Category Archives: Art

3 Days Until “Vic & Paul & Dana’s Post-Pandemic Revue!”

Go to http://www.studio5.dance to procure your tickets to the funniest year-end party of this malevolent, maddening year. We’ll be having great fun for 5 nights in Evanston — and we hope you’ll join us! The cast is Covid-free, socially-distanced — and ready to entertain as if they wanted to erase all the bulls*it of the past 20-something months! (And they certainly do!)

See you all at Studio5. It’s going to be an event to remember.

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Practical Comedy for the Holidays!

It’s time again for classic improvisational sketch comedy! Time to get out of the house and gather in a comfortable cabaret with fellow human beings for a memorable evening of laughter, music, and adult beverages.

The Practical Theatre returns to the Chicago area with the latest in a series of hit holiday shows, Vic & Paul & Dana’s Post-Pandemic Revue, starring writer-actors Victoria ZielinskiDana Olsen, and PTC co-founder, Paul Barrosse.

Photo by Bradford Rogne Photography

Great, groovy music is provided by PTC musical director and Studio5 impresario Steve Rashid and his Studio5 All-Stars: Rockin’ Ronny Crawford on drums, Jim Cox on bass, and Don Stiernberg on every stringed instrument known to man. 

Vic & Paul & Dana’s Post-Pandemic Revue is a smart comedy cocktail, mixing sex, music, variety and vaudeville — while stirring in everything from marriage to quarantine to cancel culture, conspiracy, climate change, Olympian gods, William Shakespeare, Rod McKuen, Looney Tunes — and the fragility of major appliances. It’s an intoxicating comic combination!

There’s no better place to enjoy a comedy revue with your favorite friends than Evanston’s own Studio5, which has a cash bar, comfortable, socially distanced seating, state of the art sound and lights, and acres of free parking.

PROOF OF VACCINE REQUIRED: All Studio5 attendees will be required to show an ID and proof of a COVID vaccine. Photos of CDC cards are acceptable provided they are legible. Studio5 will be following local masking guidance at the time of performances. Tickets are non-refundable and non-exchangeable. Please be certain you can and are willing to comply with our policies prior to making your purchase.

Seating is intentionally limited to accommodate social distancing.

LOCATION

Studio5 Performing Arts Center, 60202

https://www.tickettailor.com/events/studio5performingartscenter

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Join the Practical Theatre Fun at Studio5 in Evanston!

Opening night is just 32 days away. Tickets on sale now!

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Studio5 in Evanston is the Place to be this Holiday Season!

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November 17, 2021 · 8:08 pm

Just 3 More Weeks to go “Into the Mist”!

Those wacky veteran vaudevillians, Morty & Mitzi, will be joining their fellow performers from 1927 for the next three Fridays, 4/16, 4/23, 4/30, before our online interactive virtual playground “Into the Mist” takes a pause.

That doesn’t mean the end of “Into the Mist”. After this pause, our brilliant, inventive friends at Studio5 in Evanston, Illinois will work out a new chapter of this bold new entertainment vehicle. After all, the show has garnered a lot of great press and audiences have responded. Check out this article that just came out on the home page of Downbeat Magazine — the premiere national jazz magazine since 1934! 

So, you’ve got three last chances to see what the buzz has been all about. Tickets for all three shows are now available on the intothemist.net site. 

Group sales incentives are now available, so if you or someone you know is part of a group of any kind (families, friends, coworkers) they'll get a 20% discount if they purchase 10 or more tickets. Anyone interested in a group ticket purchase of 10 or more should email Lauren at info@intothemist.net.

Get yourself “Into the Mist”. Morty & Mitzi will be waiting for you!

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Morty & Mitzi Go Into the Mist!

This Friday, March 26th, my wife Victoria and I will join the cast of “Into The Mist” as the husband and wife vaudeville duo, Morty & Mitzi. For the past few months, we’ve been playing the roles of Dorothy Parker and Ernest Hemingway — but that was a pre-recorded performance. Morty & Mitzi will be serving up the jokes LIVE.

Drop by our dressing room this Friday if you’re in need of a few good laughs.

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“Into the Mist” Has Fun Circa 1927

My wife and comedic partner Victoria Zielinski will be playing Dorothy Parker and Ernest Hemingway among a wonderful cast of characters inhabiting a hotel in 1927 as part of an immersive virtual experience called “Into the Mist”. What exactly is “Into the Mist”?

I’ll just let Steve Rashid explain…

Step with us … Into the Mist.

Dear Friends,

A new year. A new day. A new hope. May 2021 bring us a measure of calm, peace and health we so desperately need.

As you know, our aim at Studio5 is to help build community through the performing arts. So I had an idea for a new project back in October, and the concept arrived fairly fully formed. I imagined an entire online world that would place a musical performance in a meaningful and entertaining context. Like time travel, it would be a virtual portal that would give the music an added, dreamy resonance.

I came up with an initial design, talked to a few people to gauge interest in being involved as performers, and got to work. Web designer, Lauren Biolsi, came aboard, and my sons, Robert and Daniel joined to co-produce with me. Three months later, here we are, with a live, immersive, interactive, 1920s jazz-themed event, featuring a diverse cast of over 20 musicians and actors spread literally from coast to coast.

Opening Friday, January 29th, we invite you to step with us … Into the Mist.

Music is a reflection of a time and a culture. That was never more true than in the Jazz Age: America in the 1920s. How exciting would it be to travel back to 1927 and hear a live band? How much more exciting would it be, if, before they started playing you had the opportunity to wander freely through the world of that raucous decade? What if you could choose to hang out in a speakeasy, attend a rent party, play blackjack against a shady dealer, watch some fancy footwork in a dance hall, converse with literary figures of the day, glimpse a fashion show, go to the cinema … and then gather with your friends in a club to hear a hot band? Sound like fun? That is the world that awaits you, starting January 29, 2021 at Studio5 online. Step with us … Into the Mist.

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A Couple of Memes…

Meme #5Please pass along…

Meme #5

 

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My Life in Sketch Comedy: Part #1

goodtimes-1975 copyThrills & Glory 1I have been in love with the improvisational comedy revue format for more than 45 years. Improv comedy has been the guiding light of my life.

New Poster #8Most recently, I collaborated as a writer, performer and director of my 23rd comedy revue – celebrating 40 years of Practical Theatre Company comedy with “Big Holiday Bag O’ Fun” at Studio5 in Evanston, Illinois — ringing in New Year’s 2020 with music and laughter.

I’m still as passionate as ever about developing comedic situations and characters, polishing and performing sketches, and eliciting laughs from an intelligent and discerning audience.

It’s how I’m wired.

My comedy-loving father, Pete Barrosse, was born in New Orleans in 1927. Dad gifted me with a keen appreciation for the history of silent film comedy, vaudeville, stand-up comedy — and sketch comedy giants like Red Skelton, George Burns, Milton Berle, Carl Reiner, Imogene Coca and the great Sid Caesar.sidcaesar-2_slide-fe1060a88ea5c7230c05e55ba1b8c00d3a754440-s800-c85

Sid Caesar was the King of TV Comedy — the comedic force of nature behind Your Show of Shows, the seminal TV sketch revue that paved the way for great TV comedy revues like That Was The Week That Was, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The Carol Burnett Show– and, in my adult years, Saturday Night Live, In Loving Color, Mad TV, Chappelle’s Show and Key & Peele.

Jumping ahead for a moment — in 1983 I got a chance to work with Sid Caesar and The Smothers Brothers on Saturday Night Live. How crazy is that?

1frost_2664182bBut going back two decades to 1964, I remember my mom staying up after work to take notes on each episode of the edgy, erudite TV comedy revue That Was The Week That Was— because dad was working the night shift at Reliable Spring in Cleveland.

That_Was_the_Week_That_Was_opening_titleI was just 8 years old, but I recall staying up late with my mom as we watched the show each week, and she took notes on TW3 for my dad.

Pete and Mary loved TW3.

Of course, it was all largely above my childish head – especially musical director Tom Leher’s cutting-edge songs.

original-5750-1397077218-10Check out the cast and writers for TW3: Buck Henry, Paul Sand, Comden & Green, Henry Morgan, Alan Alda, Elaine May, Mike Nichols, etc.

I was just a child, but I was absorbing the very best of satiric comedy. And I knew my parents thought it was important. Comedy was important. Laughter was important. Lesson learned.

That Was The Week That Was didn’t last long on U.S. network television – but 11 years later, I got my chance to join in the sketch comedy game. And my authentic life began.

Before I knew anything about The Compass Players, Second City, The Committee – or any of my improvisational comedy antecedents, I was cast in my first sketch comedy revue in the summer of 1975.

Goodtimes #1My high school theatre director Mary Ann Zampino asked me, a callow high school junior, to join her hip, funny, and far more sophisticated friends to join the cast of an adult cabaret sketch show called Goodtimes.goodtimes-1975

How much older were my cast mates? Five years? Ten? I had no idea.

Musical director Paul Novosel was talented and visionary, but I had no clue how old he was.

He was the musical director and keyboard whiz for my junior year high school musical, Li’l Abner– and Paul and Zamp liked my turn as Marryin’ Sam enough to cast me in their 1975 summer cabaret comedy revue, Goodtimes.

Goodtimes #2Goodtimes director Jane Van Bergen was the only woman who ever directed me in a comedy revue. Our three man and three woman cast was the most gender-balanced in a comedy revue I’ve ever been in.

Goodtimes was cutting-edge — before I knew where the cutting-edge was!

But these folks were so damn cool – and so funny! And they treated me like a peer. It was a magical experience and it changed my life. Performing sketches, crafting funny characters – and getting laughs from a sophisticated audience (with adult cocktails in hand) was an intoxicating experience.

It would take several years for me to get back to the main thing: cabaret comedy.

When I arrived as a freshman at Northwestern University in the fall of ‘76, I planned to make my mark in the legit theatre. I saw myself as a dramatic actor. My goal was a career in regional theatre — perhaps a role in the repertory company of The Cleveland Playhouse.

Then I saw the 1977 Mee-Ow Show highlights in McCormick Auditorium.

I had no idea Mee-Ow wasn’t a long tradition at NU. In fact, just two years earlier, The Mee-Ow Show began as a subversive reaction to the old-fashioned, student-written musical comedy revue, The Waa-Mu Show. It was a variety show that encompassed music, dance, comedy — even a laser light show, I believe.

Mee-Ow was then revamped and re-directed by cast members Bill Nuss and Dusty Kay (‘76) as a sketch comedy review — taking its inspiration from The Second City, Kentucky Fried Theatreand Monty Python.

The show I saw featured the best bits from the 1977 Mee-Ow Show, North by Northwestern: a show written and performed by Jeff Lupetin, Betsy Fink, Kyle Heffner, Stewart Figa and others. It was so damn funny. It was so damn cool. It was inspirational.

The Mee-Ow Show was now my goal.

But I had no idea where The Mee-Ow Show would lead.

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WTF: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2020

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So, here are the folks who will be enshrined in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame class of 2020:

  • Depeche Mode
  • The Doobie Brothers
  • Whitney Houston
  • Nine Inch Nails
  • The Notorious B.I.G.
  • T. Rex

UnknownI’ve argued for the The Doobie Brothers in the past — so, right on! Go, Doobie Brothers! And I love Nine Inch Nails (for inspiring Johnny Cash alone), the Notorious B.I.G. (a seminal hip-hop godfather) and T. Tex (so much love for Marc Bolan’s groovy, grungy, proto-New Wave guitar sound) “Get It On”, etc., though he had only a few giant Top-40 hits.

But Whitney Houston and Depeche Mode? Really? Rock & Roll?

Did Whitney Houston — as prodigious a vocal instrument as she possessed — record a single rock and roll track? Did she chart a single rock & roll single? Did she ever rock?

How in the hell is Whitney Houston a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

Let’s put it this way. Is Ella Fitzgerald in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Ella won 13 Grammy awards and sold over 40 million albums — but she was a jazz singer — not a rock & roll singer. She’s not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Soulful, bluesy, risk-taking jazz singer Billie Holiday is in the Hall as a bold and fearless, raw and soulful early influence — but slick, pop-oriented Whitney Houston hardly qualifies. Especially when more deserving rockers have been, once again, overlooked.

There is a national shame and outrage that I must address here and now…

Tommy+James++The+Shondells+732311_356x237Why — oh why? — aren’t Tommy James & The Shondells in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

I’m a Cleveland boy, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a shining jewel on my hometown lakefront — but that only makes such an injustice a more personal matter.

2014-rock-and-roll-hall-of-fame-ceremony-1024Tommy James & The Shondells have been waiting since 1991 to get a call from the Hall. For 29 years, they’ve had to endure the enshrinement of acts like Abba, Kiss and Whitney in an institution supposedly devoted to rock and roll – while the band that gave garage bands worldwide rock classics like “Mony Mony” and “Hanky Panky” is continually and criminally passed over.

Tommy James GERHow can it be that overproduced purveyors of techno pop-rock (Depeche Mode) and pure, chart-topping pop (Whitney Houston) win out over the inspired 60’s rockers who put “I Think We’re Alone Now” and “Crimson and Clover” down on vinyl?

At the 2014 Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Rage Against the Machine’s lead guitarist Tom Morello – a man whose shredding virtuosity and politics I admire – made a convincing case for why Kiss had a rightful place in the Rock Hall. But while Kiss may have blazed a trail for visual and musical bombast and pyro in arena rock – their sound and fury signify nothing like the string of hits that Tommy James and his band delivered in the late 1960s.

tommy-james-and-the-shondells-on-the-ed-sullivan-showBesides their two #1 hit single in the U.S. – “Hanky Panky” in ’66 and “Crimson and Clover” in ’69 — Tommy James & The Shondells charted twelve other Top 40 hits, including five in the top ten. Remember a platter entitled “Crystal Blue Persuasion”?

How about 14 Top 40 hits during the greatest period in rock and roll radio history? All while competing with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, Creedence Clearwater Revival, James Brown, Sly & The Family Stone – and those Motown artists cranking out classics in Hitsville, USA.

All of those great rockers are in the Hall of Fame — so, why not Tommy James & The Shondells?

114774938And I don’t want to hear that Tommy James was “bubblegum”. Please. When was the last time you listened to “Mony Mony” or “Draggin the Line”? Guitars. Groove. Harmony. Drive. Horns. Hooks. Lots and lots of classic rock and roll hooks.

Tommy James & The Shondells should go into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fames very next class or the whole institution is a sham.

TommyJames2Honor Tommy James while the man is still alive and well and rocking.

I can wait no longer.

I’m just going to enshrine Tommy James & The Shondells here and now.

In fact…

I’m announcing The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2021 must include Tommy James & The Shondells — Eligible since 1991. And now about…

The Monkees — Eligible since 1991

The-Monkees-the-monkees-29786398-886-960Not even gonna argue about this.

The Monkees should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Hell, The Beatles respected The Monkees – so why should anyone else deny their undeniable greatness?

Morons who I have little patience for say The Monkees were a fabricated band – “The Pre-Fab Four” — surrounded by studio musicians. I know for a fact that The Beach Boys, The Mamas & The Papas, and others in the Hall of Fame were backed by the very same group of studio cats: the Wrecking Crew. So, what? I said I wasn’t gonna argue.

websbest060113_fullsize_story1At their peak in ‘67, The Monkees outsold The Beatles and Rolling Stones combined. 12 Top-40 hits, three #1 hits — and a TV show that brought melodic, witty, well-written and beautifully sung rock and roll music (and surprisingly subversive comedy) into homes across America.

The-Monkees-the-monkees-2846004-603-546I won’t even mention the songs by name. You know them. You sing them. You’ll probably hear one on the radio today.

“Last Train to Clarksville,” “I’m a Believer,” “Daydream Believer,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone”. That’s just five.

And now I’m really not gonna argue any more.

The Rock N Roll Trio — Eligible since 1981

115163945Johnny Burnette and the Rock & Roll Trio were the best damn rockabilly band that ever thumped a standup bass, whacked out the backbeat on a snare, and sang like drunken wildcats.

“Rock Billy Boogie”, “Rock Therapy”, “Train Kept A-Rollin”, “Honey Hush”, “Tear It Up” – Johnny Burnette and the Rock & Roll Trio served up fundamental, elemental, essential rock and roll.

20131210092007-burnette_jJohnny Burnette and the Rock & Roll Trio featured no frills, no gimmicks, no costumes, and no pyrotechnics — other than the fire they produced by their passionate playing.

Sorry, Depeche Mode, this is rock and roll with real, gritty, driving heart and soul. I don’t give a damn what hits they had or where they charted. When I need rock therapy — they give it to me.

They should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

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