Showing posts with label Bootless Artworks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bootless Artworks. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Bootless Stageworks' "Bug" is a Creepy-Crawly Experience!

Melissa Kearney, Geremy Webne-Berhman,
David Hastings and Heather Ferrel in Bug.
I LOVE Tracy Letts! He’s a masterful playwright who’s biting humor peeks through the dark depths of his plays. His psychological thriller, Bug is quite an experience. The play is an engrossing piece of theater -- questioning how far someone will believe in another person’s distorted reality, because of the need to connect with another human.

Director and Scenic Designer Rosanne DellAversano has created a grim environment, which is needed for this ominous tale. Her vision keeps the audience engaged and questioning what will happen next.

Set in a Motel 6-like room in Oklahoma, where a honky-tonk waitress, Agnes White (Heather Ferrel) lives, drinks and does drugs with her friend, Roni (Melissa Kearney), and hides from her abusive ex-husband (David Hastings) who has recently been released from jail. One day Roni visits Agnes and brings a man, Peter (Geremy Webne-Berhman), whom she has recently met. While Roni leaves, Peter stays and begins a fast and tumultuous relationship with Agnes.

Peter has a questionable past. He believes the military has contaminated his body and is now conspiring against him. He draws the lonely and vulnerable Agnes into his twisted world. His reality becomes an escape for Agnes, who is trying to forget her melancholy past and connect emotionally and physically with a new man.

Ms. Ferrel and Mr. Webne-Berhman are compelling as Agnes and Peter. She evokes great sadness and despair, while he evokes madness and fear; think Norman Bates, appearing innocent, but truly menacing. Mr. Webne-Berhman’s glaring eyes easily make the skin crawl -- like feeling a bug walking up your arm. However, it is hard to understand him towards the end of the play, due to his lisp caused by his character’s self-induced mouth-infliction.

Bug is not for the faint of heart, but it is a unique play that will ignite great conversation after leaving the theater. Bug runs through March 14, at St. Stephen’s (1301 Broom Street, Wilmington).


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Wrapped Up in 'Fur'

By Guest Blogger, Christine Facciolo
Christine holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music and continues to apply her voice to all genres of music. An arts lover since childhood, she currently works as a freelance writer.
While Fifty Shades of Grey reduces sadomasochism to handcuffs and spanking, David Ives’ Venus in Fur — although not above dog collars and riding crops — delves deeper into the complex relationship between dominance and submission in an erotically charged play that revels in ambiguity.

The first scene of Bootless Stageworks’ production of this Tony-nominated play finds Thomas (Sean Gallagher) — the director/playwright of an adaptation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s scandalizing 1870 novella Venus in Furs — pacing around a dingy New York studio after a long day of auditions and complaining to his fiancée over the phone about the pathetic parade of ‘starlets.’ He wants nothing more than to go home when in storms the un-fashionably late Vanda (Kelly Warne), furiously shaking her umbrella and swearing about perverts on the subway. Vanda may share a name with Sacho-Masoch’s leading character, and she may have come at-the-ready in spike heels and black leather bustier, but at first glance she doesn’t seem any different from the other 35 ditzoids he’s seen that day.

That quickly changes when she cajoles Thomas into letting her audition for the part. That’s when things get interesting as the reading and role-playing turn into a tense, erotically-charged exchange. Soon, it becomes less and less clear who is directing and who is acting; who is choosing and who is supplicating. 

This is a play that depends heavily on its two actors, and director Rosanne DellAversano has done a superb job of casting. Obviously, Vanda is the meatier role, and Warne is wickedly masterful as she seamlessly transitions between the character’s various (at last count four) personae. In addition to the modern-day Vanda, the airheaded motor-mouth who dismisses Sacher-Masoch’s book as “porn” and the 19th Century Vanda, a haughty aristocrat with a Continental accent, there’s the seemingly intellectual Vanda who cites Greek mythology and offers cogent psychosexual insights. And she’s hilarious to boot. In the play’s comedic highlight, she lounges suggestively as a love goddess on the divan and, cooing an “I’ll be back” in a German accent that out-Schwarzeneggers even Schwarzenegger.

Through it all, her motives remain tantalizingly mysterious. We never find out how she managed to get hold of a full script instead of just the select pages Thomas provided for the audition or how she was able to commit it to memory from what she claims was a “glance-through” while riding the subway. And how does she know so much about Thomas and his fiancée? Is she a desperate — and clever — actress, or some sort of operative? Or could she really be — as the periodic thunderclaps hint — a goddess? 

Gallagher’s turn as Thomas is far less theatrical, but he conveys the sinewy contours of a complex character with admirable subtlety that plays well off Warne.

This is a taut psychological play that forces us to reexamine our notions of power, gender and sex. Yet for all its sexual tension, for all its stated and implied social criticism, Venus in Fur is plain funny. Ives’ humor keeps it from degenerating into the tawdry and provides a welcome levity that balances the play’s darker themes.

Additional performances run March 15 at 8:00pm; March 16 at 3:00pm; March 20 at 7:30pm; March 21 at 8:00pm; and March 22 at 8:00pm at The Black Box at OperaDelaware Studios, 4 S. Poplar Street in Wilmington.


Friday, January 24, 2014

Bootless Brings Monty Python's "Not the Messiah" Oratorio to Town for a Praise-worthy Fundraiser

Some companies put on The Messiah for Christmas. Bootless Stageworks, always marching to its own drummer, is putting on Not the Messiah (He’s A Very Naughty Boy), an Oratorio by Eric Idle and John DuPrez, based on Monty Python's Life of Brian, in late January. We had the opportunity to sit in on an early rehearsal for the show, conducted by Bootless Music Director James W. Fuerst and featuring two dozen singers from Bootless, NewArk Chorale and other area theater companies as well as 20 orchestra musicians from Bootless, Wilmington Community Orchestra, Newark Symphony, Diamond State Concert Band, First State Symphonic, Chesapeake Brass Band and University of Delaware Orchestra. Everyone involved in this fundraising production is doing it on a volunteer basis, and the enthusiasm for the piece shows through. You may remember soloists Geoff Bruen, Kimberly Christie, Cynthia Ballentine, and Michael Popovsky from Bootless' 2012 production of Jerry Springer: The Opera (among other area Opera Productions), and Justin Walsh from the always-popular Evil Dead: The Musical. That so many talented folks have come out to donate their time is a testament to both the appeal of Not the Messiah and the small theater company that has not been without its struggles in the past couple of years.

About a year ago, it looked like Bootless, a nomadic "pop up" theater company, had found a permanent home in Newport, Delaware. The location had one major problem: it lacked a parking lot, and the company couldn't get the go-ahead to build one. Homeless again, Bootless struck a deal with OperaDelaware to utilize its Black Box theater, but scheduling conflicts with that space's longtime resident, City Theater Company, have prevented it from becoming its permanent home (though Bootless' next show, Venus in Furs, will be performed there in March).

For Not the Messiah, the company is utilizing one of Wilmington's best kept secrets: the Down's Cultural Arts Center at Ingleside Retirement Apartments, located at 1005 North Franklin Street."It's a great deal for non-profit organizations," says Bootless Executive and Artistic Director, Rosanne DellAversano. "It's free to use for non-profits. They're working to bring programs to the venue, where a percentage of tickets go to the residents." In addition to enriching the lives of the residents, the venue is open to the public.

Not the Messiah will have just two shows, on Friday January 31, and Saturday February 1. Both shows will be at 7:30 pm. Tickets for are $25 General Admission, $20 for Seniors and Military, and $18 for Students, and include complimentary refreshments at intermission. All proceeds will benefit Bootless Artworks. To purchase tickets, and for more information about Bootless, go to

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Bootless Gets Rowdy with Jerry Springer

Robert Bove as Jerr
If you’re familiar with Wilmington’s Bootless Stageworks, you know it never shies away from controversial work — and JERRY SPRINGER, THE OPERA (featuring Delaware Arts Info Blog's own Jessica Graae!) is one of the most no-holds-barred shows they’ve done yet. The British opera (based, of course, on the American “trash-TV” show) has met with protests in the UK since it opened in 2003, offending the religious and sensitive while simultaneously racking up awards. The Bootless production takes the relatively large-scale show and capsulizes it into an intimate, almost interactive event in OperaDelaware’s tiny Black Box theater.

A couple of things to know about JERRY SPRINGER: First, it’s a true 
opera -- almost. All of the characters sing all of their lines in operatic style with two exceptions: Jerry himself, and his Security guy Steve. And second, there is more profanity, sexual innuendo, culturally insensitive language and stereotyping than any other show I can think of off hand. And that doesn’t even include the portrayals of God, Jesus and Satan in the third act. Expect it to be extremely funny, expect it to be dark, expect plenty of social commentary, but don’t expect political correctness.

As Jerry, 2012 WMGK Comedy Contest winner Robert Bove effectively 
takes a central role in the middle of the madness that is his show, with its frenzied audience and parade of lying, cheating guests, all of whom are on the show to reveal a dark secret (or two) to their partners. Catfights, pole-dancing, and emotional solos ensue. When one guest is revealed to be a member of the KKK, things turn violent, moving the action to Purgatory and, eventually, Hell.

The stellar casts features some of the region’s brightest rising opera  singers, including Jessica Graae, Elizabeth Zell, Michael Popovsky, Kimberly Christie, Michael Gamache and Cynthia Ballentine, as well as local musical theater denizens Colleen McGinnis, Nichalas Parker, Geoff Bruen, and Robb Russ. Every character (and each actor plays at least two) has their “Jerry Springer Moment” where he or she gets to steal the scene — or at least co-steal it.

The live orchestra, led by James W. Fuerst, blended with the voices 
without overpowering them nearly perfectly — no small feat in such a small room, with actors who are not mic’d.

Hearing beautiful singing voices use extremely profane language is a 
big part of the show’s appeal — it’s a juxtaposition that never fails to entertain (though a lot of classic operas are full of similar scandals, so it’s both modern-day parallel and juxtaposition). For this, alone, I would recommend the show. But the JERRY SPRINGER is also more than a freak show — it’s an honest commentary on the cult of “junk” culture that goes deeper than you might expect.

Jerry Springer, The Opera runs through Saturday, October 20. Reserve tickets at

(This review also appears in Stage Magazine)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Star Wars: A New Musical Hope for Bootless

Star Wars: A New Musical Hope, Bootless Stagework's much-anticipated summer show, was timed perfectly. Opening just a week after the Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con, with its light sabre training classes and the famous 501st Legion of Imperial Storm Trooper costume players, area fans are still mentally in a galaxy far far away -- and Star Wars the Musical is a nice way to top it off.

Don't expect 501st-level costuming (although some of the costumes, most notably Chewbacca and a motorized R2D2, are amazing) -- that's not what this show is about. Adapted by Jeremy Gable, it's a campy parody of Episode IV (known simply as Star Wars to anyone over the age of 30) set to music. Sort of a cross between "Family Guy's" Blue Harvest and a Broadway musical. Funny one-liners are woven into faithful stage incarnations of movie scenes, with original songs by Timothy Edward Smith and Hunter Nolan. Whether you find the gags funny depends a lot on your relationship with the film -- fans will follow the humor easily, while I imagine anyone who isn't well familiar with the series is likely to be lost.

Some of the gags, especially involving John Rachlin's Darth Vader and Christopher Todd-Waters as C3PO, are very successful; others, like Han Solo (Ryan Mulholland) declaring that he has a "case of the Mondays" are a bit too corny, even for goofy comedy. The show actually works best when it's not trying to be funny -- an original "filler" scene featuring Princess Leia (Maria Leonetti) in her cell after her planet has been destroyed, the confrontation between Obi-Wan (Shaun Yates) and Darth Vader, and the Rebel Squadron's climactic mission, are definite highlights. The laughs are there, though -- my 12-year old son laughed throughout. The show features some stellar vocal talent, but at the end of the day, this is a show geared toward Star Wars fans before lovers of musical theater.

Star Wars: A New Musical Hope runs through June 17 at OperaDelaware's Black Box theater. Tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Bootless Artworks' Dead Man's Cell Phone

Lindsey Burkland as Jean
As much as I know Bootless Artworks would prefer to have their own permanent theater (and who can blame them?) there’s something exciting about going to a different location for every Bootless play. It’s like an adventure, especially when the theater is an empty storefront in the Shipyard Shops, as it was for last year’s The Pillowman, and as it is for the current show, Dead Man’s Cell Phone.

The makeshift (and I mean that in the best sense of the word) theater has a low stage and about 45 seats on risers, ensuring that there isn’t a bad seat in the house. On Saturday night, the place was packed -- I think they even added a few extra seats. Bootless has been offering online deals for this show, and it seems it’s paying off. After Dead Man’s Cell Phone, I would bet that many of the new patrons will be back.

Directed by Rosanne DellAversano, who also designed the sets and costumes, Dead Man’s Cell Phone tells the story of a woman named Jean (Lindsey Burkland), who finds herself caught up in a whole new life when she starts answering the cell phone of a dead man in a cafe. The dead man, Gordon (Randall McCann), had a mysterious life filled with colorful characters, including his somewhat neurotic firecracker of a mom, played by Ruth K. Brown; his basket case wife, played by Jennifer Huth; his mistress, played by Lauren Ojeda; and his lonesome brother, played by Bob DeMarco. Jean, as the last person to see Gordon alive, delivers them messages of his final thoughts and words -- despite the fact that she never actually spoke to him.

Bob Demarco as Dwight and Lindsey Buckland as Jean

There’s more to Sarah Ruhl’s darkly comic story, as it takes a surreal turn and we learn more about Gordon than the idealized image Jean has built up. At its core, Cell Phone is about yearning to make real connections in an electronic world. It’s funny, well-acted, and fresh -- a bargain at any price.

You can still catch Dead Man’s Cell Phone this weekend through February 4 (the Sunday show has been cancelled). See for more information.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Passing Strange at Bootless

Stew, the creator/subject of Passing Strange, and collaborator Heidi Rodewald chose just five theater groups in the US to perform the stage version of the show this year; Wilmington's Bootless Artworks was one of them. Still essentially homeless (they are taking up in The Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew & Matthew in downtown Wilmington for this show), Bootless continues to show that they're a major force in Delaware theater.

My last Bootless show was The Pillowman, an incredible, and incredibly dark, comic piece put on in an empty outlet store on the Riverfront. Passing Strange is positively light in comparison, but the journey is deep and real.

Directed by Malika Oyetimein and James W. Fuerst, the musical is narrated by Stew (Jerry Rudasill), who introduces his teenage self (Cory Hindorff) and his mother (Cherie Jazman), a comfortably middle class black family in Los Angeles. She drags him to church, where he finds after-hours inspiration from the secretly free-spirited choir director (B.K. Elam) who never left home. His punk band flounders, and, terrified of never moving past his neighborhood, he leaves his mother for Europe -- and the promise of creative freedom, sex and drugs. The farther he gets from home, the farther he gets from himself, until his life is a performance of "passing," gaining acceptance from a group of German radicals by using his non-existent ghetto street cred. Humorous, yes, and also quite poignant. The Narrator was shaped by the choices made by his naive young self, but it wasn't without loss.

Hindorff is a star. And by that I don't just mean the star of this production, which he is, but a star, period. It's what I thought when I saw him in Cats at NCT in January, and my feeling has only been reinforced with Passing Strange. The ensemble includes four actors who take on triple roles as characters in LA, Amsterdam and Berlin -- Candace Thomas, Kori Beaman, Keith Wallace and B.K. Elam -- all of whom transformed dramatically and convincingly throughout.

The show features a live band, which was one of the main concepts of the original version, Travelogue. On preview night, the band sounded great, but at times drowned out the stage performers. Hopefully, the sound issues have been resolved.

Passing Strange runs through October 15. Ages 15 and up. For tickets, click here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Twisted Times: The Pillowman at Bootless

Katurian K. Katurian just wants to share his stories with the world -- which, for him, happens to be a totalitarian police state in the far-off future. He finds himself in an interrogation room with two brutal police officers questioning him about his short stories. But what starts off as a seemingly typical dystopian storyline morphs into a twisted tale of torture, innocence, art and brotherhood. Is Katurian being interrogated for expressing himself creatively, or is it something darker -- something any good cop would investigate? The roles that seem so clear-cut over the first half hour of The Pillow Man, Bootless Artworks' second show in their first season as a professional theater, become more complicated as the show progresses.

Written by Irish/English author Martin McDonagh and directed by Daniel Student, The Pillow Man follows Katurian and his brother Michal (who has the mental capacity of a young child) through a nightmarish day in prison. As Katurian, Sean Close is a sympathetic everyman who lives for his art. Katurian's stories are sick and twisted, the result of a shocking childhood. Michal, played by the engaging Kyle Yackoski, is the only family he has, and his biggest fan. They are lorded over by the two police on their case, Detective Tupolski (Jim Ludovici), the "good cop," and Detective Ariel (James C. Jackson), the "bad cop." As the show progresses, the seemingly caricatured cops develop in unexpected ways. Villains become anti-heroes, and maybe even almost-heroes. It's up to you to reconcile their brutality, and the (possible) brutality of the brothers.

Everything in The Pillow Man hits the mark, from the performances to the set design to the sound, lighting and video. TV screens survey the action at times; at others, they enhance the stories.

Katurian's stories are shared, sometimes told within the scenes and sometimes told with the aid of some very creepy  Little Bunny Voodoo puppets. The stories within the story are like mortar -- without them, the larger piece wouldn't hold together. The title character, the Pillow Man, is a creation of Katurian (or is he?) who benevolently aids in the suicides of young children who are doomed to lead horrific lives. When they say this is a black comedy, they mean it -- this  is about as dark as it gets. It's closer to horror, really. If you can take it, this is a show you should not miss.

The Pillow Man runs through April 9 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., with a 3:00 p.m. matinee on Sunday, April 3, and a an "Industry Night" on Thursday April 7 at 7:30 p.m. Shows are located at Bootless' temporary site at 980 Justison Street in the Shipyard Shops (just past Planet Fitness). Tickets are just $16/$12 for seniors and students. For tickets, call (302) 887-9300  or e-mail the box office at

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Going Local, Going Original!

Kicking off a marathon month of original works, Bootless Artworks presented Simply Short: An Evening of One Acts. City Theater Company follows up with By George! a collection of short plays by the company’s resident playwright and actor, George Tietze. Rounding off this exciting month, the Delaware Theatre Association will present the daylong DTA Fest at Middletown’s Everett Theater on March 27.

Bootless Artworks’ presentation of Amanda Healy’s Coffee and Rain, directed by Malika Oyetimein, is a drama that unfolds on a New York City street and explores a difficult mother-daughter relationship. The Homeless Man, played by Brooks Banker, controls the setting as he snaps his fingers, adding wise, magical commentary and giving depth to the work.

Joseph Pukastch’s hilarious Nectar provides a window into a support group for those with bizarre sexual fetishes. Andrew Mitchell as Joshua is wildly funny as he exposes his “vegesexual” desire for fruit plates and salads. Puktasch, who also directs the production, has a gift for rich, playful language. He leaves us wondering about the “teasing with a tilapia” and the havoc “otherness” and obsession can wreak in a person’s life.

Prelude to a Kiss is a sweet drama of love gone wrong between a man and his new bride. Artfully pared down to a one-act format by director Rosanne DellAversano, the play is moving as it touches on themes of lost love and innocence. Lindsey Burkland (Rita) was lovely as both the young bride and her “body-snatched” double. Along with Nectar, this Prelude will be presented at the DTA Fest.

In BY GEORGE, Tietze’s short plays are billed as comedies, though some of the material is distinctly dark. He doesn’t shy away from difficult or squirm-worthy subjects. The opening piece, G Dub, directed by Kevin Regan, is a farcical scene of George Washington and his lackeys paddling across the Delaware. As George, Brian Couch is vain and absurd. Like Pukastch, Tiezte gets mileage out of “therapy” theme: In his two-person play A to Z, directed by James Kassees, Kate Brennan is the unloved, misunderstood wife (She) who tries techniques she has learned in couples therapy on her beleaguered husband (He), played by Anthony Bosco. The actors handle Tiezte’s rapid-fire repartee and shifts in power with finesse, and the scene comes to an interesting climax and somewhat unexpected resolution.

Outstanding was Voodoo Barbie, a dark and almost unwieldy comedy, directed by Todd Holtsberry. Melissa Dammeyer’s portrayal of a drunken, abandoned wife (Rachel) is both comical and heart-wrenching. Lucy Charles is wonderful as Margie, the forgotten daughter who acts out scenarios using her forbidden Barbies and serves a commentator on her parents’ pathetic lives. Kevin Regan appears only at the end of the play as the personified voice of Bob, the wretched husband and father who is the drama’s center. His remorse is so complete, his voice so sincere, that we almost wish Rachel would pick up the phone and let him back into their lives.

See DTA Fest:

See Bootless Artworks:

See City Theater Company:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Catch the Rabbit!

December 11 and 12 at the Arden Gild Hall, Bootless Artworks presents The Velveteen Rabbit, a puppet musical by Simon Chan adapted from the beloved book by Margery Williams. Directors Roseanne DellAversano and James Fuerst revised the show with the musical’s creator, Simon Chan, adding puppets to make it more accessible and fun.

The adorable hand puppets, created by DellAversano and Fuerst, are small enough to allow the audience to enjoy the actor’s voices and movements, yet they lend a fairytale feel to the show.

Sweet and playful, most of the story is set in the boy’s bedroom, where his toys come to life, arguing about which one of them is better and more loved. Big boxy toys Choo-Choo and Steamy, played by Sarah Blandy and Carlos Alicea respectively, take over the stage with their fine singing and bossy presence. Melissa Castillo (Velveteen Rabbit),is touching as she comforts the ailing Boy with her song, “All Through the Night”. Singing “The Use of Love” from atop a pile of trash, she is sure to move even the meanest fourth-grade class bully. Gary Hubbard (Harold) and Kimberly Pryor (Gwendolyn) are a riot in the jazzy song/dance number, “This Ain’t No Rabbit” as they mock and poke the forlorn stuffed animal. By the end of the show, both the boy, sung beautifully by Hunter Reed, and the Velveteen Rabbit find acceptance and love.

Bootless Artworks is committed to bringing theater to the community. Along with securing grants allowing for schools serving low-income populations to attend performances, the directors created a handbook for teachers of students up through 12th grade. This book gives tips on creating puppet-theater and provides a guide for the literary analysis.


Jessica Graae