Tuesday, August 23, 2016

IndyFringe16: Terror on the High Seas with Les Kurkendaal


On Friday night we took in a horror show about cannibalistic pirates. Just kidding. It was a comedy show about a man who went on an Alaskan cruise with his boyfriend's family:

What if you were trapped on a boat with your husband or wife's family and there was no escape? Les is on a cruise to Alaska with his boyfriend and his boyfriend's very wacky family and he is fearing for his sanity. This show puts the fun in family dysfunction! Come and enjoy the ride. (IndyFringe program)

Although he's from West Hollywood, CA, actor, writer, storyteller Les Kurkendaal is a veteran of IndyFringe, bringing his third show to IndyFringe. (Christmas in Bakersfield and Attack of the Big Angry Booty were other Fringe favorites in previous years.)

This show is a hoot for anyone who's ever suffered through close quarters for extended periods of time among people who question your every move: "What do you mean you're a vegetarian? What do you mean you don't drink? What do you mean you're not gonna vote for Trump?" In true Kurkendaal fashion, his humor is never biting and always makes its final resting place the heart.

In the house opening night was LisaMarie Smith. Smith grew up on the north side and now proudly calls Garfield Park home. An accomplished local actor, Smith admitted that at first glance, she wasn't sure she would like the show. "I'm not a big fan of one-person shows, because if I'm spending my time at a play, I want the full production. I am skeptical that one person is going to be able to dig in and create a sustainable emotional stage presence. But his promo shot and show description really intrigued me, so I had to take a shot, and I am so glad that I did. He came out with guns blazing. I enjoyed every minute!" 

In addition to acting and attending IndyFringe, Smith says she is a big foodie and loves to try independent restaurants. Currently her favorite is Ralston's on Mass Ave because they have an "amazing $7 taco" on the menu, and they welcome her fifteen year-old son, Caleb, before 9 pm. Incidentally, Smith is also performing in IndyFringe this year in Tortillo 2 with Casey Ross Productions. 

LisaMarie and Les have both weathered the storms of in-laws and lived to tell.

It's no surprise that exacting audience members, such as Smith, are taken with Kurkendaal. He has been perfecting his craft for over two decades, appearing in nearly every U.S. Fringe Festival, as well as Adelaide Australia Fringe, and at Fringe festivals all over Canada. 

We caught up with Kurkendaal in the beer tent one evening to talk shop. Kurkendaal belongs to a storytelling company called Story Salon in Studio City, CA. "To create a show, first I come up with an idea then write a scene. I bring the scene to the audience at Story Salon, and if they like it, I continue to work it. If they don't, I chuck it, and look for another idea or tweak my existing idea." 

Kurkendaal applies for national and international Fringe and storytelling festivals throughout the year. It usually takes him about five months from start to finish to get a show from idea to the stage.

The biggest mistake that storytellers make, Kurkendaal believes, is trying to fit too much information in a single show. "I find what works best is to pick one event and write a show around that single event; that way it has a definite beginning, middle, and end."  

Once he has a finished script, he sends it to a writer friend in New York for critique. "It took a long time to find someone I could trust to bring out my best work without discouraging me." After revising, he looks for a director. His rule is that the director is there to direct, not question the writing. 

Having seen his other Fringe shows, I asked Les which one has been his favorite. "Without a doubt this one," he says. "I have matured not only as a writer/performer but as a person and more importantly, as a better partner to Michael. Over the years, I have learned to bite my tongue and not just get along but honestly enjoy his family. I feel a lot more comfortable now just being myself than I did when I first met them all those years ago one Christmas in Bakersfield." 

Seasoned yet no worse for the wear, Kurkendaal added that at this point, he can describe his life in one word: satisfied.

Now, that's the second artist in two days who has described their lives that way! 

Kurkendaal did not hold back his praises of IndyFringe. He claims the people are some of the friendliest he's ever encountered, and IndyFringe, thanks to Pauline [Moffat] is also one of the most organized and best Fringe festivals in the country. 

Way to model success, Indy!

Terror on the High Seas continues its run at ComedySportz:

Tue 08/23/16 7:30pm
Wed 08/24/16 6:00pm
Sat 08/27/16 3:00pm

P.S. Kurkendaal toured with Moth Radio Hour one year, and he will be sharing his story from the series throughout the week in the Short Fringe Theater in the beer tent. 

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