ColdTowne’s Express Yourself: Heavy and Humorous, Satirical and Serious
What we all need much less of, generally, is entitlement
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
10:30AM, Thu. Feb. 11, 2016
Tell you what, that Frank Netscher and Ryan Darbonne are stirring up some shit.
Of course, it’s shit that needs to be stirred up, or else it’s never gonna dissipate, never gonna do more than lie around ripening and expanding and waiting to befoul the lives of more and more present-day people and all the generations that follow.
“Shit?” you ask, arching a practiced eyebrow. “Whatever sort of shit are you talking about, Brenner?”
Oh, the usual, citizen: Race, gender, class, privilege, and sexuality.
You know: Those confounding, complicated, contentious subjects that tend to get people frothing on both sides of the equations. Especially – or maybe I’m being overly provincial here? – especially in this great nation of ours.
But Express Yourself isn’t just another intense community forum for the serious and constructive thinkers among us. In case the ColdTowne venue didn’t already give it away, please know that Express Yourself is an entertaining forum, although possibly still intense, from the comedy-improv-trained thinkers among us. Or, anyway, from the comedy-improv-trained thinkers and performers at that fierce bastion of laughs and innovation right next door to the I LUV VIDEO on Airport Boulevard.
Express Yourself is a show, see.
It runs Saturdays at 8:30pm, from February 13 to March 26. It’s directed by Netscher and Darbonne, and features Abby Lincoln, Javier Ungo, Kenah Benefield, Kim Tran, Laura de la Fuente, Maggie Maye, Ronnita Laniere Miller, Sanjay Rao, Tauri Laws-Phillips, Lilli Lopez, Linzy Beltran, Nat Miller, and Will Cleveland.
And what about this show, Frank Netscher? What got this thing started?
“I originally pitched this show because the White Savior Complex in movies like Dangerous Minds, Freedom Writers, and Finding Forrester, it's always bothered me,“ says Netscher. “It’s a white perspective on what it means to be described as Other. In the same way, improv comedy shows have been a predominantly white, male, and heterosexual perspective on what it means to be an outsider in American society. Austin gets away with this mostly because it continues to embrace gentrification and accept the rapid reduction of its minority population. I wanted to dismantle both the Hollywood image of at-risk students and do what I could to push Austin comedy to be more in touch with all of its audiences.
Brenner: That sounds … pretty provocative.
Netscher: It was an ambitious pitch. Luckily, I found an amazing partner in Ryan Darbonne. He has a brilliant mind for satire, and he’s been attacking the same issues for much longer than I have.
Brenner: And so is this show rehearsed? I mean, is it sketch or is it improvised?
Netscher: Hell yes, it’s improvised. Modern improv was originally developed at the Hull House in Chicago as a therapeutic tool to help traumatized children feel supported, confident, and have a safe space to speak for themselves. Their performances reflected the lives of underrepresented people of their community. In the same way, these are real discussions of race, gender, class, privilege, and sexuality – happening in real time, in front of a live audience. This is a comedic theater piece that’s collaboratively developed during every performance, by a group of actors who bring their own points of view to the stage. The beauty of improv, as a medium, is that the actors can’t help but express themselves in their own words.
Darbonne: The beauty of improv is that as a player you're not beholden to race, class, gender, sexuality, et cetera. You get to play God creating an entire universe from scratch; there's something empowering about that.
Brenner: And just judging from the names of the performers, you’ve got a pretty diverse cast.
Netscher: Yes, the cast is diverse. And, yes, the audience will experience a dialogue reflecting that. But, at its heart, this is a fantastic comedy show performed by ColdTowne's finest actors.