The Do’s and Don’ts of Kimball Allen’s live talk/variety show “Triple Threat” at the Triple Door, featuring ArtsWest’s Mathrew Wright and Chelsea Le Valley
By Amanda Knox
Published in the West Seattle Herald on 04/05/2015
On Friday, April 3, the Triple Door hosted the inaugural performance of Kimball Allen’s talk and variety show, “Triple Threat,” directed by Emma Hassett. Allen confesses that his dream is to establish it as a “Seattle staple.” So how did it go? Well, it came across like the pilot of a new TV show: a good idea, entertaining, not yet fully formed. Here are the DO and DON’T suggestions on how to make Allen’s dream come true:
DO integrate emerging and established Pacific Northwest talent. Allen started off with an excellent balance: reknown author Dan Savage, entertainer Mama Tits, and the Captain Smartypants ensemble of the Seattle Men’s Chorus next to lesser known but emerging aerial artist Tanya Brno, storyteller Summer Waldron, comedian Wilfred Padua, and actress Chelsea Le Valley.
DON’T work against the guests’ talents through chunky time management and technical blunders. Taking a cue from other shows that feature a live band, Allen could have better integrated his musical guest, rock band Prom Queen, had he timed the performances of their songs throughout the show as opposed to leaving them for the end. It was also a shame that the sound mixing wasn’t more closely managed, allowing for awkward blunders – some microphones peaking over others and Mama Tit’s soundtrack coming in too early.
DO pick a theme and have confidence in it. While Allen didn’t originally set out to make “Queer” the theme of his inaugural show, when the run down of his guests made it look that way, he ran with it, inviting the audience to put on their “gay hats” for the evening and even integrating a special costume change – prom dress – for the occasion.
DON’T blame the audience when they chicken out and ruin a bit. When the audience talent show turned up no talent, Allen briefly betrayed his nervousness with the passive-aggressive poke at the audience, “You’re in trouble.” No, they weren’t. Not everyone is an entertainer.
DO promote the professional and personal work of the guests. Throughout the show, Allen was as much a grateful host as a gleeful groupie, ever-ready and willing to make his party as much fun for his guest talent as for the audience. Allen offered a welcoming atmosphere for his guests to talk about their personal passions and professional successes. He was particularly gracious in sharing the hosting spotlight with the glamorous Mama Tits, who strutted onstage in her pink, spike-heeled glory, powerfully performed Etta James’s “I’m Feeling Good,” was interviewed on her advocacy for HIV health awareness, and then proceeded to judge the talent contest.
DON’T have the only black talent to grace the stage be the sexy servant. Allen didn’t mean it that way, but that kind of misunderstanding is so avoidable. There’s plenty of talent in Seattle to choose from.
DO put together a well-rounded show that, as director Emma Hassett says, “puts the audience through the emotional gamut.” Hassett and Allen thoughtfully tempered glamour and theatrics with grounded storytelling and personal interaction. Each performer brought a different energy to the stage – Dan Savage’s casual brilliance, Wilfred Padua’s awkward assertiveness, Summer Waldron’s eager earnestness – that elicited here laughter, there compassion, here again embarrassment.
DON’T rely on the guest talent to structure the narrative arch of the show. As much as the themes of queer issues, bullying, and ultimate self-confidence and celebration successfully flowed throughout the acts, “Triple Threat” lacked a landing pad. If Allen wants his show to become a staple, “Triple Threat” endings need to be as strong, if not stronger, than their beginnings. Allen needs to provide the audience with a message to take away that lingers and makes the audience feel they should come back for more.
DO put on another show. The pilot is full of well-intentioned promise and legitimate value. Allen is a fun, refreshing host because he’s a fan, just like us.