KABMan makes recycling super heroic

January 14, 2011

by Mary Timmons and Robert Wilson, STAFF REPORTER And ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR

Combining exciting fight choreography with an environmentally-responsible message, the Tech Theatre Players’ production of “KAB Man” entertained audiences during its Jan. 12-15 run in Howard Auditorium, Center for the Performing Arts. 

Paula Rae Brown, production stage director, said the story of Keep-America-Beautiful Man is an original concept by director and choreographer Mark Guinn, professor for the performing arts, with the story fleshed out by students in an advanced acting class during fall quarter.

“It started off as a tiny show and we’d done skits before,” said Brown, a sophomore theater major. “For a story, we based it off the Keep America Beautiful website.” 

According to their website, Keep America Beautiful, Inc. is the nation’s largest volunteer-based community action and education organization with nearly 1,000 affiliate and participating organizations. Combining education and hands-on activities to make communities cleaner, greener, safer and more livable, KAB programs encourage volunteers to learn how to take personal responsibility for improving their local community environments.

Director’s notes in the “KAB Man” program explained how director of recreational activities Bobby Dowling also contributed to the idea and collaborated with the department of theater and the Lincoln Parish Police Jury’s Keep Lincoln Beautiful Committee “to create a show to educate and entertain.”

Starring Ryan Gentry, a junior theatre major, in the titular role of KAB Man, the show opened with a cartoon presenting the rise of KAB Man and his endeavors to win the public over to an eco-friendly mindset. As the lights went down, Gentry bounded onto the littered stage and struck a heroic pose, joined by his fellow superheroes, KeeLaBelle (Amanda Tatum) and K-Linc (Holly Bricker). The trio then withdrew from the spotlight to make way for the dramatic entrance of Chris “Lito” Tamez as Big Pollution, or BP, who, born from the Gulf oil spill, planned to “turn this sportman’s paradise into a trashman’s utopia.”

Brown said “KAB Man” was a special kind of show that broke the fourth wall and used the audience, often to their surprise. 

“It made some people uncomfortable because, at plays, audiences expect to be anonymous,” she said. “It throws off some people to be looked at.”

A big strength of the show was the colorful gallery of villains, from the diabolical BP and his right-hand minions Plastik (Anastasia Trammell) and Alu-Mini-Anne (Noelle Smith) to the hazardous Cig-Man (Jacob D. Guinn) and the muscle-bound lummox Styro (Ben Porch). Also, to balance out the serious message of the severe harm caused by daily pollution were frequent and humorous jokes, including self-references poking fun at superhero clichés.

However, the show was not without some weaknesses as well. The environmental message and statistics on pollution became heavy-handed at times and an overlong rap-battle sequence between K-Linc and Timothy Kersey’s Wrapper Man interrupted the story’s flow. 

Brennon Cucullu, a senior biomedical engineering major, and Jess Sanchez, a junior communication design major, said while the play was very creative and sent a good message, a college audience was probably not the best fit. 

“It would be better for groups like high school students,” Sanchez said. “Younger people would get more from it.”

Brown said “KAB Man” had in fact been performed for approximately 500 school children during a matinee.

 “Kab Man’s” high point came in the climactic and highly-physical showdown between the trio and BP’s crew, boasting not only multiple fight sequences across, and off, the stage, but impressive weapon handling from Trammell and Guinn, the latter exhibiting a dizzying routine known as poi where balls on long cords are swung in circular patterns. 

Kelsey Mardis, who played one of five trash ninjas and the recycled form of Alu-Mini-Anne, said the cast had prepared for the fight sequences since the end of fall quarter. 

“We had an hour-long fight call every night,” Mardis, a sophomore theater major, said. “There’s a fight show every two years and everyone wants to be a part of it. I jumped at the chance; there was no previous experience required and it was a great learning experience.” 

To mark the special occasion of the fight show, “KAB Man” was presented in association with Food Fight!, a project created to raise food for local food banks. Attendees were encouraged to being one canned good with their ticket for admission. The Tech Theatre Players and the Stage Combat Advanced Acting class have been a part of this project for over a decade.

Tatum said the experience, while difficult, has been fun and exciting.

 “We’ve been working on this production since September,” she said. “Our audiences are not huge, but we can tell that the ones that come have enjoyed out show.”

Students and other community members can help fulfill KAB Man’s message by taking part in local recycling and reclaiming efforts offered by businesses around the city. 

E-mail comments to mnt005@latech.edu and rww015@latech.edu.