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Shadowbox Live
Easton Town Center
Columbus, Ohio

by Rick Brown

Journey's End

by Dennis Toth

Journey's end in lovers' meeting
In shady lanes
Or lonely country roads
Or open plains
Or simply some small
Coffee shop
Where the latte is warmer
Than the heart.

Journey's end in lovers' meeting
Unless it rains
Or shines
Or simply turns into that
Partly cloudy which is
Never really fish nor fowl
But always cool
And indecisive.

Journey's end in lovers' meeting
In paperbacks for sure,
Or occasionally in Dear Abby,
Though she sent the last
Three lonely hearts to smell
The coffee
At the same place where the latte
Is always warmer than the heart.

Journey's end in lovers' meeting
Unless the bus is late
And the car breaks down
And sometimes, simply sometimes,
The effort goes to waste.

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Shadowbox Live
Easton Town Center
Columbus, Ohio

by Rick Brown

I witnessed a Broadway touring company’s performance of Rent at the Ohio Theater several years ago. I came away from the show feeling somewhat empty emotionally. The small cast and sparse staging made the Ohio feel existentially vast; the desperation of the characters seemed all the more desperate. The garbled sing song dialogue and the way too loud (even for me) rock score combined with the seriousness of a tragic 90’s AIDS related storyline, created an emotional abyss that would startle Friedrich Nietzsche.

Still, an entire generation of young people embraced this musical as self-identification…a validation. Being from the so called “Woodstock Generation” this both confused me and forced me to think of this wave of young people as being nihilistically self absorbed, carrying a giant chip on their shoulders. Typical middle-aged response on my part I suppose. But it’s how I felt.

So along comes Shadowbox Live’s presentation of Rent…and I thought…”uh oh!”

You can imagine my trepidation.

And as the troupe has done so many times in the past, the piece has been reworked in ways that not only suits their talents well, but also makes Rent their own. The Rent Band, led by guitarist Matthew Hahn, is the heart and soulful infrastructure here, guiding the actors, singers and dancers skillfully with such subtle yet disciplined nuance most will not notice. With guitarist Dante Wehe (No Yvonne and I do not have a son, though he would be a great one to have.) Erik Rau on drums, Eric Flores on Bass, Thomas Young on keyboards, and a myriad of percussionists, the score of Rent is both respected yet interpreted in ways that bring out the best in the vocals.

Using video screens and offstage phone messages help make the story line much clearer. The dynamic direction of Stev Guyer (assisted by Julie Klein) and the crisp choreography of Katy Psenicka make effective use of the entire stage. Kudos especially to sound operator Brian Rau for making the dialogue and singing sound “out front” enough, without excessive volume. Brea Badger once again has done a great job with costuming. This equation jells wonderfully, making the performance easy to follow, visually rich with aural acuteness. Enhancing this formula further is the strong narrative performance of John Boyd who plays Mark, a videographer whose heart has been broken when his lover Maureen left him for JoAnne.

Of course this makes it all the better for the actors to become their characters. Tom Cardinal’s exhilarating drag queen Angel is both outlandish and approachable, making her relationship with more pensive Tom Collins (superbly done by Jerrod Roberts) genuine and touching. Nikki Fagin portrays Mimi, a heroin addicted stripper with a controlled fierceness wrapped in a gentle sweetness. She is streetwise without being cynical, despite the fact she is dying. The interaction between Mimi and her lover musician Roger (Brandon Anderson) is tender and touching. Their togetherness near show’s end is moving yet hopeful, despite the despair.

The love affair between Maureen (Valerie Witherspoon) who recently left Mark, and JoAnne (Kara Wilkinson), is treated as healthy rather than preachy, with only subtle residual breakup bitterness. And of course there is the always-indomitable JT Walker III. He excels in the role of Benny, the inscrutable ex-friend/landlord who eventually comes back around to his Bohemian, down on their luck, AIDS riddled, broke but not broken tribe. Not many can portray a nice guy turned son of a bitch turned nice guy with the casual aplomb of Mr. Walker III…and make you buy it hook, line and sinker. Oh but can he.

The use of musical ensembles shine through Rent as it has in previous Shadowbox Live productions. “Over the Moon” is especially wonderful under Valerie Witherspoon’s lead vocals. “La Vie Boheme / Should I Tell You” is all encompassing superb. I could go on…but I choose to be a little vague here. The final 1/3 of the show tied me into an emotional knot.

So you can see I came away from this Rent with an entirely new point of view. I won’t say the play got “mainstreamed”. I won’t say that it got “Midwesterned” either. But by making the characters more approachable…within the glorious visual, aural staging framework…every one of them becomes approachable…personable…worthy of love. The audience can empathize…relate on some level…and appreciate their humanity in a way worthy of any generation’s attention and adulation.

I’m pretty sure Nietzsche would agree.

Hurry and see this! Rent only runs Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. through April 17th. For more information please go to: http://www.shadowboxlive.org/shows/rent

Splits in the Snow
by Rick Brown

It was just a huge broccoli stem. But it had to go. Not in the disposal. And the food scrap cans on the mud porch were full. Better to just run it out to the backyard compost bins. It would only be an Ohio winter minute.

Living here all my life I should have known better.

Mattered not that I was in pajamas … house shoes. My neighbors see me a lot in my Pajama Boy garb. Wintertime equates to Pajama Boy sightings in my neck of the woods. No large deal I thought. Stroll out … open lid … dispose of big green stem … close lid … stroll back in.

The first 60% of my plan was flawless.

As I turned to go back into the warmth of the house my right foot … ever so gracefully … began sliding forward in the newly fallen snow. My left foot however, stayed put. The trunk of my body …followed by my head … went lower and lower at a perfect 90-degree angle towards the earth. An experience that at once was both speed of light yet seemingly slow motion.

I did the splits … right there in my backyard. It was not my intention to do the splits. I do not normally do the splits at all … ever. Truth be told … I have NEVER BEFORE successfully done the splits. I do not possess the desire to do the splits. And the fact that I was in the middle of doing the splits … in the snow … wearing pajamas … did not change my opinion concerning personally participating in the doing of the splits.

While all this was transpiring, I began singing what could be called “The Swearing Like a Sailor Operetta”. I pray there were no children within earshot. Wailing … gnashing of teeth … caterwauling even … I posed in the snow like some splits challenged cheerleader from a school granting degrees only in Shop: Wood or Auto.

DOING the splits took mere seconds. Yet it took several minutes for me to un–split myself. And now … with every limp … every pulled hammy grimace … I become more and more steadfastly resolute in my determination that some day soon … no matter what ageist slur the locals may call me … I will reside someplace warm for the entire winter.

And live happily in a splits free environment.


by Rick Brown


Hmmm # 23

Perhaps Camus
and Sartre
loved the 3 Stooges.
The French adore
Jerry Lewis
don’t they?


Hmmm # 24

I have
a recurring thought
that it might be nice
not to have this
recurring thought.

Hmmm # 25

On St. Patrick’s Day
everyone is
Just like
the Olive Garden
is Italian.


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Rick's book, Best Bites is available at:

Elephant in the Room
Raconteur Theater
Club Diversity
Columbus. Ohio

by Rick Brown

Magical Evening
Morris Jackson

Siesta Key #2

by Daniel Eley

The Tommy Castro Band
Vonn Jazz & Blues
Columbus, Ohio
March 13, 2011

by Rick Brown

Having never been to the Vonn Jazz & Blues I was immediately taken by the place. With its red and black décor, heavy drapes, big chandeliers and zebra skinned lobby chairs it hinted at New Orleans … part dinner club … part brothel. The food was good. The service was good. The music proved to be incredible.

Tommy Castro and his soulful band roared onstage, tearing into “A Good Fool is Hard To Find”. Mr. Castro’s band of Keith Crosson (sax), Ronnie Smith (drums), Scot Sutherland (bass), Tom Poole (trumpet), and Tony Stead (keyboards) is one talented and versatile outfit. Their support give Mr. Castro a wide spectrum of musical styles.

The show almost soured after the opening number. Some woman was videotaping stage left and Tommy asked her to stop. I couldn’t hear what she replied, but it was evident she felt entitled. Whether she had a connection to the club I can’t say. But once Mr. Castro informed her that she had not gotten permission he urged the crowd to come up and dance in front of the stage … that I assume was both his preference and a veiled way to block the chick’s camera angle. He also insisted the chandeliers be turned way down, since blues is supposed to “be in the dark”. The woman soon took her camera and walked out briskly.

Tommy was congenial. But I could tell he was pissed. And after playing in bands most of my adult life I certainly understood the anguish. Back to the job at hand, Mr. Castro & Co. immediately cranked it up a notch. He gave the crowd what they wanted and more … taking requests … jamming while walking through the “joint” as he referred to it … and even laying down some mean cover material. Hell, he even tossed in the riff from the age old Shadow’s instrumental “Apache” during one extended jam. Only those of us who cut their teeth playing instrumental surf music might have noticed.

Much of the 2 sets were made up of tunes from his more recent CDs of the past 4 or 5 years. But he did revive some old favorites like “Just A Man” and “Nasty Habits”. Tommy featured cuts from his most recent CD “Hard Believer” including “Make it Back to Memphis”, “Monkey Paradise” and of course the title track.

There were some nice surprises. Set one ended with a celebratory cover of Bob Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody”. There was a rousing rendition of Wilson Pickett’s “Ninety Nine and A Half Just Won’t Do”. Too cool. And his own “Big Sister’s Radio” was not only soulful but also biographical in how Tommy attained his.

The high point of the evening for me was a totally awesome jam on James Brown’s “Sex Machine”. With the Hammond B3 sound pulsating from Tony Stead’s fingertips, wrapped in the torrid, sweltering sounds emanating from the trumpet of Keith Crosson and the soaring swagger of Tom Poole’s trumpet … over the driving funk of drummer Ronnie Smith and bassist Scot Sutherland … Tommy Castro peppered this soul stew with blues infused licks from heaven. It don’t get no better than this folks. No sir. No better indeed.

by Sue Olcott

Click Here

The Non Fiction Theater of the Truly Mundane
proudly presents:

Rolling Rock

by Rick Brown

Scene: an Irish Pub in Gloucester, Massachusetts. A long, well stocked bar stretches across the back of the stage with several tables directly in front of the bar. About 15 patrons sit scattered at the tables conversing and quietly sipping drinks, mostly bottled beers. At the end of the bar, stage right, 2 very drunk older men sit facing each other. They are engaged in a heated argument. It is summer, 1978 and a few people are dressed casually in 70’s attire. Most of the men are in casual working class, fishermen garb. Behind the bar is a portly, bald Irish bartender wearing a white apron. Sitting at the bar far stage left, is a passed out man with his head between his arms, face on the bar. Twenty-somethings Rick, Yvonne and her younger brother Rod enter stage right.

Drunken man #1 (in very slurred speech) – No you cannot!
Drunken man #2 (equally slurred)– Oh yes I can!
Drunken man #1 – CAN’T!
Drunken man #2 – CAN TOO!
Drunken man #1 – You cannot shave faster than me!! Can’t! Impossible!
Drunken man #2 (making violent, slashing movements with his hand all around his face) I just lather up and shwoo! Shwoo! Shwoo! I’M DONE!
Drunken man #1 (making similar gestures only more exaggerated) WHAP! WHAP!
WHAP! Five fucking minutes! FIVE FUCKING MINUTES! That’s all the time it takes me to shave!

Rick, Yvonne and Rod are standing close by in awe of their argument.

Drunken man #2 – FUCK THAT! Only takes me like a fucking MINUTE and a HALF!!

Rick, Yvonne and Rod tentatively stroll up to the bar and take a seat next to the man passed out with his head buried in his arms. The three sit down while the bartender saunters up.

Irish bartender (gruffly) – What’ll ya have?
Rick – Do you sell Rolling Rock?
Irish bartender (rougher and dripping in sarcasm) – Whaddya from the GODDAMNED Midwest or somethin’?

Suddenly the man sitting next to Rick who had been passed out, jerks up, struggling to hold his head up.
Previously passed out man (very, very slurred) - Rolllllllllliiiiingggg WHAT?!!



Rick, Yvonne and Rod – their 20s selves
Patrons – themselves
Drunken man #1 - himself
Drunken man #2 – himself
Irish bartender – his Irish self
Passed out man – his passed out self

traffic sounds
by Jessy Kendall

trek intro
makes me think
of past times- supper times-
"my childhood" whatever childhood is..
tuna fish sandwiches,
chocolate milk
and a VHS from the video store
(which was this back room of some woman's house
in the late eighties/early nineties in w. sumner, maine).
a double feature of old star trek episodes, the original series.
when that intro music plays,
i feel like i'm tuna fish sandwiched
in some of the only peaceful time my family had together-
watching those tapes,
seeing the stars above
showcased in video screen,
hearing that intro
(esp. the one with the vocal)
and feeling thankful,
for something, or just at ease.

tonight, the traffic
gets to be sirens every now and then
and it blends with a low whooshing hum
that seems to be in the city always;
a combination of all the engines and buzzing light sounds around.
traffic sounds, like a
coming-into-being, and then a receding.
lone horn
tooting quick about something.
traffic sounds.
they're another story that i follow, and think about.
it's a little world that has been created within me, the
history of my story of neighborhood traffic sounds in the evening.

i need to sit now because it will Real me out,
stop my motion so i can feel Me for a minute;
see where i'm at,
slow down.


by Emily Glenn

I was trying to write, nothing specific, just trying to get some words down on the page, something to start with, so I went and made some popcorn. Well, actually, the laundry was dry, so I went to the basement, folded and hung it, moved the wet clothes into the dryer, and then carried the clean laundry upstairs and put it away. I’ve noticed that putting one load of laundry away at a time is less discouraging than letting it all pile up, the stuff on the top of the basket nearly teetering out, smashing the things at the bottom and then there’s so much laundry to put away. All at once. It’s discouraging.

So I put the laundry away, and then it was time for popcorn. And then writing. I measured the popcorn into a paper bag with a ¼ measuring cup. Then I looked at the handful kernels left in the package and--what the hell--added those too. The popcorn is old, purchased during my last Popcorn Phase, and I’m just starting a new Popcorn Phase. So there’s a lot of duds. That’s how I rationalized the extra ¼ cup. I fold the bag closed and put it in the microwave for 90 seconds. I learned the popcorn-in-a-paper bag trick from Mark Bittman’s book Food Matters. That way you can have quick popcorn without the nasty chemical stuff. I need to buy more paper bags.

When the popcorn is done, I take the bag out of the microwave, dump the contents, both popped and unpopped, into a bowl, then mist it with olive oil, give the bowl’s contents a shake, mist, shake, mist. I grind pepper, shake, sprinkle salt, shake, and am satisfied. Almost. On the way out of the kitchen I grab the seasoned salt.

I walk back upstairs, and as I reach the last step, I change my grip on the bowl so I’m holding it by the bottom, and then I drop it. The bottom, warmed by its contents, is surprisingly hot. The bowl falls to the floor, sending popcorn and kernels shooting down the stairs. The seasoned salt rolls to the lowest spot in the hallway, the corner next to our bedroom door. I stand for a moment in disbelief. The house is silent. The dog is snoring in the next room. There was a time when he would’ve rushed out to the hallway and gobbled all the popcorn he could get, probably taking care of most of the kernels too. Now he just sleeps on; he’s getting old.

A few pieces are left in the bowl. Not moving yet, I eat them. Then I step away from the sea of popcorn and kernels. I notice there are kernels caught in the decorative folds on my shoes. I take off my shoes and shake them out. Several unpopped kernels rattle on the wood floor. I go into the spare room and get the vacuum cleaner. As I roll the vacuum cleaner by his bed, the dog wakes up, and stiff with arthritic joints, goes out into the hallway. I wonder if I’ll have to prevent him from excitedly eating his way up and down the stairs. But no. He surveys the popcorn mess tiredly, as if to say “What have you done now?” then trots wearily to his bed in another room.

I plug the vacuum in and start methodically in the hallway, pulling up popcorn detritus with the hose. I accidentally turn the vent side of the vacuum toward the stairs, long enough to send a drift of popcorn down to the first landing. After that, I vacuum awkwardly, moving the bulky machine down the stairs, with the vent away from the popcorn, clearing an area before I put the vacuum on it. Occasionally popped corn stops up the end of the hose temporarily, creating a hydrangea-like bloom on the end of the nozzle. I reach the bottom landing and start working my way back up, capturing stray kernels as I go. I wonder how many kernels I will pick up, here and there, in the coming week.

I put the vacuum away and take the bowl downstairs. I open a new container of popcorn. These kernels are much bigger than those in the first batch. This is Orville Redenbacher corn; the kernels are the size of pencil erasers. The previous package was an Amish-grown popping corn, and in Mennonite fashion, the kernels were modestly-sized. I put a quarter-cup of kernels into a paper bag, then add a little more. I fold the bag and put it in the microwave. I check the laundry. It’s not dry yet. I take the bag out of the microwave, dump the contents, both popped and unpopped, into a bowl, then grab our olive oil spray, mist, give the bowl’s contents a shake, mist, shake, mist. I grind pepper, shake, sprinkle salt, shake, done.

I walk back upstairs. On my way through the hall, I pick up the seasoned salt, which is still lying near the bedroom door. The dog has settled on the carpet in the spare room. I sit on the couch, eat a few pieces, and read the paragraph I wrote forty minutes ago. A piece of popcorn drops on the floor. I pick it up and toss it to the dog. It lands two feet in front of him. The dog startles, then spies the popcorn. He stares at it with a pained expression. He feels obligated to eat it, but he’ll have to move to do it. I feel guilty for introducing this dilemma. I remember Fritz as a puppy, when we first got him, bouncing around our apartment, snuggling on the couch. We let him on the furniture, before we bought new furniture, our own furniture. Before we started caring about the cleanliness of the house.

Fritz gingerly stands, then walks stiffly to the popcorn and eats it. He looks around, wondering what to do next, then walks to his bed, the one he started the afternoon in, and folds himself into it. In the basement, the dryer buzzes. I think about the young woman, the young man, the puppy, the apartment, and the house. And then I go downstairs to get the laundry, picking up a popcorn kernel as I go.

Issue 1 - January 2002