without a father” was all over the Tonys. Not only did Lin-Manuel Miranda’s company provide an opening parody of Hamilton‘s first song for James Cordon they also closed out the show with “The Schuyler Sisters,” a love letter to New York City with Angelica, Eliza…and Peggy proclaiming it as “the greatest city in the world.”

It’s not all that surprising how much of a presence Hamilton had; James Cordon is unapologetically Hamilton trash and he used the award ceremony to indulge in that love as well as pay tribute to the efforts of Miranda to provide entertainment for those unable to attend the show during the Ham4Ham lottery outside the Richard Rogers Theater. At each commercial break, the upcoming performers took the stage outside the Beacon Theater, surrounded by fans unable to attend the show, to sing a well-known show tune or a classic Broadway standard. Cordon even aired an edited version of his Carpool Karaoke featuring Miranda, Audra McDonald, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Jane Krakowski.

But there were two Hamilton related moments that prominently stood out. First, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s acceptance sonnet after winning for Best Original Score. A man of compassion and intelligence, Miranda made “love” the word of the night as he paid tribute to his wife and the LGBTQIA community.

After his win for Best Book, Miranda told reporters, “Theater doesn’t exist without the LGBT Community. It’s the cornerstone of our industry and it’s heavy in my heart tonight.”

Secondly, the performance of “History Has It’s Eyes on You” and “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)” showed exactly why Hamilton has become such a significant piece of art. Getting three separate introductions from James Cordon, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, and Common respectively, the words and intent of the songs, not unlike the actual words of the Founding Fathers, took on new meaning. Out of respect for the victims in Orlando, Miranda and company performed without the prop muskets that would normally be featured, but I can say that their presence was barely noted as somber lyrics like “the world turned upside down” and “history has its eyes on you” reverberated through the Beacon Theater. It was a poignant moment as if the songs were chosen for a reason, sending a message to all those watching. Even the victorious shouts of “We won!” held back barely contained pride, joy, and rage. Hamilton secured its spot as the voice of a generation in that moment.

Frank Langella Pays Tribute to Orlando

After winning the award for Best Actor in a Play for his performance in The Father, veteran actor Frank Langella forfeited the typical list of thank yous and instead commented on the Orlando shooting.

People of Color Sweep Major Awards

As mentioned before, Hamilton‘s Leslie Odom, Jr., Daveed Diggs, and Renée Elise Goldsberry took home awards for acting in a musical. Add to that list The Color Purple‘s Cynthia Erivo’s win for Best Lead Actress in a Musical and all four categories for acting in a musical were won by people of color. It’s a bittersweet moment of triumph since it’s the first time in the history of the Tonys that this has happened, but given the plethora of people of color nominated for Tonys this year, Broadway’s biggest night showed far more effort in promoting and encouraging diversity than the Oscars.

Speaking of which…

Diversity Steals the Showerivo

With so many people of color nominated, the plays and musicals nominated were just as diverse in their subject matter and significance to our current culture. Hamilton showed the parallels between modern and Revolutionary America through the lens of postmodern storytelling. Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed brought context to the Jazz Age play; the first to star an entirely black cast and a desegregated orchestra. The Tony performance also featured the incomparable Audra McDonald doing a tap routine while very pregnant! The Color Purple celebrated the hard work, struggle, and drive of black women finding strength in themselves and in the people they love. Worth noting was Cynthia Erivo’s powerhouse performance as Celie during the show. She brought the house down and showed why the Tony was hers to win. Even the revival of Fiddler on the Roof found significance as a celebration of faith through the struggle of the Jewish community in turn of the century Russia.

The most intriguing performance, however, was the revival of Spring Awakening with a cast made up of deaf and hearing as well as differently abled actors. Marlee Matlin, who made her Broadway debut in the Deaf West production, introduced the performance, noting that the themes of the play are universal but the deafness of some of the principal actors gives greater meaning to a musical about the failure of adults to listen to their children.

Of course one night of music and awards can’t erase the tragedy this country, specifically the LGBTQIA community, experienced, but in their own way the Tonys gave us a brief distraction. It was a generous gift and I thank them for that with all of my heart.

If you’d like to help the victims of the Orlando shooting, please visit

Kate Leth also posted a roundup of pertinent links for various donations and trauma counseling. You can go here:


This has been the week of announcements surrounding Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda. Not only will he be co-starring in Disney’s Mary Poppins sequel/continuation/re-imagining alongside Emily Blunt, but his first Broadway hit In The Heights will be coming to the silver screen courtesy of the Weinstein Company. Sadly, this means he’ll be leaving his Pulitzer Prize and assuredly Tony award winning musical when his contract expires in July in order to pursue said projects as well as a other creative ventures. Miranda isn’t going anywhere if our collective fandoms are concerned, so I wanted to focus on one of many avenues in which Hamilton has inspired people creatively: animatics.lin

If, like me, you watched a lot of behind the scenes or making of featurettes for animated movies, then you’re probably aware of what an animatic is. For those who don’t know, animatics are basically animated storyboards that can be utilized for anything from pre-visualization to timing out musical sequences. Thanks to the internet, a lot of people experimenting with animation, whether for school projects or as part of their career, put their work on YouTube, which means I end up spending a lot of time going down the animatic rabbit hole.

Unsurprisingly, Hamilton has inspired quite a few artists to storyboard and animate snippets and/or full songs from the musical. The contemporary vibe of Hamilton’s hip-hop origins lends itself to animation, but what makes these animatics stand out are the variety of visual translations. It isn’t hard to find video of Hamilton performances, so the aesthetics of the costumes and the performers’ faces are used at the discretion of the artist, but the animation adds a distinctive layer of scope and scale that the musical can’t achieve. Live performers and a stage present physical limitations on what the actors can do and how the story can be told, but with animatics artists can blend the music with dynamic shots that match its energy or reinterpret how aspects of the song can be visualized.

I’m certain that there will come a point where all of Hamilton’s 46 songs will have some animated flair attached to them, but for now here are the pieces that caught my eye during my latest rabbit hole session. Some are rougher than others in terms of animation, but I think they find the essence of the song while remaining visually captivating.

“Satisfied” Animatic by Jade Butler

It starts around the middle of the song, but I dig the Disney-esque style. I especially love the vision Angelica has in her champagne of the scenario in which she and Hamilton are together and Eliza steps aside.

“Non-Stop” Animatic by lifewhatisthat

One of many vignettes in the song, I think the lighting effect with the purple coloring is great. I’m also a sucker for great expressions and this video has some great ones for both Hamilton and Burr.

“Burn” Animatic by Xena Achilleos

It’s a gut punch of a song that breaks my heart every time thanks to Phillipa Soo’s amazing voice. The video really captures Eliza’s emotional status with the large, gloomy, and empty room emphasizing her betrayal and heartache.

“Farmer Refuted” Animatic by Von Muren

This has some great crowd art and camera angles. I love the opening shot melding into the crowd. Where this video really shines is in Hamilton’s interaction with the crowd and Samuel Seabury, circling the man like a predator as they debate.

“Congratulations” Animatic by coma

This is actually a cut song from the musical, though a few pieces were cannibalized for “The Reynold’s Pamphlet.” It’s a shame because Angelica really lays into Hamilton about how he’s monumentally screwed up and Renée Elise Goldsberry kills it. The animation is fantastic with the character expressions selling the moment of confrontation and the conflicting emotions of Angelica and Hamilton.

“Your Obedient Servant” Animatic by Soleildiddle

This artist has a whole bunch of Hamilton animatics, which I recommend watching, but this one is my favorite because it turns the letters of Hamilton and Burr building up to their duel as a dance with each man taking the lead when it’s his turn to respond.

“Aaron Burr, Sir” Animatic by Erin Shin

The style of this piece reminds me of Saturday morning cartoons, in a good way. It’s fitting since this is the song right after the opening number, so Hamilton is still full of optimism and delusions of grandeur when he encounter Burr for the first time. I love the contrasting expressions as well; Burr is calm and amused while Hamilton is frenetic and intense.

“The World Was Wide Enough” Animatic by NMS Video

I love, love, LOVE this animatic because it perfectly encapsulates how storytelling changes based on the medium. Hamilton is seeing his life flash before his eyes and, via the stirring and frantic singing of Lin-Manuel Miranda, the animation pulls us through each moment and interaction significant to him. My favorite transition is young Hamilton laying in his mother’s lap only for his young hand to grip the soil as he rises up into his days as a soldier. It works so seamlessly.

These are only a small sample of what’s out there and hopefully there will be more to share in the future. Until that time, I want to thank Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of Hamilton for being so inspirational that people are bringing more amazing art into the world everyday.

I feel like that title loses something towards the end…

What would Rufio do?


Eh, whatever!

If you’ve been lucky enough to see Scott Aukerman’s live comedy show turned podcast turned IFC television show turned touring live comedy show, then you know what it feels like when your stomach aches the next morning because you were laughing so hard you pulled a muscle you weren’t aware you had.

It’s one thing to listen to Aukerman and his rotating cast of comedians and “friends of the show” or watch many of the same comedy-bang-652x367-538x301people reprise their audio personas for the television show, but seeing the magic (I know, I’m groaning too) of live improv by people at the top of their game heightens the experience shared among the audience and performers. You laugh more because the people around you are laughing, creating an energy that’s palpable in the theater. The laughs, however, go deeper and last longer as each new guest builds upon previous riffs and alters the group dynamic on stage. Of course a live audience means some measure of interaction, instigated or otherwise, but it speaks to the skill of the performers that they never lose their cool or their rhythm while addressing their less-than-silent observers.

“But who were these hilariously adept comedians gracing the stage for your viewing pleasure?” I hear you asking me over the internet.

Excellent question. I’m glad you probably asked it. To answer it, here’s a brief synopsis of the tour’s second-to-last show in Seattle, Washington at the Moore Theater. If you actually want to listen to the show, which you can, you need only subscribe to where you can listen to all 21 performances. You can also tell me whether or not I’m remembering the night correctly because I love being corrected in a public forum.

Author’s Note: Do not inform me if I’m remembering the night correctly. Let me have my illusions!scottaukerman

Front and center was Scott Aukerman, the creator and host of Comedy Bang Bang. Aukerman practically bounded on to the stage of the Moore Theater and almost immediately focused in on the eleven-year-old boy seated in the front row, between his parents, for a show that was likely to go blue the minute he brought out the first guest. In his own words, “Now I want to swear more!” After making the customary comparisons to Portland, as is the traditional means of addressing Seattleites, Aukerman was very complimentary towards the city since the podcast recorded its first live show, under the Bang Bang banner, at the annual Bumbershoot music and arts festival in 2011. With his complimentary remarks out of the way, and a brief taunting of one of the stagehands off stage, Aukerman called out his first guest: Director Mr. Gary Marshall as portrayed by Paul F. Tompkins.

A regular guest with a plethora of characters in his repertoire (the Cake Boss, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Werner Herzog come to mind), Tompkins no doubt had his pick of whom to play. As Gary Marshall, the director of all the holiday movies, Tompkins revels in the cranky, pragmatic, yet easily excitable characterization he’s built over the last five years. What’s Marshallfantastic about Tompkins’s status as first guest is the time it gives him and Aukerman to keep their odd couple routine going throughout the entirety of the show. Though Aukerman typically takes on the straight man role as host of the podcast – and to a lesser extent on the television show – whenever Tompkins is a featured player the dynamic changes. Case in point, when Mr. Marshall came out on stage and chose the stool upon which to perch, Aukerman and he engaged in a game of Move-The-Sweat-Rags, which Aukerman commented were there to clean up the guests’ anal seepage. Less than a minute in and the pair quickly settled into their tried and true role reversal with Mr. Marshall acting as straight man to whatever inane thoughts sprang, barely formed, from Aukerman’s mouth. It’s all about the reaction from Tompkins; his bemused stare at Aukerman while the off-color comment gets a moment to breathe and the audience takes it in as well. After several minutes of testing Gary’s tolerance for Scott’s questions, it was time for the next guest to arrive: Manners Expert Carmella Pointe as portrayed by Lauren Lapkus.

Though Lapkus is fairly new to the Bang Bang rotation, she’s definitely earned her spot with fantastic and disturbing performances as Scott’s Nephew Todd, Ho-Ho the Elf, and Murphy O’Malaman. What’s most notable about Lapkus’s guest appearances is her fearlessness in saying the weirdest, darkest, and the most sexually charged musings if only to get a reaction out of Scott or the other guests. During her performance at the Moore, however, she debuted Carmella and quickly solidified IMG_7303her place among her growing list of characters by politely telling Scott to “kiss her fucking feet.” He obliged, of course, getting down on all fours, as is only polite in such situations. Mr. Marshall got a pass because he’s old. As a trio, Scott and Gary engaged Ms. Pointe in conversation over how to avoid being rude and to practice good manners via a smattering of hypothetical scenarios. One had Scott and Gary as gay couple Louie Anderson and Clive Owen, respectively, helping a pregnant woman through a revolving door post-public sexy times. Another revealed the dark secrets of Gary as the adopted son of Louie Anderson still hypothetically played by Scott. With the scenarios concluded, Aukerman moved on to the next guest: Candymaker Peter Finn as portrayed by Mike Hanford.

Hanford was actually the show’s opening act, taking over the position half way through the tour after Neil Campbell had to drop out. Those familiar with his appearances on the podcast know him for his performance as the very much still alive John Lennon, which Hanford brought out during his opening standup routine. He even managed to almost sing a love song to a girl named Kate. For the show proper, Hanford played Peter Finn, a man who sounds like a more depressed Nicolas Cage. Pining Lennonfor his wife who all but ran away from him, more specifically she rolled away in a giant tire down a hill, Peter could only express his feelings by singing somewhat to the tune of Little Shop of Horrors’ “Somewhere That’s Green.” What became the most entertaining aspect of the show was the interaction amongst the performers and their innate ability to make each other laugh. Lapkus was especially capable of cracking Tompkins with her amazingly foul mouth. Hanford, however, managed to get them both with a combination of the lovelorn candymaker’s wispy voice and his surprisingly fancy footwork. The three combined, however, were nearly overshadowed by the dulcet monotone of LinkedIn Creative Officer Tom Boreman portrayed by Tim Baltz.

Though he was the last performer brought out, Baltz’s Boreman quickly made for a distinct voice and personality in comparison to the other comedians. And by distinct I mean flat and sorely lacking. It paid off in spades, however, when Boreman attempted to explain LinkedIn to the perplexed panel of characters and said the magic word, “Boolean.” If you don’t know what a Boolean search is, I encourage you to look it up, but Boreman’s attempt to explain the Boolean to the others Baltzmade for some of the most intense laughter from both on and off the stage. I’m cracking myself up as I type this because I remember Baltz’s voice and the frequency of him saying “Boolean” in answer to any questions put forth about the excitingly lackluster functionality of LinkedIn. Basically, the last ten minutes of this show would be worth the subscription. Trust me, I don’t say this lightly.

By the end of the night, the show gave me the much needed gift of laughter, a new appreciation for the word Boolean, and something to think about in terms of the proper actions when helping pregnant women into buildings while carrying ten bags of designer clothing. And isn’t that what live podcasts are supposed to do?

I wanna say…probably?

I may not be able to see the musical for a good year or so, but my God if it was possible to marry a soundtrack, I’d be the first in line. Seriously, I haven’t been this obsessed with a musical since I was twelve watching the Les Misérables 10th Anniversary show on PBS. But if you told me ten, five, even one year ago that one of my favorite albums ever would be the cast recording of a hip-hop musical about Alexander Hamilton I probably would’ve laughed in your hamilton-musicalface. Really hard. Like, rolling on the floor, gut-busting laughs that leave you breathless.

Don’t get me wrong, I find the Revolutionary era of American history fascinating, but that’s because I studied and specialized in the subject. The further we move away from the United States’ beginnings the harder it becomes to make the Founding Fathers relatable as flesh and blood men of their time. Instead, we venerate and idolize them for their virtues and great accomplishments while not-so-subtly sweeping their flaws and mistakes under the rug. We forget that for all their eloquence and statesmanship these were men subject to the same trappings of ambition, pride, lust, greed, and paranoia as the rest of us.

Enter Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ron Chernow’s 800-page biography of Alexander Hamilton. Coming off of his success for the musical In the Heights, which he received the Tony for Best Original Score, Miranda picked up Chernow’s book while on vacation and became inspired to tell Hamilton’s story. But what’s so inspiring about a man who modern audiences only know was killed in a duel and appears on the ten dollar bill? In Miranda’s mind not only is Hamilton’s life the immigrant’s story but the man’s tenacity, zeal, and naked ambition makes him a kindred spirit of modern day hip-hop artists like Tupac and Kanye West. After reading Chernow’s book, Miranda spent the next seven years working on the musical that originally started as the Hamilton Mixtape. The first inklings of the emerging musical came from Miranda’s performance of what would be the opening number at the White House in 2009.

It’s easy to laugh at the idea. Hamilton and hip-hop don’t exactly overlap no matter how refined you make the Venn diagram. But when you move past the conceit of the musical and listen to the actual music, it all begins to make sense. Hip-hop and rap are, at their core, about self-aggrandizement, hyperbole, and passion and when one looks at the writings produced by the Founders those same core tenets materialize. They wrote for posterity’s sake, with history in mind, and men like Hamilton could rise or fall by the strength of their words. To win was to have the most convincing argument, which also meant destroying the argument of your opponent through cleverness and rhetoric. Tell me that doesn’t sound like a rap battle. In fact, there are two moments where the old school rap battle serves as the delivery method for cabinet debates between Hamilton and Jefferson. They are, by far, my favorite pieces for the Hamilton-Lafayette-Mulligan-Laurenssheer amount of history covered through amazing lyrical dexterity. I could listen to Lin-Manuel Miranda and Daveed Diggs battle all day as Hamilton and Jefferson. All. Day.

But the Hamilton soundtrack, produced by Questlove and Black Thought of The Roots, is more than just hip-hop. It’s the best fusions of R&B, jazz, rap, soul, pop, and traditional Broadway, but above all else it’s filled to the brim with energy. And therein lies the strength of the musical. The frenetic nature of hip-hop propels the story, making Hamilton and the rest of the Founders dynamic and active participants in the creation of the American experiment. These aren’t the stuffy white men of static images in history books, these are living, breathing revolutionaries looking for a fight, a cause, to improve their lives and prove themselves to the rest of the world. It’s also worth noting that the entire main cast is intentionally composed of people of color. As Miranda puts it Hamilton is “the story of America then told by America now.”

And at the center of it is Alexander Hamilton, played by Miranda, and the amazing cast bringing George Washington (Christopher Jackson), Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette (both played by Daveed Diggs), and Aaron Burr to life. Using Burr (Leslie Odom, Jr.) as the musical’s narrator, Hamilton follows the youngest Founding Father from his revolutionary beginnings to his untimely end. Miranda and company present a man who lived like every day might be his last, a man obsessed with glory and legacy as the only means of proving himself and rising above his lowly origins. But Hamilton isn’t just the immigrant story, it’s the story of American politics, which haven’t changed all that much, and the flawed men in power.washington

As someone who has studied the Revolution, I appreciate Hamilton‘s approach to the Founders. Framed within the context of “who lives, who dies, who tells your story,” the musical neither condemns nor condones the behavior of Hamilton, Burr, Jefferson, Madison, and Washington. They all get their moments to shine, but they’re also undercut by their own arrogance and insecurities. The exception might be Washington. Commander, president, and father figure, Washington still retains an air of heightened reverence but the song “Right Hand Man” does a brilliant job of articulating Washington’s frustration with Congress and his own soldiers while “History Has Its Eyes on You” brings out his gentle, compassionate side beautifully encapsulated in Chris Jackson’s voice. Hamilton, however, is as much at fault for his own ruin, “The Reynolds Pamphlet”, as the people out to destroy him politically. And while Hamilton and Burr’s duel is an inevitability the road towards that confrontation is paved by two lives that intersect and parallel at key moments. And yet, at every turn, we get a reminder of Hamilton’s looming death. Whether it’s in the subtle reverberations of gun shots at the end of specific songs or Hamilton’s personal mantra of “I am not throwin’ away my shot!” we know what’s coming.

Hamilton Richard Rodgers Theatre Cast Lin-Manuel Miranda Alexander Hamilton Javier Muñoz Alexander Hamilton Alternate Carleigh Bettiol Andrew Chappelle Ariana DeBose Alysha Deslorieux Daveed Diggs Marquis De Lafayette Thomas Jefferson Renee Elise Goldsberry Angelica Schuyler Jonathan Groff King George III Sydney James Harcourt Neil Haskell Sasha Hutchings Christopher Jackson George Washington Thayne Jasperson Jasmine Cephas Jones Peggy Schuyler Maria Reynolds Stephanie Klemons Emmy Raver-Lampman Morgan Marcell Leslie Odom, Jr. Aaron Burr Okieriete Onaodowan Hercules Mulligan James Madison Anthony Ramos John Laurens Phillip Hamilton Jon Rua Austin Smith Phillipa Soo Eliza Hamilton Seth Stewart Betsy Struxness Ephraim Sykes Voltaire Wade-Green Standby: Javier Muñoz (Alexander Hamilton) Production Credits: Thomas Kail (Director) Andy Blankenbuehler (Choreographer) David Korins (Scenic Design) Paul Tazewell (Costume Design) Howell Binkley (Lighting Design) Other Credits: Lyrics by: Lin-Manuel Miranda Music by: Lin-Manuel Miranda Book by Lin-Manuel Miranda

The women of Hamilton, though, are not to be ignored. Alexander Hamilton’s relationship with the Schuyler sisters may have been complicated but the musical uses that complexity to bring out the romance and tragedy in their history. Renée Elise Goldsberry is amazing as Angelica Schuyler-Church, the eldest and most intellectually profound of the sisters. In “The Schuyler Sisters” Goldsberry brings out the fun and youthful exuberance of Angelica’s search for a “mind at work” while “Satisfied” exposes her love for Hamilton and her dueling feelings of regret and happiness for his marriage to her sister Eliza. Phillipa Soo, though, is inspiring as Eliza Schuyler-Hamilton. Kind and supportive of her husband, her desire to “be part of the narrative” takes a tragic turn in the wake of the Reynolds Affair. The song “Burn” makes your heart break for her as she condemns her husband’s words and denies history access to her heart and mind. It’s a poignant commentary on the lack of documentation from Eliza concerning the affair and Soo brings such raw sadness and anger that it’s hard not to imagine the reality of Mrs. Hamilton’s circumstances.

This is all to say that I love, Love, LOVE this soundtrack and I wouldn’t be surprised if Hamilton wins all of the Tonys! Miranda has also mentioned that there are plans to film the musical, which I believe should be done as soon as possible. Not only does it put Hamilton into the homes of people who don’t have access to or can’t afford to see Broadway shows but it could be utilized by schools as a new way to teach kids about the American Revolution.

So raise a glass, people, and join me in my love for Hamilton!

After an oddly unprecedented summer full of mostly sunshine, the first day of Bumbershoot, one of the largest music and arts festivals in America, kicked off with weather more familiar to the citizens of Seattle, Washington: rain. Undeterred, people were ready and prepared for the three-day event with jackets, plastic ponchos, and, yes, even umbrellas so as not to miss any of the music, comedy, and art spread out over the Seattle Center in the shadow of the Space Needle.bumbershoot-2014

In many ways, Bumbershoot is indicative of Seattle’s cultural vibe. Have an eclectic taste in music, well there are several stages set up with musical acts ranging from up-and-coming artists to established acts topping the Billboard charts to veterans who show no signs of stopping. Traveling from one end of the Seattle Center to the other I heard new artist, and winner of the Experience Music Project’s (EMP) Sound Off!!, Otieno Terry perform a beautiful cover of The Eurythmics “Sweet Dreams” only to have the music eventually taper off until the heavy beats of Sam Lachow‘s hiphop set took over at Fisher Pavillion. This is a festival where Bootsy Collins gets driven around in a golf cart and everyone watches him drive by and goes, “Yup, there goes Bootsy Collins!” And I consider myself a winner on all levels when I can sit outside and eat a Skillet burger while members of The Presidents of the United States of America, plus some male audience members, shake their butts on stage as Luscious Jackson sings “#1 Bum”. I also understand that a lot of this is filled with local references, but maybe that’ll just entice you to make your way to Seattle one of these days.

"Finger Power" by LET'S

“Finger Power” by LET’S

The arts are also heavily emphasized at Bumbershoot, which says something when you consider the amazing talent brought in from the musical acts alone. Peppered throughout the grounds were booths from local and out-of-town artists selling hand-crafted jewelry, clothing, and ephemera. The great thing about walking the grounds and hopping from booth to booth were the varied conversations people were having with the artists and sellers over their wares. Even if they didn’t buy anything, people were genuinely interested in how the artists created their products. The level of engagement between artists and festival-goers is, in my opinion, what really makes Bumbershoot stand out. Not only are there the outdoor booths, but several art installments were inside various buildings. Flatstock is a staple of the festival with artists gathered who mostly specialize in creating posters for many of the bands and comedy acts featured. But there are also several interactive art exhibits that truly required the full engagement of those participating. Seth David Friedman’s “Black Poem” requires viewers to create a narrative by feeling their way along a series of oblong sculptures without the use of sight. And “Finger Power” by the Seattle art collective LET’S encourages people to interact with the piece by controlling lights, sounds, and video. And because Seattle is ensconced in a region well versed in technology, the Bumbercade offered several games that engaged the senses and morality of the people playing. The most touching exhibit, however, was the tribute to photographer Jini Dellaccio who passed away in July. Selected photographs were displayed to show Dellaccio’s ability to produce striking images through the faces of her subjects. In many of the photographs it’s the eyes that draw you in as if you’re meeting the person face to face.

To top it all off, Bumbershoot pulls in a staggering lineup of comedic acts as well as shows that play on the traditions of storytelling, variety acts, and civil interrogation. The Words and Ideas section of the grounds featured a wide array of performers who, like the musical acts and artists, relied on engaging the public to emphasize the greater meaning of community and the shared experience of those in attendance. One such show, The Failure Variety Show, featured several performers sharing stories of how they failed – whether through relationships, jobs, or reliving past failures from childhood – while two technicians attempted to build a Rube-Goldberg machine for the grand finale. The irony being that the machine wasn’t finished by the allotted time and the technicians madly scrambled around the stage triggering sections one-by-one. Whether intentional or not, the failed attempt at building the machine brought the audience together through laughter and the knowledge that failure isn’t the end of the world and good things can happen as a byproduct of failure.

Paul F. Tompkins and Rory Scovel

Paul F. Tompkins and Rory Scovel

And as far as the comedic acts go, it’s hard to fail with solid performers like Paul F. Tompkins, Janeane Garofalo, Pete Holmes, Rory Scovel, Michelle Buteau, and Doug Benson, just to name a few. Even if you’re not familiar with their standup, going to see one of the comedy shows can quickly create new fans. I got to witness such an event at the first Dead Author’s podcast where H.G. Wells, as played by Paul F. Tompkins, spoke with Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll, as played by Rory Scovel. Watching the improvised interplay between the two kept the audience, if not the performers, on the edge of their seats. Or literally out of their seats as Scovel’s Carroll wandered the stage in fear of the tablet Tompkins’ Wells used to record a promo for the podcast.

Three days just doesn’t seem like enough time to cover everything Bumbershoot has to offer, but luckily there’s so much to explore and discover. Even when you think you’ve done everything, something or someone surprises you with something they’re selling, a joke told with perfect timing, or an old song played with as much passion now as it was when you first heard it. One visit to Bumbershoot will never be enough. By the end of the weekend a year almost seems too long to wait for the next festival.

And here are some more photos for you to check out!

Typical Day in Seattle

Typical Day in Seattle

Neighbor Girl by Jini Dellaccio

Neighbor Girl by Jini Dellaccio

The Failure Variety Show

The Failure Variety Show



Me and Rory Scovel

Me and Rory Scovel

Me and Janeane Garofalo

Me and Janeane Garofalo

Me and Pete Holmes

Me and Pete Holmes

In a quiet moment during the second act of An Evening with Groucho, Frank Ferrante, now in his 30th year portraying the great Groucho Marx, recounts the meeting between a woman and Groucho.groucho

“You’re him, aren’t you? Groucho,” she says. Putting her hand gently on his arm she then says the most powerful words a person can demand of a comedian: “Never die.”

Sadly, it’s been thirty-seven years since the passing of Groucho Marx, the leader and acerbically witty frontman of the Marx Brothers. But in his absence we have Frank Ferrante carrying on his spirit, acting as a living monument and comedic historian for one of the great comedy teams to come out of vaudeville and hit the silver screen. The one man show – technically a two-man show if you count musical accompanist Mark Rabe – is a celebration of the wit, physical dexterity, and hilarity of Groucho and his brothers Chico, Harpo, Gummo, and Zeppo, chronicling their early years (including the origin of their stage names, though Ferrante easily sidesteps a definitive answer for the eponymous Groucho) through their rise to fame in film and television. The struggles, the hardships, but more importantly, the laughs, are all present as Ferrante serves up Groucho’s somewhat linear body of work with an extra side of ham as is befitting of the man responsible for Captain Spaulding, Otis B. Driftwood, and Rufus T. Firefly.

Ferrante begins the show sans makeup, addressing the audience as a man who was forever changed as a child, a shy one at that, when he first saw the rambunctious, free-spirited Marx Brothers in movies like Horse Feathers, Cocoanuts, Animal Crackers, A Day at the Races, Duck Soup, and A Night at the Opera. His love letter to Groucho truly begins when he transforms on stage, donning the universally recognized visage of Groucho Marx: grease paint mustache and eyebrows, cigar, glasses, and wild curly hair. It’s Groucho as he was in his prime, alive and breathing through Ferrante as he holds court over the audience.

Groucho_on_couchBut don’t expect Ferrante to remain tied to the stage. Oh no! Audience participation is highly encouraged. And by highly encouraged I mean mandatory. Ferrante leaps and bounds about the sparsely decorated yet homey stage, but it takes only a moment’s glance for him to descend the small staircase into the crowd. His laser focus and razor-sharp wit puts Ferrante at the advantage of improvising, almost effortlessly, with any audience member he singles out. It’s also a testament to Rabe’s abilities as a musician that he can follow Ferrante from song to improv and barely miss a note. He proved himself during the first official show of An Evening with Groucho‘s three-week stint at the ACT Theater in Seattle, Washington as Ferrante frequently broke in an out of song to poke fun at a woman slouching in her chair.

And while Ferrante showcases the jokes, puns, and overall wordplay that made Groucho the unflappable performer, he’s just as adept at singing some of Groucho’s famous songs including “Hooray for Captain Spaulding”, “Hello, I Must Be Going”, “Whatever It Is, I’m Against It”, and “Lydia the Tattooed Lady”. But it’s through one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s songs from The Mikado, “Tit-willow”, a song the real Groucho sang when he performed as the Lord High Executioner in a production of the musical, that we see the softer, more contemplative Groucho. Here is Groucho the romantic, Groucho the intellectual. The man who regularly conversed with poet T.S. Eliot despite only having a sixth grade education. Ferrante presents a three-dimensional Groucho Marx, a man who was much more than his famous persona. And as each generation becomes more and more removed from the Marx Brothers, though interest in them ebbs and flows, An Evening with Groucho allows us to glimpse, for a brief ninety minutes, a man who was and always will be a comedic icon. Ferrante keeps him alive and vibrant, fully realizing the immortality of comedy and comedians through the passion and love of their fans.

Me and Groucho

To find where Frank will be performing An Evening with Groucho, you can go to his website, or check out his Facebook page and An Evening with Groucho‘s page for updates.