Benefit show, without benefit of time

05:00 AM, Nov 26, 2013

Reuben Tapp performs in 2012's A Benefit Show for MuCCC's Benefit, Benefiting MuCCC. This year's installment, again assembled in three short weeks, is Saturday. Provided photo/


Written By Jeff Spevak | Staff music critic

If you go

What:
A Benefit Show for MuCCCÂ’s Benefit, Benefiting MuCCC.
When: 8 p.m. Saturday. A reception, with raffles and silent-auction items, starts at 7 p.m. A wine and beer cash bar will be open.
Where: MuCCC, 142 Atlantic Ave.
Tickets: $10 and $15 per couple in advance; $15 a person at the door.
Web: muccc.org.

In this era of sequester government, venues can’t count on federal arts grants if they insist on putting on shows in which the star is a terrier who foils a Nazi terror plot. Hence Saturday’s A Benefit Show for MuCCC’s Benefit, Benefiting MuCCC.

For those of you who don’t have an eye for redundancy, it’s a benefit, in case you don’t have an eye for redundancy.

We did this last year by the seat of our pants,” says Karen Craft, a MuCCC artist in residence and one of the event’s organizers. The word “organizer” implies organized, but sometimes there simply isn’t time. “We had only three weeks to put it together,” Craft says the event’s 2012 debut. “Because when asked if we could do it, that particular weekend was the only open window.”

So they jumped through it, and came up with a show whose second half was scenes from plays that most people are familiar with. But with a twist. Like the part in A Christmas Carol where Ebenezer Scrooge is in the cemetery, looking at his own grave. MuCCC’s twist was to have the Scooby-Doo gang suddenly turn up to solve the mystery.

Assembling a show in just three weeks — writing the sketches and various elements, making costumes and scenery, rehearsing — means plenty of charming amateurism. So this year Craft and her crew came to MuCCC founder Doug Rice in plenty of time to properly write, build and rehearse for this second benefit show.

Alas, these are busy people. “The cast all have lives, they all have jobs,” Craft says. She works for Harris RF Communications’ Strategic Growth Department, heading the innovation program, doing things like market studies. Craft is also co-founder of Polite Company Improv & Sketch Comedy, which performs monthly at MuCCC. And she works with other theater groups.

The upshot is, busy as these creative forces are, when they finally set aside time to begin work on this second A Benefit Show for MuCCC’s Benefit, Benefiting MuCCC, the show was only about three weeks away.

So look forward to plenty of charming amateurism once again.

MuCCC — the Multi-use Community Cultural Center in the Neighborhood of the Arts — is one of those self-propelled, volunteer-fueled miracles that every community needs to keep its arts scene thriving. Rice bought the old church on Atlantic Avenue a few years ago and converted it into a home for wayward, and otherwise homeless, creativity.

There are many serious productions there. On Friday, MuCCC plays host to Jackie, written by Nobel Prize winner Elfriede Jelinek, an adults-only production that dwells on Jackie Kennedy’s reactions to her husband’s infidelities, with harrowing descriptions of the president’s assassination. And MuCCC has done Tiz Pity She’s a Whore, an infamous 15th-century play about incest and religion, presented with the cast wearing Gothic, Sweeney Todd-style costumes. Craft played “a murderous, revengeful woman,” she says. “How could I turn that down?”

But generally, MuCCC’s arts edge is frayed. How could you, as a serious theater-goer, turn down a MuCCC production such as War Terrier? Spencer Christiano’s World War II spy farce starred Henry, the scruffy terrier belonging to John Borek, who wields the mighty title of MuCCC director of artistic development. The line between satire and lunacy is a very fine one indeed. Borek — his alter-ego is The Professor of Rap — became an amusing national news story a few years ago when he brought back to the stage Moose Murders, once declared the worst show to have ever made it to Broadway.

Incidentally, Borek reports that MuCCC has offered 700 performances of 250 different works by 70 different groups over 4½ years. “On a budget of $40K per year, no less,” he writes in an email. “I defy any local, or national, arts organization to come up with figures like that.”

The bulk of A Benefit Show for MuCCC’s Benefit, Benefiting MuCCC is comedic sketches riffing off of Indiana Jones, Annie, couples counseling for theater types and a game show. “It’s almost Saturday Night Live-esque,” Craft says. “Original sketches, with as many theater and art references as we can. And they all have a nice little comedic spin on them.”

It’s not simply a night for the venue’s artists in residence (none of them actually live there). “MuCCC is about community,” Craft says. “We also want it to be a showcase for other people’s talents. So there’s some music and dancing. Some of the dancing ends with a comedic twist.”

Yes, they can’t seem to leave the arts well enough alone. At last year’s A Benefit Show for MuCCC’s Benefit, Benefiting MuCCC, the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene was interrupted by MuCCC security personnel hauling away Romeo because he wasn’t on the list at the door. And, they pointed out, just as Shakespeare described in the play, Juliet is only 13.

This time around, for the second half of A Benefit Show for MuCCC’s Benefit, Benefiting MuCCC, the artists in residence have written a play: Fifteen Reasons to Not Be in a Play.

Actually, it was 30,” says Craft. “But we only had an hour.”