Kool Kat of the Week: Bad Girls and One Benedict: An All Villains Burlesque Review Is Elementary to Sketch MacQuinor

Posted on: Mar 4th, 2014 By:

Sketch MacQuinor as "Sherlock" and Harleen Cassidy as "The Woman." Photo courtesy of Sketch MacQuinor.

Some of Atlanta’s best burlesque salute the really bad girls in VILLAINOUS SCHEMES AND ADULT THEMES on Fri. March 7 and Sat. March 8 at the Academy Theatre in Hapeville. The showcase of sexy skits saluting show business’s villainesses is produced by Hysteria Machines, a collaboration between Fat Cat Cabaret Creative Director Persephone Phoenix  and Sketch MacQuinor, whose day job may be our dream job is an animator whose credits include AdultSwim’s SQUIDBILLIES (read an interview with him about that here).

Persephone was an ATLRetro Kool Kat last fall, so we decided to get the male perspective this time around. Sketch has been performing in Atlanta in various guises for a long time as an animator, artist, and idea man, who, he says, “does a little of everything on stage but sing.” That includes improv, puppetry, stand-up, sketch comedy and impersonating Benedict Cumberbatch‘s SHERLOCK, with whom he shares an uncanny resemblance.
With all that in mind, we thought it would be elementary for Sketch to be this week’s Kool Kat. Here’s what he had to share about this weekend’s show, the imminent return of Fat Cat Cabaret, and his own – shall we call them gloriously geeky – escapades around town and on film.
ATLRetro: How did you and Persephone get the idea for a villains-themed burlesque show come about?
Sketch: I originally just wanted to do a geeky variety show with burlesque elements. When I started asking burlesque performers if they had a geeky number they wanted to dust off or try out, they all asked “What’s the theme?” Apparently, most burlesque shows have themes.  “Geeky comedy!” I replied. “Yeah,” they countered, “but what’s the theme?” Since I had some material I wanted to do involving villains and since I knew that most of the people I approached had some Catwoman, Poison Ivy or Harley Quinn costume in the back of their closet, I just said “Villains.”  From there it blew up, snowballed, took on a life of its own, and other mixed metaphors.
I understand the second half will be all Disney Villains? Why spotlight Disney in particular?
That’s another organic aspect of the show that just happened on its own. Disney-inspired numbers kept getting offered. Violetta Lugosi had an existing number about Snow White.  Venus deMeow had a gorgeous Queen of Hearts number she’d wanted to try out. I saw the preview for the new MALEFICENT movie and ran an idea for a peel to the tune of the sexy new cover of “Once Upon a Dream” by Candi leCoeur, and she jumped at the idea with glee. I asked Facebook, “What Disney villain would you like to see do standup?” and everybody shouted “Hades” [HERCULES]  The routine just wrote itself. My old friend Maggie Dale hasn’t been on stage in years because of an extended case of children, but volunteered to break back out onto the scene with a belting rendition of “Let it Go” with a partial peel.  Others soon came along with other numbers inspired by the empire of Uncle Walt.
Who are some the villainesses that we’ll encounter in the show? 
As mentioned, you’ll see a magnificent Maleficent, an Evil Queen, or two, favorite felonious feline femme fatale Catwoman, and Irene Adler [SHERLOCK], the woman so clever and devious, she earned the name, “The Woman.”

Sketch MacQuinor as "Sherlock." Photo courtesy of Sketch MacQuinor.

Without giving away any big spoilers, what can you tease about your special mystery comedy sketch?  You’re playing the role of Sherlock Holmes, right?

Yes, I am, but I’m really just a prop. The piece itself stars performer Harleen Cassidy as Irene Adler from BBC’s SHERLOCK.  I’ll be acting and capturing his mannerisms with some amount of competency and flair, but you won’t notice me as you’ll be mesmerized by Harleen as she successfully delivers an Adler emulation that with hit you in those parts of your brain that can still be surprised by subtle sensuality. The Woman is amazing, and I envy the audience. I’ll be forced to take my eyes off of her to play the role of Sherlock, but you won’t be able to look away from her powerful stage presence.
This isn’t the first time you’ve done Sherlock and you bear a striking resemblance to Benedict Cumberbatch. How did that get started?
With my long face, small, blue eyes, deep voice and large teeth, I’ve been compared by many to Mr. Cumberbatch, especially in those moments when his characters get goofy. Naturally I started milking the similarity to make some fairly well-executed costumes. I exploited this similarity in a video I put together called “Ladies’ Night at Moriarty’s Pub,” wherein a bunch of villains that you may have seen women express their desires for on Pinterest and on T-shirts gather at a special bar for ne’erdowells.  In it, I play the STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS Khan character, trying to achieve the right balance of growling and purring that the character requires. Fun fact, all four of the female Droog characters in the background are leading their own acts in this production.
Many people may not be familiar with the Academy Theatre in Hapeville. Tell us a little about the venue.
It’s a gorgeous, intimate setting. The Academy Theatre is the longest-running theater in the Atlanta area, though it’s had to change venues a few times. Last year when they lost their last space in Avondale Estates, the Arts Centers of Hapeville and Stockbridge both gave the Academy homes to perform in. The Hapeville location has just a great setup and is [set] to undergo a remodeling in the coming year.
When will Fat Cat Cabaret will back?
Currently we’re planning a return in May, venue permitting.
What else are you up to?
I’m the wrong guy to ask, because I’m up to everything. Redesigning my webcomic, THE MACWINNERS, do more stand-up, do more experimental puppetry, trying to do more illustrated poems, trying to put together more video productions with THE BROTHERHOOD OF DAMN SASSY MUTANTS, get my children’s book HEARTS AND CRAFTS published, produce a second full-cast audiobook, start a family with my incredibly supportive wife, get back into acting, do more audio work with my friends at the Atlanta Radio Theater Company, and spend more time with my aforementioned wife while working my day job as a professional animator.  I sometimes wish I could be one of those guys who just plays ASSASSIN’S CREED when they get home.
What question did I not ask that I should have and what is the answer?
You could ask follow-ups on the children’s book the audiobook, the webcomic, and such, but since they’re not relevant to the article, one could just ask, “When can we meet for Korean tacos in Midtown during the week?”  I like any excuse to do taco lunch, especially on tempeh avocado day.
For more about Sketch, he has a really fun Pinterest page which you can check out here.

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Something Wicked This Way Comes to Avondale Estates; Step Right Up to the Nightmare Circus of the Dark Harvest Haunted House, Masquerade Ball and Festival!

Posted on: Oct 23rd, 2012 By:

Pull back the tent flap and see what happens when the Devil himself brings the circus to town at the Dark Harvest Haunted House at the Academy Theatre in Avondale Estates! Step right up and brave the cornfields of Bradbury Farm, where the souls of a dead town grow right out of the corn, and Mr. Dark’s Nightshade Odditorium, inhabited by the spirits of long dead sideshow freaks. Oh, and did we mention the Killer Clown Maze?

Another example of Atlanta’s talent in designing homegrown haunts, Dark Harvest runs Fri. Oct. 26 through Halloween (Oct. 31), with an opening night Masquerade Ball featuring some spooktacular entertainment on Fri. night and a family-friendly street carnival on Sat. Oct. 27 from noon to 5 p.m. And as an extra treat, proceeds from all the tricks will benefit local charities such as The Academy Theatre, Lifeline Animal Project and The South Dekalb Senior Center.

From Ray Bradbury’s SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES to Erin Morgenstern’s recent bestselling THE NIGHT CIRCUS and countless carnival-themed horror movies (Hammer’s VAMPIRE CIRCUS [1972] is one of our favorites and recently remastered on bluray), it’s well-established in horror fiction that circuses and carnivals can be creepy places. We caught up with Angelo Ritz, the mastermind of the entire mad affair, to find out more about his haunting Halloween history, Retro influences and the Dark Harvest experience.

ATLRetro: What’s the first Halloween haunt that you remember going to as a kid and what about it scared you the most or stayed with you?

When I was about eight years old, The Lake Worth Jaycees put together a charity haunted house at The Palm Beach Mall in West Palm Beach, Fla. The only thing I really remember of that first visit is seeing an 8-foot tall vampire – he seemed that big to an 8-year-old – appear out of nowhere in a strobe room and running all the way to the exit screaming like a Catholic school girl in trouble the entire way!

When did you first become interested in designing your own haunt and when/what was it? 

After that first haunt, I was hooked on horror films – anything from UniversalFamous Monsters of Filmland and anything else I could get my hot little hands on related to monsters. The next Halloween – 1972 to be exact – I built my first haunted house in my living room for the neighborhood Trick or Treaters. It wasn’t much, but I did make one little girl wet herself!

Dark Harvest has a circus/carnival theme and there’s even a Bradbury Farm area and Mr. Dark’s Nightshade Odditorium. How much of an influence was SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES by Ray Bradbury on the design? Was that story particularly scary for you as a child?

I’m thrilled that you picked up on the reference! As a child, I don’t think any other piece of genre literature had a more profound effect on me than SOMETHING WICKED. It wasn’t particularly scary to me, but for the first time I think I finally understood the human side to horror literature, that the true nature of an individual can be more monstrous than any zombie or vampire I had seen up to that point.

What other classic horror stories or movies provided inspiration for Dark Harvest?

I would say Tod Browning’s FREAKS (1932) and a little dash of David Lynch‘s ERASERHEAD (1977).

Clowns are supposed to be funny, but creepy clowns have become a special trope in horror movies and fiction (Stephen King’s IT comes immediately to mind). Who are some of your favorite killer clowns and why do you think clowns are so scary to so many people?

Stephen King’s IT, hands down! All others pale in comparison. The book kept me up nights for about a month! The miniseries may not have been great, but Tim Curry as Pennywise haunted my dreams for a good while after. I think people are frightened by clowns for a very simple reason – you never know what’s really under that white make-up and painted-on smile!

Without giving away any spoilers, is there anything else you’d like to point out that’s different about Dark Harvest compared to Atlanta’s other haunted attractions?

The one big difference is the absence of gore. Don’t get me wrong, gore is very effective in the right context, but considering the source material the show is based on, I felt classic scare techniques were more appropriate.

Tim Curry plays Pennywise in the ABC-TV miniseries of Stephen King's IT (1990).

On Friday night, there’s a masquerade ball. The Artifice Club’s Doctor Q will be spinning, but what else will be going on and will there be costume prizes?

We have a great line-up of live entertainment for the ball. Gwen Hughes and The Retro Jazz Kats, The City Gate Dance Theatre Company, Thimblerig Circusand the incomparable Aqualencia Litre. Everyone who attends also gets a VIP (no waiting in line) ticket to the haunt. For the costume contest, there will be trophies in a few categories. I want to keep those under my hat for now!

The family festival on the weekend reminds me of the Halloween school and church carnivals when we were kids. Do you have a favorite childhood Halloween carnival memory and is that the idea – to bring back that tradition?

I think you hit the nail on the head. After my first living room haunt, I built two houses for middle school fundraisers, and I wanted younger children to be able to have as much fun as I did at that age. We are going to have a few different scare levels during the festival to accommodate all ages, including “ The Trick or Treat Haunted House” for the very young (3 to 5 years old) where the actors will give out candy.

Can you talk briefly about the charities that the haunt will benefit?

The haunt will benefit Lifeline Animal Project – a no-kill shelter and pet-fostering facility. The South Dekalb Senior Center – they are greatly in need of art supplies and an instructor for their senior activity program. And The Academy Theatre’s Theater for Youth outreach program.

Advance tickets for all Dark Harvest festivities, including group discounts, are available at http://www.brownpapertickets.com 

All artwork courtesy of Dark Harvest and provided by Angelo Ritz.

 

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STEAMFEST Brings the World (and the Moon) to Avondale Estates

Posted on: Apr 11th, 2012 By:

When the Academy Theatre, the Artifice Club and the City of Avondale Estates present the 4th annual S.T.E.A.M.Fest this Sat. April 14 and Sun. April 15, the Steampunk world will come together for one heck of a good time.  Musical and theatrical performers confirmed for the Festival include Philadelphia’s This Way to the Egress, Mister Joe Black from the UK, San Francisco’s Unwoman, Los Angeles’ The Peculiar Pretzelmen, Texan comedic styling of Mr. Saturday and Sixpence, Charleston’s Megan Jean and the KFB, Atlanta’s own The Extraordinary Contraptions and Play It With Moxie, plus The Awalim Dance Company bring steps from the Middle East and Thimblerig Circus giving us the wonders of their fictitious Moldavian homeland, and more.

But why stop with the world when S.T.E.A.M.Fest can hang the Moon? The Academy has acquired an exclusive screening of an amazing restoration of Georges Méliès’ masterpiece, A TRIP TO THE MOON (1902), 110 years after its first release of this hand-painted marvel of early cinema. Steampunk short films of various stripes will be on show all weekend in the fantastic Tea Parlor.

Moving from screen to stage, this year we will feature the world premiere of THE ADVENTURE OF CAPERCALLIE BRIDGE by Maegan Mercer-Bourne, which tells the tale of Mycroft Holmes and his adventures.

S.T.E.A.M.Fest, which stands for Steampunk Theater, Entertainment, Arts and Music Festival, is Atlanta’s only Steampunk arts festival (and, quite possibly the ONLY Steampunk Arts Festival in all the Solar System). Live performances and musical acts will be complemented by many artists, authors, illustrators, actors and filmmakers talking about their involvement in the Steampunk genre. Whether in the vendor/dealer’s room, workshops, panel discussions, a costumes contest, musical and theatrical performances, out by food trucks, or dancing with the DJ’s spinning until the wee hours of the morning, some of the best and brightest in the Steampunk scene will be mixing and mingling with all the guests at the event.

Costumes are encouraged, but not required!  Props are welcome and weapons must be peace-bonded.

Tickets range between $25 to $100 and can be purchased online and at the door, with VIP sales closing down this Saturday, April 7 at midnight.  Be sure to note that there is a discount for young people with a valid high school ID. To find out more, visit the S.T.E.A.M.Fest Website , the  S.T.E.A.M.Fest Facebook page or the S.T.E.A.M.Fest Facebook link Event page . Follow S.T.E.A.M.Fest on Twitter at @ArtificeClub.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Jonathan Williams Wrestles with Pop Culture at One Rowdy, Rockin’ First Anniversary Party Wed. March 28

Posted on: Mar 21st, 2012 By:

Professor Morte puts a choke hold on Jonathan Williams. Photo courtesy of Wrestling with Pop Culture.

When our BFF blog Wrestling with Pop Culture (WPC) decided to throw a one-year anniversary party on Wed. March 28 at The Masquerade, ATLRetro couldn’t help but get excited because Jonathan Williams, the mad mastermind behind our second favorite Atlanta-based pop culture blog, is the absolute personifcation of one Kool Kat. Long before either of us took that leap of faith to pull the trigger on our own projects, we found ourselves hanging together at those media receptions, dinners and openings that us freelance writers call breakfast, lunch, dinner and happy hour – that fine line that   keeps us from being “starving” artists more often than we’d like to admit.

Now we’d support anything Jonathan & WPC did, but we’ve got to admit that he’s put together one helluva birthday party. One of the sweetest, glammest Kool Kats ever, Amber Taylor, is hosting! Death is a Dialogue and Needeep are rocking! Monstrosity Championship Wrestling hosted by our favorite Ghost Host with the Most, Professor Morte of the Silver Scream Spookshow! And it’s the official after-party of the Atlanta Film Festival‘s screening of Platinum Championship Wrestling documentary THE BOOKER! Luchador face and body-painting! Raffle! Chambers of Horror photo booth! Wrestling photographer Jay Taylor!

OK, we’d better shut up now and let Jonathan fill you in about WPC’s secret origins, more about the crazy party action and how it all came together, and what else he’s up to. All of which makes us think we need to get busy planning our own ATLRetro first birthday shindig – now that the bar has been set, stay tuned, kids…

Why did you decide to pull the trigger on Wrestling with Pop Culture?

I’ve been a freelance entertainment journalist for several years and have written for local publications like The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Creative Loafing, as well as national publications such as Gothic Beauty and Pro Wrestling Illustrated. But the most fun I ever has as a writer was when I was interning as a college student for Sideshow magazine. That was a free monthly that Jon Waterhouse did, and it covered all aspects of pop culture, from music and movies to pro wrestling and comic books. While I have had the opportunity to write about some cool stuff since Sideshow folded up its tent, I’ve never found another publication that covers the kookier side of pop culture the way that magazine did.

A couple of years ago, when the economy started to tank and freelance work became more and more scarce, I started thinking about starting my own publication. With online media taking over much of the readership that used to rely on print publications, I thought starting a website would be the cheapest and easiest way to go. I also knew that I wanted to focus on professional wrestling in a way that I had never seen any other publication do. It seems like most mainstream publications usually poke fun at wrestling, and traditional wrestling magazines focus solely on what happens in the wrestling world without exploring wrestling’s connections to other forms of entertainment.

From its earliest days as a carnival sideshow attraction through its territorial days, when wrestling made a name for itself across the country with regional TV shows, to the current WWE-dominated scene that allows wrestlers to cross over into the mainstream as action heroes, musicians and other forms of entertainment, pro wrestling has been embedded in Americana and pop culture for decades. Wrestling with Pop Culture covers all these aspects of wrestling, as well as other forms of entertainment that appeal to people who are as fascinated with luchadores and the pageantry of this form of performance art as they are with B horror movies, rock ‘n’ roll, comic books and other like-minded aspects of pop culture.

Jonathan Williams with Stephanie Anderson from Neon Armour Body Painting. Photo courtesy of Wrestling with Pop Culture.

Who else is involved with Wrestling with Pop Culture?

I’ve had a lot of help getting WPC off the ground. Tessa Horehled from DriveaFasterCar.com really helped me with all the technical aspects of getting a website running. KRK Ryden, the artist best known for his work with Devo, designed the black-and-white version of the logo, which I think illustrates the wacky world I envisioned perfectly. Amber Taylor, who will be the host of my show, has provided continued technical support. And I have a few guest writers, including “The Human Hand Grenade” dany only, who also co-hosts Georgia Wrestling Now, to do movie reviews and things like that. Other than that, a large majority of the interviews and reviews you see on WPC are done by me. I’m also working on a comic strip, which will hopefully debut in the next few months, that will further explore the world Ryden helped create with his image.

It sounds like this party is going to be pretty awesome. How did everything fall into place?

I initially wanted to do something last August that incorporated live wrestling and a few rock bands, and concluded with a viewing of a WWE pay-per-view. That never materialized for various reasons, but as the first anniversary of WPC approached I thought about how I could try to pull off something like that again. I first contacted some potential sponsors and, thankfully, found some good ones early on. Pabst Blue Ribbon has been very supportive; then media outlets Creative Loafing and Scoutmob got involved. Things really started falling into place just a few weeks ago as the Atlanta Film Festival announced its screening of the Platinum Championship Wrestling documentary THE BOOKER on March 28. Since the Masquerade is right down the street from the Midtown Art Cinema, and since PCW runs shows there every month or so, I thought it would be a great venue for an event with wrestling and bands.

Can you tell us more about the bands and wrestling activities?

Death is a Dialogue and Needeep, [two] great bands who are also great at getting their names out there, both agreed to do the show. Although I wanted to take advantage of PCW’s fans being in the area that night, I actually wanted to do something a little different with the wrestling portion of the show. Last October, the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse set up a wrestling ring in its parking lot to provide entertainment for the people waiting in the long lines to get in. I didn’t get to see either of those shows, but I heard from some of the PCW wrestlers that were involved that the promotion was Monstrosity Championship Wrestling and there were matches that included actual monsters, as well as a match that pitted a Bible-thumping Jesus freak against Satan himself. It turns out Prof. Morte from the Silver Scream SpookShow is somehow involved in this promotion, so I contacted him, and he agreed to do some monster wrestling matches at my event.

Also, Amber Taylor, whose band the Sexual Side Effects is playing another Atlanta Film Festival event at the Goat Farm the following night, where their new video will be premiering, also wanted to be part of the action. So since she’s sort of walking freak show unto herself, I decided to let her be the host of the whole thing. With additional sponsors like Criminal Records, Adrenaline Fitness and Ox’s Wrestling Ring Rentals, I feel like the event covers Atlanta’s pop culture scene in much the same way the website covers various aspects of pop culture. The Atlanta Film Festival has also made this event one of its official after-parties and PCW recently put out a challenge to MCW, so things just get more and more interesting by the day. And the Academy Theatre, where PCW has its matches every Friday night, is selling tickets for only $5 through this Friday. Otherwise, tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door or free for AFF pass holders.

And did we hear right that there’s face and body painting, artists, a raffle, something to do with those crazy maniacs from Chambers of Horror?

Other festivities include luchadore-inspired face and body painting from Neon Armour, raffle prizes from Adrenaline Fitness; Chocolate F/X; monster artist Dave Cook; Monster Joe Coffee, who also made the WPC T-shirts; and lots of other new stuff coming in each day. Chambers of Horror is also going to have a photo booth there, and local wrestling photographer Jay Taylor will be snapping pics.

Jonathan Williams of Wrestling with Pop Culture. Photo credit: Neda Abghari.

While Wrestling with Pop Culture is your big baby, what other writing projects are you up to right now?

In addition to keeping WPC from tapping out, I am also the Editor-in-Chief for The Creative Process, which is part of The Creatives Project. I still write a monthly art column for Stomp and Stammer called Sheer Art Attack, and I have weekly music contributions to Creative Loafing. I occasionally contribute to PWI and Drive a Faster Car, and I’m also working on some articles for the Miami New Times about all the WrestleMania festivities that will be taking place down there next week.

 

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Audio Wonderland: Imagining the Sounds of AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS with The Atlanta Radio Theatre Company

Posted on: Dec 9th, 2011 By:

Ethan Hurlburt, Sara Lozano, Maddie Dill and Laurice White in ARTC's 2008 production of AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS. Photo credit: Caran Wilbanks

 

Much is made of the visual aspects of the holidays—all the lights, the snow, Santa in his suit of red. But with, the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company (ARTC)’s AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS, the sounds of the season take center stage Dec. 10, 11, 17 and 18 at the Academy Theatre in Avondale Estates. In the spirit of the season, tickets cost whatever you can afford, even if that means free, so it’s a great opportunity to experience the Noel nostalgia of not just city holiday traditions but also an enjoyable performance art form that came close to going the way of the dinosaur but is now enjoying its own Retro revival. However, ATLRetro hopes you will give what you can to support this hardworking community theater in tough economic times, and ARTC is donating 25% of all ticket sales to the Center for the Visually Impaired.

Back in the 1930s and ‘40s families gathered together in the evenings to listen to the radio. Much more than music, less-than-funny deejays and pontificating talk show hosts, radio channels used to air a wide variety of programs from adventure serials with iconic characters like THE SHADOW to dramatic productions like the infamous WAR OF THE WORLDS broadcast narrated by Orson Welles, soap operas like STELLA DALLAS to comedies to FIBBER, MCGEE & MOLLY. But with the advent of TV, radio theater became all but a lost art form.

ARTC was one of the first of a handful of companies around the country who have embraced radio theatre, and for more than two decades, its members have worked passionately to afford it a new lease on life as a live performance medium. While listeners still use their imagination to visualize the action, the live stagings, at theaters and also often at science-fiction conventions, afford a behind-the-scenes peek into what it would be like to visit a vintage radio station. Actors read their lines live, and sound effects and music are added on the spot. Of course, you can also purchase recordings of ARTC productions, which run the entire gamut from dramas to comedies to new takes on the old SF adventure serials, to further take yourself back to the golden age of radio. Seems like it’d be bound to make that long roadtrip home for the holidays go a little faster, and once you get there, wouldn’t it be nice to get everyone to be quiet, gather around the fireplace and listen to them, too?

ATLRetro asked David Benedict, vice president of ARTC and co-director/coproducer of AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS by Thomas Fuller, why the holidays are such a perfect time to enjoy radio theater and why it should be preserved in a CGI-laden visual age.

Without giving away too much, what’s the basic story behind AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS?

The most basic summary I can give is that AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS is about Christmas inAtlanta. It is a series of short vignettes that detail how our unique city has celebrated the season throughout the years, beginning with the first appearance of the Christmas tree and continuing to modern day. It is framed by the image of a family gathered together for the holiday, passing their own memories along to their children.

David Benedict introduces AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS. Photo Credit: Caran Wilbanks.

This is ARTC’s 12th year performing AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS, so it’s becoming an Atlanta Christmas tradition itself. Why do you think this show has such enduring popularity?

Although the world has gotten smaller, people still hold a strong connection with their local community. AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS puts a sharp focus on the way the holiday and the way we as a city celebrate it has changed throughout the years, while also highlighting the things that remain constant: family, hope, renewal, and giving.

Why does the radio theater format work so well for this production?

Christmas, along with Halloween, are extremely imaginative times of the year and lend themselves well to the format. Radio theatre, or audio drama, calls upon the audience to use their imaginations to envision for themselves the settings and the appearances of the characters. We facilitate this through our use of well-written scripts, sound effects and music. During Christmas, people are more in tune with their imaginations, which is exhibited through our common references to elves at the North Pole, winter wonderlands and flying reindeer. These things, as well as the general joy and goodwill of the season, resonate extremely well with radio theatre.

Do you have a favorite scene in AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS—or should we say “segment”—and why?

It’s so hard to pick one. Thomas Fuller was a master at painting visual tableaus with nothing more than a well-chosen word or two. But if I had to pick just one, I would probably go with Davy Crockett and Me, which tells the story of two brothers who desperately want Davy Crockett’s coonskin caps from the classic TV show. The piece makes a point of contrasting the black and white television of the time with the colorful lights and decorations of the holidays that really stands out in my mind. Plus, I’ve performed it with my good friend Hal Wiedeman for the last few years. We’ve grown so used to the roles that we’ve taken turns being the other brother a couple of times, and we joke that we’re going to give the director a heart attack one year and try switching roles in the middle of the performance!

Jayne Lockhart and Rachel Pendergrass perform in the 2008 ARTC production of AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS. Photo credit: Caran Wilbanks.

ARTC has performed many plays by Thomas Fuller, and he was a key player for many years with ARTC. Can you share a few words about his impact on ARTC and why ARTC continues to perform so many of his works?

It is hard to overstate the importance of Thomas Fuller to ARTC and the loss we felt at his passing. Thomas had a complete grasp of the potential of radio theatre. He wrote compelling characters, he understood the medium for which he was writing, and he could use sound very effectively. Moreover, though, he was constantly pushing us to greater excellence. He would take new writers and offer them advice, encouragement, and help them make the most of their story. As for why we continue to perform his work, I think you only have to listen to one of his plays to know that. His work stretches us, and as we continue to develop new writers, we often use Thomas’s work as the benchmark against which new work can be measured and the heights they can strive for. One of our (relatively) new writers, Kelley S. Ceccato, has taken to this challenge and is currently writing some of our most immersive, lushly soundscaped work.

It’s pretty unconventional and some would say courageous if you actually want to cover expenses to have tickets that are “name your price.” Why do you do that, and what guidelines should people use to decide what to pay?

Radio theatre was largely abandoned in the United States back in the 1940s and 1950s, and although it is enjoying a comeback of sorts in the modern Internet age, people still don’t often think of it as a viable entertainment medium. And yet when people are exposed to our work and the work of other radio theatres around the world, they find the medium very enriching. At this time of year, we want to give the gift of imagination to people who might not otherwise have the financial capability to come to live theatre. In this economy, leisure expenses are not always affordable, but we feel that at this time of year we have something to offer and want as many people as possible to be able to receive and enjoy the gift of audio drama that we have to give.

In addition to that, we are also making a donation of 25% of all ticket sales to the Center for the Visually Impaired. We feel it’s a very natural fit with this particular nonprofit, and we’ve made a donation to them for several years now as a part of this show. Patrons who are not sure how much they should pay for a ticket should do what feels most comfortable to them. We invite people to come see the show for as little as $0, but we encourage them to pay as much as they like. For the truly undecided, we have a suggested price of $10.

Radio theater isn’t thought of as a visual medium, so why is it so much fun to see it performed live?

Live theatre is always an adventure, and even though we aren’t doing re-creations of the classic radio dramas, preferring to write our own material and do original adaptations, there’s still a nostalgia appeal to seeing a group of actors creating a scene right in front of you using nothing but their voices and the audience’s imagination. There’s also an immediacy that’s difficult to re-create with a recording. How many times have you stopped and listened to a song you heard on the radio even though you could have listened to it on your mp3 player any time you wanted? Lastly, there’s the controlled environment of the theatre itself. Life moves fast these days and even in the car it can be difficult to tune out the distractions and give your imagination free reign, and when you can do that, audio drama is at its best. Being in the theatre allows you to close your eyes and forget everything else except the picture being painted in your mind.

David Benedict, Bill Kronick, Rachel Pendergrass, Jayne Lockhart, Laurice White. Photo credit: Caran Wilbanks.

Plus, you never know what’s going to happen. One performance, which took place at Stone Mountain Park outdoors on a rainy day, called for a gunshot. We had a recorded sound effect ready to go for that, but as it turned out, there was someone at the festival demonstrating an actual black powder pistol and we worked it out with them to fire the gun on cue to add a little extra realism. We rehearsed it and it went off without a hitch, but during the performance the pistol misfired. You haven’t really lived until you’re in a situation where your sound effect hasn’t happened, there’s no way for it to happen, and your next line is supposed to be “She shot him!” As it turned out, on that particular occasion, he ended up poisoned.

How long have you been involved in ARTC, and what got you started?

I honestly don’t recall the exact date, but it’s been a really long time. Probably in the early to mid-‘90s. I’ve been a Dragon*Con attendee for many years and ARTC has performed at every Dragon*Con since the first one [1987], but somehow I hadn’t been to any of their shows. At one particular convention I happened across the name in the program book and made it a point to attend. As I recall the performance was COUNTRY OF THE BLIND or possibly THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU. Even though I had heard of radio drama before, I wasn’t aware that anyone was still performing it and certainly had never seen it done live. The entire experience just appealed to me, watching the sound effects being created on stage by the Foley crew, hearing the actors perform with as much passion and skill as any stage theatre or movie I had ever seen. I sought them out and got information about joining just as soon as the performance was over and have never looked back.

David Benedict. Photo credit: Ben Thompson, Alexandra Photography.

All of ARTC’s performers and technical team do this as a labor of love. What do you do as your day job, how did you personally get involved in ARTC, and why do you think the art form is worth preserving in a visual era?

Currently I work as an assistant manager in Guest Programs at the Georgia Aquarium. My team is the one you are most likely to interact with on a typical visit as we do exhibit interpretation and help people to better identify and understand the animals and conservation issues. As I mentioned, I first saw ARTC at Dragon*Con and was immediately drawn to them. I’ve actually gone through several jobs while sticking with ARTC the whole time and they have played a pretty major role in keeping me in the Atlanta area.

As Thomas Fuller once said, audio drama is probably the most plastic of all the art forms, which means that it can be molded by a skilled writer, sound designer and actors to be whatever you need it to be. Without suffering from the budget constraints that limit all but the most well-funded big studio filmmakers, audio dramatists can set whichever scene they want and there are dozens if not hundreds of people worldwide who are producing it in their own homes. It’s also a much more active art form. Well-crafted films can draw the audience in, but even the best films don’t really involve the audience the way audio drama can. By allowing them to set the scene, radio theatre makes the audience an essential part of the creative process and, we hope, encourages people to be more imaginative in their daily lives.

Many of your previous productions are available as recordings and make great gifts. What 3 productions do you recommend for someone wanting to get a good introduction to radio theater and ARTC, and how can one purchase recordings?

We have a wide variety of genres to choose from, so while we primarily serve the science fiction/horror/fantasy fan base, there’s really something for everyone and it depends on what you’re looking for. My personal favorites, though, are probably ALL HALLOWS MOON (an occult western) by Thomas E. Fuller, RORY RAMMER, SPACE MARSHAL: VOLUME 1 (a science fiction serial) by Ron N. Butler, and THE PASSION OF FRANKENSTEIN by Thomas E. Fuller. I think it’s also worth mentioning that AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS is finally out on CD this year. One of the hazards of an all-volunteer small-press audio publisher is that sometimes things get caught up in the production cycle and never find their way out. AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS took five years to complete, but I think the end result is totally worth it.

Recordings can be purchased on CD at our live performances or by mail order at www.artc.org. You can also download our material from Audible.com, iTunes and Amazon. And for those folks who aren’t sure what modern audio drama sounds like, they can check out our free monthly podcast at http://podcast.artc.org and download mp3s of our past live performances. We also appear on Aberrant Radio Monday nights at 8:30pm.

The cast of AN ATLANTA CHRISTMAS takes a curtain call, including Alton Leonard on guitar. Photo credit: Caran Wilbanks.

What’s next for ARTC in terms of live shows and new recordings in 2012?

Our next live performance after Christmas will be March 3 and 4 at the Academy Theatre where we’ll perform THE TIME MACHINE by H. G. Wells, adapted by Thomas E. Fuller. After that we’ll be at LibertyCon inChattanooga, TN, in July and Dragon*Con in September. In between we’ll take a short break to get back into the studio. Titles for the studio sessions are still being finalized and we still have a bunch of things left from our last studio session to finish up, but I’m thinking strongly of taking in THE TIME MACHINE, which used to be in the catalog but is now out of print, as well as THE COLOUR OUT OF SPACE by H. P. Lovecraft, adapted by Ron N. Butler, and if we get really ambitious we may attempt Brad Strickland‘s five-part adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson‘s TREASURE ISLAND.

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Weekend Update April 29-May 1, 2011

Posted on: Apr 28th, 2011 By:

Friday, April 29

Inman Park Festival launches from noon to 4 PM with day one of its Tour of Homes, quite possibly Atlanta’s oldest ongoing annual peek behind the doors of private residences. The fun of this tour is not just the historic Craftsman and Victorian structures but the interior decor which often reflects that quirky artsy character of the neighborhood’s residents. Also launching today is the Druid Hills Tour of Homes (10 AM to 5 PM) which this year features houses built from 1918 to 1955 in the city’s first driving suburb originally designed by legendary landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.

Flashback to the ’80s with Brazilian heavy metal/death metal band Sepultura at Masquerade. Wauchope Krewe plays a mix of New Orleans funk and R&B, along with blues, jazz, Latin and original music, at Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Martinis and IMAXJoe Gransden and Kenny Banks jazz up The Mansion on PeachtreeLittle G Weevil brings the blues to Fat Matt’s Rib Shack,and Electromatics fuse blues, jazz and soul at Northside Tavern.

Saturday April 30

The Inman Park and Druid Hills Home Tours continue, and the Inman Park Festival shows why it’s Atlanta’s most creative street festival from a bodacious artist and vendors market through the Victorian neighborhood to a one-of-a-kind parade at 2 PM. Plenty of live music, too, with today’s Retro highlights including Zydeco T at 1 PM, crime-fightin superhero Falcon Lords at 4:45 PM, 17-piece big band Usual Suspects at 5:30 PM, and ’20s ragtime-inspired Blair Crimmins & the Hookers at 6:45 PM.

In an extra terror-ific treat, Professor Morte and the guys and ghouls of the Silver Scream Spookshow screen the 1958 Ray Harryhausen monsterpiece THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD at the Plaza Theatre with a kids matinee at 1 PM and adult show at 10 PM. Read the review by Mark Arson here. Reviving another type of vintage performance, the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company presents Thomas Fuller‘s THE DANCER IN THE DARK, inspired by the H.P. Lovecraft mythos spawned in the 1920s and ’30s with a flavoring of New Mexico, at 2:30 PM at the Academy Theatre in Avondale Estates.

It’s Rockabilly/Redneck Underground heaven as Southern Culture on the Skids headlines the Star Bar with Ghost Riders Car Club opening. Brush up on your GRCC with ATLRetro’s Kool Kat interview with Spike Fullerton from back in February. TheBlues Barons play Fat Matt’s. DJ Romeo Cologne transforms the sensationally seedy Clermont Lounge into a ’70s disco/funk inferno.

Sunday May 1

The Inman Park Festival offers up a final day of fun, including old-time-Western-inspired Cowboy Envy at 2:15 PM and Whole Lotta Dixie, a traditional Dixieland band with a knack for applying that sound to  ’60s and ’70s hits, at 3:30 PM. Six-piece string band The Groundhawgs fuses bluegrass, old-time, jazz and swing, poetry and blues, classic country and a little bit of Southern rock during “dunch” between 1 and 4 PM at The Earl.

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