Randy Harrison Supports Hunter Bell’s Found
Colonial Theatre Workshops New Musical
By: Charles Giuliano - 09/23/2012
Hunter Bell’s new musical is based on found notes.
Randy Harrison was on hand to support Hunter and his NY theatre pals. Giuliano photo.
Berkshire on Stage publisher Larry Murray and her grace, The Countess, Berkshire arts maven Maureen M. Stanton. Giuliano photo.
Found notes transferred into songs.
For the past three weeks at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield the director Lee Overtree has been rehearsing Found Hunter Bell’s new musical.
Hunter Bell appeared in the musical [title of show], for which he wrote the book, alongside Jeff Bowen, who wrote the music and lyrics. It premiered in the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2004, and played on Broadway until it closed in October 2008. He appeared in two other Broadway productions; as a Dogette in a benefit concert of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Last night we attended the second performance of Found before a live audience.
Hats off to Kate Maguire and the Berkshire Theatre Group for providing opportunities for edgy new works by young playwrights and performers. Significantly, Randy Harrison, a BTG regular (Endgame, Tommy, Equus, Ghosts, Waiting for Godot) was on hand for the pre-performance cabaret to support and cheer on his theatre pals. Many of them are participants in the company Theatre Pirates.
Randy is committed to experimental theatre which accurately describes what we experienced with Found. Catching up with him for a chin wag he confirmed that he is off to Paris.
Will he be back at BTG this coming season? For the first time in several years he was not featured this past season. But he did appear in a staged reading at the Colonial. “If they ask me” was his gracious response.
My colleague Larry Murray of Berkshire on Stage has been interacting with Randy for the past several years. He often updates me on his latest experimental work.
“It is amazing how they support each other. They are brilliant at promoting their activities using the internet, fan sites, and social media” he said during a conversation before the performance. He introduced me to a legendary friend and BTG board member “The Countess” AKA Maureen M. Stanton.
She is famous for her soirees as the hostess of the most dazzling arts salon in the Berkshires. The visiting performers often stay at her manse which features nips in every room.
It’s her version of nip and tuck in.
Murray has been so enthused about this new theatre that we decided to take a gander and see for ourselves.
It was refreshing that the sizable audience for once did not have a median age of 65.
Youth must be served.
Truth is that the two twenty something frails seated next to us were falling off their chairs with laughter.
Astrid poked me commenting that she found our neighbors more entertaining than the often potty mouthed lyrics gushing forth from the stage. Mostly, well here I show my age, shall we say, I was not particularly amused.
Critics can be such a pain in the butt.
As was the case last night, totally out of sync with the wildly enthusiastic audience.
This is not a show, even in embryo form, that we recommend to grown ups.
It is probably more in sync with fans of South Park or Book of Mormon.
Which is to say. Huge. At least potentially.
But workshopped. Exactly. Lots.
It didn’t take long to catch the drift that all of the lyrics were based on authentic found notes. There is an ersatz story line about the narrator Davy (Matt Sax) who is on tour. His road manager Denise (Shaina Taub) is kindah hot on him but the dork is oblivious to her romantic interest. Instead he is smitten with the just out of reach Kate (Isabel Richardson) who just happens to have written one of the found notes that has been outed in song.
While the randomly gathered and absolutely authentic notes are to varying degrees hilarious, and the music somewhat compelling, the serendipitous premise lacks, shall we say, dimension. Sondheim this is not.
Please note. This is not a review.
Repeat. This is not a review.
Just a commentary on a work in progress. Field notes.
Here’s a bit of boilerplate.
The idea of Found Magazine started when co-creator Davy Rothbart found a note mistakenly left on his windshield in Logan Square, Chicago. Rothbart shared this peek into someone else's private life with his friends. He and Jason Bitner, a friend Rothbart met at an NPR pick-up basketball game in Chicago, began soliciting other found items from their circle of friends. Originally presented as photocopied fliers of some of the best finds, the pair realized the volume of found material they collected warranted a full magazine. Laying the material out in a zine format, Rothbart and Bitner took their creation to a local Kinko's, intending to make 50 copies to share with their friends who provided the magazine's content.
An unexpected patron, actually an off-duty Kinko's employee, left Rothbart and Bitner with 700 free copies. With such a surprising abundance, they decided to give the excess to local stores to share with everybody. With the support of Quimby's Bookstore and other Chicago independent book sellers, the magazine sold quickly.
Realizing their project appealed to more than just their friends, Rothbart and Bitner renamed their collection of photocopied finds Found Magazine #1 and started gathering material for future editions. Found has grown from a Chicago-based photocopied zine to a nationally-distributed annual magazine. Still retaining the essentially zine format and look, Found is up to five issues. A 250-page Found book was released in May 2004. A sister magazine, Dirty Found, started publication in 2004. Dirty Found was started to provide a home for the smuttier, more explicit, and generally sexually-themed finds that Rothbart and Bitner wanted to segregate from the more conservative Found.
The success of Found allowed both Rothbart and Bitner to leave their day jobs and work full-time on the magazine and other personal projects. Rothbart moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Found is now headquartered, while Bitner went to New York City where he heads their East Coast office.
Here’s a note on the group Story Pirates.
Story Pirates is a nationally respected education and media organization founded in 2003 to celebrate the words and ideas of young people. By pairing world-class teachers with first-rate actors and comedians, we offer a variety of tools to make learning more engaging and effective. Dually based in New York and Los Angeles, we are best known for the Idea Storm Program, a master-class writing workshop that brings teaching concepts to life, followed by a musical sketch comedy show featuring stories by students and performed by professional artists. Our acclaimed programs and professional development services for teachers are in place at over 200 schools from coast to coast.
Ok. OMG, OMG, OMG
Dude, like you are so old to be doing this and stuff.
Go home, and like, take a nap, or something.