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"Bump" Brings Faux Celebrity Back to The Fishtank

When President Obama announced two weeks ago that the United States would be withdrawing troops from Iraq by the end of the year, the other top news trending that week was that Lindsay Lohan would be posing for Playboy. The fact that the latter story garnered as much attention as the former didn't escape a trio of local theater artists who are returning to The Fishtank with a new play featuring the fictional troubled celebrity whose Kansas City debut last winter left her desperate for more attention.


Kansas City, Mo. – The character's name is Brindsay Kardilton, a creation of Heidi Van, curator of The Fishtank, David Wayne Reed, and Bess Wallerstein. She is modeled after a quarter of young women - Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton - who share a talent for being famous for being famous.

"Brindsay Kardilton is a conglomeration of reality star, celebutant, and burned out child stars," says Van, who plays Kardilton. "With reality shows and what's going on today, with people showing private personal events - weddings, births, things like that - it's not out of the question for a celebrity to expose their pregnancy or to expose their rehab. (Yet) it's really none of our business. So it makes complete sense for Brindsay to share this with the universe, and for her mother to sell it to the universe."

The show is called "Bump," and what Brindsay is hyping is a pregnancy into its 8th month - not coincidentally the same state Van currently finds herself. Last winter's "White Nose Christmas" introduced Brindsey Kardilton to Kansas City audiences, and its trio of creators have toyed for a while with a sequel. When Van got pregnant, they found their narrative for a return visit.

"The truth of the matter is, I needed a job," says Van. "I'm an artist; I do performance art, and the opportunities were limited for me, and so this is something (where) I could be pregnant, and be in, and it's appropriate."

And it's not her coming child's first venture onto the stage.

"This baby has been on tour with me, was in the Fringe Festival, was in photo shoots, and now, she's so ready for this moment," Van says. "Her resume's amazing."

Self-professed pop culture junkie David Wayne Reed, who co-stars in the show, explains how technology and boredom might conspire to create a Brindsay Kardilton.

"Everything is so up to the minute right now," he says. "Everything is being recycled at such a rapid rate that you have to come out with something more and more outrageous, or more intimate, every single...not every day, every minute of every day. If Kim Kardashian puts out a tweet, well, then Paris Hilton needs to come out with a tweet, or you fall to the wayside."

"We want to be a part of that," he adds. "It's the train wreck we can't turn away from."

The play opens with Kardilton's release from a women's correctional facility a month from delivering at full-term. At a recent rehearsal, Reed and Van read through an early scene in the play, with Reed playing a tabloid journalist to Van's Kardilton.

Journalist: "Tonight, we interview Brindsay Kardiltion moments before she's released from the women's correctional facility. This little girl lost; this candle in the wind - Brindsay Kardiltion. Tonight is your last night in jail after 96 days and you're about to be released, Brindsay. This is a new start. How are you?"

Kardilton: "Hey, guys it's me. Brindsay Kardilton. (High-pitched laugh.) So, okay, I've made some mistakes, right? A DUI - actually, the DUIs - possession of narcotics, disorderly conduct, public urination, child endangerment, whatevs. I've had a lot of time to think about things. And when I say a lot of time, I mean a lot of time. I just think a lot of thoughts about a lot of things, a lot of the time."

Co-creator Bess Wallerstein gives her take on why the model celebrities for Kardilton continue to have mass appeal.

"You become involved emotionally and you care, or don't care, or have a reaction to what's happening," she says. "And it's a perfect medium for theater because that's exactly what we're doing; we're presenting all sorts of characters who are current today in television and pop culture, and we're asking the audience: Do you care? Do you not care? And why?"

Even if "Bump" is a huge hit for The Fishtank, there's little chance it will be extended beyond November 14, since its leading lady is due to deliver a baby girl in December.

"Bump" by David Wayne Reed, Bess Wallerstein and Heidi Van
November 4 - 14, 2011
The Fishtank Performance Studio
1715 Wyandotte, Kansas City, Mo.

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Since 1998, Steve Walker has contributed stories and interviews about theater, visual arts, and music as an arts reporter at KCUR. He's also one of Up to Date's regular trio of critics who discuss the latest in art, independent and documentary films playing on area screens.
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