Monday, November 7, 2011

“Bump” Brings Faux Celebrity Back to The Fishtank

by Steve Walker

When President Obama announced two weeks ago that the United States would be withdrawing troops from Iraq by the end of the year, the other top news trending that week was that Lindsay Lohan would be posing for Playboy. The fact that the latter story garnered as much attention as the former didn't escape a trio of local theater artists who are returning to The Fishtank with a new play featuring the fictional troubled celebrity whose Kansas City debut last winter left her desperate for more attention.

Kansas City, Mo. The character's name is Brindsay Kardilton, a creation of Heidi Van, curator of The Fishtank, David Wayne Reed, and Bess Wallerstein. She is modeled after a quarter of young women - Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton – who share a talent for being famous for being famous.

"Brindsay Kardilton is a conglomeration of reality star, celebutant, and burned out child stars," says Van, who plays Kardilton. "With reality shows and what's going on today, with people showing private personal events – weddings, births, things like that – it's not out of the question for a celebrity to expose their pregnancy or to expose their rehab. (Yet) it's really none of our business. So it makes complete sense for Brindsay to share this with the universe, and for her mother to sell it to the universe."

The show is called "Bump," and what Brindsay is hyping is a pregnancy into its 8th month - not coincidentally the same state Van currently finds herself. Last winter's "White Nose Christmas" introduced Brindsey Kardilton to Kansas City audiences, and its trio of creators have toyed for a while with a sequel. When Van got pregnant, they found their narrative for a return visit.

"The truth of the matter is, I needed a job," says Van. "I'm an artist; I do performance art, and the opportunities were limited for me, and so this is something (where) I could be pregnant, and be in, and it's appropriate."

And it's not her coming child's first venture onto the stage.

"This baby has been on tour with me, was in the Fringe Festival, was in photo shoots, and now, she's so ready for this moment," Van says. "Her resume's amazing."

Self-professed pop culture junkie David Wayne Reed, who co-stars in the show, explains how technology and boredom might conspire to create a Brindsay Kardilton.

"Everything is so up to the minute right now," he says. "Everything is being recycled at such a rapid rate that you have to come out with something more and more outrageous, or more intimate, every single...not every day, every minute of every day. If Kim Kardashian puts out a tweet, well, then Paris Hilton needs to come out with a tweet, or you fall to the wayside."

"We want to be a part of that," he adds. "It's the train wreck we can't turn away from."

The play opens with Kardilton's release from a women's correctional facility a month from delivering at full-term. At a recent rehearsal, Reed and Van read through an early scene in the play, with Reed playing a tabloid journalist to Van's Kardilton.

Journalist: "Tonight, we interview Brindsay Kardiltion moments before she's released from the women's correctional facility. This little girl lost; this candle in the wind – Brindsay Kardiltion. Tonight is your last night in jail after 96 days and you're about to be released, Brindsay. This is a new start. How are you?"

Kardilton: "Hey, guys it's me. Brindsay Kardilton. (High-pitched laugh.) So, okay, I've made some mistakes, right? A DUI – actually, the DUIs – possession of narcotics, disorderly conduct, public urination, child endangerment, whatevs. I've had a lot of time to think about things. And when I say a lot of time, I mean a lot of time. I just think a lot of thoughts about a lot of things, a lot of the time."

Co-creator Bess Wallerstein gives her take on why the model celebrities for Kardilton continue to have mass appeal.

"You become involved emotionally and you care, or don't care, or have a reaction to what's happening," she says. "And it's a perfect medium for theater because that's exactly what we're doing; we're presenting all sorts of characters who are current today in television and pop culture, and we're asking the audience: Do you care? Do you not care? And why?"

Even if "Bump" is a huge hit for The Fishtank, there's little chance it will be extended beyond November 14, since its leading lady is due to deliver a baby girl in December.

"Bump" by David Wayne Reed, Bess Wallerstein and Heidi Van

November 4 - 14, 2011

The Fishtank Performance Studio

1715 Wyandotte, Kansas City, Mo.

© Copyright 2011, KCUR

'BUMP' adds note of optimism to savagely funny play

The Kansas City Star

Updated: 2011-11-06T05:41:33Z

Of all the alternative performance spaces in Kansas City, only the Fishtank Performance Studio offers theatergoers something like an Off-Off Broadway experience. Make that Off-Off-Off-Off Broadway.

Shows at the Fishtank, which has a seating capacity of about 50 and a virtually nonexistent backstage area, tend to be about the material and the actors — as opposed to dazzling visual effects.

The current production, “Bump,” is an irreverent follow-up to last year’s acerbic “White Nose Christmas: A Tabloid of Rehab and Rebirth.” Written and performed by Heidi Van, Bess Wallerstein and David Wayne Reed, that show depicted the fall from grace of Brindsay Kardilton, a “celebutante” for whom self-regard is as natural as breathing.

In “Bump,” Brindsay has been released from jail, although she must complete her community service by swabbing the floors and sterilizing surgical instruments at the city morgue. The joke is that Brindsay has emerged from jail an expectant mother, although the father is unknown and the circumstances of her impregnation are unknown.

Van, who is pregnant in real life, again plays Brindsay, and although this show is plenty irreverent, this time the writer/actors have delivered a more humanistic play, one that even concludes on an honest note of optimism.

Not that there isn’t plenty of savage humor.

Wallerstein and Reed, playing multiple roles, deliver a succession of sharply drawn caricatures, and the results are often very funny. Wallerstein plays Brindsay’s mother, who sees Brindsay’s impending motherhood as a marketing opportunity (including selling naming rights for the baby), and she reprises a dreamscape version of Marilyn Monroe.

Wallerstein and Reed also play Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb of the “Today” show, and Reed makes appearances as Callie, Brindsay’s little sister, as well as her father, Mitch, who explains as he contemplates suicide on the ledge of a building that all of his scandals and jail time were simply an effort to get closer to Brindsay.

Wallerstein and Reed are very good comic actors, and they are arguably at their best as a team of "spiritual birth guides" who with a series of bizarre rituals prepare Brindsay for motherhood. Van’s innate sense of comic timing is on full display in their piece, and many of the show’s most memorable moments are found in her impressive physical performance.

The show begins with a video interview with Van as Brindsay as she prepares to leave jail and other satirical video interviews come into play in the show: Vanessa Severo as Salma Hayek; Ashley Otis as Angelina Jolie; Danielle Metz as Jennifer Aniston and Venus Starr as Courtney Love.

Lighting and project designer Gregory Casparian, working within the severe limitations of the space, gives the show a bit of visual flash.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Heidi Van’s baby bump has a starring role in Fishtank production -

  Heidi Van in 'Bump'
Heidi Van in 'Bump'

Brindsay’s back and she’s not alone.
At the Fishtank Performance Studio this week, adventurous theatergoers can encounter a show that sounds a lot like life imitating art.
Or maybe art imitating life imitating art.
Either way, the dividing line between reality and artifice should be rather fluid in “Bump,” a new piece written and performed by Heidi Van, David Wayne Reed and Bess Wallerstein.
“Bump” is a sequel to last year’s “White Nose Christmas: A Tabloid Nativity of Rehab & Rebirth,” which introduced us to Brindsay Kardilton, coke-snorting celebrity famous for being famous. In that show, which was a little like a mutant version of “A Christmas Carol,” Brindsay ends up in the slammer and receives nocturnal visits from an assortment of characters, including Marilyn Monroe and Mr. Cocaine. Van played Brindsay, and Reed and Wallerstein each performed multiple supporting roles.
Now Brindsay’s out of jail but somehow she has become pregnant while behind bars. The script, Van explained recently, coyly avoids explaining just how this came to be.
“She has a revelation, as she always does,” Van said. “She faces the reality of what it’s like to actually have a baby. Will it be part of a cycle of celebrity babies? Or will she try to raise her baby as a normal human being?”
These are relevant questions to Van, because she and her husband, Daniel Quin Shay (who designed sound for the show), are expecting a child of their own. Due date: Dec. 10. So it was important to get the show going before the blessed event.
“I don’t have a big time frame to do it because I’m eight months pregnant,” she said.
Van, Wallerstein and Reed basically directed themselves, Van said, although Ashley Otis is choreographing the show. The set was designed and built by Matt Weiss.
“There’s four musical numbers and they are whoppers,” Van said.
The show, like the first one, comments on an age in which notoriety of any kind allows a person to become a celebrity, and celebrities use actual events in their lives — like having babies — to further enhance their public image.
“It is completely woven out of pop culture,” she said. “I think that’s what makes the play relevant.”
Van and Shay already know their baby is a girl. And they’ve named her Maryanne and she’s already a trouper. Shortly after she became pregnant, Van went on tour with the performance-art band Boom! Toward the middle of her pregnancy she was involved in the Fringe Festival. And now she’s doing Brindsay Kardilton again. That’s a lot of stage experience for someone who hasn’t taken her first breath.
“Now she’s a star,” Van said.
“Bump” opens Friday and continues through Nov. 14 at the Fishtank Performance Studio, 1715 Wyandotte St. Tickets cost $15. Go to or

Read more: