Will Call: Tips & Tidbits for the Theatrically Inclined


  • A Teutonic likeness of John Hemphill
We are entering into one of those awful/wonderful periods when the weather is perfect and there is so much nifty stuff to do that you can't possibly do it all. Here's a quick rundown of some of the more interesting theater and dance offerings available for consumption this weekend. 

I love Steve Martin's very Martinized adaptation of Carl Sternheim's German Expressionist comedy, The Underpants. It's a profoundly silly meditation on the nature of fame telling the story of a middle class couple who have trouble renting a room until the wife experiences a terrible wardrobe malfunction. Don't let the early 20th-Century trappings fool you, this story could have easily been devised as a response to the age of 4Chan and Instagram. A top-notch cast includes a pair of Johns (Hemphill and Maness), Rebecca Sherrod, Deborah Burda Nelson, and Jenny Kathman. It's one weekend only, which means I'll miss it. But I'd love to hear reports back from people who can make it out Bartlett to see this comic gem. 

I've Got Your Tea Party Right Here
  • I've Got Your Tea Party Right Here

Our Own Voice Theatre Company is unlike any other company in town. It began as a troupe dedicated to exploring experimental techniques, as well as issues and ideas related to mental health and "normalcy." So, in some regard, Madhatted, a locally-adapted vision of the mad tea party from Alice in Wonderland is a perfect fit. And I can assure you, if you saw this show at the Memphis Children's Theatre Festival a few years back, it will be a different experience. Info here. 


The classic farce Servant of Two Masters has been reimagined as a music-filled slapstick extravaganza called One Man Two Guvnors. Francis Henshall (an updated vision of the stock character Harlequino)  has just been fired from his folk jazz skiffle band and being desperate for work he takes employment from—yes— two masters. Hilarity ensues, as it often so does. Details here. 

Dance fans — both street and classical — have a special opportunity this week to explore both the origins and the future of Memphis-style bucking and jookin'. The "Old School vs. New School 3" dance competition at Minglewood Hall pits Memphis' first generation Gangsta Walkers against younger dancers looking to see if their bucking and chopping measures up against the original masters.

"This is the first time in a long time that people will have an opportunity to see the original Gangsta Walkers," says instructor, artist, and event organizer Jaquency Ford, who has hand-picked the dance partners who'll be squaring off against one another at Minglewood. Gangsta Walking is the direct antecedent of jookin', the Memphis-born dance style that New York Times dance writer Alastair Macaulay recently described as, "the single most exciting young dance genre of our day, featuring, in particular, the most sensationally diverse use of footwork."

Pretty Tony will be in the house to perform his seminal club hit "Get Buck." Original Gangsta Walkers include Wolf and Romeo, two-thirds of the G-Style, the '80s-era rap and dance team that first began to mix breakdancing moves with "buck jumps."

A stone's throw to the east, at the new Hattiloo Theatre in Overton Square, FreeFall finds New Ballet Ensemble (NBE) presenting a concert showcasing the company's critically acclaimed hybrid of ballet, Memphis jookin', and world dance styles. NBE's program includes a revival of Noelia Garcia Carmona's Dos, a vibrant mashup of jookin' and flamenco set to original music by Roy Brewer and showcasing the talents of Shamar Rooks. The New Ballet Youth Company presents Doin' It Right choreographed by NBE alum and Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark dancer Maxx Reed.

NBE is also premiering "Three Dream Portraits" based on poetry by Langston Hughes with music by Margaret Bonds and choreography by General McArthur Hambrick.

If that's not enough on the Memphis dance front U-Dig Dance Academy is hosting an evening of wine, international cuisine and (like you couldn't guess) jookin. That also goes down  Friday, September 26, 2014 at the Jack Robinson Gallery, 400 South Main Street. Tickets for the event are $25; $50 (includes dinner); and $250 for a reserved table and will benefit the U-Dig Dance Club.


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