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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Really Retro: Lisa Stock Explores an Older, Darker Side of Fairy Tales in Her Play of Neil Gaiman’s SNOW, GLASS, APPLES

Posted on: Aug 22nd, 2011 By:

Carrie Anne Hunt as the Snow White Princess in Lisa Stock's play of Neil Gaiman's SNOW, GLASS, APPLES, which opens Aug. 24.

SNOW WHITE has a reputation for being a cheery story about a cute princess and seven mostly affable dwarves, but the only time I ever hid my eyes in a movie as a child was when the evil stepmother queen transforms herself into a hideous wicked witch in the Walt Disney version. Trust author Neil Gaiman (SANDMAN, AMERICAN GODS) to cleverly latch onto the darker side of that familiar tale and consider that mere jealousy might not be sufficient motive to drive the queen to murder by poisoned apple. And maybe the prince wasn’t exactly your normal kind of hero either. “I was reading Neil Philip‘s [PENGUIN BOOK OF] ENGLISH FOLKTALES, and a rereading of a version of SNOW WHITE made me stop and wonder what kind of person she was, and what kind of person sees a dead girl in a glass coffin and wants to keep her…,” Neil said in an email last week when asked what led him to write the short story, SNOW, GLASS, APPLES. Now Snow White’s white skin, blood-red lips and coffin-sleeping take on a new meaning with disturbing erotic implications, and the queen becomes a protagonist with a difficult moral choice.

Lisa Stock. Photo credit: Jaclyn Cook.

Originally published as a benefit book for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund in 1994, SNOW, GLASS, APPLES captured the imagination of so many readers that it was reprinted in two anthologies—TWICE BITTEN: LOVE IN VEIN II (1997), edited by Poppy Z. Brite, and Neil’s own collection SMOKE AND MIRRORS (1998). One of those readers was Lisa Stock, who like the storytellers of old, had her own thoughts about taking the tale in a new direction from page to stage. Through a few mutual friends, the then-New York-based writer/director for theater and film politely asked Neil nicely for a chance to have some fun with his story of bloodlust and mistrust. Charmed by her vision, the idea of seeing his creation come to life and the fact that all proceeds would benefit charity (East Atlanta Community Association), he granted her wish. “I love live theatre,” Neil said. “There’s a magic you cannot get from anything else when it’s good.”

While this real-life fairy tale so far may seem more CINDERELLA, it’s Atlanta audiences that really are the lucky ones. SNOW, GLASS, APPLES has its world premiere here Wed. Aug. 24 through Sun. Aug. 28 in the unusual venue of the East Atlanta Village Farmers Market, re-envisioned by Lisa as a dreamlike Spring Fair. Artists and photographers also will have a chance to draw and photograph cast members in costume and preview the phantasmagoric sets during a Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School Atlanta field trip on Mon. Aug. 22. Performances are rated “R” for simulated violence and adult themes, but a special family-friendly show will be held Aug. 28 at 6 p.m.

ATLRetro recently caught up with Lisa to find out more about what drew her to the dark story, crafting a truly unique audience experience, why it’s the perfect fit for a Dr. Sketchy and a little about her other mythic projects, including the upcoming independent feature film TITANIA.

For those unfamiliar with Neil Gaiman’s SNOW, GLASS, APPLES, without giving away too much, how is it different from the Disney version of SNOW WHITE we grew up with? And more like the original darker versions that date back to Medieval times?
For me, Neil Gaiman’s version reflects the earliest forms of the tale, some [of which] trace back to the myth of Persephone (eating pomegranate seeds and falling into a half-life in the Underworld). The tales were originally much darker in nature and true morality tales. SNOW, GLASS, APPLES for me is just that—a cautionary tale about trusting or mistrusting your instincts. It’s also about self-preservation in a brutal world, and how you deal with the choices that have been handed to you. Our protagonist doesn’t get saved and have all that’s hers by birthright returned to her. She makes her own decisions—for better or worse—and goes out to protect, on her own, what she holds dear.

How did you discover SNOW, GLASS, APPLES and what drew you personally to the story?
I discovered SNOW, GLASS, APPLES through a haunting illustration by Sarah Coleman of the princess that led me back to Neil’s story. I love new perspectives on old tales and those that speak to human instincts. Instincts are such a basic, fundamental part of being human, and yet we often ignore them. The Queen does that in this tale; I’ve done that more times than I can count. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve been defeated. We all have. And I think this short story brings out a side of us we may not want to own up to—it talks about fear and failure, but also responsibility and integrity. Though Neil has made the Queen the protagonist, she hasn’t lost any of her edge or her darkness. Instead, with the perspective in her corner, we recognize that in ourselves.

I also love all the visual reminders of her fear in the story: the vampiric princess who keeps coming back to life, the princess’ heart strung above her bed, the forest folk disappearing, nothing is as it seems, reminders to look deeper. Think about it. What are you afraid of? It takes up a lot of your time and space. That’s our nature. And in Neil’s story, the Queen goes out to do something about her fear; whether she’s successful or not, she tries to survive it. Was it the right thing to do or not—that’s for each of us to decide.

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