Tuesday, March 31, 2009

We're on WXRT!

Terri Hemmert on Mop Top Festival

Catching Up With.....Kirk Pynchon

As a follow-up to yesterday's blog, I caught up with Kirk Pynchon for another hard-hitting, provocative interview that only the Factory blog can provide!!!  Enjoy.....at your own risk!  This back-and-forth is EXPLOSIVE!

Kirk Pynchon

Favorite Factory Memory:
My Favorite Factory Memory has got to be playing UNO during "Bitches". All of us guys in drag while we fought over a stupid kid's card game was truly hysterical. The fact that we changed the cards that read "pick four" to "pick 25" made it all the more funny.

Have you recently boycotted any store or product? If so, why?
I am currently boycotting Quizno's Subs because their free sub giveaway turned out to be a fiasco with many of the Quizno's shops refusing to participate. Fuck Quizno's.
While in L.A., you spent some time working with Tim Robbins and the Actors' Gang. What are the three things you learned as a result of that experience?
1) Bush was a bad president
2) Bush was a bad president
3) Bush was a bad president
You and Jesse Dienstag wrote ManCard, which was a huge hit and helped put the then-fledgling Factory Theater on the map in Chicago. What was it about that show that appealed to so many people?
I think what people liked about it was that we celebrated and mocked young white guys at the same time, which back then hadn't been done before. People seemed to appreciate the fact that we knew we were stupid but that we loved being that way.

If you could challenge George Clooney to any game, what would it be? If you won, how much would you taunt him?
Honestly, it would be basketball. Everyone says he's really good, but I think I could bully him on defense a bit. And, actually, I would taunt him very little. After I beat his ass I would walk up to him, shake his hand and say, "Good game, Mr. George Clooney. You played basketball like you acted in "Batman and Robin" - poorly and with enlarged nipples."

What Hollywood actor/actress most deserves a punch in the face?
Your mom. See? See how I do it?

(Editor's Note:  I just like to hold Kirk's mom gently, and caress the thigh.....)
"The Crying Game" sketch from Man Card is still one of the all-time great scenes in Factory history. What are your memories of it today? It always got HUGE laughs and often applause. How did you guys come up with it?
That movie was so huge in 1993 and everyone kept talking about "the secret". And one of my idiot friends went ahead and told me the secret (that the woman Gabriel Byrne was in love with was actually a guy) BEFORE I saw the movie. So when I went to see "The Crying Game" anyway I knew ahead of time what I was getting into. And the whole time I'm watching the movie I kept thinking, "I know that's a dude - but that dude is pretty fucking hot". So the whole confusion of feelings inspired the sketch. And when I talked to Jesse about he said, "I feel the exact same way." And we just knew that we had to write something about it and put it in the show.

And just a side note, let me thank you, Mr. Beyer, for coming up with the idea of doing our reaction of realizing Jaye Davidson was a dude in slow motion. It literally made the piece (you will get no more thank you's in this interview).

Jesse and I loved doing that sketch. it was really our centerpiece. Even if we were having an off night we knew "The Crying Game" sketch would win the crowd back. Even when we did it in LA five years after the movie came out we still got a great response. And in the great Factory Theater tradition we kept adding and extending the sketch just to milk more laughs and stroke our egoes!

You ended Man Card with "A Whole New World", which at first seemed out of place with the rest of the show but was in fact the perfect ending. What was the idea behind putting that at the very end?
Lip syncing to "A Whole New World" was really just a fluke. Jesse and I knew we needed to end the show in some big way but we were too lazy to write another sketch. That fucking song was everywhere in 1993 and we just thought it would be funny if two guys sang a love duet to each other. We barely rehearsed and when we did we mostly just laughed. And when we performed it we figured at rock bottom the gang at the Factory would enjoy it. We had no idea that it would work so well and only later realized that the lyrics of the song fit with what we were writing for the show.

Another side note - Now that I have 2 kids I constantly have to play that "A Whole New World in the car for them. And all I can think about when I hear the song is how lucky Jesse and I were that we got away with lip syncing to it. It's such a dumb song.

Word association: I'll give you a name/word and you type whatever comes to mind.
1. Prince - The man plays over 25 musical instruments.
2. Cookies - The one weakness I cannot overcome.
3. LeBron James - Cleveland's savior
4. Scott OKen - This is the God's honest truth. Scott is one of the most naturally funny people in the world. He doesn't even realize how much of a genius he is.

5. Crack cocaine - Only good when combined with whores.  (Editor's Note:  Hooray!)
6. Oreos dipped in French Onion dip - A delicious taste sensation from the early 90's that makes me miss my days in Chicago.
7. Grindhouse - A massive disappointment.
8. Counting Crows - Music to kill yourself to.
9. Los Angeles - I truly love living in LA. Ironically, the weather is my least favorite part of it.
10. Anthony Michael Hall - Should be a bigger star.

You also wrote Poppin' & Lockdown 1 and 2 with fellow Factory alum Mike Meredith for the Factory, which ran both in Chicago and L.A. What are you two working on these days?
We now write screenplays with a fellow Chicagoan, James Leary. We all hate each other.
How does it feel to know that if we played one-on-one in hoops tomorrow, I would beat you like a little bitch?
Mike, you are a very talented player. You've got a nice jumper, good handle and shockingly good hops. That being said, you are weak minded, lack the killer instinct and after I beat you I would pimp slap you with my dick.
Billy Joel: thumbs up or down?
Geez, that is a hard question. His early stuff is AWESOME but the fact that he wrote that travesty of a song, "In The Middle of the Night" really brings him down. I'm going to give him a hesitant thumbs up.
Who's the hottest Asian chick out there right now (besides Ann)?  
Kelly Hu

(Editor's Note:  If you click on one hyperlink in your life, make it this one.  Sweet Christ.)
Your thoughts on the upcoming Three Stooges movie starring Benicio del Toro as Moe, Sean Penn as Larry and Jim Carrey as Curly?
The greatest casting choices in the history of cinema.
Explain the genius of White Men Can't Jump for those who need to learn:
It is genius based on this one line from the movie. Before a big game a rival basketball player taunts at Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes: "You and the Cream of Wheat Man get the fuck back to Mayberry. And tell Aunt B. she better get me my bean pies or I'm gonna kick her ass!"

Monday, March 30, 2009

All right, who's the joker voting for Beatles For Sale??

I'm trying to do a serious poll measuring the blogosphere's feelings on the best Beatles album, and some Subversive-Man Swanson is CLEARLY stuffing the online ballots for Beatles For Sale!  Apparently, Beatles For Sale is the second greatest album in Beatles history, trailing only the White Album!  


I thought we’d do some features that talk about past shows the Factory has done here in Chicago.  I can’t believe that the Factory has been around for nearly 17 years, but we have, and it is a true testament to all the tremendously talented people that have cared and kept it going throughout the 90s and 00s (or aughts).  It’s crazy to think about all the talent that has passed through these doors.  So this kind of feature will address past Factory favorites.  Hopefully you'll find them interesting, and if you don't -- well, this blog doesn't cost you anything.

From the very beginning, the Factory had put out its fair share of well-received shows, like SNAFU, Reefer Madness and Attack of the Killer B’s.  But the Factory really took off like a shot in 1993 and 1994, with shows like Bitches, Santa Claus Conquers The Martians, Hooray!, Alive, and….Man Card.  We’ll hopefully talk about all those shows in due time, but today the subject is Man Card.

Man Card was conceived and written by Kirk Pynchon and Jesse Dienstag, two company members who now both reside in LA.  It premiered at the Factory’s space on 1257 W. Loyola Ave., and from the get-go it was an immediate smash.  Chris Jones called it one of the “best late night parodies out there.”  Sid Smith, writing for the Tribune at the time, said it was “hilarious” and a “sterling icon of 90s manhood.”  The crowds came out immediately, though the larger production-value Bitches seemed to get all the glory at the time. 

I stage managed Man Card during its time at Loyola Ave., and I have always thought that Man Card tackled a familiar topic – the travails of the straight white dude – in a style that was ahead of its time.  A show like that can very easily veer into “Defending The Caveman” territory.  But Pynchon & Dienstag made it seem very fresh and new.  Yes, they were frat-type dudes, and they loved beer, sports, broads and the Spin Doctors.  If a chick turned down their advances they would say to each other, “Fuck her, she’s fat.”

But they were also both likable performers, and I always thought the material showed a real self-awareness that nobody else was doing at the time.  They had a sketch called “Man to English, English to Man” Dictionary, which allowed anyone to translate the sayings of two typical dudes.  Here’s an excerpt (and it’s been 15 years, so I’m paraphrasing):

GUY #1: Dude, what the fuck?

GUY#2: Dude, whatever!  What the fuck’s up with YOU?

GUY#1: Yeah, well I usually like a little kiss before I get fucked!

GUY #2: Yeah, well I like a reach-around before I get fucked!

GUY #1:  Fuck you!

GUY #2:  Fuck you!

(Guy #1 faces the audience.)

GUY #1:  Now, using the “Man-to-English, English-to-Man” Dictionary, let’s translate:

(They turn back to each other.)

GUY #1: You hurt me.  I’m angry with you.

GUY #2: I, too, am in great pain and feel that my needs have been overlooked yet again.

GUY #1: Your anger hits me like a ton of bricks.

GUY #2: Your insensitivity wounds me.

GUY #1: I love you.

GUY #2:  I love you.

The sketches throughout smartly picked up on the whole “metrosexual” thing long before there was even a name for it.  The highlight of the show was a sketch that probably seems the most dated today, and it concerns two guys going out to see The Crying Game without knowing the plot.  The lights come up on the two sitting in the theatre watching the movie, and saying stuff like, “The black chick is fucking hot!”  and “Shh!  She’s gonna show some trim.”

Their reaction to the infamous “reveal” in the movie, where we learn that Jaye Davidson’s character is in fact a “he”, was an Instant Classic.  Their reaction to the movie’s reveal was performed in slow-motion.  Their transformation went from lustful expectation to out-and-out horror and revulsion to seeking involuntary comfort in each other’s arms.  They were brilliant at the slo-mo.  Sometimes, memory can make my recollection of events seem bigger than they really were, but I’m pretty sure that particular bit never once failed to get huge, huge laughs and often applause.

And, of course, the show ended with an interpretive dance set to “A Whole New World”, from the movie Aladdin.  No explanation given – just an ending dance and lipsync.  The audiences ate it up.  They moved on from the Factory to the old Body Politic, and then the Bailiwick, and finally Los Angeles.  The show got big responses and great reviews every time.

“Alive” and “Bitches” get all the love when people talk about the Factory’s early days, but “Man Card” was right there – and just as excellent.

Friday, March 27, 2009


See Mop Top Festival tonight (Friday, March 27).  Tickets are available for TONIGHT's show.....at a one-night-only, very, very, very, very good price.  Do it!!!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dude, it's World Theatre Day! You GOTTA get wasted!

What is World Theatre Day, you ask?  Well, look no further -- the organizers have their own blog.  In Chicago, they are celebrating tomorrow night (Friday the 27th) at the Chopin (1543 W. Division Ave.) anytime after 9 p.m.  Go there -- and celebrate the world of theatre through liquor!  

But before you do, swing by the Prop at 8 p.m. to check out Mop Top Festival.  Do it -- especially if you love the Beatles (and who doesn't).  Then go hang out with the off-Loop theater celebrities at the Chopin.

Also, a quick unrelated comment about the poll:  I know it isn't fashionable to proclaim Sgt. Pepper's the Beatles' best album these days (and 20 years ago that choice was a virtual slam dunk), but I find the lack of love for the Beatles' magnum opus very interesting.  My God, Beatles For Sale is getting more votes!  I'm not saying anything more, other than that I am surprised.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Just for the heck of it......Fannie Flagg

Catching up with......Sarah Rose Graber

We're going to be trying some different things with la Factory blog.  Some different features and cool things that will hopefully entice you to be a regular here.  We added a jukebox at the bottom for your listening pleasure, which leads off with a great tune by the second greatest band of all time.  Just scroll down to the bottom and commence with the jams!

I also thought we should do some ensemble profiles, particularly of those in our new smash hit show, Mop Top Festival, which runs every Friday, Saturdays (8 pm) and Sundays (7 pm) at the Prop Thtr., 3502 N. Elston Ave.  So today we spotlight the lovely and talented Sarah Rose Graber, who plays Mel in the show.  We caught up with Sarah recently, and asked her some tough, hard-hitting Facebook-style questions.  Let's get to the responses!!!!

Sarah Rose Graber

Factory Ensemble Member since:
Summer of 2007

Currently reading:
Team of Rivals: A Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln  By: Doris Kearns Goodwin

Most memorable on-stage moment:
Right out of college I got cast as Princess Marina Amphitrite, a jellyfish ballerina princess, in the Shedd Aquarium's holiday show, "Neptune's Holiday Kingdom." While I would not consider it to be a testament to my true acting prowess, my performance was definitely memorable as I pranced around in a tutu with tentacles and taught people about the importance of turning off the water while brushing their teeth.

Best TV show ever made:
This may seem weird, but I'm not the biggest TV watcher. However, I would have to say "The Simpsons." I grew up on it and the longevity of that show speaks to its brilliance. 

Easy or hard to learn roller skating?
Roller skating is a breeze! I don't know if I'm really tough enough to be a roller derby girl, but I do like to roll myself around a ring.

Best movie ever featuring horses:
Ha! Animal House.

Why I like the Factory:
I love the camaraderie that exists at the Factory. The entire ensemble is comprised of the most open minded, welcoming, and supportive people I've ever met. There is a true sense of family and I feel lucky to be a part of that.

Genesis:  thumbs up or down?
Thumbs DOWN

The guys dig me because: 
Hahaha! Well, it's certainly not for the size of my rack! I don't know. I consider myself to be pretty confident and outgoing. I truly love people and really enjoy learning about others. I also just like to have fun. And I smile... A LOT... I think some guys dig that?... or maybe it's because I'm really good at burping?!?! I know guys like burping.

(Editor's note:  Oh yes.  H-O-T.)

If I could work with any movie director, it would be:
Woody Allen... I want to be his muse.

On my IPod right now (just a quick sampling):
Counting Crows, We Are Scientists, Imogen Heap, Bloc Party, Gogol Bordello, The Killers, Radiohead, Cirque Du Soliel soundtracks.

If I could travel anywhere tomorrow, I'd go to:
Peru. I've always wanted to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Good stuff, Glover!

I got this from Angie Martinez........enjoy.

Congrats to Allison Cain

You probably heard that Allison Cain got a new job at the Lifeline Theatre as Managing Director. Well, now you're hearing it ELECTRONICALLY, which makes it much more official. She'll stay on as an ensemble member, of course. I think I speak for everyone at the Factory when I say that Allison was the heart and soul of the Factory for much of this decade. Without her, maybe we would still be around as a company. Maybe. But I would hate to think of the company's condition.

Congrats and good luck, Ally!

P.S. Look for the Cain in this summer's Dead Wrong, the next smash Factory hit. Coming this summer at the Prop.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mop Top Festival

Welcome to the new incarnation of the Factory Theater blog. Jeez, if Strawdog has a blog (ingeniously called the Strawblog), shouldn't the Factory?

Obviously, this is a work in progress -- and I have limited experience with posting cool links or video -- but during 2009 we will hopefully be updating you on all things Factory (right now, my personal goal is to post a blog on successive days). Not only that, we'll be doing so in a snarky, Twitteresque way that screams We're Cooler Than You. I'm excited...so let's dive in with the inaugural Factory blog!

Since everyone and their brother seems to be a critic these days thanks to the Internet, I thought I would jump in and write a theater review of my own. So here, for your consumption, is a review of the Factory Theater's first show of 2009, called Mop Top Festival.

On the surface, Mop Top Festival is about a Beatles convention and a character study of the people who spend gobs of money to attend them. But at its core, the show is a joyous, loving celebration of the greatest band of all time. Writer and director Scott OKen wisely keeps that fact in mind throughout the entire production, and his love for the Beatles shows through at nearly every turn. OKen has effectively communicated that love to his cast of 20, which is a gigantic accomplishment in and of itself. One need look no further than Christine Jennings' outlandishly grounded turn as the personal space-invading but ultimate Beatles fan for proof.

If you are a casual Beatles fan, Mop Top Festival will make you want to become a serious fan. If you are a serious fan, Mop Top Festival will make you want to revisit your entire musical catalogue -- both Beatles and solo recordings. And if you are a Beatles purist (as opposed to a Beatles dork or a Beatles freak), the constant references to lyrics, movie lines and trivia will delight at every turn, and you will remember what attracted you to the Fab Four's music in the first place.

And if you don't like the Beatles, isn't it time to re-evaluate your life? Why would you reject music that basically celebrates love and happiness?

But enough about your shortcomings. The Factory has long worn its love for music and pop culture on its collective sleeve, whether it's Bob Dylan (The Lonesome Hoboes), breakdancing (Poppin' & Lockdown 1 and 2), or Abba (1996's ABBArama, a gigantic hit which predated "Mamma Mia" by at least two years). And while some have found such proclamations of worship annoying, what makes these shows great is that they include the audience.

SIDE NOTE ABOUT "ABBArama": That show was HUGE. Literally, they were waiting in line to get in. It was standing room only at the Factory for about four months straight while that show was going, and it could probably still be running today had we wanted it to. According to Wikipedia: "Since its opening in 1999, "Mamma Mia" has grossed about $2 billion worldwide." I will now go light myself on fire.

OK, back to Mop Top. This show continues in the grand Factory tradition of not talking down to or excluding the audience from its influences and objects of worship. It concerns several different story lines that interweave Robert Altman-like throughout the show. The performances are all terrific -- from Edward Fraim's performance as a John Lennon "lookalike" to Shannon O'Neill's hilarious send-up of a harried hotel clerk to Christopher Marcum's tour de force as the evil hotel manager, Tompkins. I single these people out just off the top of my head (is that how Kris Vire operates, I wonder?).

Truly, everyone is terrific in Mop Top and everyone has their moments. And for a cast of 20, that's a heck of an accomplishment.

But more than most shows, the performances and script itself really sublimate itself to the power of the Beatles' music. The cast sing-along of one of the Beatles' lesser known songs "Sexy Sadie" (because it's on Disc 2 of the White Album) is a real tribute to the music -- one that consistently raises the goosebumps -- and I've seen Mop Top four times already.

See Mop Top Festival -- a splendid time is guaranteed for all.