February 23, 2017

Indy Actors' Playground

This week I attended the 50th performance of the Indy Actors' Playground. This little gem of an event is held on the third Monday of every month at Indy Reads Books. Fantastic Indianapolis actors get to pick a play and do a live reading. The only requirement is that it is a professional play that has already been produced (not a new work) and that it hasn’t been produced in Indianapolis any time recently (and isn’t in an upcoming season). 

This gives actors the chance to select shows they’ve always wanted to do. The play isn't announced until the show begins. People attending don’t know what they are about to see. This means that the actors don’t have to worry about whether or not it’s an easy production to market.

There are no sets, no costumes, and no elaborate lighting effects. It’s just a simple stage with folding chairs. The actors sit a few feet away from the audience members and read directly from the scripts. The amazing thing is that with excellent actors and scripts, all that other stuff is just window dressing. 

The masterminds behind this passion project, Paul Hansen and the Indianapolis Business Journal’s Lou Harry, decided to offer a special twist to the 50th performance. They chose the play and even the actors didn’t know what they were about to read. Each one opened an envelope once they were seated on stage and got their first glimpse at their character. They were watching the plot unfold along with the audience as they acted out their part.

This week’s play was “Elemeno Pea” by Molly Smith Metzler. I can honestly say that before Monday night, I’d never heard of it, but it was a beautiful choice. I didn’t catch the name of every actor, but a few of my favorites from other shows were there and so I already knew their names. Georgeanna Smith, Devan Mathias, and Carrie Schlatter slide so seamlessly into their characters that I could have sworn they’d been rehearsing for weeks. The credit for that goes equally to Paul Hansen for casting the show and to the actors, who were able to give such depth to characters they’d just met. 

If you’ve never been to this event I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is completely free. If possible, take a few books with you to donate to Indy Reads Books as a thank you for hosting the event. Other than that, just remember it’s at 7 pm on the third Monday of every month. I’m so grateful to live in a city that encourages creative and diverse projects like this one!

For more information about the Indy Actors' Playground or to learn about upcoming events visit their Facebook page here.

February 8, 2017

The Little Mermaid

Like so many others, I grew up watching Disney’s The Little Mermaid. The lyrics of those songs are ingrained on my brain to this day. So seeing Broadway Across America’s current production of the story is bittersweet. It was fun to revisit the characters, but it was impossible not to compare the musical with the movie as I watched.

The show contains quite a few new numbers, but not a single one is a stand out. Instead they feel like efforts to kill time in between the recognizable songs from the movie. “Daddy’s Little Angel” is particularly cringe-worthy. “Positoovity” is another example; Scuttle the seagull didn’t need his own number.
Even when the audience is treated to “Under the Sea” and “Part of your World” they fall a bit flat. It’s not the singing that’s off, but the production as a whole. Though the lead, Diana Huey, can belt out her parts beautifully, it’s hard to concentrate on her singing as she shimmies her way around the stage “swimming” through the set. The show works so hard on perfecting the technical aspects, like dangling swimming actors a dozen feet above the stage, that the emotion of the story is missing. 

If you're hoping for something on par with Broadway's production of the Lion King or Beauty and the Beast, you might want to skip this one. The Little Mermaid just doesn't translate to stage as well. On the other hand, if you're hoping to take your kids to a fun live theatre performance, then this one will be perfect. It's geared towards little ones and they won’t be bothered by an annoying version or Flounder or the lackluster ending.

Don't Miss the Show 

The show runs until Sunday, Feb. 12 at the Old National Centre (Murat Theatre) so hurry to get tickets. Tickets can be purchased at Clowes Memorial Hall, The Murat Theatre, by calling (800)-982-2787 or online here. Shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

Photos courtesy of Broadway Across America