Friday, January 29, 2010

Westport's 80th Season to Include 'Dinner with Friends'

The Pulitzer Prize-winning comic drama Dinner with Friends by Connecticut’s own Donald Margulies will be the second production in the 2010 season at Westport Country Playhouse.

Scheduled for June 1-19, the play will be directed by David Kennedy, the playhouse's associate artistic director.

“Dinner with Friends” is about Gabe and Karen and Tom and Beth, two couples who have been close friends for years, and who participate in all the familiar and comfortable rituals of shared vacations, good conversation and great food. When Tom abruptly walks out on Beth, it threatens more than just their marriage alone. This vibrant and edgy contemporary play explores the difficulties of one couple surviving the other pair’s divorce.

“Dinner with Friends” also received an Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Play, the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Play, the Dramatists Guild/Hull-Warriner Award, the American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award and a Drama Desk Award nomination. The play premiered at the 1998 Humana Festival of New American Plays and opened in New York in 1999.

Margulies’ works include Time Stands Still, which premieres on Broadway this week, and Collected Stories, which is set for a Broadway revival this spring.

This production will mark Kennedy's Westport Country Playhouse directing debut.

The performance schedule is Tuesday at 8 pm., Wednesday at 2 and 8 pm,Thursday and Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 4 and 8 pm and Sunday at 3 pm.

Westport Country Playhouse’s five-play 80th season will open with the musical comedy She Loves Me April 20 through May 8, with book by Joe Masterhoff, music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and directed by Mark Lamos, Playhouse artistic director.

Dinner with Friends will be followed by Happy Days by Samuel Beckett July 6-24, directed by Lamos. The musical I Do! I Do! will be staged Aug. 10-28, written by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt. The timeless and powerful classic The Diary of Anne Frank by Francis Goodrich and Albert Hackett, adapted by Wendy Kesselman, rounds out the season Sept. 28 through Oct. 16.

Subscriptions to all five plays are available for preferred seating and pricing. Single tickets range from $35 to $55; opening night tickets, including post-performance reception, are $65. Students and educators are eligible for 50% discounts. Groups of 10 or more save up to 30%. For group sales information call (203) 227-5137, x120.

Little House Musical Arrives at Westport

Westport Country Playhouse’s Family Festivities Series will present the musical Laura Ingalls Wilder, about the exciting adventures of the beloved author who wrote the classic “Little House” series of children’s books, on Sunday, Feb. 7 at 1 and 4 pm.

Recommended for 2nd through 6th graders, the show is produced by ArtsPower. The performance is approximately 55 minutes with no intermission.

In the musical production, the spirited pioneer girl Laura Ingalls Wilder, older sister Mary, Ma and Pa travel across the unsettled frontier of the late-1800s American Midwest in search of a little house to call home. Facing obstacles such as scarlet fever and eviction from their land, their family bonds are tested but never broken.

The show features a lush musical score with five original songs, among them “Move On,” which captures the restlessness and excitement of loading up the covered wagon, and “Fishin’,” a duet in which Laura and Pa laugh and share tall tales at their favorite fishing hole.

The production is written and directed by ArtsPower artistic director Greg Gunning with music by his longtime collaborator Richard DeRosa.

In pre-show activities, children will participate in fun pioneer-themed activities and games. Pre-show activities, for which reservations are required, begin one hour before the performances at noon and 3 pm.

Tickets for “Laura Ingalls Wilder” are $16. Birthday party facilities may be scheduled in advance. Everyone in the audience requires a ticket. Groups of 10 or more save up to 30% off the regular ticket price. For group sales information call (203) 227-5137, x120.

Upcoming in the Playhouse’s 2010 Family Festivities Series are “Charlotte’s Web” on Sunday, Feb. 28; “Are You My Mother?” on Sunday, March 28; and “I Have a Dream: The Life and Times of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” on Sunday, April 11.

ArtsPower was founded in 1985 by Mark and Gary Blackman. ArtsPower has grown into one of America’s largest and most active producers of professional theater for young and family audiences. Its 26 professional touring productions have been seen by 9 million people in 46 states and in some of the national’s top venues including The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC and Lincoln Center.

O'Neill Alumni Reunite

Join alumni of the O'Neill Theater's National Theater Institute and celebrate the group's 40th anniversary 6 pm Monday, Feb. 1 at the Players Club, 16 Gramercy Park South, between Park Avenue South and Third Avenue, NYC.

Register online at, email or call 860-443-5378 extension 230.

Broadway Boys Return for Valentine's at Westport

Following their extremely successful concert in December at Westport Country Playhouse, The Broadway Boys, a collection of the hottest male voices currently working on the New York stage, will return to the Playhouse stage on Sunday, Feb. 14 at 3 pm for a special Valentine’s Day event.

The group adds elements of pop, funk, gospel, jazz and folk to show tunes, classic pop and romantic ballads and explore harmonies rarely presented by Broadway singers.

The Broadway Boys were created in 2005 to play a single night at a club in New York City. The overwhelming response forced the club to bring the boys back again for another sold-out evening. Realizing that this group had serious growth potential, the Broadway Boys decided to focus and develop their product into the “symphony of sound” that they have become.

Tickets are $40, $15 for students. For more information or ticket purchases, call the box office at (203) 227-4177, or toll-free at 1-888-927-7529, or visit 25 Powers Court, off Route 1, Westport. Tickets may be purchased online at

Auditions for Ivoryton's Enchanted Evening

Ivoryton Playhouse will hold non-Equity and Equity auditions for five male and female vocalists with strong acting abilities for an April production of “Some Enchanted Evening.”

The auditions will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 9 from noon to 8 pm at the Rehearsal Studio, 24 Main St., Centerbrook. The show runs from April 14 – May 2; rehearsals begin March 30.

Those auditioning should prepare two contrasting Rodgers & Hammerstein or similar songs and bring a picture and resume stapled together.

Call 860-767-7318 for appointment

Thursday, January 28, 2010

No Boundaries for Taylor Mac at Yale

NO BOUNDARIES: A Series of Global Performances, presented by Yale Repertory Theatre and World Performance Project at Yale, continues its 2009-10 season with The Be(A)st of Taylor Mac, written and performed by Taylor Mac, and directed by David Drake, at the University Theatre, 222 York St., for three performances only: Thursday, Jan. 28; Friday, Jan. 29; and Saturday, Jan. 30, at 8 pm.

Mac sings about love, mermaids, subway safety and revolution in The Be(A)st of Taylor Mac, a wild, gender-bending fusion of cabaret and politics. Tickets are available online at, by phone (203) 432-1234, and in person at the Yale Rep Box Office, 1120 Chapel St., at York Street.

The show contains strong language. A talk back with Taylor Mac follows each performance. Additional related programs, all free and open to the public, also have been scheduled.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Feature: The Lion King at the Bushnell

The Tree of Life from The Lion King National
Tour. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus.
Hartford Transforms into Pride Lands
with Help of Richard Hudson’s Sets
By Lauren Yarger
The stage at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts will be transformed into the African Pride Lands beginning this Wednesday thanks to set pieces, costumes and technical equipment trucked in on 18 semis to create the world of Disney’s The Lion King making its second tour stop here in Hartford from Jan. 27 through Feb. 14.

The man largely responsible for the look of the show, and who won a Tony Award for the Broadway design in 1998, is Richard Hudson, and while he found the challenge of bringing Africa to the American stage daunting, there is no question that this award-winning opera set designer was equal to the task.

He worked with director Julie Taymor, who was the first woman to win the Tony for best direction of a musical, to make scenes like the animated movie’s colossal pride rock and stampede come to life.

Hudson hadn’t seen the Disney cartoon movie prior to being contracted for the staging, but when he did, the thought of turning it into a show seemed “impossible.” Taymor’s vision, illustrated in some set mock ups inspired Hudson, however, and when it became clear that the team wasn’t trying to recreate the film, he began to see the possibilities.

The designer, who grew up in Zimbabwe, began to research African fabrics and textiles, and soon was remembering the colors and scale of the land of his youth. For pride rock (which rises from below the stage for the Broadway production, but which enters from the wings for the touring productions), Hudson made Taymor’s design a little less symmetrical and gave it the appearance of rising up form the ground as it would look to birds soaring above it.

For the stampede scene, which Hudson called the “most problematic,” he needed to show perspective that would make it appear that thousands of animals were running onto the stage with very little time in between scenes to accomplish the effect. He created a series of rollers with different sized animals on different levels and topped the effect off with performers in the show’s trademark puppet-costumes entering from below the stage and from the sides. The design creates a false perspective that still has audiences gasping at the visual effect.

Hudson lives in London, so he hasn’t had much chance to see the tours here in the United States. Connecticut Arts Connection caught up with the designer in New York where he is working on a production for the Metropolitan Opera and where he took in the Broadway production for the first time in many years.

“I was deeply moved,” he said. “It has been beautifully maintained.”

He saw the tour in Denver and recently attended a 10-year anniversary party for the London show. Some 86 actors who had played the children’s parts in the show over the years, many now adults, attended. The popularity of the show endures as the Broadway production continues to play to packed houses 12 years later and the tour coming to the Bushnell is one of seven companies world wide.

When asked why he hasn’t done more design on Broadway, Hudson replied that he’d love to, but hasn’t been asked. Maybe it’s time for some producers to make a call?

Winner of six Tony Awards, including best musical, The Lion King features hundreds of masks and puppets designed by Michael Curry and Taymor, who also designed the costumes. Choreography is by Garth Fagan, lighting design is by Donald Holder. The book has been adapted by Roger Allers, who co-directed the animated film and Irene Mecchi, who co-wrote the screenplay for The Lion King.

The Elton John score with Tim Rice lyrics from the animated film including songs like “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “Circle of Life” is part of the theatrical production, along with three new John/ Rice tunes with additional musical material by South African Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor and Hans Zimmer.

In Hartford, The Lion King will play Tuesday through Thursday evenings at 7:30 pm, Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 2 and 8 pm, and Sundays at 1 and 6:30 pm. In addition, there is a Thursday, Jan. 28 matinee performance at 1 pm.

Ticket prices start at $20.50. Additionally, Premium Ticket Packages, which include a prime seat location, a commemorative souvenir program and an exclusive merchandise item, also are available. Tickets are available at The Bushnell Box Office, 166 Capitol Ave., by phone at 860- 987-5900 and online at Orders for groups of 15or more may be placed by calling (860) 987-5959.

Note: The show has a strict 10-minute late seating hold once the performance begins.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hartford Stage to Begin Expansion

The Two-Phase Project Will Commence This June

Hartford Stage has announced that the Tony Award-winning theatre will break ground this June on the first part of a two-phase renovation and expansion of the theatre’s Church Street, Hartford facility.

Designed by Mitchell Kurtz Architect, PC, the theatre company’s renovation and expansion project will revitalize the 33-year-old building by addressing infrastructure issues, modernizing and expanding its stage capabilities to meet the demands of modern stagecraft, providing greater accessibility in public areas and back stage facilities and expanding and renovating the theatre’s two lobbies. Phase One construction will commence June 1, 2010, and is expected to be completed by mid-September, 2010.

“We are so thrilled to be breaking ground this June, after years of extensive planning” said Artistic Director Michael Wilson. “Our community, loyal audiences, and extraordinary artists deserve to work in a theatre that is accessible and provides the modern facilities needed to make their experience at Hartford Stage as uplifting and inspiring as possible.”

Given the current economic climate and its effect on fundraising in recent months, the theatre’s Board of Directors determined that it would be prudent to divide the renovation project into two phases and fund construction with available cash as money is raised.

Phase One of the project represents a $4 million investment into the local economy, including construction jobs, and the purchase of materials and equipment. The first phase of construction, primarily will address four priority areas:

1. Improvements to the theatre’s accessibility for both audience and artists. The stage floor will be raised to make handicap seating more accessible; ramps will no longer be necessary to reach seats. A backstage dressing room will be constructed at stage level to allow improved accessibility for actors.
2. Audience amenities. This will include relocating and expanding the public restroom facilities. Restrooms will expand into space in the MAT garage, the city-owned parking facility adjacent to the theatre, which in turn will allow enlarged space in the theatre’s lower lobby to alleviate congestion. The new, accessible, restroom facilities will more than double the number of stalls in both the women's and men’s rooms.
3. Infrastructure improvements. This initiative will include new HVAC Equipment to improve comfort for patrons and artists. Electrical systems will be cleaned and refurbished, and the roof will be repaired.
4. Production enhancements. This includes new theatre lighting equipment, a new theatre audio system, and an expanded trap room which will allow for openings anywhere on the stage. The new trap system will feature easy conversion from thrust to proscenium houses, allowing for greater flexibility, more artistic opportunities and improved sight lines for the audience.

For the past three years, the theatre company has been engaged in a campaign entitled “Act Now for the Future” to raise funds for the renovation project and to increase the theatre’s endowment to support future operations. Approximately $10.5 million has been raised to date, of which $4 million is allocated for Phase One of the renovation project. Of the remaining funds raised, $2 million has been expended on design, planning, project management and administration of the campaign over the past three years; and the balance is earmarked for the theatre’s Endowment Fund and cash reserves. Completion of the entire project is targeted by the fall of 2013, prior to the celebration of the theatre’s 50th Anniversary.

The theatre will hold a series of audience forums so that community and audience members may learn more about the project. The forums will take place on Saturday, Feb. 6 at 4:30 pm, Wednesday, Feb. 10 at 4 pm and Monday, March 1 at 6 pm. If you have any questions, please contact the Box Office at (860) 527-5151.

Ziemba Heads 'Sylvia' Cast at Long Wharf

Tony Award winning actress Karen Ziemba heads the cast for Long Wharf Theatre's upcoming production of A.R. Gurney's Sylvia.

Long Wharf Theatre favorite John Procaccino, Yale School of Drama graduate Erica Sullivan and Broadway performer Jacob Ming-Trent round out the cast. Long Wharf's Associate Artistic Director Eric Ting directs the show, which will have a run Feb. 1through March 14 on the Mainstage, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven.

Rounding out the creative team is Frank Alberino (sets), Ben Stanton (lights), Valerie Webster (costumes), Jill BC DuBoff (sounds), and Charles M. Turner III (stage manager).

For more information about the show, visit or call 203-787-4282.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Theater Review: Lil's 90th -- Long Wharf

David Margulies and Lois Smith. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.
Read my CurtainUp review of the world premiere of Lil's 90th at Long Wharf Theater here.

Quick Review: Cirque Dreams Illumination – The Palace

Cirque Dreams Illumination at the Palace Theater, Waterbury
Created and Directed by Neil Goldberg

Original Score: Jill Winters and David Scott (additional music by Tony Liperti)
Scenic Design Jon Craine
Production Design Betsy Herst
Lighting Design: Kate Johnston
Costume Design: Cirque Productions, Leonora Taylor, Santiago Rojo
Act Design: Neil Goldberg, Heather Hoffman, Iouri Klepatsky

A colorful, fast paced show in the style of Cirque du Soleil (but not at all the same thing) featuring a soloist and music mixed with circus acts.

• Entertaining for kids of all ages
• An act by two male acrobats that is dizzying and groin-defying
• A contortionist, stop-motion dancer
• A high-flying bath-tub act with interesting water effects (watch out, front row)
• A juggling drummer
• A hilarious movie scene directed by a whistle-blowing clown and featuring selected audience members
• Many of the acts you expect to see in this type of show are given a different spin that sets them apart from the norm.

• The music is canned and very loud, especially when the soloist, who has a belt so loud that she hardly needs a mike, joins the mix. Audience members were especially chatty throughout the show, perhaps thinking their constant and distracting conversation couldn’t be heard over the loud music (they are wrong).
• Sometimes there’s way too much taking place at once. A rope climbing and balancing act compete with each other for attention. When you don’t notice some very large, disembodied suits bopping around on stage, there’s too much to take in.

Two more shows are available today (Saturday, Jan. 16) at 2 and 8 pm. Tickets are $49-$59 and are available by phone at 203-346-2000, online at, or in person at the Palace Box Office, 100 E. Main St. in Waterbury. Groups of 20 or more qualify for discounted rates and should call the Group Sales hotline at 203-346-2002.

Obituary -- Clara Takacs Gyorgyey

Clara Takacs Gyorgyey, 75, a member of the Connecticut Critic Circle, died suddenly Monday at Gaylord Hospital, Wallingford. She was a writer, critic, translator and teacher and was a contributor to the selection for the Nobel Prize in literature.

Born in Budapest, Hungary on May 23, 1933, she was the daughter of the late Laszlo and Sarolta Takacs. She lived in Orange with her husband of 50 years, Ferenc (Frank) Gyorgyey, but maintained an apartment in Budapest. She attended (Budapest University) ELTE, and Yale University where she majored in English and History of Drama 1957-59.

In 1956, she participated in the Hungarian Revolution, and then escaped to the West. She was a master teacher at Yale’s MAT program from 1959 to 1989 while teaching English at Hillhouse High School and later at North Haven High School. From 1990 on, she was Associate Director for the Medical Humanities at Yale; a contributor to “Critique” Magazine, “World Literature Today” and numerous other publications, both in English and Hungarian. She has served as president of the Exiled PEN American Branch since 1976.

Her literary works include the translation of “Catsplay”, and numerous other Hungarian plays. She authored “With Arrogant Humility”, “Ferenc Molnar” and “Szerelmetes Szurkapiszka”. Besides her husband, she is survived by two daughters, Katalin and Mari.

Friends are invited to attend a Memorial Mass of Christian Burial in Holy Infant Church, 460 Racebrook Road, Orange Monday, Jan. 18th at 10 am. She will be buried in Budapest. The reception at Yale will be held at a later date

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Choose Your Own Program at HSO Valentine's Day Concerts

Edward Cumming Leads Romantic Concerts
Featuring Sibelius, Mozart & Vaughan Williams

Led by Music Director Edward Cumming, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra will give audiences the opportunity to experience one of two different Mozart concerti at its Valentine Concerts on Thursday, Feb. 11, Friday, Feb. 12 and Saturday, Feb. 13 at 8 pm and Sunday, Feb. 14 at 3 pm in the Belding Theater at the Bushnell.
Joined by pianist Andrius Zlabys, the HSO will perform Mozart’s 24th Piano Concerto on Thursday and Saturday and Mozart’s 9th Piano Concerto on Friday and Sunday, allowing the public to pick the program they want to hear based on which day they attend.

Acting as bookends to the Mozart concerti will be two moving symphonies, each composed by one of the great masters of orchestral composition. Opening the romantic line-up will be Jean Sibelius’ unique Seventh Symphony in one movement. No need to worry about clapping in the wrong place; Sibelius breaks the protocol of a multi-movement symphony in this flowing piece of European Romanticism. The program will end with a grand performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ inspiring Fifth Symphony. Based on the classic English allegory of The Pilgrim’s Progress, this uplifting work was premiered in the midst of World War II. Its heartwarming melodies still speak to the hearts of modern audiences.

These concerts will feature Lithuanian pianist Andrius Zlabys in performances of one of two Mozart concerti, depending on the day.
"The audience will be in the unique position of choosing one of two different piano concertos to hear -- a spirited, early work that is Mozart's first great work in the genre, or a late work, with a tinge of darkness that pervades throughout. Of course, one could also come different nights, and hear both!" Cumming said.
Born and raised in Vilnius, Lithuania, Andrius Zlabys made his Carnegie Hall debut with the New York Youth Symphony Orchestra in 2001. A prizewinner at the 2003 Cleveland International Piano Competition, he performed with the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, and Cleveland Orchestra. Mr. Zlabys was nominated for the 2003 Grammy Award and in 2000 was a winner of Astral National Auditions in Philadelphia.
Most recently Zlabys made his debut with Rotterdam Philharmonic, performed a debut recital at Metropolitan Art Museum in NYC, and played an evening of premieres in Philadelphia consisting of chamber music written by Philadelphia composers Yevgeniy Sharlat and Luis Prado, and dedicated to Zlabys.
Ticket Prices are $32.50 - $72.50; $12.50 with a student ID. Tickets are available in person Monday through Friday between the hours of 10 am and 5 pm at Hartford Symphony Orchestra Ticket Services, 99 Pratt St., Suite 500 in Hartford, by calling (860) 244-2999, or online at

The Hartford Symphony Orchestra participates in the Greater Hartford Arts Council’s Let*s GO Arts! program that offers 2-for-1 tickets to arts and entertainment events, and discounts at restaurants and clubs. Let*s GO Arts! members can receive 2-for-1 full price tickets to HSO Masterworks and POPS! concerts.

These concerts are presented in part by the Alexander Campbell McNally Memorial Fund. The Masterworks Series is presented by MetLife Foundation with additional support from The Edward C. and Ann T. Roberts Foundation, and additional concert support from the Maximilian E. & Marion O. Hoffman Foundation, Inc. The Hartford Symphony Orchestra receives major support from the Greater Hartford Arts Council, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism, which receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Sponsors listed as of December 23, 2009.

Marking its 66th season in 2009-2010, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra is Connecticut’s premier musical organization. The Hartford Symphony is the second largest orchestra in New England and is widely recognized as one of America’s leading regional orchestras. Dedicated to the performance of live symphonic music and the presentation of quality education and community programs, each season the Hartford Symphony plays to audiences numbering approximately 125,000 and reaches thousands statewide through its broadcast concerts on WNPR Connecticut Public Radio. Supported by more than 4,500 subscribers and 2,000 donors, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s extensive array of Musical Pathways educational activities serves more than 64,000 individuals in Hartford and surrounding communities annually. For more information about the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, please visit www.HartfordSymphony.Org.

EDITORS: To request an interview, photos, or press access to these events, please contact Katie Bonner at (860) 246-8742 ext. 317 or at Please update calendar listings to reflect performance schedule and admission information above.

IMAGES attached the HSO with Music Director Edward Cumming (credit: Steve Laschever); pianist Andrius Zlabys.

'House That Mark Built' Exhibit to Open at Mark Twain House

“The House That Mark Built,” The Mark Twain House & Museum’s new exhibition opening to the public Jan. 20 at 9:30 am, offers a look at Mark Twain’s home’s bricks, mortars and gadgetry – and even provides a place for kids to try their hand at some building of their own.

The exhibition helps launch the museum’s Mark Twain Centennial Celebration, which includes more than two dozen events, lectures, exhibits, and general festivities marking a year of anniversaries: the 125th anniversary of the U.S. publication of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the centenary of Mark Twain’s death; and the 175th anniversary of his birth.

“The House That Mark Built” was designed by Edward Tuckerman Potter, an architect known mainly for his churches. The exhibition provides an overview of Potter’s career as an architect, and shows that while the Clemenses' house did fit into the conventional architecture of the day, the “curious house that Mark built” was not altogether an oddity.

Newspaper and magazine articles from the 1870s and 1880s on display show varied reactions to this newest Nook Farm home. The Hartford Daily Times wrote: "The novelty displayed in the architecture of the building, the oddity of its internal arrangement and the fame of its owner will all conspire to make it a house of note for a long time to come." Letters written by some of the Clemenses’ friends and family also show diverse reactions to the home.

Visitors will get a chance to see some of the original building materials used by the builders, including the elaborate exterior wood carvings, slate from the roof, and samples of the brick.

The exhibition, open through March 22, will also explore technological innovations. Samuel L. Clemens had a passion for modern technology, and the house’s systems reflected this. Central heating, telephones, a burglar alarm, the latest bathroom technology, and the systems for calling servants to the various rooms of the house are examples of this. Many of these gadgets also found their way into Clemens’s writings, samples of which will be on display.

The Mark Twain House & Museum is also interested in modern technologies, but in this case in using them to restore and preserve the house that Mark built. New HVAC systems, ultra-violet protectant films, compact fluorescent light bulbs, and other products aid in the preservation of this historic house. The exhibit will highlight some of these new technologies, and how they help to safeguard the house for future generations of visitors.

There will also be a space to engage children. Using the seven-foot-long LEGO® Mark Twain House on display in the gallery as inspiration, children will be able to build their own structure out of Duplo blocks. They will also learn about architectural terms and shapes using word searches, coloring pages, magnetic building sets, and more. Finally, children and adults alike will enjoy taking part in an architectural scavenger hunt using the historic Mark Twain House & Carriage House.

The exhibition is included in museum admission, and viewable during regular opening hours.
The Exhibition Sponsor for “The House That Mark Built” is United Technologies Corporation. The Edward C. and Ann T. Roberts Foundation is the sponsor of the museum’s 2010 Exhibitions. The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., is the museum’s Centennial Sponsor.

The Mark Twain House & Museum has restored the author’s Hartford, Connecticut, home, where the author and his family lived from 1874 to 1891. Twain wrote his most important works during the years that he lived there, including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

In addition to providing tours of Twain’s restored home, a National Historic Landmark, the institution offers activities and educational programs that illuminate Twain’s literary legacy and provide information about his life and times. The house and museum at 351 Farmington Ave. are open Monday through Saturday, 9:30 am.-5:30 pm, and Sunday, noon to 5:30 pm. For more information, call 860-247-0998 or visit Programs at the Mark Twain House & Museum are supported by the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism and the Greater Hartford Arts Council.

Mark Twain Unlearns Racism at St. Joseph's

Actor Cal Pritner will perform his original one-person, one-act play, Mark Twain: Unlearning Racism, at St. Joseph College’s Hofmann Auditorium in West Hartford on Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 7:30 pm.

Pritner embodies the spirit and struggles of Mark Twain in the play. Taking on a tough subject, even for 21st century audiences, Pritner delves into Twain's racial attitudes and how they changed over the course of his life.

“Sam Clemens, our Mark Twain, was born in 1835 into a slave-owning family, and by today’s standards he was a racist until well into adulthood,” Pritner says. “But he married into an abolitionist family and made huge changes in his racial attitudes. Unfortunately, as St. Joseph College Professor Kerry Driscoll’s research demonstrates, he remained prejudiced against American Indians.”

The event has been organized by Dr. Driscoll, a nationally regarded Mark Twain scholar who has long been associated with The Mark Twain House & Museum. Chair of St. Joseph College’s English Department, she frequently leads teacher workshops and serves as an advisor for events and exhibitions at the museum. Her work on Twain’s attitudes toward Native Americans has received frequent praise in scholarly gatherings and in the media.

Pritner was the founding artistic director of the Illinois Shakespeare Festival and chaired the department that produced the founders of Chicago’s Tony Award-winning Steppenwolf Theatre Company. He is known for his one-person shows on the controversial defense attorney, Clarence Darrow, and the Protestant Reformation religious leader, Martin Luther. He had a recurring role as a prosecuting attorney on "Chicago Story," was a detective on HBO’s "The Speck Murders" and most recently appeared on film as the governor of Missouri in Robert Altman’s Kansas City.

Though admission is free, seating is limited and audience members must be ticket holders. For tickets, please call the St. Joseph College box office at 860-231-5555.

Interactive CSI Investigates at the Palace

The world’s number one television franchise hits the stage when Mad Science presents CSI: LIVE! comes to the Palace Theater in Waterbury for two performances on Jan. 28, at 9:30 and 11:30 am.

Part of the Palace’s ShopRite Education Series, CSI: LIVE! is an interactive stage show that takes audiences on a journey through the fascinating world of crime scene investigations. When a crime is committed at the Las Vegas premiere of the Max Spade Magic Show, the CSI team springs into action. Sydney Mathis and David Hart play the roles of CSI investigators on the case, assisted by supervisor Gil Grissom through a live video connection from the Las Vegas Crime Lab.

Audience members will jump on stage and become part of the action, becoming witnesses, suspects and CSI recruits. Together they will use their superior logic and forensic know-how to uncover hidden details, investigate the evidence and test their theories. Whether it’s analyzing mysterious gasses, launching projectiles into a target, or firing a laser beam across the stage, the CSI recruits will have to be on their toes to help solve the crime before it’s too late.

Recommended for grades 4-8, CSI: LIVE! highlights curricular integrations in the subjects of physical science, technology, life science and science history.

Tickets for CSI: LIVE! are $10 each, $8 for groups of 10 or more, and on sale now at the Palace Theater Box Office, 100 E. Main St. in Waterbury. Administrators and teachers interested in booking a field trip can call the Group Sales Hotline at 203-346-2002. Individual tickets can be purchased by phone at 203-346-2000, or online at

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Hairspray Tickets Get Cut

Tickets for tonight's 7:30 performance of Hairspray at the Palace Theater in Waterbury are half price.

The special deal started at 10 am this morning (does not apply to previously purchased tickets).

Call the box office at 203-346-2000.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Feature: In the Heights at the Bushnell

Elise Santora, left, and Arielle Jacobs

Washington Heights Meets Hartford
By Lauren Yarger
Washington Heights and some rhythms and beats not typical for a Broadway musical come to Hartford tonight as the tour of the Tony-award-winning musical In the Heights takes the stage at The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, not far from where Lin-Manual Miranda conceived the work when he was a sophomore at Wesleyan University.

The story is familiar: the hopes and dreams of members of a community amidst their struggles to fit in and find a place to call home, but this story is set to the salsa, merengue and hip-hop sounds that flow in the Latino upper Manhattan neighborhood where Miranda grew up. His score and the book by Quiara Alegría Hudes give the members of the first major Latino Broadway tour a sense of pride and belonging, said Elise Santora, who plays Abuela Claudia, the character who is the heart of the show.

“We’re all grateful to be in it,” she said.

Santora joined the tour directly from the Broadway company where she played Abuela and Daniela. (The show continues to play on Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.)
Santora has enjoyed making Abuela “her own” in the tour, which has been playing to standing ovations and enthusiastic responses, especially from younger audience members.

Younger kids are telling her they were “dragged” to the show, Santora said, but ended up thinking it is “cool.” Even those who might be surprised by the different style of music soon find themselves engrossed because the music is so intertwined with the story, which is universal, she said.

Santora and other Spanish speaking members of the cast have been part of special marketing campaigns along the tour route to reach out to Latinos. Here in Hartford, in an effort to help promote and spread the word about the show to the Latino community, the Bushnell has been working with Mega Education (a media-based scholastic incentive system designed to reward student efforts and achievement), Identidad Latina, La Voz Hispana, Telemundo and Univision, according to Amanda Savio Guay, communications manager.

The show also has some other Connecticut roots besides its inception at Wesleyan. In 2005, it was presented at the National Music Theater Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in Waterford, two years before an Off-Broadway incarnation that ran for 200 performances.

After its move to Broadway in 2008, the show won four Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Choreography and Best Orchestrations. Meanwhile, Universal Pictures has announced plans to adapt In The Heights as a feature film. Miranda and Meryl Poster, who executive produced the film Chicago, will produce. Hudes will pen the screenplay.

In The Heights, directed by Thomas Kail, plays at The Bushnell Jan. 5-10. The show features Tony-nominated scenic design (Anna Louizos), costumes (Paul Tazewell), lighting (Howell Binkley), and sound (Acme Sound Partners). For a preview clip, visit

Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm, Sunday at 7:30 pm and Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm. Tickets are $15-$72 and are on sale now by visiting, calling (860) 987-5900, or at The Bushnell Box Office at 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford. Tickets for groups of 20 or more are available by calling (860) 987-5959.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Goodspeed Holds Auditions for Local Actors

Goodspeed Musicals is holding local Equity auditions for its 2010 season, on Saturday, Jan. 30 from 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday, Jan. 31, from noon to 5 pm in East Haddam, CT.

Goodspeed is seeking adult male and female actors for all productions. In addition, girls ages 10-14 and boys ages 8-10 are needed for Annie Get Your Gun. Non-union performers will be seen as appointments permit.

All auditions are by appointment only. Appointments may be made starting Jan. 11. Please call Company Management at (860) 873-8664, ext. 387, Monday through Friday, 10am to 5 pm.

Candidates must be available for four weeks of rehearsal and a 4 to 14-week performance run. Interested performers should bring a resume, photo and sheet music and be prepared to sing two short numbers: an up-tempo song and a ballad. 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.

Next Stage Program Auditions for Happy Prince

Long Wharf Theatre invites local Non-Equity actors ages 18 to 35 to audition for a devised adaptation of The Happy Prince, by Oscar Wilde, to be produced by the Next Stage Program, a program for early career theatre professionals, and directed by the theater's Associate Artistic Director Eric Ting.

Auditions will be held today from 3 to 5pm and from 6 to 8 pm. Auditions will be grouped into 30-minute slots. Prepared monologues are not necessary; auditioners should come prepared for a brief physical theatre workshop. Please bring a calendar of conflicts that may interfere with the rehearsal period. There is no compensation for these roles.

Each actor will play multiple roles and should be able to portray a range of ages and character types. Because this piece will be created collaboratively in the rehearsal room, actors should be comfortable working without a set script and experimenting with such techniques as guided improvisation, physical theatre, and puppetry to tell the story. Physical theatre/clowning experience and/or musical ability are a plus, but not necessary.

The Happy Prince is one of Oscar Wilde’s best-loved fairy tales. It tells the story of a selfless statue and the swallow who helps him ease the sufferings of others. Both the statue and the swallow give of themselves to improve the lives of the poor in this tale about charity, self-sacrifice, and hope, told with Wilde’s trademark grace and wit.

Callbacks will occur but have not yet been scheduled. Rehearsals will take place during late February through the month of March, with four total performances on Wednesday, March 31, and Saturday, April 3; performance times will be announced.

All actors should bring a current resume and headshot. While walk-ins will be accommodated, appointments are strongly recommended and may be made by contacting Jamie Steffen at 203-787-4284 (x300) or If you are not available for the dates above, please contact Jamie Steffen to inquire about alternative arrangements.

Alzheimer's is Focus of Long Wharf Forum

Alzheimer’s Disease and its possible treatments will be the focus of a Global Health & the Arts forum at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven Friday, Jan. 29.

This second annual event will feature a series of panel discussions on Alzheimer’s disease research, culminating in a performance of Lil’s 90th, a poignant and funny late-life love story that intertwines issues related to aging within its narrative.

The forum will begin at 1:30 pm with registration and a coffee bar. At 2 pm guests will be invited to the Mainstage for a program of speakers and panel discussions. From 5:30 to 7 pm dinner and dessert will be served. The performance, on stage II, will begin at 7.

Lil's 90th is set around the milestone birthday of Lil as she and her family put the finishing touches on the much-anticipated party at which she’ll make her singing debut. There’s a speech to be written, a band to rehearse and, of course, an outfit to choose, but when Lil’s husband Charlie’s secret gets out, the birthday surprise that he hoped would make her day may instead tear their lives apart.

David Scheer, president of Scheer & Company, Inc., and a vice-chair of Long Wharf Theatre’s Board of Trustees is organizing the event in conjunction with Dr. Stephen Strittmatter, neurology professor at Yale University.

After the performance there will be an audience talkback moderated by Michael Fuchs, one of the producers of the AIDS documentary “And The Band Played On…” and the former Chairman of HBO. “The human impacts of this disease are devastating, thus, communicating the human issue in an artistic venue can help people understand the gravity of the problem and inspire people to tackle solutions for therapy,” Scheer said. AIDS was last year's forum topic.

Tickets to the event are $150 and include the conference, dinner and the performance. For more information call Eileen Wiseman, director of development, at 772-8237 or visit

Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)
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