Editor’s Note: The 32nd Annual International Fringe Theatre Festival will be held May 16-29, 2023 at different venues in and around Loch Haven Park and downtown Orlando. Freeline Media will be previewing the shows right up to the festival date.
ORLANDO — Does Orlando feel like a southern city, or more like a northern one? Whichever choice you make, Orlando is definitely a part of the Deep South, and there are plenty of Southern tales that have come out of this and many other southern urban areas — and Jim Loucks knows a few.
Loucks, a noted solo performer and playwright, is known for his Southern storytelling. He’s traveled across the country performing solo shows such as Cemetery Golf and The Biscuiteater to audiences from California to New York, giving them a taste of theater built around his childhood recollections.
Now he’s headed back to Orlando Fringe to perform his one-man show Booger Red, which will again be based on stories from his childhood. Directed by Lisa Chess, Booger Red is about a man who “survives a rough childhood to become a renowned Hellfire and Brimstone Southern Baptist preacher,” Loucks noted in a news release about the show. “How can Preacher’s Kid Jimmy find a way out from under Booger Red’s larger-than-life shadow as he grows up and finds his own voice? If you’ve ever had a dream or a daddy, Loucks’ gritty and passionate solo performance is for you.”
Loucks said he views thew show as “the story of someone finding their own unique voice, resisting the pressures of society’s ideas of who they should be, and forging their own way.” The show has already been performed at Fringe festivals around the country and in Canada, and won the award for Best Solo Performance at the Houston Fringe.
What’s the Background Story to this Play?
Freeline Media reached out to Jim to get the true southern drawl on his show.
Freeline Media: What is it that makes “Southern Storytelling” unique compared to other forms of storytelling?
Jim Loucks : The beauty of Southern storytelling for me lies in its distinctive brand of humor, with its broad characters and larger-than-life tales, as well as the use of Southern vernacular and rhythms of language. Using songs and humor to tell a story of emotional depth, to bring the audience along for a ride of joy as well as sorrow. Growing up in South Georgia, the son of a hellfire and brimstone Southern Baptist preacher, I was blessed to witness some of the best performances anyone has laid eyes on. Not only my father’s mercurial, jumpin’-up-on-the- front-pew-and-wavin’-his-Bible style, but also the laid-back Appalachian nasality of Alton Mash, and the earnest, pleading sermons of Rastus Salters. I mean even their names were enough to get your attention. And yes, they were slicked back on top and sometimes decked out in plaid suits and two-toned shoes. And yes, they scared me, and probably damaged me for life, but I got something from them. No religion, but the feeling that comes with expressing yourself and sharing in front of an audience. On the flip side of this was the old-school yarn spinning of my three uncles: Alex Jr., Thomas, and Jack. Flip side because they would sometimes “talk ugly,” when there were no women or preachers around. I remember sitting wide-eyed in the middle of the living room and being riveted by their tales of growing up poor, fighting, shooting marbles, hauling block ice, and getting their tails switched by my grandma, whom they all claimed had the best right arm in Mitchell County, Ga. These were rough men that expressed sensitivity and humor through their storytelling. My goal is to be like that. My intention as an artist is to meld these types of performing and storytelling and bring good ol’ Southern tales to the theater.
FM: Hellfire and brimstone preachers tend not to approve of Fringe. This one, I’m guessing, will be different.
JL: Would Booger Red approve of Fringe? It’s a good question! He’d certainly have appreciated the excitement and the high level of entertainment! Our story is about how Booger Red finds his way out of a tough childhood through religion, and how his son Jimmy has to find his own path, different from his father’s, leaving religion behind. They both have a love of performance, each in their own way, and so it feels like a story well-told at Fringe.
FM: What are the unique challenges of doing a solo show?
JL: Doing a solo show can definitely present some unique challenges, although they really are the same as any show, just narrowed down to one person. You have to keep the audience’s attention for an hour, so you want to keep up a certain amount of intensity, but you also want keep it interesting by having different levels throughout. You have to create the whole world yourself, without anyone else to play off of, so it’s really important to stay inside the story you’re telling. As long you do that and connect with your audience’s energy, it’s an exciting style to perform.
FM: What has the audience reaction been like at previous Fringe Festivals around the country?
JL: The audience response to the show around the country and in Canada has been very encouraging! It’s a show that can be difficult to market; people have a strong reaction to topics of religion and aren’t sure that they’ll be able to connect to the story. But it is a show less about religion and more about finding your voice, your place in the world. It’s also about learning to love others through our differences, finding ways to connect.
FM: Do you feel like the show has a universal message??
JL: Absolutely! Following two different journeys of people searching for their own unique voice, it’s something most people can relate to. Having to take chances and break out of our comfort zones to find our place in the world, which may be different than where you’ve been told you’re supposed to be, can be scary but also cause you to grow and become the person you’re meant to be, regardless of society’s expectations.
Where is Booger Red Telling His Tales at Fringe?
Booger Red will be performed at the Orlando Fringe Festival in the Yellow Venue at the Orlando Shakes, 812 E. Rollins St., in Loch Haven Park.
Show times are on:
- Wednesday, May 17 at 6:15 p.m.
- Friday, May 19 at 9:50 p.m.
- Sunday, May 21 at 7:10 p.m.
- Tuesday, May 23 at 8 p.m.
- Thursday, May 25 at 8 p.m.
- Saturday, May 27 at 1:40 p.m.
- Sunday, May 28 at noon
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright, and author of the book A Christmas Eve Story. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.