Mystery Seance Theatre: review of HUMBUG

 

 

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Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of being humbugged by David London at the Branch Museum. Now you can just get your minds out of the gutter and know that to humbug someone means to deceive them with a light hearted intent as in a jest or rouse. Humbuggery is all about good clean fun and so was the show I saw, HUMBUG: The Great P. T. Barnum Seance brought to the Branch courtesy of The Firehouse Theatre.

London, creator of and sole performer in  is a magician  who incorporates magic tricks into informative performance art pieces. HUMBUG engages the audience in the history of P. T. Barnum and his career in the first act then allows 12 seance table ticket holders participate firsthand in a seance using a table of London’s own design while the other audience members watch.

This show is participatory all the way. Just as the ad for the show says London regales the audience with tales of Barnum’s life and illustrious career as he passes around artifacts associated with Barnum and the acts that made his museum and circus famous (some real, some not) then there is the “spirit” connection thing. What the ad for the show fails to convey is the magic tricks that London incorporates in the first act that truly astounded me – unless of course, I really am psychic.

I was chosen out of the audience to assist with a demonstration designed to prove a connection between items associated with a person and that person’s spirit. I was asked to hold a keepsake supposedly containing a lock of hair from the beard of Annie Jones one of Barnum’s most famous bearded ladies. Then I was asked to blindly identify cards with either her picture or that of a random bearded lady. Somehow they came out 100% correct! Upon reflection I have an idea of how the trick was executed but at the time it was smooth as silk and I was, along with the rest of the audience, genuinely surprised.

I mean we were all grown-ups and knew this wasn’t real but it was good entertainment all the same. My one criticism: London could use some tweaking in the acting department. He is good enough for the average theatre goer but could be smoother as a showman. That subtle difference would have drawn me into the piece to a higher degree making my suspension of disbelief that much more salacious.

This show is great for history buffs, people who like the mysterious or folks who are simply looking for a different kind of theatrical experience.

Playing one more weekend. For more information click here.

 

 

A “Positive Post” to Eva DeVirgilis from Mary in Richmond, Virginia:

 

In My Chair

Dear Eva,

I am so proud of you for showing up, taking a risk, and putting yourself and the stories of so many other women out there in the form of your one woman show, in my chair. It was a gigantic undertaking which has already, and I am sure will continue to, generate some empowering positive vibrations across the Universe by making women aware of debilitating behaviors like constantly apologizing about themselves and allowing their looks to be a primary factor in their societal value.

You are a good actress in your own right, smart, funny and talented so I was a little confused by the many “Wichman” acting quirks you incorporated in your performance. You can make this so much more YOUR style and it will double the value of the message. But I don’t suppose anyone who is unaware of your husband’s way of approaching characters will spot that. And it is a charming testament to how beautifully supportive you two are of each other – which you also make clear in the show. (Spot on with the imitation of Scotty watching a football game, BTW! You should totally keep that as you are playing him directly. It is adorbs.)

The story of how the show came to be is fascinating, the TEDxRVAwomen talk invite, the success of the talk itself, the 8 countries in 44 days tour, etc but some of the stats and deets are unnecessary to the message and might come off as a bit braggy which is a turn-off. For example, the part about how many views the TEDxRVAwomen talk got is great for your bio and a nice vehicle for getting your mother in the show but adds nothing to the play except annoying distraction. You are good enough, your message is strong enough and your play is good enough without this type of information.

Speaking of your mother…I found the character similarities between your mother and your nagging, inner voice, Norma, to be an interesting psychological twist. I know that my inner critic originates partly from my mother’s parenting choices ingrained in my psyche and it is often her voice I hear when I experience doubt, fear, or limitation. I assume this is universal. Awesome insight here, Eva!

I loved the interaction with the audience you incorporated into the script. Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of the show as a volunteer. I am really glad that I had the experience of being invited to stand up, asked to shout out, “I am a Leader!”, and receive the exhilarating energy from the audience as they shouted back to me, “We support you!” If that happened to me once a day I bet I could do anything and be wildly successful. It was an unexpected takeaway that I will use for inspiration for months to come. What a wonderful gift!

I am also grateful for the chance to give and receive a positive message (the ones you call positive posts) to and from another random woman. Women need to do a better job of supporting each other in terms of doing bigger and better things. As you demonstrate, little messages of encouragement can go a long way in this effort; pushing more of us to run for office, start and run successful businesses, make the changes that need to happen to give us the opportunities and status we require, deserve and deserve all over this planet.

I think this show is perfect for women of all ages, girls aged 10 and up and for any man who is looking to have a place at the table anytime in the future.

In the show you said you wanted critics to say in their reviews, “Eva, How are you so tiny and funny.” I have included those words in this post only because you said you wanted them. You are funny, Eva but you are not tiny. You are large in the sense that you are a powerhouse when you are honestly and authentically standing in your truth which is joyfully where you are for the majority of this play -and it shows! Those are the parts that shine. The audience can see and feel it and I bet you can too. It is when you are sharing the stories of the women you met across the globe and exposing your own vulnerabilities.

Keep the positive ripples going, Eva! Keep growing into your own power. Trust yourself and your instincts. You can do this work. You ARE doing this work.

YOU ARE A LEADER AND WE SUPPORT YOU!

 

 

To learn more about in my chair, click here.

photo by Jason Collins photography

WNRN Culture Connection: December 22 – 28

Chanukah is in full swing, Christmas begins in a few days and Kwanza is on the horizon so I have selected three holiday oriented events to get your festive on: Christmas tea at the Boarshead, the ogling of decorative lights on Monument Avenue and an opportunity to learn about Kwanza at the Legacy of African American History.

Click on the provided links to learn more about these featured events.

Tea:

http://www.boarsheadinn.com/holiday/

Kwanza Workshop:

http://www.discoverlynchburg.org/events/

Glitter Walk on Monument Ave:

http://thevalentine.org/calendar/holiday-glitter#

decorated for the holidays on Monument Ave

decorated for the holidays on Monument Ave

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Mary

The Culture Maven

“O” so fabulous Culture Connections June 24 – 29th

I had a great time choosing the culture connections to write about this week because I found three truly diverse activities in the wnrn listening area to crow about.  The theme that links these events is rhyming with “O”.

Starting with Poe…

Change your perspective on one of America’s most misunderstood authors at the Positively Poe Conference from June 24th through 26th at UVA. Hosted by the nonprofit Poe Museum of Richmond and the UVA Small Special Collections Library, this conference focuses on Poe’s positive contributions to literature, culture and science. One of the papers being read by my former classmate, Anne Margaret Daniel (who also did some work on The Great Gatsby, she is huge in the American Lit world) is titled, “Bob Dylan: ‘like being in an Edgar Allan Poe story’”.

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From Poe head to the Xpo…

 The Arts And Culture Xpo produced by nonprofit, Culture Works, gives you the chance to learn about over 100 Arts and Culture organizations from all over the Richmond region. The event, which is held at the Richmond Convention Center, is free and will feature performances by several performing arts company’s throughout the day. This is a great event to learn more about what is out there to do, see, volunteer for and learn how to do.

Then perhaps some vino..

Sip wines from local vineyards as you relax on the lawn of the Frontier Culture Museum during the Shenandoah Valley Wine and Jazz Festival on June 29th. The event, sponsored by Shenandoah Wine Trails, features great jazz by Robert Jospe and the Liz Barnes Trio. Admission to the event also includes admission to the Frontier Culture exhibits.

If you know of a cool event happening in the wnrn listening area shoot me an email at mary@wnrn.org and help to make a wnrn culture connection.

 

WNRN logo

 

 

You Asked for It…Now is your chance to sign up

One of the biggest concerns of Arts and Culture Orgs is shrinking media coverage.  So how will your organization compete for the smaller space allotted? In order to facilitate some peace, love and understanding between promotional seeking A&C orgs and the media, I am offering this course to help you get the edge on how to get your message out there.
Courting the Media 101
Thursday, May 23, 12:00-1:30pm
at CitySpace 
Pack a brown bag lunch and join PCA for “Courting the Media 101: Effective Strategies for Getting the Coverage You Want” with veteran media relations coordinator and arts and culture writer Mary Burruss. Get help in defining the current gap between the media and arts and culture coverage and what immediate steps you can take to bridge that gap for your organization.
Mary Burruss, has stood on both sides of the media fence as a public relations manager and a journalist for over a quarter century. She has worked with many arts organizations including The National Symphony Orchestra, and The Byrd Theatre Foundation to promote events and build brand awareness through media relations. She now maintains culturenuts.wordpress.com.
This workshop is $5 for PCA members, $10 for non-members. Advance registration is required. To RSVP, please email info@charlottesvillearts.org.

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