My favorite local theater is closing down after 25 years of entertainment.
The Alley Theater
The Alley Theater has performed some amazingly fun shows over the years.
Any play about singing and dancing zombies is bound to be a blast. “Evil Dead: The Musical” (at one time, the production had the website LouEvilDead.com, which was amazing) was no exception. The Alley performed this one three times. The first run was in October 2009, with the final night on Halloween (which was a Saturday that year). Most of the audience wore costumes, as you’d expect. I went more casual, wearing my “I spent Halloween 2001 with Bruce Campbell” shirt from his “If Chins Could Kill” book tour.
The play blends the three movies “Evil Dead,” “Evil Dead 2,” and (my favorite) the campy “Army of Darkness.” The violence is comically over the top — in fact, the first few rows of seats are the “splatter zone.” The theater provides ponchos for the brave souls who sit so close, since the fake blood sprays into the crowd during the play.
And here’s my favorite song from the play, although this link is not from the Alley. The choreography that this scene uses is similar to the way the Alley would normally do it, with Ash and Jake singing and dancing backup.
In August 2017, Bruce Campbell came to Louisville on another book tour. This was also the day of the total solar eclipse. (Coincidence? I think not!) Instead of going into the path of the totality like a lot of my space friends, I stayed in town to see Bruce. I got his autograph on a chainsaw blade (signed both as Bruce and as Ash), which I donated to the Alley.
The Alley brought the big blue goofy comic-book/cartoon/live-action character “The Tick” to life on the stage. First in 2015, and again in 2018.
Both runs were very funny, and included references from every incarnation of the bug of justice. Sterling Pratt wrote the play(s) specifically for The Alley to perform. Scott Davis, creator of The Alley himself, played the Tick in the first run, and Connor Blankenship played him in the second run. Andrew Mertz perfectly played his sidekick/partner Arthur both times. As Keith Waits wrote, “The Tick” is really Arthur’s story.
Fan favorite characters like the Caped Chameleon, the Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs at Midnight, and Barry the Tick joined the fun alongside the blue and white heroes, and their friends Batmanuel and American Maid.
Other Great Shows
“William Shakespeare’s Star Wars” was a hoot. “What light through yonder sensor breaks?” “Once more into the trench, dear friends.”
“The Real Inspector Hound” combined an interactive murder mystery (we hung out with some of the cast, in character, before the play started) with a play-within-a-play for surreal fun. During the first act, two theater critics sitting just to the side of the main stage discussed the play and their own lives as the actors performed. During the second act, one critic was killed and the other got swept into the play, with characters repeating much of the same dialogue from act one, but with very different meanings. It was amazing. Shavon McGill might still not be back from oiling his gun.
“The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged)” was a three-man performance that encompassed the greatest story ever told, and then some. The theater even invited me to lead off the opening performance with a prayer, but the schedules didn’t work out so I had to miss that. Instead, they had me preach a whole sermon before the final night. I was honored, and remain humble and grateful for the opportunity.
“The Trail to Orgeon” was an improv musical based on a computer game where almost everyone dies of dysentery. We, the audience, got to name the characters, and decide who died and how. I was there for opening night, and since half the audience was improv comedians (and friends of all the performers), we gave them challenging names that were incredibly long or barely pronounceable. Because that’s the kind of friends that we are.
“Hughes-ical: The Musical” took the various John Hughes movies (Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Beuller) and gave it a boombox soundtrack.
“Bat-Hamlet” was part of the SuperHuman:A Festival of Plays (a parody of the well-known and local Humana Festival of Plays). It tells the tale of a boy avenging his murdered father. You probably know the rest.
“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (from which I adapted this post’s title) was a staged reading of the original radio scripts. (It was a radio play before it was a book/tv-series/movie/computer-game/etc.) The adaptation was well received.
“The Princess Bride Experience” was inconceivable.
No one can be told what “The Matrix” is. You had to experience it for yourself.
The Arts Caravan
Despite all that great stuff, the Alley production that I’ll miss the most is the weekly Improv Jam. On Saturday afternoons, we’d gather at the Alley for hours of improv workshopping. It was a wonderful way to get a foot in the improv comedy door.
I’ve made some great friends over the years of jamming with people who knew what they were doing, and with others who, like me, wanted a chance to learn and practice improv skills. Ironically, even though improv is made up on the spot, it does take time and effort to get comfortable with it and competent at it.
I’m grateful to wonderful improv teachers like Shauvon McGill, Ryan Kemp, Scott Davis, Spencer Korcz, and others for all the great jam lessons.
The Alley is dead! Long live The Alley.
(If you’re reading this before July 28 2018, there’s still a chance to catch a show at the Alley before the doors close for good.)