Theater

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Portia Nelson

Published April 8, 2018 by biggayhorrorfan

portiaFor generations of children the scariest thing about the distinguished Portia Nelson was probably the fact that her decisive Sister Berthe didn’t like Julie Andrews’ lovable Maria in the 1965 film version of The Sound of Music. But Nelson’s friendship with author Tom Tryon actually resulted in a role with even more haunting consequences. Cast as Mrs. Rowe in the atmospheric film version of Tryon’s The Other, this eclectic artist found herself as a part of the cinematic universe of one of the most popular horror novels of the early ‘70s.

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But Nelson, who was also an influential author and songwriter, was perhaps best known for her work in the cabaret. Her beautiful soprano voice, which deepened adroitly with age, was nimble enough to find subtle meanings in the songs she sang, allowing listeners to, as her most popular lyrical composition attested, “make a rainbow” in their minds.

Nelson, whose poem Autobiography in Five Chapters is a notable tool for those in recovery, also battled cancer for many years. Ever the warrior, she, ultimately, lost her life to the disease, at the age of 80, in 2001.

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Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Zombie Bathhouse Chronicles: Paging Dr. Martino!

Published October 21, 2017 by biggayhorrorfan

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Hmmm…That old performing truism about not writing something for a cast member that you wouldn’t do yourself has come back to haunt me, as of late.

For years, I’ve been working with composer-lyricist (and Chicago institution) Scott Free on a project called Zombie Bathhouse: A Rock Musical. After a number of readings (and lots and lots of rewriting and reimagining and… well, you get the picture), we were ready to hit those Midwest stages, last week, for a professional run. Naturally, our amazing and dedicated cast was firmly in place, when circumstances twisted, as they are want to do, and I found myself recruited – or ham that I am, did I offer myself up willing!?!? – to take over the role of the mysterious Dr. Martino, the man responsible for the many nightmares endured by the show’s tortured romantic hero, Michael.

Honestly, it’s the last position that I expected to find myself in…but after some inner grumbling and heavy sighing, I’ve actually found myself immensely enjoying being one of the many creepy cogs in a creative machine again. My artistic journey began in the theatrical trenches and I had forgotten how amazing backstage comradery can feel. It’s been very satisfying being part of a unit working for a common goal…and the fact that this, (quite possibly) my final theatrical stage appearance, is in a work of horror makes it all the more satisfying.

More than anything, though, this experience makes me respect artists everywhere all the more. There are so many beautiful things involved with creating something, but so many risks and heartaches, as well. Sometimes those negatives can even outweigh the positives…and, damn, don’t those failures fucking burn?!? But, still we persist. Therefore, I want to send up a salute to my fellow cast mates and to all who dare to risk, to dream and to falter, on a daily basis. We’re warriors, folks, and even the mysterious and totally unsavory Dr. Martino would probably have to bow down to that.

Zombie Bathhouse runs until October 29th at The Center on Halsted. Further information is available at

https://m.facebook.com/ZombieBathhouse/

Until the next time, Sweet love and pink Grue, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Jackson Headlines Musical Horror Story

Published December 15, 2016 by biggayhorrorfan

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There is nothing that a gay dude loves more than a diva. Well, maybe there’s…but s-h-h-h…I can’t talk about that here. Anyhow, in my book, if anyone could take on Jessica Lange in the Chicago theater community, it’s the divinely eclectic Caitlin Jackson. Nicely, she seems to be doing just that with her role of Reverend Mother in The Cowardly Scarecrow Theatre Company’s Ryan Murphy send-up Musical Horror Story Exorcism.

From all glimpses, this production promises to offer a bit of blood, a lot of humor and, well, Ms. Jackson (pictured, right, in the photo)! There are only 3 performances left – Thursday, Friday and Saturday, December 15-17th, at the Charnel House, 3421 W. Fullerton, in Chicago. So throw all of your bad habits onto the CTA (or however you get about in this unholy city) and head on over!

More information is available at: https://www.facebook.com/CSTCINC.

Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Review: Zombie Broads

Published November 5, 2016 by biggayhorrorfan

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Ladies and gentlemen, I know you’ve been a bit worried, but at last…my butt has been fully restored. Yes. After sitting through countless half-assed productions, often scribbled out by established playwrights, at such venerable institutions as The Goodman Theatre and Steppenwolf –Be honest. How many times have you thought to yourself, “Now, why the fuck did they spend all that money to do…that?!?” – I have been posteriorly redefined by some good old fashioned, gnawingly eviscerating storefront theater.

Factory Theatre’s latest production is a horror comedy that goes by the name of Zombie Broads.  The title is a reference to a book club featuring many of the show’s female characters, but it is also indicative of the fact that playwrights Corbette Pasko and Sara Sevigny have focused the mayhem here around a series of powerful and resourceful femmes. It’s a nice contrast to The Walking Dead, World War Z and other popular forms of undead entertainment that, granted, contain some awesome female characters, but are seemingly more focused on the male perspective in times of apocalyptic crisis.

Here, former cosplayers turned survivalists, Maxine and Marco, are bringing up Shelby, their exasperated daughter, in a shelter style environment. Shelby, certain that a ghoulish uprising is out of the question, just wants a cell phone, a normal job and to be able to spend some less secretive time with her boyfriend, Alex. But sometimes the folks are right, and when Shelby finds out the dead actually can have real bite, she is glad for all the preriquisite training. If only she weren’t feeling so strange…zombie-broads

Nicely, all of Maxine and Marco’s battle minded compatriots are women and the involved and inventive fight choreography by Matt Engle shows these actresses and, therefore, their characters off to strong intent. Indeed, the audience emotionally connects with all of them.

But if I must choose a favorite…I have decided that I want the divine Haley Rice to be my best friend, in real life, forever! Her subtle, slightly bored take on Isabel, the saucy custodian who starts off the crisis, is comic gold. I! Love! Her!

Granted, the second act does lose some of the zippy breeze established in the first, settling into much more nihilistic vibe. Tone-wise, it’s a bit jarring, as is the semi- cliffhanger ending. But the uniformly enjoyable cast is always a treat and it would be damn hard to find original scripting as zanily courageous and heartfelt, amplified by Janice L. Blizt’s flinty direction, as this anywhere else.

Zombie Broads runs at The Factory Theatre in Rogers Park in Chicago through November 26th. More information is available at https://www.facebook.com/factorytheater/ and www.thefactorytheater.com.

Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Vivian Blaine

Published August 28, 2016 by biggayhorrorfan

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She added a little sophistication and dignity to cheesy, fun monster fests such as 1979’s The Dark and to 1982’s Parasite, but the glorious Vivian Blaine was best known for her take on the ditzy Adelaide in the original Broadway and movie versions of Guys and Dolls. Most importantly, perhaps, Blaine was also one of the first celebrity advocates for the AIDS crisis, providing a very visible presence in a time when most public figures shunned the realities of the disease.

Blaine, who also acted and sang in multiple movie musicals with the likes of the vivacious Carmen Miranda and smooth crooner Perry Como, reprised Adelaide’s Lament, her most famous number from Guys and Dolls, on the 1971 Tony Awards, twenty years after her debut in the role. There, she proved, beyond a doubt, that no one could portray the little quirks and eccentricities of the character quite like she could.

Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Countess Bathory: A New Elizabethan Tragedy

Published June 8, 2016 by biggayhorrorfan

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Many have wondered how I have stayed so youthful over the years. Personally, I think it has something to do with the ingredients in the vanilla frosting from those wizards at Dunkin’ Donuts – but please don’t quote me.

Others, though, have more insidious ways of maintaining their dainty glow. The most notorious of these, of course, is the savagely entitled Countess Bathory. Indeed, terror film projects as assorted as ‘50s cheese fest The Wasp Woman, ‘70s Hammer horror Countess Dracula and the more recent Stay Alive have definitely been inspired by this 16th century noble woman, who was accused of murdering over 600 young girls for their restorative fluids.countess bathory 2

Now, a number of eclectic Chicago theater veterans are tackling the tale of this bloodthirsty dame with Countess Bathory: A New Elizabethan Tragedy. Excitedly claiming to feature “several depictions of physical, psychological, and ritual abuse” this presentation is written by Jared McDaris and features one of Midwest stage’s hottest genre loving temptresses, Mary-Kate Arnold, in the title role. Nicely, this steamy odyssey is free to the public throughout its brief run, as well.

Reservations are, currently, being accepted at https://www.theaterred.com/registration/index.php?event=17 and, don’t worry, you don’t have to be a virginal female to sign up! (Thank the goddess for small favors, huh?)

Countess Bathory: A New Elizabethan Tragedy runs from June 9th – June 25th at the Right Brain Project, 4001 N. Ravenswood, in Chicago. Right Brain Project (4001 N Ravenswood Ave, Ste 405)Further information is available at https://www.facebook.com/events/1122071781185949/.

Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Review: Mike Mother

Published May 27, 2016 by biggayhorrorfan

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Add a dash of Joyce Carol Oates style mystery to the Neo-Futurists’ regular blend of theater games, performance art and personal story telling and you’ve got a good take on their current production, Mike Mother. Not surprisingly, the title’s close parallel to Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer Prize winning play ‘night, Mother is also explored in full measure by writer-performer Jessica Anne who, simultaneously, seems to embrace and mock that popular play as she explores her own relationship with her mother here.

That relationship is surrounded by death and deception and, even though the Neo-Futurists are noted for their truthful accounting, the show’s primary strength lies in the gothic vagaries involved with this particular story. As Jessica Anne admits, with a smirk, she’s “evolved” and one is never quite sure what is fantasy or fact here – a tantalizing proposition that allows the piece to stick in your mind for days afterward.

Granted, the final moments involve a bit more self-indulgent introspection than most Neo-Futurists shows, but Jessica Anne still emerges as one of the most interesting performers in the Chicago theater scene. She is ably backed up by actor Mike Hamilton, the Mike of the title, as they explore her past and invite an audience member or two on the stage to share theirs, as well. Director Josh Matthews and scenic designer Erik Newman also contribute, grandly, with specific focus applied to the production’s centerpiece, a beautiful white bathtub, which is used to splashy effect here.

Mike Mother runs through June 4th at The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland in Chicago. Further information is available at www.neofuturists.org.

Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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