Thursday, January 30, 2014

Theater Review: War Horse -- The Bushnell

A Tale of a Boy and His Horse That Gallops Away with Imagination
By Lauren Yarger
A sweeping tale of friendship and devotion amidst the horrors of war combines with spectacular puppetry to bring Michael Morpurgo’s children’s novel War Horse, to life on stage. It reins in for a tour stop at The Bushnell through Sunday.

The moving story of a boy and his horse is told in epic proportion as the audience is transported from 1912 rural Devon, England to the battlefields of World War I France thanks to animated sketches and images rolling on a torn piece of sketchbook above the action (Rae Smith designs the sets, costumes and drawings) and a number of puppets ranging from birds to farm animals to breath-taking full-sized horses designed by Adrian Kohler with Basil Jones for Handspring Puppet Company. The show won multiple Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards in 2011, including Best Play.

The War Horse is “Joey,” a Hunter (part draft, part Thoroughbred), who is in the middle of a "war" from its earliest days as a foal (
Mairi Babb, Catherine Gowl, Nick Lamdica manipulate the puppet). He is purchased by Ted Narracott (Gene Gillette) who uses his mortgage money to outbid his hated brother, Arthur (Andrew Long), who still enjoys taunting him, along with the rest of their village, for being a coward and refusing to serve in the last war.

Ted brings the little foal home to the dismay of his wife, Rose (
Maria Elena Ramirez), who worries about losing their farm. Their son, Albert (Michael Wyatt Cox, who looks much older than 16), is charged with the animal’s care and turning him into an adult horse that the family might be able to sell for a price to recoup some of the exorbitant amount paid for him.

Albert and Joey find soul mates in each other, however, and when the time comes to sell the beautiful, free-spirited horse, the boy can’t bear the thought of being parted from him. They “speak” to each other and Albert calls Joey with a special whistle.

Nasty Arthur, however, sees another chance to do his brother harm. He bets him that Joey can’t be taught to plow a field in one week, putting up the horse’s original auction price as the stakes. If Joey can’t plow, Arthur will win the horse for his own son, Billy (Tim McKiernan). Over his family’s objections, Ted accepts the bet.

Albert agrees to try to train the horse with one condition: if Joey plows, the horse will be his and they won’t have to sell him. Ted gives his word and Rose, ever-supportive of her son takes on the boy’s farm chores so he can work nonstop on the seemingly impossible mission. The terms of the agreement become moot, however, when England enters World War I and Ted sells Joey behind Albert’s back to the Army.

Lt. James Nicholls (
Brendan Murray) loves the horse too (he has been sketching the local boy riding his horse for years) and assures Albert he will care for him as they go off to the front to fight the Kaiser. There they find that the Calvary is almost obsolete in the face of new inventions like the machine gun and barbed wire. When Nicholls is killed in action, his sketchbook is returned to Albert who joins the army to try to find Joey.

Meanwhile, Joey (puppeteers for the adult horse are Danny Yoerges, Patrick Osteen, Dana Tietzen ) finds himself pulling an ambulance cart for the German Army when Capt. Friedrich Muller (Andrew May) schemes to keep himself and his horse, Topthorn (handled by Jon Hoche, Brian Robert Burns, Gregory Manley), out of harm’s way. They also save a girl (Ka-Ling Cheung) and help Billy, who get a glimpse of what a real coward looks like in the face of the battle raging around him. Joey also is the cause for a temporary ceasefire as British and German soldiers come together to aid him.

It’s storytelling at its best, exploring friendship, family and forgiveness. The extensive ensemble cast plays villagers, soldiers and even fence posts, directed by Bijan Sheibani. Elements of the show from puppets (there’s a guffaw-producing goose handled by Jon Hochie), sets and music (by Adrian Sutton, directed by Greg Pliska) create a unique atmosphere to make War Horse extraordinary.

One element that disappoints here, is the lighting, adapted by Karen Spahn from Paule Constable’s original design. Because lighting from the back of the house keeps it from being pitch dark, many of the effects are visible and the “magic” of the original production, like the transformation form foal to full horse or five horses galloping across the battlefield, are lost in the tour. (Some of the script and puppetry from the New York version also has been trimmed to shorten the original run time). 

The intimacy required to feel part of the story, rather than an observer of it, unfortunately isn't attained. This might have been better captured if the show had been performed in the smaller Belding Theater, rather than in the cavernous (and, on the night I attended, no-where-near-full) Mortensen Hall.

Don’t let those complaints deter you from seeing this mastery of stagecraft, however. The horses are so lifelike (with two persons inside the body and one handling the head who contribute sounds as well), you’ll soon forget they are just puppets. At a press event, Joey met real horses from the Hartford Mounted Police who nuzzled up to him like he was an old friend.

War Horse runs through Feb. 2 at The Bushnell, 166 Capital Ave., Hartford. Performances: Thursday: 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday: 8 pm; Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday 1 and 6 pm Tickets $29-$100.50: (860) 987-5900; www.bushnell.org.

For more information on the show visit http://warhorseonstage.com/.

Some fun facts:
·   Joey weighs 120lbs and is handmade by 14 people. Its frame is mostly cane, soaked, bent and stained.
·   An aluminum frame along the spine, lined partly with leather for comfort, allows the horse to be ridden.
·   Stretched, hosiery-like Georgette fabric makes up the “skin” beneath the frame.
·   A puppeteer at the head controls the ears and head; one in the heart controls breathing and front legs; a third in the hind controls the tail and back legs.
·   A harness connects the puppet’s and puppeteer’s spines so his or her movements become the breathing of the horse.
·   The tail and ears are moveable instead of the lips or eyelids, because that’s how horses usually express themselves.
·   Two levers connected with bicycle brake cables control the leather ears.
·   The puppet, just under 10ft long and about 8ft tall, has about 20 major joints. Vertical levers curl the knees and lift the hooves.
·   The neck is made of carbon fiber glass for flexibility.
·   The eyes are black color behind clear resin so light refracts through them.
·   The right hind lever moves the tail up and down; the left hind lever, left to right; moved together, it spirals.
·   The hair in the mane and tail is made of Tyvek, a plastic-like paper.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Connecticut Arts Connections


The Mark Twain House and Museum presents an exciting evening with Jeffrey Richardson, author of COLT: The Revolver of the American West. Mr. Richardson will discuss this new book and the connections to Hartford, where the Colt Armory still stands along I-91. This event (rescheduled from a snowy December date) takes place on Thursday, January 30, at 7:00 p.m. in the Mark Twain House Museum Center. A reception at 6 pm catered by the Colt Cafe and sponsored by Colt's Manufacturing Company, LLC, will precede the lecture.This is a free event. A book singing with the author will follow.

Parade, the Tony Award-winning musical, with book by Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy and Edgardo Mine) and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown (Songs for a New World and The Last 5 Years), will be staged by the Trinity College Department of Music, Feb, 13-15.

Gerald Moshell, Professor of Music and Director of the Musical-Theater Program at Trinity College, directs an undergraduate cast of 25 and a professional chamber orchestra. Choreography is by Julia Strong ’94 and Micah Greene.

Parade is a work of musical theater inspired by a notorious trial a century ago in Atlanta. Leo Frank, a Jewish, Brooklyn-bred, Cornell-educated, and recently married manager of a pencil factory, was wrongly accused and found guilty of murdering a 13-year-old girl in his employ. Some legal historians believe that the all-white jury was the first to convict a white man on the basis of a black man’s testimony. Frank’s death sentence was commuted by the governor to life in prison, but vigilantes unhappy with this decision abducted the prisoner and lynched him.

A symposium on Saturday, Feb. 15 at 3  pm that will explore the historical, racial, religious, and journalistic issues raised by the case of Leo Frank will be held in the Terrace Rooms of Mather Hall, 300 Summit Street.Admission is free and no tickets or reservations are needed for the symposium.

Ben Brantley, chief theater critic of the New York Times, and Gerald Moshell will discuss the place Parade holds in the history of the serious American musical. Issues raised by the Leo Frank case will be discussed by Melissa Fay Greene, an award-winning journalist and author of “The Temple Bombing,” a book exploring Atlanta Jewry and the Civil Rights movement, and William Jelani Cobb, Associate Professor of History and Director of the Institute for African American Studies at the University of Connecticut. How the Leo Frank case has affected the municipal psyche of Atlanta for 100 years will be discussed by Mark Silk, Professor of Religion and Director of the Leonard Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College, and a former columnist for the Atlanta Constitution, and James F. Jones, Jr., President of Trinity College, a native of Atlanta whose earliest recollections include hearing his grandparents speak of the Leo Frank case.

A 6:30 p.m. dinner in Hamlin Hall between the symposium and performance is available for $20 per person. Reservations are required for the dinner; please call Christine McMorris at (860) 297-2353 or e-mail her atchristine.mcmorris@trincoll.educhristine.mcmorris@trincoll.edu>.

Parade will be performed Thursday and Friday, Feb, 13 and 14, at 7:30pm and Saturday, Feb. 15 at 8:30 pm, at the Austin Arts Center’s Goodwin Theater. General admission is free, but ticket reservations are strongly suggested; call (860) 297-2199.

American Idiot Will Rock the Palace

Andrew Humann and the company of AMERICAN IDIOT (Photo by Jeremy Daniel)
The national tour of the explosive Broadway hit AMERICAN IDIOT will rock Waterbury with an exclusive one-night-only performance at the Palace Theater on Saturday, Feb, 5, at 8 pm. 

Tickets for the Green Day musical are $70, $60, $50 and $28 and can be purchased by phone at 203-346-2000, online at www.palacetheaterct.org, or in person at the Box Office, 100 East Main Street in Waterbury. 

Before the performance, Riverhouse Catering will prepare a 6 pm three-course dinner in the Palace Poli Club, located on the mezzanine level of the theater. The dinner is $40 for members and $50 for non-members, which includes tax, service fees, coffee, and tea. A cash bar is also available. Seating is limited, and reservations can be made when purchasing tickets through the Box Office.

A critical smash on Broadway and in London, the two-time Tony Award® winning musical AMERICAN IDIOT tells the story of three lifelong friends searching for meaning in a post 9-11 world. Through incredible spectacle, thrilling performances and the hope embodied by a new generation, AMERICAN IDIOT has given audiences the time of their lives night after night since its Broadway run at the St. James Theatre (March 2010 – April 2011) and its subsequent national tour, which launched December 2011 in Toronto.

Based on Green Day’s GRAMMY® Award-winning multi-platinum album and featuring the hits “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “21 Guns,” “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” “Holiday” and the blockbuster title track, AMERICAN IDIOT boldly takes the American musical where it has never gone before.  Also included in the score are several songs from Green Day’s 2009 release “21st Century Breakdown,” and an unreleased love song, “When It’s Time.”

AMERICAN IDIOT premiered at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in September 2009, and played through November of that year. In April 2010, the musical opened on Broadway where reviews were unanimously positive with Charles Isherwood of the New York Timescalling the show “the most adventurous musical to brave Broadway in the past decade,” and the Toronto Star naming it “the first great musical of the 21st century!”

For more information, visit www.americanidiotthemusical.com.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Theater Review: Freud's Last Session -- TheaterWorks

Kenneth Tigar and Jonathan Crombie. Photo: Lanny Nagler
In the Face of Death, Sigmund Freud, C.S. Lewis Debate the Greatest Question in Life
By Lauren Yarger
How can a person with keen intelligence believe in a God that can’t be proven?

For Dr. Sigmund Freud (Kenneth Tigar), the answer is obvious. He can’t. So how did one of the most brilliant of his contemporaries, C.S. Lewis (Jonathan Crombie), abandon all reason and come to believe in God and in Jesus Christ as his son to boot?

The question is at the center of Freud’s Last Session by Mark St. Germain, getting a run at TheatreWorks in Hartford.

To find the answer, the ailing Freud invites Lewis to his London study for a chat. The question is more pertinent than intellectual, however, amidst air-raid sirens blaring and radio reports of Hitler’s invasion of Poland on the dawn of Britain’s entry into World War II.

The two men clearly are students of each other’s works, but they don’t see eye to eye on the question of God. He can’t be proved, Freud says, therefore he cannot exist and anyone believing in him is likely suffering from some sort of hallucinatory psychosis. How can a man of intellect abandon truth and embrace an insidious lie, the father of psycho analysis wants to know?

“What if it isn’t a lie? Have you considered how terrifying it might be to realize that you are wrong?” counters the writer of the Narnia Chronicles, who takes the atheist through some of the reasoning that led him to realize that the claims of Christ were true.

Underlying the ensuing debate, Freud’s fear does become apparent. He is dying of cancer which forced the removal of his palate and upper jaw. The prosthesis he wears is a constant source of pain – Lewis suspects that the atheist’s extraordinary effort to debunk the existence of God comes from the fear that he might be wrong.

“One of us is a fool. If you are right, you’ll be able to tell me so. But if I am right, neither of us will ever know,” Freud concludes.
The rapport between the men grows as they debate the issues of God, morality, sex, relationships with fathers and how a good God could let something evil, like Hitler, exist. They become quick friends as they don gas masks and take cover during an air raid and when Lewis must step in to help Freud adjust his prosthesis (audience members squirm in their seats, so intense is the scene).

Maxwell Williams tightly directs the intellectually satisfying debate that plays out in Freud’s well-appointed study designed by Evan Adamson. St. Germain throws in all of the best-known topics for debate, but never gets preachy. Both men get a fair shake and while there’s no definitive winner, we do believe one has had some influence on the other. St. Germain’s other play, Becoming Dr. Ruth, ran at TheaterWorks last season and had a recent Off-Broadway run.

Making their TheaterWorks debuts along with Williams, Tigar (TVs “Barney Miller”) and Crombie (“Anne of Green Gables”) give thoughtful, comprehensive portrayals (though Crombie’s British accent sounds forced at times).

The play was inspired by the book “The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life” by Dr. Armand M. Nicholl, Jr. which placed the thoughts of the two contemporaries side by side, though no actual meeting is known to have taken place.

Think you know all you need to know about whether there is a God? I challenge you to go have a session with Freud and Lewis.

Through Feb. 23: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays: 7:30 pm; Fridays and Saturdays: 8 pm; Weekend Matinees at 2:30 pm. Tickets $15-$65; 860-527-7838; www.theaterworkshartford.org. 

Theater Review: The Consultant -- Long Wharf

Cassie Beck, Darren Goldstein, Nelson Lee. Photo:T.Charles Erickson
A Play About The Great Recession Triggers Questions, Depression
By Lauren Yarger
It's 2009 and the age of corporate downsizing, stimulus packages that don't work and angst in the office. Other than remind us that job security still is at an all-time low, The Consultant by Heidi Schreck, which is getting a world premiere at Long Wharf Theatre, does little else except leave us with a depressing realization that the economy doesn't look much better five years later.

The Dow may be plunging, but angst is at an all-time high at the pharmaceutical advertising company of Sutton, Feingold and McGrath where recent layoffs have the remaining employees pinning their hopes to an all-important presentation coming up by Jun Suk (Nelson Lee). The only problem is that the adman isn’t very personable and had a meltdown during his last presentation. For some reason, he is terrified about having to stand in front of people (yes, standing is the problem, not necessarily making the presentation, though we never find out why).

Enter consultant Amelia (Claire Barron), fresh off of her studies at NYU. After offending the Korean-American because she thinks she has been hired to help him learn English as a second language, the effervescent, but inexperienced youth dedicates herself to helping Jun Suk with his presentation skills (after rebuffing his sad attempt to ask her out. He’s going through a divorce and she’s a lesbian, so it wouldn’t have worked any way. Why did this seem so cliché and unnecessary to the plot?)

Amelia meets weekly with Jun Suk (we know this because the dates of the scenes are flashed on a video screen in the conference room visible through a glass wall just off of the sleek reception area designed by Andrew Boyce) and finds herself in the middle of office intrigue. Receptionist Tania (Cassie Beck) clearly doesn’t enjoy working with rude Jun Suk, but might be interested in his boss, Mark (Darren Goldstein). She finally takes him up on one of his flirtatious offers to have dinner and some sex in the restaurant restroom. They might just have something developing in the way of a caring relationship….

Meanwhile, Amelia is interested in spending time with Tania too, but it isn’t clear if she wants friendship or romance. She becomes a sounding board for Tania when she needs to make some decisions about her relationship with Mark in the face of some unexpected personal and professional news.

Amelia also receives a perk from her experience at the ad firm: a free consultation with Barbara (Lynne McCollough), who shows up at the office after having left Sutton, Feingold and McGrath to start her own business. The older woman offers some life coaching advice about not getting stuck in the story we tell ourselves.

The bigger message – I think -- is about how we let our jobs and the economy that controls them shape our lives and the decisions we make. The play, directed by Kip Fagan, never gets much below the surface of that, however. Characters don’t develop beyond the basics. We don’t get to know any of them well enough to decide whether we like them much – not unlike surface relationships we might develop at the office.


Is it office humor? An office romance: A friendship piece for the two women? A thoughtful piece about getting older in the workplace and seizing opportunity? A number of these themes have cameos, but don’t get promoted to the executive suite. The Consultant might be one of those few plays that should extend beyond its 90-minute-no-intermission run time and explore its characters and situations more fully. As it is, we’re left with the depressing thought that the economy hasn’t developed any better in the last seven years than this play (with a timeline in the program showing unemployment and foreclosure rates to back it up). 

The Consultant is employed through Feb. 9 at Long Wharf Theatre's Stage II, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven. Tickets range from $40-$70 and performance times vary: www.longwharf.org or call 203-787-4282.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Review: Hartford Stage, Hartford Symphony Collaborate on Dreamy Midsummer Night

The cast of A Midsummer Night's Dream with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. Photo: Alan Grant
A Midsummer Night's Dream
By William Shakespeare
with Incidental Music to a Midsummer Night's Dream, Op. 21 and 61 by Felix Medelssohn
Presented by the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and Hartford Stage
Conductor: Carolyn Kuan
Stage Director: Darko Tresnjak
with the Chorus Angelicus and Gaudeamus, Gabriel Lofvall, artistic director
Amanda Hall, Jamilyn Manning-White, sopranos

Jan. 10-12, Belding Theater, The Bushnell, Hartford

What's it All About?
The Hartford Symphony Orchestra (70) and Hartford Stage (50) are celebrating their birthdays with a collaboration of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Hartford Stage Artistic Director directs a lively stage version of the bard's tale of faeries and love with a top-notch cast which takes place on stage in front of a full Hartford Symphony Orchestra with Music Director Carolyn Kuan conducting Felix Mendelssohn's incidental music for the piece (Op. 21 and 61). The evening is part concert, part dramatic presentation, a perfect marriage (complete with Mendelssohn's bridal march) for Tresnjak, whose expertise extends to Shakespeare and opera. The play is trimmed down to fit with the musical pieces to clock in at a two-hour-15 minute run time with intermission.

What are the Highlights?
An insightful, humorous interpretation of the play with playful interaction at times between actors and the orchestra. Grant Goodman (Theseus/Oberon), Celeste Ciulla (Hippolyta/Titania), Michael Preston (Egeus/Peter Quince), Kaliswa Brewster (Hermia), Timothy Longo (Lysander), Jacob Gannon (Demetrius), Curtis Billings (Bottom), Andrew Patrick Mazer (Puck) and the rest of the ensemble shine, but really standing out, once again, is Kate MacCluggage, making us laugh with her Helena. Can we just give her a resident contract at Hartford Stage? She has been delightful in everything she has done here, from Bell, Book and Candle, to Twelfth Night to Macbeth. Excellent lighting (by Hartford Symphony Orchestra Technical Director Kenneth Trestman, uncredited in the program) provides subtle changes with scenes, spotlights for the soloists up in the boxes in the house and shadowy trees on the backdrop. (OK, full disclosure, Ken is a friend, but I had noted the excellent lighting before discovering he was responsible for it).

What are the Lowlights?
It takes a while to get into the concept. The program begins with a lengthy musical piece played by the orchestra. It all seems like a regular concert. Suddenly, actors appear and begin Midsummer to the rustle of programs being shuffled as people check to see whether they are in the right auditorium (many said they did not realize they would be seeing a play). Once the music and play start to merge, particularly in the second act, and where music underscores text, or where it comes in on cue, we begin to see what a dream production this really is. Lines like "Go, bid the huntsmen wake them with their horns" delightfully are met with response by the orchestra's horn section, which is in particularly good form throughout the concert.

The seesaw. There's a large metal seesaw on which the actors walk, sit and totter. It's awkward and blocks the view of the orchestra, though, as well as the musician's view of the action in front of them, as some crouch below it to get a better view. A better solution would have been a bridge up above the orchestra to provide additional stage space and dimension.

More information:

Friday, Jan. 10  at 8 pm
Saturday, Jan.11 at 8 pm
Sunday, Jan. 12 at 3 pm

There will be a pre-concert chat led by Kuan one hour prior to each performance.

Tickets range in price from $35.50-$67.50. Student tickets are $10. On Saturday, Jan.11, $25 tickets are available for patrons age 40 and under. 860-244-2999; www.hartfordsymphony.org.
-- Lauren Yarger

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

No Boundaries Returns to Yale Rep with The Files

The seventh season of NO BOUNDARIES: A SERIES OF GLOBAL PERFORMANCES, presented by Yale Repertory Theatre will feature THE FILES by Theatre of the Eighth Day (Teatr Ósmego Dnia) for three performances only, Feb. 20–22 at 8 pm at the Iseman Theater, 1156 Chapel St., New Haven.

NO BOUNDARIES celebrates the diversity of voices and experiences in today’s world. NO BOUNDARIES explores—and explodes—the frontiers of theatrical invention through cutting-edge, thought-provoking performance. Right here in New Haven, right here at Yale.

ABOUT THE FILES

Legendary Polish theatre company Theatre of the Eighth Day (Wormwood, 2009) returns with The Files, a riveting docudrama created from actual surveillance records the secret police kept on the group between 1975 and 1983. Through these files, a remarkable human drama unfolds—not just of life under a communist regime but of the courageous artistry that thrived in spite of that oppression.

Running time: approximately 80 minutes. The Files is performed in English. Talk Back Q&A session with members of the company will follow each performance.

The Files is part of the Poland-U.S. Campus Arts Project, a program organized by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute in Warsaw, Poland. This presentation is also generously supported by The Root Boy Slim Fund and Connecticut Humanities.

ABOUT THEATRE OF THE EIGHTH DAY

Founded in 1964, Theatre of the Eighth Day quickly became the most famous and internationally recognized Polish underground theatre. Inspired and influenced by the work of revolutionary theater artist Jerzy Grotowski, the company developed its own acting method, creating performances through improvisation. For the first twenty-five years of its existence, and despite constant police surveillance and government censorship, Theatre of the Eighth Day managed to create some of the most important works for the Polish stage: In One Breath (1971); Discounts for All (1977); Oh, How Nobly We Lived (1979); Auto Da Fe (1985), and Wormwood (1985; presented at Yale Rep, 2009). Since the collapse of the Communist regime in Poland, the company, currently based in Poznań, continues to be recognized as a leader among Polish alternative theatres.

Taking its name from a line by Polish poet Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński, “On the seventh day, the Lord God rested, and on the eighth, He created theatre,” Theatre of the Eighth Day was originally founded as a student group that performed poetry and drama. After studying Grotowski’s techniques and witnessing the civil unrest and student protests of 1968, their performance style became more physical and less verbal, and the company resolved to remain in dialogue with both the artistic and political movements in society. However, they always rejected the label “political theatre.” Former artistic director Lech Raczak said, “In a monopolized system such as Poland everything becomes political.  If you make any gesture different from what the authorities want, that gesture immediately carries political weight. So the term 'political' results from the distortion and unnaturalness of social life here.”

Theatre of the Eighth Day was subjected to years of censorship and government oppression as it continued to produce theatre behind the Iron Curtain. The Polish government eventually withdrew all subsidies and issued an official announcement that the group had disbanded. However, Theatre of the Eighth Day continued to produce work underground and was invited to the Edinburgh Festival to perform their piece Wormwood in 1985. Only half of the company was granted visas by Polish authorities, and a new piece, Auto Da Fe, was devised and performed in its place. Auto Da Fe won the “Fringe First” prize, an achievement denounced by the Polish government because, according to them, the group “did not exist.”

TICKET INFORMATION

Tickets for THE FILES are $30 ($10 for students and $25 for Yale Faculty and Staff) and can be purchased online at www.yalerep.org/noboundaries, by phone (203) 432-1234, and in person at the Yale Rep Box Office (1120 Chapel Street).

Monday, January 6, 2014

Connecticut Arts Connections

GOODSPEED
Michael Price, who has led the organization for 45 years, has decided to retire from the position of Executive Director at the end of 2014 but will remain active with Goodspeed in advisory and fundraising roles through 2016. The Board of Trustees will conduct a national search for a new Executive Director who is expected to assume leadership of Goodspeed in late 2014. “I have had the honor and the privilege of leading Goodspeed Musicals for more than 45 years but believe with my whole heart, that the time has come to pass the reins onto someone new who will lead the institution into its next phase. The greatest joy is working with the most incredible theatrical team ever assembled, a team that together will take Goodspeed to even greater heights. I look forward to working with our Board of Trustees and staff during the transition period,” Price said.

THE PALACE
The Palace Theater in Waterbury is recruiting new volunteers to assist with a variety of Front of House responsibilities during the theater’s busy performance season. Individuals interested in joining the volunteer program are encouraged to sign-up online at www.palacetheaterct.org/volunteering, after which they will be contacted by the volunteer office with information regarding the program’s upcoming orientation and information sessions. Sessions are currently being scheduled during the final two weeks in January. Palace Theater volunteers are charged with providing unmatched customer service to patrons in a variety of areas, including, but not limited to, collating and stuffing program books, collecting tickets, and acting as an usher, greeter or coat room attendant. Volunteers must be able to stand for several hours and climb stairs without difficulty, as assigned positions rotate throughout the season.

Volunteers must be at least 15 years of age and have excellent verbal and interpersonal skills. The hours of volunteer work vary depending on the performance, but each shift requires a minimum four-hour time commitment on average. Every volunteer is required to work a minimum of ten shows per calendar year. For more information, visit www.palacetheaterct.org/volunteering or call the volunteer hotline at 203-346-2017.


HARTFORD SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
HSO MASTERWORKS SERIES: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
Featuring the Hartford Symphony Orchestra; Carolyn Kuan, conductor and HSO music director; Darko Tresnjak, stage director and Hartford Stage artistic director; Chorus Angelicus & Gaudeamus, chorus - Gabriel Löfvall, artistic director; Amanda Hall, soprano; Jamilyn Manning-White, mezzo-soprano
Thursday, January 9, 2014 - 7:30 p.m.
Friday, January 10, 2014 - 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, January 11, 2014 - 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, January 12, 2014 - 3:00 p.m.
There will be a pre-concert chat led by Music Director Carolyn Kuan one hour prior to each performance. 
Belding Theater - The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts
Program: Felix Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Ticket Information: Tickets to this concert range in price from $35.50-$67.50. Student tickets are $10.  On Saturday, January 11, $25 tickets are available for patrons age 40 and under.  To purchase tickets for more information, please contact HSO ticket services at (860) 244-2999 or visit www.hartfordsymphony.org.  

WESLEYAN
Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts is one of the 2014 Arts Catalyze Placemaking "Arts Leadership" grantees, and will receive $10,000 to support placemaking around two performances taking place on Friday, February 14, 2014— the New England premiere of the dance work "Times Bones" by San Francisco's Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, and the Connecticut debut concert by Vadym Kholodenko, the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Gold Medalist —as well as the 15th annual DanceMasters Weekend, taking place on Saturday, March 8 & Sunday, March 9, 2014.
THE BUSHNELL
Canadian guiitar sensation Jesse Cook has announced a 25-date US tour in April/May which includes a stop in Hartford at The Bushnell’s Belding Theater on April 17. Tickets are on sale now and available online at www.bushnell.org, by phone at 860-987-5900, or at The Bushnell box office, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford.

Civil War Musical Has a Message for Kids at The Palace

The importance of courage and personal integrity is presented against the backdrop of the American Civil War in the Palace Theater’s Education Series presentation of Four Score and Seven Years Ago, on Tuesday, Jan. 14 at 9:30 and 11:30 am. 

Tickets for the ArtsPower musical are $10 for individuals, $8 for groups of 15 or more, and can be purchased by phone at 203-346-2000, online at www.palacetheaterct.org or at the Box Office, 100 East Main Street in Waterbury.

Four Score and Seven Years Ago follows Lemuel, a young man who has escaped slavery in Georgia and believes life in Gettysburg is everything he had dreamed it would be. His ideas about the North and the South, as well as what it means to be a free man, are challenged however, when he unexpectedly befriends Jacob, a young Confederate soldier. 

The two men may be of different races and on different sides of the Civil War, but they have much to teach each other about bravery and loyalty in ArtsPower’s exciting and suspenseful musical.

Endorsed by the Connecticut Association of Schools, all Palace Theater Education Series  shows are carefully selected to address specific curriculum for students grades K-12, including history, language arts, humanities and bully prevention. Before the show, teachers are equipped with a package of study guides, workshop ideas and homework assignments that reinforce State Curriculum Standards in Education while enhancing students’ everyday academic work.

Recommended for grades three through eight, Four Score and Seven Years Ago highlights curricular integrations in the subjects of American history, language arts, communications, social studies and music.
To book a class field trip, contact Deirdre Patterson at 203-346-2011.

Goodspeed Presents 9th Annual Festival of New Musicals

The Ninth Annual Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals, produced by Goodspeed Musicals’ Max Showalter Center for Education in Musical Theatre, kicks off its three-day festival of brand new works on Friday, Jan. 17 at the Goodspeed Opera House with a staged reading of the timely musical Adam Lives. 

On Saturday, Jan.18, the musical fantasy A Proper Place  debuts.  On the final day of the festival, the unconventional Theory of Relativity by the team who wrote the Goodspeed and Broadway tuner The Story of My Life will be presented. 

Several special events will round out the weekend.  Tickets: Box Office; 860-873-8668; www.goodspeed.org.  Tickets are $15 each for one show, $10 each for students. 

This year, Goodspeed’s Festival GOLD Package offers a weekend full of special events. The $89 package includes admission to all three staged readings; the New Musical Preview, a short preview of a new musical headed to The Norma Terris Theatre in 2014; the Symposium panel discussion with musical theatre luminaries; three festival seminar sessions; a Saturday evening pre-show dinner at either the Gelston House OR La Vita Gustosa and a Meet the Writers Reception which will complete the weekend’s festivities. 

Also included in the special Festival Package is a tour of Goodspeed’s mid-campus facilities including the McMillian Rehearsal Studio, Scherer Library, Costume Shop and Music Department and admittance to either the Friday Night or Saturday Night Cabarets, informal gatherings showcasing new songs by new and established artists. A special SILVER Package with schedule highlighting the staged readings, symposium and new musical preview is also available for only $49.

Productions from the three composing teams included in the Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals and the schedule of Special Events for Festival Package ticket holders include:

Friday, January 17
Adam Lives
7:30 p.m., Goodspeed Opera House

Book, Music & Lyrics by Rob Baumgartner, Jr. Adam is an unsuccessful songwriter who doesn’t know how to settle into his long-term relationship with Claudia. When he has an opportunity to write for an emerging pop superstar, Adam is forced to decide which he values more: an enduring partnership or a love that is worthy of song. Adam Lives is about finding      and keeping the important things in life, but at what cost?

Festival Cabaret
10:00 p.m., Gelston House
Showcasing new songs by our festival writers.



Saturday, January 18
Seminars
10:00  - 12:45 p.m., Gelston House

They’re the Tops!  - What makes a Broadway hit? Mark Acito, Helen Hayes Award-winning playwright, novelist, and theatre historian, will discuss the common threads among the 100 top-selling Broadway shows of all time.

Uncovering Goodspeed Treasures - Tucked away on a top shelf or buried in a dusty box, many one-of-a-kind treasures have been uncovered and preserved for generations to come in Goodspeed’s Scherer Library of Musical Theatre. Noted author and theatre historian Ken Bloom will guide a discussion about some of the most fascinating objects in this rare collection.

An Actor’s Life  - Get to know your favorite stars from Goodspeed’s Hello, Dolly!. The beloved Klea Blackhurst (Dolly) and the Tony-nominated Tony Sheldon(Horace) will share stories of their lives as actors – including the triumphs, heartaches, and struggles.

Casting 101 –Back by popular demand! Learn the ins and outs of the casting process as Goodspeed’s Casting Director Paul Hardt and Resident Music DirectorMichael O’Flaherty uncover the tricks-of-the-trade.
           
          ADDITIONAL SEMINARS TBA

New Musical Preview
2:30 – 3:30 p.m., Goodspeed Opera House
A preview of a new musical headed to Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theatre in 2014

Symposium *
4:00 p.m., Goodspeed Opera House

On the Road to Holiday Inn: Creating a World Premiere Ever wonder what it takes to move a musical from conception to full-blown stage production? Now at the halfway mark of the process, a panel of theatre experts and members of the creative team will explore the work that’s been done and what’s still to come for Goodspeed’s world premiere of Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn.
   *This event is free and open to the public.


Festival Dinner
5:30 p.m., Gelston House  - OR - La Vita Gustosa
Enjoy a three course meal with fellow festival goers.

A Proper Place
7:30 p.m., Goodspeed Opera House
Book by Leslie Becker and Curtis Rhodes
Music by Curtis RhodesLyrics by Leslie BeckerAdditional Lyrics by Curtis Rhodes
It is 1902. Mayfair, England. When an upper class British family is shipwrecked on an island with only their butler to help them survive, traditional class systems are questioned and unexpected love blossoms. Based         on J. M. Barrie’s play The Admirable Crichton, this musical fantasy with a sumptuous score, dubbed a “cross between Downton Abbey and Gilligan’s Island,” is a classic tale of equality, survival and forbidden love.

Festival Cabaret
10:00 p.m., Gelston House


Sunday, January 19
Theory of Relativity
1:00 p.m., Goodspeed Opera House
Music & Lyrics by Neil Bartram Book by Brian HillThis unconventional new musical from the writers of The Story of My Life is a joyous and moving look at our surprisingly interconnected lives. Through a collection of songs, scenes and monologues, The Theory of Relativity introduces a compelling array of characters experiencing the joys and heartbreaks, the liaisons and losses, the inevitability and the wonder of human connection.

 Meet the Writers Reception
3:30 p.m., 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 goodspeed.org.
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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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