Tuesday, August 21, 2018

IndyFringe '18 Let's Play A Freakin Board Game with Act a Foo!

A seat at the Fun Table!
Mark Cashwell, Shannon Sampson, Larry Haworth, Joshua "Girth" Owens, Daniel Martin, and Andrea Lott-Haney gear up to win some big fake Monopoly money!

One of my favorite aspects of IndyFringe is seeing artists support other artists. Performers can see shows on standby, and although they do not pay for their tickets, having their energy in the audience is something that many fellow performers enjoy. Performers are also great for free PR for other shows. I was happy to see two performers (Ty Stover and Paige Scott) encouraging a patron to see a show with which they had no affiliation: “There Ain’t No More,” by a group from Little Rock, Arkansas, and first-timers to IndyFringe. They wanted to be sure this new-to-IndyFringe artist would get a fair shot. This is what you call Good Vibes, and I have always been proud to be a part of this giving community.

Prior to that I had an idea to write about this camaraderie. I put a plan into action. Act a Foo’s motto always stood out to me: Come Play With Us. It’s all about being inclusive. And then I spotted another show that sounded interesting: Let’s Play A Freakin’ Board Game by local comedian Mark Cashwell:

All my friends are "too busy" to play board games with me, so you should totally play with me instead! Come and play your favorite board games, where the rules are improvised, the game pieces are mixed up, and have a drink or two as well!

I liked how both shows were centered around playing with strangers. I put a call into Daniel at Act A Foo to ask if he could join us for the board game show, then contacted Mark Cashwell and asked him to join us for Act A Foo’s show, right after his. Everybody was on board (haha). I figured I could write about their interaction and learn more about this mysterious energy that performers give other performers.

What could go wrong, right?

Daniel and Joshua “Girth” met us at the theater and brought along our mutual friend Andrea Lott Haney, who did some time at ComedySportz as an improv instructor.

Mark, in full “Monopoly Guy” regalia greeted audience members as they took their seats and set the tone for a fun a game of audience participation Monopoly. (Every show will feature a different board game.) Turns out, Monopoly Guy has a name: Rich Uncle Pennybags. Mark created a back story for Pennybags, and regaled the audience with funny and tragic stories about his life between rolls of the dice.

Remember when I asked what could go wrong?

Well, one of the contestants totally Monopolized (haha!) the game, and things did get a little chaotic for a bit. However, contestant Daniel Martin rallied the troops to take the Spotlight Hog down, and a very deserving woman who went by the stage name of “Well, Shit, I Don’t Know” took the game and a bounty of free, brand new board games! Now that’s pretty cool!

The chaos was fun and lasted right through Act A Foo’s show, and by the time I got to meet up with Mark, the guy looked exhausted, as if he’d been run over by a train. Well, that might have been because he had this funny bit in his show in which every time a railroad was bought or sold, the contestants had to do a train dance around the theater. His wily contestants kept pulling that card just to do the dance.

But the story must go on. I had to resort to emailing Mark to learn more about him, and I’m so glad I did, because he was just the nicest guy. I look forward to seeing more of his shows! Thanks Mark and Thanks Foos for playing with us!

I really don’t like Q&A interviews, but Mark has a show tonight, and it sure would be nice to get this article posted before then.

If you don’t mind, here is some Q&A.

1. How you came up with show idea?

 Every time I come up with a new idea for Indyfringe, my main overarching goal for the show is to answer the question, "What is something that I would go see and would I have fun as an audience member?" With that in mind, I always go back to times where I really have fun with friends, in a not-theatre atmosphere. I suffer from social anxiety, and one of the best way to get past that is through a board game for me. They give you exact instructions on what to do, and it gives you something to distract you from anxiety and allows you at the same time a channel to interact in a safe way. I thought that had great potential to be a medium to incorporate improv, and simply replace the board game rules with tenants from improv that are always good to progress conversation and in general a positive way to interact with others too.

(Psst, hey Mark…that social anxiety you mention…I hear you, brother!)

2. How each show is different?

Every show is a a different board game that I have borrowed from Kingmakers down the road on Mass Ave. There are a total of 3 board games that I rotate between the shows, but even then it is always a new show based on the suggestions given and the different players. The three main board games are: Monopoly, Clue, and Battleship. The general theme throughout is me being the host/dungeon master to an extent who helps guide the players through the game but can also have the minor "plot" in the background. At its simplest form, the show is dungeons and dragons meets truth or dare. All have different challenges for the players to complete in order to get ahead in the games. I also try to incorporate as many performers from others shows in the Indyfringe festival as I can but still always have two or more audience members to balance out that equation. 

3. Where do you get those brand new games you give away at the end?

It turns out board game companies are really freakin' awesome if you reach out to them! When looking for prizes I knew it had to be board games, and I wanted to reward those who went through the show and were awesome enough to brave the stage. I sent emails to all my favorite board game producers asking them if they could help out, and explained the shows concept. They were happy to help with a donation and sent me boxes of board games to give out, and some with awesome drawings for me too! For some of the others I got to meet the creators at Gencon when it was in town, and instead of email asked in person and they too were into the concept and were happy to help out!

4. How long have you lived in Indy? 
I have been in Indy for about nine years now. Wow its been awhile! Before Indianapolis, I was a Kentucky guy.

5. How long have you been performing in IndyFringe? 

As a performer in the festival, this is my second year. Last year I performed an improv talk show called “Tonight, Tonight." Before then, I was actually a tech for two years as well.

6. Have you plans to create new shows? 

Oh, always! Inspiration comes at the most random of points! Originally I had an idea for an interactive improvised video game, that morphed into board games instead. At the heart of a concept, it should always serve the audience a good time and allows for some type of story to take place. Also it needs to be a bit quirky. I enjoy traditional story telling as a medium, but for Fringe I want to see the eccentric, I want to see concepts that are experimental at their base. So who knows what we have planned for next year, but I promise it will fit the bill and make sure my audience is engaged and has fun!

7. What is your favorite thing to do in Indy besides Fringe? 

One of the best things about performing in the Csz arena, as we call it in Comedysportz, is that I get to do improv there as well as one of the ensemble members during Comedysportz matches. Improv is one of the most freeing, fear inducing performance mediums. Anything can happen but in the end you know that your teammates “have your back” and that takes away fear and helps develop a really welcoming family. I enjoy that a lot especially after a stress induced day, its nice to play a silly character or do some groan worthy puns. Also I love cos-playing at the local cons, especially Gencon when it comes to town!

Tuesday Aug 21st, 6:00PM
Thursday Aug 23rd, 9:00PM
Saturday Aug 25th, 1:30PM

Sunday Aug 26th, 3:00PM


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