Tuesday, November 29, 2005


"Pimpin' ain't easy."
- Sir Laurence Olivier

Tuesday 11/29/05: Jennie & I are just taking a short break from the zaniness of Scapino! for one day. I spent the afternoon in my sweatpants eating pizza & reading about two months-worth of Sports Illustrated's that I haven't had a chance to even glance at until now. (Did y'all know the White Sox are in the World series?? The Colts are 5-0?? No way?? Holy Crap!)
I also traded for Josh Beckett on my MVP Baseball 2005 Playstation game. He got lit up like a christmas tree by the Oakland A's. Not good. Maybe he had a virtual blister.

As I write this, Jennifer has knitted herself to sleep on the couch.

It is Seventy degrees in Richmond, VA, in November. Good God.

Joan Tupponce wrote a great review of Scapino! for www.Richmond.com and I've posted it below. We have a matinee tomorrow at 2pm. We run until January 22nd, so if you can make it, please come. Just log on to www.barksdalerichmond.org for the performance schedule. They have online ticketing, and you can also find details on the rest of the great '05-'06 season.

My Father, the one and only Ted Wichmann, will be in attendance on January 13, believe it or not!! He'll be taking the 'Chooch' (his own words) down here, and I can't wait. Mom saw the show this past weekend, as she drove up from Wilmington, NC. The cast signed a poster for her & she loved it.

Here's My Shambhala "Thought of the day" by Chogyam Trungpa:

"Don't assume the posture of a wilted flower."

(Scotto's quick-capsule definition: "Stand up straight & rejoice in being human, dumbass!!")


ps--This is just a rehearsal photo. At no time during the show do I use a foam pool floatie.
"First and Ten, New England!!"

Free for All
Scapino! is now playing at the Barksdale Theatre.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Trying to describe Barksdale Theatre's new production of "Scapino!" is like trying to explain the thought process behind a well-crafted joke — in both instances, it's better to enjoy the humor rather than concentrate on the meaning. Set in present day Naples, Italy, "Scapino!" is a modern adaptation of a French farce written by Moliere. The madcap tale revolves around two young men who fear that their miserly fathers will not approve of the women they love. Both eventually turn to the tricky Scapino to help them secure their fathers' acceptance.

The end result: a slapstick comedy that combines the silliness of "Saturday Night Live" with the antics of the Marx Brothers and the frenzied energy of comic Robin Williams.

One can't talk about Barksdale's production without singing the praises of Scott Wichmann, who plays Scapino. His off-the-wall performance combines his genius for improv with his talent for zany comedy. Wichmann's on-stage persona is much like that of Robin Williams — you never know what he will say or do. On opening night, one audience member who was sleeping during the performance awoke to Wichmann sitting next to him still in character, joking about the man's inappropriate nap time.

Director Dawn Westbrook is to be congratulated for not reigning Wichmann in, for letting him be spontaneous. Westbrook's interpretation of the play allows the actors not only the ability to interact with the audience but also the leeway to use every imaginable space as their stage. Along with Wichmann, other notable performances include those of David Clark (Sylvestro), who shines as a clumsy goon and Bridget Gethins (Argente) for her believable performance as a man. Plus, Jack Parrish (Geronte) makes gullible funny. Special mention goes to Ford Flannagan in his role as a mute bum. Flannagan's subtle facial expressions and gestures solicit as much laughter as a well-rehearsed line.

Accolades also go to Scenic Designer Kimberly Parkin — her Italian café and adjoining dock brought a taste of realism to the silly shenanigans — and to Lighting Designer Lynne Hartman who created the show's party-like atmosphere.With all that said, "Scapino!" does have a few glitches, including Italian accents that are sometimes difficult to understand when the dialogue reaches blistering speeds and blocking that often has the audiences on the side looking at the actors' backs, making it difficult to hear the dialogue.All in all, "Scapino!" is a fun romp that offers a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the holidays.

The play runs through Jan. 22 at Barksdale Theatre.

Single ticket prices for "Scapino!" are $38 with a $4 discount for seniors, students and Ukrop's cardholders. Tickets can be purchased by calling (804) 282-2620.

....AWWW, YEAH... You know how we do!!

Sunday, November 27, 2005


"This farce is not interested in plot... as much as in hyperkinetic physical shtick and characters yelling at each other in bad Italian accents."
-Dan Neman, RTD 11/27/05


Scapino! is open!! Curtain went up the night after Thanksgiving, and the first weekend's audiences were eating it up. Opening night was a hoot, and it offered up a few priceless opportunities to comment on what was taking place in the audience. The first time a cellphone went off, Dave Clark (Sylvestro) and I said, very enthusiastically "Please, go ahead, answer it-- we'll wait!!" A few scenes later, I spotted a healthy young man in his mid-forties dead asleep about five rows back. I ran up to wake him & tell him he was missing the plotline.
His embarrassed wife shook him frantically & he quickly woke up-- then he promptly fell back to sleep.

The audience freakin' howled.

Later on in the evening I shouted to his wife, "Lady-- You must cook one hell of a turkey!!"

...an obvious reference to tryptophane... Guess yahaddabethere.

In act two, I spotted Dan Neman, the local Times-Dispatch movie critic, who rarely likes what he sees (Though to be fair, there's a lot of crap out there-- Too many Dukes of Hazzard's, not enough Ghandi's) yet I couldn't resist the urge to ask him in passing "Hey, Dan Neman-- How come you no like'a STAR WARS?" He chuckled & sort of turned red, and everyone shared a big laugh. I think he had a lot of fun, to tell the truth!!

It can be tricky ad-libbing when stuff happens-- you can lose the momentum of the show if something isn't worth taking the time to acknowledge, and you can also make people feel stupid, which is not cool. I feel very much that it is my responsibility to take care of the audience, and to make them feel like a part of the show. we hit some of the right beats at the right time this weekend and audiences loved it. I'm looking forward to living with this for the next eight weeks-- The director, cast, and designers are first-rate and the Stage Management and crew are a joy to see everyday.

Anyway, Mr. Neman reviewed the show that night, and the text of his review is posted below. Thanks for being such a good sport, Dan-o!!!

More later,



By Daniel Neman
Times-Dispatch staff writer

Nov 27, 2005

Scott Wichmann is a force of nature.

Like the Tasmanian Devil in cartoons of old, he tears tornadically around the stage, bursting off quips, one-liners and ad libs. The ad libs, particularly those directed at members of the audience, are actually funnier than anything in the script of "Scapino!," the new show he stars in at Barksdale Theatre.

"Scapino!" is Molière's "Les Fourberies de Scapin" by way of England's Frank Dunlop and Jim Dale and an abundance of others since it first came to America three decades ago. It is a kitchen-sink kind of comedy, where anything and everything goes and where a tone merely over the top is disdained as too subtle.

The audience loved it, laughing robustly at all the jokes, which come with such relentless speed and fury it can be hard to distinguish which few ones are funny (the Bill Clinton joke) and which many are not (the pointless references to Jon Stewart and "Gone With the Wind").

With a Chico Marx accent ("You get-a your upper lip stiffened to meet-a your father") mirrored by most of the rest of the cast, Wichmann stars as the title character, a servant smarter than the wealthy men in town, present-day Naples. The crafty Scapino specializes in trickery and deceit, traits that come in handy when two young men come to him for help convincing their disapproving fathers to allow them to marry the women they love.

At least, that's what it seems to be about. A mountain of exposition at the beginning is impossible to climb, presumably intentionally, and it gets the show off on the wrong foot. But this farce is not interested in plot - another wrong foot - as much as in hyperkinetic physical shtick and characters yelling at each other in bad Italian accents.

The second act, it should be noted, makes more sense than the first and is consequently more enjoyable. But the encore, a singalong of a song that isn't funny the first six times it is performed, could easily be dropped.

Though the show belongs entirely to Wichmann, Ford Flannagan is also a quiet presence in pantomime, recalling Harpo Marx. David Clark appears briefly in Groucho glasses, completing a Marx Brothers trifecta.

Director Dawn A. Westbrook keeps the proceedings at a constant frantic pitch in an attempt to preserve the commedia dell'arte of the original source. But while Molière may be responsible for the silly plot, Westbrook and company look for inspiration more from Looney Tunes.

It's all Bugs Bunny, all the time. When two characters share a love scene, or rather a kissing scene, three others sit in the background watching and eating popcorn. To keep one of the fathers (Bridget Gethins in drag) from talking, Scapino repeatedly stuffs his mouth full of spaghetti.

How much one likes it depends on one's tolerance for slapstick.

Sara Grady's costumes are a must-see for fans of décolletage, while Kimberly H. Parkin's set recreates a seaside restaurant in Naples of the sort that caters to tourists. Like the set, Lynne M. Hartman's lighting is bright and sunny. She often turns up the house lights to bring the audience into the show on the far-too-frequent occasions that reference is made to the obvious fact that we are, in fact, watching a play.

Contact Daniel Neman at (804) 649-6408 or dneman@timesdispatch.com

Friday, November 18, 2005

Kickin' it Old School

I had a great conversation with my friend, mentor & High School Drama teacher, Ralph Hammann last night. Ralph directed me in the title role in Scapino! Fifteen yeears ago, and his students are opening their production of Scapino! tonight at 8pm at the Pittsfield High School Theatre in Massachussetts.

The cool thing is-- I'm working on the title role in Scapino! right now at Barksdale Theatre in Richmond, VA!! How freakin' cool is that?? Our production opens next week at 8pm.


Ralph Hammann has been a great friend to me for almost eighteen years now. One of the great things about him is that he always treats his students-- and expects them to behave-- as though they are professional actors. Nevermind that most of them will grow up to be something else entirely-- business majors, career military personnell, doctors, lawyers, or even burger flippers, and may never set foot in a theare again after high school-- Mr. Hammann forces them to take what they are doing very very seriously, and to bring the totality of who they are to a given project. In so doing, he instills a strong sense of self-confidence into his students, and allows them to trust themselves and one another. In nearly thirty years of maintaining one of the most unique and challenging arts programs of any public school system anywhere in the country (a four-year intensive drama program more comprehensive than the curriculum of some colleges) Ralph has given his students a forum to find their voice, an invitation to take risks, and a place to land squarely on their feet. The man creates ensembles for a living, with the discipline of a football coach, the fearlessness of a true artist, & the mischevious warmth and humor of a circus clown.

So tonight, I wish Proteus, the PHS Drama Society a heartfelt 'Break A Leg!' as they tread the boards and act like knuckleheads in the wacky commedia dell'arte farce that is Scapino! I'm proud to be a part of the lineage & tradition of Mr. Hammann's ensemble, and I only wish I could get up there to see it.


-Mary Sue Carroll: The Show of her Life. A Memorial Celebration of the life and artistic energy of beloved local actor Mary Sue Carroll will be presented on Sunday, November 20 at the Firehouse Theatre Project. Music and stories by family and friends will be the backdrop for the celebration, which includes a video collage of memories. A film of Mary Sue's performance in The Devil and Billy Markham will immediately follow the celebration. Pre-show music at 6:15 for a 7:00 curtain. The Firehouse Theatre Project is located at 1609 W. Broad St. at Lombardy. Free and ample parking across the street at Lowe's. Call Bridget Gethins for more information 231-3118.

-A Midsummer Night's Dream Monday night, 11/21 at 9pm on WCVE Richmond Channel 23, the broadcast of our five actor version airs. Catch the great physical comedy of the ensemble that includes Frank Creasy, Cynde Liffick, Heidi-Marie Ferren, Cameron Knight and myself, with original music by Andrew Hamm. Directed by Grant Mudge.

-Scapino! Friday night, 11/25/05 and runs until 1/22/06. Catch al of the details, plus a swell picture of me gesturing towards actor Adam Suritz, who plays Ottavio, just seconds before he kisses my wife, Jennifer, who plays his love interest, Giacinta. I hate this business. Check it out at www.barksdalerichmond.org

-Congrats to local filmmaker Keith Marcum, whose short film, Shades of Grey, won 'best narrative' at the veneration film festival. Jennifer and I were both featured in that film-- Jennifer as a florist, myself as a bald-headed thug who contributes to the demise of the main character; a nice, altruistic gentleman played by actor Walter Schoen. I'm a bad, bad man. The list of other honorees can be found at www.venerationfilmfestival.org

-Foster Solomon's new short film, Tamed, has it's premiere this week as well. Catch the article on his new venture at the link below. Best of luck to that project, which has film festivals all over the country clamoring for it, featuring Richmond Actors Justin Dray and Kristen Swanson.


That's all for now. I leave you with my Shambhala 'Thought of the Day',
by Chogyam Trungpa:

"To Overcome Uncertainty is Utterly Good."