Did feminism really change anything? Do we even want it to? Over 50 years after Betty Friedan helped spark a second wave with The Feminine Mystique, we're still arguing about the morality of birth control and telling young women to “spend far more time planning for your husband than for your career.” (Gag.) As it happens, a fiercely funny, Pulitzer-nominated play is onstage right now in Albuquerque, tackling questions like these without resorting to flimsy stereotypes or strident manifestos. Rapture, Blister, Burn at the Aux Dog Theatre isn't just clever—it's nuanced, thoughtful and uproarious. I asked Aux Dog's producing artistic director Victoria Liberatori about the play, whose run comes to a close this weekend.
Let's start off with a biggie: The Aux Dog website asks, "Are you afraid of the F word?" and insists this "is not a 'feminist' play." Why shouldn't audiences be afraid of the lady-problems in Rapture, Blister, Burn, and how soul-crushingly sad is it that you even have to explain that?
Victoria Liberatori: Feminism has always gotten a bad rep as a man-hating, humorless, strident political movement for unfulfilled upper-class women. Was any movement for civil rights a laugh riot? However untrue, that label has stuck and, if anything, Rapture, Blister, Burn seeks to dispel those misperceptions and succeeds in debunking the dreary women's libber image. The show is funny, sexy and not at all preachy. Yes, it's sad that the image was falsely created and promoted by anti-feminist forces in the media, government and business. It's also shocking that we're still fighting the same battles today for equal pay, for access to abortion and for equal representation in our government, on corporate boards and in the media.
The New York Times says Rapture, Blister, Burn contains "a joke about pornography and Google maps — believe it or not — that’s worth the ticket price alone." What do you think is the key to the humor in this play?
VL: Unflinching honesty in the eye of hypocrisy and the fact that the real wisdom comes from the mouth of the youngest character in the play, Avery, a 21-year-old. The playwright, Gina Gionfriddo, has brilliantly interwoven the perspectives of three generations of women and that of the sole man in the play. When these points-of-view clash there are great comedic explosions!
Tell me a little about what your actors bring to their roles in the Aux Dog rendition of Rapture, Blister, Burn. What would you most like Albuquerque audiences to take away?
VL: The actors all do an amazing job of inhabiting these funny, neurotic, complex characters, yet they bring their own unique personal qualities to the roles. Our Catherine, played by Sheridan Johnson, is a high-strung academic rock star; Gwen, played by Jessica Osbourne, is a dreamy stay-at-home mom who feels she deserves more; Don, played by Ryan Montenery, is an attractive, charming slacker who settles for being a dean at a fourth-rate college; Avery, played by Sara Rosenthal, is a 21-year-old prophet of sorts who wants to be a reality TV star; and Alice, played by Gail Spidle, is Catherine's mother who just wants her daughter to be happy no matter how much must be compromised. The characters in this play are so rich in nuance and depth. What a joy to work with our director, Kristine Holtvedt, on them.
The take-away, I suppose, although I hope the play touches each audience member in a way that resonates for them, is that the grass is not always greener in someone else's garden and that we simply cannot reclaim the past no matter how much we want it. Creating a life that's happy isn't easy, but we must try.
And finally, what are you most excited about on Aux Dog's horizon?
VL: Launching our new Shakespeare classes with Jerry Ferraccio and our new acting classes with Jessica Osbourne in our new space, the AUX BOX next door to the Aux Dog. Solidifying our Aux Dog Theatre Company of actors, designers and production personnel, and building on the incredible success we had in 2013! Expanding our audience base and taking on new, challenging projects that excite us and our audiences is always a goal.
Tricklock Company’s gearing up to launch their 20th season.
From Budapest to Seattle, Los Angeles to Belgrade, Edinburgh to Vancouver, Canada, Tricklock Company has planted their theatrical seed. More importantly, they’ve been a big player in the Albuquerque scene. As a local nonprofit, Tricklock has not only produced many original plays, talented actors, directors and musical scores, but was the first resident company in UNM’s Department of Theatre and Dance. After 19 years of hard work, the folks at Tricklock have decided it’s time for a well-earned bash. However, unlike someparty invitations that say to leave the drama at home, this is one bash where drama is welcome.
Tricklock kicks off its 20th anniversary on Saturday, Aug. 31 with a free performance at the Tricklock Performance Factory (110 Gold SW) that borrows from the company’s past shows. The short performance is an amalgamation of old and new, incorporating performances from current and founding members. Featuring slide shows, memorabilia and intertextual references, Tricklock merrily puns on its own history. A new, original score also accompanies this eclectic blend of multimedia and theater. However, it doesn’t end there. Afterwards, join the crew for toasts and general merriment as they continue the celebration at neighboring ArtBar (119 Gold SW), a bar that donates their profits to the arts.
The bash marks the beginning of a yearlong celebration that debuts Tricklock’s brand-spankin’ new ticket subsidies program. With help from the McCune Charitable Foundation, they will reserve a percentage of seats at every performance for the coming year. These seats will be offered to local non-profit and low-income communities, available on a first-come, first-served basis. Organizations like YDI, Big Brothers Big Sisters and many others can benefit from the reduced ticket prices.
Tricklock’s anniversary will also be followed by a month of solo performances. September will open with Juli Hendren’s Rot (Sept. 5 through 8), followed by Elsa Menéndez’ Cloud Cover, or Conversations with Harry (Sept. 12 through 14) and close with Kevin R. Elder’s Knit (Sept. 19 through 21). Whether you can take advantage of discounted seats, are an aspiring thespian or just wanna party, Tricklock’s bash will be a welcome change to your Saturday night. If you’ve ever spent much time around theater people, you may know how these kinds of celebrations can be almost too good of a time. Happy anniversary, Tricklock!
The Alibi sent two of its editors, Arts & Lit Editor Lisa Barrow and Copy Editor/Staff Writer Mark Lopez, to check out local drag troupe The Dolls’ interpretation of Valley of the Dolls. I wasn’t able to attend this performance but—since I’ve read VotD a gazillion times—Barrow and Lopez offered to let me interview them about the show. Helen Lawson—whose character was based on and originally cast as a Judy Garland role—would probably urge you to ignore this, but she’s trapped in the ladies’ room right now, ‘cause I tossed her wig in the toilet. So read on.
Who was your favorite actor/character in the Dolls’ production of Valley of the Dolls? If you saw the film or read the book, is your literary/filmic fave character/actor the same?
Mark Lopez: My favorite character was Helen Lawson, played by Tequila Mockingbyrd. The character was hilarious and spot-on in terms of comedic timing. Granted, I’ve never read the book or seen the famous 1967 flick, I was glad to go into this production with a fresh head, not knowing what to expect. But Helen Lawson blew me away from the beginning. Neely O’Hara is a close second.
Lisa Barrow: Tequila Mockingbyrd was a crowd-pleaser, it’s true, whipping the audience up every time she appeared as Helen Lawson, the cynical star who’s past her prime. But I think I most enjoyed seeing Jennifer North, the tragically beautiful starlet who’s only appreciated for her body. A doe-eyed Stacia Visage gave her a syrupy voice and a voluptuous physical presence that played up the best and funniest parts of the character. I wish there’d been more for her to do.
In the film, Dionne Warwick’s rendition of the VotD theme really sets the tone for melodrama. How is music and song used in the Dolls’ interpretation?
ML: For me, the song was used in a sort of comedic way. In the beginning, seeing Anne Wells (played by Chastity Belt-Off) walk across the stage with a makeshift train window to the track was hilarious. To me, it was sort of a precursor to the ridiculousness and outlandish quality that made it so fun and enjoyable to watch. And of course, when it played at the end, as the actors took their bows, with Jacquesan Stratton-Toya Bouvier (wow, what a name!) lip-syncing to the song, it made me understand why people are fans of the original film.
LB: I just have to say, Jacquesan Stratton-Toya Bouvier was fantastic. She had several minor roles and was magnetic in every one. Mark’s right about the show playing up the ridiculousness in just the right way—another good lip-synching moment was Helen Lawson’s big number, “I’ll Plant My Own Tree,” where they approximated those colorful 1960s decorations (I don’t even know how to describe them... some sort of Calder-inspired mobile?) and Tequila Mockingbyrd owned the stage in a weird dress you couldn’t stop staring at. But my favorite multimedia aspect to the show were the film clips. Jennifer North rolling around on a bed with a French hunk in one of her nudie films was too wonderful for words. In the VotD movie, the whole scene with Sharon Tate is pretty tame and restrained. But in the hands of The Dolls, it was sublimely bizarre.
Brush up on your Valley of the Dolls: the trailer
ML: Yes! The film clips were excellent. My favorite was when they incorporated Neely O’Hara’s exercise routine in a video with the Pee-wee’s Big Adventure theme song as the backing track. It’s probably not enough to merely mention it; this is one of those instances where you have to be there to not only witness the hilarity, but to get a better context for it. Needless to say, it was pretty great.
Neely O’Hara and Helen Lawson have a vicious cat fight in the bathroom
Sometimes theater audiences can seem very self-conscious and cautious about responding … whether they’re worried about laugh-snorting or being the only one screaming “Brava!” How was the audience interaction/participation at this show?
A Gilmore Girls drag show would be so much better than this...
LB: It could’ve been better. Jim Johns, the show’s director, did come out at the beginning of the show and encourage everyone to shout out favorite lines like, “SPARKLE, Neely, SPARKLE!” And the stars onstage sometimes gave the audience signals to applaud—but overall, the crowd was pretty quiet. Maybe it’d be different with a different crowd, or the Dolls will manage to drum up more audience frenzy with more performances. I hope so. But something they did really well was interact directly with members of the audience at a few key parts. I don’t want to give too much away, but let me just dangle the phrase “high flying dry humping” before you...
ML: I tend to be one of those “self-conscious” audience members that doesn’t like audience interaction too much, so in that regard, I was kind of glad that I didn’t have to participate. The moments that Lisa refers to when they interacted with people were done very selectively. But, it was done well. And as I said before, I wasn’t familiar with the subject matter of the play, so I didn’t know when it was appropriate to yell “Fag!” (And I’m gay, so it’s okay for me to say it now.) So, mum was the word … and rightly so.
Now that the performance has had a chance to percolate in the ol’ brainpan for a few days, what would y’all say the overall strengths and weaknesses of The Dolls’ VotD are? Would you be interested in attending another work interpreted by The Dolls? If you could instruct them to take on a work, what would it be?
LB: Strengths were lightning-speed scenes and skillful, funny stars. I also love how fully The Dolls grok their source material, the 1967 movie—clearly, they love its camp and its senseless shallow splendor and also grasp how ripe it is for lampooning. But their fidelity to the movie might be a weakness, too—parts of the show could seem like an in-joke if you didn’t know the scenes they were based on. Which is why anyone reading this conversation should click on the video links and get familiar with some of the original scenes and classic lines before they see the show. So, hells yes, I’d see more Dolls in a heartbeat. As to what work I wish they’d take on... Well, in a perfect world in which my own very obscure, very particular demographic were addressed, I have to admit that I would swoon over an all-drag version of Gilmore Girls. But, almost certainly, that’s just me.
ML: I agree that that one of the strengths were the “skillful, funny stars” that Lisa mentioned. Also, they utilized the space very well. When I first stepped into the theater and saw how small the stage was, I was worried that it was going to be cramped and awkward, but they moved within the boundaries so fluidly and made it work. As for what they could work on, I’m not sure. As Lisa mentioned, there were a lot of in-jokes, but they were constantly lost on me because I didn’t know where they were (also because I’m not all there), but I didn’t watch any VotD clips before or after the show, but I still enjoyed the moment for what it was, which tends to be how I like to experience things. And Lisa! A Gilmore Girls show would be fantastic! You reading my mind?
“Hi, my name is Coco. I’ll be trying out for the role of Cosette today.”
Obviously we’re not as pop culturally savvy as we like to think we are over here at Alibi, because we were all shocked—shocked, I tells ya—while watching the “E! True Hollywood Story” of Ice-T and Coco this past Sunday. According to the documentary, rabid ass-Twitterer Coco actually cut her theatrical chops working at the Albuquerque Little Theatre as a child. We shudder to think what Coco (née Nicole Austin) might have done during some long-lost 1989 performance of Annie. (“Funny, I don’t remember so much booty clapping in ‘Hard Knock Life’.”) But it’s right there in her Wikipedia bio: Although she was born in Beverly Hills, “the family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, when she was 10. She grew up as a tomboy, riding quads and playing football. Austin began dancing (jazz, tap and ballet) at the age of six, and was introduced to the stage early by her mother. She was involved in many productions at the Albuquerque Little Theatre.” Weird. Anybody remember seeing her? Photographic proof would be awesome.
Blackout Theatre’s adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic pits a group of strangers in a St. Louis train station, waiting to be whisked away for the holidays. Delays ensue, and the motley group turns a bad situation into theatrics. Writer Christie Chisholm reviewed it in this week’s arts section. “Blackout’s version is marvelous,” she writes, “whimsical yet dramatic with fine acting, haunting live music and some wonderfully creative puppetry. The kids will love it, but more importantly, you will probably love it, too.” Tonight’s show is at 8 p.m. There are also performances Saturday and Sunday.
The Reptilian Lounge is an outrageous variety show started by Tricklock Company in 1996. These days it pops its head up a few times a year, including tonight at The Box Performance Space (100 Gold SW) at 10:30 p.m. Tractor Brewing will be on hand. Check out this week’s Culture Shock for a lineup and other details.
In this week’s arts section, writer Christie Chisholm previewed David Garver’s one-man show, The Age Between Sage and Fool. Searching for an identity amidst mid-life crisis, Garver penned the production in which he plays a handful of men with his predicament. Inlcuded are a baseball manager, a spiritual sex guru and an Elvis impersonator working in a retirement home. Garver has interspersed film clips into the production to give him time to transform from one character to the next. The show runs this weekend at The Filling Station (1024 Fourth Street SW), with the first of three performances kicking off this evening at 8 p.m.
Jacob Lewis (right) delivers a commanding performance.
Jacob Lewis has star power. In this week’s performance review, writer Christie Chisholm described his performance as the Emcee in ALT’s production of Cabaret: “He is commanding, tickling the audience with his monarch-sized fake eyelashes and exuberance and then carefully breaking its heart. Lewis also seems tailor-made for the role—wiry, whimsical and wonderfully flirtatious. It would be easy to spend the show’s run time (two and a half hours with intermission) watching him alone.” Cabaret’s last three shows run this weekend beginning tonight at 8 p.m. at Albuquerque Little Theatre (224 San Pasquale SW).
Scott Sharot (left) and Jeff Silverman in “The Dumb Waiter”
In our October 20th issue, we ran a preview of director Frank Melcori’s staging of Harold Pinter’s “The Dumb Waiter.” The show premiered last weekend at Bébé Café in Old Town, but has since been moved due to complications with a landlord and neighbors, Melcori tells the Alibi. This weekend’s shows will run at The Filling Station (1024 Fourth Street SW) on Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m. (as opposed to the previous listing of Friday and Saturday). The larger venue should help accomodate theatergoers who couldn’t get into last week’s sold-out shows. Admission is $10.
“The Dolls bring something to Albuquerque that doesn’t exist on any other stage in this city,” writes Christie Chisholm in her review of the Albuquerque drag troupe’s latest production, running through Oct. 30 at Aux Dog Theatre (3011 Monte Vista NE). “They create a space where sex can be silly, gender is treated playfully and as the social construct it is, and everything—from hair to lip-synced dance routines—is gloriously over-the-top.” The first of this weekend’s three shows of Satan’s School for Girls: The Reunion takes place tonight at 8 p.m. Check out the full review for more.