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Freneticore puts dancers on poles in Tenderina

Submitted by Alex_Wukman on November 30, 2024 – 5:02 pmNo Comment

photo by Robert Thoth courtesy of FrentiCore

By Alex Wukman

I guess once “Pole Dancing for Jesus” became a thing it was almost inevitable that someone would write and stage a play about a stripper. And on Saturday, December 2, Frenticore opens one of this Holiday season’s more interesting shows-Tenderina-which happens to be about, at least superficially, a stripper. The Freneticore crew describe Tenderina as “the surreal story of a stripper ballerina and her journey to self-revelation” and “a thought-provoking and humorous show that you can’t bring the kids to.” For the last few months Freneticore has been fighting an uphill battle to bring Tenderina to the stage. The troupe started an IndieGoGo campaign, cheekily titled “Keep Our Dancers off the Pole,” to raise the $7,500 needed to fully realize playwright Loueva Smith’s vision.

As if a lack of funds wasn’t enough, while trying to film Energy City industry for some some of the play’s multimedia segments Freneticore founder Robert Thoth ran afoul of the authorities. In a November 24 Facebook post, Thoth claims that he was out videotaping smokestacks when  his Mini Cooper was swarmed by four suburbans sporting Port of Houston security logos. He went on to write that the  ensuing car chase  was reminiscent of The Italian Job. Regardless of any problems with fundraising or post 9-11 law enforcement  Tenderina is a play about Tenderina, a stripper/ballerina known as the Girl Matador, played by Allison Gregroy-Jones, who meets Kirk a psychedelic angel/voodoo musician, played by Allen Bauman. Throughout the course of  the show Tenderina faces Tim the accuser, played by Benito Vasquez, at a trial where she is defended by one-eyed story teller Lee, a role inhabited by playwright Loueva Smith.

Smith is well known to fans of Frenticore’s previous work. She’s taken home Audience Favorite Awards from previous Houston Fringe Festivals for her plays Wounded Woman Fashion Show and Bruna Bunny and Baby Girl. Smith also made something of a name for herself in Houston’s underground lit community with her fur wrapped book of love poems entitled The Book of Wool and Fur. She has previously featured at the Public Poetry reading series, which was recently named Houston’s Best Poetry Reading Series by that other alternative newspaper.

Seasoned Houston theatre veteran Cliff Mabry has been tasked with bringing Tenderina to the stage.Over the past 35 years Mabry has become well known in both mainstream and alt theatre circles. In addition to working at smaller theatres Mabry has helmed shows at such established venues as UH Clear Lake, Glaveston County Community College and  College of the Mainland. And, of course, no write-up of Freneticore would be complete without mentioning some of the accomplishments of Thoth and his longtime partner in crime Rebecca French.

Over the years Thoth and French have become legends in the Houston theatre scene. They’ve danced their way  through works of art as divergent as David Bowie and George Orwell and racked up almost as many detractors as they have supporters. They’ve made a name for themselves as being bold risk takers, always willing to go out on a limb. Through the Houston Fringe Festival they’ve been able to build bridges with alt theatre communities from around the country and have brought in fantastic international artists who normally would have given Houston a pass. And now they’re providing a respite for theatre-goers worn out from the incessant jingle bells and Santa worship. And they’ve even  provided a helpful video to get everyone in the mood.

Tenderina opens Saturday, December 2 at Frentic Theatre, 5102 Navigation. Performances are December 2,3,5, 9, 10, 16 and 17. Tickets are $15 advance, $20 at the door with a pay-what-you-judge performance on December 5 and a $30-per-person closing night party on December 17 that will feature drinks and hors d’ouevres. For more information visit www.freneticore.net or call 832-426-4624.

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