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Remembering Stev Guyer: 1954-2018

614now

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We don’t have a show.

It’s two days before we open a brand new sketch comedy and rock n’ roll show. We’ve just finished a run-through rehearsal of the show.

Stev Guyer, the executive producer of Shadowbox Live (the largest resident theater company in America) is pulling on the front of his shirt and slowly breathing down into his chest.

This was an act the rest of us came to know well, a way of Stev calming himself so he didn’t say something he would come to regret.

“We don’t have a show,” he says again.

This is directed at me. In usual fashion, the band is killing the music and the comedy is … lacking.

As the head writer since 1996, it’s my job to make sure the comedy is not only good but (as he would say) worth people getting off their couch, driving downtown, paying for a ticket AND parking, and then having them leave inspired enough to tell their friends they need to see this show.

So we run up to his office and go through every line of the scripts until we feel they fit the criteria.

When I started at Shadowbox, we were in a warehouse on Spring Street. If 50 people came and saw the show, we would scream in celebration.

Many of us were working as volunteers because most of the money went to rent. We sold three kinds of beer and a few food items.

It was in this dusty, non-air-conditioned environment that Stev would say he wasn’t interested in competing with other theaters—he wanted to compete with DreamWorks.

His dream was always so big, so out of reach … so impossible. At least, the majority of us saw it that way. He never did. He wanted to turn art inside out. He wanted our audience members to not just have a good time, but be challenged and inspired.

He wanted the shows to be world-class.

When I first started working at Shadowbox, act one of our shows would consist of a series of one-act plays with a few songs from the band and act two would be sketch comedy and rock ‘n’ roll (inspired by SNL and Monty Python.)

The formula seemed to work, but in no time Stev insisted we do an all-original show—the plays and music would all be created in-house.

Then our band put out its own CD.

Then we were working on putting together a video of original material called “Marsupials of North America.”

Then we hooked up with a local production company and put out a season of television called Shadowbox Wired. Then we were writing original musicals. (“I hate musicals,” I told him. “That’s why you’re the perfect person to write one,” he replied.”)

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Next, we were collaborating with BalletMet on a dance/rock show. Then with CCAD for a Pink Floyd tribute show.

Then with the Columbus Museum of Art for a show that brought artwork to life through video and original music. Then with New York Times best-selling writer David Mack. And so on and so on.

From the Buggyworks building to the warehouse on Spring Street to the Easton Town Center to our new home in the Brewery District (and even with theaters in the Short North and Newport, Ky. along the way), Stev’s dream became our dream.

This isn’t to say it was all sunshine and rainbows.

Stev was difficult, flawed, and could be a total pain in the ass. When he was in a foul mood, he made sure you knew it. It was much easier for him to tell you that you suck than it was for him to compliment any aspect of your work.

He could look at you, see that you were exhausted and then announce we would be doing another two-hour rehearsal. He was a self-proclaimed “egotistical bastard.”

Despite his faults, though, he was a great visionary, mentor, and friend. When he would laugh, his smile would take over his whole face and he’s clap his hands together while bending backwards, almost as if he was literally being blown away by the joke. God, I miss that laugh.

Stev died after a year fighting a battle with brain cancer.

Shadowbox is still doing its thing.

Stev, being who he was, made sure years ago that we would be able to continue in case he was “hit by a bus.”

How ironic that the “bus” ended up being his own wonderful brain.

We just went through a tech week of a new sketch comedy and rock ‘n’ roll show.

Two days before it opened, I watched the dress rehearsal and thought to myself, “We don’t have a show.”

Two days later we opened one of our strongest shows to date, in my opinion.

Stev would be proud.

Shadowbox will once again take the Columbus Commons stage this spring, dedicating their May 27 performance of Which One’s Pink, their Pink Floyd Tribute show, to Stev. For more, visit shadowboxlive.com.

By  / 614 May 2018

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Serenity now! 614 interviews Jason Alexander ahead of Cbus performance

Mike Thomas

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If you’re expecting a stand-up comedy routine from a frumpily-dressed Jason Alexander full of jokes about soup and shrinkage and Festivus, move on.

Alexander’s still getting laughs. But, they’re a different kind as he returns to his roots as a Broadway show performer, taking his singing, dancing, piano-playing, storytelling routine across the country with a pops-style show that will arrive in Columbus this month. Alexander will join the Columbus Symphony Orchestra to tell the story of his life on the screen and stage.

(614) recently had the delightful opportunity to speak with the Tony Award-winning actor about the show, his love of poker, and the influence of George Costanza on our culture in 2019.  

(614): “An Evening With Jason Alexander” comes to the Ohio Theatre on April 27. What can our readers expect from
the performance?

JA: (Chuckling.) I’m only laughing because I’ve been doing this for about three years, and that’s always the first question! So “An Evening With” is a pop show that I’ve been doing for about three years all around the country. I know most people may not immediately think of me as a singer if they know me from my roles on television, but it is a more-or-less autobiographical journey through my love affair with music from the Broadway stage.

Some of it is things that I’ve performed on Broadway, some of it is not. A lot of it is very funny. A lot of it is just great music. It’s a slightly different show in that, although there’s a symphony orchestra up there, it does feel like an intimate evening. There’s lots of storytelling, and at one point in the show I bring about seven people up on the stage—and they are truly not plants, I pick them at random—and they wind up performing a number with me.

How does preparing for a role like this where you’re appearing as yourself differ from a performance where you’re appearing in character?

The preparation is all emotional. I went into performing because I was a really shy kid, so I was able to hide in plain sight. I could be with people, be out in front of people, and I was always more or less hiding behind some character. I’ve always said the five worst words for me in the English language are, “Ladies and gentlemen—Jason Alexander.” That usually scares the hell out of me! That means I have to go out there and be myself. 

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The beautiful thing about this show is the preparation was all in creating the show. If you’re going to go in front of people and take their time and present yourself as an entertainer, what story or stories do you want to share, and how do you want to play with an audience so they have a
very full and very rewarding time? That was all the hard part. In the actually getting up and doing it, I’ve been pretty lucky that I’ve been playing with some of the best orchestras in the country, so when I’m up there I’m generally having a pretty good time. If I’m not, something’s gone terribly wrong. 

You’ve made a name for yourself in the competitive poker world, even appearing in the main event at the World Series of Poker. How did your interest in poker begin?

Almost everybody in my business bumps into poker at some point, because if you do theater and movies, there’s a lot of down time. More often than not, somebody will say, “Hey, let’s play some poker.” But it was around the time that the celebrity poker shows started in the early 2000’s that I remember being invited to be a player on a televised poker thing, and my publicist represented [professional Poker player] Phil Hellmuth at the time, and he said “Hey, I represent this professional poker player, would you like a lesson?” And I said, “What the hell. The guy calls himself a professional poker player. Let me go see who he is.” After about ten minutes my head was spinning. I realized there was so much about this game I did not understand, never knew, would never understand. But I became fascinated with it. 

It is such a rich game in that there are so many ways you can play it. You can play it as a mathematical player, you can play it as an instinctual player. It is an actor’s game because you are always making impressions about yourself at the table, always trying to understand the impression other players are making. I’m so fascinated by the game, but my fascination does not, unfortunately, mean that I am good at it. I am entertaining at the table, I generally know right from wrong, but sometimes right doesn’t work, and even knowing wrong I have proceeded to do the wrong thing time and time again. It’s kind of like life, you never stop being surprised and learning more about it. 

I also meet amazing people at the poker table, fascinating people that I would never otherwise meet. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 30 years and I work in the entertainment business, so I don’t often meet guys who are driving buses in Cleveland, Ohio, or work in accounting firms in Wyoming, but at the poker table you meet people from every walk of life.

For nine seasons in the 90s, you played the iconic role of George Costanza on the classic sitcom Seinfeld. What lessons can George teach us in 2019, or where in our modern culture do you see the character’s influence?

Well, if I am to believe social media, the president is making a lot of George-isms. The one that keeps being tweeted at me is, people believe the president may be subscribing to the Costanza philosophy of “it’s not a lie if you believe it.” I am afraid, unfortunately if you want to be serious, that the sort of selfishness and short-sightedness and narcissism that George Costanza was certainly guilty of may have infected a lot of our modern culture right now, and to nobody’s good, I’m afraid.

Jason Alexander will perform at the Ohio Theater on April 27th at 8 p.m. For tickets information, visit columbussymphony.com/events.

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You can sit with us: 6 fan favorites coming to Broadway in Columbus stage

Laura Dachenbach

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Six incredible shows including Columbus premieres, revivals, and long-running favorites, make up the 2019-2020 Broadway in Columbus series season.

In an exciting reveal last night, coupled with performances from local and Broadway performers, CAPA announced its 2019-2020 PNC Broadway in Columbus series in what looks to be an especially exciting lineup of shows.

The series will kick off with two shows that deal with the difficulties of adolescence. The critically-acclaimed Dear Evan Hansen (Sept. 17-22) tells the story of a private letter that shouldn’t have been read publicly, its tragic results, and the complexities of fitting in, while Mean Girls, (Oct. 22-27) written by former high school theater nerd and SNL writer Tina Fey and her husband Jeff Richmond, is a musical adaptation of the film of the same name that looks at cliques and Queen bees. Mean Girls comes to Columbus straight from its Broadway run.

In November, Les Misérables (Nov. 19-24) continues its “One Day More” in its almost 35 years of existence. This touring version will be freshly staged and its updated look is inspired by the little-known paintings of Victor Hugo that have been converted into backdrop projections.

Les Misérables

The New Year will kick off with another film adaptation, Anastasia (Jan. 29-Feb. 2). The stage version maintains your favorites tunes such as “Journey to the Past” and “Once Upon a December” while adding 16 new songs. This version of the last Romanov daughter, written by Terrence McNally, happily says “do svidanya” (goodbye) to Bartok the Bat and the zombie version of Rasputin and replaces them with a conniving secret police officer.

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Anastasia

My Fair Lady (Mar. 11-15), the musical that launched Julie Andrews into Broadway prominence, is sometimes called “the most perfect musical of all time.” A social commentary about language and society, My Fair Lady features a lineup of perennial Broadway favorites such as “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” And “On The Street Where You Live.”

My Fair Lady

Wrapping up the subscriber season is Miss Saigon (June 9-14), the love story of an American GI and a young Vietnamese woman who bears his child, is written by the same creative team as Les Misérables. This revival contains additional Vietnamese lyrics and exceptionally spectacular stage effects.

Miss Saigon

Jersey Boys (Jan. 10-11) and the ever-“Popular” Wicked (Apr. 22-May 17) are optional subscriber package add-ons to the season. CAPA also announced that Come From Away, a musical about true events during the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks will be included in the 2020-2021 season.

To renew your season subscription or to become a subscriber, visit broadwayincolumbus.com.  You can also call (800-294-1892) or just stop in at the CAPA Ticket Center at 39 E State St. It’s a season you really won’t want to miss!

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Arts & Music

You won’t have to go “On the Road Again” for this Willie Nelson music Festival

Mike Thomas

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Look out all you Highwaymen, the Red Headed Stranger is coming to town – and he’s bringing a few friends with him.

American music legend, activist, and all-around badass Willie Nelson will bring his “Outlaw Musical Festival” tour to Columbus’ Nationwide arena on June 23. The festival will make stops in 10 cities this summer, with the Columbus leg featuring support from The Avett Brothers, Alison Krauss, Old Crow Medicine Show, Dawes, and an opener TBD.

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Each stop on the tour will feature an “Outlaw Village,” showcasing crafts from local artisans as well as festival attractions and local food and drink offerings.

Tickets for the festival’s Columbus show go on sale Friday, March 8th. Presale will begin Wednesday, March 6 at 10am and go through Thursday, March 7 at 10pm or while supplies last. Enter offer Code ARENA.

For more information, visit the tour website.

In the meantime, please enjoy this fantastically weird tune from the pre-Shotgun Willie days.

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