Review: Tiny Ninja Theater
TheaterMania, 4/9/03
"There's something irresistibly charming about seeing Shakespeare's works performed by miniature plastic figurines."

Article: Small Actors Make Big Splash
Dramatics, 4/03
"As Yoda says, ‘You do or you do not; there is no try.’"

Review: Theatre Pick for Week of March 4, 3/4/03
"You think you've seen every twist on The Bard’s work humanly possible..."

Article: Fringe Hit Tiny Ninja Theater Returns to NYC
Playbill Online, 2/9/03
"Trevor Bigfoot as Mercutio — whose death scene has to be seen to be believed"

Article: Best of Charleston 2003
The Charleston City Paper, 1/03
"Readers Pick for Best Piccolo Spoleto Event"

Review: Shakespeare in a Shoebox
The Washington Post, 1/11/03
"Once you've seen its Romeo & Juliet, you'll want to come to back for figurine versions of Hamlet or Othello or whatever else." — Peter Marks

Review: Action Figure Genius
The Charleston City Paper, 10/02
"Quick, clever, and chock full of surprises, more than one audience member claimed that it even outperformed the hit interpretation of the Scottish play." — Colleen Reilly

Review: Freeze Frame
Creative Loafing Charlotte, 10/2/02
"I heartily recommend being among the lucky few when Weinstein & Co. return to Charlotte or Piccolo Spoleto." — Perry Tannenbaum
jump to the good bits

Review: Tiny Version of Macbeth is Giant Entertainment
The Charlotte Observer, 9/22/02
"Fresh, funny, ingenious and original." — JoAnn Grose

Review: Tiny Ninja Theater
Hairline, 8/02
"Four Stars: Tiny Ninja Theater is a fantastic and unorthodox show which represents what many love about the Edinburgh Festival." — Simon Ferguson

Review: Bard Takes a Flyer
Sunday Herald, 8/25/02
"Four Stars: Shakespeare is as equally at home among the ridiculous, of course." — Tim Abrahams

Review: Tiny Ninja Theater presents Macbeth
The Scotsman, 8/19/02
"Must be seen to be believed. " — Paul Rhodes

Review: Macbeth
Three Weeks, 8/17/02
"If a definition of the Fringe is originality and artistic expression, then this 35 minute abbreviated version of Macbeth, with tiny plastic ninjas as a cast, must surely rank as an ultimate example." — Paul Cochrane

Review: Mr. Smiley Face Macbeth
The Guardian, 8/10/02
"Weinstein plays it dead straight and speaks the text rather better than some classically trained actors I have heard." — Lyn Gardner

Review: Mini-Cawdor Steals Hearts
The List, 8/8/02
"a marvel of theatrical innovation" — Catherine Bromley

Review: No Drams Required
Edinburgh Guide, 8/3/02
"This is the only one I’m recommending to all my friends and the only thing I think I’ll make a return trip to!" — Annabel Ingram

Article: Ninja-cized Bard
Charleston Post & Courier, 6/1/02

Article: Tiny Ninja Theater Returns to Charleston
The State, 5/31/02

Review: Action Figure Genius
The Charleston City Paper, 5/29/02

Review: Tiny Ninjas Take On Shakespeare's Giant Roles
Charleston Post & Courier, 5/29/02

Article: Oh Tiny Romeo
The Charleston City Paper, 5/02

Article: What's The Buzz
The Charleston City Paper, 5/02
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Article: Where to Celebrate Valentine's Day Solo
Time Out New York, 2/14/02
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Review: Massaker im Spielzeugland
Taz Bremen, 1/22/02
the babelfish translation

Article: Best of Charleston 2001
The Charleston City Paper, 1/02
"Best Use of Plastic Figurines in a Performance" jump to the good bits

Article: Shakespeare de Plástico
Revista 2K, 6/22/01
the babelfish translation

Piccolo's Prices Too Steep for Local Festival
The State, 6/10/01
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Spoleto Festival at 25
The New York Times, 6/5/01
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Tiny Ninjas Put Twist on the Bard
Charleston Post & Courier, 6/2/01

Tiny Ninjas Project Big Illusion
The Charleston City Paper, 5/29/01

Review: No Small Jokes, Just Small Actors
Charleston Post & Courier, 5/29/01

Article: Immediate Art
The Charleston City Paper, 5/01
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Article: Serious Shakespeare Takes But An Inch
The Charleston City Paper, 5/01

Review: Sightlines: Tom Waits in the Toilet
The Village Voice, 4/27/01

Article: All Is But Toys
Stage Directions, 3/01
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Article: The Bard's New Band of Merry Men Perform Macbeth
American Theater, 12/00

Article: Off-Off color: Toy Story
Time Out New York, 11/9/00
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Review: Street of Blood, Tiny Ninja Theater presents Macbeth
NEXT Magazine, 9/15/00
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Article: Is That a Ninja That I See Before Me?
Playbill Online, 8/30/00

Review: Oh, Forget the Money, Let's Dress Up and Play
The New York Times, 8/26/00
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Fringe Binge
Time Out New York, 8/24/00
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Review: Fringe Benefits
The Village Voice, 8/23/00
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Review: As The Bard Himself Might Put it..., 8/20/00

Review: Tiny Ninja Macbeth, Finally, Little Green Man, 8/18/00
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Article: Off-Off and Running
Time Out New York, 8/10/00
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Immediate Art
Theatrical offerings close the distance between audience and actor

by C. Reilly

The 2001 Spoleto Festival U.S.A. and Piccolo Spoleto theatre offerings stand ready in the wings of the Dock Street Theatre, Queen Street Playhouse, Theatre 99, and the College of Charleston. These are spaces in our community that we know intimately and celebrate often, yet they sometimes grow strange to us this time of year.

Previous festivals have eagerly done their part to gain an elitist reputation. Last year’s Mother Courage and Her Children, beautifully staged by the Shared Experience Theatre Company, packed a heavy aesthetic wallop, dazing some audience members who preferred to be dazzled. Likewise, previous major productions like Mamba’s Daughters, Laurie Anderson’s Moby Dick, and Theatre de la Jeune Lune’s Three Musketeers inspired many audience members to leap from their seats — and exit the theatre mid-scene. While these productions are among the most directly theatrical performances played locally in the past several years, it would seem that a Charleston audience, even during Spoleto, is still a Charleston audience.

You can tell by our beautifully preserved prosceniums that while we love our theatres, generally speaking, we would prefer to keep our distance from the stage. The comfortable atmosphere of a playing space that is defined, preferably several feet from us voyeurs, is a tradition more fixed than the unforgiving angle of a Dock Street seat. Until now.

A centerpiece of this year’s Spoleto Festival, is the performance of a new adaptation of A Servant to Two Masters. This collaboration between The Royal Shakespeare Company and the Young Vic Theatre Company of Carlo Goldoni’s great contribution to Italian comedy promises to be fresh, boisterous, and positively gymnastic. It may practically leap into your seat. Jason Watkins’ execution of the title role is attracting international attention and should be downright zany.

But if its lazzi (those physical comedy “bits”) that alert your senses, the Gross Theatre Company of Los Angeles’ commedia presentation of Romeo and Juliet and Oedipus Rex should abound with them. In fact, several productions this festival season are getting simply physical, particularly the Blue Shift Theatre Ensemble’s examination of the commercial sports industry, aptly named Sport. In this interactive exchange between audience and actor, they’ll drop a flag on the play as innovatively as the random placement of a playing card will shape the improvisational quality of Seattle’s theater simple’s new work, 52 Pickup.

But nothing will bring you closer to the performance than the brilliant Tiny Ninja Theatre. Not only does it offer us a play we’ll find familiar, but also faces fresh from our childhood afternoons of make believe with inch-high ninja figurines. Like the rest of us, Tiny Ninja creator Dov Weinstein has spent his free time playing out Shakespeare’s masterworks with tiny action figures. Piccolo Fringe at Theatre 99 brings us his Macbeth, performed on a stage the size of a briefcase. And to finally close that gap between art and life, stage and audience, eye and object, the entire performance will be viewed through binoculars (provided at the door).

Also at Theatre 99 are Charleston’s very own Have Nots!, who now have their own space, have shown tremendous leadership in producing works that easily connect with the audience. Their Piccolo Spoleto Fringe Festival reflects this dynamic programming. As part of the Fringe, innovative local director Greg Tavares will produce Lanford Wilson’s Talley’s Folly, a beautifully written American classic set during WWII. The closeness of the 99-seat space will be used to its fullest potential with original shows like Timmy Finch’s Don’t Kill the Messenger, Steve Shields’ The Assignment, a multimedia performance of Purdy Woman, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry IV and Henry V by New York’s New Ensemble Theatre Company (with live music from rock artists Into Red Giant), and appearances by Sara Guthrie and comic juggling duo, The Fettucini Brothers.

But it is An Evening with Spalding Gray that promises to be the most powerful Piccolo dramatic performance. Gray’s career has set the bar for integrating Life and Art, and his performance at Theatre 99 should be a kind of standard bearer for the spirit that has shaped this year’s theatrical offerings. That is, the direct experience of an art that is immediate. Gray is joined in this year’s festival offerings by other solo work performers like David Sedaris, David Rakoff, Kevin Kling, and William Yang.

To remind us of the theatre scene reaching out to us yearlong, many exceptional local productions will be revived for the Piccolo Festival. The College of Charleston’s Art, along with the Footlight Players’ Tintypes, A: My Name Will Always be Alice, and The Good Time Variety Hour, stand out among them.

While our local companies continue in their constant effort to make theatre a part of our community experience, they also annually extend a welcome sharing of space and resources to the regional companies in residence for the festival. One of the companies welcomed this year is a collaborative of writers, directors, and actors from New York City known as The Lexington Group. Mixing theatre, song, poetry, and movement they plan to stage the Ballad of Larry the Flyer. An American legend, Larry Walters tied 42 helium filled weather balloons to a lawnchair and flew above Los Angeles in 1982. This tribute features Holli Harms, an alumnus of Charleston’s theatre community and the College of Charleston.

Also among the regional companies performing at the Footlight Players this year is the Shenandoah Shakespeare Express. With productions like their A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s tribute to the imagination, this innovative company has culled

a nationwide reputation for performing Shakespeare as it was originally envisioned. Techniques like ambient lighting, double role casting, and minimal set design invite the audience to do the playmaking in their own imagination.

This creative process is also invited by another Footlight offering, Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde. Produced by local director Steve Lepre, it is performed in a way that suggests the audience become the author of the event before them.

Two South Carolinian perspectives are explored in this same fashion. The first, a closer look at the historical Charleston blacksmith, Philip Simmons, is the South Carolina Young Playwrights&Mac226; Sermon of Fire: The Village Blacksmith. The second, known as The White Problem, shares the experience of Richard Greener, the first African American graduate of Harvard, first post-Reconstruction African American professor at the University of South Carolina and leading intellectual of his time. It is a new work commissioned through the University of South Carolina’s Bicentennial Committee that explores this process of how history can be constructed through art. This theme is intermingled throughout the festival, found also in the Ping Chong piece, Secret Histories, which will grace this year’s Spoleto Festival.

You might remember Ping Chong’s production of Kwaidan, an audience favorite of the 1999 festival. This year, puppeteer Pamella O’Connor, the first performer to appear simultaneously in the Spoleto and Piccolo festivals, and a participant in the Kwaidan staging, will bring her unique blend of shadow puppets, found objects, and marionettes to her interpretation of Rapunzel.

As the festivals spill out from behind the wings and make even the most familiar places seem unreal, invoking pity for a man strapped to a lawn chair and laughter for a tiny ninja Macbeth, remember that the festival plays upon Charleston only briefly. In no time at all we will be returned to the safety of a reasonable aesthetic distance. If you are in a panic for a traditional proscenium experience, try the Chamber Music series. Otherwise, let this year’s trend of audience as artist bring you closer to the stage and its phenomenology than you may have ever been.

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