Lizard Boy – A Belated Non-Review

I’ve been working on this piece in between work and rehearsals for a few weeks now, trying to determine exactly what I want to say about Seattle Repertory Theatre’s production of Lizard Boy. I could wax philosophic about how we can each be the hero in our own lives. I could warn against Fear, the quiet villain, whose power to keep us comfortable cripples. I could draw a parallel between Huertas’ childhood dreams of being Spiderman to my childhood dreams of being Batman (true dat). I could rant on the need to revitalize our ability to suspend disbelief, etc. I could easily write about any of those things. In fact, I already have full paragraphs about them, but they don’t accurately express my feelings. So, here goes my final attempt:

Once upon a time, the late Jerry Manning asked Justin Huertas to write a play. So Justin Huertas did. Then he doused the play with music and dragon blood, and it turned into a superhero.

This is not a review.There may be spoilers and unexplained references. There will not be a synopsis or summary of the plot, character analysis, or background information. If you want those things, check out the many articles, reviews, interviews, etc. written about the show: I’m helpful, so here’s a link. Instead, this is a fan letter, of sorts. A thank you card sent after receiving an awesome gift. This is unabashed applause, praise, and a city-wide shout for an encore.

The first time I saw Lizard Boy was as a volunteer usher, and I sat in the balcony. I had heard great things about the show, but I really didn’t know what to expect. It wasn’t long before I was laughing with and relating to Huertas’ Trevor. He was someone I recognized. A semi-fictional rendition of people I know. And as he tried to decide on his dating app profile header, “looking for now” – because he was only looking for a moment (y’know, for now), I thought, “Oh yeah, this is my sense of humor.” Then Siren exchanged Trevor’s cell with a ukulele and Trevor seamlessly continued using it, seguing into an IM conversation with dueling instruments, and I thought, “Yesssssssssssss.” Eloquent, I know. But it was at that moment that I knew I was witnessing something rare, something unafraid to be truly inventive, while also being truly real.

Let me explain. Trevor, Carey, and yes, even Siren to a degree, are all versions of people I know. So much so that it actually astounded me as I sat in the audience. “Hey, don’t I know that guy? I think I know that guy.” Sure, the story is about a burgeoning superhero – a scaly local origin story – but it’s told with a cast of characters you would find walking down any street in the city. It’s told through conversations you would overhear in any corner coffee shop. Isn’t that what theatre is supposed to be? Real people and real conversations in fictional environments. Truth in the moment even when the moment involves a rock-star murderess with telekinetic, telepathic, siren-song powers.

The second time I saw Lizard Boy, I got $5 tickets with a friend, and we sat in the front row. In Seattle’s Leo K. Theatre, the front row  is, as my friend put it, “…a cockroach’s-eye view.” But from our up close and personal seats, I could see things I hadn’t seen the first time, and I don’t just mean Justin Huertas’ back molars. I could see the work made effortless, the changes in the actors’ eyes as they moved inside the minds of their characters, the tears on Kirsten deLohr Helland’s cheeks. I could feel the choreography, both physical and emotional. And when Trevor, Carey, and Siren grabbed their instruments, plopped criss-cross-applesauce down center (aka our laps), and sang us the story of the Lizard Boy of Point Defiance, I felt like a kid around a campfire, caught up in a scary story, giddy as all get-out. That night was also the anniversary of Jerry Manning’s passing, making it all the more meaningful, especially to the actors who had worked so enviously close to him. After the show, Justin Huertas, William A. Williams, and Kirsten deLohr Helland took the stage once more to pay him tribute. They sang a cut song from the show, one Jerry had loved, called “Old Man.” With tears in my eyes, the night was complete.

Though it’s been a few weeks since the show closed, I would like to say thank you to the Cast, Crew, and Production Team of Lizard Boy. Thank you for putting a huge smile on my face. Thank you for your crystal clear dedication and devotion. Thank you for reminding us what theatre is supposed to be, for sharing truth in the moment, and for sparking our imaginations with your energy. You’ve reminded us that we are our own protagonists, and we have to decide whether or not to be the villain or the hero on a daily basis. Your work was a concert, a dance, a master class in ensemble theatre. Please come back. Please show us more. Because we’ve fallen in love with the boy who looks like a lizard.



The “It” Girl

Have you ever seen a Clara Bow movie?!

I hadn’t until last night. I knew Clara Bow. I knew she was the sex symbol of the 1920s. I knew she was this gorgeous, smokey-eyed darling of the Silent Film Era. But last night, I watched the movie that defined her image: It (not to be – and how could it – confused with that creepy Curry clown movie).

I’m currently in rehearsals for The Boy Friend down at Renton Civic Theatre, and as a part of my research, I decided to watch a silent film comedy or two to get into the 1920s spoof of it all. I found It in a library’s silent film collection and thought that the plot sounded just right: shopgirl Clara Bow falls for big boss Antonio Moreno. I turned it on, thinking I would watch 30 minutes or so, pick up some mannerisms, and then move on to an episode of Friends before bed. But I got hooked! I watched all 70-ish minutes with a smile. What a delight!

When my siblings and I were little, we made extensive use of our local library’s (small) movie collection. That meant we watched recorded ballets, nearly every episode of Faerie Tale Theatre, and slapstick silent movies. To my shame, I had assumed most silent films, whether comedy or drama, all had that Keystone Cops buffoonery. I expected nothing more from Clara Bow and It. But it didn’t take long for me to realize my mistake. Clara Bow was natural, charming, believable, lovable. I fell for her in an instant.

And her character, Betty Lou, was no weak-willed damsel in distress. In fact, she was a hard-working girl, trying to maker her way, look after her single-mother friend, and struggle beneath labels and assumptions. I acknowledge that the film is not a picture of feminist perfection or anything, but I was surprised at how relatable I found Betty Lou. She could easily be a character you’d find in a contemporary indie comedy. And I loved that.

But Betty Lou wouldn’t be squat without Clara Bow. And as I watched, I felt that actorly longing that hits me when I watch Jessica Chastain, Meryl Streep, Amy Poehler, Patricia Clarkson, Sally Hawkins, Emma Thompson, etc. I wanted to be Clara Bow. Goofy, confident, uninhibited and human Clara Bow.

She stole my heart while stealing every scene, and I can’t wait to watch more.



Home-Spun Philosophy

Through Fathom Events, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) recently hosted a local screening of Rear Window, which I attended. TCM — bless their nostalgic hearts — book-ended the film with talk-show variety commentary and anecdotes about the making of the film from Ben Mankiewicz (a TCM regular, or so Google told me). He mentioned how this story wouldn’t even exist these days because no one watches their neighbors or even looks out of their windows; we’re all on Instagram, etc. I think he’s got it wrong….

“We’ve become a race of Peeping Toms. What people ought to do is get outside their own house and look in for a change. Yes sir. How’s that for a bit of homespun philosophy?” – Stella (Thelma Ritter), Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock)

This, right here, is why Rear Window is still quite relevant. What are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr (yes, even Tumblr), but windows into our neighbors lives? We peep on friends, family, and strangers across the courtyard of social media. We are Jimmy Stewart’s L.B. Jeffries, peering into the lives around us. “Nah, this is different,” you say. “With social media, we all acknowledge that a little harmless social media stalking [how is that not more sinister?] is perfectly acceptable. Spying into someone’s open window is different!” Now, as Grace Kelly’s Lisa says, “I’m not much on rear window ethics,” and I’m not advocating tom peepery, but if you leave your window open, you are also silently agreeing to the fact that others will look. And just like Jeffries, we make all kinds of assumptions about what we see through our LCD windows. We assume that our friends lead far happier lives, that internet silence means someone is depressed, that a lack of “likes” actually means something in the real world, or that a delayed response after our words have been “seen” implies that we aren’t wanted. Sure, just like our open windows expose some truth about our lives, sometimes our online assumptions are correct, but what happened to the adage, never assume? Yes, Thorwald was guilty, but Jeffries wasn’t right about all of his neighbors: the Composer wasn’t doomed to failure and drunkenness, Miss Lonelyhearts wasn’t hopeless, and Miss Torso surprised us all with her military man.

This whole subject deserves much more than I can give it at present, but for now, here’s my point: maybe we should take Stella’s advice and shut down our digital binoculars, go for a walk, and (this part’s mine) ask questions of our friends and neighbors instead of making assumptions.

“How’s that for a bit of home-spun philosophy?”

Crossroads Recording Project

Support local theatre artists (and some of my friends) by giving to the Crossroads Recording Project. Ryan Anderson is a talented young force, and a friend of mine. Please help him make this happen!

“Crossroads Recording Project is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the purposes of Crossroads Recording Project must be made payable to Fractured Atlas and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

The purpose of creating “Crossroads” is to collaborate with the phenomenal theatre talent of Seattle, to create a recording to give back to the education programs that are prominent in the Pacific Northwest and to offer the world a new version of classic showtunes in an artistic format that is tangible.

We hope to raise $30,000 to make this special and unique recording of Broadway show tunes and we are trying to raise 2/3 of that budget through this campaign.

The recording will feature collaborations of some of Seattle’s finest theater artists – along with members of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.

Once the album is completed, 40% of sales will go to the 5th Avenue Rising Star Project and the Northwest Choirs education programs so that young actors, singers and dancers will continue to have opportunities to perform and grow artistically.”

(from Indie-Go-Go Page)

Charlotte’s Web at TMP

Charlotte’s Web at Tacoma Musical Playhouse’s Family Theater opens this weekend, November 1st! It is a sweet little show, we’ve got here, so grab the kids and join us for this classic tale set to music.

The show runs Saturdays at 11am and 2pm, Sundays at 2pm.
November 1-9.

Tickets available here.

Photo Credit: Steve Barnett
Photo Credit: Steve Barnett

Here’s to You

We closed The Drowsy Chaperone last night. I am sad to see that show end, but I woke up this morning to find a heartfelt note from a couple that saw the show last night and The Sound of Music the night before. Here are their kind words:

“Hello Sarah….

Greatly enjoyed your Trix performance last night as well as Schraeder the night before. Great stage presence and a fun transformation between the two very different roles. What really blew us away was the unexpected the “bigness” of your voice, in particular after the sub-dued and classy role in “Sound..” Congrats and many thanks. You are a great talent.

We are visiting from NY which we do a couple of times. . . . Do keep us posted of you upcoming roles and we’ll be on the look-out. Next visit to Seattle will be Christmas later this year. And should you be in NY.,…

All the best, Karin & Al”

Thank you, Karin and Al. Your kind words have lifted my spirits, encouraged me during this week of endings, and reminded me that I have many people to thank.  Most of those people I can talk to, keep in touch with, hug. But there is one group that I cannot reach so personally: the audience.

I hope that some of you who came out to see our shows this summer will find this note and know that you were just as much a part of our summer as anyone in the cast and crew. Five nights out of the week for two months, you showed up, supported the arts, and shared this beautiful summer with us. I’m sorry that I only got to meet a few of you and thank you in person. I’ll never forget the small family that spent a weekend introducing their young children to live theatre or the people that took the time to remember my name and thank me personally. You have overwhelmed me in the best sense.

So, here’s to you. To your handshakes, your laughter, your warmth, your jokes, your reactions, your applause, your ovations, and your smiles. To each of you, thank you for allowing us to be a part of your memories. It means more than you can know. And as you exit the theatre these last few nights with “thank you” on your lips, I say from the deepness of my heart, it has been a pleasure.

LST: The Drowsy Chaperone

Tonight, we open our third show in the Leavenworth Summer Theater season: The Drowsy Chaperone. This lesser known musical will leave you in stitches, grinning ear to ear (I promise). I am proud to be a part of this rare, wonderful, energized, and side-splitting musical. There are only nine performances, and I urge you not to miss it.

Photo Credit: Frank Cone
Photo Credit: Frank Cone

June Update




I’ve been in Leavenworth for almost three weeks and in rehearsal for all three shows for two weeks. Things are really coming together, and on top of learning the shows, I’m meeting some truly delightful people. It’s a pleasure and a blessing to get to spend an entire summer doing what I love with other people who love it, as well.

We’re about to head into tech for The Sound of Music (eep!). The amount of work that we, the cast and crew, have accomplished in such a short period of time is incredible. It’s going to be a lovely show, and I hope that you decide to make the small trek to see it.

With The Sound of Music opening soon, we’re shifting rehearsal focus to Fiddler on the Roof, which will open July 16th. I spent an hour this morning screeching away as Fruma Sarah, surrounded by a slew of Jewish Undead. I’m having far too much fun playing with different vocals, sounds, and movements with that character.

Though it’s been a few days since we’ve worked on it, PUT The Drowsy Chaperone ON YOUR CALENDAR. It’s going to be SUCH a fun/funny/fun-tastic show. Be there, or be there.

Last I heard, tickets were flying, so call the box office ASAP to reserve your seats: (509) 548-2000