Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Heidi Van recognized as one of Kansas City's Masterminds

Masterminds 2010: This year's creative geniuses

Meet Our Masterminds: Winners of the 2010 Awards

Once again, The Pitch presents some of this city's aesthetic adventurers with $1,000 each — no strings attached — just for doing what they do.

Each year, we ask our readers to nominate artists, innovators and entrepreneurs who are changing the city's cultural landscape. This isn't a popularity contest or a lifetime-achievement award; instead, we want to recognize individuals or groups whose contributions are influencing the city's cultural and creative landscape.

We back up our appreciation with cash because we know that these people often do their work with little financial reward. A thousand bucks, we figure, is a small investment toward keeping the city interesting.

We'll hand out the checks at our annual Artopia party — a night of fashion, music, food and all-around creative energy — on Saturday, April 3, at the Screenland (1656 Washington). Until then, you can read about this year's Masterminds in this Artopia pullout section. The party that night starts at 7; tickets cost $25 at the door, or $20 if you get them sooner by calling us at 816-561-6061.

Mastermind: Performance
Heidi Van


When she puts on the nose, Heidi Van is free.

"Clowns make the rules," Van says. "They have the authority to change those rules. They can die. They can come back. They can look out at the audience and say, 'You know what? I'm an all-caps CLOWN!'"

Van makes rules, too. The pixie-ish native of Kansas City, Kansas, is as comfortable farcing it up for the New Theatre's dinnertime crowds as she is gliding through dark, experimental, movement-based clown extravaganzas like The Coppelia Project.

In the latter show and other shows like it, Van and her Hybrid-theater cohorts have achieved, through clowning, a casual profundity — work that seems simple yet cuts deep.

An actress, director, teacher of incarcerated juveniles, and manager of the Fishtank theater at 17th Street and Wyandotte, Van buys the freedom to clown through labor that's mundane (sweeping the Fishtank, painting its walls), instructional (guiding artists interested in a Fishtank show through the process of writing proposals and estimating budgets) and managerial (gathering the team to nurse an idea into a fully realized performance). The effort is also altruistic: By keeping the Fishtank alive, she gives Kansas City a space where the unlikely flourishes — where other performers are free to put on the nose, too.

Still in its first year, the teensy theater has hosted local and national performers putting on work old and new. It has given us Lisa Cordes' series of living-news performances in which motley casts declaim the writings of Sarah Palin or Carrie Prejean. It has mounted one-woman shows from out of town as well as locally cast plays that otherwise wouldn't have been staged here. It has put on a citywide show-and-tell, and it has dared improvised comedy every Saturday and themed celebrations of new performance art on First Fridays. (At one show inspired by Union Station's Warhol exhibit, Van dressed as Warhol-shooter Valerie Solanas.) We've seen workshops, rehearsals and Peter Lawless composing and performing music in the windows.

Those shop windows overlooking Wyandotte Street give the space its name as well as its greatest inspiration. Fishtank founder Corrie Van Ausdal even hatched an environmental-theater breakthrough when she staged Dial 'M' for Murder entirely behind the storefront's glass. The Hybrid theater collective followed up this past fall with clown love story. Written by the group, it was a tender and riotous tale of a street-sweeping clown (Matt Weiss) who falls for a comically buxom baker (Van, padded à la Dolly Parton) whom he sees each day in a sweet-shop window. For most of the show, Weiss was outside looking in, just like the audience members, who sat in folding chairs out on Wyandotte.

An original show, sharply written and performed, that actually spilled out into our city itself? That's why we call Van a Mastermind.

-- By Alan Scherstuhl

Read about the other MASTERMIND recipients at the link below.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

This Weekend at the Fishtank! March 26-28!


Ad Hoc Music Series Presents:
derive/devise/improvise: music by lauren wells

Friday, March 26, 8pm - 10pm $5

Fishtank Resident Peter Lawless curates this exciting new music series. This month is the fourth installment of the series and features composer Lauren Wells with a focus on improvisation.
Performers include Ben Leifer, Steve Lambert, Brenna Hayes, Mike Harte, Chaski Dye, Peter Lawless, Tom Kessler & Jessica Robins.

Kansas City Crossroads Comedy Presents:
The Comedy Triforce

Saturday, March 27, Shows at 7 and 9pm
$6 in advance $8 at the door

Every Saturday KCXRC assembles a winning line-up of comedy teams. So fill up your hearts, grab your swords and arrows, and prepare to journey on an epic quest to redeem the Triforce of Comedy!
Featured Troupes: Not A Great Gorilla, Loaded Dice & Spite


Burlesque Downtown Underground Presents:
Burlesque Extraordinaire: a benefit performance

Sunday March 28, 7:30pm
$5-15 donations accepted on a sliding scale at the door

Featuring Burlesque Downtown Underground's Foxy Von Trap, Madame, Puss-N-Boots and Sweet Louise and more!

Proceeds from this show benefit Burlesque Downtown Underground's Burlesque Revival at the historic Folly Theatre this summer.

The Fishtank Performance Studio is located at 1715 Wyandotte, Kansas City, Mo 64108.

For more information contact Fishtank Curator Heidi Van at (816) 809-7110 or

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fishtank Performance Studio is a KC Fringe Venue for 2010

The Fishank is excited to be a Kansas City Fringe Festival Venue for 2010. The Kansas City Fringe Festival will take place from July 25 - August 1, 2010. The Fishtank will host local, regional and national performance artists.

Showing at the Fishtank during the Fringe Festival will be THRILL ME: The Leopold & Loeb Story by Kansas City native Stephen Dolginoff. Directed by Jeff Church.

For more info on the Fringe visit

L'HISTOIRE D'AMOUR: A Clown Love Story

The Fishtank Performance Studio & HYBRID: A Theatre Collective presented an original window play in the late summer of 2009. The play was L'HISTOIRE D'AMOUR: A Clown Love Story, featuring Heidi Van & Matt Weiss (actors) Dan Eichenbaum & Peter Lawless (live musicians, composers) and Corrie Van Ausdal (director.)

THE TANGO from L'HISTOIRE D'AMOUR was one of four featured presentations at the Arts KC Luncheon at Starlight Theatre on Friday, March 5.

See photos from the show!

L’Histoire d’Amour is a window into the soul

By Alan Scherstuhl

September 08, 2009, The Pitch

The humble miracle of Corrie Van Ausdal's Fishtank performance studio isn't simply that such a lark exists, although it is remarkable: a theater where actors perform behind a storefront window for a crowd seated in folding chairs on Wyandotte. Still, theater today is always unlikely; this one is just a touch more than most. What's most worth celebrating is that the theater at Fishtank has been so memorable.

First, Van Ausdal crammed herself behind the glass to star in a version of Sorry, Wrong Number that took on the voyeuristic edge of Rear Window. Even better, Van Ausdal has now paired up with clown-of-all-trades Heidi Van — also adept at bringing the unlikely to life — for L'Histoire d'Amour, a daft dream of a romantic one-act. It's a show that could only find life at the Fishtank, mining all the possibilities of a window, a street and clowning.

Wearing a great red nose and padded out like a comic-book sexpot, Van flounces behind the glass as a Parisian pastry chef smitten with her own delicacies. Smitten with her, meanwhile, is the window washer played by Matt Weiss, a clown himself, who charms the crowd, woos the girl, and folds a tissue into a white rose with comic aplomb. He courts her through the window; eventually, with that glass still between them, they tango. Both Van and Weiss are adroit physical comedians, and their dance is as odd and hilarious as one might hope. It's also charged with an undeniable clownish eroticism and even a little violence.

Like all good love stories, L'Histoire d'Amour teeters between passion and pain. Faced with the typical misunderstandings that love stories depend upon, these lovers also dip into surprising anger. What struck me most, though, were the highs: Weiss pirouetting around a signpost, Van painting a heart in pastry cream right on the glass. Without words, and in just a half-hour, L'Histoire d'Amour works up more excitement between its lovers than most full-length romances.

Van Ausdal, who directs, ably proportions elements that might otherwise have conflicted. Original music composed and performed by the accordion-and-clarinet duo of Dan Eichenbaum and Peter Lawless is invaluable. Its melancholy whimsy shapes these characters' lives just as much as the window does. I relished the clarinet glissando that accompanies every wipe of Weiss' squeegee — except when the glissando doesn't, for some reason, and these moments are funnier still. Stumped by the silence, Weiss glares at the squeegee, and then at the clarinet, and then tries again. He wears a clown nose but no face paint, so his frustration — like his passion — feels like the real deal rather than an abstraction. He and Van are proof that clowns don't need the makeup to show us the human.

The 5th Annual 12 Plays of Christmas

Join the Fishtank for our 5th Annual Holiday Show, THE 12 PLAYS OF CHRISTMAS! by Devon Barnes, Emma Carter , Coleman Crenshaw , Joseph De...