Saturday, April 7, 2012

‘Jolly Rancher’ a farm kid’s comic, poignant one-man show -

‘Jolly Rancher’ a farm kid’s comic, poignant one-man show -

‘Jolly Rancher’ a farm kid’s comic, poignant one-man show

David Wayne Reed delivers a frequently comic and sometimes poignant variation on the art of the monologue in “Jolly Rancher,” a unique autobiographical synthesis of his experiences as an extroverted farm kid who grew up to be a multi-talented theater artist.
Reed, a founding member of Late Night Theatre with a well-documented outlaw aesthetic sensibility, has fashioned a show built on a literary foundation crafted to fit his expressive, twinkle-in-the-eye performance style. Reading from a prepared script, Reed gives us a show that is essentially a succession of first-person short stories.
Reed performs in farm clothes -- overalls and a seed cap initially, jeans and a work shirt later -- backed by a collection of visual symbols of his background, including a John Deere thermometer, a DeKalb seed company sign in the form of a corn cob sprouting wings and old license tags form Miami and Wyandotte counties.
Reed grew up outside Louisburg, Kan., and by his account was far from the typical farm kid. Yes, he joined the Future Farmers of America, but he liked to put on improvised shows for the farm workers and traveling seed salesmen. His best friends in high school were misfits. Inevitably, he became a theater student in college. And eventually he settled in Kansas City to pursue the actor’s life. He describes high school reunions, his loving but complicated relationship with his father and other family members, the challenge of maneuvering the social strata of the Kansas City gay community and his brief encounter with the notorious “human potential” program called Landmark Forum.
The piece is punctuated with amusing asides, including his fear and dislike of mimes and a journey to Mexico in search of drugs to reverse his premature baldness. Reed includes some painful memories, including the loss of a beloved aunt, and his description of the transformation of Louisburg from a simple farm town to a subdivided exurb full of McMansions is touching and telling.
Reed performs “Jolly Rancher” without an intermission and on opening night the show seemed a bit too long -- although some of its length was attributable to frequent bursts of laughter and spontaneous applause from an audience packed with friends and family. Reed could be accused of going for the easy laugh too often, but even in the show’s current form he conveys a heartfelt sense of reality that theatergoers encounter too seldom. I believe it’s what we call “real life.”
I hope Reed continues to refine and hone this piece, because I can easily imagine the show getting tighter, faster and better.
Each performance is introduced by a “special guest” and on Friday drag performer Honey Tahini did the honors. Honey delivered an amusing sendup of Nancy Sinatra’s “I Gotta Get Out of This Town,” which certainly set the appropriate tone for all that followed.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

David Wayne Reed harvests his rural roots for Jolly Rancher

David Wayne Reed harvests his rural roots for Jolly Rancher

by Berry Anderson

Through April 8 at Fishtank Performance Studio, 1715 Wyandotte, 816-809-7110,

Local actor and writer David Wayne Reed is a dedicated urbanite, but his Midwestern roots remain very much on view. As a child of Miami County farmers, the Kansan was no stranger to rural ways.

"We raised cattle, hogs and sheep," Reed says. "I sometimes helped when the veterinarian came. I remember helping castrate bull calves and throwing their balls into a bucket. I'd carry the bucket of balls to the house, and Mom would fry them up later for dinner."

Then the city dweller emerges again. "That's fucked, right?" he adds.

Stories like this form the basis of Jolly Rancher, the autobiographical one-man show that Reed is putting on this weekend at Fishtank Performance Studio.

We couldn't wait for opening night to ask Reed more about his past.

The Pitch: What was the nightlife like in Louisburg around the time that you were growing up?

Reed: My early social calendar mostly consisted of tractor pulls, trips to the stockyards or church or the funeral home. Luckily, my parents love to dance, so on most Saturday nights, we went to the Pla-Mart, this country-western dance place over in Paola. While my parents danced, I played the Dolly Parton pinball machine or helped the bartender by making popcorn. Bartenders were my baby-sitters.

How did they encourage your creative impulses?

My parents are farmers. In fact, their CB handles were Sharecropper and Lady Sharecropper. Mine was Big Bird, and my brother's was Sugar Bear. That's what you get when you ask children to make up their own CB handles.

There were real times that I dreamed of having an overbearing stage parent that would hustle me around to dance classes and auditions. But mostly, my dad just said, "Quit dancing so damn silly and help me."

When have you known you've gone too far with a performance?

My mom was part of the Ladies Evening Circle prayer group. After I'd been sent to my room to go to bed, I decided that I wanted to perform. So I found some rags and tucked them into my tighty whities and put on a record, full volume. I broke into the middle of the prayer group and stripped to David Naughton's disco hit "Makin' It."

What did your early drag performances consist of?

I was obsessed with the movie 9 to 5. So I developed this persona named after Dolly Parton's character in the movie. Doralee Rhodes. I'd dress up in my mom's wig and heels and march out to the barn for surprise performances — little songs and dances. I only did this for our seed dealer, Bob, from Chanute. He called me his little coed cutie and even gave me a fiddle during the harvest.

Where did you dream about living back then?

I dreamed of living in Overland Park. They had malls!

How has your view of Kansas changed since you've grown up?

My view hasn't changed.