SOMETHING HAPPENED TO BUTCH AND FRITZ by Dave Backus and Graham Vogt, with Backus, Vogt and Cecilia Jordan. Presented by Painted Words at Artword (75 Portland). Opens tonight (Thursday, March 6) and runs to March 16, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $12-$15, Tuesday and Sunday pwyc. 416-532-4283.
Dave Backus and Graham Vogt are like that old Doublemint commercial -- they're two, two, two artists in one, packaged under the title Painted Words.Painters by day, theatre performers by night, the pair -- cousins who spent summers together at a Muskoka cottage when they were growing up -- have been part of the Fringe circuit since 1999, but they're busting out of the summer-fest groove with Something Happened To Butch And Fritz.
Did I mention that their painting is of the house and interior variety? Vogt and Backus use other performing artists to help in the painting, a nice flexible-hours alternative to the waiting/temp work that in-between-job theatre people usually fall into.
"Painting can really put you into a meditative state," says Vogt, "one that's conducive to creativity."
"And we've found that a giddy 10-hour day working on high ladders really gives you some way-out ideas," adds Backus.
That's the way the guys work onstage and in interviews, finishing each other's sentences or adding a footnote to the other's statements.
We're sitting in Tallulah's Cabaret at Buddies, one of several theatre spaces Painted Words has touched up with a coat of glossy. They proudly point to the red walls and silver poles they refinished last summer.
There's something to be said for having theatres as clients: it allows for an easy barter system and networking points when you start working on a show.
But other clients appreciate the theatre connection
"They feel they're part of the creative process when a stage concept unfolds in their own home. Sometimes we just put the roller down and try out an idea," says Vogt.
"Yeah," jokes Backus, "stairs that began as a real pain in the ass yielded some great bits in our shows."
Backus and Vogt's last piece, The Big Thought Of Mr. Fitzsimmons, was a marvel of rat-a-tat precision, with the pair playing the opposing sides of one character's brain in the moments from the beginning of an idea to its conclusion. Their physical work and rapid-fire dialogue had the exactitude of a military band, all the more remarkable given that they work without a director.
"We've spent so much time together that we're each other's bullshit detector," smiles Backus.
In Something Happened To Butch And Fritz, they play shallow but contrasting friends. Vogt's Fritz is the paranoid controller, Backus's Butch the naive follower. Their fragile world is changed when a woman brings back the shared past the men have intentionally forgotten.
This time around, instead of working as a duo, they've added another performer, New York-based Cecilia Jordan.
The guys' working style impresses Jordan, who sees her partners as one entity, one breathing mechanism.
"It's striking how well they're able to see each other objectively, from the outside. Yet they're also open and excited about what we're creating, like little boys at play." email@example.com