Baseball and Bond are a Good Match at the St Louis Fringe Festival
by Mark Bretz
April 28, 2018
Story: The seventh edition of the St Lou Fringe Festival opened on Wednesday, August 15 with a party “under the big top” in Grand Center. On the following two weekends, the St Lou Fringe presented numerous productions by local, regional and national companies and artists. Included were its “National Headline” show titled Race Cars and Romances and a “Local Headline” show called The Gringo.
On Thursday, August 23 I attended two productions, namely Grim Tales, Horrific Vignettes by Spooky Scary Productions at the .Zack Theatre and The Midnight Company’s original work titled Now Playing Third Base for the St. Louis Cardinals...Bond, James Bond at the Kranzberg Arts Center Black Box Theatre. A third production, The Devil’s Passion presented by Bankside Repertory Theatre, was originally reviewed here last December.
Other Info: When the St Lou Fringe Festival premiered in 2012 under founder Em Piro and others, it was intended to emulate “an internationally successful model of connecting cutting-edge performing arts with accessible, affordable performances for audiences.”
Piro was succeeded in 2016 by current executive director Matthew Kerns. Most performances during the second week of this year’s St Lou Fringe took place at the remodeled Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square; the Duet Gallery at 3526 Washington Avenue; the .Zack Theatre at 3224 Locust Street; and performing areas within the Kranzberg Arts Center at 501 North Grand Blvd.
Grim Tales, Horrific Vignettes consists of six brief pieces written and directed by Panagiotis Papavlasopoulos and Paul Hibbard. Papavlasopoulos noted before the show that their entries in previous Fringe festivals have been comedies, something the improv company specializes in producing.
Trying something different this time out had its good points and less fortunate ones for Spooky Scary Productions. Apart from one of the sextet of very brief stories, the best parts of the one-hour show were the interludes between skits when Papavlasopoulos and Hibbard bantered about their favorite horror shows, movies, etc. (The Exorcist for Papavlasopoulos, The Shining for Hibbard) while the stage behind them was being rearranged for the next act.
Just one of the vignettes seemed effective to me. That one, The Intruder, was different in that it included narration by the protagonist, who fears that she will be attacked in her sleep by a monster which invades her bedroom. The character’s resolution to her chilling dilemma paid homage in its presentation and writing style to Edgar Allan Poe, master of 19th century horror stories.
As for Children at the Door, Another One Gone, Detention, Dragon’s Tears and Cassandra, each of them simply was too short to gather any momentum, more resembling ideas on which to build a play than an actual drama itself.
Featured players included Analicia Kocher, Angie Spencer, Asia Thomas, Larenzo Allen, Lily Dodenhoff, Nadia White, Randy Difani, Ronnie Brake, Hibbard and Papavlasopoulos.
Joe Hanrahan, artistic director for The Midnight Company, frequently writes and/or performs in one-man shows such as Give ‘Em Hell, Harry or Thom Pain (based on nothing). His entry in this year’s Fringe festival is a delightful reminiscence by the St. Louis native about 1964, the year after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and also the season of a remarkable run to the pennant and World Series championship by the St. Louis Cardinals.
Hanrahan tells his tale from the viewpoint of a contemporary man looking back at a pivotal time in his life as a kid immersed in baseball and movies. His protagonist is a youngster named Danny, who shows up at a pick-up baseball game of kids during the summer of ‘64, the day after he’s seen a new movie called From Russia With Love.
That, of course, was the second of the James Bond flicks, which continue to this day, that were inspired by the novels of Ian Fleming, a real-life espionage agent for the British during World War II.
With a simple backdrop consisting of a photo of a sandlot baseball diamond, Hanrahan weaves back and forth between Danny’s narration about this cool new movie with its good guys and villains and sexy 'Bond girl' and the latter-day Hanrahan’s observations about that milestone year in his life under Shane Signorino’s direction.
The screen is peppered with photos of stars Sean Connery, Robert Shaw, Lotte Lenya and others including Fleming, courtesy of video designer Michael B. Perkins, matched with comments about their own histories.
Hanrahan’s story weaves baseball into the mix, along with theater and race, noting how former Cardinals owner August A. “Gussie” Busch Jr. bought a motel in Florida so that his black players would have a place to stay in the segregated South during spring training, sharing quarters with their white counterparts.
There are interesting asides about black former Cardinal stars Bill White, Curt Flood, Bob Gibson and Lou Brock along with their ‘64 teammates such as Tim McCarver (born in Memphis), hometown hero Mike Shannon and latter-year Hollywood comic Bob Uecker.
He also tells stories about the Cardinals’ even-keeled manager Johnny Keane, former racist manager Solly Hemus and bigoted coach Harry ‘The Hat’ Walker, who later reached out to White when the one-time first baseman was president of the National League.
Hanrahan’s performance was shaggy at times but he recovered nicely and delivered a happy ending, just as the Redbirds did when they ended an 18-year drought with their historic World Series victory over the vaunted New York Yankees (and their racist owner) in the 1964 October Classic.
Danny told us how the credits at the end of From Russia With Love promised that James Bond would return in a new cinematic adventure. As for his field-house friends, Danny looked directly at them and said, “Let’s play ball!”
St Louis Limelight
"Now Playing Third Base For The St. Louis Cardinals…Bond, James Bond” Is a Home Run
by Jeff Ritter
August 21, 2018
A wonderfully woven tale of a child’s exuberant review of the Sean Connery spy flick, “From Russia With Love” interwoven with theater history, race relations in the 1960s, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Beatles and the tumultuous yet successful 1964 Cardinals season is Joe Hanrahan’s latest one-man show, “Now Playing Third Base For The St. Louis Cardinals…Bond, James Bond.”
Hanrahan is the writer and star of The Midnight Company’s one-act that is part of the St. Louis Fringe Festival.. If that name sounds familiar to you, it should – he’s been involved with theatre companies like The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, The St. Louis Black Repertory Theatre, Theatre Project Company, R-S Theatrics and Tesseract, just to name a few.
Hanrahan jumps back and forth from omniscient narrator to 10-year-old movie fanatic to baseball and theater historian smoothly, and the audience was hanging on his every word from the start. If you’re in the mood for something thoughtful yet light, funny, and informative, this is the show for you.
It’s directed by Shane Signorino, with video design by Michael P. Perkins, and presented at the Kranzberg Black Box Theatre.
With the 2018 Cardinals’ resurgence after a managerial change, the Redbirds are the talk of the town again — similar to what happened in 1964. By the end of the Fringe Festival, “Now Playing Third Base For The St. Louis Cardinals…Bond, James Bond” should be the talk of the town too.
Snoop's Theatre Thoughts
Notes from the Fringe 2018
by Michelle Kenyon
August 31, 2018
From the always intriguing Joe Hanrahan comes a delightful show that’s part personal memoir, part history lesson, part nostalgia, and all fascinating. It’s a cleverly constructed one-man show from St. Louis’s king of one-man shows, Hanrahan, who narrates and plays all the characters as needed. It’s a lesson in theatre appreciation as well, along with baseball appreciation and an appreciation for the 1960s-era James Bond films, particularly From Russia With Love.
Telling the story as himself, Hanrahan takes the audience back to his childhood in St. Louis during the storied 1964 World Series-winning season for the St. Louis Cardinals. He weaves the story of that team with reminiscences of his little league practices and what he refers to as his introduction to theatre–a recounting of the plot of the “new” James Bond movie by one of his teammates, Danny. As Hanrahan, playing Danny, tells the story of the movie, Hanrahan as himself gives the audience background information about the film and also stories about that famous Cardinals team, St. Louis in the 1960s as well as the history of theatre, World War II and more. It’s a somewhat difficult show to describe adequately, but what it is is excellent. Hanrahan through use of his great storytelling skills and impressive use of video designed by Michael B. Perkins, holds the audience spellbound for about an hour. It’s a great show, and I hope Hanrahan will get a chance to perform it again in another venue. It’s entertaining, educational, thought-provoking, and an ideal example of the best of what the Fringe can be, along with the last show I’m reviewing.
A post about theatre, writing and the Fringe, but mostly about theatre
by Joe Hanrahan
April 23, 2018
This is the fourth straight year I’ve done a show in the St. Louis Fringe Festival. The first two years were scripts from other writers - bizarre, unique, extremely Fringe-worthy shows. But for the third year, one of several realizations I had was that while these shows were fine, what Fringe is all about is self expression, the presentation of your own thoughts and creativity and take on the world.
So I wrote one then, and have written another for the upcoming Fringe.
And these original pieces illustrate what motivates me to create theatre, the criteria for what type of theatre I do, and the value of the Fringe Festival as a home for this type of work. I love stories. In books, and movies, and plays. I love hearing them and I love telling them. And that’s the FIRST mandatory for anything I undertake.
I want to help tell a story that I have to tell, something that I’m compelled to get across. I want to think, “Man, this is the coolest thing, you have to hear this!”
That’s the start. Once I’ve come across that, or imagined it, the race is on.
And once I’ve settled in and began the exploration and began to put together the structure or approach to the story, the SECOND mandatory comes of its own accord: And that’s fear.
I want to feel stark, white-hot, serious doubts about whether or not I can pull this off. Can I portray or direct this story in a manner that will do it justice? If I’m acting, will the audience believe me in this role? If I’m directing, will I have the courage and strength to push it where it needs to be? And can the audience be as interested in this close-to-my-heart story as I am? And this fear provides the tingling nerves that are absolutely necessary to stay on my toes and present any work as it should.
The THIRD mandatory comes right behind all shows I do. Olivier said it (though it was probably also said by Will Shakespeare or by that caveman who stood up first around the fire): “The best thing about theatre is the drink after.”
It’s not just the drink, it’s the occasion to reflect on what you’ve been doing - whether after rehearsal or performance, whether laughing with others or stewing by yourself. Though I cherish the camaraderie of a like-minded ensemble, having done so many one-person shows, I’ve come to deeply appreciate the solitude of leaning against a bar by yourself, with just your thoughts on what happened or what you need to do next to make a show better.
This is theatre for me, and whatever it is for others, the Fringe Festival gives many of us the chance to do what we love, to do what we need to do.
The Fringe is a joyous event, a celebration of life and art. And I’m ever happy to be part of it.