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!

– – –


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.

The Agonizing Agony of Mike Daisey’s Agony

this man is an agonizingly mad peanut, you can tell by his wingspan!

Little Mikey Daisey truly believes in a fantasy land named China (my first suggestion would be that if you’re going to make up a country, at least give it a far less ridiculous name. What next after China? “Welcome to the land of Polystyrene, may I see your rainbow passport?”) And, Daisey’s insanity has convinced him that poor Chinaist workers are being exploited by an evil empire known only by the ominous title, APPLE (Oh, I’m the CEO of Pomegranate, Inc., would you like a magic wand?). And further, (oh chuckle chuckle) the leader of this fascist regime is known (to Daisey) as Steve Jobs (if you’re going to fabricate cruel dictators, don’t make them sound like characters Roald Dahl invented on a week long tequila binge).

So, why am I not dismissing with callous alacrity this jovial, self-proclaimed large man?

Because this gentleman’s conviction is sadly palpable.

He screams and barks his pontifications like a recently circumcised adult merman sans anesthesia. At times he weeps sodium-chloride infused prisms from his unblinking eyes while relating his sky high fable! I have a soft spot for the mad, their struggles seem somehow close to me. Onion garbage meow woof plonk.

In spite of my initial reservations about the fantastical weave of his tale, to watch him walk upon the boards and rely on nothing but a table, a chair, some flashy blink blink lights, and a large glass of vodka, I found myself convinced by his loopyness. Cheering him on as he struggled to fight the evil Fox Cons (the half fox, half con-artist alien robots who control the factories where APPLE’s magic boxes are built). And by the end of his piece feeling we should all, as he surely wanted us too, rail against the evil exploitation of the mystical land of China.

I decided to keep listening to this tragic case of delusion, because, if there truly were a land of China, where hundreds of thousands were having their hands ruined by the work demands of evil robot foxes, all to provide our sorcery machines, and we chose to ignore these revelations, well, that my friends, would be unforgivable, no? Thank goodness it’s all lies! Still, it serves as an important reminder to fight the good fight. I was steeled to continue my fight to end all of you after all, and I call that a rousing success.

My understanding is that Mr. Daisey has been reprimanded for his fairy tale. Well, I say continue your lie sir. In fact if you were to add more lies about your personal connection to this tale to solidify the emotional impact of your saga, you would be in my mind, in the right. Now, I know we live in a world where no one ever embellishes stories to lend to their emotional impact, where the “non-fictions” we present are completely based on the factual truths we experienced, and it would be naive of me to ask you to be an exception. But your story is so bizarre, so insane, so dry-mouth-inducingly zany that you deserve if nothing else our pity and attention.

So lie, Mr. Daisey, lie unapologetically! And if you are chastised by the powers that be, remember, to pillory you for your lies simply allows them to ignore their own, and to scapegoat your flowery name. If the theatrical artists of the world castigate your words, know that they often love little more than the opportunity to knock others down, especially if that work has potentially achieved what they have not: an honest, albeit fictitious theatrical moment.

I wish there were a China, and an APPLE, and con-artist foxes because then surely we’d see that your loony story were simply a noble request for us to genuinely regard the exploited other, the downtrodden, the wretched. As it stands, all anyone will ever care about is pointing out your foibles that they themselves relate to so closely it makes their genitals ache. They will jump upon you like famished hyenas to a recently discovered gazelle cadaver. And they will win, because they scream the loudest.

Lest anyone think I’ve gone soft, I must say I hated everything about my experience watching your show, but that is my nature Mr. Daisey. I am constructed of distaste, and I too lie, but in that lie, like yours, there is an essential kernel of truth. What Xander Strange says, what you say, is like everything else: ephemeral dust. It is only how you and I (and the Chinaists, crazy Daisey!) respond to these mirrored truths.

Or else we’re all simply fools.