New York International Fringe Festival
reviewed by Joe Beaudin
Aug 16, 2009
Boxers and boxing. Always fascinating. And when you walk in and sit down to watch Fancy Footwork you are immediately transported to a boxing ring: The sound of drums mimicking a punching bag being used, the stage as an outline of a ring with two stools on opposite ends, and the image of two shirtless men intensely shadow boxing and jump roping.
Fancy Footwork, written by Miriam Gallagher, is the story of two Irish boxers, the young newcomer Joe and the veteran old-timer, "Tornado" Tom. Tom holds the title, and Joe is about to fight him for it. It is an introspective journey into their personal lives and the present state of their boxing careers. Each boxer is heavily influenced by the most important people surrounding them. Joe is flanked by his girlfriend Marguerite who tries to persuade him to give up the grueling career and marry her, and by Billy, who is the referee and a boxing expert, and Joe's most trusted friend in the business. "Tornado" Tom's smarmy manager, Larry the Lid, is the person calling the shots for the aged boxer, pushing him in a sketchy direction in order to retain his glory.
The play is essentially a character piece, as the story itself does not offer much complexity. The most interesting character for me was Billy, played by Mark Byrne. Billy was once a boxer and is now offering his expertise and passion to the young Joe. What is most intriguing about this character is his passion in describing the art of boxing, and the character's use of imagery to convey that passion. Byrne captures the intensity and fire of the character (as well as a perfect Irish accent) and does a nice job of inhabiting a dual role—during a boxing scene, he portrays both referee and commentator all at once, simultaneously playing each part with specificity.
Another highlight is the fight choreography ... I was a little skeptical at first as to how they would truthfully convey a boxing match, but in the end I was impressed. This production may not have the budget of even one of the six Rocky movies (that's right, there were six), but (the choreography) is able to create a genuine boxing match with live sound effects and all.
... if you love boxers and boxing metaphors as much as I do, then Fancy Footwork will fulfill your needs.
Producer: A Mix Productions / Triskelion
Author: Miriam Gallagher
Director: Rich Johnson
A Skillful Scotch Plains Bout Takes Some Fancy Footwork
By MAGGIE DIGGORY
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times
SCOTCH PLAINS – The fight of the week was found in an unlikely place –
a church social hall. Miriam Gallagher’s Fancy Footwork, directed by Rich Johnson, captured the attention and even included its audience at Scotch Plains’ All Saints’ Episcopal Church on Sunday afternoon. The ensemble of six actors captured the heart and hard life of a professional boxer. The two- day run of the play was performed pro bono by the cast as a fundraiser for the church.
Gallagher’s moving (in more ways than one) tale features “Tornado” Tom (Jarde Jacobs) and Joe (Jared Smith) – young boxers pushed to fight a match for which neither is ready. What goes on beyond the ring leads up to a match the two dynamo boxers will never for- get. Joe’s girlfriend, Marguerite (Michele Tirondola), wants him to hang up his gloves and marry her. Tom knows his glory days as a boxer are over, but he is once again pulled under the ropes at the beckoning of his strong-arming manager, Larry “the Lid” (Timothy Macht). Also in the mix is the narrator and Joe’s manager, Billy (Mark Byrne). Relationships and morals are stretched to a breaking point. Billy is also Marguerite’s older brother, and this further opens up the larger issue the play raises about loyalty. Billy and Larry’s ulterior motives drive the 45- minute performance to a messy end. Among the authentic features of the play is the sound of the ringside bell at the end of each scene. The audience was placed around the “ring,” with a large square of rope taped to the floor. Before the perfor- mance began, Mr. Johnson encouraged members to root for a boxer when the “big fight” came at the climax of the play. The authentic choreographed fight had three rounds, and with each, the audience grew louder with its cheers. During the three-round fight, McGinn School student Aubrey Johnson roller-skated through the virtual ring with a sign
announcing the round number.
One of the strongest opposing dynamics is between Larry and Billy. Macht portrays the stereotypically sleazy promoter, out to fill his pock- ets at the peril of the boxer he man- ages, with great gusto and accuracy. When the Tornado prevails in the fight – with the aid of a performance- enhancing drug, at the advice of Larry – winning the dirty way disgusts him. He was too sick to even fight before the drugs were forced upon him. Joe, on the other hand, is also not ready for a fight. His hubris and drive to win pulls him into the ring but his lack of experience is quickly evident.
Bryne’s performance is increasingly compelling, as he works through the moral struggles he must face as a one-time “king-of-the-ring”-turned coach, who cannot imagine his life without boxing in it. “Like life, the ring is nothing you can quit,” Billy concludes at the play’s end. The performance was a knockout and very much enjoyed.
Students from Fanwood-Scotch Plains perform 'Charlie Brown Christmas'
By Suburban News
on December 22, 2014 at 11:42 PM
By Marshall Allen of Fanwood
Students from Fanwood-Scotch Plains put audiences in the holiday spirit Friday and Saturday night with a live production of the Christmas classic, “Charlie Brown Christmas.”
The students, under the direction of Richard Johnson, founder of the Triskelion Theater Group, entertained an audience of about 100 during the two shows, which were performed at All Saints Episcopal Church,559 Park Ave., in Scotch Plains.
About 15 children, most of them between the ages of 11 and 15, were involved in the performance, which was an outgrowth of a regular theater improv group that meets at the same location every Friday afternoon. ... additional students are welcome to join.
Julianna Domiciano, 12, said playing the role of Lucy in the Saturday evening show helped her learn to be confident and release her anxiety about being on stage.
“I’ve never done this before,” Domiciano said. “It was definitely difficult but I enjoyed it.”
Asher Phillips, 11, played the lead role in Saturday night’s performance. He said memorizing all of Charlie Brown’s lines was a challenge, but he did his best to imagine himself as the character and add his own personality to the performance. He said he started coming to the improv group because his older sister was involved, but has found that he enjoys acting.
Phillips said the techniques he is learning in the improv class, particularly the games that train actors to listen carefully to each other on stage, have helped in other aspects of his life.
“In school you have to really listen and pay attention to your teacher,” he said.
Cory Phillips, Asher’s father, said he likes how the program helps his children with develop their confidence and public speaking skills.
“That’s a transferrable skill that comes out of this,” Cory Phillips said.
Johnson, whose daughter is part of the program, said the drama games they play on Fridays also have a deeper purpose. They emphasize acting techniques that help remove the young performers’ self-consciousness when on stage and put their focus on their acting partner.
“They’re skills they can use not just in acting, but in life itself,” Johnson said.
The students were exuberant after each night’s performance, bowing hand-in-hand to rounds of applause and then prancing and dancing on the stage to the tunes of the live band that played music for the show. Johnson said the students develop deeper friendships by performing together.
“We talk about how you have to help each other out,” Johnson said of the improv classes. “It’s not an individual effort. It’s a team effort.”