Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Everyone’s a detective at the new Black Fedora Theatre


Mystery Off Market Street

by Kelly Rae Smith

Charleston seems to be developing its own little theater district. Mere footsteps from the Footlight Players Theatre and the Dock Street Theatre, there's a new kid in town — Black Fedora Comedy Mystery Theatre and Shoppe, now comfortably settled in a cozy space on Church Street.

Sherry and Darryl Wade aren't new to the business, but this is the first time they've had their own place to hang their hats — fedoras, if we're being specific. The move to Charleston came after they spent many years taking their mobile theater troupes to perform at colleges and corporations throughout Atlanta.

"Darryl would write scripts to personalize the company, and we would take a group of actors to a meeting, event, or dinner and typically kill off the boss and let the company work together to solve the mystery. It was a fun, team-building entertainment option for businesses in Atlanta," Sherry says.

Their shows have always been 75 percent comedy and 25 percent mystery, and they're sticking with that format in this new venture — only this time they're applying it to tourists and the local public. On entrance, audience members are given a game piece and are quizzed on the dozens of fictional detective photographs that decorate the walls. During the course of a two-hour show, snacks (from the likes of Pit Stop Deli and King of Pops) and drinks can be ordered, whether you're seated at one of the walled booths or intimate round tables that fill the space. And at the close of each show, it's up to the audience to solve the big puzzle before the answer is revealed in a humorous little ending.

But that's not all: there's a lot of audience interaction. "They're the stars of the show," Darryl says. "The first half of the show, there's some silliness and we show a comic video that's filmed with our actors. Then the audience knows the second half is their thing. Audience members have roles that they play. They stand up and say their lines and they interact with the actors as if they were an actor in the play."

The theater contains no stage as such, so the actors are right there with the audience. Don't worry though; the actors are sensitive to those who don't want to be part of a punchline. They make sure the audience always gets the last laugh.

Black Fedora actress Sarah Bishop, also known as French maid Yvette Fufu, says it's all about reading the audience. "You have to be able to connect with your audience individually. When you're doing a show at a traditional theater, they say to make sure you connect with your audience — but your audience is a dark oblivion. Here, it's more personal, and we can't be afraid to improvise when audience members chime in at parts that aren't written for them. You can either let it throw you off or you can respond in character, and that just makes it more fun."

Darryl and Sherry stress that the name of the game is silliness, but in the name of kindness. They sought out actors with not only presence but also big smiles. "No matter what part you're playing — a French maid or a redneck janitor — your personality comes out to the audience, and we ultimately want everyone to feel part of it," Darryl says.

Showing until the end of August is Inspector NoClue's Murdery Mystery, where attendees can guess whodunit, with what weapon, and what motive. They'll run this show while adding A Charleston History Mystery in October, and a kid-friendly Pirate Mystery Treasure Show in the spring. In the spirit of holiday silliness, A Sweet T. Christmas will launch at the end of the year.

Tickets for Inspector NoClue's Murder Mystery, and all future shows, can be booked at charlestonmysteries.com.

published 8/29/2012 in Charleston City Paper

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Artist Sinisa Kukec is inspired by Miami’s trashy side

Contemporary artist Sinisa Kukec is almost your average dude. He likes to drink beer, flirt with girls, watch mindless action movies, "research" porn. But then there's an altogether unique, mind-bogglingly creative side to the artist who'll be taking up residence at Redux over the course of the next month.

Kukec's exhibition, From Void to Void, is a sequel to his Farewell Fountain show in Miami last fall, and will run from its Friday opening until September 10. Although the art is expected to be extra vibrant, it also has a forlorn flavor to it.

The 43-year-old Kukec uses his urban intellect, slick sense of humor, and green-savvy imagination to create bizarre and beautiful art that turns garbage into gold. His art begins very literally on the streets outside his Miami home.

"I have never lived in a city with so much trash on the side of the road. At the end of each month, you can potentially find a whole new body of work. Lately, I have been attracted to office furniture, desks, and chairs, or what I like to call points-of-power furniture," Kukec says.

Kukec's recent works begin with a "point of power" and build from there to ultimately reflect his common theme, or the core of his art. "The core of it is apparently consciousness, and everything outside of it. I like to think about it as a lifetime," he says. Kukec was born in Croatia, grew up in Canada, and, thanks to an artist green card, has lived throughout the United States. He currently resides in a "cave-like dwelling" somewhere in Miami, where he utilizes very few amenities. Although he's lived there for five years, he only installed hot water last winter. He calls his living/work situation "urban camping" and admits that it affects his work since what he creates is largely autobiographical.

"My work is my life and vice versa. I am interested in understanding my experience of consciousness and how it relates to all the things outside of me," he says.

Kukec has never visited Charleston, and is looking forward to it not only because he has read that it's America's sexiest city, but because, in his travels, he's learned to value discovering places like Redux.

"It's an opportunity to share and exchange thoughts, ideas, and feelings about stuff around us, as a human and as an artist. I am a perpetual student," he says.

As for From Void to Void, Kukec warns viewers not to have any expectations — he says that they usually lead to disappointment. Even the amount of sculptures that will be displayed is a secret.

"Over the past year, you can say I have been fighting for love in a dream, and I guess dreams are pretty subjective, so it's hard to say what someone else might experience. I recently described the work as a cosmic, psychedelic melodrama, but ask me six months from now and you might get a different answer."

Published by Charleston City Paper. You can also view this article on their website here.