27 April 2012
Las Vegas Little Theatre
Spearminted, the twisted love story between a stripper and an amnesiac, is playing to a packed house at the Las Vegas Little Theatre. Nestled anxiously in the back row is Erica Griffin, the author, who says it’s the first time she’s seen the play performed live. Typically, she’s far more involved in the process of getting one of her shows onto the stage. Erin Marie Sullivan, who plays the character Piph, is performing a strip tease on stage while women in the audience applaud and cheer her on. Some of the men are trying hard not to stare at her naked breasts; after all, this isn’t really a strip club. Actors and audiences always seem to have a good time during an Erica Griffin play. But those seeking a meaningful emotional connection with fictional creations should beware: her plays are populated with psychotics, murderers and crazy people. She writes situational comedy that pushes the boundaries of the possible by using characters that live on the edge of reality. Hilarious, slightly disturbing and completely unexpected, her plays have been titillating audiences in Las Vegas for almost a decade. No doubt she’ll be titillating them for years to come. Her newest play, Roles For Women, will be presented by Table 8 Productions in June as part of the Las Vegas Fringe Festival.
9 May 2012
The Las Vegas Convention Center
Holly Madison poses next to a life-sized photograph of herself, a reproduction of the famous Miss Atomic Bomb pin-up from 1957. Everything’s come together nicely and Holly, as wonderful and pretty as always, is actually an improvement on the original. But another piece of artwork is revealed: a bronze sculpture, based on the 1957 photo, now looms over the diminutive Holly like a crucifixion victim that’s been assaulted with wet toilet paper. Despite her spell being thus broken, Holly Madison is still Las Vegas’ top cheerleader and this ceremony just sort of makes it official. Her 2011 book, The Showgirl Next Door: Holly Madison’s Las Vegas, is even a great travel guide. In it, she provides plenty of tips for people who want to party, as well as fun ideas for the whole family. It even includes plenty of local history. Now for those who think Holly got where she is by dating famous douchebags, stop and consider this: was she supposed to get here by some other means? Romantic relationships are complicated, and sometimes the douchebag is not just an accessory. Sometimes he can be a magic carpet.
16 April 2012
The Hollywood Theater, MGM Grand
The show is called Mike Tyson: The Undisputed Truth. He wanted to call it Boxing, Bitches, Babies and Lawsuits, but Kiki thought better of it. Mike Tyson’s destructive urges and unedited personality seem to be momentarily held in check. Kiki’s making sure everything goes right for this show and her presence is palpable — her energy penetrates every level of the production, from the script (which she wrote), to what’s happening backstage. She’s sitting at the technician’s table talking with the audio crew while Mike traipses across the stage like a tamed lion, telling his life story. He shows us a picture of his mother on the projection screen and tells us how she had to prostitute herself to make ends meet. His rise and downfall are shocking and pathetic, but we’re not moved to pity. We’re enjoying his story and we’re enjoying the show. Battling his own demons in front of hundreds of people has put Iron Mike back in the spotlight, and for as long as Kiki can keep the king of the ring on a short leash she’s probably got herself a Broadway champ. It seems Kiki was specially cut out for this, as if it were part of her destiny, in a way. Like Holly Madison, her romantic life is perhaps far more incidental than it is incriminating.
Sometime in 2012
Somewhere in the Mohave or Amargosa Desert
Novelist and video enthusiast Ginnetta Corelli plays experimental films inside an abandoned cathedral in the middle of the desert. Found footage mosaics like HD Lange’s my favorite color was blue and Roland Quelven’s A 60 Seconds Study for ΙΚΑΡΟΣ play on three separate television screens. Sometimes film like this can help you realize that, depending on how they’re edited, sounds and images can mean pretty much anything you want them to. Since certain groups of people are heavily invested in the current perception of reality, most sounds and images used in the shaping of it are owned, copyrighted or otherwise protected. If this were not so, the cutting edge artists of our day would be descending upon the pop culture monster like birds of prey on a pile of mice. (Yes, that means you, Mickey). Ginnetta calls this project The Forgotten Film Gallery; its goal is “to link the past, present and future” by using abandoned outposts of civilization like this one for temporary galleries.
A few years ago Ginnetta published a novel called The Lost Episodes of Beatie Scareli, a cross between I Love Lucy, Allen Ginsberg’s Kaddish, and a film by Larry Clark. It’s about a young girl whose world is torn apart by the mental disease of her mother and the moral defeat of her father. The book is part script, part diary, part television — a multi-purpose vehicle designed for traveling through the dark and rocky terrain of damaged youth. There really aren’t enough stories that capture the “Generation X” experience, or the fallout from the cultural revolution. But maybe some day The Lost Episodes of Beatie Scareli will be turned into a movie; maybe someday this hypothetical movie will be used as someone else’s found footage, and maybe it will be played in an abandoned cathedral like this (if one still exists). This particular site is now under the watchful eye of an energy corporation called BrightSource, whose recently landed BLM land deal will be followed by a “43,000 acre solar-mega-development.” What would the people buried here think if we told them that this land will soon be covered with giant mechanical plants that steal energy directly from the sun? Perhaps they would shudder, and curse the witches that had devised such a work of devilish monstrosity.
21 February 2012
Marjorie Barrack Lecture Hall, UNLV
Susan Chandler is here to talk about her latest book, Casino Women: Courage in Unexpected Places. The book is not really about casinos, exactly, or even so much about women; it’s about the Culinary Union. Susan Chandler, who has apparently devoted her life to the union cause, calls Culinary “the poster child of the new union movement.” Her lecture lasts exactly one hour and she allows questions from the audience at the end. One young man asks the following: “If unions are such a great thing for the workers, what would be the reason why some workers would not join the union?” Two seconds of silence fills the hall, then four seconds of nervous laughter, followed by twenty more seconds of silence. After a couple awkward stutters and stops, Susan Chandler finally answers: “Jill (co-author Jill B. Jones) and I spoke at the Vegas Valley Book Festival a couple months ago and somebody in the audience asked, ‘Isn’t there two sides to this question?’ and I thought, well … No. There isn’t.” After further reflection on the “propagandizing” of her political opponents she adds this rejoinder: “I think a large part of it is fear.” To Susan’s relief, the next person she calls on is a young woman not with a question, but with a petition to support the Culinary Union in their battle against Station Casinos. “She’s not a plant, either,” Susan jokes, clearly pleased that not all UNLV students would dream of standing in the way of an authoritarian.
ArtsVegas: Covering Las Vegas Artand culture since 2009.