Ken Payne

Ken Payne

Thursday, 02 April 2009 12:30

Rent Makes A Triumphant Return to Chicago

Rent2Most “Rentheads” in Chicago probably thought they’d never get the chance to see “Rent” ever again with its original Broadway cast members. Now, for a limited time, they can. Adam Pascal, Anthony Rapp and Gwen Stewart have all rejoined the cast while on its current national tour that can be seen here in Chicago at Oriental Theatre from March 31-April 12th.

Monday, 16 March 2009 13:10

“Last Days” is a real find

last days judas1The Last Days of Judas Iscariot is extremely funny at times though it remains thought provoking and poignant throughout. Written by Stephen Adly Guirgis, director Craig J. Engel calls it one of the best scripts he has ever read – and he might be right. Guirgis masterfully blends humor and witty dialogue with the feelings of loneliness, guilt and heartbreak.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009 18:19

Police Academy Comes Alive!

POLICEAIE3_Photo_by_Chad_WiseInsanely funny would be the first words that come to mind in describing New Millennium Theatre’s presentation of Police Academy: Insurgency Emergency. Whether you’ve seen any of the seven Police Academy movies or not, you’ll be sure to enjoy this live adaptation directed by Adam Rosowicz who wrote the script along with Matt Russell.

Though some presented huge, elaborate sets, known actors and a more traditional holiday message, it was New Millennium Theatre’s less extravagant production of The David Bowie Hepzikat Funky Velvet Flarney Solstice Spectacular, Live…From Space (otherwise known as the David Bowie Christmas Special 1977 Network Edit) that may have impressed me the most.

Friday, 21 November 2008 19:42

William Petersen Shines in "Dublin Carol"

dublincarol-2Taking a brief hiatus from the hit television show C.S.I., William Petersen has returned to Steppenwolf Theatre, to reprise the role of John Plunkett in “Dublin Carol”. Written by playwright Conor McPherson and directed by ensemble member Amy Morton, “Dublin Carol” is a gritty story...

Friday, 17 October 2008 11:57

KA is a Spectacular Treat

KA (Imperial Twins)From the moment I stepped foot into the 1,950 seat theater inside the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, I was awe. With the set of KA expanding along the sides and rear of the theater, the pre-show had Archers and Spearmen swinging about from platform to platform and above audience members as they searched...

Monday, 13 October 2008 19:00

Swing Shift SideShow

Swing Shift SideShowWhile scouring the Las Vegas entertainment industry for engaging, unusual acts to cover, I somewhat accidentally came across a group of performers that both amazed me with their bizarre talents and impressed me with their intrinsic genuine nature. I met the core members of Swing Shift SideShow (SSSS) through friend, TV host, Julie Mac, when she invited us to a pool party at hypnotist Anthony Cool’s house. Hanging poolside with Carrot Top and The Amazing Johnathan, amongst others, were Andrew S, Kelvitka the Blade and SleaZ-O – three-fourths of the uniquely talented Swing Shift SideShow. After a tour of their various tattoos and other body art, including Andrew’s world record-breaking largest ever genital piercing, I listened as these extreme circus freaks, if you will, went into great, graphic detail about their stage show. I grabbed another burger and got back to my hang spot just in time to hear how Andrew S picks up anvils then swings them – from his eye sockets! At that point I was officially entranced. I was the newest Swing Shift SideShow fan.

Kelvitka, dressed in a long black dress despite the 100-degree temperature, further explained the art of Flesh Hook Suspension, something the unit performs with regularity. For those who do not know exactly what that is, it’s basically having your skin pierced with giant hooks then hanging from cables. The most traditional way of performing a hooked suspension is from the shoulders or back, however, Andrew S has hung from his knees and Kelvitka from her stomach. Ouch!

Though SSSS were not performing during my stay, as I caught them between shows, I immediately threw out the idea of an interview in which we agreed to contact each other in the next couple of days – and that we did. Two days later, just after 10PM, I called Andrew S to see when would be a good time to meet. “What are you doing now?” he replied. Within the hour, he along with Kelvitka, arrived at Luxor to pick up my associate Kim Katz and I. We were off to their house – their base - just outside the Vegas city limits, where Kim would sit and conduct an interview with some of the strangest, yet vaguely familiar people we have ever met.

When we arrived, SleaZ-O and Miss Pirate (the fourth member of SSSS who we had not yet met) greeted us. Miss Pirate, like the other three, was covered in tattoos and had a SleaZ-O-like strip of green hair falling just short of her eyes. In the two days prior, I had the chance to peruse the outfit’s website,, as well as watch a couple videos they had posted on YouTube like “Darts of Death”. This gave me a decent idea of what they were capable of doing and made me regret not coming to Vegas a week earlier to see them perform.  

Not long after arriving, Kim and I realized that we were not just there for an interview, but to also get a VIP front row seat to the Swing Sift SideShow, as the quartet offered to demonstrate their unusual talents. Though they were not set up to perform their entire act due to the short notice, we were still treated to one amazing feat after another, which began when Miss Pirate took a lit light bulb from a lamp socket and ate it. In sheer disbelief, we continued to watch as Kelvitka speared through the thick of her bicep with a skewer before piercing the same into Andrew’s forearm ultimately attaching the two. Remarkably, not a drop of blood appeared on either participant when the skewer was removed.

The party was soon moved outdoors where SleaZ-O displayed his knife wielding ability by throwing around a live target – Miss Pirate. Andrew S and Kelvitka the Blade followed with some serious sword swallowing (they are 2 of only 50 in the world who practice such a thing), before all four members heated things up (literally) by engaging in fire swallowing to end the night.   

What I noticed during some of these acts is, yes they are dangerous, bizarre and even, at times, unsettling, but they can also be romantic in which a certain trust and freedom is exhibited. It was actually a beautiful sight to see Andrew gently kissing the side of Kelvitka’s face as the skewer slowly pierced through the two, in a way saying, “Trust me – I love you”. It was an act of genuineness when SleaZ-O quickly walked up to Miss Pirate to kiss her just after throwing knives at her. The faith and assurance each one of these performers has in each other is rare and should be a lesson for all, whether it’s SleaZ-O drilling a coil through Andrew’s face, Kelvitka shooting darts (from her vagina) or just in setting up the props for each other.

Want to watch the interview as well as Swing Shift SideShow performing acts you will never forget? You can see everything at www.BuzzNews.TV. You can also learn more about Swing Shift SideShow – check out videos, images, read the latest news and check out upcoming performances – at

Saturday, 15 September 2007 01:00

Drury Lane's “The Odd couple” A Must See

The Odd CoupleMost of us know playwright Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple from either the big screen with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemon as the quirky pair of opposite roommates or more recently (30 years ago) from the TV adaptation that starred Tony Randall as the germaphobic neat freak Felix Ungar and Jack Klugman as the slobbish sports writing Oscar Madison. However, whether you are familiar...

Sunday, 07 October 2007 01:00

Flaming Dames in “Bump and Grindhouse”

Flaming DamesWith the re-emergence of burlesque, The Flaming Dames have put their own stamp on the exotic, vaudevillian art made famous in the early 20th century. Led by choreographer Leslie Kerrigan, the burlesque troupe known as The Flaming Dames bring their unique B-Horror homage to life in their new production, “Bump and Grindhouse”. 

Monday, 09 July 2007 01:00

Crossing California Hits Home

Crossing CaliforniaRemember what Chicago’s West Rogers Park was like in 1979? Ok, maybe you do and maybe you don’t. But for those that don’t Crossing California delivers a powerful, but comedic, look into the past in this coming of age story based on the novel by Adam Langer. For those that do remember, Crossing is a wonderful reminiscence of what is was like to be a teen in yet another controversial era.



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