Archives for posts with tag: Performance Space 122
Reggie Watts

Reggie Watts

A parody of a 1940s radio play would be as relevant to audiences today as, well, a 1940s radio play itself. But while it is inspired by a medium that is virtually extinct, Reggie Watts and playwright Tommy Smith’s Radio Play, currently running at PS 122 in New York City, is more accurately a lively, non-linear deconstruction of everything that radio listeners might be exposed to as they search the AM/FM airwaves. With scripted and musical transitions – at the same time more immersive and yet more subtle than the static between stations – that transport the audience between vignettes, an absurd take on a noir radio drama can become a silly domestic comedy scene, a riff on radio commercial jingles morphs into an abstract soundscape, and spooky sound effects and technical tricks contribute to an hallucinatory, stream-of-consciousness theatrical experience that is greater than the sum of its vintage parts.

Performing Radio Play mostly in complete darkness, Watts is the ringmaster, accompanied on stage by four other performers (actors Havilah Brewster, Beth Hoyt, and Mary Jane Gibson, with Jen Rondeau playing the theremin) who are surrounded by antiquated equipment such as old cassette players and television sets, mid-century appliances, and a lonely film projector spinning its empty reel. Improvised moments sneak into the structured piece, throughout which the audience is immersed in Watts’ unique vision that is meant to be heard and felt more than seen, with blackness punctuated only occasionally by well-placed and impeccably timed lighting cues.

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Tom Shillue

Tom Shillue

Last year, stand-up comedian and master storyteller Tom Shillue won an ECNY Award for “Best One Person Show” for Supernormal, “an evening of stories so normal, they’re radical.” Now he returns with a new rewritten version — featuring stories of his youth in suburban Massachusetts, his life in New York City, a high school reunion, and more — running for three weeks beginning tonight, March 16 at PS 122 in the East Village in NYC.

“I suspect people sometimes cringe at the idea of a solo show,” Shillue says. “I guarantee there’s no weeping, there’s no huge life revelations, there’s none of me kneeling down on the stage and coming to terms with my humanity. It’s mostly a funny show. It’s not a learning experience or a teaching experience. I don’t come out of any closets or go back into any closets. But it’s still a good time. So I guess that’s my weird ad for the show.”

Shillue is a fixture in both the NYC comedy and storytelling scenes; he hosts The Moth live storytelling series in NYC and on tour, is involved in radio and online storytelling projects such as the new site Broadcastr.com, and performs regularly at the city’s comedy clubs and alternative rooms. He has been featured on Comedy Central and Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and he is also a former correspondent for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Earlier this week, Shillue was named “Best Storyteller” at the 7th annual ECNY Awards.

Back Stage once called Shillue the Top New York Comic. Read my candid Q&A to learn how Shillue embraces his normalcy and seeks to define a new genre of comedy, why you almost saw him on Last Comic Standing last summer, and more:

So what is normal? What makes you “supernormal”?

Tom Shillue: In the old days, growing up in Norwood, Massachusetts, I thought I was a radical. When I was in high school, and when I was deciding that I was going to move my life to New York, I kind of thought of myself as an iconoclast. I used to look at New Yorkers and I’d think, “Wow, they must be so narcissistic.” And then I moved to New York and I realized that the real narcissists are people like us, who move from the suburbs to New York. The only reason we moved to New York is because we thought we were the coolest person in our town.

So that was the idea, that I moved to New York because I thought I was different, radical, iconoclastic, special. And then after being in New York a while, everyone in New York treats me like I’m out of a Norman Rockwell painting. So I call that “supernormal,” because I thought I was radical, and now that I’ve kind of settled into myself in New York, I’m not. I’m totally normal. So I like to call it supernormal. That’s my Zen state that I’ve reached. I don’t want to be different anymore. I don’t want to be special. I’m not rocking anybody’s world. I’m still the guy from Massachusetts, you know? Read the rest of this entry »

Five-year-old fest restores the art of storytelling.

Kim Wayans in 'A Handsome Woman Retreats'

Kim Wayans in 'A Handsome Woman Retreats'

For as long as humanity has had language, it has had stories. Before the written word or the printing press, storytellers used myths, legends, history, and imagination to entertain and to explain life. But if you want to see old-fashioned campfire storytelling with some modern twists, the SoloNova Arts Festival is the place.

“We felt there was a missing link in the industry when it comes to the pure art form of storytelling,” says Jennifer Darling, SoloNova’s producing artistic director. “If you think back over history, it’s usually been that one person passing down the stories from generation to generation. So the festival is about telling the stories, but also finding new ways to get them told. And all of the artists that we put into the festival are people that are telling their stories in ways we haven’t heard them told before.” Read the rest of this entry »