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 first.

My first reviews of the 2012 Capital Fringe Festival.

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Dead Cat Productions presents this short play about an elderly man receiving the hardest pop quiz in the world. Larry Levinson plays Abraham, father of the Jewish people (it doesn’t say this in the play, but do you know another Abraham?) who has oddly become a tailor in the upstairs portion of a rather derelict Washington DC building. Jeff Mocha enters as a drunk Irish insurance professor, James T. Shannon, and delivers the test, of which very few of the questions are true/false or multiple choice. In fact none of the questions are about the Israelites, almost having to off his son Itzhak Perlman, or the fine art of sewing. How is that fair, the old man hasn’t studied for anything else? Shannon instead berates the incomprehensible old man (Father Israel lies that he’s from some crazy fictitious land called Russia, what nonsense!) about insurance (whatever that is!) until both their hearts explode.

Jeff Mochacocoa and Larry Levinson are truly attempting to end lives with their performances. I whispered to the patron sitting next to me at one point, “Snap my neck, quickly”. She simply smiled and gave me a thumbs up gesture. Don’t despair readers, all was not lost, I stole her wallet.

Director Wayne Nicolosi (director) was the director and he directed the play as the director.

There were flashing lights also, but they caused me to have a momentary epileptic episode so I can’t recall whether they were effective in the production or not.

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Truly nothing says fringe theatre in 2012 like Moliere.

Triptych Productions presents three short plays about how women are just crazy about and always need men. The first play by Moliere is about two women and how they’re fooled by all the men in their lives causing them to cry like women do. The second play is about a crying woman talking to another woman who she knows is having an affair with her husband, and how the other woman fools her, causing her to momentarily stop crying (jokes on her, silly woman). And the third play is about two women not crying but swearing a lot to show how much like men they are, and shows them doing their own fooling to one another, so that when set up against the other plays suggests quite nicely that women are only successful when they stop crying, behave like men, and adopt similar fooling techniques.

All of the plays are set in the tailor shop from the previous play THE INTERVIEW, they’ve just removed the furniture and moved in a couch and called it France, but I could see it was the shop (I’m observant).

While, of course, I loathed everything about this production, I must concede these plays do fit Fringe, because on poverty level budgets for costumes and in a theatre space where the ceiling is falling apart and the walls are poorly painted exposed brick, it’s just so easy to see yourself among the elegance and ornateness of wealthy 17th century Paris society. At first I was skeptical but then the period coat matched with the DSW bought shoes really sold it for me.

There are at least 74 performers in this piece, 16 directors, a choreographer and a taxidermist, to name them all would only hurt my feelings.

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Check back daily throughout the Fringe Festival for more 94% honest reviews.

The Strange Talks: Kathleen Akerley

kathleen akerley (artistic director) and someone.

Rumor has it that Kathleen Akerley is the artistic director of a local theatre company, Lung Acres, Lee. Apparently they produce cerebral work with a physical flair. This sounds vaguely communist so I decided it was time to get to the bottom of this nonsense once and for all. I sat down with Ms. Akerley at a local antelope farm. What transpires is probably not for the weak of stomach or heart. You have been warned.

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Strange: You are the artistic director of Long Ache Her Lee, can you explain what you artistically direct and who gave you permission to do such a thing?

Akerley: My permission such as it is derives from the Right of Discovery and Conquest.  I direct people repeatedly to do things they spontaneously did without my direction, and then take the credit for their inventions on ‘opening night.’  It’s artistic because I’m wearing a smock.

Strange: So, unlike the cruel dictators of old, you are comparable to the shrewd diplomat directing your actors with a cunning smile?

Akerley: Thank you Mr. Strange!  I thought the most apt comparison was Jabba, inert and bloated and greedily feeding off the labor, and reptiles, of others!  In a smock!

Strange: My impulse was to compare you to Jabba, but thought you might be offended being compared to an individual eventually chain-strangled to death by their bikini-clad slave. I should probably also consider the impact of comparing you to a vile alien slug, but I’m truly not that thoughtful. Do you ever eat your actors?

Akerley: I once tried to make Jason Lott into a kabob but he resisted and the impulse passed.

Strange: Moving on, if you could re-direct one famous moment in history which would it be and why?

Akerley: I would direct the nurse to dip the soldier in the famous kissing photograph instead of the other way around.

Strange: Playing against type?

Akerley: No, just so it would look less like a lusty yin yang symbol.

Strange: That’s the conspiracy! It was a daoist photographer?

Akerley: Leaving messages of balance, duality and battery all over our media.

Strange: Okay . . . Ghana?

Akerley: If only its desire to develop a wind energy program was matched by its actual winds.

Strange: No, I was just asking if that’s the name of a real place, sounds funny when I say it out loud.

Akerley: That’s because you mistakenly pronounce the N.  The N is silent.  It’s supposed to sound like you just accidentally sipped some too-hot tea.

Strange: I do often find myself exclaiming “GHANA!” when sipping my oolong. With hot soup it’s “LAOS!” Do you like soup and tea?

Akerley: When they’re YEMEN-good.

Strange: If you had a christmas calendar, a single men’s sandal, a spinning top, and a shark tooth, where are you?

Akerley: A dollar store in Miami.

Strange: Would you buy anything?

Akerley: The lava lamp, duh.

Strange: Correct answer. A dollar for a lava lamp is an incredible deal! Would you like to take a Miami road trip?

Akerley: Count me in.  We can bring a u-haul for all the kitsch we score.

Strange: What is your production this summer? On a scale of 1 to 14 how much will I hate it?

Akerley: It’s a new play called Goldfish Thinking, and I anticipate you will hate it at exactly the same numerical setting as ‘simmer.’

Strange: Is it about small, delectable cheesy snacks and our perpetual desire to consume them?

Akerley: Inasmuch as a murder mystery set in a woman’s dreams is merely Freudian imagery for that most basic of human appetites, yes.

Strange: I hate goldfish and Freud. Do you have time to change it to another snack and psychoanalyst?

Akerley: Un-Jung Rings it is.

Strange: On that note, how would you describe our relationship?

Akerley: The reason I get up in the morning.

Strange: Does that make you sad or hungry?

Akerley: Hungry, always hungry, and living under the curse of hating cheese, so, like the Ancient Mariner, I wander with a wheel of gouda around my neck telling about our relationship to anyone who’ll listen.

Strange: I’d listen, but I suppose that would defeat the purpose. Or I could eat the gouda, being a particular fan of rotten milk products.

Akerley: Please walk before me in life eating all cheeses before I can see or smell them.

Strange: No

Akerley: . . .

Strange: Ahem, would you prefer making people forget how to ride bicycles or the personal ability to turn into an envelope?

Akerley: Envelope!  It would finally give a purpose to the irritating gummy strip that runs down the side of my left leg.

Strange: Really? Wouldn’t you prefer that when people say in reference to activities, “It’s just like riding a bicycle” you could respond knowingly with, “Oh, really?” This is your final chance to take back your hasty answer!

Akerley: My flaps are sealed.

Strange: But I want to know what you . . . oh . . . an envelope joke. You cunning stoat!

Akerley: You should see my standup Stamp Act.

Strange: You’ve convinced me! Well, thank you Ms. Akerley for taking part in this brutally revealing interview. This Summer I look forward to decimating any fragment of creative confidence your troupe of roustabouts might have left in them.

Akerley: With all due respect to Jane Horwitz, this has been the most edifying interview of my life.

Strange: I know, please leave now.

(lengthy pause)

Readers, please see Goldfish Thinking at Longacre Lea beginning performances in August at the Callan Theatre in the Catholic University Drama Complex. This is Ms. Akerley’s recommendation, not my own.

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Learn more about communism and the show at Longacre Lea’s website.