Decree Absolute Vodka (Revised)

Dillon Stein

Sarah Ilse performed Decree Absolute Vodka. The honest reason I saw this was because it was a free show. I didn’t know anything about it. It wasn’t until Sarah entered the room and introduced herself that I learned the show was about divorce. The stage that was used was a small room, that filled up rather quickly. Some people tried to slip in late but had to leave because the room was full. The first thing Sarah asked was “who here has been through a divorce.” A couple people raised their hands and the show got started. Sarah told stories of her crazy tinder matches, how she fell in and out of love and what she did to move on. She was a great storyteller and was very expressive, using her arms and facial expressions to heighten the experience. This is the reason I think Sarah’s performance mattered and I see it as an advocacy performance. Advocating for easier, more efficient, and less stressful divorce procedures.

Sarah was quite open and honest with her audience. She explained how she met her love in Edinburgh and they were together for years. How one day years later she realized the spark between the two had been lost and she no longer felt anything for him. After she confronted him with this information, she talked about how hard it was for her to move on and how grueling the divorce process is. There are nine stages to it (the divorce process), she joked that there aren’t even that many stages of grief, pointing out how ridiculous that is. Also, how you have to fill out 500 pieces of paper to get divorced, she commented that they should make you do that before you get married, not after you desperately want to leave the legal binding that marriage presents. I can’t help but agree. Eventually she saw a counselor who happened to be around 20 years older than her. The two got along quite well and that helped Sarah move on. Something Sarah did to keep the audience engaged was she pulled out a small piece of decorated paper that had the number 1-5 on it. The answers were covered, and the audience played a game of Family Feud. She split the room in half and had side A and side B compete. Side A unfortunately kicked side B’s ass, nonetheless, it was a fun way to interact with the audience.

I ended up having a good time at Decree Absolute Vodka. Even though I personally don’t have any  connection to the material. Sarah’s fun and vulnerable stories had me engaged from start to finish. This is the reason I believe this performance is advocacy performance, or at least it was for me, I went in knowing nothing about the material and left with problems with the way marriage is handled. It made me reflect on my own advocacy performance I did for professor Tuder’s CMST 210 class. I did an advocacy performance on asthma and shared personal experiences I had very much like Sarah did. I think Sarah’s performance was well done and not a “canned” or “raw” performance (the first being totally scripted and essentially devoid of emotion and the latter being the opposite of that.) I think she struck just the right chord with the audience. She was able to create a comfortable environment and get laughs but also was very serious and informative with none of it feeling forced. Advocacy performance is supposed to make the audience want to do something with the information they’re given or at the very least become informed on a situation. I now think of marriage in an entirely new light and am skeptical of the repercussions that can come from it. By the end of the performance I learned a few things about the divorce process and as awkward as it sounds, was laughing while doing it.

My love Lies Frozen In The Ice (Revised)

Dillon Stein

The reason I ended up seeing this show is because of an interaction I had with the cast my first day at the Fringe. A couple cast members approached me whilst playing accordion and talking complete nonsense, the one with the accordion was talking about how he was on his way to the North Pole and everything was going as planned. They asked if I cloud grow a mustache and handed me a pamphlet advertising their show. They warned that they’d remember my face and expected to see me at the show then they wandered off. As they left, I knew I had to see this show. I thought to myself “Who was trying to go to the North Pole? Why the North Pole? Why was he playing accordion? Above all else, why the hell did I need to grow a mustache!? It was random and seemed like a lot of fun, so I decided to go. Well, I can tell you, I got all of my questions answered (except the bit about the mustache.)

Now on to the actual show. My Love Lies Frozen In The Ice told a story of love, loss, and hope. It was more of a drama than a comedy which took me by surprise. The play starts with our protagonist, Matilda, in a mental health institution, telling the story of an unheard expedition to the North Pole. How all of that started with love… which was birthed through a gravy bowl. Let me explain, Matilda, from the mental institute, fell in love with long time co-worker/ friend Nills when she asked him to pass the gravy bowl at dinner once. When Nills did just that, their two fingers touched. They fell for each other right there. The show did an excellent job of transitioning from the mental institution to what Matilda was describing. The mental institution background was taken away and replaced for a dinner scene. Nills entered the stage and the gravy bowl exchange was made. The two continue to bond over various things. Until Solomon shows up, Matilda’s older brother. His introduction involves him throwing a cat off a balcony to test his hot air balloon of course. Solomon’s successful cat-flight leaves Nills and Matilida equally thrilled and terrified. They decide they want to be the first people to the North Pole, Unfortunately, right before takeoff, Matilda is told she can’t join and that it wasn’t personal, but society wouldn’t allow it. Distraught, Matilda’s eyes widened, and she looked so helpless and I felt bad. In truth I felt immense guilt because the actress was looking me square in the eye and repeatedly whispered “why, why, why,” as she was perpetually staring into my soul. Yeah, really glad I sat in the front. Out of anger and frustration she eventually storms off and is replaced by the loveable, albeit incompetent, Frankel.

The cast did some clever things to illustrate the journey. They used a fake air balloon and gave the ropes to a few members in the audience. The audience would need to release for lift off. When Solomon gives the word to release, Frankel gets a bit confused and released the steering ropes, possibly dooming the expedition from the start. At a certain point the cast uses a little prop air balloon connected to a small plastic candle. From the back of the crowd the air balloon model was released and made its way through the audience. Meanwhile, the cast stood on stage and reacted to how the air balloon was handled by the audience as they sent it to the front. Effectively showing their POV. It made for quite a clever and funny interaction. I would recommend this show to anyone, it was rather serious at times, but had a healthy amount of underlining humor. It left me thinking about how it all wrapped for the next hour of my day.

Nashville Story (Revised)

Dillon Stein

I enjoyed my time at The Nashville Story performed by Night Owl Shows. I walked in and immediately noticed the very friendly and outgoing cast. They invited everyone to sit as close to the stage as possible. It wasn’t any out of ordinary set or anything extravagant. But a typical stage you’d imagine, from left to right 3 chairs for each performer, the female vocalist, the guitar player, and the male vocalist. There was also a projection screen in the background. It created a laid back and leisurely environment. Simple but effective. Which is where I find great significance in this performance. The performance had a really good flow to it. The screen projector would play some information and history about these famous country legends. For example, Garth Brooks successful “friends in low place” was written on the back of a napkin in the pub. Or that Shaniya Twain looked after her two siblings after her parents were tragically killed in a car crash. Her album “Come on over” remains to be the best-selling country album of all time and the bestselling album by a female artist in any genre. Then, the performers would play one of the artists iconic songs live for the audience. Rinse and repeat. I don’t use “Rinse and repeat” in a negative way but applaud the show for creating an immersive experience, even if it was simple, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The performers were incredible and did an outstanding job. The audience was fully immersed, and the show went out on a bang as we sang along to the chorus of The Gambler. Simple but effective. It shows that as long as you have quality entertainment to offer to an audience there’s no need to be flashy or over-the top.

I feel sometimes performers forget this at the fringe and try to sell you on shock value rather than a good experience. Fellow student Ella Chapman has an amazing and hilarious blog on Well That’s Oz that I think proves my point with a vengeance. She talks about how it takes a familiar franchise like the Wizard Of Oz and simply adds shock value to it. Turning the whole story into a horror event. With a Halloween inspired theme, a dystopian version of Oz, and at some point, our beloved heroes grislily devouring a rabbit. I’m a horror movie buff and enjoy the Wizard of Oz. I think this play could’ve been fun. Unfortunately, it just takes already developed and admired characters and throws them under the bus in an attempt to sell tickets. They could have added something to the story, commentary on society or an intriguing what if scenario of the Wizard Of Oz. Instead they took the lazy route and choose sheer shock value… which doesn’t make for interesting viewing after the first five minutes. To quote Ella “It was low energy, but loud screaming to compensate for it.” Shock value’s not creative or inventive and it’s definitely not worth paying for. As Ella so eloquently puts it “This performance was fucking terrible.” I didn’t see the performance myself and I don’t plan to. I hope I got my point across and I would highly recommend A Nashville story, it was simple, a bit intimate, and fully effective, no shock value necessary.

Coma Blog (Revised)

Dillon Stein

Coma was intense. I had a feeling this performance was going to be a unique experience due to the facial expressions of those who were leaving the play as I entered. I saw one of two looks, 1: a smile. 2: a look of confusion/fear. I even witnessed a woman seeking comfort from her significant other via hug. The second I walked in I knew I was in for an immersive experience. The performance took place in an empty shipping container, which created a completely isolated environment. To the right was an old-fashioned coffee machine. As I walked through the aisle, I saw beds stacked on the left and right three beds high. It made me think of the sleeping conditions a sailor on an old cramped boat might be familiar with. The bottom of the aisles was lit with a yellow light. The audience shuffled through and began to lie in a bed of their choice.

After everyone was situated the lights turned a dark red and the performance began. A male voice began speaking over the intercom. In a calm but rather unsettling manner. The bed was a white mattress and on the bed was a pair of black headphones and around 30 seconds after I got comfortable… the lights cut out. Immediate and complete blackness. Then the voice made its presence known again, imploring the audience to take the pill (there was pill that was offered, I missed it but was told that there was one and fellow audience members took it) the voice assured everyone that it would have no side effects and does absolutely nothing. Then the voice counted from ten, In the meantime background noise started to fill the headphones. A nurse started to call for a Jacob. The scent of coffee started to fill the room. This was really unique! It really set the stage and made me feel as if that room was alive and I was there smack in the middle of the performance. The darkness led to complete reliance on sound to convey the story to the audience. This was done damn effectively, so effectively, at a certain point I felt around just to make sure someone wasn’t actually there. Something was wrong and there was no going back. For maximum impact I will keep the rest of this thrilling experience shrouded in mystery in hopes you’ll go out and experience it firsthand.

Darkfield (performers of Flight) continue their tradition of using a shipping container as a stage. While also pushing boundaries and successfully created a collective sense of vulnerability. Stripping the sense, we arguably rely on most: sight. I have never experienced a performance where the audience was put on to an even playing field. If you’ve a fear of tight spaces or darkness this performance may prove too effective and I would not recommend this to you. Even I started to get antsy to escape back into an open space. The performance left me quiet for a while, pondering on the experience I just had.

Jekyll and Hyde Blog (Revised)

Dillon Stein

The Jekyll and Hyde play at Edinburgh Fringe Festival was a fun, fast, exciting, and immersive experience. I believe it was the goal of the performers to invite audience attention and interaction. The actors were in character before I even entered the Piccolo tent. The characters greeted all of the audience members as they entered. The relevance of this can not be understated because it created an immediate connection to the play and a level of immersion. When I sat down the actors remained in character and started conversation. They continued to interact with audience members. The actors utilized these interactions later in the play referencing dialogue they shared.

Once the play started it took me a second to realize that it had. This is because of the level of immersion that was presented from the get-go. The actors had smoothly transitioned from causal conversation with audience to dialogue/ script. At that point I was engaged and ready for the story. I wasn’t familiar with the story of Jekyll and Hyde before the play and I found it interesting. The perpetual battle between good and evil and the balance between the two. I think the performers did fantastic at showing both sides of the character. I liked the distortion of Hyde’s voice and thought it was a nice touch. The sound and lighting department did extremely well too. Later in the show a fight broke out and the sound effects lined up perfectly with the action. At another point a shootout occurred and an older lady from the audience was pulled on stage to participate firsthand in the action. It was one of my favorite moments from the show. As she shot with finger guns gunshot sound effects railed through the stage as actors fell clutching their fresh bullet hole “wounds.” The lights were used effectively and set the scene. Another audience member ended up playing a pivotal part in the story. I still don’t know how they pulled this off. He was invited on stage and interacted so naturally that he could’ve passed for an actor in the play. The actors guided him through scenes and efficiently whispered lines of important dialogue into his ear. The rest was up to him and he had the freedom of choosing how to deliver lines and interact with the story. It added another layer of immersion and I think it kept everyone on their toes so they wouldn’t miss out on an exciting interaction!

It’s fascinating how much trust was put into the audience for the show to work. If the audience had not been so receptive it would’ve created awkward moments and sudden stops. The cast earned every ounce of the audience’s enthusiasm. I didn’t see one person refuse to interact when the audience was given a task. The Jekyll and Hyde play left me feeling energized and excited. It was an interactive experience and if you want to feel like a part of the play then this is something you should seriously consider. If that audience interaction makes you a little nervous, I’d still encourage you to go. It’ll be an exciting new experience for you! If you despise audience interaction this is not the play for you. The (for lack of a better word) replay value of this play is phenomenal.