Tag Archives: Practical Theatre

Bringing Practical Radio Theatre to Life.

It was the first time I performed in a comedy revue while wearing a bowtie.goodtimes 1975

I wore a faux bowtie t-shirt under my jacket for “Goodtimes” — my first-ever comedy revue in Cleveland in 1975. That’s me on the far right. I was still in high school. (In fact, my high school drama director, Mary Ann Zampino, is seated above me.) But, 43 years later, the bowtie was real.

steveAt the suggestion of our musical director Steve Rashid, in cahoots with Chicago FM jazz station WDCB, we took up the creative challenge of adapting what we’ve been doing in our popular holiday shows for an audience of radio listeners.

First — we scheduled shows on December 28 and 29, 2018 at Studio5 in Evanston, Illinois.

Then, two months before those curtains were scheduled to go up, Victoria Zielinski, Dana Olsen and I began the process of becoming The Practical Radio Theatre Company of the Air.

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Bag O’ Fun at Noyes Cultural Arts Center (1980)

The Practical Theatre has played a lot with comedy revue formats since our first improvisational comedy revue back in 1980 — but this was the first time we were having fun with the radio show format.

To begin the process, we focused on sorting through which of the sketches and songs in our repertoire would work best on the radio. Most PTC sketches feature a lot of words (some might say too many) — and the material we developed for The Vic & Paul Show and The Vic & Paul & Dana Show is particularly loquacious. So, that was good. Certain beats needed some tweaking, especially topical jokes that had to be updated, but it was creatively stimulating to take a fresh look at some of our favorite sketches.

One of the happiest re-discoveries was the revival of the “Marine Comedy” sketch, which made its summer of 1980 debut in the running order of Bag O’ Fun– the PTC’s first improv comedy revue. I play a boot camp drill sergeant leading a group of comedian cadets through their comic paces. The call and response of a veteran DI grilling his green troops lent itself well to radio. But keeping in mind that the live cabaret patrons aren’t the primary audience we must serve — how do you simulate a pratfall for the radio?

Questions like that lead to the biggest revelation in our writing and rehearsal process: the sound effects.

Of course, we agreed right away that we wanted to employ traditional hand-made radio show sound effects: the kind we remembered so fondly from the classic radio shows of the 1930’s and 40’s. (And no, we’re not thatold.) My dad, who was born in 1927, introduced me at an early age to the classic radio shows of his youth: classics like “Fred Allen’s Alley” and “Fibber McGee and Molly.” Fibber McGee’s closet – the quintessential old time radio sound effect – would not have been as famously funny in any other medium.

set up danielSteve Rashid’s son, Daniel, embraced the critical job of making the sound effects come alive. Daniel’s a fine young actor — and he’s also a drummer. That’s good. Radio sound effects punctuate moments in the sketches like drum fills in a song. Plus, the gig requires imagination and ingenuity – and Daniel showed plenty of both. As everyone came up with more ideas for sound effects, Daniel’s SFX job grew and grew and…

With about a month to go before opening night, we began to develop some sketches specifically for radio, including two episodes of “Fred Knoblock: Secret President” — a retro radio mystery about a former Walmart greeter pressed into service as a body double for a thinly disguised Mango Mussolini.

For the past few years, we’ve normally featured a corps of dancers in our revues – and Victoria insisted that we include a dance number in the show. But how do you perform dance on the radio?

rehearse sfx team 2Dana came up with a script that evolved into one of the show’s freshest and funniest sketches — in which Daniel and his brother (also a drummer) put thimbles on all their fingers and became a tap dancing troupe breaking out show-stopping moves. It became the sound effects highlight of the show.

As occupied as we were with the creation and execution of all the sound effects, another vital radio show element never troubled me: the music.  That’s because maestro Steve Rashid was in charge, and the band he assembled was first class.

show jim & robertSteve was on keys, of course, as well as harmonica and trumpet. His Studio5 All-Stars were composed of the great Don Stiernberg on guitar and mandolin, the flawless Jim Cox on upright bass, and Steve’s son Robert on drums and percussion. (Tap-dancing thimbles, too!)

Among the musical wonders Steve performed were the composition of theme music for the show, Practical Radio Theatre On The Air, and all the shows within the show, including “Middle Aged Jeopardy”, “Fred Knoblock: Secret President” and “This Old Man”.
rehearse paul & eva

We also brought in two more musical ringers: vocalists Paul Marinaro and Eva B. Ross. Paul is a Chicago jazz favorite with a rich, dynamic voice that makes the Great American Songbook come alive. Eva is an up and coming singer-songwriter who shares Steve and Paul’s passion for jazz.

Whether singing solo or in duet, Paul and Eva gave us two more musical aces in the hole.

set up overhead 2So, on the day after Christmas 2018, we returned to the familiar cabaret confines of Studio5 to prepare for a presentation that was not at all familiar to us. We had just two days to set up the sound and lighting and stage the material we’d developed over the previous two months.

Luckily for us, we had audio master Sam Fishkin handling the complex task of not only making sure that the cabaret audience could hear everything – but recording it all for the radio, too. And making the lighting of the show seem effortless, as usual, was Charlotte Rathke. It’s a joy to work with two pros that do beautiful work and never miss a cue– especially when so much of what you’re about to do onstage is new for everyone involved.

I’ve often said that The Practical Theatre Company is like Brigadoon, the mythical village in the classic Broadway musical. We appear for a brief time – and then we vanish. What follows are some glimpses into the process and performances that brought Practical Radio Theatre On The Air to life over four magical days in Evanston. (Many of these photos were taken by guest vocalist Paul Marinaro — a man of many talents.)

Early on the first day in Studio5. Don Stiernberg practices on guitar while Steve Rashid steadies the ladder for Sam Fishkin, who is hanging microphones. Robert Rashid and Eva B. Ross hang out in the audience while Victoria Zielinski practices her lines in from of Daniel Rashid’s sound effects tables.

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Some critical sound effects props. Note the horn and siren whistle. Vic and Dana and I used these two items to censor our profane words in real time. The damn horns could be really funny — but often misbehaved. The siren whistles were more dependable fun. Get one for yourself and see!

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Early rehearsal on the second day. You’ll note that Charlotte’s lighting plan is underway. With our backs to her work most of the time, we had no idea what Charlotte achieved until we saw the photos later. It was a very pleasant surprise too see how good she made everything look.

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Another view of rehearsal. Sam (at left) listens as Dana, Victoria and I work our way from sketch to sketch, while Charlotte (who can be seen way back in the upper right) dials in the visual splendors of her lighting plot.

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Steve goes through his script during rehearsal. He had a ton of music cues, a band to lead, two guest vocalists to work with, his own songs to perform — and very little time.

rehearse sfx team

Daniel Rashid and his lovely assistant, Eva B. Ross, work on the sound effects for “This Old Man” — firing up a circular saw and a belt sander. Kids, don’t try this one at home!

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Dress rehearsal in the hours before opening night. See? I’m wearing a bowtie!

show wide 2

Another pre-opening moment — this time with a glimpse of Jim Cox playing the upright bass (upper left) which is just about the coolest instrument that exists. Note the upside-down bicycle (at right). The bike was used to simulate the motorcycle Dana rode onstage. How? A very old trick: baseball cards in the spokes.

backstage selfie color

The cast gathers just before going onstage for the first show. Paul Marinaro (bottom left) is taking the selfie — and why not? The dude’s way more than 6-feet tall! He sounds even taller when he sings.

before the show

A shot from the house as the audience begins taking their seats for opening night. In the background, Daniel and Eva go over some last-minute sound effects notes.

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You can tell by the audience in the foreground that the first show is underway.  We enjoyed two sold-out, overflow shows in the 150-seat Studio5 cabaret theatre. Radio shows work best with a lively, smart and enthusiastic live audience. Our audiences were all of that and more on both nights.

show steve, paul dana from wings

A view of opening night from the wings. I like these black and white pics (shot by Paul Marinaro) because they look like they might have been taken in the 1950s or early 60s.

show eva from wings

Guest vocalist Eva B. Ross performs on opening night.

show sfx team

Daniel and Eva, his lovely assistant, perform sound effects for “This Old Man”. Eva runs the belt sander to approximate the sound of an electric generator — as Daniel blows bubbles to indicate a pump at work.

show steve

Maestro Steve Rashid in control at the grand piano. Note the socks. Steve is clearly a jazz guy.

show eva & dana

Eva B. Ross and Dana perform “Baby It’s Cold Outside” — with Dana singing in Norwegian.

Fun after the show.

Cast and crew photo at load out on the day after the second show.

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3 Weeks until Big New Year’s Fun!

3 week art

There are now just three weeks left to reserve your seats for Mr. Olsen’s Champagne Celebration at Studio5 in Evanston. Tickets are going fast for the funniest and most fun New Year’s party on Chicago’s North Shore.

Poster 2017 NYE #6Following last year’s smash holiday engagement at Studio5, the legendary Practical Theatre returns with another entertaining comedy and music revue featuring veteran improvisational comedy writer-performers Victoria Zielinski, Paul Barrosse and Dana Olsen – Joined by the PTC’s musical director, Steve Rashid, songbird Eva B. Ross, standup comic Emilia Barrosse, Giggle Break’s own Daniel Rashid, cabaret chanteuse Shelly Goldstein — and the Studio5 All-Star Band, featuring Rockin’ Ronny Crawford on drums, Don Stille on accordion, bassist Joe Policastro, and Don Stiernberg on every stringed instrument a man can possibly play. Plus percussionist Robert Rashid.

All this — and The Mr. Olsen Dancers!

CastOnly 3 shows: Friday December 29, Saturday December 30 and Sunday December 31. Tickets are on sale here!

The show on December 31st will be followed by a fabulous dance party — as we invite you all to swing into the New Year with live music by the Studio5 All-Stars! (And enjoy some tasty food, too!)

There will be a cash bar for all three shows. Doors open for cocktails at 7:30.

And there’s plenty of free parking right in front of the theatre.

Don’t miss the biggest party of the year!

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Ring in the New Year with Laughter!

There are now just five weeks left to reserve your seats for Mr. Olsen’s Champagne Celebration at Studio5 in Evanston. Tickets are going fast for the funniest and most fun New Year’s party on Chicago’s North Shore.

Poster 2017 NYE #6Following last year’s smash holiday engagement at Studio5, the legendary Practical Theatre returns with another entertaining comedy and music revue featuring veteran improvisational comedy writer-performers Victoria Zielinski, Paul Barrosse and Dana Olsen – Joined by the PTC’s musical director, Steve Rashid, songbird Eva B. Ross, standup comic Emilia Barrosse, Giggle Break’s own Daniel Rashid, cabaret chanteuse Shelly Goldstein — and the Studio5 All-Star Band, featuring Rockin’ Ronny Crawford on drums, Don Stille on accordion, bassist Joe Policastro, and Don Stiernberg on every stringed instrument a man can possibly play. Plus percussionist Robert Rashid.

All this — and The Mr. Olsen Dancers!

CastOnly 3 shows: Friday December 29, Saturday December 30 and Sunday December 31. Tickets are on sale here!

The show on December 31st will be followed by a fabulous dance party — as we invite you all to swing into the New Year with live music by the Studio5 All-Stars! (And enjoy some tasty food, too!)

There will be a cash bar for all three shows. Doors open for cocktails at 7:30.

And there’s plenty of free parking right in front of the theatre.

Don’t miss the biggest party of the year!

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Just One Week Until the Party Starts!

new-show-art-2In just one week, The Practical Theatre Company will be saying goodbye to 2016 and ringing in the New Year with comedy and song – and your favorite adult beverages.

nye-art-a-copyTickets are going fast for Mr. Olsen’s Holiday Party on December 30 and 31 at Evanston’s new Studio5 (Dempster & Dodge). There aren’t many tickets left for the New Year’s Eve performance, but you can still reserve seats by clicking here.

PTC vets Paul Barrosse, Victoria Zielinski and Dana Olsen will perform comedy sketches and songs from “The Vic & Paul & Dana Show”, as well as new material crafted for this special variety revue – styled after those classic holiday specials hosted by Andy Williams, Bing and Dean.

Music director and keyboard wiz Steve Rashid will lead a quartet featuring drummer Rockin’ Ronny Crawford, Don Stiernberg on guitar and mandolin, and bassist Jim Cox.

Members of the PTC’s second generation will also perform, including standup comedienne Emilia Barrosse, Giggle Breaks’ Daniel Rashid, singer-songwriter Eva B. Ross and drummer Robert Rashid.

Studio5 features full bar service – and acres of free parking.

The New Year’s Eve performance includes light food and a New Year’s party with live music and dancing after the show.mohp-banner-1-copy

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Snickerdoodlin’ with Emilia & Maggie…

Emilia Poster Final JpegComedy lovers in the Chicago area have a chance to see a couple of bright young performers in their first live original sketch show, when my daughter, Emilia Barrosse and her friend and collaborator, Maggie Fish, present “We’re All People Here, Right” at Studio Be across the street from The Vic Theatre at 3110 N. Sheffield Avenue.

Sunny HighEmilia and Maggie met at Northwestern University, where they teamed up to shoot their own comic videos as Snickerdoodlin’ Productions. (I have no idea how a daughter of mine ever got the notion to perform original comedy with her NU classmates.)

Batman's OutYou can check out Emilia and Maggie’s Snickerdoodlin’ videos on YouTube – or follow what they’re doing on Facebook.

InterviewAnd you can watch a very nice interview with Emilia and Maggie by clicking here.

“We’re All People Here, Right?” will be presented on three consecutive Monday nights: November 25th, December 2nd & December 9th at 10:00 pm. Tickets are $5 and the proceeds go to charity.

A couple of my favorite Snickerdoodlin’ videos are “Welcome to Sunny High”…

“Do Not Solicit”

And “The Fork Factor”…

Snickerbanner

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Vic & Paul & Obama & Mother Mary — Blog 2012: The Third Year In Review.

ClevelandObama bannerMom bannerDays after the year 2012 ended, I was delighted to join with my wife, daughters and Cleveland relations to celebrate the 80th birthday of my wonderful mother, Mary Barrosse. I knew I was tardy in posting my blog’s 2012 year-end review — but honoring my mom in the grand style she deserves came first.

img_04992012 was a very busy year on this blog — dominated by the “The Vic & Paul Show” Summer Tour and the momentous Presidential election. Vaudevillians Vic & Paul traveled to Chicago, Cleveland, Wisconsin, and Los Angeles — and President Obama covered even more ground than that (often in one day). We both emerged victorious — and when all was was said and done, Victoria and I might have come out slightly ahead because we don’t have to deal with John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.

2012 was also the third year for this blog. And it was a very good year.

Paul’s Voyage of Discovery & Etc. has attracted over 129,900 views in 2012 — nearly doubling the number of visitors that dropped by during this blog’s first two years. (There were 62,900 visits in 2012.) I’ve posted 255 articles since this blog began and you folks have contributed 1,231 comments. Politics and history remain among the most popular topics.

This is not the real subscription sign up box. The real one is further to the right. And up a little…

I continue to be honored that 118 subscribers have signed on to have my posts automatically delivered to them via e-mail. (And 31 more folks follow this blog on Twitter.) Are you a subscriber? If you’re not — then look to your right at the photo of the saluting Matey and follow the simple instructions to “Hop Aboard!”

Most of my posts focus on the main topics I established at the outset of this blog: history, adventure, politics, sailing and rock & roll — plus relentless promotion of The Practical Theatre, my band Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation, and The Vic & Paul Show. But what posts were readers of this blog most attracted to this year?

What follows is a list of The Top Ten Most Popular Posts of 2012.

Just click on the title of each post to access the original article.

1. Victory at Pearl HarborPearl Harbor

Originally posted in 2010 on the anniversary of the “day that will live in infamy” – this post has become an annual event. A lot of military history fans visit this blog, but I think Pearl Harbor fascinates and resonates with Americans whether they have an interest in military history or not. The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks took more American lives – but Pearl Harbor was the shocking opening act in a drama that ultimately made the United States the world’s preeminent superpower. Can we say that we’re a better nation after 9-11?

2. Happy Birthday Bill of Rights!

On December 15, 2010 – the 215th birthday of our Bill of Rights – I wrote this basic primer on the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. For some reason, it’s become one of the most-read post in the history of this blog. I guess that’s because Americans still give a damn about their rights and are keen to understand their Constitutional foundation.

3. The Occupy Wall Street Movement Doesn’t Need Black Bloc Buffooneryblackboc

The bold, brave and vital Occupy Wall Street movement has inspired a lot of posts on this blog since 2011 – but this post, written on November 2, 2011, has proven to be the most popular. Maybe that’s because people agree that we don’t need a bunch of cowardly anarchists screwing up a noble movement that ultimately helped to put Barrack Obama back in office. Without Occupy Wall Street, would Romney’s attack on the 47% have evoked such a profound and spirited response?

4. A Childhood Memory of Kent State, May 4. 1970Kent State

On the May 4, 2012 anniversary of this very dark day in America history, I posted this personal remembrance of a young Ohioan’s earliest memories of that terrible day.

5. Growing Up in the Space Age

The last American space shuttle launch inspired this July 14, 2011 remembrance of my personal connection to the Space Age. This popular post salutes my fellow Ohioan, John Glenn, who served as both the first man to orbit the Earth and as a Senator from my home state. I wish that my three daughters had grown up experiencing something half as exciting and inspirational as The Race to the Moon.

6. My Book Report: “The Battle of Midway”midway

What a great book! What an amazing chapter of world history! On January 23, 2012, I wrote this review of a book that captures all the incredible heroism, good luck, and turns of fate that made this epic World War Two naval battle an overwhelming victory that turned the tide of the war against Imperial Japan.

7. A New Presidential Biography Reminds Us Why We Should Like Ikeike

Even if Los Angeles Times editor Jim Newton weren’t my good friend, I still would have written this September 28, 2011 post extolling the virtues of his excellent biography of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

8. The Top Ten Rock & Roll Singers of All Time

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There’s nothing like a Top 10 list to promote discussion on a blog – and this December 5, 2011 post did just that. Check it out – and then weigh in with your own opinion. Just realize that your opinion on rock & roll singing cannot possibly be as informed as my own.

9. 150 Years Ago Today150 years

Since the spring of 2011, we’ve been in the midst of the American Civil War sesquicentennial: the war’s 150th anniversary. Between now and April 2015, there’s an opportunity every day to write the kind of post that I wrote on March 13, 2012.

10. The Wrecking Crew

Glen Campbell, Hal Blaine, Carol Kay, Tommy Tedesco, Leon Russell, Earl Palmer: the cream of Los Angeles studio musicians in the late 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s became known as “The Wrecking Crew”. I’m thrilled that my March 21, 2011 blog article celebrating Tommy Tedesco’s son’s marvelous documentary film about these rock & roll legends has proven to be such a popular post. If you haven’t done it already, start a Google search on “The Wrecking Crew” now. Until then, your rock & roll education is not complete.

So, that’s the best of 2012. Stay connected. Subscribe. And please post those replies!

Here’s to another adventurous voyage in 2013!

And here are the All-Time Top 10 Blog Posts from January 2010 up to today:

1. Happy Birthday Bill of Rights!

2. Victory at Pearl Harbor

3. The Occupy Wall Street Movement Doesn’t Need Black Bloc Buffoonery

4. History & Honeymoon: Part Three

This post was also the #3 post in 2010. 23 years ago, my wife Victoria and I went to Gettysburg and other Civil War battlefields on our honeymoon! I needed no other assurance that I had married the perfect woman. On our 20th anniversary, we returned to Gettysburg. Now both students of the battle, we walked the battlefield on July 1, 2 and 3, 2010 on the 147th anniversary of that critical conflict. My four-part account of our battlefield tramping became one of the most popular items on the blog. (Originally posted July 20, 2010)

5. Aliens Among Us?

I’ve always wondered where singular, epochal, “out of this world” geniuses like William Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci and Bob Dylan came from. So, on January 26, 2011, I wrote this speculation on the possible alien origin of such monumental minds. Evidently, my curiosity (if not my Erich Van Daniken “ancient astronaut” fantasy) is still shared by a lot of people who read my blog in the past year.

6. Growing Up in the Space Age

7. Bazooka Joe, Jay Lynch & Me

One of the first posts I wrote for this blog back on January 9, 2010 celebrated my brief but soul-satisfying collaboration with the legendary underground comix artist, Jay Lynch, who gave Vic and I the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to write a series of Bazooka Joe comics. It was one of the great chapters in my creative career. The Practical Theatre Company, Saturday Night LiveBehind the Music, The Vic & Paul Show and Bazooka Joe. Can I retire now?

8. The Saints Come Marching In…

This was the #1 post in 2010 — and, like the Saints, has shown staying power. The New Orleans Saints got 2010 off to a great start by winning the Super Bowl. (What about that bounty scandal?) So, why does a man who was born in Cleveland, went to college and met his wife in Chicago, and moved to Los Angeles two decades ago care if the New Orleans Saints finally won a Super Bowl after years of epic gridiron failure? Simple: my daddy was New Orleans born and raised. Who dat say what about dem Saints? (Originally posted February 8, 2010)

9. History & Honeymoon: Part Four

2011 was the 150th anniversary of the commencement of the American Civil War – and that might be the reason that two of my “History & Honeymoon” posts are still among the most-read this past year, including this one, posted on July 26, 2010. This post covers everything from my wife Victoria and I battle tramping Pickett’s Charge on the third day of Gettysburg –to our visit to Philadelphia and the eccentric, visionary artwork of Isaiah Zagar.

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“The Vic & Paul Show” Summer Tour Arrives in Los Angeles, August 9-12th!

Tickets are on sale now for the final four performances of “The Vic & Paul Show” at the iO West Theatre in Hollywood. CLICK HERE.

After stops in Chicago and Cleveland, “The Vic & Paul Show” Summer 2012 Tour is celebrating the conclusion of our comedy odyssey with four performances in an intimate cabaret venue on Hollywood Boulevard: The iO West Theatre.

It’s the perfect place to enjoy a cool summer drink and share some groovy music and lots of laughs with Paul, Victoria and Steve.

Seating is limited, so get your tickets now. You can do so by calling the iO West Box Office at 323-962-7560 or by going to the iO West website at http://ioimprov.com/west/io/shows/the-vic-and-paul-show.

We hope to see you in Hollywood, August 9-12th, for a festive end to our great comic adventure!

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