Thursday, December 11, 2008

Moody noir musical 'Gunmetal Blues' depicts misfortune in surreal world

Moody noir musical 'Gunmetal Blues' depicts misfortune in surreal world


December 09, 2008, 9:49 a.m.
CHUCK GRAHAM
Tucson Citizen

"Gunmetal Blues" rises out of the darkened Invisible Theatre stage as a 1930s nightclub gangster caper that's four parts atmosphere and one part action, with a twist. Armen Dirtadian looks terrific as Sam Galahad, the well-dressed loser who's old enough to know better but has never learned to resist.

Dirtadian is well-known around Tucson for his dashing roles as the broad-shouldered leading man at Gaslight Theatre, but is keeping his personality in the shadows here. He plays a private eye so down on his luck, no client is ever turned away from his tattered office.

Betsy Kruse Craig (another Gaslight star) steps into the IT spotlight as that tall blonde who doesn't care how much trouble Sam gets sucked into. She also plays three other blondes with their own suspicious motives.

Taking on several additional roles is Mike Padilla, who mostly is Buddy Toupee, the tuxedo-clad piano man so cynical he'd be suspicious of Santa Claus. Occasionally Padilla jumps up to play a cop or a cab driver or something, filling out scenes the way he fills out the songs written by Craig Bohmler and Marion Adler.

Scott Wentworth gets the credit for dialogue that adds poetry to the hard-boiled writing style we associate with pulp fiction. Sam can tell the blonde is approaching by "the sound of expensive shoes on cheap linoleum." She is an elegantly groomed executive working in an office tower that is "30 stories of greed under glass."

Not long after asking "Where do they go, the dreams we're always chasing?" Sam remembers how the blonde "was staring at her own face in the mirror, like she was asking for directions."

There are plenty of songs, too, in this musical mystery romance - 17 of them, to be exact. The title track is strongest, "Gunmetal blues, the color of a bruise." Most amusing is "The Blonde Song," describing all the different kinds of blondes in the world, from the everyday bleached blonde to the extremely rare Schopenhauer blonde.

Unfortunately, we never learn exactly what a Schopenhauer blonde might be, but the image is terrific.

Gail Fitzhugh is at the helm as director, piloting this ship of fools through the straits of apprehension. She cleverly avoids the shallows of satire and the shoals of stereotype. Instead, the world of "Gunmetal Blues" becomes a kind of parallel universe where all the women are blonde and all the men wear trench coats because it's always raining.

Craig is effective at giving each of the four females a distinctive personality. The program billing is confusing, though, because she is only listed as The Blonde. Buddy Toupee isn't named, either. He's just identified as The Piano Player.

This lack of identity is part of the fevered dream effect, where you aren't supposed to be exactly sure what is going on. Basically, Sam gets a client, then there is a murder. The case gets complicated and the murder is solved.

Just don't imagine the butler did it. In this smoky world of swirling desperation full of grasping hands and tense agendas, nobody's got a butler. The only high-caliber character in this show is named Smith & Wesson.

Tucson Weekly : Arts : Live From the Red Eye

Tucson Weekly : Arts : Live From the Red Eye

PUBLISHED ON DECEMBER 11, 2008:
Live From the Red Eye
Blending both humor and sincerity, Invisible Theatre's 'Gunmetal Blues' offers a pleasant surprise
By JAMES REEL




I know what you're thinking, because I thought the same thing--and we're both wrong.
Invisible Theatre is putting on Gunmetal Blues, a musical inspired by the gritty 1930s-'40s private-detective stories of writers like Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler. It rattles off lines like, "The rain on my face was a washrag full of straight pins." You can't really take that seriously unless it's coming straight from Hammet or Chandler. And this is a musical, remember, in which two of the stars are longtime regulars at Gaslight Theatre.

You're thinking: This is just another silly, fluffy spoof.

But you're as wrong as stilettos on a choirboy. Sure, Gunmetal Blues starts off as a send-up of more noir clich├ęs than you can list on a corpse's toe tag, but the writers, actors and director take their characters' emotions seriously. They're using some well-worn conventions to tell us a story about people worth caring about, not laughing at.

The action, we are told, takes place at the Red Eye Lounge, "one of those bars in one of those hotels out by an airport." The time is "one of those nights. Pretty late." The unnamed city is apparently fairly big, but not so big that half of it can't be owned by one man: a millionaire named Adrian Wasp, who has just spent his last night bleeding on his parquet, a bullet cozying up to his frontal lobe. The cops call it suicide, at least in public. Privately, they've got questions. Where, for example, is Wasp's emotionally unstable daughter, Jennifer? She's dropped out of sight.

The next day, detective Sam Galahad hears the tap of expensive shoes on the cheap linoleum leading to his office: The shoes belong to a statuesque blonde called Laura Vesper; she hires Sam to find Jenny on the Q.T. The investigation leads Sam to a bag lady named Princess, and an alcoholic, dangerously blonde lounge singer called Carol Indigo. Sam also has run-ins with an Irish cop and a mob kingpin, and all along the way, he's watched over by Buddy Toupee, the lounge pianist at Sam's favorite hangout, the Red Eye. It's a place where Sam can sit and watch people on their way to someplace else, and imagine that he is, too.

That last detail is one of several that gradually build up to make Gunmetal Blues an effective little study of loneliness and loss. These characters are caught in a perpetual morning after, and they deserve better than that.

The book, by Scott Wentworth, treads a fine balance between the comic and the compassionate, but it's from the songs by Craig Bohmler and Marion Adler that Gunmetal Blues draws its greatest emotional depth. The lyrics are intelligent and artful, and the melodies make real journeys through the minor-mode score instead of just trotting in place as they do in so many contemporary musicals.

Those songs are where the characters really bare their souls (and, if you're paying attention, unwittingly provide clues to the mysteries' solutions). They also give Gaslight veteran Betsy Kruse Craig a chance to prove that she can really act, not just perform. She plays all of the blondes, and each one is a different portrait of longing and heartbreak. She's especially moving in the bag lady's "Loose Change," and in Carol Indigo's "Blonde Song," a catalog of all the different kinds of trouble blondes can be.

Armen Dirtadian plays the damaged and cynical Sam with far more finesse and nuance than he's ever been allowed in his Gaslight characters, and Invisible Theatre can barely contain his huge voice at the climaxes. As a singer, Dirtadian kicks ass so much that they had to import extra ass to accommodate the kicking.

No less impressive is the work of Mike Padilla as Buddy Toupee and the other male characters. Padilla is a fine singer-actor, spending most of the evening accompanying himself and his colleagues at his lounge piano, but he's able to switch from one character to another with no more effort than it takes to change hats.

Director Gail Fitzhugh has found just the right tone for this show, light in the beginning and gradually darkening as Sam wades deeper into his case. The set and lighting design by James Blair and Susan Claassen work in perfect harmony to suggest multiple locales, even while the basic premises remain the Red Eye Lounge.

The recurring refrain in Gunmetal Blues is, "Don't know what I expected; got trouble here for sure." The trouble is all for a good artistic cause; I expected far less than what IT and Gunmetal Blues deliver with cleverness and sincerity.

Gunmetal Bluespresented by Invisible Theatre7:30 p.m., Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays; 3 p.m., Sundays, through Dec. 21Invisible Theatre1400 N. First Ave.$25 to $27882-9721; invisibletheatre.com

Friday, December 5, 2008

'Gunmetal Blues' is fun noir schtick, with tunes | www.azstarnet.com ®

'Gunmetal Blues' is fun noir schtick, with tunes www.azstarnet.com ®

'Gunmetal Blues' is fun noir schtick, with tunes
By Kathleen Allen
Arizona daily star
Tucson, Arizona Published: 12.05.2008

The piano player tickled the ivories while the detective, dressed in a fedora and a shiny gray suit, downed five, no six, fingers of whiskey in one gulp.
The blonde crooned a tune while she made herself at home stretched across the piano. The player looked like he might tickle her.

And so it goes in Invisible Theatre's perfectly played "Gunmetal Blues," a sendup of 1940s detective flicks. Only with music.

Director Gail Fitzhugh struck just the right note with the play — it would be easy to overplay this one and not trust the audience to get the jokes or the references.

She trusted them, as did her cast, Mike Padilla as the piano player Buddy Toupee, Betsy Kruse Craig as the Blonde, and Armen Dirtadian as Sam, the private eye.

Craig and Dirtadian are veterans of The Gaslight Theatre, but this isn't a Gaslight rehash. "Gunmetal Blues" is a bit thicker with plot and not nearly as, well, ridiculous.
But it most definitely has its ridiculous moments.

Like when the piano player became a cab driver, then a crook and then a cop within a minute-long scene. Padilla handled the character switches — done with hats and accents — with a dead serious face and a certain grace. Which made the whole scene that much funnier.

Some of the songs were deliciously over-the-top: "There are blondes / and there are blondes / And it's almost like a joke / You breath them in like perfume / You blow them out like smoke." That one was sung in a sultry voice by lounge singer Carol Indigo, one of Craig's several roles (all of them blondes, of course).

Then there are the poignant songs: "Bring me back my childhood days / The sky when it was blue / Rain when it was pure / And love when it was true." That melancholic little ditty was sung by all three.
This is not brilliant theater. Sometimes it is just a tad too self-conscious, and the plot is cobbled together primarily so that lines like "she had hair like the color of moonlight on topaz" can be dropped and songs can be sung.

But it's a fun play, with some impressive talent — Dirtadian and Craig were in strong voice and gave definition to their characters. And Padilla, who doubled as the show's music director, really impressed with his ability to shape a character even if he had just seconds to do it.
In the end, the biggest mystery in this play is why anyone would pass it up. It's light, fun, and it's got a piano player named Buddy Toupee.

Why would you miss that?

Review
"Gunmetal Blues"
• Presented by: Invisible Theatre.
• Director: Gail Fitzhugh.
• When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 21.
• Where: Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.
• Tickets: $25-$27.
• Reservations/information: 882-9721.

● Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@azstarnet.com or 573-4128.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Noir-ish spoof next for Invisible Theatre | www.azstarnet.com ®

Noir-ish spoof next for Invisible Theatre www.azstarnet.com ®


By Kathleen Allen
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona Published: 11.28.2008


A boozy blonde, a lounge lizard named Buddy Toupee, and a private detective who drops lines like "And then she was gone. Trailing perfume like a whispered prayer."
Now that would be enough to sign us up for a look-see.
Add music and we're there.

That's what you'll get with Invisible Theatre's "Gunmetal Blues," a musical detective spoof with Sam Spade-ish lines, a Lauren Bacall-esque seductress, and a host of minor characters familiar and funny. The show, directed by Gail Fitzhugh, opens in previews on Wednesday.

"Gunmetal" is the brainchild of Scott Wentworth, with music by Craig Bohmler and Wentworth's wife, Marion Adler.

Wentworth's first career is as an actor (he was nominated for a Tony in 1989), his wife's as a singer/actress.

At first Wentworth, who penned the book for the musical in the late 1980s, was resistant to the idea of a noir-ish spoof.

"I thought parodies of detective stories were so easy and done to death," he said, speaking from Canada, where he was performing in a production of "Medea."

"But Marion hooked up with Craig and they started kicking ideas around for songs. I would periodically get a tape of music, and I thought there was a reason to write this.

"We literally thought we were creating it for us; we never thought it would have a life," said Wentworth.
"There have been over 100 performances in Canada and the States. Sometimes we feel we've written this underground hit."

The play's success has been attributed to Wentworth's "witty book" (The New York Times), and indeed the sendup is full of delicious lines such as "It was dawn when I left the Red Eye. And the rain on my face was a washrag full of straight pins," and "Forget about ships, this face could launch a thousand rockets. She had hair the color of moonlight on topaz and a mouth that could send Shakespeare thumbing through a thesaurus."

In "Gunmetal Blues," Sam Galahad, a struggling private detective (Armen Dirtadian), is hired to find the daughter of a recently dead millionaire. Love and other complications ensue.
While it comes across as a parody, it's more than that, Wentworth insisted.
"It's really a parable about a generation of people who grew up expecting life to be one way, and it turned out another way.

"'Gunmetal' is kind of fabulous for these times. It's funny. It's about greed. It's about people who have let down their fellows, people who are lost and trying to come back to some kind of connection. Hopefully this play can entertain, and make people think."

Preview
"Gunmetal Blues"
• Presented by: Invisible Theatre.
• By: Scott Wentworth with music and lyrics by Craig Bohmler and Marion Adler.
•Director: Gail Fitzhugh.
• When: Previews 7:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday; opens 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Regular performances are 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 3 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 21.
• Where: Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.
• Tickets: $18-$27. Half-price rush tickets available 30 minutes before curtain, subject to availability.
• Reservations/information: 882-9721.
• Cast: Armen Dirtadian, Betsy Kruse-Craig and Mike Padilla
• Running time: 90 minutes, plus an intermission.

● Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@azstarnet.com or 573-4128.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

'Gunmetal Blues' film noir on stage

'Gunmetal Blues' film noir on stage


November 26, 2008, 11:16 a.m.
CHUCK GRAHAM
Tucson Citizen

Film noir isn't just on film anymore. Invisible Theatre has mounted a rainy night black-and-white production of "Gunmetal Blues" perfectly cast with Tucson's matinee idol Armen Dirtadian as the troubled private eye and Betsy Kruse-Craig as the doll.


Private eye Sam Galahad (Armen Dirtadian),

is a sucker for a mysterious blonde

(Betsy Kruse Craig)

in "Gunmeal Blues."

Although both singing actors are best known for their heroic performances at The Gaslight Theatre over the years, don't mention the G-word to either one. They start shaking their heads and waving their arms.

"This is nothing at all like Gaslight," says Kruse-Craig, looking alarmed that anyone would even ask. "There's a lot more to the story, and this is a much more intimate stage."

For the torch songs in "Gunmetal Blues" the cozier stage means a more sensual, shaded interpretation. The singers' phrasing can hang in the air on lingering notes that reluctantly slip into the past.

"You can give a song more layers and more character," she adds, explaining that she plays four different women - all blondes. So each needs a different singing style, a different pace to match the change in personality.

"This is the hardest show I've ever done in my life," injects Dirtadian, lest anyone think he just has to stand around looking cool. "It's the most detailed, and the writing is so rich."

He leans forward, reciting some lines. "She had hair the color of moonlight on topaz. And a mouth that would have sent Shakespeare thumbing through a thesaurus."

To fill the silence, he began another. "The gray mist of morning had given way to a ceiling of cold, unblinking stars."

The imagery definitely was several cuts above Guy Noir on National Public Radio's "A Prairie Home Companion." Scott Wentworth wrote the script, with music and lyrics by Craig Bohmler and Marion Adler.

"I get so caught up in the writing," Dirtadian says. "It is very precise. You can't ad-lib. If you can't think of the exact word, you can't just use a synonym. It's like doing Shakespeare. You can't ad-lib Shakespeare, either."

He has a point. Stephen Sondheim is another theater icon who kept coming up. "The music is similar to Sondheim," Dirtadian says.

"Which makes it wonderful to act," Kruse-Craig jumps in.

Both start singing together. It does sound like Sondheim, but sexier.

"One of the characters I play is a bag lady. It feels like I'm singing 'Sweeney Todd,' " Kruse-Craig beams.

Her other three personalities are Carol Indigo, who drinks not wisely but too well; Laura Vesper, a business executive in touch with her inner woman; and Jenny, the sweetheart every guy dreams of in the wee small hours of the morning.

The bag lady? Her name is Princess.

Completing the cast is Mike Padilla as the Piano Player, working in that kind of seedy hotel where lonely hearts pile up on the hard shoals of bitterness. Padilla also covers several small roles, as well, from cop to doorman to cab driver.

The plot begins with a flashback to 10 years before, at the same seedy lounge, when Sam felt one of those electric looks from a woman he would never forget. Or ever meet. But now, Sam is pulled into investigating a murder that may involve that very same blonde. Or maybe it's a suicide, and more than a coincidence she's the same woman. He can't be sure. There is only one way to find out.



IF YOU GO

What: Invisible Theatre presents "Gunmetal Blues" by Scott Wentworth, Craig Bohmler and Marion Adler

When: 7:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday previews; opening 7:30 p.m. Wednesday; continuing at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 21

Where: Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.

Price: $18-$27

Info: 882-9721, www.invisibletheatre.com

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving from IT!

Happy Thanksgiving from

pastichepasticheIT logo
starpastiche

In the spirit of the holiday season, why not
join us for a "delicious" mystery!


Millionaire Adrian Wasp is found dead.
A mysterious blonde is seen leaving his penthouse. Can detective Sam Galahad find Wasp's missing daughter and only heir? Or is she better off lost?

The answers await you at ...

GUNMETAL BLUES

Gunmetal blues

December 1 - December 21, 2008

The Invisible Theatre continues it's 38th Anniversary season
with
GUNMETAL BLUES
by Scott Wentworth
with Music and Lyrics by Craig Bohmler and Marion Adler.
This is a stylish musical murder mystery directed by Gail Fitzhugh
with its own witty and jazzy spin on the Hollywood film-noir genre. Not only is it in the tradition of Dashiell Hammett

and Raymond Chandler but is also an homage to the art of theatrical storytelling. All of the characters are played by
three actors! IT's cast features Tucson favorite's Armen Dirtadian
as the handsome gumshoe looking for a lost heiress, Betsy Kruse Craig as the blonde he can't figure out or forget and Mike Padilla as the man behind the piano who knows more than he's saying!


Wednesday - Thursday 7:30 PM

Friday - Saturday 8 PM
Sunday 3 PM

$25-$27

Special $18 Previews

Monday, December 1, 2008 7:30 PM
(a portion of proceeds will benefit The Loft Cinema)
Tuesday, December 2, 2008 7:30 PM

Call IT at 882-9721 for reservations.

small piano

We know, beyond a "shadow of a doubt",
this is the one show of the holiday season
that would be "murder" to miss!


Invisible Theatre 1400 North First Avenue at Drachman


P.S. Don't miss Suz in The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
She will be an "Invisible Doggie Walker Clown" this year!

Look for the red nose and sequined high tops!

Clown

Friday, September 19, 2008

This ain't your mama's Tupperware party, honey; it's Dixie's all the way | www.azstarnet.com ®

This ain't your mama's Tupperware party, honey; it's Dixie's all the way www.azstarnet.com ®

Accent
This ain't your mama's Tupperware party, honey; it's Dixie's all the way
By Kathleen Allen
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona Published: 09.19.2008

The world has gone all topsy-turvy.
Once upon a time, a play was a play, and a Tupperware party was a Tupperware party.
Not so at Invisible Theatre, which opened its season Wednesday with "Dixie's Tupperware Party."
At least there's truth in advertising there — you may be expecting a play, but this is most definitely a Tupperware party.

Only you pay to get in. No food is served. No alcohol, either. And you are sitting in a dry-cleaning shop turned theater, not a friend's living room.
OK, there are a few other differences. Not many Tupperware salespeople refer to the product as "crap." Or have an X-rated sense of humor. And most parties aren't hosted by someone as entertaining and outrageous as Dixie Longate.

But make no mistake. This is a Tupperware party. The message is buy, buy, buy.
Dixie, actually creator Kris Andersson in drag, has set up shop on the stage, with Tupperware in all sizes and colors on display. The backdrop is pink with big polka dots. At least they look like big polka dots. In any case, it's definitely pink and low-tech. At one point it seemed as though we were watching a cable access television show. Which, oddly, is part of the evening's charm.
As you enter the theater, you're given a name tag, a Tupperware catalog, order sheet and pen.
Dixie, in flaming red hair, lipstick to match, and a short gingham dress that exposes long, luscious legs, jumps right into hawking the goods.

She demonstrates each piece, plays with it, opens and closes the containers, drinks out of a no-spill Tupperware cup (Jack Daniels and Coke, or so it appears). And always, always, repeats the items' numbers, suggesting that we circle them in the catalog. "That doesn't mean you have to buy 'em," she explains. It just means that if you want to buy 'em, you've got the item already circled.
Then, after the show, you can just trot on out to the lobby, where Dixie has set up shop so she can take orders, and you can easily begin to load up on all the Tupperware you could possibly want. Or, even, the Tupperware you don't want.

Dixie speaks with an impressive Southern drawl, and her words spill out so quickly they are hard to catch. But you somehow sense that what she's saying is funny. And bawdy. And witty. And irreverent. And her timing is pristine. So you laugh. And if you are like a number of people at the opening night audience, you buy Dixie's "crap."
There's lots of audience participation at Dixie's parties, so don't sit up front if you want to avoid her attention. But if you like struttin' your stuff, Dixie will sense that, no doubt, and pull you up on stage with her.

You'll be the object of her jokes (as she often is herself), but there's never a cruel edge.
Dixie's got a big heart, and she implores everyone to believe that each of us counts. One never doubts her sincerity.

Or why she's there: for a good time, sure. But most of all, to sell you Tupperware.
● Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@azstarnet.com or 573-4128.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

'Tupperware Party' resealable fun on stage

'Tupperware Party' resealable fun on stage

'Tupperware Party' resealable fun on stage
CHUCK GRAHAM
Tucson Citizen

Sometimes a girl has to do what a girl has to do. Like sell Tupperware, which is Dixie Longate's main passion even when she is onstage presenting "Dixie's Tupperware Party," a satirical comedy written by Kris Andersson. This talented lady can't decide if she is a performer who sells a little Tupperware on the side, or if she is a star Tupperware sales rep who does a little performing on the side.
Not that it matters. Invisible Theatre has booked three weeks of Longate's entertaining sales pitches on stage and seductive Tupperware displays in the theater lobby. There is simply no doubt Dixie and Tupperware go together like ham and eggs, steak and potatoes, tofu and veggies. You know. . .
"When I started out, I didn't know anything about Tupperware. But I always loved parties. I know how to bring the fun," Longate enthuses. "One thing just led to another.
"When I got out of prison, it was my parole officer who gave me this Tupperware candy dish that looked just like glass. Then she suggested I give the parties a try.
"That's when I learned Tupperware has become a whole different thing now. It's not like what your grandmother bought."
Longate goes on about the virtues of 21st century Tupperware's new designs. There are lines of pots, pans and kitchen utensils. There's a specially designed corkscrew for opening wine bottles. The company, it seems, has looked beyond its initial determination back in the 1950s to making everything out of plastic.
"Well, there's certainly nothing wrong with pouring a little wine in a plastic tumbler," Longate says, wanting to make it clear. "You never have cracked or chipped glasses, either. That's worth something.
"And wine in a sippy cup won't spill on the furniture. Believe me, I've tried."
Longate adds that most of her furniture is covered in clear plastic covers, but no matter. She is a woman on a mission.
"Tupperware wants to break out of the old mold," she adds with a straight face.
Back in 2004, Longate's dual career leaped into the public eye when she brought her Tupperware party to New York City as part of the New York International Fringe Festival. That led to an off-Broadway run of the forthrightly titled "Dixie's Tupperware Party" and the rest is history.
Not to mention several more years of hefty sales in those ever-expanding kitchen products. Longate was making so much money selling the stuff, she had to keep it in the act. So she comes onstage dressed like a 1950s housewife, telling both colorful and heartfelt stories, bringing the fun in resealable Tupperware containers - which she releases one bowl at a time.
Invisible Theatre is happy to be a part of the action. Life isn't always a cabaret. Sometimes all the world is a stage and we are but customers. Clearly, Dixie Longate is a big believer in the art of commerce.
(Editor's note: Dixie Longate is the creation of actor Kris Andersson, who likes to stay in character because that way he sells more Tupperware.)

Friday, September 12, 2008

'Dixie' promises to flip your lid | www.azstarnet.com ®

'Dixie' promises to flip your lid www.azstarnet.com ®

Accent
'Dixie' promises to flip your lid
Stories by Kathleen Allen
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona Published: 09.12.2008



"Hello?"
I recognize the airy voice with the Southern accent right away. It's Dixie. I had spoken to her not an hour before about "Dixie's Tupperware Party," which she stars in and is bringing to the Invisible Theatre. The production here launches the show's national tour.
"May I speak to Kris Andersson?" I ask. Andersson is the creator of the show.
He's also Dixie, a Tupperware salesperson disguised as a sassy, irreverent, ribald broad in a gingham dress, red wig, garish lipstick, and a deliciously over-the-top personality.
"Oh, this must be Kathy," Dixie says in her sweet-yet-kinda-deep voice.
"Kris is helping me pack for the tour. I'll get him."
She steps away from the phone and sings out, "Kris, it's for you."
A deep, muffled voice, sans any discernable accent, responds.
"I'll be right there."
This is just a bit surreal. I wondered, momentarily, if I was stuck in a "Boston Legal" episode.
Andersson is Dixie. I know it. She knows I know it. He knows I know it.
But when we asked for an interview, we were told we could talk to Andersson. Or Dixie. Or both. But not at the same time. The illusion that one was not the other must be maintained.
That in spite of the fact that Andersson has owned up to the double persona many times in print.
Ah well. Maybe it's the prospect of a national tour that has compelled him to draw a line 'tween Dixie and Kris.
Andersson hit upon the idea of Dixie about seven years ago, when he went to a friend's Tupperware party.
"It sounded hilarious — but my friend was actually supporting her entire family that way," he said in a 2007 interview.
"And I thought, 'What have I got to lose? At least I'll get free Tupperware.' "
He tried several personalities, settled on Dixie, started giving in-demand Tupperware parties and became one of the company's top sellers.
Finally, a director friend caught his act and persuaded him to make it a show.
That's what he told the New York Post.
Here's what he told us:
"I have written for a couple of other people," he said in the phone interview. "When I see people who make me laugh, I talk to them. I saw Dixie at a Tupperware party and I went up to her and said I wanted to work with her. I interviewed her and asked her tons of questions. Her life was so weird and eccentric. I started watching the way women react to her, and the way the women reacted to each other when she was there. They seemed to change as the party went on. … Dixie emboldens people."
Andersson's voice is tender when he talks about Dixie. She is another person to him. He likes her. A lot.
"I've baby-sat her kids," Andersson said, continuing the charade beyond the point that seems, well, reasonable.
"They are really great kids for having a mom as crazy as she is."
And it seems clear that Dixie is who Andersson isn't.
"I don't think I'm nearly as bold as she," he said.
"She's a spitfire and I'm a little clumsy. … I always marvel at the way she lets the big things roll off her back. I sort of wish I were that way."


Is your Tupperware supply low?
Stock up at "Dixie's Tupperware Party," opening at Invisible Theatre next week.
It's a play, sure. But it's also a Tupperware party.
You'll have a name tag, you'll laugh, and in the end, you can cough up some dough for the burping plastic storage containers.
Selling was the original intent of "Dixie's Tupperware Party," and Dixie has sold so much that she's one of Tupperware's top salespeople.
Which raises the question: How does Tupperware feel about its products being sold by a man in drag who uses the items as falsies, for Jello shots, and who often refers to what she sells as "crap"?
"I thought it would be safer to contact the Tupperware people," said Kris Andersson, the creator of "Dixie's Tupperware Party."
"If we were going to do something with a big corporation, I didn't want to do something that would get either of us in trouble."
On the contrary. The Tupperware bigwigs made the trip to New York to see the play when it played off-Broadway.
They all loved it, Andersson said.
"I think they thought it wouldn't be such a big thing. When it started to get press and a lot of attention, and Dixie started to get a lot of press, we'd check in with them. It blew us away when it went to off-Broadway. And Tupperware gave us about $30,000 worth of free bowls for the show."
We snagged an interview with Dixie Longate, top Tupperware salesperson and the star of "Dixie's Tupperware Party," which the Invisible Theatre opens next week. She spoke to us by phone from her "single-wide trailer" in Los Angeles.
Why Tupperware instead of say, Avon, or lingerie?
"I got out of prison, and my parole officer got me started. She had a candy dish, and I'd eat the candy out of this purty plastic dish. She told me it was Tupperware. I needed a job in order to get my kids back, and she said, 'Why don't you try to sell Tupperware?' She was able to get rid of some of the restraining orders against me so I could do that. I went to my first party, and talked about the plastic crap. I made money, and I just kept doing it. Aug. 31, 2001, was my very first party.
"I go into people's homes — to me, that's part of the fun. And I get to test new products. I make a lot of money and I have a good time."
Have you a favorite Tupperware piece?
"Oh my Lord, the Jello shots. It's really for cup cakes, but it's perfect for Jello shots. And then there's the can opener — it never gets dirty. And the wine bottle; you can give that to your kids."
What is your big passion, Tupperware or theater?
"I love Tupperware so much; it totally changed my life. Theater gives me the opportunity to talk about Tupperware. It's so excitin' and wonderful, and the Tupperware corporation has been so great to me. This job has given me so much free crap. Tupperware has provided my car, and I've had three trips from Tupperware, so my passion keeps growing."
What's your favorite use for Tupperware?
"I've been doing this for seven years, and for the first few I thought it was just for the bedroom; I didn't know it was for the kitchen."
How many pieces of Tupperware have you sold?
"That would take me months to figure out. I've earned $219,000 this year. I'm real close to hitting the million-dollar mark. I'll have a kiosk set up at the theater so people can buy it. I don't want to talk about this amazing stuff and then deprive people of havin' it."
You have three children. Do you think they'll follow you into the Tupperware business?
"I don't push it on them but I hope they do. If not, I just hope they stay out of prison."
What's the best part of selling Tupperware?
"I don't want the parties to be dull. The main word in Tupperware party is party."
Preview
"Dixie's Tupperware Party"
• By: Kris Andersson
• Director: Patrick Richwood.
• When: Preview is 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Opening is 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Regular performances are 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 3 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 5.
• Where: Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.
• Tickets: Preview is $18; regular performances are $25-$27. Tickets purchased one-half hour before the show are half-price. Subject to availability.
• Reservations: 882-9721.
• Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission.

● Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@azstarnet.com or 573-4128.

Tupperware for your pleasure - WildLife

Arts Preview - WildLife



Tupperware for your pleasure
By: Theresa Keeney
Issue date: 9/10/08 Section: WildLife

Dixie Longate isn't your average Tupperware lady. From the bedroom to the kitchen, she'll teach you how to use Tupperware in ways you've never dreamed of.

Dixie is the Tupperware lady from Mobile, Ala., who needed a job after getting out of prison in order to regain custody of her three children. Her parole officer suggested she start selling Tupperware.

At "Dixie's Tupperware Party," audience members can actually purchase the Tupperware Dixie sells. And she sells a lot. She was recently named the No. 1 Tupperware seller in this country.

"It is an enhanced Tupperware party, filled with heart, and lots of products and lots of hairspray," said Susan Claassen, managing artistic director of Invisible Theatre.

Oh, and if you think that you need to be able to bake something to use her products, you might be in for a little surprise.

Dixie's selling point on the easy-snap cake taker is the fact that it doubles as a Jello shot caddy. She also absolutely loves her ribbed tumblers with a dripless straw seal: dripless to avoid alcohol spillage, and ribbed for, well, take a guess.

The show, filled with off-color humor and audience participation, opens at the Invisible Theatre on Sept. 16.

"Getting to know Dixie Longate is a privilege and a pleasure," Claassen said. "And like we like to say, in this election year, isn't it refreshing that there's a party that everybody can support?"

"Dixie's Tupperware Party" runs at the Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave., through Oct. 5.

Friday, August 1, 2008

A Conversation with Edith Head




Published Friday 1 August 2008 at 16:55 by Emma Barnett


In one sense she is the "master of self promotion" and in another, she's "the woman who isn't there". It's this diversity of character aptly portrayed by Susan Claassen, that makes A Conversation with Edith Head such lovely watching.


Head, arguably the greatest ever costume designer to the stars, has come to London in the shape of Claassen. In her time, this small, determined power-force, won eight Oscars, had a career spanning 58 years first at Paramount and then Universal, and dressed all the greats, from Mae West to Grace Kelly. She died at the age of 83 in 1981.


It was supposedly after watching a TV biography of Head, Claassen knew she could play her and promptly with Paddy Calistro, co-author of Head's posthumous autobiography, joined forces to write this script


And she was right. Set in 1981 while working on Steve Martin's Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, you are welcomed as an audience who has come armed with questions and a burning curiosity about Head's world. Even if you know nothing about her or the stars she clothed, you can just tell from Claassen's high quality of acting, she is capturing Head's essence with her every crafted move. She actually becomes her, a feat helped also by the fact she bears a strong resemblance to Head. The loving way Claassen handles clothes, her biting wit when answering the planted questions from the floor, and even her exaggerations of success, seems uncanny and adds to the charm of this show.


The set is stunning - littered with mannequins, autographed photographs of Hollywood stars and of course, her treasured Oscars.


It is, however, a show with quite limited appeal. You either need to know about Head or really want to know about her. You can't recommended this play to just anyone because it really is like an evening with Head and therefore not something everyone would sign up for.
Mae West once said to Head, "When you find your magic, stick with it". Head certainly found hers, but the realisation that she only ever threw her magic on to others and spent her life in someone else's shadow, is one realisation too many by the end of the show, which Claassen portrays with aplomb.


Co-authors, Claassen and Calistro, do assume a certain audience, but if you fit the bill, you're in for a great evening of old-school glamour and wonderful recollections.
Production information


Studio Space, Leicester Square Theatre, London, July 29-August 31
Authors:
Paddy Calistro, Susan Claassen
Directors:
Anthony Field, John C Causebrook, Elizabeth Lomas
Producer:
Anthony Field Associates Ltd
Cast includes:
Susan Claassen, Christopher Arnold
Running time:
1hr 20mins

Monday, July 28, 2008

GAYDARNATION -Conversation With Edith Head: Susan Claassen 28 Jul 2008

A Conversation With Edith Head is a glorious behind the scenes feast of great movie legends and delicious stories that provide an insight into Hollywood’s legendary costume designer. In her six decades of costume design, she worked on 1,131 motion pictures, dressed the greatest stars of Hollywood, received 35 Academy Award nominations and won an unprecedented eight Oscars - a record that will never be broken.

Edith Head’s story is as fascinating as the history of the film industry itself. It’s a story filled with humour, frustration and above all glamour - this diva of design helped to define glamour in the most glamorous place in the world - Hollywood!

We caught up with the writer and star of A Conversation With Edith Head to find out more.

Tell us a little bit about A Conversation with Edith Head. What can we expect?
The minute you approach the brand new Leicester Square Studio Theatre with its very own red carpet, you will be swept away into the golden age of Hollywood. The Studio Theatre is being transformed into Miss Head's Salon through vintage photographs, costumes and one-of-a-kind original sketches.

What’s so enthralling about her story?
Edith's story is as fascinating as the history of the film industry itself, filled with humor, frustration and, above all, glamour. This diva of design helped to define glamour in the most glamorous place in the world - Hollywood! Remember, Edith Head did Hollywood Red Carpet commentary while Joan Rivers was still in college.

Edith Head may not be a household name these days, but in her prime she was one of the most colourful characters in Hollywood. She was dishing out caustic fashion advice years before Trinny and Susannah made careers out of it, and was confidante to the stars long before Celebrity Sleuth broadcast their measurements.

As Lucille Ball said, Edith knew the figure faults of every top star. And she never told - Edith always knew how to keep a secret."

Well, in this cozy conversation some secrets might be revealed and fashion tips freely given. As Miss Head says, "If Cinderella had had Edith Head, she would not have needed a Fairy godmother!"

What was it that first inspired you to write the piece?
I first got the idea seven years ago when I was watching a television biography. I contacted Edith's estate and they granted me permission to pursue this project. I madly read anything I could find and when I came upon Paddy Calistro's book, Edith Head's Hollywood, I decided to attempt to locate its author. I called telephone information for Santa Monica, where I thought Paddy lived, and voila, she was listed. I placed the phone call and it was kismet.

At our first meeting in Los Angeles we knew the connection was right and we agreed to collaborate. Paddy had not only written the book but had inherited 13 hours of taped interviews with Edith Head - it was truly a gift from heaven. We can honestly say that A Conversation with Edith is based upon the words and thoughts of Edith Head - the ''Edith-isms'.

"I make people into what they are not - ten years older or younger, fatter or thinner, more handsome or more ridiculous, glamorous or sexy or horrible. The camera never lies, after all, so my work is really an exercise in camouflage."

You've got a striking resemblance to Edith. Was the plan always to star in the show as well?
I literally did a double take when I watched that TV biography. My physical resemblance to Edith seemed uncanny! And what's even more bizarre, we are the same height and both born 50 years apart in October! The more I watched, the more I knew there was a great story to be told.

Having done extensive research, what was it about Edith that made her so successful?
Edith was an executive woman before there was such a thing! It was a boy's club when she started - 1923. Women in the Unites Stated had just recently got ten the vote, if you can imagine. It has been said that Edith had the instincts of a pastry chef and the authority of a factory foreman.

She herself said, "I knew I was not a creative design genius... I am a better diplomat than I am a designer...I was never going to be the world's greatest costume designer, but there was no reason I could not be the smartest and most celebrated."

She knew how to play the game better than anyone. Her concern really was to change actors into characters. Edith said, "I make people into what they are not - ten years older or younger, fatter or thinner, more handsome or more ridiculous, glamorous or sexy or horrible. The camera never lies, after all, so my work is really an exercise in camouflage."

Do you have a moment in the show that particularly touches you?
We set the play in 1981 during the making of her last film, Carl Reiner's Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid starring Steve Martin. She died two weeks after the wrap of the film and the film is dedicated to her. Throughout the play we see glimpses of a woman who has outlived all her contemporaries and is wrestling with a lifetime of memories and regrets.

Is there a real difference between costume design and high fashion?
High fashion is of the moment and the best of costume design is timeless. You must remember that costumes were often completed a couple of years before the release of the film.

A perfect example are Elizabeth Taylor's gowns in the 1951 A Place in the Sun . The film was shot in 1949 and released in 1951.The silhouette was the most important aspect of any of the ensembles, therefore the costumes in the Academy Award winning film could be worn to any society event today. The woman wearing it would evoke an era classic couture and look as dramatic as Liz did when she danced with the dreamy Monty Clift!

Edith had the ability to shape each gown to a character or image. This is what made her as popular with film directors as with the glamour girls she dressed in both their private lives and screen roles.

"We act as though we believe that the more we have on the more important we are - if one pin is smart, two pins would be smarter and six would be divine."

Do you share Edith's passion for clothes and fashion?
Absolutely. Edith often quoted Mae West when she said, "Find a magic that does something for you honey and stick with it." I think that defines my sense of fashion. While in Edinburgh last summer, the Sunday Herald did a style piece that captured that philosophy.

Where do you stand on accessories – can girl ever have too many accessories?
They are called accessories, not excessories! Edith said, "We act as though we believe that the more we have on the more important we are - if one pin is smart, two pins would be smarter and six would be divine."

So what's been your most extravagant purchase?
I actually purchased some original Edith Head sketches and costumes at auction which will be on display. I am avid eBayer when it comes to Edith Head memorabilia. Personally, I love to travel and have been know to be extravagant when purchasing a bottle of Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame. Champagne is my drink of choice, Edith's was Jack Daniels! Rather than a Grande Dame, Miss Head was a great dame!

Will you be wearing any of Edith's creations in the show?
I won't be wearing any of Edith's creations in the show as when she was at work she wore simple clothes never to upstage the stars she was dressing! You will, however, get to see some original Edith Head costumes as well as some iconic recreations. Did you know Miss Head designed the uniform for Pan Am and the flight attendant in Boeing Boeing is an homage to that design!

Do you have particular favourite costume of hers?
That would be like picking a favorite child! I have to admit I do love the costumes from To Catch a Thief - she had an extravagant budget and a gorgeous star, Grace Kelly - who could ask for anything more.

What's your favourite item of clothing?
I would like to think that the outfit I am wearing at any given time is my favorite.

Style has moved on from Edith's day, do you think she'd approved of the more casual approach to fashion we now have?
Edith always said, "You can be anything you want, as long as you dress for it! Good clothes are not a matter of good luck. I say sacrifice style any day for becomingness, for a look that suits your age and your chassis!"

Have you ever had a Hollywood diva moment?
I'd have to say the night my amazing London producers, Tony Field and John C. Causebrook came to see my performance in Edinburgh last summer. It was one of those magical nights in the theatre when all the ‘stars’ are aligned. Their reputation preceded them and when they introduced themselves after the show said they wanted to produce its West End premiere - it was definitely a ‘Hollywood’ moment!

Why do you think A Conversation with Edith Head is going to appeal to a gay audience?
Because Edith Head represents style, class and lots of sass! Oh, and did I mention Bette Davis?

"You can be anything you want, as long as you dress for it! Good clothes are not a matter of good luck. I say sacrifice style any day for becomingness, for a look that suits your age and your chassis!"

If you were going to be a lesbian for just one weekend, who would you want to go out on a date with?
My partner of 22 years!

What do you want audiences to take with them after having seen A Conversation with Edith Head?
The audience response has been amazing. From Tbilisi to Edinburgh to Chicago audiences have been touched by Edith's story. What they take with them after having seen the performance is truly dependent on what they bring to it.

Film buffs get immersed in hearing stories from someone who has lived through the evolution of contemporary film, older audiences remember always seeing the closing credits, ‘Gowns by Edith Head’, it evokes a bygone era and younger audiences think of the Pixar animated film The Incredibles and Edna Mode, designer to the superheroes.

The universal response is summed up by a note I received from a fan, "My friend saw the show on Saturday and adored it. He said the same as me, i.e. if someone mentions Edith Head to me now, my first reaction will be to say "Oh yes, I met her once and it was unforgetable!"

What are you most looking forward to about performing in London?
The wonderfully brilliant and stylish audiences!

And finally, what's next for you?
I am managing artistic director of the Invisible Theatre in Tucson, Arizona. We will kick-off our 38th anniversary season 17 September with the premiere of Dixie Longate in Dixies’s Tupperware Party prior to its national US tour. Audiences will see for themselves how Ms. Dixie became the #1 Tupperware seller in the world - she instructs her guests on the many alternative uses she has discovered for her plastic products!

Find out more at www.edithhead.biz.

A Conversation?With?Edith?Head, by Susan Claassen
Studio Space at the Leicester Square?Theatre (formerly The Venue)
5 Leicester Place
London, WC2
0844 847 2475 / www.ticketweb.com

29 July-31 August 2008

Want more? Then get Edith Head, by David Chierichetti online and save some money to put towards the book that inspired A Conversation With Edith Head, Edith Head's Hollywood, by Paddy Calistro.
Author: Stephen Beeny
Read more by this author

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Playbill News: Dixie's Tupperware Party Will Burp Its Way Across America; Tour Launches in AZ



Playbill News: Dixie's Tupperware Party Will Burp Its Way Across America; Tour Launches in AZ

By Kenneth Jones
24 Jul 2008


Dixie's Tupperware Party, the Off-Broadway comedy that is part interactive play and part Tupperware party, starring 2008 Drama Desk nominee Dixie Longate, will be seen on a 20-city national tour starting Sept. 16 at Tucson's Invisible Theatre.

Produced by Down South LLC and written by Kris Andersson, the show "brought Tupperware-mania to Off-Broadway."

Directed by Patrick Richwood, Dixie's Tupperware Party stars Longate "as the fast-talking Tupperware Lady, who has packed up her catalogues, and left her children in an Alabama trailer park to journey across America."

The "good ol' fashioned Tupperware Party" is filled with outrageously funny tales, heartfelt accounts, free giveaways, audience participation and the most fabulous assortment of Tupperware ever sold on a theatre stage."

The show is "loaded with the most up-to-date products available for purchase." According to production notes, "See for yourself how Ms. Longate became the No. 1 Tupperware seller in the U.S. and Canada as she educates her guests on the many alternative uses she has discovered for her plastic products!"

The show will feature costumes "designed by Miss Longate" and lighting designed by Richard Winkler.

The comedy was originally produced at the 2004 New York International Fringe Festival. A more fully realized production played Off-Broadway's Ars Nova in 2007.

For more information about Dixie's Tupperware Party visit www.DixiesTupperwareParty.com.

*

For the uninitiated, Tupperware is the brand name for plastic storage containers that keep food fresh by providing an airtight seal. The "burping seal" is a famous aspect of Tupperware. The products were uniquely distributed via grass-roots directing-marketing "Tupperware parties" where homemakers would get demonstrations of the product and place orders.

Doug Stone's Sealed for Freshness, a comedy about Midwestern housewives at a Tupperware party, had a brief life Off-Broadway in 2007.

*

A partial list of the tour cities and play dates for Dixie's Tupperware Party follows:

TUCSON, AZ
Invisible Theater
Sept. 16-Oct. 5
www.invisibletheatre.com/

DES MOINES, IA
Temple Theater
Oct. 8-19
www.civiccenter.org/index.php

MADISON, WI
Capitol Theater
Oct. 22-Nov. 2
www.overturecenter.com/

WEST PALM BEACH, FL
Kravis Center
Nov. 11-16
kravis.org/dix

HUNTSVILLE, AL
Merrimack Hall
Nov. 18-23
www.merrimackhall.com

CLEARWATER, FL
Ruth Eckerd Hall
Nov. 25-29
www.rutheckerdhall.com

MELBOURNE, FL
The King Center - Studio Theater
Dec. 2-7
www.kingcenter.com

MESA, AZ
Nesbitt/Elliott Playhouse
Jan. 7-25, 2009
www.mesaartscenter.com

FT. LAUDERDALE, FL
River Room
Feb. 3-8, 2009
www.browardcenter.org

AURORA, IL
Copley Theater
March 5-15, 2009
www.paramountarts.com

CHARLOTTE, NC
Booth Playhouse
March 24-29, 2009
www.blumenthalcenter.org

ASHEVILLE, NC
Diana Wortham Theatre
March 31-April 5, 2009
www.dwtheatre.com

STUART, FL
The Lyric Theatre
April 14-18, 2009
www.lyrictheatre.com

BIRMINGHAM, AL
The Virginia Samford Theatre
April 21-May 3, 2009
www.virginiasamfordtheatre.org

Off-Bway Play 'Dixies Tupperware Party' Launches Tour (baltimore.broadwayworld.com)



Off-Bway Play 'Dixies Tupperware Party' Launches Tour (baltimore.broadwayworld.com)

Thursday, July 24, 2008; Posted: 12:39 PM - by BWW News Desk


Dixie's Tupperware Party, the hilarious Off Broadway show starring Dixie Longate-- who recently garnered a 2008 Drama Desk Nomination, will launch a 20-city National Tour September 16th at Tucson’s Invisible Theatre. Produced by Down South LLC and written by Kris Andersson, the show brought Tupperware-mania to Off Broadway and prompted NBC’s Today Show to proclaim “Not Your Grandmother's Tupperware Party!”

Directed by Patrick Richwood, Dixie's Tupperware Party stars Dixie Longate, as the fast-talking Tupperware Lady, who has packed up her catalogues, and left her children in an Alabama trailer park to journey across America. Critics and audiences have howled with laughter as Dixie throws a good ol' fashioned Tupperware Party filled with outrageously funny tales, heartfelt accounts, FREE giveaways, audience participation and the most fabulous assortment of Tupperware ever sold on a theater stage. Loaded with the most up-to-date products available for purchase, see for yourself how Ms. Longate became the #1 Tupperware seller in the U.S. & Canada as she educates her guests on the many alternative uses she has discovered for her plastic products! Dixie’s Tupperware Party will feature costumes designed by Miss Longate and lighting designed by Richard Winkler.

Originally produced at the 2004 New York International Fringe Festival, last spring, Dixie brought a more fully realized production to Off Broadway’s Ars Nova .

For more information about Dixie’s Tupperware Party including touring details log onto: www.DixiesTupperwareParty.com

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Setting the stage | www.azstarnet.com ®


Setting the stage www.azstarnet.com ®

Accent
Setting the stage
A well-crafted set complements the acting
By Doug Kreutz
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona Published: 07.11.2008

Editor's note: This summer, we are taking a look at the people who make the arts a reality, from the audience to the artists behind the scenes. This week: set designer James Blair.

James Blair's work is behind the scenes. Literally. As the associate artistic director for the Invisible Theatre in Tucson, he designs sets for the theater's small stage — creating fanciful and realistic backdrops for the scenes that play out there

"It's a great profession. It lets you draw on so many different experiences," says Blair, 56, whose extensive theater experience includes acting and directing as well as set design. "In my work, you're an interior designer, you're an artist, and if you can approach it from a directing or acting standpoint, that makes it even better."

Working closely with Susan Claassen, managing artistic director of the Invisible Theatre, Blair strives to make each set a compelling — but unobtrusive — part of the production.

"Jim Blair is truly a Renaissance man. He is a multifaceted jewel," says Claassen. "We have collaborated for over a decade, and I cannot imagine the Invisible Theatre without him."

Recently, we asked Blair to step off the stage and respond to some set-centered questions.
How did you become a set designer?

"I started designing sets in high school. I had a great drama teacher, Mrs. Tyson, who really just let me go. Then I worked with a community theater that was just starting up. I designed, built and painted probably 12 sets in three years. The first set I did for the Invisible Theatre was in 1989 or 1990."

What's different about designing at the Invisible Theatre compared to other theaters?

"The way the stage sits in the space at IT is very unusual. It is at a 60-degree angle in the room instead of being square on. This means nothing is ever square or symmetrical."

It's a very small stage. What are the dimensions — and how do you design sets for such an intimate space?

"The widest part of the stage is 22 feet, then it drops to 17 feet. All of the sets, whether they are a realistic interior or a fantasy space, are all finished so that the front row, which is 3 feet away, cannot see any seams or nail holes. I probably obsess over details most people never notice."

What's the most challenging set you can recall?

"Every set has its own challenges, even the 'simple' ones. 'When Pigs Fly' is a musical review we did that needed a false proscenium, several sets of curtains and effects like an underwater scene. We had to store some of the costumes and scenery in the lobby!"

Is there a collaborative process in designing a set?

"Susan and I have a wonderful collaboration on the sets. We each approach the process from the design side, as well as a performer and a director. When we brainstorm the sets, it is often a case of finishing each other's sentences and trying to decide who thought of something first. It is the best experience you could ask for."
What are one or two of your favorite sets?

" 'Accomplice' is a mystery set in an old English mill with a waterwheel. It was one of the first I did for IT. It worked just the way it needed to. 'Shirley Valentine' went from a kitchen with a working stove in the first act to the coast of Greece in the second act."
Is there a set you'd like to get a second shot at?

"Not really. You always want more money and more time, but every set is what it is. People ask me if I am sad to tear them down at the end of a run, and I'm not. I think of them like a sand painting that you create, enjoy and then destroy."

Can a set distract from a performance?
"A set that does not serve the play is very distracting. Usually an over-produced set that shows off is distracting."

Are there some subtle little "miracles" that a set designer must perform without anyone noticing?
"Of course there are, but a magician never gives away the secrets."

Any brief words of advice for a young person who wants to become a set designer?
"Get in there and do it. Do as much as you can. Do the building, the painting. Work on the light crew. Lights can ruin or save a set. Act. Suddenly the size of the steps and the distance between the table and chair become very real."

● Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at dkreutz@azstarnet.com or at 573-4192.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Broadwayworld

Tuesday, July 8, 2008; Posted: 1:03 PM - by BWW News Desk

Arizona-based actress SUSAN CLAASSEN stars on London’s West End as legendary Hollywood designer Edith Head in “A CONVERSATION WITH EDITH HEAD”. Anthony Field Associates presents this West End premiere at the Arts Club at the Arts Theatre from Tuesday, July 29 through Sunday, August 31, 2008. The intimate portrait was written by Paddy Calistro and Susan Claassen. The press opening will be on Thursday, July 31 at 8 PM.

“A CONVERSATION WITH EDITH HEAD”, based on the book Edith Head’s Hollywood by Edith Head & Paddy Calistro, is a behind-the-scenes feast of great movie legends and delicious stories that provide an insight into Hollywood’s legendary costume designer. In her six decades of costume design, she worked on over eleven hundred films; dressed the greatest stars of Hollywood; received 35 Academy Award® nominations, and won an unprecedented eight Oscars®. Edith Head’s story is as fascinating as the history of the film industry itself, filled with humor, frustration and, above all, glamour. This diva of design helped to define glamour in the most glamorous place in the world - Hollywood!

Edith Head was a Hollywood costume designer for more than 60 years. 44 of those years were spent at Paramount Studios, where she worked with the most famous actors of the time, from Mae West and Clara Bow to Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Bette Davis. When Paramount failed to renew her contract in 1967, Alfred Hitchcock stepped in and Ms. Head was invited to join Universal Studios. At Universal she costumed Robert Redford and Paul Newman in “The Sting” and won the first-ever Oscar® for a film without a female lead. Her eight Academy Award® celebrated her artistry in “The Heiress” (her first Oscar®), “Samson & Delilah”, “All About Eve”, “A Place in the Sun”, “Roman Holiday”, “Sabrina”, “The Facts of Life” and “The Sting”. Edith Head died in October 1981, still under contract to Universal Studios, having just completed working on the Steve Martin film, “Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid”.

Susan Claassen was inspired to write and star in “A CONVERSATION WITH EDITH HEAD” while watching a TV biography of Ms. Head. The petite, dark-haired actress immediately imagined herself playing Edith Head, “…a perfect fit,” as Claassen describes it. “Not only do I bear a striking resemblance to Edith, but we share the same love for clothes and fashion. Edith did what no woman did in the history of film. She survived the boy’s club world of Hollywood to enjoy a 60-year career, during which she worked on a staggering 1,131 films, earned 35 Oscar nominations and won eight. She stitched Dorothy Lamour into her sarong; put Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in kilts in “The Road to Bali”; created Bette Davis’ glamorous Margo Channing; made teenage girls swoon over Elizabeth Taylor’s white ballgown in “A Place in the Sun”; dressed Ingrid Bergman in “Notorious”, Grace Kelly in “To Catch A Thief”, Kim Novak in “Vertigo”, Gloria Swanson in “Sunset Boulevard” and Sean Connery in “The Man Who Would Be King”. There are many myths about her but she was a discreet, tenacious personality. She knew whose hips needed clever disguising and made sure those legendary stars always looked the part. Our show gives the inside scoop on Edith and the Golden Age of Hollywood.”

“A CONVERSATION WITH EDITH HEAD” premiered at the Invisible Theatre in Tucson, Arizona in January, 2002 and was subsequently presented in Chicago; Key West, FLA; at the American Film Institute in Silver Spring, MD; Hartford; San Francisco; Nantucket, and Scottsdale, as well as in Tbilisi in the Republic of Georgia and a ‘sold out’ engagement at the 2007 Edinburgh Festival Fringe (Out of the 2,000 shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival only 200 were officially designated ‘Sold Out’ engagements.) Up-coming performances of “A CONVERSATION WITH EDITH HEAD” include an engagement on March 5-8, 2009 at The Invisible Theatre in Tucson, Arizona. www.invisibletheatre.com

As an actress, some of Susan’s most memorable roles have been Bella in “LOST IN YONKERS” Alice B. Toklas in “GERTRUDE STEIN AND A COMPANION” Hannah in “CROSSING DELANCEY”, Shirley in “SHIRLEY VALENTINE” and Trudy in “THE SEARCH FOR SIGNS OF INTELLIGENT LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE”. In addition to her work with the Invisible Theatre she has been a consultant and director for the Waterfront Playhouse and The Red Barn Theatre in Key West, Florida, and directed Steve Ross in “I WON’T DANCE” at New York’s famed Rainbow and Stars Cabaret and St. Paul's prestigious Ordway Theatre. As Managing Artistic Director of The Invisible Theatre in Tucson, Arizona, Susan has produced more than 335 productions and directed more than 50. She is the recipient of the 1985 Governor’s Award for Women Who Create; the 1993 Humanitarian Torch Award for her efforts on behalf of people living with AIDS, and a 1996 Distinguished Service Award from the State Federation for Exceptional Children for her commitment to arts education for special populations. Susan was the 1999 City of Hope “Spirit of Life” recipient (as was Edith Head in 1976), and performs as a clown in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. She was recently selected as one of Tucson Lifestyle’s 10 Most Admired Women and will be honored by The Jewish Federation in 2009 as one of Tucson’s 13 most remarkable women.

Much of the dialogue in “A CONVERSATION WITH EDITH HEAD” comes directly from the famed designer. When she was asked to write the authorized posthumous autobiography, Edith Head’s Hollywood, Paddy Calistro acquired more than 13 hours of recollections recorded by Edith Head – including her own snippy “Edithisms” as Ms. Head referred to her own sayings, such as: "I hate modesty, don't you?" and "Good clothes are not a matter of good luck." The show also features insights from Hollywood insiders who knew Ms. Head best: costume designer Bob Mackie, who once worked as Ms. Head's sketch artist; her dear friend Edie Wasserman, wife of the late Universal Studio head Lew Wasserman, and Art Linkletter, award-winning host of TV’s “House Party”, who brought Edith Head into the homes of America. Edith would stroll through the studio audience with Linkletter, offering brutally critical fashion, diet and grooming advice - all this half a century before the current mania for on-screen makeovers. "Go on a diet!" she would instruct an overweight woman, while instantly making her look ten pounds slimmer by pulling her shirt out of her trousers, whipping a belt around her middle and swapping her cheap gold jewelry for her own signature pearls. Young fans of Pixar’s “The Incredibles” will recognized the superhero outfitter Edna Mode as an affectionate tribute to the legendary Hollywood costume designer.

“A CONVERSATIONWITH EDITH HEAD” is produced by Anthony Field Associates through special arrangement with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Motion Picture & Television Fund.

Co-author Paddy Calistro is one of the leading authorities on the life and work of Edith Head and is the co-author of Edith Head's posthumous autobiography, Edith Head’s Hollywood. She was selected as Ms. Head’s official biographer based on her experience as a fashion journalist. A former fashion and beauty writer for the Los Angeles Times, Paddy wrote the weekly “Looks” column in the LA Times Magazine for four years. She was the West Coast reporter for Allure and has written for Glamour, Mademoiselle, House Beautiful, Elle, Four Seasons Magazine, Fitness and Los Angeles Magazine. For more than a decade Paddy was the lead interior design writer for LA Magazine, and was also the editor of American Style, a bilingual fashion magazine sold in Mexico and South America. The co-founder of Angel City Press, an independent book publishing company based in Santa Monica, she currently serves as its Publisher and Editor-in-chief.

For additional information about “A CONVERSATION WITH EDITH HEAD” go to www.edithhead.biz.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Conversation with Edith Head - Arts Theatre

Edith Head

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

SUSAN Claassen stars as the legendary Hollywood designer in A Conversation With Edith Head, which runs from Tuesday, July 29 to Saturday, August 30, 2008, at the Arts Club at the Arts Theatre.

Based on Edith Head and Paddy Calistro’s book Edith Head’s Hollywood, A Conversation With Edith Head is described as a glorious behind-the-scenes feast of great movie legends and delicious stories – stories gleaned from Head’s six decades of costume design.

During that time, she worked on 1,131 motion pictures, dressed the greatest stars of Hollywood, received 35 Academy Award nominations and won an unprecedented eight Oscars.

Head was, in fact, a Hollywood costume designer for more than 60 years. Of those, 44 were spent at Paramount Studios, where she worked with the most famous actors of the time – from Mae West and Clara Bow to Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Bette Davis. When Paramount failed to renew her contract in 1967, Alfred Hitchcock stepped in and she was invited to join Universal Studios.

It was there that she designed the clothes worn by Robert Redford and Paul Newman in The Sting and won the first-ever Oscar for a film without a female lead. Her other successes were for The Heiress (her first Oscar), Samson and Delilah, All About Eve, A Place in the Sun, Roman Holiday, Sabrina and The Facts of Life.

Head died in October 1981, still under contract to Universal Studios, having just completed work on the Steve Martin film, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.

Claassen was inspired to write and star in A Conversation With Edith Head while watching a biography of the legendary designer on TV. She immediately saw herself as “a perfect fit”, for as she herself put it, “Not only do I bear a striking resemblance to Edith, but we share the same love for clothes and fashion.”

Much of the dialogue in A Conversation With Edith Head comes directly from the famed designer. Not surprising considering that Calistro acquired more than 13 hours of recollections recorded by Head – “Edithisms” as Head referred to her own sayings – when she was asked to write the authorised posthumous autobiography.

The show also features insights from Hollywood insiders who knew Head best. They include costume designer Bob Mackie, who once worked as Head’s sketch artist; her dear friend Edie Wasserman, wife of the late Universal Studio head Lew Wasserman; and Art Linkletter, award-winning host of House Party, the daytime American TV show of the 1950s that brought Edith Head into the homes of America.

As an actress, Claassen’s most memorable roles have been Bella in Lost in Yonkers, Alice B. Toklas in Gertrude Stein and a Companion, Hannah in Crossing Delancey, Shirley in Shirley Valentine and Trudy in The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. She also performs as a clown in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

A Conversation With Edith Head is produced through special arrangement with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Motion Picture and Television Fund.

Friday, May 2, 2008

IT's last show B-4 summer | www.azstarnet.com ®

IT's last show B-4 summer www.azstarnet.com ®

Accent
IT's last show B-4 summer
Musical offers chance to dance in your seat, win prizes
By Fayana Richards
arizona daily star
Tucson, Arizona Published: 05.02.2008

Lucky charms, superstitions and rituals are all a part of the subculture tapped into in "Bingo, a Winning New Musical," which Invisible Theatre opens next week.

In nearly every bingo hall, there's the player with several trolls on her table, the one who doesn't want any talking, or the woman who prays before she begins, said director Susan Claassen in a phone interview.

A relatively new musical, "Bingo" is about a group of friends who establish their friendship around the game, Claassen said.

Eventually, the friends have a falling-out. But 15 years later, they come back together again.
Vern, Patsy and Honey are from different walks of life, but "it really is a celebration of friends," said Claassen.

"Underneath it all, this game of bingo has this unlikely connection to bring these people together again."
Based on the book by Michael Heitzman and Ilene Reid, "Bingo" gets audience members involved by playing real bingo games during the musical. Winners even win prizes.

"I think it makes it so much fun this way," said Betsy Kruse-Craig, whose character, Honey, is in love with the bingo caller. "We had to get a real bingo board and blower."

The entire cast took a trip to a local bingo hall to immerse themselves in the bingo world, Kruse-Craig said. They brought along a green-haired troll and got pointers from the bingo caller, but it didn't help the cast: They went home empty-handed that night.

"I didn't see my character when we went to the bingo, but Honey would go at night," Kruse-Craig said. "She's probably not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but she's very sweet."

This musical comedy will have audience members dancing out of their seats and even getting to join in on the fun, said Claassen, who thought the musical would be a good way to end the season.
"They will be able to relate to some of the men and women," Claassen said. "Especially if you have lost a friend over a silly thing called pride."

● Fayana Richards is a University of Arizona journalism senior who is apprenticing at the Star.


Clockwise from left, Leona Mitchell, Kylie Arnold, Betty Craig
and Betsy Kruse-Craig in Invisible Theatre's production of
"Bingo."
Tim Fuller / Courtesy of Invisible Theatre

Dixie's Tupperware Party to Launch National Tour in Fall 2008: Theater News on TheaterMania.com

Dixie's Tupperware Party to Launch National Tour in Fall 2008: Theater News on TheaterMania.com

Dixie's Tupperware Party to Launch National Tour in Fall 2008
By: Dan Bacalzo · Apr 30, 2008 · Touring Productions

The Drama Desk nominated solo show Dixie's Tupperware Party, written and performed by Kris Andersson, will launch a 20-city national tour at the Invisible Theatre in Tucson, AZ in the fall of 2008.


Dixie's Tupperware Party stars Dixie Longate, as the fast-talking Tupperware Lady, who has packed up her catalogues, and left her children in an Alabama trailer park to journey across America. The show includes outrageous tales, free giveaways, and the most fabulous assortment of Tupperware ever sold on any stage!


The play, which garnered a 2007/08 Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Solo Performance, was originally produced at the 2005 New York International Fringe Festival, and played Off Broadway's Ars Nova last spring.

Susan Claassen in A CONVERSATION WITH EDITH HEAD opens August 5, 2008 in London!

Susan Claassen in A CONVERSATION WITH EDITH HEAD opens August 5, 2008 in London!

Anthony Field and John C. Causebrook present A CONVERSATION WITH EDITH HEAD at the Arts Theatre Club in London's West End!

Tickets now on sale!

For tickets and info Click Here: Check out "A Conversation With Edith Head tour dates for 2008/2009"

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Aisle seats: Arts picks for the week | www.azstarnet.com ®

Aisle seats: Arts picks for the week www.azstarnet.com ®:

Comedy

Comedian Judy Gold brings her hilarious one-woman show, '25 Questions for a Jewish Mother,' to the Berger Center for the Performing Arts this weekend.

The show is based on Gold's interviews with Jewish mothers around the country, including her own. She also tosses in her own observations as a Jewish mother of two.

Performances are at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Berger, 1200 W. Speedway. Tickets are $42 through Invisible Theatre, 882-9721.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Jewish mom Gold chats about show, stereotypes | www.azstarnet.com ®







Jewish mom Gold chats about show, stereotypes www.azstarnet.com ®:

Accent

Jewish mom Gold chats about show, stereotypes
By Cathalena E. Burch
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona Published: 03.21.2008

Preview

"25 Questions for a Jewish Mother"
Presented by: Invisible Theatre.
Starring: Judy Gold.

Written by: Judy Gold and Kate Moria Ryan.
When: 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Berger Center for the Performing Arts, 1200 W. Speedway.
Tickets: $42 through Invisible Theatre, 882-9721.
Online: Hear snippets from the show at http://www.25-questions.com/.

Comedian Judy Gold walks down a busy street in San Francisco, ear glued to a cell phone, mind on lunch.
"I just want to order some food," she said, ducking into a cafe.
Through the muffled sounds of her hand over the phone you can make out her order: sandwich, hold the bacon, bag of chips.

Lunch on the run in a brown bag — one of the disappointments of being on the road with her one-woman show, "25 Questions for a Jewish Mother." She began touring the production last fall and will present its Southwest premiere this weekend at Invisible Theatre.
The biggest drawback to the road: being away from her two sons, 11-year-old Henry and 6-year-old Ben.

"When I'm on the East Coast I go home the minute the show ends because I miss my babies," said the 6-foot-3 Jewish lesbian stand-up comedian who gave birth to her youngest son through artificial insemination. Her ex-partner gave birth to the older son. Same conception method, she notes.
In an accent that mirrors the one she uses to mimic her mother — stereotypical New York, leaning more toward Long Island, clocking in at at least 100 words a minute — Gold chatted during last week's cell-phone interview about "25 Questions," motherhood and shattering stereotypes.
How did this show take on a life of its own?

"I always wanted to do a one-person show. I've been doing stand-up my whole life. A friend of mine, Kate Moira Ryan, who is a playwright, we were in Chicago together . . . and I said to her, 'Look, I want to do a one-person show, but I didn't want it to be me doing therapy on stage.' And I was telling her I get bad press from the Jewish press for promoting stereotypes when I talk about my mother.
"We initially decided to go around and interview Jewish mothers to see if there really was a stereotype. What ended up happening was these women were so incredibly fascinating, they basically changed my life.

"We realized we had something here. . . . We ended up going on the road. I would call local synagogues. We initially started with 49 questions, then ended up with 25. And these women were unbelievable. . . . At first I thought I'm going to go to these Orthodox women and they're going to be like 'I cook for my husband. I do the kids' laundry.' They were nothing like I thought. . . . I realized these women had never been asked these questions — What's your biggest regret? What would you have done had you not had children?"

Did it confirm or rebuke your stereotypes?

"Totally rebuked. There were certain things that were stereotypical, like an accent."
A lot of us, when we think of a Jewish mother, we assign that Long Island accent.
"Oh, exactly. We interviewed Southern Jews. That's the most hilarious. I hear a Southern accent, I want to run in a corner. They have Southern accents and wear cowboy hats. It really opened my eyes."
What was common among the women?

"The only thing that these women had in common besides the fact that they were Jewish and they were mothers was that they all spoke to their children every day. The other thing was, whenever we went to someone's home, there was always food there."
So has this redeemed you with the Jewish press?

"It was one newspaper in particular, and this woman would accost me at all these events, saying, 'When are you going to leave Jewish mothers alone?' And I'm thinking, here you are in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Little Israel, criticizing me. And I am traveling around the country talking about my Jewish mother to these people, some who had never seen a Jew."
Are you and your mom close?

"Oh my God, yeah. I talk to her about 100 times a day. She wants residuals but she's not getting them because it went to my therapy. She's pretty incredible. She has an incredible sense of humor. She's very smart; she reads all the time. And yet she is the epitome of what one might call the stereotypical, overbearing Jewish mother."

How's your mother as a grandmother? Has she elevated that stereotype onto grandmothers?
"Here's the thing. My mother . . . has this really unbelievable personality that I was never privy to as a child, which was called being nice and happy and supportive. So I don't know where the f--- that came from. I'm like, where was this personality when I needed it?"
She likes the kids?

"Oh my God, loves the kids. Here I am, I've done nothing conventional in my life. I'm gay, I have two kids through artificial insemination. I'm a comic. And if you ask my mother, who does not want to talk about me being gay. . . if she's missed out on anything because I'm gay, she'll say no. She's got grandkids out of this."

Are you and your partner still together?

"No, she is my ex. We still live in the same building. I have a new partner who I love who is great. She's Jewish and a therapist. My older son said, 'Isn't it great that mommy's girlfriend is a therapist because now she can have therapy 24 hours a day.' "

She wasn't your therapist before you started dating, was she?
"No. No. What are you, mental? Come on. That is so psychotic."
Are you a stereotypical Jewish mother?

"Oh my God. I talk to those kids so much. I hear s--- come out of my mouth. My mother's in my body and I can't take it. I said to Henry the other day, 'I hope you treat your teacher better than you treat me.' Oh my God! Where did that come from?"

If I'm not Jewish, am I going to get "25 Questions"?

"It really is a universal story of parent and child and acceptance and love and tragedy. It is a play and it's a story. If it was about an Irish guy or an Italian, no one would say, 'Oh you have to be Italian to appreciate this.' "

What are five questions you still have to ask your mom?

"Who's your favorite child? She'll say, 'I have no favorites.' She won't admit that my brother's her favorite. The thing I don't get from her is that she's proud of me. That's the thing I would love to hear — that 'I'm proud of you.' But that will never happen."
So what will your sons ask of their Jewish mother?

" 'Why are you so annoying? Why do you have to go away? Why do you have to work at night? Why do you have to be a comedian? Why do people have to stop and talk to you all the time?' They don't realize that when they get older, they're going to think I'm cool."

Do you think people stop to talk to you because you're just so tall.
"I really don't think that has anything to do with it."
Basketball ever cross your mind?

"I tried out in eighth grade. The coach told me I was too tall; it wouldn't be fair to the other players. I was the band nerd."

● Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at cburch@azstarnet.com or 573-4642.