Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Interview with Louisville Legends Scott Davis and Joey Arena (Alley Theater of Louisville)

About a year ago, Eric and I had a chance to go down to my old Kentucky home and meet with the men who made my life choice of being an actor seem reasonable.
In high school, I became involved in the now REfunct Alley Theater Company.
The stars of the theatre are not only incredible artists, but they also became my mentors and truthfully, are still my heroes to this day.
Scott Davis and Joey Arena were invaluable in my teenage years. Teaching me how to make plays and smoke Marlboros, the importance of coffee and Caryl Churchill.
Today, the new Alley Theater won a couple awards from Leo Magazine, a popular Liberal rag down in Louisville.
Here is our interview for your perusal and enjoyment!

*Please remember the shows they are plugging are from a year ago, but feel free to check out the Alley website here.
Louisville Theatre Forever!  

Hi guys! Thanks for having us down here to Louisville for a visit to your new theater!

Scott Davis-Thanks for coming. So, what do you want?

Is there some sort of vending machine in your theater?  I could use a Grape Nehi.

Joey Arena: I’ll send the Stage Manager out for one.

That would be grape! So, tell me dudes, I haven’t seen you for almost 15 years. What is this new Alley Theater about?

SD-Well, a lot has changed since you were here.  We actually try to hire actors instead of teenagers who can’t get into drama club productions

JA: Ouch!  We also aren’t building sets out of cardboard anymore.  Well, not very often anyhow.

If you build sets out of cardboard in Chicago, they call you a genius and give you a job at the Court Theater!

JA: We were just ahead of our time, not poor, right?

SD-Actually, since we’re older now we’re hoping to be more on the curve than ahead of it.

                                                                               Scott Davis on a Wednesday

Scott, when you started the Alley, how old were you, and what made you decide to set up in Louisville?

SD- Honestly, I had work back in LA, but I’d married an Australian girl who made a lot of enemies in LA and didn’t want to go back.  So, I was kinda stuck here and no one was doing the kind of shows I wanted to do and another internship with ATL just didn’t appeal.  I was 25.

Had you and Joey been friends for a long time before that?

JA: We had both been hearing for years (while in high school mind you) “You remind me of Scott Davis”.. “You should meet Joey Arena, you guys are so much alike”.. and then back in 1985 we finally ran into each other at the premiere of David Lynch’s ‘Dune’ at the Showcase Theater.  And we’d been friends ever since.  So when the Alley came along, Scott came back from LA, and we happened to run into each other again, I climbed aboard.

That’s great.  You know, a lot of really wonderful partnerships came out of people bonding over
the terribleness of David Lynch’s DUNE.  I think that’s how Seals and Crofts got together.

JA: Let’s not forget Shields and Yarnell.

SD-I want to do Lidsville the musical!

When I first came around, you were auditioning for 2 kids to play Siamese twins in Joey Arena’s play “Prometheus J. Dunn’s Jubilee Circus Sideshow”.

JAL Oh god.  That show was terrible.  I actually haven’t written another play since out of shame. Weren’t you like 15 or 16 Andy?

That play might have been terrible to you, but it opened my eyes to a new way of making theatre. When you are in high school, you think all plays are like A Christmas Carol, and that everyone is jerks and that all directors are old guys with beards and berets. But when I came to audition, I was 14 years old and you guys were smoking cigarettes in an old storefront warehouse.

SD- Nah, we just did it to get a 14 year old boy in a dress for gay pride week

JA: Well, that’s awesome!  It was, I suppose, a leap from productions with money and rules.. we did what we wanted (well, at that time, mostly what Scott wanted.. he was the one with the vision of the theater) and however we could and thought was best.  We still sort of do that here.. but now we try to actually make enough to pay the actors and support ourselves.  Our choice of material is still “a little off center”.. in fact we revamped (pardon the pun) “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom” about a year and a half ago.

SD-Did you see Point Break Live up there?

Well, with paying your actors and supporting yourselves, you guys are ahead of about 98% of Chicago storefront theatre in general.  How would you describe Andy’s acting style?

SD-It’s been a while, but his style fit in with what we were doing at the time.  Depending on who was heading a show Andy could take direction.  Or, if he was working with someone like me, was comfortable being told to trust himself and make it up as he goes along.--And never forget to speak over the actors that suck and if another actor goes up on his lines to look them dead in the face and say “and...?”  Seriously though, the base for the work was happening at the same time as a lot of the Twyla Tharp theater adapting (Anne Bogart’s Viewpoints) where the work really came from the actors.  He was comfortable playing and fun to work with.

JA: As I recall, he took direction well, but needed LOTS of it!  Very enthusiastic, and mildly spastic.  A comedic director’s dream really.  He was VERY funny.

                                                                  Joey Arena after his first marriage

One time, we were doing  Caryl Churchill’s Cloud 9 and I had what turned out to be pneumonia. I was a pretty heavy smoker when I was 15, so the coughing was miserable. One night, I was on stage (I played Joshua and Cathy) and I talked to Scott backstage and asked him what I should do. He told me to not believe that I had to cough. Well, it worked, and ever since then, whenever anything bad happens in my life...including paying bills or dealing with my employers, I have chosen to not believe it.

SD- Wow, I give terrible advice.  Sucker!

JA: Scott is a bit less Kung-Fu zen these days.

SD- I have kids.

So tell me what makes Louisville Theatre different from say, Chicago Theatre?

SD- Us..And you have Second City.

JA: I think we have more clearly defined niches for the theater groups here due to there being fewer of us.. We’re the “weird” theater, Centerstage is the “Musical” theater, Wayward is the “Theater about theater” theater... although with our current production of “Evil Dead: The Musical” we’re gunning for the Centerstage 80 year old musical theatergoer crowd :)

I love it.  I sometimes feel that there are too many companies in Chicago, and they all end up doing the same things...there will be multiple productions of the same plays all the time.  With a smaller market, it seems you guys can really stake your claim to what you want to do, rather than following some sort of trend.

SD- The niche we seem to be covering right now is doing shows that are fun and about entertaining the audience.  Most don’t even have a cleverly hidden message.  About half the shows include the line “the bar is open and the more you drink, the funnier we are”.

JA: Well, it’s not that we try to stake out an area really, so much as we do what we think needs to be done, or would be fun to do, and that sets us apart because we don’t ever decide that “Noises Off” or “Brigadoon” would be fun.

I have been thinking about the way I have theatre and it always comes back to you guys. Scott was a hard working dude, always painting and building and interested in talking about technique. Joey was a stand up comic, always with a hot chick on a motorcycle and had earrings and shit and liked to party. I have tried to balance both of those things and recreate both of you in one person. Are you guys still the Ying and Yang of each other in that respect?

SD- Pretty much.  Although in all fairness when putting a show together Joey is a lot more organized and focused on the way a show comes together than I am.  I still pretty much walk by with a hammer and yell notes out.

JA:  Yeah.. I’m the divorced partier who still rides a motorcycle and dates young girls, and Scott is a married father of 2 lovely monsters

SD- My kids think Joey is always right

JA: So in that regard not much has changed.  And our directing styles are still VASTLY different, but I think that’s why we’ve always worked well together.  I’m detail oriented and Scott is.. um... artistic.

I’d like to say that Joey puts together a mean case for divorce in that last answer.  Also, could I find out some more about Scott blowing himself?

JA: Which time?

SD- Uhm, it was blowing myself “up”.  The first time-yeah, first time-I was doing some pyro for my birthday party and someone had premixed some chemicals and put them back in  their original containers.  Very Hot explosion.  Ended up in the hospital having someone cut flesh of my arm and spent a couple of months having it trimmed and salted (tasted better that way)...
Kept most of my hair though.--Oh, it was my left arm.  I wasn’t dumb enough to light the bomb with my favored hand.

You guys sound like crazy people. So tell us what we have to look forward to at the Alley Theater this year and also, what are your favorite companies in Louisville?

SD- I am the most normal crazy person you will meet...My favorite companies in Louisville would have to be La Petomaine and Damaged Goods Improv.  As for our season.  It opens with Evil Dead, then it’s Hitchhiker’s Guide (radio shows) Star Wars in 60 or less, the Matrix-then after that we get serious and don’t do a movie for the next couple of months.  We do have an original piece called Hughesical the Musical about a bunch of GenXers who have based theire lives off of his movies.  And in March we have The InHuman: A Festival of New American Zombie Theater. Festival runs opposite Humana--My favorite theater company is out of New York-The Vampire Cowboys

JA: I’m a traditionalist.. I love Actor’s Theater and The Louisville Ballet.  We are also doing “Some Things You Need To Know Before The End Of The World (A Final Evening With The Illuminati)” at the end of this season..  And I’m touring Evil Dead as well.  (Know of a theater in Chicago that seats over 400 and doesn’t mind a few gallons of blood poured on their floor?)

I actually know a few theaters like that. We will talk about it. So guys, thanks for the visit. As we move forward in our explorations, we certainly hope to have you guys up to Chicago and I can host you in something that you have helped create. WHERE THE FUCK IS THE GRAPE SODA??

SD-We have Orange or Mogen David.

JA: I’ll fire the Stage Manager.


-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman (Movie Review)

Remember when we didn’t have On Demand and Netflix? It was a much simpler time because you could go to the movie theater to see a movie, or go to the video store and choose a classic or a New Release for maybe 4 bucks. You would be so excited on your drive home with your video cassette.

“I can’t wait to check out this Saving Private Ryan! I hear the beginning scene is awesome!”

Then you would get home and put your arm around some girl from your chemistry class and get ready to touch some boobs.The first scene  was awesome, but then you were stuck with the last 180 scenes that weren’t as awesome and you already touched her boobs.

Nowadays, that same girl is a meth head and you have Netflix right there on your tv! So for 8 dollarinis a month, you can choose between 400,000 movies and the only thing that differentiates a new release is one little line above it.

All movies have finally become equal. There is equal ground for everything. There is only “New To Me” movies out there now. And because of that, and the readiness and availability of films, I spend a lot of times watching the first 10 minutes of something, realizing it is stupid and then watching something else.

But even I occasionally get fooled.

I LOVE to watch re imaginings of things. Those Tim Burton things, Transformers, Batman, Sherlock Holmes, whatever. I will watch them all. There is something familiar that I enjoy. I like feeling like I am taking a trip to a place I have been before. You can dig deeper and take different paths through the same forest you already love.

I decided to take the trip to Snow White and The Huntsman. We are all familiar with the Disney film and the Grimm tale version where Snow White falls asleep because her Step Mother is a bitch and then a prince kisses her and wakes her up. There are dwarves and apples and it’s all gravy. The end.

Now this fucking thing...ugh. Just thinking about this piece of TOTAL GARBAGE is making me tired. I fell asleep on 2 different occasions trying to make it through, but I finally did. In fact, the more I am thinking about this movie, the less I feel like talking about it, so let’s make this quick.

Charlize Theron is good.

The guy from Thor is good, but he has like 10 lines and just looks at the camera with his pretty eyes.

The editing, direction and script are all worthless.

The dwarfs are all played by famous British people, which seems like a waste of regular sized British people.

Then we have Kristen Stewart. Kristen has made a name for herself in the Twilight movies where she plays some teenager that likes vampires? Or is a pregnant vampire? I don’t know. Never saw it.

But in Snow White, she plays Snow White who is not only supposed to be beautiful, but also kind and friendly and not look like she is smelling gross farts all day.

So why would they choose old Fart Nose for this?

I’m sure she is good at playing an angsty teen, but why would you want her to be the most beautiful lady in the world? Ugh. She is just terrible.
I wish they made words that were worse than “terrible”, because I would use it for this bitch.

Then, after Snow White wakes up from her poisoned sleep, she is the General of the army that goes to fight the Step Mother.

So...Thor and a guy from the Hunger Games and these British dwarfs decide to go and TAKE ORDERS from an ugly teenage American girl...

You know what? It’s not even worth it.
I tried to write an opening to this to disguise it as some piece about the cons of buying a movie when it will be free on Netflix in 5 weeks, but really...I can’t do it.

This movie is just fucking miserably bad.

If you saw it, let’s start a support group.


-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Wedding of Ryan Bollettino and Courtney Rickard (wedding review)

I bet you are wondering where we have been.

Did we break up? Is theatre dead to us? Has life got us down?

No way pals! Life has got us UP! We might have what doctors are calling UP SYNDROME!

It is still pretty much like Down Syndrome, but we are retarded with HAPPINESS!

As for theatre, sure we’re still in the game...just on our own terms. My boy Andy here is directing a play that should scare your pants off on purpose. And I’m in a show that should scare you involuntarily!

But during the summer, we like to take a break and reflect on our lives, spend times with our women, and to celebrate in different states. One such opportunity presented itself last weekend, in the small town of Mears, Michigan.

Our good friend Ryan Bollettino, Phish enthusiast and fan of juicy hamburgers everywhere, got married to the lovely and tall Courtney Rickard.

If you don’t know Ryan, or as the old people call him, Bollo, then you don’t know shit about nothing. He was once a quickly rising star in the Chicago Theatre scene and a member of the weird and famous Hypocrites Theatre Ensemble.

I first met Bollo when he was working at the Griffin theatre in the late 90s. Oh, did we dance to some Rascall Flatts and play hackysack while watching The Green Mile on standard definition TV sets!

And I first met Ryan in the early 00’s when I asked him to buy me a 40 of Malt Liquor outside of Carol’s on Karaoke Night. He said no, but I knew we would be friends forever.


So here is a rundown of what happened on Saturday.

We left early. The skies were bright and full of hope. We were hoping to stop at one of the 15,000 blueberry farms. It struck me that in this economy, maybe blueberries aren’t the best decision, for a farmer to rely on, or any sort of berries for that matter. Unless they are Meth Berrys.

We stopped for a jerky/pee break and made our wives brew some sun tea at the rest stop. We realized we only had a short time to get to the wedding and sit there and relax for 7 hours. So, we kept moving even though the sun tea was half done.

In our delerium, we stopped 4 more times at various antique malls, searching for old Playboy Magazines and sausage grinders from the 1920s.Our search was fruitless, because we already had all the sausage grinders and Playboys they had, and there was no way we were paying $16 for a copy of Tawny Kitaen with her nips out.

Full of half brewed tea and our jaws packed with jerky, we rolled into the Silver Lake Resort area. Everyone had dune buggies. More dune buggies than all the Mad Max films combined. All different sizes and colors, but no sign of the wedding! Was this wedding happening on a dune buggy course?

Of course not. That’s what Bollo would have wanted, but Courtney would never stand for a dune buggy wedding.

Instead, we were welcomed into what looked like a Knights Of Columbus lodge from the late 70’s.

Everything about it was wonderful. I kept expecting Sam Elliot and Patrick Swayze to bust all ass in a knock-down, drag-out set to the sweet sounds of The Jeff Healy Band. But, luckily, they weren’t invited to the wedding. There’s no way a blind guy can play a guitar that well!

The evening started with the actual ceremony, where many guests, including us, went and sat on this patio thing and Bollo was waiting at the altar for his nubile young bride. It was the most beautiful of Michigan nights.

Bollo had hired only the finest concert musicians and forced them to play covers of terrible songs from the 80s. This was his devilish streak coming out to play. I chuckled to myself, but everyone heard it.

In a matter of seconds, there stood before us one of the most beautiful visions we have ever seen. A tall blonde in a white dress. She was walking very slowly and dramatically. Her walk told me that maybe she had been thinking about how she was going to walk down the aisle. She did it just like she practiced and everyone stood up and cheered because she was so happy and the quartet was playing “She’s My Cherry Pie” which we thought was a fitting song for Michigan.

I think that meant the ceremony was over, so we retired to the deck where horse’s ovaries and drinks were being served. I thought the ovaries were oversalted a bit, but the bug juice was properly mixed and we proceeded to get FACED.

Whenever a celebrity like Ryan Bolletino gets married, you can expect to see others. AND BOY DID WE!!! As soon as you turned your head, there was another Theatre Legend!!

Rob McLean and Erin Myers are admiring the view! Jennifer Grace and Mechelle Moe are playing lawn darts! Nikki Klix and Angelina Martinez are talking about how their shoes hurt! Geoff Button and Jennifer Santanello are playing high stakes Euchre! Sara Jean McCarthy has a knife!

It’s a theater EXPLOSION! Plus, all of Ryan’s uncles were dressed like Will Farrell’s version of Robert Goulet and are yelling “GOULET!” at each other. I couldn’t believe this actually was an organized effort so I followed a group of them to the woodshed. Turns out, they’re Illuminati! Figures.

After a glorious dinner of Michigan vegetables and roasted meats, the time had come to really let loose! We started with a quick trip to the photo booth and some dancing to Nelly’s Greatest Hits. The drinks were really flowing, and the jackets were coming off!

As we were wandering out onto the skeet shooting course to light fireworks, the unthinkable happened. It started to rain. We laughed and cajoled as we ran for the shelter of the Val-Du Lodge for some more pepsis and pizza pies.

Perhaps one of these Illuminati members would know someone in Heaven who could turn off this rain, but it turns out that they were just Kiwanis Club. The mood didn’t falter, not even for a second, because the party kept going!

Finally we were able to get our pics in the photo booths using Mechelle Moe’s pleathora of props that it had taken her a full decade to find! Our creative sides came out when I dressed as an angel and my wife wore a pig hat with flapping pig wings!

Now sometimes Eric gets the giggles. That can go in a couple different directions. Either he gets the giggles and laughs himself to sleep, OR sometimes, Eric’s giggles turn him into a vicious demon, hell bent on having the TIME OF HIS LIFE!

And what I needed this time was a CRAB SOCCER GAME. I recruited most of the waitstaff and the Goulets and the black bus boy to go out in the rain and strip to our skivvies and play crab soccer with a beach ball left over from last weekend’s Jimmy Buffet Beachcomber BBQ and Beer Trivia Quest.

The Rickard family was screaming from the shelter for Eric to stop, but he didn’t. Their screams only made the game stronger and wilder. People were getting kicked in the face because Eric had wisely thought ahead and brought cleats to wear with his suit.

While Eric was distracting the crowd, I had discovered that the photoboard projections were showing freshy uploaded pics of the party. So with a simple $5 bill and a wink/handshake, I was able to gain full access to this program. When the crowd that was left gazed at the picture screen, they were treated to glorious upclose phone pictures of my butthole.

As I strolled in after the best crab soccer game Silver Lake Resorts had ever seen, I could hear the murmurs of the crowd:

“Whose butthole is that?”

“Seems like a butthole.”

“That butthole is surprisingly white and clean.”

“I wonder if that is Geoff Button’s b-hole?”

Our women were not pleased with our behavior, but this had become the hottest party in the county!

Soon, all the old people were doing “The Butthole” dance that Eric had taught them. It’s a lot like The Electric Slide with some Macarena, but with plenty of gestures to your own personal butthole.

After the crowd Buttholed the night away, it was time to say goodnight to our incredible hosts and to wish them the best on their new journey together.

I told Ryan and Courtney that they are a wonderful couple and I wished them a mazel! I then told them about the shower I was going to take later.

Not to be outdone, we told them that we had found a baby in the woods and to call the authorities. Then we left the confused and panicked partiers together.

“To our hotels for showers and some of the meats we had stolen from the reception!” I declared.

I think it’s one of the best weddings I’ve ever been to and the memories we made there will last a lifetime, or at least until the senility finally kicks in and it’s nothing but crab soccer games and butthole dances.

Congrats, Courtney and Ryan! We love you!

The Wedding of Ryan Bollettino and Courtney Rickard: A++

-Eric Roach, Anderson Lawfer