Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Big Easy Welcome to KC's Fishtank Performers

Kansas City’s growing reputation as a theater town was enhanced last weekend when Heidi Van and performers from the Fishtank Performance Studio staged “L’Histoire D’Amour: A Clown Love Story” at the New Orleans Fringe Festival.

Van and Matt Weiss, along with musicians Daniel Eichenbaum and Peter Lawless, delivered four performances of the piece in the window of Le Chat Noir, a New Orleans cabaret and bar on St. Charles Avenue in the Warehouse District, where other festival artists performed.

“L’Histoire D’Amour” was initially staged in 2009 at the Fishtank, a small venue near 17th and Wyandotte streets. Audiences seated in folding chairs on the street watched the 30-minute show through the Fishtank’s picture window and on the sidewalk.

Van plays Lucette, a pastry chef who falls in love with Marcel (Weiss), a Charlie Chaplin-like vagrant, but the window glass prevents them from being together. The action is accompanied by Eichenbaum on clarinet and Lawless on accordion.

Van said she applied to the New Orleans festival in the “bring your own venue” category, which meant it was up to her to find a place to perform. She said she looked at 50 locations, including a park, on Google Earth before Le Chat Noir invited the group to perform.

“They have a classy, sexy bar in front and a little cabaret theater in back,” she said. “And their window was huge. It’s twice as big as the Fishtank window.”

Van said she and Weiss brought minimal scenic elements with them. They had to build platforms once they arrived.

“I had a tub of scenery, a tub of extension cords and lights and a tub of props,” she said.

Van said that the show was well-received and that people were often surprised when they discovered the troupe’s home base.

“They said, ‘Where are you from? Montreal? Greenwich Village? You mean you’re from Kansas City?’ ” Van said.

Van said it was such a good experience that she wants to return to the Big Easy.

“The four of us have all decided we want to do this again next year,” she said. “I really didn’t know if I could pull this off, and I did. And that makes me feel like I can do almost anything. I’ve got a big appetite. And I love touring.”

Up next for Van is a new piece in December at the Fishtank — “Brindsay Kardilton’s White Nose Christmas,” which she’s creating with theater artists David Wayne Reed and Bess Wallerstein.

To learn more about the Fishtank, visit www.fishtanktheater

To reach Robert Trussell, theater critic, call 816-234-4765 or send e-mail to

Posted on Wed, Dec. 01, 2010 10:15 PM
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