Friday, April 22, 2005

Back again

Hey Madison theatergoers: to commemorate April's being National Autism Month, Encore Studio for the Performing Arts is reprising Real Life, its play about Asperger's Syndrome, a disorder on the autism spectrum. I raved about the play last year in a review I'm pasting below.

Go see it, already.

Nov. 19, 2004
Page 21

Another world
A musical comedy takes on Asperger's Syndrome

By Kenneth Burns

Just how many instruments can she play? Kelsy Schoenhaar, star and playwright of Encore Studio for the Performing Arts' Real Life, begins the show by striking ominous chords on a xylophone, and over two acts she plays solo dirges on mandolin, bass, guitar, ukulele, violin, cello, keyboard, recorder, saxophone, trumpet, harmonica, concertina, French horn, banjo, clarinet and djembe, among others. Schoenhaar's musical performances alone would be breathtaking enough, but they are just part of one of the most moving theatrical productions I've seen in some time. Real Life, in the Bartell Theatre's Evjue room, is mournful, sad and strange, and also funny and exhilarating.

Encore is a theater company for people with disabilities, and Real Life focuses on Asperger's Syndrome, which a program note describes as being like a dash of autism: people with Asperger's have normal intelligence but also have autism-related symptoms, like social difficulties, obsession with routine, and excessive literalness with language. Some people with Asperger's have extraordinary talents, and when Schoenhaar's character, Karen, is not playing one of her many instruments, she delivers wrenching monologues about an educational career in which she earned three bachelor's degrees, a master's degree and a doctorate but then, because of her disability, kept bombing in job interviews.

When Schoenhaar is not performing, the action breaks away to vignettes about three characters with Asperger's Syndrome: troubled Max (Max Woodson), who creates public disturbances and can't hold his job cleaning a movie theater; Linda (Christie Stadele), who is blind but maintains a clerical position and entertains herself with a group of imaginary friends; and Jay (Moritz Burnard), who develops crushes on random women he encounters at bus stops and is, incidentally, a brilliant scientist and a millionaire entrepreneur.

The play follows this trio through school and into their working lives, and their experiences are often painful. But Real Life is, marvelously, a musical comedy, and Burnard and Stadele ease the tension by singing catchy songs--mostly tangos and marches--about their struggles and desires. The best song, performed by Stadele, is an ode to the sound of pieces of paper being ripped up. It's pretty odd, and also fabulously original and effective.

Sixteen supporting actors, some disabled, some not, play various friends, employers, aides and tormentors. One of the best smaller roles is Jay's chess buddy Colin (Colin Reilly), who delivers his lines by pressing buttons on a device attached to his mechanized wheelchair. Colin's computerized voice makes his deadpan delivery all the funnier.
Big blue marble

Happy Earth Day, everybody. Please be good to your mama, today and every day.
Good word

"Don't treat education only as if it's a trade school. Take some electives just because they're interesting. You have long years to get through, and must guard against the possibility of becoming a bore to yourself."

--Roger Ebert
Judging Kenny

I'm helping the country radio station Q106 judge the Pick Off at the Bean on Sunday. It's a battle of the bands, and yours truly will be making some decisions. I pray I will make the right ones. Or that, at the very least, I get to behave like Jamie Farr on "The Gong Show."

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Good word

"I remember hearing 'S.O.S.' on the radio in the States and realizing that it was Abba. But it was too late, because I was already transported by it."

--Pete Townshend

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Weird but true

Actress Juliette Lewis is a rock star now, and her band Juliette and the Licks are playing at the UW-Madison's Club 770 a week from tomorrow. Press release attached.

I loved her in Husbands and Wives.


Juliette (Lewis) and the Licks
April 28
Union South, Club 770

9:30 pm

Actress-turned-rocker, Juliette Lewis, brings her high energy rock band Juliette and the Licks to Club 770 at Union South for a free show on April 28, 2005. Juliette Lewis has starred in Old School, What's Eating Gilbert Grape and The Other Sister among other notable film roles. In her stage show, Juliette brings the same kind of unpredictable intensity that makes her film roles so memorable. The Licks have earned comparisons to such rockers as MC5, Iggy and the Stooges, and Van Halen. Opening artists are to be determined. The show is free and all ages are welcome.

Club 770 is a smoke and alcohol-free dance club. UW students, union members, the University community and guests welcome.
Good word

"Do you really want to live your life as if this is the last good idea you'll ever have?"

--Shel Silverstein

Monday, April 18, 2005

Book 'em

My friend Laura just tossed me a meme from the blog she coauthors with Terry Teachout. The meme relates to books, and she's curious to see my responses since our reading habits are so different.

I'm on it, and in the meantime I have finally updated my reading list, over there on the right. I started the list in a burst of activity last fall--and then never added to it again, till today. Sigh. I've never been good with paperwork, even fun paperwork.

I also updated the list of links to articles I've written, mostly for Madison's Isthmus newspaper
Good word

"The wearisome argument that pitches free speech against political correctness shows no sign of abating, even though Miss Manners has taken the trouble to explain that both sides are right and both sides are wrong."

--Judith Martin