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Posts Tagged ‘Montana’

Broad Comedy: a cross between Jon Stewart, Saturday Night Live and the Vagina Monologues

In Artist Spotlight on May 17, 2009 at 4:16 pm

by Ray Sikorski

Broad Comedy Opening Number (submitted photo)

Broad Comedy Opening Number (submitted photo)

BOZEMAN, MT – Like many a performer before her, Katie Goodman has asked the age-old question of her traveling troupe: Will it play in Peoria?

In Goodman’s case, the question takes on a slightly different hue, because she lives in Peoria. Not the Peoria, but Bozeman, Montana, a town appropriate enough for its Middle America sensibilities. If Broad Comedy, the 10-year-old all-female song-and-dance comedy cavalcade she started with her husband, can gets cheers in Bozeman, it’ll fly just about anywhere.

Of course, for her latest show, Goodman was more concerned than usual. Maybe it was the Park Bench Mothers’ close-up demonstration of camel toe. Or the three walking vaginas, the youngest of which is paid a visit by a teenage penile suitor. Or perhaps it was the girl pledging to save her hymen for Jesus. Somehow, the show had turned out far raunchier than she had intended.

“After we got to dress rehearsal, we were like, ‘Oh, my god, what have we done?’” she says.

But despite the initial apprehension, the show garnered nothing but delight from the Bozeman crowd, who once again packed two nights of the 700-seat Emerson Theater to capacity.

“It’s such a good place to try material out and see if it works,” she says.

That’s not to say there haven’t been issues. Along with its ribald take on sexuality and women’s issues, the show’s left-of-center take on politics once started a vigorous, curse-laden shouting match between two female audience members while Goodman was mid-song.

That instance was an aberration, she says, adding that Bozeman is more worldly than people would expect. “But people in L.A. are definitely like, ‘Oh, do you have cowboys coming to your shows?’ We’re like, ‘Sometimes,’” she says, laughing.

What works in Bozeman seems to work everywhere – Broad Comedy has performed to rave reviews for an extended three-month run in Boston, as featured performers at the Ms. Magazine Foundation Fundraiser in New York City three years in a row, and won Best of the Vancouver Fringe Festival in 2005. Future shows are planned for Los Angeles and New Orleans, and the Edinburgh and Melbourne Fringe Festivals may be in the works.

“Somebody once said we’re a cross between Jon Stewart, Saturday Night Live, and the Vagina Monologues,” says Goodman, who just turned 41. Many of the skits are musical; she writes them with her husband, Soren Kisiel, with whom she also co-founded Bozeman’s Equinox Theatre Company.

“He’s like Plot Man. He conceptualizes really well,” she says. “I’ll be like, ‘I have this idea. What do we do with this?’ He’ll brood for five days and be like, ‘I’ve got it!’”

They both have backgrounds in theater, particularly musical theater – Goodman studied classical singing and had opera teachers for six years – but she says that she and Kisiel were heavily influenced by absurdist and experimental theater of the ’80s and ’90s – what she refers to as the “naked performance art era.” So, one might be confronted with a myriad of human-sized vaginas on-stage during any given show, as well as a giant ovum that interviews sperm to see who gets the job of fertilization.

Goodman, who ran the Philadelphia Women’s Theater Festival and started Los Angeles’ National Women’s Theater Festival after graduating from college, points to the feminist take on that skit, which she says is based on an actual theory that says the egg selects its sperm. She says that she often shares ideas for the show with her mother, Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman. “And it’s in the paper four days later, rather than in my show four months later. And it’s like, ‘Dammit, she stole our material!’”

Goodman recently published Improvisation for the Spirit, a self-help book about using the tools of improv comedy in everyday life. She also plans to do more solo work on stage, but she foresees doing Broad Comedy for a long, long time. “When I was 39 I was going, ‘Am I going to be doing the Extreme Right Wing Cheerleading Squad in my 40s? And playing this teenager in the hymen one?’  But once you pass a certain age it doesn’t matter because then it’s such a spoof, as opposed to I’m trying to look 18.”

Since the Broads started ten years ago, various performers have done their time in Bozeman and moved on – now there are 17 or so Broads in other parts of the country, who perform for out-of-town shows. Goodman, always on the lookout for new venues, says she hopes to rehearse new casts in cities throughout the country, so they can perform extended gigs.

“It’s such an open venue for me and Soren,” she says. “We could stop, we could take the material we have and tour that forever. But we love writing new stuff.”

More about Broad Comedy can be found at BroadComedy.com, or on YouTube by typing “Broad Comedy” into the search window.

Broad Comedy logo

Broad Comedy logo

Ray Sikorski wrote and directed his first one-act play in 1988, and his second 20 years later. He is a freelance writer based in Bozeman, Montana.

Additional articles by Ray Sikorski incude:

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Ryan Cassavaugh: humbly toiling in theater for applause

In Artist Spotlight on February 3, 2009 at 2:08 am

by Ray Sikorski

Ryan Cassavaugh's Waiting to be Taken photo by Brian Hayes

Riley Pittenger in Ryan Cassavaugh's "Waiting to be Taken", photo by Brian Hayes

BOZEMAN, MONTANA – Most 15-minute plays are slapdash affairs – spartan sets, shallow characters, simple plots. But playwright Ryan Cassavaugh takes his local one-act festival as an opportunity for vividness, texture, and depth.

“I like to come up with outrageous settings for my plays, because I find it’s more interesting to put real human emotion contradicted against something big and ridiculous,” says the 34-year-old Bozeman, Montana playwright. For example, Cassavaugh’s most recent offering, “Waiting to be Taken,” involves the subtleties of a forbidden gay relationship between a clown and a strongman in a Depression-era circus. “When you then get down to what’s really human about them, it’s more surprising than if you have two people sitting around a coffee shop table talking.”

Cassavaugh’s choice of 15-minute plays was not his to begin with – it’s a dictate of the Bozeman’s Equinox Theatre‘s annual one-act competition. In a city of about 33,000, there aren’t many opportunities for theatrical production, so a writer has to take advantage of any possibility. Along with the one-acts, he has written children’s plays, puppet shows, radio plays, sketch comedy, and full-length farces for the city’s annual Sweet Pea Festival. But the short one-acts is where his talent shines. In the five years of the competition, he has won Best Production, Best Script, Audience Favorite, or a combination of two of those for each of the five plays he’s entered. Cassavaugh has directed most the plays himself, with the help of his costume-designer wife, Sadie.

It’s easy to see why he’s done so well. His authentic-looking costumes and props have a tangible attention to detail. “I love the theatricalness of plays,” he says, hearkening back to the first play he saw as a child, a version of the Arabian Nights. He contrasts his own attention to the stage with that of minimalist one-acts, which may take place on a couch or at a coffee shop.

“They make really good scripts out of them, but that’s not what got me into theater,” he says. “I like being transported to somewhere else. I don’t want to go, ‘Oh, I recognize that couch,’”

But aside from the attention to visual detail, there’s the sheer effort Cassavaugh puts into writing, particularly expressing the human condition. Cassavaugh says he spent 2 ½ years writing “Waiting to be Taken,” stressing over every word. He overwrites, creating a 20-page script, then cutting it down to 12. He researches. He speaks of a strict hierarchy among circus people, in which a non-performer would never fraternize with a headliner – yet that hierarchy is never revealed to the audience.

“There’s a lot of tension there,” Cassavaugh says. “I don’t think people would understand where it comes from, but it helps me to know, and I think it helps make it more real, even if people don’t know why that tension is there.”

Other plays Cassavaugh has submitted to the festival have included “The Trifling Affair of an Ending, or the Ending of a Trifling Affair,” about Elizabethan-era actors on the run from an angry mob because their play had no ending, and “The Last Kings of America,” about two Civil War deserters who declare themselves monarchs.

“By the time I was done I had enough information to write a full-length play about these same characters,” he says of “Last Kings,” adding that he’s currently transforming that one-act into a full-length play.

That project, however, may take a while. After all, there’s no real outlet for it in Bozeman. He maintains a storage shed for his props and costumes in case there’s ever a call for a night of Cassavaugh one-acts, but that idea seems a bit far-fetched, too. He works in a record store, and his wife in a frame shop, to support themselves and their one-year-old daughter.

In a way, Cassavaugh is not unlike one of his characters: a curious sort living in a cold and unforgiving setting, toiling humbly for the sole reward of a hearty round of applause.

Ray Sikorski wrote and directed his first one-act play in 1988, and his second 20 years later. He is a freelance writer based in Bozeman, Montana.