Sunday, August 22, 2010

My latest review for

FringeNYC 2010 Festival Review: OUR CONDOLENCES review
Keelie A. Sheridan · August 19, 2010

One would think we, as a species, would be more adept at communicating our thoughts and feelings on a subject as universal as death. It unites us as mortals. Some fear it, some accept it, some defy it, but we will all experience it. It's not a new phenomenon. For as long as humans have existed, we've been dying. An inevitable fact of living is outliving loved ones. We're compelled to reach out and connect with those who lose someone. Why is it, then, that no one seems to know quite what to say or how to say it when extending sympathies for another's loss? "No one really knows how to say or do the right thing, because it doesn't exist," suggests Lauren Olson, writer and performer of Our Condolences.

A quick-moving, thoughtful, and honest piece, Our Condolences illustrates several such attempts by individuals with varying intentions, based upon Olson's own experiences related to her mother's death. Characters range from an unfortunate ex-boyfriend to an overbearing post-mortem management counselor to an oblivious salesgirl and a naive young cousin, none of whom has ill-intentions, yet each of whom adopts wholly inappropriate methods of well-wishing (if inappropriateness can even exist in a context where there is no such thing as "appropriate").

Olson delivers a seamless performance, effortlessly shifting among characters of varying ages, genders, and levels of emotional stability. The cleverly written piece amplifies her strong physical and vocal performance abilities, which in turn showcases her engaging and honest style of writing. Performing something tantamount to theatrical Olympics, Olson's impressive channeling of such a wide range of individuals with no lag or overlap is a testament to her acting ability. It's quite evident that director Rachel Hamilton gets the piece, and has expertly guided its clean, blunt, and honest execution. Each character shines individually with simple costume embellishments. The minimally decorated stage is functional, well-appointed, and optimally utilized, though place is never the focus.

Through a series of in-person sketches and pre-recorded voicemails, this character-centered piece keeps the spotlight steadily pointed at the individual voices represented, what the death of one woman means to each of them, and how they relate to her survivors. Though the subject matter can be emotional and sobering, the overall tone of the piece is playful—an absolution of the deeds depicted on the stage, which is a relief for the audience, who can't help but wonder, as they watch the out-of-line-yet-true-to-life post-mortem antics unfold, "Have I ever done that?"

Pictured: Lauren Olson (photo © Brandon Lisy)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Curiouser and Curiouser- An Adaptation of Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"

With some of my handsome boys before the show!

I. Am. So. Proud. My Block Institute kiddos performed their play last week after only four short weeks of Thursday and Friday drama class, and the progress made by most of the students is absolutely astounding. This was my first time developing and implementing curriculum for students with developmental disabilities, and though I had done my research and understood how beneficial arts education is to ANY student, I was a bit nervous going in. 

My schedule consisted of 10 drama classes in a 5 hour shift, because I'll be honest, I can't say no to a class who wants to take drama, even if it means working through my lunch break. The students ranged in age between 4-7, and on the very first day I fell in love with each and every single one of them. Despite challenges of every possible variety, throughout the duration of our work together, EVERY child made progress, which I do not assume to take credit for-- drama has this universal, welcoming and familiar quality that fosters incredible personal development. 

Non-verbal kids started joining in to our vocal warm-ups. Kids who started the program sitting in the corner with an aide ended up in the center of the circle for our physical warm-ups. Kids who seemed completely disengaged and unwilling to connect would jump in to correct me if I forgot a part of the play. And, most importantly for me, the teachers who knew these kids best commented on their progress. Last Friday, as I watched them take the stage and tell the story we had learned together, I was absolutely stunned to think that this was the same group I had started with four weeks earlier. They patiently waited for their turns. They didn't yell out when someone was talking. They paid attention to the action of the story, and gently helped other students who forgot what came next. The practice of drama, I've found, has the inevitable effect of making the participants into more conscientious individuals. And they were excited and happy. What more could I have asked for?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Day Choc-Full of Theatre!

Just a quick note before I head out to my show- come see the Ex Libris Theatre's Trinity@Trinity this afternoon at 3:30p!! Yesterday's whirlwind writing, rehearsing and staging process yielded us three awesome short plays, and at $5 (with $1 of each admission going to the church's soup kitchen), how can you say no?

A message from our Artistic Director:

Yesterday, at Trinity Lower East Side church, fifteen of us gathered to write some plays. There were three writers, three directors, and nine actors.

The topics were the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

The plays were set in three spaces throughout the church, each with a three-person cast.

Everyone was given free reign to write and create what they wanted, utilizing their randomly chosen topics, spaces, and actors.

Going into the weekend, there was no tangible way to know what to expect. Yesterday, each and every actor, writer, and director turned it out --

Now we have three brand new site-specific plays for you.

Come see what your friends have been working on.

It's $5 at the door. $1 from each admission goes directly to the church's SAFH soup kitchen, which feeds homeless New Yorkers Monday through Friday!

Please, please join us. Most likely, if you're getting this message, one of the artists involves really likes you. And don't you want to witness their fantastic work?

I hope to see as many of you as possible tomorrow! You won't be disappointed.

Very Sincerely,

Richard Patterson

Artistic Director, Ex Libris Theatre Company

AND THEN, since you're so fired up from the first awesome play of the day, take a quick break to grab a bite to eat, and then head over to the Ellen Stewart Theatre at La Mama to check out the 5:45p opening of Spellbound: A Musical Adventure, co-produced by Mind the Art Entertainment

Tickets are available at or at the door. $15 online, $18 at the door. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Guest Ringmaster at the Coney Island Circus TOMORROW!

Join me tomorrow at 7p at the Coney Island Illuscination circus! I'll be the guest ringmaster, and the Illuscination folks have graciously invited my friends at Brooklyn's Block Institute to visit as my guests! It should be a great night! Check out my blog from last year's visit here

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Learning Revolution

My return to the stage...

$5 on Sunday gets you admission to a rotating show of 3 short plays, conceived and written in 24 hrs. And I'm in it (acting, this time- not writing)! $1 from every admission goes to the Trinity Lower East Side Church's Soup Kitchen. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010