On Friday, the cover of the Post-Dispatch’s Get Out section announced that Randy Rainbow would be performing live at the Pageant on Saturday. Why not? So, I scored a pair of primo tickets. We’ve been following his YouTube videos for some time and have been loving the likes of Desperate Cheeto, Yes! We Have No Steve Bannon!, Alternative Facts, and Rudy and the Beast. His schtick is to marry popular show tunes with pointed political satire that skewers the current administration. Collectively, they have over a 100 million views. He produces these videos himself, which showcase his love-hate relationship with Trump, “We are all going to die, but he has been so good for my career.” Randy Rainbow is his given name, his mother “wanted the gayest son possible and she got him.” Jewish, he grew up in Broward County, but now splits his time between there, NYC and near constant touring.
Accompanied by a four piece band and a big screen projected TV, each number would begin with a replaying of a video’s intro, giving him time for a quick costume change. Then he would come out to sing. I wondered how this was going to work, since much of his work uses a lot of green screen and the highly edited repartee with his interview subjects couldn’t be duplicated live. His show was 90 minutes, which included a Q&A with the audience or tea talk.
This was our first time in the Pageant, a U-City Loop Joe Edwards property. Since he owns most of the Loop now, he must have made a fortune that night, because business was really booming. Delmar was an end-to-end traffic jam. Afterwards, we got home just in time to catch the opening of SNL. Quite a night, quite a weekend! I wonder if anything new will be on the tellie tonight?
We caught the Rep’s final Ignite reading of the festival, Frida. This play is a biographical retelling of the life and career of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. She painted portraits, self-portraits and many other works inspired by Mexico.
Ignite has been occurring for eight years now. Billed as “new scripts out loud,” plays are read by equity actors, without costume, lighting or staging. At least that’s the plan.
In recent years, this model has undergone some scope creep. With Frida some of the actors were in costume, probably of their own making. There was some staging, usually with reading lectern in hand. Most importantly, since Frida is a musical, there was piano accompaniment. A long way from a full production, but also more than just a script reading. This recitation occurred in the Rep’s Studio Theater, a basement black box that was packed to standing room only.
Frida is portrayed as a fighter. As another audience member described this play, in the following Q&A, it is about “strong women and weak men.” It is also about the pain that she endured. Physically, she suffered from polio and a tragic collision between a street car and the bus that she was riding. “Six people died, four on the trolley and two on the bus.” Most of her pain was spiritual though. There was the death of her mother, her miscarriage, but most of all it was the philandering of her husband, the artist Diego Rivera.
He was older and the more famous artist. There was love, but she initially responded to his condescension and overbearance with her nickname for him, “the Toad.” After his unfaithfulness this morphed to simply “Fatso.” For a long time her art was dismissed. She was viewed as only the wife, but a tour of the United States or as it is called in song, “Gringolandia,” jumpstarted her career. Her return to Mexico City propelled her to full recognition.
As a reading, at three-and-a-half hours with intermission, Frida is a long play. Performing it would be even longer. As with any Ignite product, it is still a work in progress. Edits were being made right up to its reading. It will be interesting to see if Frida goes forward. It has a large cast, which at thirteen is large for a Studio production and might be envisioned going upstairs to the main stage.
Here are the girls at the Slammer’s current Rachel Whiteread exhibit. Anne is doing her best imitation of Gerhard Richter’s Betty, while Evelyn spotted me trying to surreptitiously take their photograph. After too many years, we hooked up with her again, when business brought her through town. Last night, we ate Italian at Mama’s on the Hill and this morning we dined at Southwest Diner, but mainly we talked, catching up on so many things.
Anne and Evelyn met in junior high and I met her in high school. She stood at our wedding and her witnessing signature is still on that bidding contract that is our marriage license. Like us, she has two boys. She is living in Richmond. She is now working for the CDC as an interviewer, part of a decades long survey of American health. Her job takes her all over the country. She had just finished a session in Alabama and was on her way to Iowa and had a one night layover in Saint Louis, which we stretched into the next day.
Today was supposed to be the Cardinal’s home opener, but rain has postponed that until tomorrow. A rainy day made for the perfect venue to go to the art museum though. Pictured below is the signature work in the Whiteread show. It is composed of twenty-five resin casts of the underside of chairs. Much of her work is devoted to the exploration of such negative spaces. We also had time to explore much of the museum’s permanent collection, including Chris’s Spanish doors. Evelyn was suitably impressed. I should mention that in Chicago we saw an analogous pair of doors, but their condition was in such a state of disrepair that any comparison with the ones here is almost insulting.