is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Midnight Special (Jungle Fun For A Great Cause)

"What is to give light must endure burning." - Viktor Frankl

As a blogger, I know it is a bit risky posting my daily thoughts and rambling meanderings here, and I've settled into the notion that truthfully, as long as I am honest with myself, the risk is one well worth taking. I believe that when we write about ourselves in a way that touches others and reminds them of our basic human connectedness, we must be willing to take a leap -- with all our passion, fear and hope -- into the fire. This metaphorical fire then takes its own leap into our reality and and like an ember, it glows within our own mysterious existence and lights its way through even painful moments that have broken, and maybe even opened, our hearts.

Allie Darden (Shelly, The Jungle Fun Room) recently told me something that helped put all this into perspective for me when she said that my blogs give rise to conversations about what everyone is doing and forms the basis - a jumping off point or ice-bre
aker, if you will - and opens dialogue within the theatrical community. Thanks, Allie, for that insight, it's just what I've always felt but been unable to articulate.

At any rate, within this past year, I discovered a fellow blogger, Robert Parks Johnson, whose blog has served just that purpose as well. In his blog, Fat Man Running here on blogspotty-spot, he has an unflinching capacity for brutally honest expression and even though his health has been compromised, he posts daily thoughts about his battle with cancer and his journey through faith. He is relentlessly funny and is not afraid to expose his raw nerves, his moments of anger and despair, and yet he has a faith that will not let him go. Sometimes when I have trouble posting a kimmyville article because I pushed the wrong blogspot button (wiping out hours of work) Robert will offer gentle advice (via facebook comments, of course - isn't that the way everyone communicates these days? :)

Back to why I'm yammering on about all that -- I knew he was a well known local actor, sure, but
my association with him has been that of fellow blogger, someone who appreciates what I write, even my prayers and Sunday reflections about music ministry, my choir. He is not afraid of the "F" word - faith. Soo, I like this Robert Parks Johnson, and I've come to see over the past few months how much he means to the entire thatrical community as they've come together to lift him up by putting their love into action. There have been many performances over the Summer that have been pay-what-you-can for the benefit of the fund that has been set up for his medical bills, and there's another one tonight that you absolutely, positively, without a doubt must see.

Below are posts with all the information you need, thoughts by some of Robert's comrades on stage, and also words from the legendary and quite beloved Robert Parks Johnson himself!

TONIGHT is the benefit performance of
The Jungle Fun Room (Sep 16 - Oct 10) for Robert Parks Johnson.
Studio Players - doors open at 11pm tonight, show starts at midnight.
It's gonna be a wild show. Come on out and show your support for a great guy and a great cause, and see a great show! 859.225.0370 /

In my opening speech for The Jungle Fun Room, I explain that "Bob Johnson is a great ma
n and a formidable acting talent who has performed for most, if not all, the theatres in Lexington (as well as many other theatres. He was also at one time the Technical Director for AGL). As a result of the insurance situation, he has also acquired a stack of medical bills that is almost as formidable as his talent. The news that his most recent CAT scan came back clear is great news indeed, and we look forward to seeing him on stage in the future. However, he and Martha can still use our help and it's a privilege for me, the cast and crew, and for Studio Players to offer another avenue of assistance."

"I'd also like to make another expression of gratitude to the cast and crew for agreeing to not only add a benefit
show for Bob, but to do it shortly after the 8pm showing that was already part of our regular run. That they agreed to do it without hesitation is a testament to their character, their empathy, and their willingness to help."

Bob said he would "love to be able to tell a story from a time Bob and I worked together, but I have yet to be fortunate enough to share stage time with him. I've seen him perform a handful of times, and his command of character, space and time is truly incredible. Of all the times I've seen him on stage, I was most blown away by his performance in Little Foxes, directed by Ave Lawyer and performed at the Bodley-Bullock house. It was a site-specific production, meaning that the actors performed in the rooms of the house, with the audience a part of the room, sometimes seated right beside the actors (no stage seperated the actors and audience). To be able to sit so close to Bob and watch every gesture, movement, see and hear all the subtleties of his was a lesson in complete immersion, not only in character, but in space and time, relationships to other characters, relationship to the when/where/why of the story. I can't do it justice in description, but it's a performance I'll not only remember, but reflect on when I'm working on a character."

Lawyer, who
directed Johnson in The Little Foxes echoes Singleton's sentiment. "I love Bob dearly ... all I can say is that he is a force to be reckoned with on stage and off. The only regret I have about the way I chose to stage "The Little Foxes" was that more people didn't get to see his brilliant portrayal of Horace Giddens. It was a treat and a privilege to watch him work."

She reveals, "He does have his eye on the CentrePointe space downtown as the potential venue for a play. I know he's mentioned Brecht, Mother Courage, if I remember correctly. When he gets a bit better, I say we just all get together and stage the damn thing. And if Bob wants to play Mother Courage, you won't hear me object. =) "

ROGER LEASOR tells me he has only done one show with Bob so far. "I think the two hardest things for an actor to play are "not smart" and "not pretty". It's easy to play "stupid" and "ugly"; they are usually far from what the actor actually is. Thus, the actor feels safe playing them and secure that people are unlikely to confuse the part the actor's playing with the actor himself. But "not smart" and "not pretty" hits a little closer to home. What if the audience decides the actor is merely playing themselves...not pretty...not smart. It takes a courageous actor who's very comfortable in his own skin to explore those things and display his discoveries to an audience. In LITTLE FOXES, Bob displayed exactly that kind of courageous acting. He played his character as an intelligent man who was not quite as smart (or as ruthless) as his wife. This allowed his wife to exert powerful efforts in order to vanquish him and lifted the actors, the play, and the audience into a compelling evening.

As you can tell, I was mightily impressed. I watched every night and learned."

When Robert agreed to give me a few thoughts here, I was so overjoyed, I think I asked him for a complete autobiography (sorry, Bob :) -- however, here are his words...mixed in with a few of my own.

A little history first.
Johnson explai
ns he was born in Pittsburgh, took his MFA at Ohio State. "After school, I took a job in California playing for a company that produced classic melodrama. After a year in paradise, I made my way back east and wound up in New York. That's where I met Martha. A few years after, we were married. About five years later, we moved to Kentucky."

When I asked him for some funny stories, he laughed, "I guess my whole career has been a funny story. I doubt that I've ever worked a day in the theatre without laughing. I'm deadly serious about making theatre, sometimes too serious, but I try never to forget the joy in the work. I'm almost always sorry when I do."

I also wanted to know when it was that he was able to see a performance. "The last show I saw was act one of Pride and Prejudice at SummerFest. I was pretty sick at the time and couldn't make it th the end, but I loved every minute that I spent there. Laughed so hard I nearly choked. I still get tired pretty fast, so I'm not sure when I'll make it back to the theatre."

He tells me about when he first learned the news. "My diagnosis day was April 16. We found out about my cancer on
the operating table. I developed a very large, fast growing mass on my neck. The scans were inconclusive, the biopsy showed cancer in my tonsil. It had metastasized to several lymph nodes. The surgeon removed all he could find, then they sent me to the chemo/radiation folks at the Markey Cancer Center."

"We called my mom first. She's 71. Mum was packed and on the way to Kentucky in about 48 hours. I had spoken to a handful of friends about the possibility that I had cancer before the surgery. There were a few people I wanted to hear the news from me. Those were tough phone calls. At some point, I decided to share the story online. I read a couple of books, cancer memoirs, and I thought writing things down might be helpful to someone else who had to go through treatment in the future."

"What helped the most? Love. The people who kept praying. The ones who kept trying to reach out to me when I was too tired or angry or afraid to talk. They brought me books and jars of home made soup. They sent notes. They made phone calls. They left comments on my blog and on Facebook. They reminded me that I am loved, and not alone."

"That's what I want people to know. Their love has kept me alive. I want to spend the rest of my time on Earth thanking them and passing their kindness along."

"Secret talent? I'm far too vain to keep any talent a secret."

Just so you can relive some of Robert's memorable pefformances, here's his resume:

On the Verge Theatre (October ’08)
Horace, The Little Foxes
Actors’s Guild of Lexington ( March ‘96 - Nov ‘03)
Charlie, Dirty Blonde
Spade Diamond, et. al., The Complete History of America(Abridged)
Lennie, Of Mice and Men
Basil Blake, Mud, River, Stone
Aram Tomassian, Beast on the Moon
Bertha et. al., A Tuna Christmas
Daniel, The Compleat Wks of Willm Shkspr (Abridged)
Lexington Shakespeare Festival (July ‘95, - July ‘05)
Tevye, Fiddler on the Roof
Falstaff, The Merry Wives of Windsor
Agaeon, Merchant of Syracuse, The Comedy of Errors
Henry, The Lion in Winter
Clarence, Richard III
Friar Laurence, Romeo and Juliet
Mill Mountain Theatre • Roanoke,Virginia (June - July ‘90)
Col. Thomas McKean, 1776
Boise State University • Guest Artist (February - March ‘89)
Tevye, Fiddler on the Roof
Opera Columbus • Ohio (April ‘88)
The Governor/Innkeeper, Man of La Mancha
The Great American Melodrama • Oceano, Ca (June ‘85 - March ‘86)
Renfield, Dracula

National Shakespeare Company (May ‘87 through December ‘88)
Bottom, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Prospero, The Tempest
Brutus, Julius Caesar

Riverside Shakespeare Company (October - November ‘90)
Sea Captain, Twelfth Night
Classicworks (January - February ‘90)
Ensemble, Venus and Adonis
Music Theatre Works (April - May ‘87)
Sir Walter Whorehound, A Chaste Maide in Cheapside
Gallery Players of Park Slope, Brooklyn (February ‘87)
Bill Walker, Major Barbara


More about The Jungle Fun Room:

The Jungle Fun Room was first presented at the Creative Center at the Manhattan Theatre Club, Friday Night Footlights at the Dramatist Guild, and was the winner of the Audience Favorite Award at the Penobscot Theatre’s Northern Writes New Play Festival. It received its World Premiere at the Actors’ Playhouse in NYC in the 13th Annual New York International Fringe Festival last summer. Studio Players marks its Regional Debut.

Brian Hampton is a Virginia native who now lives in New York City. His first play, Checking In received its developmental reading at the Creative Center at the Manhattan Theatre Club, was a finalist for the Arthur Stone Playwriting Award, and received its World Premiere at the Actors Guild of Lexington. It premiered in NYC in the 10th Anniversary of the Midtown International Theatre Festival last summer in the June Havoc Theatre. The book adaptation as well as a film is in development. For more information, please feel free to take a scroll through KimmyVille, where you will even find out what his secret talent is! Also, photos, news, and Brian's blog can be found at

As an actor, Brian’s acting credits include: Ben in Checking In, Screg in The Jungle Fun Room, Young Wilber Wright/Lorin Wright in Flyer (Lamb’s Theatre, Disney/ASCAP workshop), Perry in The Three Pigs (Town Hall), Huck in Big River (Dominion Theatre), and four seasons with Virginia Musical Theatre. Brian is a graduate of Christopher Newport University (BA Theatre), Spalding University (MFA Creative Writing), and a member of both the Dramatist Guild of America and Actors Equity Association.

Check out Brian's blogpost:

The Jungle Fun Room was first presented at the Creative Center at the Manhattan Theatre Club, Friday Night Footlights at the Dramatist Guild, and was the winner of the Audience Favorite Award at the Penobscot Theatre’s Northern Writes New Play Festival. It received its World Premiere at the Actors’ Playhouse in NYC in the 13th Annual New York International Fringe Festival last summer. Studio Players marks its Regional Debut.

THE JUNGLE FUN ROOM by Brian Hampton

Directed by Bob Singleton

The Jungle Fun Room centers on a group of struggling actors who spend their days working children's birthday parties at the New York City Zoo. When an eager new worker arrives fresh off the musical theatre conservatory boat, followed by the birthday girl's Oscar-winning Mom, it throws all involved into an emotional and hysterical loop where they're faced with past and ...present realities of their roles in show business and in life.

The Jungle Fun Room premiered at the New York International Fringe Festival in 2009. Studio Players will be presenting the Regional Premiere of this award-winning script.


Screg.....Matt Seckman
Eve.......Jennifer L. Workman
Shelly.....Allie Darden
Trevor....Alex Maddox
Hilary.....Amy Faust

September 16-19, 24-26, October 1-3, 8-10
- Opening night, Friday and Saturday performances begin at 8:00pm
- Sunday matinee performances begin at 2:30 pm


Tonight is the midnight performance (which follows the 8pm show) -- doors open at 11:00 pm. It's a pay-what-you-can performance. All donations go to support our friend and local actor Bob Johnson

All performances $16.00
Students: $10.00

859.225.0370 or visit


Oh my goshes - you must see this video of Brian Hampton's wild time in Lexington for the regional premiere of The Jungle Fun Room:


I've said it before and I'll say it again - this production by Studio Players is something you don't want to miss. Tonight you will have the opportunity to see one of the most entertaining shows ever brought to Lexington stages. This award winning play is the perfect introduction to a lively weekend and Bob Singleton and his cast and crew have paid perfect homage to Brian Hampton's genius by creating the ultimate atmosphere for his Jungle Fun Room premise. Allie Darden will slay you with her character's diva antics, and the entire cast is completely and devastatingly delightful - you will be smiling through to the holidays, I guarantee you!

So, get your late night party face on, bring your best happy birthday smile - and get thee to the Carriage House for this pay-what-you-can performance to benefit Robert Parks Johnson. As you can see from the above words from only a smattering of his dear friends, Robert has been an inspiration to so many on the local theatre scene, this will be a precious opportunity to show your love and support. Plus, who else is gonna be up at midnight watching this show but people who are just like you - looking for fun in all the right places?

peace, y'all,


(for more information on The Jungle Fun Room, Brian Hampton, Allie Darden, Bob Singleton, or just about anyone or anything mentioned herein, just take a scroll through Kimmyville to see what has been previously posted. There's nothing to fear here in Kimmyville, no CentrePoint pastures, no pretentious parties, nothing but good times :)

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