Saturday, December 12, 2009

RANDY ROBERTS ARRIVES LARGER THAN LIFE

RANDY ROBERTS ARRIVES LARGER THAN LIFE
by Chuck Graham
tucsonstage.com

The always cheerful Winter Wonderland Holiday Cabaret at the Invisible Theatre kicks it up a notch this weekend, Dec. 11-13, with the return of Randy Roberts from his home base in Key West after a five-year absence from IT's own cabaret scene. Roberts was here in 2004 with his trunks of elaborate costumes and a wig collection that would make Marie Antoinette envious.

'You don't have to go to Caesar's Palace to see Cher,' says Roberts with so much enthusiasm you have to believe him. When he dips backstage after rehearsal at IT's cozy's mid-town theater and brings out a shimmery, silvery, slinky and fringe-y gown that catches every spark of light in the theater, that word 'glamor' also leaps in.


When he adds the black stiletto platform shoes with seven-inch heels, all bets are off. Your opinion of the real Cher won't matter.

Roberts will be lighting up the stage with his way larger than life presence for three shows at the Winter Wonderland festival, presenting his impressions of Bette Midler and Cher, of course, as well as several other show biz icons with big hair wearing other sparkling gowns he won't talk about. He doesn't want to spoil the surprise.

But a quick online word search for 'Randy Roberts' brings up a couple of Roberts' own YouTube-and-so-forth sites containing more than 20 videos of the performer in action (and costume).

'There will be no lip snyching here,' guarantees Susan Claassen, the Winter Wonderland impresario and IT's artistic director.

Both Roberts and Claassen stress the family friendliness of Roberts' shows. The spectacle is what he loves about these women, and the songs they sing.

'I'm a singing actor who can be funny,' Roberts says. 'I can look out and see everyone of all ages in the audience. People bring their grandkids, and their grandparents.'

After a full 20-year career performing as other people in glitzy venues from Las Vegas to Manhattan, Roberts is also developing a stage persona as himself.

'I always say 'Cher brings them in, Randy brings them back',' the performer adds with a smile.

Along with being himself onstage as an entertainer, Roberts will also include a casual segment where he dishes with Claassen about his life backstage and in the spotlight. He'll be letting down his hair, in more ways than one. Now that is something the real Cher would never do.

This Winter Wonderland Holiday Cabaret continues next week at Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave. Here is the schedule:


Dec. 11-12, 8 p.m.; Dec. 13, 3 p.m. - Randy Roberts Live! Coming straight from Key West! A world renowned female illusionist recreates the magic of Cher, Bette Midler, and others.


Dec. 15, 7:30 p.m. - The Boone Family meets the “Craig Sistahs” when trombonist Rob Boone, harpist Christine Vivona, and their sons Jesse and Corey share the stage with Betty Craig and Betsy Kruse Craig.



Dec. 16, 7:30 p.m. - Armen Dirtadian, Daniel “Sly” Slipetsky and special guest Michelle Brourman present Broadway favorites, American standards, original compositions and all that jazz!



Dec. 19, 8 p.m. - Original Wildcat Jass Band! Traditional New Orleans and Chicago jazz.


Dec. 19, 2 p.m. - “Kiddy Kabaret” With Suz Claassen, Betsy Kruse Craig and the Boone Family! Music, fun and stories for the whole family!! Tickets $10.00.

Tickets for all the shows (except 'Kiddy Kabaret') are: $22 general admission! 3 Event Sampler $60, 5 Show Holiday Special $ 100. For details and reservations (520) 882- 9721 or www.invisibletheatre.com.

"“RUNT OF THE LITTER” IS A HAUNTING (AND RIVETING) TALE OF TRIUMPH

"“RUNT OF THE LITTER” IS A HAUNTING (AND RIVETING) TALE OF TRIUMPH
by Chuck Graham
tucsonstage.com

If Invisible Theatre never does anything else, the idealistic company will be forever treasured for bringing us Bo Eason in his one-man show, “Runt of the Litter.” Everyone who saw Eason’s performance in a pair of shows last weekend can consider themselves blessed in Tucson theater circles.


This was one of the most powerful, intense, touching and compelling experiences seen on a local stage in decades. It is impossible to overstate the emotional power Eason created all by himself working in the spotlight of the Berger Performing Arts Center.


Using just a few props and some sound effects, the former professional football player took us from his memories of being an awe-struck 9-year-old determined to get his working class father’s attention, to the following years of discipline that turned him into the terrifyingly driven safety on defense for the Houston Oilers. Determined to make up in psychological force what he lacked in physical size, Eason lived to throw himself in harm’s way on the football field at every opportunity.


All because, as he was growing up, Eason’s older brother Tony was the gifted athlete who took his talent for granted. Tony got the lion’s share of their father’s attention, too.


Tony Eason would go on to become starting quarterback for the New England Patriots. Bo Eason also made it to the NFL, playing safety for the Houston Oilers.


But “Runt of the Litter” isn’t about playing football…exactly…or working hard for your dreams. There is football and hard work in it, and some telling scenes about the eccentric nature of men who play pro ball, as well as the violence contained within their sport.


The play is really about how having focused determination can be a valuable quality, but if carried to extremes that determination becomes a poisonous obsession. In the case of professional football, it can turn overachieving athletes into wild-eyed animals consumed by their own voracious appetites.


You don’t think a sweet little 9-year-old kid who adores his big brother and lives for his dad can make that twisted transformation? Eason has seen it happen first hand. He knows that feeling inside and out. He also has the artistic talent to tell the story in a way so compelling, so convincing, it will stick in your head forever.


Just ask someone who saw Bo Eason in “Runt of the Litter” this weekend. Then ask Invisible Theater to bring the show back to Tucson for a much longer run.

"“RUNT OF THE LITTER” IS A HAUNTING (AND RIVETING) TALE OF TRIUMPH

"“RUNT OF THE LITTER” IS A HAUNTING (AND RIVETING) TALE OF TRIUMPH

If Invisible Theatre never does anything else, the idealistic company will be forever treasured for bringing us Bo Eason in his one-man show, “Runt of the Litter.” Everyone who saw Eason’s performance in a pair of shows last weekend can consider themselves blessed in Tucson theater circles.


This was one of the most powerful, intense, touching and compelling experiences seen on a local stage in decades. It is impossible to overstate the emotional power Eason created all by himself working in the spotlight of the Berger Performing Arts Center.


Using just a few props and some sound effects, the former professional football player took us from his memories of being an awe-struck 9-year-old determined to get his working class father’s attention, to the following years of discipline that turned him into the terrifyingly driven safety on defense for the Houston Oilers. Determined to make up in psychological force what he lacked in physical size, Eason lived to throw himself in harm’s way on the football field at every opportunity.


All because, as he was growing up, Eason’s older brother Tony was the gifted athlete who took his talent for granted. Tony got the lion’s share of their father’s attention, too.


Tony Eason would go on to become starting quarterback for the New England Patriots. Bo Eason also made it to the NFL, playing safety for the Houston Oilers.


But “Runt of the Litter” isn’t about playing football…exactly…or working hard for your dreams. There is football and hard work in it, and some telling scenes about the eccentric nature of men who play pro ball, as well as the violence contained within their sport.


The play is really about how having focused determination can be a valuable quality, but if carried to extremes that determination becomes a poisonous obsession. In the case of professional football, it can turn overachieving athletes into wild-eyed animals consumed by their own voracious appetites.


You don’t think a sweet little 9-year-old kid who adores his big brother and lives for his dad can make that twisted transformation? Eason has seen it happen first hand. He knows that feeling inside and out. He also has the artistic talent to tell the story in a way so compelling, so convincing, it will stick in your head forever.


Just ask someone who saw Bo Eason in “Runt of the Litter” this weekend. Then ask Invisible Theater to bring the show back to Tucson for a much longer run.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

BO EASON PUTS PRO FOOTBALL ONSTAGE

BO EASON PUTS PRO FOOTBALL ONSTAGE


by Chuck Graham
Tucsonstage.com



We love stories of triumph, and former professional football player Bo Eason has a good one. The younger, smaller brother of New England Patriots quarterback Tony Eson, Bo is the personification of sibling rivalry carried to the max.

Invisible Theatre brings us the whole story, told by Bo himself in a semi-autobiographical tale he calls "Runt of the Litter." As the title implies, Bo was the one who always had to try harder. Man, did he ever One reviewer of this off-Broadway stage hit compared Bo and Tony to Cain and Able.

Developed as a one-man show, Eason recounts his life as a continuous challenge to win his father's affection by being as good as his larger and more talented brother. For dramatic purposes, Bo sets the story on a character named Jack Henry who plays safety for the Houston Oilers.

Jack is preparing for the defining game of his life, the conference championship that will decide which team goes to the Super bowl. Opposing the Oilers are the New England Patriots, quarterbacked by Jack's older brother Charlie.

The reality is, back in the 1980s Bo did play safety for the Houston Oilers and Tony was the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots. But the brothers never played against each other in the playoffs. That's the drama part.

The emotional pay-off in "Runt of the Litter," though, is not about who wins the game but -- as the old saying goes -- how the game is played. From childhood, Bo dedicated himself to the pursuit of a career in pro football.

He had no choice. On notebook paper, little boy Bo drew up his 20-year plan to get to the pros. Then the focused lad diligently followed that plan as he grew older, getting up daily at 5 a.m., catching 1,000 passes every day, enlisting his mother's help and never taking any football coach's "No" as the final answer.

Bo's insight into the personalities of other pro football players is in there, too. They love the war zone of the playing field, Bo observes, and they feel bothered by the "peace time" of those hours spent in civilian clothes.

"Runt of the Litter" promises to be more than just another story of conflict with a happy ending. Those guys you see on TV on game day are not robots in football gear. After the game, out of the locker room, they need someplace to go. They can't just hang around the football stadium.

Bo Eason takes us into this life, growing up on sports magazines, fighting back pain, flying on the wings of triumph, breaking the death grip of adversity. It's all on stage, the real conflicts in a game everyone plays 24/7. The game of life.

Performances of "Runt of the Litter," presented by Invisible Theatre, are at the Berger Center, 1200 W. Speedway Blvd., on Saturday, Dec. 5, at 8 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 6, at 3 p.m. Tickets are $42, group discounts are available. Because of the adult language among those football players, the IT staff is recommending this play for ages 12 and older.

A post-show reception with Bo Eason, and a chance to get your photo taken with him, will be held at Pastiche Modern Eatery, 3025 N. Campbell Ave., after the Dec. 5 performance. Tickets for this gathering, which includes refreshments, are $20. Reservations for the reception are made with Phyllis at IT, 520-882-9721.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Eason's 'Runt' tackles football as metaphor | www.azstarnet.com ®

Eason's 'Runt' tackles football as metaphor | www.azstarnet.com ®

Published: 12.04.2009
Eason's 'Runt' tackles football as metaphor
One-man show dramatizes ex-pro player's plan for life
By Alexa Miller
FOR THE ARIZONA DAILY STAR

Bo Eason anxiously waits in the dark before he whips into action.
A familiar rush of adrenalin pumps through his veins. He feels the crowd's anticipation.

"I can hear the crowd, I can feel their vibrations," said Eason, a former Houston Oiler safety.

"I feel like I'm in the Astrodome again, waiting to be introduced to 65,000 fans."



Bo Eason brings his one-man show, Runt of the Litter, to the Old Pueblo. Photo courtesy of Invisible Theatre.

But this is theater, not football. The scene is backstage, waiting to make his entrance for his one-man show, "Runt of the Litter." Invisible Theatre brings the production to Tucson this weekend.

The cue music starts, the lights go on and Eason takes his first step in recounting, play-by-play, his journey to becoming a professional football player.

"Whether it's a sport or a play, I get a thrill from live performance. You can't stop to go back and redo something," said Eason. "That ambivalent feeling makes me nervous, but I rise to the occasion."

Written by Eason, "Runt" is a semi-autobiographical account of a dedicated man who was always told he wasn't good enough to play football.

He fell into the shadow of his gifted older brother, Tony. With determination and a crayon in hand, 9-year-old Eason drew out a 20-year plan that, if strictly followed, would lead the way to a professional football career.

"When the play starts, you are in the last hour of the 20-year plan, and it's all about to come true," said Eason. "Catch is, I have to destroy my brother to make it happen."

Tony played for the New England Patriots and in 1987, the brothers' teams were slated to play each other. Eason was the Oiler's safety, and his brother was the Patriot's quarterback, two positions that compete directly.

"Fate would have it that the game never happened, but over a decade later I was still haunted by it," said Eason. "I always wondered what could have happened."

Choosing to channel his curiosities through live theater, Eason's "Runt" delves into his dreams, ambitions, sibling rivalries and family loyalties, but with a little added drama.

"It's universal in its themes," said Eason. "The more personal you make it the more universal it becomes."
Through his story-telling, Eason looks to inspire.


"Kids will come up to me after the show and say, 'Wow, my parents need to see this,' and parents will come up and say, 'Wow, my kid needs to see this'," said Eason.

"Runt" also inspired the yet-to-be-released movie of the same name directed by Frank Darabont ("The Shawshank Redemption," "The Green Mile"), as well as the "21 Day Runt Program," where children learn how to visualize and work toward their goals by creating a plan.

"The program has the kids do exactly what I did when I was 9, declare a dream, draw it and write it down," said Eason. "So the story relates right to them."

If you go
"Runt of the Litter"
• Presented by: The Invisible Theatre.
• Written/performed by: Bo Eason.
• Director: Larry Moss
• When: 8 p.m. Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday.
• Where: The Berger Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Speedway.
• Tickets: $42; Rush tickets are half-price half-hour before curtain; based on availability.
• Reservations/information: 882-9721.
• Running time: 2 hours, with one intermission
Alexa Miller is a University of Arizona student who is apprenticing at the Star. Contact her at 573-4128 or at starapprentice@azstarnet.com.