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Plays drawn from the repertoire of Western drama are usually dismissed as "safe options" for theaters—what could be more reliable, after all, than a script arriving with a decades-long track record of pleasing audiences? This popular impression renders all the more astonishing the degree of daring reflected in this winter's selection of (at least) twice-told tales.
Two FSU/Asolo Conservatory grads are co-founding and co-artistic directing a new Urbanite Theater, bringing “contemporary playgoing opportunities” to downtown Sarasota . What makes Summer Wallace and Brendan Ragan's venture so different? A real estate developer is constructing a theater for them to show actor-driven exciting, fresh work.
By April 2015, the building should be up. The black box theater has been rented for $1 a year for 5 years. Fund-raising will equip it in time, it is hoped, for a fall 2015 opening.
Even if the line of dialogue you couldn't wait to quote after Chris Hainsworth's adaptation of Monstrous Regiment for Lifeline Theater was "Things couldn't get any worse if it were raining arseholes," a more accurate summary of Chicago theater in 2014 might be ”ars victrix"—in English, "art endures."
With a nod to New York theater critic Charles Isherwood, the older you get, the sooner it seems you are faced with the prospect of listing the best productions of the year. This is an overwhelming task in New York, with literally hundreds of shows opening on Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off. But doing the same is a challenge even in a city the size of Milwaukee. There is more theater happening in this culturally rich city than most people know. And when you are asked to rate the Top 5 productions instead of the Top 10 — well, one can imagine the anxiety this produces.
Elizabeth Ashley is one of the most acclaimed actresses of her generation. Born in Florida but raised in the deep South of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, once she made the decision to come to New York, her dazzling (and some have said seductive) beauty, gorgeous legs, an aura of mystique, and unique, rapid-fire voice dripping with Southern Comfort and mint juleps infused with magnolias, got her quickly noticed and cast in major roles.
Marian Seldes, who passed away after a three-year slide into darkness, told me once: "One of the most enthralling moments for me in every play I do is crossing from Stage Left to Stage Right, or vice versa, depending on where the stage door is, and ravishing a moment there – just me and the ghost light."
This summer at Williamstown Theater Festival, we saw emeritus artistic director, Jenny Gersten, only during opening night of the first production, June Moon. There was a hug signifying a relationship that evolved from tempestuous to respectful. There had been growing pains on both ends. Gersten would go on to become executive director of Friends of the High Line, an elevated park being built in Chelsea.
Some in the professional theater community view critics as their natural enemy out to destroy or trivialize the efforts of all theatrical companies. Over time, a tradition of sorts began – something akin to the bridegroom not seeing his bride before the ceremony; in other words, bad luck or a doomed marriage. Bull. I’ve never met a fellow critic who walked into a theater hoping the production would be bad, boring or worse in order to write a clever, witty review that denigrates the production as a way of elevating their own importance.
Hundreds of anti-Israeli – and, in some cases, anti-Semitic -- protestors have disrupted shows at both the International and Fringe festivals this year. Two shows at the Fringe have been shut down by the protestors: The City, a hip-hop opera from The Incubator, a Jerusalem-based theater company; La Karina, a dance recital by the Pola Dance company from Ben Gurion University; and a third show, The Jewish Chronicles, a solo songfest performed by Daniel Cainer, was singled out for public condemnation.
During an early phase of rehearsals for Dancing Lessons,a new play for Barrington Stage Company, we met with playwright Mark St. Germain at Dottie’s for breakfast. It has become an annual ritual to discuss the development of his plays. Mark has become a mentor and friend. He is a rich and knowledgeable primary resource both for understanding theater as well as many unique insights of the challenges of a life in the arts.
Brilliant, vicious, magnetic, dedicated, massively insecure, and bitterly competitive, Sir Laurence Olivier (1907-1989) was endowed with a talent and a jealousy unchallenged by his contemporaries. In the new biography, “Olivier” (Quercus Publishing, 460 pages), prize-winning author Phillip Ziegler virtually leaves no stone unturned as he examines not only what made one of our most famous – and occasionally infamous – actor/directors of the 20th Century tick but also the work that influenced generations of actors.
In a January 10, 2013 review in the New York Times Charles Isherwood wrote, “As you watch The Other Place,a slick, potently acted drama by Sharr White that opened on Broadway on Thursday night at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater, it may strike you now and then that your mind is playing tricks on you. Facts that seem firmly established in one scene melt into vapor a few scenes later, leaving you with a vague itch to press pause to sort things out, or maybe rewind. Or both.”
Creative Conversations about American Theater Take Place on Greenfield Prize Weekend in Sarasota, FL
Playwrights, a producing artistic director and an award-winning actress had “Creative Conversations” about theater and their work in it on April 12, 2014 during the annual Greenfield Prize Weekend in Sarasota, FL. This partnership between the Greenfield Foundation of Philadelphia and the Hermitage Artist Retreat in Englewood, FL, offers six week residencies to artists to work on creative projects. The Greenfield Prize, an annual $30,000 commission to create a new work of art, went to playwright Nilo Cruz.
Since joining the America Theater Critics Association, we have attended conferences in Chicago, Indianapolis, Shepherdstown, West Virginia and, most recently, the 38th Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, Kentucky. Through ATCA we are getting an overview of regional American theater. The well-organized conferences comprise intense experiences with meetings, panel discussions and major keynote speakers. (This time: Steinberg Award winning playwright Lauren Gunderson, who was also the keynote speaker for the conference. Also, longtime New York critic Ira J.
"Dream what you want to dream, go where you want to go, be what you want to be," James Dean has been quoted as saying, "because you have only one life and one chance to do all the things you want to do." Another time, he stated, "The only success, the only greatness is immortality." By that standard, Dean has achieved immortality. Long after his untimely death in 1955, the fascination with Dean lives on. On February 8, 2014, the forever young Dean would have turned 83.
Janet Carl Smith, newly retired Deputy Commissioner of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs, advised leaders and members of the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County to collaborate among themselves and others in an address on February 20, 2014. She shared experiences and ideas to the Alliance and is currently pushing for a renewal of a tax to benefit education in Sarasota, especially in the arts.
Beginning October 10, 2013, La Comedie Italienne, the sole Italian theater in France, began its 40th season of continuing the centuries-old tradition of Italian players and scripts appearing there on stage, especially in Paris. On Christmas Day, the troupe's founder and artistic director, Attillio Maggiulli, was arrested for protesting a devastating cut in national subvention of the theater by attempting to drive his car into an Elysee Palace gate. The most recent news I've learned is that Maggiulli was sent to Police Headquarters and then for psychiatric evaluation.
Tracy Letts has been known to get excited when honing and honing and honing his work “to make what I’m working on the very piece.” When things didn’t necessarily please him, there are rumors that he screamed, called people names, and wrote exhaustively long e-mails. In writing the screenplay for his Pulitzer Prize, Joseph Jefferson-, Tony-, and Drama Desk Award winning August: Osage County,which played Broadway in December 2007 for 18 months after premiering in his Chicago hometown’s Steppenwolf, he was probably just as vocal, but to himself.
“There couldn’t be a better holiday season,” says very busy director/choreographer Warren Carlyle. “I truly am blessed to be here and doing what I love. It’s the culmination of all my dreams.”
It’s been said that Margo Martindale has gone from being an actress whose face moviegoers and TV viewers know to one who now has a brand name. “It’s nice when people come up to me and actually know my name! Usually it’s ‘Aren’t you -- ?’ or ‘Weren’t you in -- ?’ or ‘Hi, you’re the lady at my bank!’” Now, thanks to capturing the coveted role of Mattie Fae in the film adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning August: Osage County[The Weinstein Company] and her boisterous and blistering performance, everyone’ll know her name.
“Frozen,” the Walt Disney feature which just opened as the season’s big, animated holiday film, is a movie that almost didn't happen – in spite of years of trying to get an animated film done on Hans Christian Andersen's “The Snow Queen.” Four years in the making, the film arrives and is worth the wait. Critics are calling it the best Disney animated film and musical in years.
PBS Great Performances and THIRTEEN have classic treats in store to ring in the holidays. First, on Friday, November 29, 2013: “Barbra Streisand: Back to Brooklyn,” a telecast of the diva's historic Brooklyn homecoming to christen the 19,000-seat, $1-billion Barclays Center, which marked her "home" concert since her childhood (and her first concert in six years). She performs 27 tunes from her five-decade career, joined by guests Il Volo, Chris Botti, a 60-piece orchestra led by William Ross, and, in quite a touching segment, her son Jason Gould.
There's not a lot of Southern comfort to ease the characters of Beth Henley’s gothic, black-comedy/drama, The Jacksonian, having its New York premiere courtesy of the New Group at Theater Row.
The 17-week limited engagement of John Tiffany's critically acclaimed revival of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie officially opens at the Booth Theater on September 26, 2013. The production marks the return to the stage of Tony, Drama Desk, and Emmy winner Cherry Jones, who costars as one of Williams' most memorable creations, Amanda Wingfield, the mother of crippled and shy Laura, played by Celia Keenan-Bolger (Peter and the Starcatcher) and Tom, portrayed by Zachary Quinto (Angels in America). Brian J.
A showing of Britain’s National Theatre production of “The Audience” on June 13, 2013, broadcast live may not have been as controversial as a few years of filmed ballets and operas, but it played up how the electronic medium adversely affected the play. A major criticism of filmed musical performances, such as operas from Met Live, is that they are edited and therefore not true to what audiences see in a theater. The criticism is like that heaped on television for editing films to fit the TV screen.
The third season for Jenny Gersten, artistic director of the Williamstown Theater Festival, ends August 18, 2013 with the final performance of the Broadway-bound musical, The Bridges of Madison County on the Main Stage and the controversial Blood Playon the Nikos stage.
From the beginnings of Barrington Stage Company, the playwright Mark Saint Germain has enjoyed a close relationship with artistic director Julianne Boyd. The smaller second stage is even named for the dramatist. From August 15-September 29, 2013 Barrington will present St. Germain’s Scott and Hem in the Garden of Allah.The play premiered this summer at the Contemporary American Theater Festival, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, which commissioned it. Through a special agreement with CATF the play is having its “Rolling World Premiere” in Pittsfield.
Too Soon or Too Far? Contemporary American Theater Festival Founder Ed Herendeen's Thoughts on This Season's CATF Plays
Some 23 years ago, Ed Herendeen, then with the Williamstown Theater Festival in an administrative position, was invited by the president of Shepherd University, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, to organize an annual, summer Contemporary American Theatre Festival. Since then, CATF, with Herendeen as producing director, has presented 100 new plays either as premieres or second productions of works in development.
Kate Burton stars in Tom Stoppard’s Hapgoodin a just-about sold-out, two-week run (July 10-21, 2013) in a return to familiar home turf at the Williamstown Theater Festival. Her husband, Michael Ritchie, was WTF’s former artistic director for nine years. The current AD, Jenny Gersten, was his assistant producer.
Remember the old M-G-M axiom: "More stars than there are in the heavens!" The 2013 Tony Awards, the 67th annual, telecast by CBS live from Radio City Music Hall on Sunday from 8-11 PM, has that beat. There'll be more stars than there are in the galaxy! Minus one, and more about that later.
The stars are aligning! Tony fav, six-time Emmy nominee and two-time winner and four-time Golden Globe nominee Neil Patrick Harris returns as the host with the mostest. Expect humorous barbs and songs.
The original Broadway cast CD of Grammy-winning rock icon Cyndi Lauper and four-time Tony Harvey Fierstein’s richly diverse Kinky Boots,nominated for 13 Tonys, including Best Musical, Score, and Book, is now available (Masterworks Broadway).
Do you know the way to off-Broadway, where this has been one of the best seasons ever? Theaters are easy to find, and off-Broadway has everything Broadway has, including (as a rule, but not always) uncomfortable seats and stages that are (often but not always) smaller. However, OB also offers tickets that are definitely cheaper. Two of the best and most nominated shows are big hits, and two potential hits have just arrived.
What I’ll always remember about Jean Stapleton is her wonderful giggle followed by an uproarious laugh. And when Miss Stapleton laughed, everyone heard. But there was so much more to this terrific lady: her sweetness, kindness, and thoughtfulness.
Of course, being a musicals buff, I knew who Jean Stapleton was when she got the co-starring role in TV’s groundbreaking “All in the Family.” I remembered her from the film adaptations of Bells Are Ringing and Damn Yankees and so regretted that I never got to see her do those roles onstage.
Sue Mengers was a trailblazer as the first female super-agent. She was powerful, revengeful, and witheringly sarcastic, but to those she loved, and vice versa, she was a mensch. Ms. Mengers passed away in 2011 at age 79 after a series of chronic illnesses and tiny strokes. In John Logan's play currently running on Broadway, I'll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers,she is channeled brilliantly by Bette Midler.
Charles Giuliano recently sat down for a conversation with Barrington Stage artistic director Julianne Boyd to discuss the ever-complicated relationship between critics and the artists they cover.
Charles Giuliano recently interviewed Massachusetts’ Barrington Stage Company artistic director Julianne Boyd about the homogenization of regional-theater programming.
Charles Giuliano recently interviewed Massachusetts’ Barrington Stage Company artistic director Julianne Boyd about the theater’s $7 million capital campaign.
Charles Giuliano: What is the current financial status of Barrington Stage Company?
Julianne Boyd We moved in 2006. This is our 8th season in Pittsfield. Last May we acquired the former V.F.W. just a couple of streets over from our theater.
Triple-threat Shonn Wiley has done lots of shows in all sorts of venues, but even if you were to chart his career only in terms of his participation in the City Center Encores! series of staged concert musicals, you'd see clearly that he's a rising star. His first Encores!
Guitar-playing, folk-singing octodynamo, Lu Mitchell is mighty fine at 89. Not one to rest on her laurels, Lu is busy writing new songs, launching her tenth album, and rehearsing for her annual Irish show on March 12, 2013 at Pocket Sandwich Theater where she plays four gigs each year. This is in addition to numerous appearances at corporate functions, private parties, a holiday show at Uncle Calvin's Coffee House, and the annual Senior Follies extravaganza at the Eisemann Center.
When Janie Minick walks onstage and announces: "I'm Elizabeth Taylor Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner Fortensky," you would suspend all manner of disbelief if Taylor were still alive. She is, of course, referring to her marriages to hotel heir Nicky Hilton, British actor Michael Wilding, Hollywood film producer Mike Todd, singer Eddie Fisher, Welsh actor Richard Burton (to whom she was wed twice), Virginia senator John Warner, and construction worker Larry Fortensky. She then interweaves the story of her life, romances, and marriages to each of them.