joe brack relaxing at home

Joe Brack is the youngest actor in Washington DC to climb Mount Ararat carrying a crab basket of despondent Guinea pigs on his back. But this is so commonplace within the artistic community, I’m not sure why I lead with that information. I could also be thinking of someone else. Regardless, he’s a well-respected actor despite his obsession with the plight of small rodents. I sat down with him in an abandoned roller derby arena to learn what makes him work, other than food, oxygen, human contact, and liquids.

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Strange: Good morning Mr. Brack, what is your show at the 2012 Capital Fringe Festival?

Brack: ‘My Princess Bride’: one man’s take on S. Morganstern’s classic tale of true love and high adventure.

Strange: As eye-clawingly boring as that sounds, I saw the show. How do you prepare for such an amaz . . . I’m very sorry, I misread that question . . . were you purposely trying to hurt my feelings?

Brack: If I had any impact at all on your “feelings”, whatever those are, I’ve done my job as an acting person. Least, that’s what I’ve heard around the Baldacchino tent.

Strange: It was a trick question I have no feelings. Because there was no effect one way or the other, have you done your job or failed? Further, do you still have a mind after I blew it to pieces with that paradox?

Brack: Sorry, I got a call on the other line. Did you say something?

Strange: You are astoundingly rude. Moving on, what is your next theatrical/artistic/revolutionary endeavor and how can we avoid it?

Brack: I am playing Rossencraft in Taffety Punk’s bootleg of ‘Hamlet: The Bad Ass Quarto’ . . . avoid it, HA!

Strange: So, why exactly are you an actor?

Brack: The simple fact that it grants me a profession that requires no “real world” skills. Zero responsibility. Amazing hours. That and all the attention.

Strange: So you’re saying you’re a societal leech?

Brack: I am a leech in the medical sense. I help society to bleed for it’s own betterment. To remove the fever from the masses is my true goal. I suck to aid in healing.

Strange: Well, you’ve certainly got the suck part down. Oh, so droll. Society hates you and your artsy brethren. Do you think we should be concerned about theatre artists?

Brack: Concerned, no. Make pretend can pose no threat unless provoked. Jealous of and voraciously attracted to, without doubt.

Strange: Speaking of voracious attraction, how would you react if you found out we were related?

Brack: I’d demand unquestionable, infallible, absolute, DNA proof and valid photo ID from all your/our female relatives.

Strange: I preemptively made calls. Again, just entertaining the possibility, would you call me Uncle Xander or some other term of endearment?

Brack: I don’t believe in titles. All my true blood uncles have nicknames given to them by their siblings when the newest addition to the family is born. Judging by the names given to my existing uncles: Jucifer, Pecker Blossom, and Disappointing Stain, I assume you’d be given a name reflective of your more likable qualities.

Strange: Superfluous Arm Nipple does have a nice ring to it. Can I still come to your family gatherings until we get word one way or the other?

Brack: You’re always welcome to the ranch, but beware of Uncle Initiation.

Strange: I’m curious Mr. Brack, what effect do the words of critics have upon you?

Brack: They are the only voice of reason. They are the note inside the bottle that floats aimlessly across the seas of self-indulgence and moral depravity. Judging an entire community, without actually being a contributing part of said community proves one’s superior abilities as a…uhm…as a philanthropist?

Strange: I wholeheartedly concur. If I wasn’t here to tell you how to feel about yourself, where would you be?

Brack: I’d love to try playing ‘Operation’. As a child Father never allowed battery operated devices in the house. He said it was a distraction from Mother’s duties. I remember in the school yard my fellow classmates would rave about this buzzing light up game, where one would attempt to remove vital parts of a hobo’s anatomy without touching the sides. Sounds intriguing and I’ve always wanted to give it a go.

Strange: My father and I played a game similar to your ‘Operation’ but it involved dissecting exhumed cadavers. While it was a spectacular father/son bonding experience, your version sounds much more satisfying. I also probably could have avoided my years of what I like to call “dark corner cowering fun time!”. These hobos didn’t light up after all.

Brack: . . .

Strange: Hooray! . . . Hypothetical Round: You wake up in waterbed, painted from head to toe in cottage cheese, next to Calvin Coolidge, why?

Brack: If I awoke with the chalky after-effects of my Dramamine/Lactaid cocktail, I’d think it would have to be Thursday, 7am central time. Otherwise; “C.C.” drunk dialed, I probably forgot the dry-cleaning again, and one of the little matadors had better have cab fare. Hypothetically.

Strange: Do the words “I have photos” evoke anything in you?

Brack: Topical cream and perhaps a daiquiri of the fruity variety…

Strange: So, you’re saying you’re not easily blackmailed or you want to take me on vacation and heal my stubborn rashes?

Brack: If you went camping, and one morning you woke-up to find a condom in your ass, would you tell anyone?

Strange: No, I wouldn’t.

Brack: Want to go camping?

Strange: . . .

Brack: . . .

Strange: . . .

Brack: . . .

Strange: . . . I think we’re done here.
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You can see Mr. Brack in ‘My Princess Bride’ at the 2012 Capital Fringe Festival until today July 29th, 2012. Taffety Punk’s ‘Hamlet: The Bad Ass Quarto’ will be performed at Folger Theatre on August 6th, 2012 at 7 pm. I give you this information for your own safety.

Learn more about Mr. Brack and his evil plan at his website Joe Brack Takes Over the World

Strange at Fringe, part the IV

The agonizing journey continues.

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I arrived at Woolly Mammoth Theatre being promised I would see the latest offering from Dog and Pony DC. Instead I accidentally wandered into a town hall meeting of the tiny American hamlet, Beertown, or as I prefer to call it: haven for chainsaw wielding serial killers. The natives of this creepy alcoholic libation commune attempted to interact with me, all smiles and friendly neighborhood sadism! I ignored them and simply drank the lemonade they’d offered me . . . horror of horrors, LEMONADE? From a rag tag band of nostalgia driven psychopaths? Strange, you fool!

The proceedings of the meeting were underway before I had time to scream “I will not join your spring harvest cult and you will not feed me bumblebees!” Apparently every 4000 years the residents of Beertown dig up the remains of their relatives and decide who gets to keep their grave and who gets to be put in a metal box and sent into space. I was able to spy on these macabre proceedings, and readers, what I have to report is horrifying! I kept my fingers crossed that I’d still get a chance to see that dog and cute pony.

We learned about the history of the town. To sum up, they are drunks. And they all secretly hate each other.

Three of the townspeople presented objects they’d stolen as offerings to the alcohol deities. They were also attempting to prevent being ritually sacrificed on the “time capsule” altar! One man presented a piece of wood (definitely going to be sacrificed, I thought), one young lady, the mayor’s daughter, presented a cardboard sign (debatable sacrificial fodder), and one woman presented a rock (I would say destined for the next world, but I was scared of her gleeful psychotic delight and she can probably hear me). Then, we the townspeople voted on who would be sacrificed to the beer gods.  All the people around me were suggesting ideas on why that guy deserved to have his heart eaten, and why she deserved to have her eyeballs removed. There was discussion of jars of smoke (sorcery), movie projectors (religious propaganda), and family bibles (obviously spell tomes).

I raised my hand not having listened to the conversation and said “Beertown, I want you to know, I don’t really live here, so first of all, take that! But I’ve seen your evil ways, I know your secrets, and frankly you sicken me! You will never get my liver!” and ran from the room.

I heard someone yelling the incantation: “Sir, it’s not real, it’s just a pla . . . ” but I was out the door before he could lure me with his saccharine smile of death. Warning: if you ever find yourself in Beertown, keep driving, lest you end up on the end of a pitchfork!

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Full disclosure: Joshua Morgan and Brian Sutow recently tried to make me end my life with their production of ‘Suicide, Inc.’ this has impacted the objectivity of my review, the bastards.

Joshua Morgan (critter) and Brian Sutow (director) are bastards.

This is a show about super heroes being pathetic. And while I could relate and appreciate those with immense power actually being utter losers (my father was immensely powerful, but couldn’t put on clothes without breaking bones or setting the house on fire) I was troubled by the suggestion that anyone would sing their thoughts.

A new “art” form has been invented here, known as a “musical”. In it people move around like a normal play, but when they feel compelled to heights of emotional bursting they sing, and dance, and pretend this is typical behavior. If one of you started singing your thoughts to me, I would kick you the shins and say “behave yourself, goblin child”. I questioned why no one did this here. I suggested several times that they do so, but they couldn’t hear me over the piano rock stylings echoing from the wings magically coinciding with their emotional journeys and flippant dance moves.

The plot: Supernova is a lowlife drug fiend who needs to feed his turtle, but also has the previously mentioned singing problem and meets a group of superheroes who also have this bizarre condition (among others). Everyone in the audience around me seemed to be delighted, clapping in unison with the music, smiling like amphetamine stuffed banshees, and laughing at the misadventures of these hapless cads. I tried to clap so as not to feel left out, but having never done this before, I kept missing my own hands.

In the end I was left with one true sadness: the actress playing The Scarlet Letter was dressed in a tight leather-like skirt, low-cut bustier, and boots, essentially looking like a high-end prostitute, and while I understand the limited budgets of fringe shows it was sad that they couldn’t afford a costume.

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Finally a show that proves that all British women are completely insane.

This is a play set in the Goethe Institut, where two women with monosyllabic names ramble to each other about being completely off the wall bananas. We know they’re crazy, Goethe knows they’re crazy, they’re the only ones in the dark. And Goethe has let us be voyeurs to their plummy madness.

Goethe never appears on stage unfortunately, but you feel his efficient German eye dictating the proceedings. Perhaps he was running the light board. There was something extremely precise and orderly about the technical aspects of the proceedings, like a well placed umlaut guiding us by our skeletal hands to elongated vowels.

If I hadn’t been made aware of the women’s “prisoner status” by their matching costumes I would have believed I was simply witness to a quotidian conversation of the English female. Completely incomprehensible, centered on Doris Day and witchcraft, and filled with nonsensical exclamations “bloody this, bloody that”, “oh jolly rot rot jiggery pokery”, “nob nob bugger, queen vic, give me a digestive guvnah”, etc.

A woman next to me said “oh, their madness and loneliness is so moving”. I replied “Moving? Are you British? Didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know. English women are mad as bicycles”. She tiresomely responded “That seems culturally insensitive and offensive”. To which I responded, “Yes madame, and you are ugly, but in the morning I shall be sober”. Score one for Xander Strange.

If you are about to marry a limey slag this is the show for you, a warning if you will, of what’s to come. Utter nincompoopy gibberish all with an air of repressed politeness.

As the British would say “Blimey mate, apples and pears, jaffa cakey copper bollocksy give us a pint”.

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More Capital Fringe Festival 2012 reviews to come in the next moons, once I have recovered my sense of sight and smell from these previous offerings.

Strange Answers: The Dark Knight Rises Edition

entertainment hasn’t made this much sense since the finale of ‘lost’

Be warned, SPOILERS AHEAD, so if you haven’t seen the film and want to make me happy, keep reading.

I’ve received a flood of correspondences about Christopher Nolan’s new film The Dark Knight Rises. There seem to be a lot of questions about various aspects of the film. Xander, please answer this, Xander, please answer that. I will solve these mysteries for you and you will no longer be confounded by this film that clearly makes perfect sense.

Can you explain the backstories of the new characters?

Well, Bane got his face ripped off and now wears a mask that stops that from hurting. He got the mask from . . . um . . . well . . . and it works by . . . uh . . . and now he wants to destroy Gotham because that will kill him and everyone in the city because that will give the power back to the people (who are now dead). And all because he loves Talia because she’s . . . well, she’s Marion Cotillard.

Catwoman, Selina Kyle, likes to steal stuff, so she’s started stealing for Bane, because he’d be sure to contact a petty thief, and of course she’d want to steal for no face man. And she’s really good at fighting because she trained at . . . um . . . and he found her because she’s . . . well . . . she also potentially lives/hangs out with/talks to/is in love with a random blonde girl who also steals and she’s important because . . . she’s important because . . . there were no other blonde women in the film.

Why did the only major female characters both betray Batman?

Because Christopher Nolan wants us to know that women are weak and can’t be trusted. And in the particular case of Talia, if you give women power (making her the CEO of a company for instance) they will fail you and stab you in the ribs. He’s really a prophet of our times.

Why did Catwoman and Batman fall in love?

Well, clearly because she betrayed him. I mean, then he got his back broken and was locked in a mysterious prison for several months. Isn’t that always the way we fall in love? Pretty consistent with my romantic interests.

Where is the underground prison?

Somewhere east. Couldn’t you tell by the desert and foreign looking buildings. I like to call it Foreignstan.

When Batman gets out of the prison there’s a town in the background, doesn’t that sort of not make the prison secret?

You would think, but that town in the background is actually a town of completely blind people, so they actually have no idea that there’s a prison there. This also explains why no one has ever just dropped a rope down into the completely unguarded and open air prison to help the people out.

How did Batman get from [Foreignstan] to Gotham so quickly if he had nothing?

Well, he walked to the blind people town and asked if anyone would drive him to the airport, and then he borrowed a thousand dollars from one of them to pay for his plane ticket. Then he shaved on the plane and put on his eyeliner so that he’d be ready to put on his batman cowl as soon as he got home.

How is the underground prison in [Foreignstan] able to get American cable news?

Didn’t you hear Bane’s comment that he grew up in hell. Well, there’s your answer. Not sure how they wired that place though, must be a bitch trying to get service from the cable company!

Why did the guard blow the bridge when Blake tried to walk across it?

Because that’s what a reasonable guard would do. Blow one of the only remaining routes out of the city for millions of people because of one man who simply wasn’t going to stop calmly and slowly walking forward. What would you suggest? That he send a guard out to halt him or shoot him and stop him dead in his tracks, don’t be ridiculous!

Wouldn’t fixing a broken back by hitting the person in the back and tying them up to full body sling, as the guy does for Batman, not work at all?

I’m going to break my own back and get back to you on this one. My vote? It will probably work!

Who are those other people in the prison and why are they important?

Make up your own story. I like to call the one guy who spoke in another language, Geoff. They’re important because people speaking in foreign languages are scary.

Did having Talia stab Batman reduce Bane’s threat throughout the whole film, making him sort of irrelevant and serving no other purpose in the film than to be hired muscle?

Yes, yes, it did. Look, if you wanted a character that really had a point and a satisfying arc other than ‘I loved you from when you were a child so that’s why I’m so angry and I’ll do anything you say’ go watch a Stanley Kubrick film or something. You get basic motivations and then sometimes not even that here, and that’s what makes it wonderful for everyone.

Why did Ra’s Al Ghul appear to Batman in a vision?

What kind of great movie would this be without a spontaneous expository hallucination? Because without it how would Batman and the audience have figured out who Bane is and then Talia. Classic film-making, explain it with a hallucination!

Why was Blake a suitable heir to take over the Batman job?

Well, he’s very curious. Also, he told those children to get back on a bus so they didn’t have to be frightened when the nuclear bomb was about to explode. That’s what Batman would do. And because Batman had spent all of 35 minutes with him (you know since he’d been in a prison in Foreignstan for half the film and hadn’t really gotten to know him well) that’s how you pick candidates for important jobs. And he’s very good looking.

Is there an agenda with this film?

Yes, Christopher Nolan wants us all to know that if anyone stands up to authority, or criticizes wall street, or financial institutions, or the city’s governments, or tries to take power back for the people, then they are obviously terrorists and will blow up your football stadiums. All city police forces are morally sound and totally just. Clearly the liberal and progressive message that Nolan ascribes to . . . oh wait . . .

Why was every single scene scored with overwrought dramatic music?

Because if it wasn’t, how would you know what to feel silly billy?

Why was the majority of the film about Bruce Wayne needing to climb a wall?

Because it’s a Batman movie! Do you know nothing? The best thing to do in a Batman movie is take Batman out of the action and out of his costume for 60% of the film, put him in a place that has no logic and nothing to do with anything, and let him rot. They really should have called this “Batman: The Most Batman Movie About Batman Ever: The Batman Movie”.

How did Bruce Wayne know what cafe to go to so that Alfred would see him at that moment at the end of the film?


How did Bruce Wayne get to the country where Alfred is at the end of the film, and have a new suit, and look so well off, if he left all his money to Alfred and was last seen blowing up in his bat plane?

Well, he’s with Catwoman now who was rich . . . oh wait, no . . . well she steals, so they’re criminals actually, sort of defying everything he’s lived his life for to this point. Sad, but true.

What was Nolan trying to go for with Bane’s voice and mask?

Well, the first thing you learn in film school is cover up a person’s mouth and most of their face, because since that’s the area of expression, we don’t need to see that on film for the character to be understood. And as far as the voice is concerned, I believe he was going for a really drunk and excited James Mason with a cold. You know, just like Christian Bale’s Batman voice sounds so good.

Is Christopher Nolan a genius?

Yes, if someone can sell movies that have no dramatic structural integrity, completely undeveloped characters, an utter disregard for logic, warped agendas counter to what the individual actually suggests they believe, emotionally manipulative tricks of film, socially perverse suggestions about gender, and still have people suggest they’re brilliant, then how else would you qualify the individual?

I hope this helps us all understand like everyone else that Dark Knight Rises is the greatest film made in the history of every film that was ever made, ever.