Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Beatnik brings flower power to the Venue.

This is the third year that Beth Marshall Productions has brought Beatnik to The Venue, 511 Virginia Dr, Orlando, Florida. This year the title was, Beatnik Cubed: A 60's Flashback. This was the 3rd and final installment of the unique, audience interactive speak-easy 60’s theme one-night only event. Whether attending for the first time or returning, all audience members will get into the groove of enjoying a flashback of the 60’s. Many of the regular beats, poets, freaks, geeks and gypsy artisans of every kind will be returning along with some new acts and surprises. Fully immersive and interactive theatrical experience. The pre-show was full of both entertainment, and information about past installments.

 The premise of the show is that the cast is celebrating the birthday of  the fictional proprietor of the Venue, Adrian LePeltier. In the pre-show, the black clad Beatnik chicks stood on the stairway where they read a poem. A Varie Tease dancer,  Michelina Wingerter, performed an improvised interpretive dance to the poem. In this small living room area the cast mingles with the audience. There was also a performance in front of the Venue, but I returned to the theater to finish up the sketch I had started. 

 This sweeping variety show has everything. The Beat King Host, Samuel Butcher, was a cynical but rather funny drunk whose dark insights speak to artistic integrity above all else. The cast is divided into the colorful and carefree hippies and the dark brooding beats. All of Them have a love for the Venue and what it represents. 

One of my favorite performances in the show came from the husband and wife team of Tod and Christen Caviness as the Poet Guru and his Muse. Tod recited a poem about Jack Kerouac and the striving of his generation in the late 50's and early 60's. Christen performed a sensual dance that perfectly expressed the longing of a generation. Since this was a rehearsal and they didn't have a baby sitter, their young son Carlin was part of the  performance. Tod held his grinning son in his arms as he belted out the epic poem. Carlin watched his mom dance in amazement. When she danced to the far side of the stage however, she was too far away. His face crinkled and he began to cry, softly at first, and then all out. In a pause in her dance Christen's face reflected her heart felt concern. Tod lost track the poem in 1961 but then got right back in the groove, shouting over his sons tears. later in the show, as the whole cast danced on stage to "Let the Sun Shine", Carlin was on Christen's hip and smiled with joy as the cast danced around him. Unfortunately Carlin will not par for in the actual show, but his moments on stage were pure unrehearsed magic. 

Brett Carson performed the Bongo Beat. Dramatic moments were often accompanied by a bongo beat followed by the snapping of fingers rather than clapping. The audience becomes part of the action when note cards are handed out. Each member of the audience with a card was asked to shout out their word when the host pointed to them. Scrawled on my card was a word that rhymes with truck. "Should I really shout this out?" I thought. Perhaps I should just make up my own word.  The host pointed to me and I shouted "F*ck!" "Oh come on!" he shouted. "F*ck me like you mean it." "F*ck!" I yelled. Other words included Woman, War, hate, and many others. Shouted in sequence they almost made sense.  That's beat. Or is it? Snap, sap, snap.
Andy Haynes read a story about breaking up with cynicism and choosing vulnerability instead. When he got off stage, he kissed Julie Snyder. The spontaneous evening came to a screeching halt when everyone learns that their beloved Venue has been sold to an Ivanhoe Development company. Julie somehow managed to secure herself a job in the new venue which features an exercise gym. She was hilarious as she struggled do push ups and do jumping jacks. In a break, she asked me to give her big muscles in the sketch, but I sadly missed that sketch opportunity. It was hard to separate the affection felt for the real cast as opposed to the drama of the fictional cast. Billy Manes as Andy Warhol entered the Venue snapping photos of the audience in the final scene. Billy is famous for reporting on the twisted inner workings of local government. Perhaps this however was his 15 minutes of fame.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at analogartistdigitalworld@gmail.com

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