Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Holidays from the CT Arts Connection

We are on vacation until Jan. 8. Wishing all of our readers a wonderful holiday and a happy new year!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Casting Complete for Yale Rep's Stones in His Pockets

Fred Arsenault, last seen at Yale Rep earlier this season in Marie Antoinette, and Tony Award nominee Euan Morton complete the cast of Stones in His Pockets by Marie Jones at Yale Repertory Theatre, 1120 Chapel St., New Haven, Jan. 25-Feb.16. Opening Night is Thursday, Jan. 31. 

In  Stones in His Pockets, a rural Irish village is turned upside down by the arrival of an American film crew. When Charlie and Jake are cast as extras in the movie, they discover that Hollywood’s romanticized Ireland stands in stark contrast to the reality of their daily lives.

The production features scenic and projection design by Edward T. Morris, costumes by Nikki Delhomme, lighting by Solomon Weisbard, sound by Matt Otto, dramaturgy by Sarah Krasnow, vocal coaching by Stephen Gabis, and stage management by Nicole Marconi.

Winner of London’s Olivier Award for Best Comedy, Stones in His Pockets will be staged by OBIE Award-winning resident director Evan Yionoulis. Arsenault and Morton playing more than a dozen eccentric characters—from the film’s spoiled American starlet to the star-struck locals.

Tickets range from $20-$96: www.yalerep.org; 203-432-1234; Rep Box Office , 1120 Chapel St. Student, senior and group rates are also available.

Don't Miss These Connecticut Arts Connections

Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary has appointed Palace Theater Marketing and Public Relations Officer Sheree Marcucci, right, as the city's representative on the Western Connecticut Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Board of Directors. During her three-year term, Marcucci will use her decades of professional experience to assist in crafting the Bureau’s marketing efforts, in addition to representing and promoting Waterbury’s tourism interests.

“I am happy to accept this appointment to the Board of the Western Connecticut Convention and Visitors Bureau and be a part of developing new tourism marketing initiatives that will drive economic development in our community,” Marcucci said.

The Western Connecticut Convention and Visitors Bureau represents 63 town throughout Connecticut and is dedicated to promoting leisure and travel to the region in keeping with the values of the individual communities it serves. For more information, visit www.northwestct.com.
 
Hartford Stage is collecting donations for the Sandy Hook United Way Fund to support the victims of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday. Donations for the Sandy Hook United Way Fund can be made in the lobby during all remaining performances of A Christmas Carol.
 
Over at the Westport Country Playhouse, Adam Clemens of Westport and Carole Hochman of Manhattan have been elected members of the board of trustees at Westport Country Playhouse.

Clemens is a managing director of Portfolio Advisors and serves as a voting member of the firm’s investment committee. He joined Portfolio Advisors in 2010 and is primarily engaged in sourcing, evaluating, and recommending investment opportunities in private equity co-investments. Previously, he was co-founder and president of New York Life Capital Partners (NYLCAP), the captive manager of alternative assets for New York Life Insurance Company and third-party investors, the head of private equity and leveraged finance with New York Life’s Private Finance Group,and a vice president with Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company in the private placement department. Clemens has a BS degree from Georgetown University, an MBA degree from Columbia University and is a Chartered Financial Analyst.

Hochman is chairman and chief creative officer of The Carole Hochman Design Group, headquartered in New York City. A designer and industry pioneer, Hochman has been designing intimate apparel for more than 30 years. She began her lingerie career by accident. While studying fashion design at Drexel University, she landed a job at Bergdorf Goodman in a department she’d given very little thought to before---lingerie. She learned the business and began working for a small New York-based intimate apparel design firm, now named Carole Hochman Designs. Hochman Design Group also owns OnGossamer and the licenses to several lingerie and sleepwear collections, including Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, Jockey, Betsey Johnson, Donna Karan, and Nicole Miller.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

HSO Celebrates 50 Years of America's Musicals at Goodspeed

Hartford Symphony Orchestra and Goodspeed Musicals will join to celebrate the music and the magic of Goodspeed’s golden anniversary in a spectacular concert event on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 7:30 pm. at The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford. 

For 50 years, Goodspeed has been recognized around the world as the “home of the American musical”. This special collaboration will feature selections from Goodspeed originals that moved to Broadway including Annie and Man of La Mancha, plus audience favorites from dozens of shows like Brigadoon, Finian’s Rainbow and No, No Nanette.

James Snyder
Led by guest conductor Michael O’Flahertywho is now in his 21st year as Resident Music Director for Goodspeed Musicals, the program will feature the talents of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, as well as performances by special guests Sarah Uriarte Berry, Quentin Earl Darrington, and James Snyder, plus aspiring professional performers from The Hartt School Musical Theatre Department’s Class of 2013.
With a set list that comprises musical theatre’s greatest hits, the evening will include songs from 42nd Street; A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum; A Little Night Music; Annie Get Your Gun; Anything Goes; Babes In Arms; Big River; Carousel; Gentleman Prefer Blondes; Kiss Me, Kate; Lady, Be Good!; Mame; On The Town; On the Twentieth Century; Promises, Promises; Red Hot & Blue; The Fantasticks and more.
 
Berry starred as Magnolia in Goodspeed’s Show Boat and her Broadway and national tour credits include Beauty and the Beast; Carousel; Cinderella; End of the Rainbow; Les Misérables; Next to Normal; Sunset Boulevard; Taboo; The Boys from Syracuse; The Light in the Piazza; and Tenderloin.
Darrington was Lucas in Goodspeed’s production of Abyssinia and has appeared in Broadway productions and national tours of Memphis; Ragtime; The Color Purple; and The Lion King.
Snyder starred as Billy Bigelow in Goodspeed’s Carousel and led the cast of Crybaby on Broadway. His additional New York and national stage credits include Broadway: Three Generations; Fanny; Happy Days; Mama!; Oedipus the King; Rock of Ages; Star Wars Trilogy in 30 Minutes; and The Fantasticks
“We are thrilled to kick off Goodspeed’s year-long celebration of our 50thanniversary with this one-of-a-kind concert event,” said Michael Price, executive director of Goodspeed Musicals. “It is a rare occasion when two of Connecticut’s cultural treasures join together but when they do, the result is a magical collaboration that will be remembered for many years to come.” 
HSO President and CEO Carrie Hammond says, “It truly is a dream for us to collaborate with Goodspeed's incredible talents. Goodspeed has been a driving force behind the development and excellence of American Musical Theatre. This concert will bring together two of Connecticut's cultural treasures and ambassadors for the arts to this community.”
Tickets range in price from $20-$67.50. Student tickets are $10 and $25 tickets are available for patrons age 40 and under. To purchase tickets or for more information, please contact HSO ticket services at (860) 244-2999 or visit www.hartfordsymphony.org.

Wesleyan Center for the Arts List January Happenings


Music Class for Children

Title of Event: Youth Gamelan Ensemble

Location: World Music Hall, 40 Wyllys Ave, Middletown, CT

Date: Classes start on Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 10am

Fee: Only $30 for a semester of classes

Phone: 860-685-3355

Website: www.wesleyan.edu/cfa

The Youth Gamelan Ensemble was founded as a Center for the Arts program in 2002 by Wesleyan Artist in Residence I.M. Harjito, who guides the group along with Professor Sumarsam and Director Joseph Getter. The ensemble is open to all children ages 7 through 17. No prior experience necessary. Rehearsals take place on Saturday mornings from 10am to 11am. Classes start on Saturday, January 26, 2013 and conclude with a performance on Thursday, May 9, 2013. The Wesleyan Youth Gamelan Ensemble has received support from the Middletown Commission on the Arts. To register, call the Wesleyan University Box Office at 860-685-3355 or email boxoffice@wesleyan.edu.


Opening Reception for Gallery Exhibition

Title of Event: Opening Reception for Lucy+Jorge Orta—“Food-Water-Life”

Location: Main Gallery, Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, 283 Washington Terrace, Middletown, CT

Date: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 from 4:30pm to 6:30pm; Gallery Talk at 5pm by Guest

Curator Judith Hoos Fox of c2, curatorsquared

Fee: FREE!

Phone: 860-685-3355

Website: www.wesleyan.edu/zilkha

The work of Lucy+Jorge Orta explores the major concerns that define the 21st century: biodiversity, environmental conditions, climate change, and exchange among peoples. At the same time, this work embodies the philosophy that steers their pioneering art practice, “the ethics of aesthetics.” As heirs to the practice of social sculpture, formulated by Joseph Beuys in the 1960s, the Ortas’ works are, in a sense, reflections of their own function--beguiling assemblages that are the platform for the preparation of food, mechanisms that actually purify water, and elements that they created for their 2007 expedition to Antarctica and that are part of an effort to amend Article XIII of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The works in the “Food-Water-Life” exhibition are metaphors-in-action, constructions that perform the tasks of which they are emblematic. It is in their ability to actually function, albeit awkwardly and haltingly, that these objects gain power as works of art created to move us to awareness and action. Lucy+Jorge Orta: “Food-Water-Life” is curated by guest curators Ginger Gregg Duggan and Judith Hoos Fox of c2 curatorsquared, and is co-sponsored by the College of the Environment with additional support from the Department of Art and Art History.

Opening Reception for Video Installation

Title of Event: Opening Reception for “Remodeling Zilkha” (2012) by Janne Höltermann

Location: North Gallery, Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, 283 Washington Terrace, Middletown, CT

Date: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 from 4:30pm to 6:30pm

Fee: FREE!

Phone: 860-685-3355

Website: www.wesleyan.edu/zilkha

“Remodeling Zilkha” (2012) is a site-specific, two-channel video installation (8:16 min.) by Janne Höltermann, the Luther Gregg Sullivan Visiting Artist in Wesleyan's Art and Art History Department, that shows the filmed gallery space within the same gallery space. The two videos of the installation extend, compress and mirror the room using the inherent architectural characteristics of the gallery (repetition, segmenting, mirroring) to reconfigure space.


Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts, 283 Washington Terrace, Middletown; boxoffice@wesleyan.edu; 860-685-3355.

Join the Coversation Between Authors Adriana Trigiani, Giulia Melucci

New York Times bestselling author Adriana Trigiani's novels are alternately touching and hilarious. Filled with her gregarious spirit and love of life, Trigiani's books have millions of fans. Popular titles include "The Shoemaker's Wife," "Brava Valentine," "Big Stone Gap," "Rococo" and "Don't Sing at the Table: Life Lessons from My Grandmother."
Antoinette LaVecchia in TheaterWorks' presentaion
 of Giulia Melucci's I Loved, I Lost,
I Made Spaghetti, adapted by playwright
 Jacques Lamarre, who manages
special events at the
Mark Twain House.
 Photo: Lanny Nagler
She will be joined in conversation by another Italian-American author who has explored the mysterious ways of the heart (and the stomach): Giulia Melucci, author of "I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti."

"A Conversation Between Adriana Trigiani & Giulia Melucci" is guaranteed to be a fun and food-filled festa, and will take place 7:30 pm Friday, Jan. 11 at The Mark Twain Museum Center, 351 Farmington Ave., Hartford.

Tickets are $30 ($25 for museum members). A special $65 package includes a pre-lecture Italian reception with the authors. Call 860-280-3130.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Theater Review: The SantaLand Diaries -- TheaterWorks

Jeff Kready. Photo Lanny Nagler
Laughing With a Disgruntled Elf
By Lauren Yarger
A bunch of “ho, ho, hos” can be heard over at TheaterWorks in Hartford, but there isn’t a Santa in sight. The laughter is coming from the audience listening to a disgruntled elf in The SantaLand Diaries by David Sedaris.

In Joe Mantello’s stage adaptation of Sedaris’ essay, Jeff Kready makes his TheaterWorks debut to recount experiences based on the author’s employment as “Crumpet,” an Elf in SantaLand at Macy’s in New York (the piece provided Sedaris with his big break when he read it on NPR’s “Morning Edition.”)

The out of work writer is desperate, and on a dare from a friend, applies for elfship during the holiday crunch at Macy’s. After a series of interviews, drug testing, psychological evaluation and filling out a ton of paperwork, he’s in, but during the over-the-top training, he soon discovers that he might not have what it takes to be a perky, happy Santa’s helper all the time as detailed in the employees’ handbook, a.k.a. the “elfin guide.”

With tongue firmly planted in cheek, “Crumpet,” as he is known in SantaLand, shares numerous stories about his various elf stations (pointing, photos, cash register . . .) and the people he encounters, some bordering on crass, but all very funny. There are the kids – some more than reluctant to sit on the lap of a fat guy dressed in a red velvet suit – and their parents, consumed with holiday cheer – or chill – to get just that right photo with Santa to send off to relatives and friends. 

His coworker elves lend some humor too – one Lothario seems to think that SantaLand is his personal pick up location for women and another, a little too full of Christmas cheer and light on intelligence, enjoys herself so much that she wonders whether she can find year-round employment as an elf...

The Santas also provide humor. They range in personality from totally deranged to one who sounds like Saint Nick himself.

Kready, dressed in full elf garb that incudes candy-cane tights (Margaret Charbonneau, costume design), often reclining in an ornate Santa throne decorated with a background of Christmas trees (Michael Lenaghan, set design), brings personalities to life with recreations of SantaLand moments under the direction of Rob Ruggiero, TheaterWorks’ newly appointed producing artistic director.

Mantello’s adaptation doesn’t erase the sound of written essay from the dialogue, unfortunately, but Kready employs personality and facial expressions to make it personal for a live audience, which otherwise might feel like it was listening to someone read a radio script. In fact, one of the most amusing parts of the one-hour presentation is hearing audience members lose themselves in laughter when a story about a weird Santa or elf, or an out-of-control parent, hits home. (The “spitting Santa” was the one that got me).

It’s very amusing, though some of the accounts are rather crass, border on cruelty and some wouldn’t pass the “politically correct” test. No one under 16 is allowed in the theater. Photo ops with Crumpet are available as a theater fundraiser following the performance.

The limited run of The SantaLand Diaries runs through Dec. 23 at TheaterWorks, City Arts on Pearl - 233 Pearl St., Hartford, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at 7:30 pm; Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm Weekend Matinees at 2:30 pm. Tickets $17-$53 (860) 527-7838; http://theaterworkshartford.org.

Goodspeed, Johnny Mercer Foundation Join to Form Residency for Musical Theater Writers

Goodspeed Musicals begins its 50th Anniversary Season with the announcement of a major new four-week residency program for musical theater theater writers.

The Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed Musicals is the first of its kind in the country as it is dedicated solely to the creation of new musicals. In partnership with the Johnny Mercer Foundation, Goodspeed will offer established and emerging writers the unique opportunity to research, develop, and create new musicals.

“Goodspeed Musicals’ unique focus is musical theatre so it is fitting that we are finally able to realize the long-held dream of establishing a home for the creators of new musicals," said Michael Price, executive director of Goodspeed Musicals. "Thanks in part to our expanded campus and our good fortune in finding such a perfect partner in the Johnny Mercer Foundation to help fund it, this safe haven for artists will launch in 2013.”

The Writers Colony is a unique, long term residency program devoted exclusively to musical theatre writing. It will provide a sanctuary for composers, lyricists, and librettists to embark on new musical theatre work or to devote a substantial amount of time to a work-in-progress in an environment rich with creative energy. For four weeks each year, 14 to 20 writers will be immersed in this stimulating environment with the singular purpose of allowing the writers to write. 

At Goodspeed Musicals, writers will find the freedom to work without the distractions of daily life, while receiving the support and encouragement needed to develop their works in progress. Each project will be assigned a creative mentor drawn from the highest levels of musical theatre professionals. The Writers Colony will afford the artists unlimited access to research materials in the Scherer Library of Musical Theatre, one of the most extensive musical theatre libraries in the US; composition time in Goodspeed’s music studios; and collaborative exchange with their peers through a series of informal salons for presenting and sharing their work.

Throughout the residency, members of Goodspeed’s artistic staff and professionals from the Johnny Mercer Foundation will be on site to offer guidance and support for the writers. Each year, writers will be invited by Goodspeed’s panel of industry leaders to participate in this prestigious program. A select group of participants have been invited for the inaugural residency and will be announced at a later date.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Rob Ruggiero Named Producing Artistic Director at TheaterWorks

Rob Ruggiero has been named TheaterWorks’ new Producing Artistic Director. He had served as interim artistic director since March and will assume the new role Jan. 1.

 A national search was conducted to replace former artistic Director Steve Campo. The committee  reviewed approximately 130 applications for the position, according to Michael G. Albano, president of TheaterWorks’ board.

'The committee came to the conclusion that no applicant could match Rob’s combination of directorial excellence on a national level, his management and fundraising skills and instincts, his knowledge of the community, and his exciting vision for the theater’s future,” Albano said. Ruggiero has been affiliated with TheaterWorks for more than 20 years and 40 productions, having served as associate artistic director prior to serving as interim.

He made his Broadway directorial debut with Looped, starring Valerie Harper in a Tony nominated performance (the tour comes to The Bushnell next month) . Ruggiero also directed High, starring Kathleen Turner, which had its world premiere at TheaterWorks prior to opening on Broadway.

He also has directed numerous works at Goodspeed. He also the recipient of four Connecticut Critic’s Circle Awards. His work has been seen at major regional theaters throughout the country. 

"I am thrilled by this opportunity,” Ruggiero said. “ It's a very emotional and personal thing for me to be assuming the role of producing artistic director. I have been associated with TheaterWorks in some capacity for nearly 20 years, and being at the helm as we come out of this very challenging time is particularly meaningful. I love this theater, I believe in what we do and in our future. I am extremely touched by the faith and support shown to me by the Board of Directors, this wonderfully dedicated staff and the Hartford community during this interim period. I look forward to serving our loyal audience and shepherding the theater in new and positive directions as we embrace the next chapter at TheaterWorks."

One of his first tasks will be to conduct a search for a development director, a position new to the theater.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Get A Christmas Clue at the Twain House

Is Becky Thatcher the murderer?
'Get a Christmas Clue Tours' will be offered in a special, one-night-only, reservations-only edition at The Mark Twain House & Museum Sunday, Dec. 16 from 6 to 10 pm using the layout of the Twain house -- and some of the author's favorite literary characters -- as part of the game. 

Who killed that varmint Pap Finn and why did they wait 'til Christmas to do it? Was it Becky Thatcher with a stake of holly in the Conservatory? The Prince (or was it the Pauper?) with the slay-bells in the library? 

Play our live-action version of the classic game CLUE in an hourlong tour featuring the famed comedy troupe SEA TEA IMPROV as Twain's beloved characters/suspects. 'Get a Christmas Clue Tours' provide all the murder, mayhem and merriment associated with what Twain called "that infernal Christmas suicide." 

NOTE: Our 'Get a Clue' tours will be featured on an upcoming episode of the Travel Channel show Wackiest Tours!

Tours step off every 15 minutes. Reservations are required. Tickets are $20; museum members and Let's Go! card holders are $16; children 6 to 17 are $13. Call 860-280-3130.

This is Not Your Grandmother's Tupperware Party . . .

Dixie Longate. Photo courtesy of the Palace.
Dixie's Tupperware Party, the hilarious, interactive stage show that turned Off-Broadway into a Tupperware-mania celebration, rolls into the Palace Theater in Waterbury for six performances, Jan. 15-20 as part of a 20-city national tour.

Nominated for a 2008 Drama Desk Award, Dixie's Tupperware Party stars sassy Southerner Dixie Longate a fast-talking Tupperware Lady who packed up her catalogues and left her three children in an Alabama trailer park to journey across the country and sell her fantastic plastic products. She throws a good ol' fashioned Tupperware Party filled with outrageously funny tales, heartfelt accounts, free giveaways, audience participation and the most fabulous assortment of Tupperware ever sold on a theater stage.

Loaded with the most up-to-date products available for purchase, Longate will share how she became the number one Tupperware seller in the world, as she educates her guests on the many “alternative” uses she has discovered for her plastic products.

As a special promotion, every ticket holder to each of the Palace’s six performances will enjoy a bit of Dixie’s “southern hospitality” and receive a complimentary cocktail loaded with something sweet-and-sassy to ward off the January chill.

Directed by Patrick Richwood, Dixie's Tupperware Party features costumes designed by Longate and lighting designed by Richard Winkler.

Tickets are $40: 203-346-2000; www.palacetheaterct.org; Box Office, 100 East Main St., Waterbury.
More info: www.dixiestupperwareparty.com.

Casting Complete for World Premeire of Musical Play About Roland Hayes

Tom Frey
Actor-pianist Tom Frey joins the cast in Hartford Stage's World Premiere of Breath & Imagination - The Story of Roland Hayes, directed by Darko Tresnjak, on stage from Jan.11 -Feb. 3.

Jubilant Sykes (Sacred Music USA's Vocalist of the Year) will portray Roland Hayes, while Kecia Lewis-Evans (Broadway's Leap of Faith)will portray Roland Hayes' mother, Angel Mo. Frey completes the cast as The Accompanist/Officer/Pa/Preacher/Mr. Calhoun/Miss Robinson/ Frenchman/King George V. 

Frey has been involved with the touring musical production, 2 Pianos/4 Hands, for more than 10 years and has performed it more than 750 times, including a performance here at Hartford Stage. His other credits include Ancestral Voices, Arms and the Man, Admirable Crichton, 39 Steps, Dirty Blonde, Souvenir, Woman in Black, Free Man of Color, Anything Goes, Billy Bishop Goes to War, and A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline

Before Marian Anderson and Paul Robeson, there was Roland Hayes - the first world-renowned African-American classical vocalist. Born the son of a slave, Roland discovered his voice as a young boy singing spirituals in church. Breath & Imagination - The Story of Roland Hayes, chronicles his amazing journey from a plantation in Georgia, to singing before kings and queens in Europe.

The production also features set design by David P. Gordon; costume design by Fabio Toblini; lighting design by York Kennedy; music direction by Mike Ruckles; and sound design by Jane Shaw.

Tickets: 860-527-5151; www.hartfordstage.org.

Michelle Alexander Wins Stowe Prize for Her Book 'The New Jim Crow'

Michelle Alexander.
Photo: Zocalo Public Square
Michelle Alexander, civil rights lawyer and advocate, has been selected as the winner of the 2013 Stowe Prize for her book, "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness" (The New Press, 2010).

The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center awards the Stowe Prize biennially to a United States author whose written work makes an impact on a critical social issue in the tradition of Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

"Uncle Tom's Cabin" changed how Americans thought about slavery in the mid 1800s, galvanizing the antislavery movement before the Civil War and creating an international outcry for abolition in the United States. Today, the Stowe Center uses Stowe's story to link history and contemporary issues and inspire positive change.

As the United States prepares to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, Alexander's provocative book calls on all of us to reexamine our attitudes toward human rights, equality and opportunity. Published to widespread critical acclaim in 2010, the book is a rallying cry for mobilizing around the inequities and the devastating impact of the war on drugs on the 21st century African American community, and suggests that our society has the opportunity for solutions and resolutions.

It was selected from a field of 71 entries reviewed by the Stowe Prize Selection Committee, chaired by Debby Applegate (2007 Pulitzer Prize winner and Stowe Center trustee). Applegate noted, "Alexander's work is a stunning accomplishment and with her careful research, casts a clear light on the implications of mass incarceration. Like Stowe, Alexander uses crystal clear prose to engage her readers and to persuade them to consider the human rights issues involved." 

"It is a tremendous honor to be selected as the recipient of the Stowe Prize," said Alexander. "It is a powerful affirmation of the power of writing to influence change."

The $10,000 Stowe Prize will be presented at the Stowe Center's Big Tent Jubilee, a fundraising event for the Center's education programs, on Thursday, May 30, 2013. Alexander will also participate in the Inspiring Action Forum, a free public program immediately preceding the Big Tent.

'It's a Wonderful Life' Benefits Music Theatre of Connecticut

The Moss Hart Award-winning cast of MTC MainStage's "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" includes, (left to right:) Jim Schilling, Amy Russ, Kathy Calahan and D. Matt Worley. Photo: Kerry Long.
MTC MainStage, Music Theatre of Connecticut's Professional Equity Acting Company, presents an encore of its Moss Hart Award-Winning production of "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play."

Adapted for the stage by Joe Landry and directed by MTC MainStage Artistic Director Kevin Connors, this beloved American holiday classic comes to captivating life as a live 1940s radio broadcast. Two benefit performances will be held Saturday, Dec. 15 at 2 and 8pm at MTC MainStage Studio Theatre in Westport. All proceeds to benefit Music Theatre of Connecticut and its programming.

The MTC MainStage production of "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" is the professional-division recipient of a Moss Hart Memorial Award, recently presented at The New England Theatre Conference Annual Convention. The award honors the memory of Moss Hart, dramatist and director, for his unconquerable enthusiasm for life and for his work in the theatre; and recognizes and encourages outstanding theatrical productions throughout New England of playscripts that present affirmative views of human courage and dignity, that have strong literary and artistic merit, and which in their productions, exemplify fresh, imaginative, creative treatment within the intent of the playwright. The New England Theatre Conference, in making the annual Moss Hart Memorial Award, seeks to encourage artistic growth and the highest standards of excellence in theatre.

The cast of "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" includes Kathy Calahan (Broadway's Mary Poppins), Michael O'Day (The Public Theatre's "365 Days/365 Plays"), Amy Russ (HBO's "The Sopranos"), Jim Schilling ("Dead Man Walking") and D. Matt Worley ("The Good Shepherd").

Connors is co-founder of Music Theatre of Connecticut, and has previous directed "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" at Stamford Center for the Arts and the Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts. Landry's play was named "One of the Top Ten Most Produced Plays in America" by American Theatre Magazine.

Tickets are $45 (side sections) and $75 (VIP center section seating and holiday gift bag). All tickets include post-show holiday party and meet and greet with cast and creative team. For reservations (suggested) or more information, call 203-454-3883 or visit www.musictheatreofct.com.

Theater Review: Dear Elizabeth -- Yale Rep

Mary Beth Fisher and Jefferson Mays in Dear Elizabeth. Photo © Joan Marcus
A Play About Poets That is Poetry Itself
By Lauren Yarger
A love story, taken from letters spanning the 30-year friendship between two of America’s poets laureate, comes to life in Dear Elizabeth, Sarah Ruhl’s brilliant new play receiving its world premiere at Yale Rep.

Subtitled “A Play in Letters from Elizabeth Bishop to Robert Lowell and Back Again,” the play combines touching portrayals by Mary Beth Fisher and Jefferson Mays as the poets, excerpts from their works and letters and nifty special effects to craft a satisfying story of a love that never blossomed romantically, but which formed the foundation of a close friendship.

The two meet and begin a correspondence in 1947 when Lowell has started to receive accolades for his work and Bishop is just starting (both would win the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award among other honors). The relationship soon deepens with friendship developing beyond the influence they have on each other’s work.

The actors read correspondence while, for the most part, seated at a table in an office space designed by Adam Rigg. Capable direction by Les Waters keeps steers the play from being as boring as that sounds. Conveniently placed props simply transform the location for the poets. Fisher dons a hat and sunglasses to begin a letter from Key West, Florida, for example. Locations and some other points of information are projected onto a rear wallpapered wall which opens to reveal its own secrets with the help of a stage manager who has a few cameos to provide a little comic relief. In addition, there’s a terrific combination of lighting, sound, projection and water to create an ocean beach where the couple shares one of their few in-person interludes (Lighting Design by Russell H. Champa, Sound Design by Bray Poor, Projection Design by Hannah Wasileski.).

The letters and friendship continue long distance for three decades as the poets continue their careers and relationships with other people. Newly divorced, “Cal,” as Lowell is known to his friends, is unable to find the courage, or the right time to ask Bishop to be his wife. The opportunity gone, he later marries writer Elizabeth Hardwick with whom he has a daughter. Meanwhile, Bishop, travels to Brazil where she begins a long-term relationship with architect Lota de Macedo Soares.

The poets’ friendship and love continues over the years through Bishop’s growing dependence on alcohol and Lota’s suicide and Lowell’s mental illness and third marriage to British author Lady Caroline Blackwood, with whom he has a son. Bishop’s poem “North Haven” was written in Lowell’s memory following his death in 1977.

Ruhl has used just the right amounts of poetry, information and history to make the story work without becoming dry. Instead, she has given us a play that is exquisite poetry in itself. It’s amazingly sad yet funny, intense yet whimsical, deep yet obvious, revealing yet obscure -- all at the same time and both Fisher and Mays capture our imaginations as they creating characters experiencing the wide range of emotions.

For further reading of the correspondence between Bishop and Lowell, you can check out the book “Words in Air: the Complete Correspondence between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell” published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2010. To experience it, go see Dear Elizabeth running through Dec. 22 at Yale Rep. Here's a sneak peek: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ziur3qEw_QY&list=UUP4PNtd5I2JIMiOQTEVjBBw&index=1

Dear Elizabeth is at Yale Repertory Theatre, 1120 Chapel St., New Haven. Showtimes: Through Dec. 22; Tuesday-Thursday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 pm. Tickets $20-$96: (203) 432-1234; www.yalerep.org.

Monday, December 10, 2012

CT Arts Connections You Don't Want to Miss

Pictured is a scene from the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Aida.”
Photo by Marty Sohl, Metropolitan Opera
The Met: Live in HD -- Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida

1 pm (live) and 6:30 pm (encore)
Saturday, Dec. 15
Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts, Fairfield, CT; Tickets: $25, $20 seniors, $10 children/students. The Quick Center Box Office: (203) 254-4010, or toll-free 1-877-ARTS-396. (1-877-278-7396).

Photo: Courtesy of the Palace
Sugarplums will dance and flowers will waltz when Woodbury Ballet Theatre present its annual “Nutcracker at the Palace” 4pm Saturday, Dec. 15 at the Palace Theater, Waterbury.

Based on the original story written by E.T. Hoffman and featuring Tchaikovsky’s magical score, “The Nutcracker” has become a beloved holiday tradition for the young and young at heart. The Woodbury Ballet Theatre’s production features professional guest artists, resident professional dancers and students of the Woodbury Academy - the official school of the Woodbury Ballet - who will dance the children’s roles.

“The Nutcracker” is a fantasy based on the magic of a young girl’s dream of a Nutcracker Prince come-to-life and her journey to the enchanting land where snowflakes dance and flowers waltz. The ballet is a wonderful way to introduce young children to the world of classical music and traditional dance in a live performance that features grand sets and scenery, theatrical effects and innovative choreography by Randyl Errica, Artistic Director for the Woodbury Ballet. The grandeur of the Palace stage, which serves as the backdrop for this enchanting ballet, sets the performance apart from other productions.

Tickets for the ballet are $48, $38 and $28: 203-346-2000; www.palacetheaterct.org Box Office, 100 East Main St.

AUDITIONS FOR GOODSPEED MUSICALS
Goodspeed Musicals is holding auditions for local Equity Adult male and female actors for its 2013 season, on Saturday Dec. 15 from 10 am to 5 pm at the McMillian Rehearsal Studio on Route 82 in East Haddam. All auditions are by appointment only. Call Company Management at 860-873-8664, ext. 387, Monday through Friday, 10 am - 5 pm.  Goodspeed Musicals 2013 season will be Good News (3/12-6/22), Hello! Dolly (5/28-9/14) and The Most Happy Fella (8/19-12/1). Candidates must be available for four weeks of rehearsal and a four to 14-week performance run.
 
Interested performers should prepare two songs (up-tempo and ballad, 32 bars – not the entire song). Bring a resume, photo and sheet music. Music must be legible and in the proper key (no lead sheets please). An accompanist will be provided. Performers of all ethnicities are strongly encouraged to audition.

HOLIDAY OFFERINGS at THE BIJOU
Nuncrackers, the Nunsense Christmas musical "A Christmas Story," and more are on tap at the Bijou Theatre in Bridgeport (along with free popcorn). Check out the schedule at thebijoutheatre.com.

President Obama has signed the The Mark Twain Commemorative Coin Act, ensuring the minting of a special coin honoring the great and witty author whom William Dean Howells called "The Lincoln of Our Literature." Sales of the coin will benefit four key historic and research sites dedicated to preserving the legacy of Mark Twain.

HSO Presents Holiday Cirque Spectacular

Photo courtesy of the HSO
POPS SERIES: HOLIDAY CIRQUE SPECTACULAR
with Carolyn Kuan, music director & conductor; Cirque de la Symphonie, guest performers; Shenel Johns, vocals; Simsbury High School Choir- Katherine Zahara, director; Asylum Hill Congregational Church Choir- Stephen Mitchell, director
Saturday, Dec. 22 │ 3 and 7:30 p.m.
Mortensen Hall │ The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts
Ticket Information: Tickets range in price from $20-$67.50. Student tickets are $10 and $25 tickets are available for patrons age 40 and under. To purchase tickets or for more information, please contact HSO ticket services at (860) 244-2999 or visit www.hartfordsymphony.org.

Stowe House Adds Tours for Vacationing School Kids

Just in time for school vacatio, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford expands its tour times and programs for kids.

The Child's Tour is offered on Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 pm or by appointment with added dates of Dec. 26, 27 and 28 as well. The Child's Tour is an interactive hands-on tour of Stowe's family home, with props, craft activities and storytelling. This kid's-eye view of everyday life in the 19th-century Stowe household is suggested for 5-12 year olds with an accompanying adult.

In December, the Stowe house is decked with family decorations, Christmas trees, garlands and more. Families will see how the Stowe family celebrated the holiday and shared with others. The "Reforming the Season" exhibit features 19th-century Christmas etchings, greeting cards, toys, horns and sleds. Children and parents alike can make a Christmas cornucopia ornament and Christmas crackers as well as share family holiday traditions and ideas for giving to those in need. 

Children will also enjoy coloring pictures of the Stowe house decorated for the holidays including the front parlor with a festively-decorated Christmas tree, a holly-themed punch bowl used by the Stowe family and stockings hung by the fireplace.

Admission for the Child's Tour is $5 for children ages 5-12 and $4 for adults (age 13+) accompanying children. Reservations are requested: 860-522-9258, ext. 317. 

The themed tour for the month of December focuses on "Christmas at the Stowes." Tours leave every half hour. The Stowe Center offers an opportunity for a post-tour discussion after every 12:30 p.m. tour. Admission for this tour is $9 for adults (17-64), $8 for seniors (65+) and students, $6 for children (5-16) and free for children under 5.

The Stowe Center is located at 77 Forest St., Hartford.

A Modern Beauty Meets Her Beast at Downtown Cabaret's Children's Theatre

Fairfield's Lance Gray and Maria Vee fro New Haven star as Beauty and the beast.
Photo courtesy of Downtown Cabaret.
 Downtown Cabaret's Children's Theatre presents a new, modern adaptation of the classic Beauty and the Beast. Cabaret veteran Maria Vee stars in the production she also writes and directs.

Performances on Saturdays and Sundays will be given Jan. 12 - Feb. 17, 2013 at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre, 263 Golden Hill St., Bridgeport.

This adaptation of Beauty and The Beast takes place long ago, far away, where a bullying Prince and his entire castle have been put under a magical enchantment. Close by in the French village of Fromagerie-by-the Sea, Beauty – who likes to be called B, just as Beyoncé does – is s-o-o-o bored with her little village life. Her only escape is the DVD’s she rents from The Redbox in the village – but there are never any new ones.

When B’s father is caught picking a special rose from the Beast’s garden, he must face death or turn over one of his daughters to the Beast. B sacrifices herself to save her family, and finds herself a prisoner in a castle that resembles some sci-fi or animated movie! She is welcomed warmly by Discoteque, Kernel and Kernel’s Pop - Popcorn Maker, who introduce “B, our guest,” to the rest of the castle family. Eventually as B and the Beast begin to bond over his DVD collection and their love of movies, the castle staff secretly hopes she will be able to break the spell. But time is running out…and who could ever love a Beast?  

Reserved tickets are: $18 and $24: 203-576-1636; downtowncabaret.org;  box office 263 Golden Hill St., Bridgeport; by US Mail to Beauty and The Beast c/o Downtown Cabaret Children’s Theatre, 263 Golden Hill St., Bridgeport, CT 06604

Group Sales: contact Coordinator Rosemary Martin Hayduk at 203-576-1634 x 102.

New Haven Symphony, Quick Center Unite for Holiday Extravaganza

Maureen O'Flynn. Photo:
Courtesy of Fairfield University
Celebrate the season with holiday pop favorites when the New Haven Symphony Orchestra partners with the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts for a “Holiday Extravaganza!” concert 8 pm Friday, Dec. 14 .

Guest conductor Matthew Savery leads the NHSO Pops and soprano Maureen O’Flynn through a seasonal celebration brimming with holiday classics, yuletide cheer, and a festive audience sing-a-long. 

The program includes such timeless classics as “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Carol of the Bells,” “March of the Toys” from “Babes in Toyland,” “We Need a Little Christmas,” from “Mame,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Holy Night.”

Savery is in his nineteenth season as Music Director of the Bozeman Symphony Orchestra and Symphonic Choir in Bozeman, Montana, and fifth season as Music Director of the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra.

O'Flynn was awarded the Richard Tucker Foundation Grant and the Opera Index First Prize. Included in her many accolades is star recognition for her role as Gilda in “Rigoletto,” which she has performed at the Metropolitan Opera with Plácido Domingo, in Italy and Israel, and with Houston Grand Opera. She debuted with Dallas Opera, winning their Callas Award as “Outstanding New Artist of the Year.”

Tickets: $40, $35: (203) 254-40101-877-278-7396www.quickcenter.com.  The Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts is located on the campus of Fairfield University at 1073 North Benson Road in Fairfield. Enter through the Barlow Road gate at 200 Barlow Road. Free, secure parking is available.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Theater Review: The Killing of Sister George -- Long Wharf

Clea Alsip and Kathleen Turner. Photo: T. Charles Erickson
Never Mind Killing of Sister George -- Let’s Put This Play Out of Its Misery
By Lauren Yarger
Someone should just put this play out of its misery. Even having multi-talented Kathleen Turner as its star and director can’t save The Killing of Sister George which is breaking in the new seats at Long Wharf’s mainstage theater.

About 20 minutes into this early 1960s play by Frank Marcus (adapted here by Jeffrey Hatcher) about a British radio soap opera star who fears her character is going to be killed off, we’re wondering what the heck this mess of lesbianism, domination/submission and really bad accents is really all about. At the end of Act One, a lack of any real plot and a bunch of unlikable characters result in our no longer caring.

When the play debuted on Broadway in 1964 following a run on London’s West End, it was nominated for the Tony and snagged the best actress award for Beryl Reid. In fact, it was so successful, a movie version of it followed in 1968 containing racy material not included in the play (earning the film an X rating). Let’s just say that I read all of that information in the press notes with disbelief (concluding that 1964 must have been a drought year for plays on Broadway), along with a reference to Turner’s viewing the piece as comedy. It seems totally devoid of humor except for a few lines. 

Perhaps lesbians and S&M were more shocking back in 1964, but in this modern age, particularly when “50 Shades of Grey” is a best seller, a play needs something more than shock value from a half century ago to make it interesting. According to director’s notes in the program, Turner agreed and engaged Hatcher to adapt the script for a modern audience with emphasis on the emotional, rather than sexual relationship between the characters. Unfortunately, it still doesn’t work. Judge for yourself:

June Buckridge (Turner) is the star of “Applehurst,” a popular radio drama (audio snippets of which are heard thanks to sound design by John Gromada). She plays a motorcycle-driving, hymn-singing nurse named Sister George, but when the script suddenly calls for her to catch a cold, the actress discerns that this means the writers are going to kill off her character.

She confides her fears to her doll-collecting, child-like flat mate, Alice McNaught (Clea Aslip), a.k.a. Childie (though many of us audience members never clearly understood what her nickname was or other parts of the dialogue since Turner’s diction isn’t always sharp and Aslip is murdering a Scottish accent, apparently unaided by dialogue coach Deborah Hecht). Soon it becomes apparent that the two are more than just flat mates and that June enjoys humiliating and dominating the hapless girl.

Then BBC legend Mercy Croft (Betsy Aidem) stops by the flat (tackily decorated by designer Allen Moyer to match the frumpy clothes in which Jane Greenwood dresses Turner) to investigate an incident in which June supposedly assaulted two nuns in a taxi and sets terms for how the actress can make things right, pacify the mother superior and keep the story from ruining the show’s ratings. 

Meanwhile, June wants to know what the future holds, so she asks her neighbor, Madame Xenia (Olga Merediz), who happens to be a clairvoyant, to visit. The vision is unsettling and soon June is plotting to keep her character alive while Childie enters into an alliance with Mercy that’s as much to save herself as her roommate’s job. Let’s just say that the curse-singing (Gromada composes), tarot-card-reading fortune teller seems to be the sanest person in the room.

Besides the really uninteresting plot (with a far-from-surprising conclusion), this play is in need of editing, even after the extensive rewrite it apparently received at the hand of Hatcher in his adaptation. In one scene, for instance, June is up at 4 am, unable to sleep because of her anxiety. Madame Xenia drops by with the script pages holding Sister George’s fate – at 4 am? And how convoluted that she would have had to sign for them to give her an excuse to bring them? Then Alice conveniently returns to the apartment to retrieve a forgotten bag just when Xenia leaves so that June can tell her what she has discovered. Really? At 4 am? And she just happened to leave her bag? Playwriting 101 red pen, please….

Turner’s talent can hardly be overshadowed by a bad role and it's always a treat to see live on stage here in Connecticut. She just is worthy of a better play.

The Killing of Sister George runs through Dec. 23; Tuesday at 7 pm; Wednesday and Sunday at 2 and 7 pm; Thursday and Friday at 8pm; Saturday at 3 and 8 pm. Tickets $40-70:www.longwharf.org; 203-787-4282.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Three Days of New Works on Tap at Goodspeed Fest

A moment from last year's festival. Photo: Diane Sobolewski
The Eighth Annual Goodspeed Festival of New Artists, produced by Goodspeed Musicals’ Max Showalter Center for Education in Musical Theatre, kicks off its three-day festival of brand new works Friday, Jan.18, at the Goodspeed Opera House with a staged reading of Nine Wives.

On Saturday, Jan. 19, the musical Come From Away debuts and on the final day of the festival, the unconventional tale Princesses: A New Rock Musical will be presented.

Several special events will round out this exciting weekend. Tickets and Festival Packages are available at the Goodspeed Box Office or by calling 860-873-8668. Tickets are $15 each for one show, $10 each for students and can be purchased online at www.goodspeed.org as well as through our Box Office. Special package deals are available.

THE SCHEDULE:
Jan. 18

Nine Wives 7:30 pm Goodspeed Opera House
Music & Lyrics by Douglas J. Cohen;  Book & Lyrics by Dan Elish;  Based on the novel, “Nine Wives” by Dan Elish

Nine Wives tells the story of Henry Mann, a 32-year-old bachelor who discovers that the love of his life has met someone new and is about to get married. What’s worse, he’s been invited to her wedding! What follows are Henry’s frantic attempts to find a woman he can take as his date – a potential future wife – to prove to his ex- fiancée (and the world) that he too is ready to move on.

Festival Cabaret
10 pm Gelston House Showcasing new songs by new artists.

Jan. 19

Festival Seminars 10 am to 12:45 pm Gelston House

New Musical Preview  2:30 to 3:30 pm Goodspeed Opera House; A preview of a new musical headed to Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theatre in 2013

Noël Coward Symposium 4 pm Goodspeed Opera House. This event is free and open to the public.
Festival Dinner 5:30 pm Gelston House

Come From Away 7:30 p.m., Goodspeed Opera House
Book, Music and Lyrics by David Hein and Irene Sankoff 

Come From Away is a rocking musical about when 38 planes from around the world were diverted to a small, Canadian community on September 11th, 2001 - doubling its population in an instant. While the world witnessed the worst acts of humankind, the stranded passengers had their faith in humanity restored by the spirited people who comforted those who had come from away.

Festival Cabaret 10 pm Gelston House

Jan. 20

Princesses: A New Rock Musical
1pm Goodspeed Opera House
Book by Janece Shaffer, Emma Lively and Tyler Beattie
Music and Lyrics by Emma Lively and Tyler Beattie

Four outrageous princesses escape the confines of their castle walls and shock the fairy tale world with their unconventional ways. Princesses is inspired by the Brothers Grimm’s “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” and features a contemporary rock score. 

Meet the Writers Reception 3:30 pm Gelston House. Gain insight into the inspirations and processes of the writers. Complimentary hors d’oeuvres and cash bar.

Lodging and dining information for Festival attendees as well as up-to-date information on the weekend’s events may be found at www.goodspeed.org.

National Theatre of the Deaf Brings a Child's Christmas in Wales to Ivoryton

Joey Caverly. Photo: Anne Hudson
The National Theatre of the Deaf takes a nostalgic journey back into time through the eyes of poet Dylan Thomas with an adaptation of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” performed in both the beauty of American Sign Language and spoken word at Ivoryton Playhouse.

Holidays are filled with our childhood memories; family gatherings, games with friends, the excitement, the anticipation and the special quiet moments.  Thomas captures the magic of the season in this beautiful story filled with crazy aunts and uncles, snowball fights and sibling rivalries and one very special gift that changed his life.

The evening will also include stories and songs of the season, games and a whole lot of family fun. Directed by Brian Jennings and conceived by Betty Beekman, the cast includes Christina Stevens, Joey Caverly, Christina Cogswell and Taylor Curtis as well as a chorus of local singers. Production designed by Marcus Abbott.

A Child’s Christmas in Wales opens tonight and runs thru Dec. 16. Performance times are Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 pm; Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $30 for adults, $28 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org (Group rates are available by calling the box office for information.) The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton.

Dave Brubeck Concert Goes on as Scheduled Tonight in Waterbury

Dave Brubeck. Courtesy of the Palace Theater.
The Waterbury Palace Theater’s Thursday night all-star concert in honor of jazz pioneer Dave Brubeck’s 92nd birthday is now being held as musical “thank you” to the legend for the incredible body of work he brought to the masses over the past six decades. 

Brubeck, 91, died of heart failure on Wednesday morning after he fell ill on his way to a regular medical exam at Norwalk Hospital, in Norwalk, Conn., a day short of his 92nd birthday, said Russell Gloyd, his producer, conductor and manager for 36 years. Brubeck lived in Wilton.

Originally titled “Dave Brubeck’s 92nd Birthday Bash,” the non-profit organization Jazz’d 4 Life’s December 6 concert at the Palace Theater is now being called “Thank You, Dave Brubeck” in honor of the pianist’s ground-breaking contributions to the Jazz community, as well as the Jazz’d 4 Life charity, which was founded by Brubeck’s daughter Catherine in 2007. 

The concert will feature performances by Billy Joel saxophonist Richie Cannata, former New York Yankee and special guest guitarist Bernie Williams, as well as musicians Jullio Fernandez, Eren Cannata, Joel Rosenblatt, Gene Perez, Chris Clark, Brad Mason, Fred Wallcott, Nicole Zuraitis, Gina Sicilia, Louise Baranger, Rachel Z, Omar Hakim, Ali Ryerson, Darius Brubeck, James Montgomery, Rich Lataille, Mark Earley, and Chris Brubeck, among others.

Tickets for Thursday night’s 7:30pm concert at the Palace start at $40.50 and can be purchased online at www.palacetheaterct.org, by phone at 203-346-2000, or in person at the Box Office, 100 East Main St., Waterbury.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gob Squad Plans No Boundaries Super Night Shot

No Boundaries: A Series of Global Performances presented by Yale Repertory Theatre launches its sixth season with Super Night Shot by Gob Squad at two performances Feb. 1 and 2 at 8 pm at the University Theatre, 222 York St.

 No Boundaries celebrates the diversity of voices and experiences in today’s world.
About Super Night Shot:
Exactly one hour before the audience arrives, Super Night Shot begins. Four performers take to New Haven’s streets armed with video cameras and embark on a set of comic and fantastical adventures that celebrate unexpected encounters with strangers. Once the 60 minutes are up, they return to the theatre, to a rousing hero’s welcome, and the footage is mixed live into a film. Anything can happen—and usually does.

Running time: approximately 60 minutes. Talk Back Q&A session with members of the company will follow each performance.

About Gob Squad:
Gob Squad is an internationally acclaimed arts collective from the UK and Germany. Since 1994, the company’s seven members have been devising, directing, and performing pieces around the globe. In their work, they search for new ways to combine media and performance—producing stage shows, video installations, radio plays, interactive live films, and urban interventions that find beauty amidst the mundane. Over 200 unique productions ofSuper Night Shot have been created since it premiered in 2003.

Tickets: $25 ($10 for students and $20 for Yale Faculty and Staff) www.yalerep.org/noboundaries; 203-432-1234, Box Office,1120 Chapel St., New Haven.

Hartford Stage Will Pick Up Children's Programming Where Hartford Children's Theatre Leaves Off

Timothy Perry as Charlie Bucket in HCT's productions of Willy Wonka. Photot: Thomas Giroir
Hartford Children's Theatre (HCT) announced today they will close and end all programming, including their children's theatre educational programs, at the end of December 2012. Hartford Stage simultaneously announced that it will expand its children's theatre drama education and outreach programs starting in January 2013.

Hartford Stage and HCT have been working for months to ensure that the Hartford area continues to have the highest quality drama education and in-school classes for children ranging in age from 5 to 18. Although the Children's Theatre has run very successful education programs over its 22-year history, the institution, like many area non-profits, has struggled to raise the funding necessary to maintain its high level of educational programs and performances.

Facing the reality of closing its doors for good, the HCT Board of Directors looked for options to ensure their constituents will continue to receive the highest level of drama education. The HCT Board reached out to Hartford Stage as a financially stronger theatre that had its own excellent education programs. In response, Hartford Stage has decided to expand its own educational offerings in order to fill the gap created by the closing of the Hartford Children's Theatre.

"Hartford Stage and Hartford Children's Theatre both strongly believe in the importance of drama education for the children and families of Hartford," said Robin Zaleski, HCT's Board President. "This is a wonderful opportunity for our current and future students and the best possible outcome for the educational programs HCT is known for."

Hartford Stage's Managing Director Mike Stotts said, "The Board of Directors and management of Hartford Stage believe that the loss of HCT's children's educational programming would deal a severe blow to the youth of our community - we want to make sure that does not happen."

Offering the children's theatre program as part of the 49-year-old, Tony Award-winning theatre's education department, strengthens Hartford Stage's position as the leading provider of theatre programming for children and youth in Connecticut. The newly-expanded program will become part of the already-existing Studio Series and will be known as the Children's Theatre of Hartford Stage. Hartford Stage will also continue to offer its Studio Classes for adults.

Hartford Stage currently serves more than 21,000 students through its education program, more than any other theatre in Connecticut. The expanded children's theatre programs will bring another 7,000 into the fold. Both organizations share the belief that education in the arts is rooted in collaboration, creativity and communication, and in these financially difficult times, many public schools lack adequate funding for arts education. 

Jennifer Roberts, Director of Education at Hartford Stage, said Hartford Stage aims to provide students of all ages statewide with innovative, quality theatrical opportunities and education programs that use theatre techniques to build community and citizenship, to promote a passion for literacy and creative expression, and to encourage lifelong learning. 

She said, "This new expansion will strengthen Hartford Stage's education programs by growing our capacity to offer theatre classes for children. It builds on what we're already doing, but allows us to serve more families throughout Greater Hartford using HCT's unique style of classes."

Two employees from HCT will be hired by Hartford Stage: Lisa Foss, current Director of Education at HCT, will become Children's Theatre Implementation Manager at Hartford Stage; Emely Larson, current Program Manager at HCT, will become Training Programs Manager at Hartford Stage. Foss and Larson will join a strong department of seven highly trained teaching artists and arts education administrators. "We are delighted to welcome Lisa and Emely to the Hartford Stage team, where they can build on the terrific work they have done for HCT over the past several years," said Stotts.

"Hartford has seen the demise of several non-profit arts organizations over the last decade. A combination of market forces and economic uncertainty caused the shuttering of the Hartford-area ballet and opera," said Stotts. "Our plan to offer new children's programs modeled on the impactful and respected programs of the Hartford Children's Theatre ensures that the spirit of HCT will live on into the future."

Artistic Director Darko Tresnjak said, "Anything that improves the artistic and the educational growth of the children and the families of Connecticut matters. I am glad that Hartford Stage and, more specifically, our education department will be able to provide quality arts and theater education to more of the children in our community."

The Hartford Children's Theatre's Main Stage series, which included Annie, Pinkalicious, Little Women and How I Became A Pirate this season, will end with the closing of HCT.

Support for the start-up of the Children's Theatre of Hartford Stage has been provided by the Greater Hartford Arts Council and Travelers. 

WINTER CLASSES - CHILDREN'S THEATRE OF HARTFORD STAGE

The Winter Drama Program of the Children's Theatre of Hartford Stage will begin January 19 on Saturdays and Tuesday evenings. Classes will be at Classical Magnet High School in the Asylum Hill neighborhood, located at 95 Woodland Street in Hartford. Information about specific classes is on the Hartford Stage website, hartfordstage.org. To register call Chelsea Caplan, Education Sales Coordinator, for Hartford Stage at 860-520-7244 or ccaplan@hartfordstage.org

Information about Hartford Stage Education Programs can be obtained at the Hartford Stage Education Hotline, 860-520-7206.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Quick HIt Theater Review: Miracle of 34th Street

Photo: Paul Roth
Miracle on 34th Street
Book, Music and Lyrics by Meredith Willson
Based on the 20th Century Fox film
Story by Valentine Davies; Screenplay by George Seaton
Director: Semina De Laurentis

What’s it about?
What, you haven’t seen the holiday classic film starring a very young Natalie Wood a couple thousand times? If not, it’s a about Doris (Cassie Taylor), who hires an authentic looking Santa for the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade and to listen to what the kids waiting in line to see St. Nick at the department store want for Christmas. Disillusioned after a divorce, Doris won’t let her daughter, Susan (Kaitlyn Mueller) believe in Santa, or anything that she can’t see, hear or touch. Fred (Billy Hannon, Jr.), a handsome new lawyer in town, befriends Susan, who dreams about visiting Santa at his toy shop (twin sister Kristianna Mueller dances the role of Susan). Fred dreams about winning Doris’ heart.  

Kris starts generating some holiday cheer of his own when he declares the wishes of kids are more important than making a buck a Christmas and starts sending customers over to Gimbels, or other stores, where they can find what their kids want if Macy’s doesn’t have it. At first, store owner Macy (Jonathan Ross; Matthew Berry Dec. 28 and 29) is upset, but eventually congratulates Doris and her assistant, Marvin Shellhammer (James Donohue), on a sensational marketing scheme that is generating lots of happy customers for Macy’s.  

Kris’ sanity comes into question, however, when he insists that he really is the one and only Santa Claus. Fred defends Kris in a trial presided over by Judge Henry Harper (Chuck DellaRocco) as District Attorney Thomas Mara (Tom Chute  through Dec. 9, then Joe Stofko) tries to have the old man committed. Will Doris and Susan find they can believe in Santa after all?

What are the highlights?
 
The parade seen is terrifically stages with marching bands, entertaining acts and the famous Macy’s balloons all depicted while Music Director Richard DeRosa and his five-man band play a score by Meredith “Music Man” Wilson that includes “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” Alexander Butler as Mara’s grandson is adorable as is Grace Rundhaug, who believes in Santa when Kris is able to speak to her in her native Dutch. The real Macy’s over at the Brass Mill Mall also got involved in the production, decorating the theater lobby and providing discount cards in the program.

What are the lowlights?

This is Equity theater Seven Angel’s annual “professional-community collaborative.” The production leans heavily toward the community, rather than professional (lots of flats), but the collaborative gets local performers on stage -- and there are a lot of them in the sizable ensemble -- so that’s a highlight. DeLaurentis might work some to tone down Susan’s over-the-top efforts to be cute. Sound mix, especially on group numbers, needs some tweaking. The musicians, housed on the floor house right of the stage, can be heard talking in between their numbers (and get some black wrap on the glaring light which is distracting to the audience over there). 

More information:
Through Dec. 30 Friday at 8 pm; Thursday and Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm
203-757-4676; http://sevenangelstheatre.org/

Special dates:
Dec 6 Beer & Pizza Night
Dec 7 Half Price Drink Night
Dec 8 Mimosa Matinee
Dec 14 Sweet Maria’s Night
Dec 15 Fascia’s Chocolate Night
Dec 21 Wine and Martini Night
Dec 23 Sundaes On Sunday

Theater Review: Romeo & Juliet -- CT Rep

Mercutio (Andrea Pane, left), Romeo (Will Haden, center) and Benvolio (Ryan Marcone). Photo: Bob Copley

 
A Timeless Tale of Star Crossed Lovers, but With Some Unexpected Twists
By Lauren Yarger
Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s production of Romeo & Juliet had me wondering whether my memory had slipped until I (thankfully) read the helpful program notes by Dramaturg Levi Alpert explaining that this is a slightly different version of Shakespeare’s classic tale of the star-crossed lovers. 

Much of the dialogue is the same, but with enough sudden variations “that which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet”) to make a die-hard R&J fan like myself question her sanity, so the dramaturg notes were much appreciated. It seems this version of the story “dates back to 1476 from a novella by … Masuccio Salernitano.” OK, so I wasn’t crazy to think some new dialogue had been added or that other lines were missing. Add to that Director Vincent J. Cardinal’s decision to incorporate some modern touches like an I-Pod amidst the neo-Renaissance sets and costumes (Matt Iacozza; Angela Armijo and Fan Zhang, designers) and a less-stable critic might have headed right to the nearest bar. 

But thanks to dramaturg Albert and a guess that Cardinal is trying to make a case that the tale is timeless and relevant in any time period, I can take a deep breath, cancel the doctor’s appointment, relax and offer observations.

What stands out about this production is the really terrific fight choreography by Greg Webster. Steel clashes and extended sword battles rage in some of the most thrilling, realistic looking onstage battles you’ll ever see. One battle breathtakingly stops, only to resume after intermission. 

The few Equity members of the ensemble lend their expertise to their characters. Anthony J. Goes , a second –year graduate actor at UConn, lands a solid Lord Capulet who feuds with the Montagues orders Juliet (Hannah Kaplan) to marry her cousin, Tybalt (Thomas Brazzle), unaware that she already has wed Romeo (Will Hayden), son of his enemy, Lord Montague (Adam Schneemann). 

Off-Broadway actress Nora Chester gives Juliet’s nurse a different take. She still provides some comic relief, but is more serious, less of a fellow conspirator with her charge than usual. UConn alum Richard Ruiz (Sancho in last season’s Man of LaMancha) returns to anchor the production with his take on Friar Lawrence, the well intentioned holy man who weds the young lovers in the hope that their union will end the hatred between their families. When all hope of peace is lost after Romeo kills Juliet’s kinsman, Tybalt (Thomas Brazzle), and is banished by Prince Escalus (Dariusz Burkowski), Friar Lawrence hatches what turns out to be a not-so-death-defying scheme to keep the lovers together.  

Ruiz’ and his Equity cast mates’ ability to deliver the Shakespeare lines naturally is welcome. Across the board the other actors sound as though they are doing a difficult reading from a book. 

Cardinal also deserves kudos for his sharp staging of the famous, but usually difficult to pull off, balcony scene. With a terrace that moves to jut out over the thrust stage, he creates distance and depth (aided by lighting designer Billy Albertelli) to create darkness and shadows. Cardinal moves Romeo from positions in the house to underneath and around the balcony making it plausible that he could see and hear Juliet without being seen or heard himself. The technique also unites the audience with the character. 

For a sneak peek, view a video here: http://youtu.be/AVgrtg18Lzs?hd=1.

Romeo & Juliet plays through Dec. 9 in the Nafe Katter Theatre,820 Bolton Rd., Storrs Campus, UConn. For tickets and information call 860-486-2113 and visit www.crt.uconn.edu.

Showtimes: Through Dec. 9; Weeknight evening performances start at 7:30; Weekend evening performances start at 8. Matinee performances start at 2 pm. Tickets $6- $30: (860) 486-2113; www.crt.uconn.edu.
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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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