Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Writers' Weekend at the Mark Twain House Provides Immersion in the Skills of the Craft

April 20-21 Event at Author's Hartford Home Includes Lewis Lapham, Alfred Uhry, A. R. Gurney, 15 Workshops, Talks, Panels and Discussions
"The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning," Mark Twain wrote in 1888.

Writers in many genres, and all levels of experience, who want to end up on the right side of this distinction can immerse themselves in the craft at The Mark Twain House & Museum Friday evening, April 20, and all day Saturday, April 21, as the museum launches its first Writers' Weekend.
Within a few hundred yards of America's iconic author's beloved home, participants will hear legendary Harper's editor Lewis Lapham keynote the conference and then follow it up the next day with a range of  activities -- from honing a novel they're working on to hearing about the joys and pitfalls of blogging to attending a panel with Alfred Uhry and A.R. Gurney, two distinguished playwrights whose works have influenced millions.

The Friday-Saturday event begins with an April 20 early-evening reception followed by the keynote speech by Lapham, a witty and prolific commentator on wealth and politics and the social scene, who as editor of Harper's and now Lapham's Quarterly has influenced a whole generation of writers and editors.
Fifteen panels, talks and workshop sessions will follow on Saturday, including a kickoff talk by novelist Jon Clinch (Finn, Kings of the Earth) and a panel including playwrights Gurney (The Dining Room) and Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy). A panel of faculty and students in the Writing at the Mark Twain House program, which has offered evening courses in fiction, non-fiction and memoir over the past few years, will discuss the ins and outs of teaching the writer's art.

No fewer than two winners of the Connecticut Book Award Lifetime Achievement Award will be participating in sessions during the Writers' Weekend: Lary Bloom, longtime editor of Northeast magazine, columnist, author of many books (including The Writer Within), and sage teacher of writing at the Mark Twain House and many other places; and Bessy Reyna (Memoirs of the Unfaithful Lover), the beloved Cuban-born poet who has been called "a clear-eyed guide to the world we see but don't see" by Martin Espada.
Among other authors slated to lead 50-minute sessions on Saturday are Susan Campbell (Dating Jesus), Susan Schoenberger (A Watershed Year) Suzanne Levine (The Haberdasher's Daughter), Denis Horgan (Ninety-Eight Point Six) Cindy Brown Austin (By the Waters of Babylon) and Wendy Clinch (The Ski Diva).  There will be sessions on fiction, non-fiction , memoir, poetry, travel writing, blogging, the business of getting published, and new forms of storytelling unleashed by the existence of the Internet.

The event will run from 7 to 9 pm Friday, April 20, and 8 am to 7 pm Saturday, April 21. A box lunch will be provided on Saturday, and the weekend winds up Saturday evening with a closing reception.

The cost of the Writers' Weekend for participants is $100. This includes the Friday night reception and lecture, all Saturday sessions, a box lunch and the Saturday night closing reception. Participants will also receive a voucher good for a tour of the Mark Twain House at any time. Space is limited to 100 participants, so advance registration and payment is a must: Call 860-280-3130 to register. 

The Writers' Weekend builds on the success of Writing at the Mark Twain House, the writing program that bears out The Mark Twain House & Museum's explicitly stated mission, promulgated in 1955, to develop a literary center. The program has offered fall and spring evening courses in memoir, non-fiction, and fiction over the past few years.

Selected students in the Department of English at the University of Connecticut's Greater Hartford Campus will be serving as interns during the Writers' Weekend. The partnership between The Mark Twain House & Museum and UConn has been arranged through the university's Office of Service-Learning.

More details on participants and sessions will be posted on the Mark Twain House & Museum website, www.marktwainhouse,org; the Writing at the Mark Twain House blog,  http://writingatthemarktwainhouse.blogspot.com/; and the museum's Facebook Page, http://www.facebook.com/MarkTwainHouse.

About the Keynote and Kickoff speakers:

Lewis Lapham: In her brilliant first-hand account of life at the lowest rungs of the American social ladder, Nickle and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich describes Lewis Lapham's editorial style. Discussing issues of poverty with Lapham, her editor, she writes, "I said something that I have since had many opportunities to regret. 'Someone ought to do the old-fashioned kind of journalism -- you know, go out and try it for themselves.'" She meant some young, hungry reporter. "But Lapham got this crazy-looking half smile on his face and  ended life as I knew it, for long stretches at least, with the single word 'You.'" Lapham is Editor of Lapham's Quarterly, a distinguished literary journal, and was Editor of Harper's magazine for a total of 27 years. He is the author of numerous books, including Money and Class in America, Theater of War, Gag Rule, and, most recently, Pretensions to Empire. The New York Times has likened him to H. L. Mencken; Vanity Fair has suggested a strong resemblance to Mark Twain; and Tom Wolfe has compared him to Montaigne. A native of San Francisco, Mr. Lapham was educated at Yale and Cambridge.

Jon Clinch:  Jon Clinch's first novel, Finn, was called "a triumph of imagination and graceful writing" by USA Today; his second, Kings of the Earth, is "blunt and brutal yet beautifully told," said Julia Glass. Finn's take on the story of Huckleberry Finn's brutal father brought Clinch in touch with the Mark Twain House just around the time when it needed friends, during a 2008 fiscal crisis. He pitched in, organizing a major event for writers that year, and helped the museum survive and get back on the upswing. Born and raised in the remote heart of upstate New York, Clinch has been an English teacher, a metalworker, a folksinger, an illustrator, a typeface designer, a housepainter, a copywriter, and an advertising executive. He lives in Vermont; his wife, Wendy Clinch, a blogger and author of ski-themed mysteries, is leading a blogging session at the Writers' Weekend.

About Alfred Uhry and A.R. Gurney

Alfred Uhry is the only American playwright to have won a Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award and two Tony Awards. His first play, Driving Miss Daisy, opened in New York in 1987 and won the Pulitzer in 1988; the film version with Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1990 -- as well as the Best Picture Award. It was recently revived on Broadway and the West End with James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave. He is the author of The Last Night of Ballyhoo, which won the 1997 Tony Award for Best Play. His book for the musical Parade won the Tony Award in 1999. Other plays incluide Without Walls, Edgardo Mine and the book for the musical Lovemusik. Most recently he co-created the dance-theater piece Angel Reapers with Martha Clark.

A.R. Gurney is one of the most prolific and most produced playwrights in America. He has written more than 32 plays and three novels over more than 30 years. His breakthrough success came in 1982 with The Dining Room. Love Letters (1989), has enjoyed tremendous popularity for many years with its two-character cast. Gurney adapted his novel, The Snow Ball, for the stage; other novels include The Gospel According to Joe and Entertaining Strangers. In 1999, Gurney wrote the libretto for Strawberry Fields as part of a trilogy presented by the New York City Opera. Gurney is the recipient of many awards, notably a Drama Desk Award in 1971, a Rockefeller Award in 1977 and Lucille Lortel Awards in 1989 and 1994.

The Mark Twain House & Museum (www.marktwainhouse.org) 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 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 and Wednesday through Saturday, 9:30 am to 5:30 pm and Sunday, noon to 5:30 pm. (Closed Tuesdays through March.) For more information, call 860-247-0998 or visit www.marktwainhouse.org

Programs at The Mark Twain House & Museum are made possible in part by support from the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism and the Greater Hartford Arts Council.

Wesleyan Dance Offers Premieres of Artist in Residence Hari Krishnan

Wesleyan University’s Dance Department and Center for the Arts will present the Spring Faculty Dance Concert on Friday, March 2 and Saturday, March 3 at 8 pm in the CFA Theater,located at 271 Washington Terrace on the Wesleyan campus in Middletown.

A multiracial cast of nine male dancers from Dance Department Artist in Residence Hari Krishnan's dance company inDANCE (based in Toronto, Canada) will perform the U.S. premiere of the rambunctiously provocative work "Quicksand" (2011), hailed by Michael Crabb of theToronto Star as "a techno-hip, strutting declaration of freedom from the constraints of tradition and conventional sexuality…Krishnan the maverick gadfly is aggressively iconoclastic." The music for this 40 minute work was composed by Niraj Chag, with visual design by Boyd Bonitzke.

"Quicksand" will be followed by the world premiere of Mr. Krishnan's work "Nine", which depicts Navarasa, the nine archetypal moods popular in South Indian classical dance, taught to dancers from Wesleyan Dance Department's repertory and performance course (see list of dancers below). inDANCE will present the Canadian premiere of "Nine" at Toronto's Fleck Dance Theatre from April 12 through 14, 2012.

As a part of the Spring Faculty Dance Concert in April 2009, Hari Krishnan premiered a solo work entitled "Liquid Shakti", inspired by the myth of the river goddess Ganga, which responds to the depletion of natural resources by aggressive industrialization, and is told from the point of view of some of the most vulnerable populations. "Liquid Shakti" was commissioned by the Center for the Arts as a part of Feet to the Fire, a major undertaking on Wesleyan’s campus to examine critical environmental issues through multiple lenses, from science to art.

Krishnan describes the upcoming performances as "an evening of compelling, sexy, original and complex choreography, music, design and high energy physicality". The Spring Faculty Dance Concert is "a must see for all those interested in dangerous liaisons and delicious diversity," he said.

Ketu Katrak, in her book "Contemporary Indian Dance: New Creative Choreography in India and the Diaspora" (2011), describes Hari's signature style, challenging stereotypes through hybridity: "Krishnan's inDANCE company strives toward radical innovation in the creation of a postmodern dance vocabulary drawn from contemporary bharatanatyam and modern dance. Krishnan's signature style is hybrid in movement, eclectic in music, and creative in use of space and lighting. Although hybridity is a common characteristic of contemporary Indian dance generally, Krishnan's work brings a unique approach and new vigor to this concept. His vision challenges stereotypes of gender, sexuality, and nation, taking contemporary Indian dance in exciting directions."

The members of inDANCE performing the U.S. premiere of "Quicksand" will include Paul Charbonneau, Gerry King, Jelani Ade-Lam, Sze-Yang Ade-Lam, Benjamin Landsberg, Roney Lewis, Hiroshi Miyamoto, Matthew Montgomery and Matthew Owen.

The Wesleyan dancers performing the world premiere of "Nine" will include Abigail Baker '12 and Aditi Shivaramakrishnan '12 (both performances); Arianna Fishman '13, Allison Greenwald '14, Christian Lalonde '13, Francesca Moree '14, Cristina Ortiz '15, Sarah La Rue '12, and Rachel Rosengard '14 (March 2); and graduate students Taylor Burton and Natalie Plaza, Dawanna Butler '15, Arin Dineen '13, Jessica Placzek '12, Claire Feldman-Reich '12, and Tess Scriptunas '14 (March 3).

Admission for the performance is $8 for the general public, and $6 for Wesleyan students. Tickets are available online at http://www.wesleyan.edu/cfa, by phone at (860) 685-3355, or in person at the Wesleyan University Box Office, located in the Usdan University Center, 45 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown. Tickets may also be purchased at the door beginning one hour prior to the performance, subject to availability. The Center for the Arts accepts cash, checks written to “Wesleyan University”, and all major credit cards. Groups of ten or more may receive a discount – please call (860) 685-3355 for details. No refunds, cancellations, or exchanges.
About Hari Krishnan

Hari Krishnan is an internationally respected dancer, choreographer, teacher and dance scholar. He is an award winning dance-maker who combines classical elegance and populist echoes.
Mr. Krishnan has trained with hereditary dance masters including K.P. Kittappa Pillai and R. Muttukkannammal, specializing in devadasi (courtesan) dance and contemporary abstractions of Bharatanatyam. Hari Krishnan is frequently commissioned as a forward thinking, innovative choreographer with an original edge to create works in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Singapore and India.

He holds a Master's degree in Dance from York University (Toronto) and is currently completing his Ph.D. in the dance department at Texas Woman's University. Mr. Krishnan's research areas include colonialism, post-colonialism and Indian dance; globalization and the arts of India; Bharatanatyam in Tamil cinema; and the history of devadasi dance traditions in Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh, South India. He is a regular contributor to academic conferences on cultural history and dance around the world.

About inDANCE

inDANCE is one of Canada's most progressive dance companies, presenting works that are an original synthesis of artistic director Hari Krishnan's South Asian and Western aesthetic sensibilities. While respecting the legacy of tradition, inDANCE boldly investigates post-modern evolutions that place the company on a trajectory of imbibing influences from the West into its strong and confident idiom of contemporary Asian cultures. The company aims to create work that is daring and radical - dancing outside the box. inDANCE produces eclectic, sensual, virtuosic and evocative dance creations that challenge dominant discourses on global culture.

inDANCE's performances of the South Indian dance form known today as Bharatanatyam are unique in the dance world - presenting original repertoire and music rarely seen and heard on the contemporary world stage.  They originate out of a critical awareness of historical context and meaning that are rooted in ethnographic and textual research. In addition to cutting edge contemporary works that break with convention, the company also showcases reconstructions, and re-presentations of vintage (18th and 19th century) dance and music repertoires that are absent from the vocabulary and ethos of today's Bharatanatyam.

For more information about inDANCE, visit http://www.indance.ca.

About the Dance Department

The Dance Department at Wesleyan is a contemporary program with a global perspective. The curriculum, faculty research and pedagogy all center on the relationships between theory and practice, embodied learning, and the potential dance making has to be a catalyst for social change.  Within that rigorous context, students encounter a diversity of approaches to making, practicing and analyzing dance in an intimate learning atmosphere. The program embraces classical forms from Ballet, Bharata Natyam, Javanese, and Ghanaian, to experimental practices that fuse tradition and experimentation into new, contemporary forms. For more information about the Dance Department, visit http://www.wesleyan.edu/dance

“Jake & Elwood” Bring Night of Music and Comedy to Palace Theater

Wayne Catania and Kieron Lafferty as “Jake” and “Elwood” in the Official Blues Brothers Revue. Photo courtesy of the Palace
The Official Blues Brothers Revue bursts onto stage at the Palace Theater inWaterbury, Saturday, March 24, at 8 pm for a one-of-a-kind stage show that faithfully recreates the magic of the infamous Blues Brothers. 

Tickets for the show, which is sponsored by Naugatuck Saving Bank, are $55, $45, or $35 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 inWaterbury.  Groups of 15 or more qualify for discounted rates and should call the Group Sales hotline at 203-346-2011.

Before the show, guests are welcome to attend a 6 pm preshow dinner in the Palace’s Poli Club, located on the mezzanine level of the theater.  The pre-fixed, three-course meal is $40 per member and $50 per non-member, 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.

Currently on a 60-city, coast-to-coast national tour, The Official Blues Brothers Revue is a rollicking show featuring a band of crack blues musicians and singers from the U.S. and Canada with all the soul, skill and playfulness of the original Blues Brothers Band. Veteran blues artists Wayne Catania and Kieron Lafferty star as “Jake” and “Elwood,” the iconic characters originally played by Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi in the 1980 film that made blues fans out of millions of rockers.  The hit movie was a loveable tale of redemption about a pair of overage juvenile delinquents, who set out to save the Catholic orphanage where they grew up from the tax man. Together they start a rhythm and blues band aptly titled, “The Blues Brothers,” and organize a benefit concert to raise $5,000 to pay off the debt. 

Based on the popular film, The Official Blues Brothers Revue is officially sanctioned by Dan Aykroyd and the John Belushi Estate, and revives many of the original band’s staples including “She Caught The Katy,” “Shake A Tail Feather,” “Rubber Biscuit,” “I Can’t Turn You Loose,” and “Soul Man,”along with a host of other tunes from the five popular albums recorded by Belushi and Aykroyd.

This Ugly Duckling Glows

“The Ugly Duckling” at Westport Country Playhouse on March 18. Credit: Corbian/Lightwire Theater
Westport Country Playhouse will combine two timeless tales with modern technology when its Family Festivities series presents glow in the dark puppet versions of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling” and Aesop’s fable, “The Tortoise and the Hare,” on Sunday, March 18 at 1 and 4 pm for ages 6 and up. 
Produced by CORBiAN/Lightwire Theater, the show uses large, three-dimensional puppets brightly lit with electroluminescent wire (EL Wire), choreography and music, ranging from classical to jazz to pop, to literally bring the renowned stories into a new and brilliant light.
One hour before each performance, Kool to be Kind (K2BK) will conduct a kindness and empathy workshop led by high school students and designed for children. K2BK is an empathy-based anti-bullying program in which high school students are trained to lead interactive, experiential lessons for elementary school students on how to stand up to and protest against bullying.
K2BK was created by four Westporters - Cindy Eigen, Lynne Goldstein, Sarah Green and Melissa Shein - and inspired by the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) programs for older children. Workshops begin at 12 noon and 3 p.m. Admission is included in the Family Festivities ticket price.
In Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling,” of the five eggs in Mother Duck's nest, one is the largest and last to hatch. Bigger and paler than the others, this last hatchling is treated as an outsider by Mother Duck and her ducklings. Knowing only rejection, this Ugly Duckling goes out into the wild alone, where he sees a wily cat creeping in the direction of Mother Duck's nest. The Ugly Duckling follows and watches as one lagging duckling is captured and taken back to the cat's lair. Will the Ugly Duckling save the day and be a true hero, or will he remain an outcast? 
Aesop’s fable, “The Tortoise and the Hare,” tells of the Tortoise, ridiculed by the Hare, challenging him to a race. They set off and the Hare takes a commanding lead right away. Thinking he will win easily, the Hare allows himself to be distracted with many modern day activities: texting, video games and the paparazzi. The Tortoise continues to trudge along at his methodical pace. Will the swifter creature win or the one with discipline and fortitude?
The Family Festivities Series, part of “Winter at the Playhouse,” will continue with “Nearly Lear,” on April 1, 1 and 4 p.m. Using exuberant storytelling, music and film, “Nearly Lear” retells Shakespeare’s story of “King Lear” as seen through the eyes of the King’s endearing goofball clown, Norris, who, in good Shakespearean tradition, is actually Noreen disguised as a boy. Mischievous, funny and tender,the production is a vaudevillian take on a classic play that will entrance both lovers of Shakespeare as well as newcomers to the Bard. Recommended for ages 9 and up,“Nearly Lear” is by Susanna Hamnett.
In conjunction with its Family Festivities Series, the Playhouse is hosting a book collection for Read to Grow, Inc. Bins will be located in the Playhouse lobby for audience donations of gently used and new children’s books which will be given to families and programs to promote early literacy and reading development for children in Connecticut.
Family Festivities Sponsors are Meredith and David Bukzin. Family Festivities Corporate Sponsor is First Niagara/Pierson& Smith.
Tickets are $18. Birthday party rental facilities may be scheduled in advance. Everyone in the audience requires a ticket. For more information or tickets, call the box office at 203- 227-4177, or toll-free at 1-888-927-7529, or visit Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, off Route 1, Westport. Tickets are available online 24/7 at www.westportplayhouse.org.

New Canaan Summer Theater Plans Auditions

The Summer Theatre of New Canaan (STONC) a professional regional theatre company is
casting Equity and Non-Equity actors for its summer musicals to be presented in New Canaan at
Waveny Park in their large custom tent theatre. My Fair Lady June 16-July 7 and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat July 14-Aug 5. Also auditioning Non-Equity actors for their Theatre for a Young Audience shows Pinkalicious July 5 - Aug 5 weekends and Wizard of Oz June 17-Aug 5 weekends.

For more information visit www.stonc.org or email casting@stonc.org
STONC also is accepting college internship applications for summer season and enrollment/applications have begun for the high school apprentice theater intensive program June 25-July 20. More information online or email Christian@stonc.org.

Royal Southern Brotherhood Coming to The Kate

Royal Southern Brotherhood is coming to the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook Wednesday, March 7 at 7:30 pm . Tickets are $40 for orchestra Center or front balcony and $30 for orchestra side or rear balcony.
For more informationvisit
www.thekate.org or call 860-510-0473 for tickets.

CT Free Shakespeare Adds Romeo & Juliet Stop

Connecticut Free Shakespeare will perform Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet at the McLevy Green in downtown Bridgeport. 

After a run at the Beardsley Zoo and before the Guilford, CT run – CT Free Shakespeare will perform the play Wednesday, July 25 (open dress rehearsal), Thursday, July 26, Friday, July 27, Saturday, July 28, and Sunday, July 29.

All performances begin at 8 pm.  All performances are free admission. There is ample free parking. More info: www.ctfreeshakespeare.org.

Reduced Shakespeare vs World of Sports

Photo courtesy of the Quick Center
You needn’t be a sports fan or even a Shakespeare fanatic to fully appreciate “The Complete World of Sports (abridged), presented by the Reduced Shakespeare Company at 8 p.m., Friday, March 2, 2012, at Fairfield University’s Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. That’s because the Reduced Shakespeare Company is a brilliantly funny three-man comedy troupe that takes long, serious subjects - all kinds of subjects - and reduces them to short, sharp comedies. Tickets are $35, $30 and $25.

In “The Complete World of Sports (abridged)” the team of Austin Tichenor and Reed Martin, who co-wrote the script, and Matt Rippy reduces every sport ever played on every continent in the entire history of the world! The performance, first unveiled in 2010, is a merciless but affectionate satire of an ESPN-type broadcast in which the actors poke fun at America’s obsession with sports, their celebrities and the pompous talking heads on TV who love the sound of their own voices.

Tickets are available through the Quick Center Box Office: (203) 254-4010, or toll-free 1-877-ARTS-396. (1-877-278-7396). Tickets can also be purchased online at
www.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, Connecticut. Entrance to the Quick Center is through the Barlow Road gate at 200 Barlow Road. Free, secure parking is available. Access for people with disabilities is available throughout the Quick Center for audience members and performers. Hearing amplification devices are available upon request at the Box Office. Fairfield University is located off exit 22 of Interstate-95. For further information and directions, call (203) 254-4010 or 1-877-278-7396, or visit www.quickcenter.com.

Put Patsy on Your Calendar

Always…Patsy Cline
By Ted Swindley
At the Ivoryton Playhouse
Date: March 14 –April 1, 2012
Theatre: Ivoryton Playhouse
103 Main St., Ivoryton
Tickets: 860-767-7318 /on-line at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org
Prices: $40 adults/ $35 seniors/ $20 students/$15 children
Time: Wednesday& Sunday matinees at 2pm; Wednesday &
Thursday & evenings at 7:30pm; Friday & Saturday evenings at 8pm

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Quick Hit Theater Review: The Addams Family -- The Bushnell

Photo courtesy of The Bushnell.
The Addams Family
Music and Lyrics by Andrew Lippa
Book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice
Directed by Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch
Choreography by Sergio Trujillo
Production Supervision by Jerry Zaks

 They're creepy and their kooky, mysterious and spooky. They are The Addams family, icons of 1960s pop culture based on characters created by cartoonist Charles Addams. In this made-for-stage version, daughter Wednesday (Courtney Wolfson, who understudied the role on Broadway) has fallen in love. All she wants is for her family to act normal for one night to meet her intended, Lucas Beineke (Brian Justin Crum) and his parents, Mal and Alice (Martin Vidnovic and Crista Moore). Normal isn't the norm in the Addams family manse, oddly set here in the middle of Central Park. Parents Morticia (Sara Gettelfinger) and Gomez (Douglas Sills) make love while fencing and delighting in various tortures, Uncle Fester (Blake Hammond) lights bulbs in his mouth and is in love with the moon, Grandma (Pippa Peartree) collects odd herbs and potions to cast spells and Wednesday's brother, Pugsley (Patrick D. Kennedy) enjoys blowing things up and being tortured. Oh, and there are all those ghosts of the family's ancestors (the ensemble) floating around trying to help the romance along. Alice and Mal, however, are "normal" being from Ohio, Dinner at the Addams, including their weird, moaning butler, Lurch (Tom Corber), who looks like Frankenstein, isn't exactly normal in their world and trouble ensues.

It's always a pleasure to see Sills (The Scarlet Pimpernel) and hear his lovely voice. He puts his own brand on Gomez -- no easy task when following in the steps of John Astin and Nathan Lane. Well done.

Hammond is a hoot as the zany Fester. Puppetry by Basil Twist (drastically scaled down for the tour) is fun and the lighting design, sets and special effects (Natasha Katz, Crouch and McDermott and Gregory Meeh, design) are very well done.

The ensemble is fine and all of the vocals are strong.

The book, though made more humorous for the tour, is a weak story and includes very few of the things we love about the Addams Family. Thing presents Fester with a musical instrument, but there's no "Thank you, Thing." Lurch answers the door, but there's no "You, rang?" Morticia speaks French just once and we only get a glimpse of Cousin It.  Part of the reason people buy tickets to see this musical is because they liked the TV show and all of these iconic phrases. When the curtain call begins with the legendays da, da,da, dum, da, da, da dum the audience replies on cue with "clap, clap." It could have been so much more fun. There are too many unmemorable songs clogging  up the works. Here, also, a far too robust Gettelfinger is miscast as the creepy Morticia (though the creators dont't give her a whole lot to do except wear a costume designed to keep eyes fixed on her nearly exposed bosom.)

More information:
The show runs at The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford, through Feb. 26. Tickets are $17to $80 and can be purchased by calling 860-987-5900 or by visiting www.bushnell.org. Performances are Tuesday – Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday at 8 pm.,
Saturday at 2 and 8 pm and Sunday at 1 and 6:30 pm.
For more information, visit www.theaddamsfamilymusicaltour.com.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lobo Joins CT Forum Panel on Sports

Legendary UConn Husky Rebecca Lobo will join a high profile panel of sports personalities in Hartford for a live, unscripted conversation about the beauty, corruption and power of the sports world.

The Connecticut Forum’s The World of Sports will take place on Thursday, February 16 at 8 p.m. at The Bushnell.

Panelists include National Championship-winning Head Coach Urban Meyer; Legendary UConn Husky Rebecca Lobo; Popular ESPN TV and Radio Host Colin Cowherd; and William Rhoden, highly respected sports columnist for The New York Times. Linda Cohn, longtime sportscaster and ESPN anchor, will moderate this discussion – a no-holds-barred and timely conversation about the social, institutional and economic power of sports.

Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased online at www.ctforum.org or by calling (860) 509-0909.

For panelist interviews and media coverage at this event, contact Jamie Daniel at (860) 509-0909 ext. 14.

Rebecca Lobo is a legendary University of Connecticut Women’s Basketball player, best known for leading the Huskies to their first National Championship in 1995. Lobo won a gold medal as the youngest member of the U.S. Women’s Olympic Basketball Team in 1996, before embarking on a successful seven-year WNBA career. She currently works as a television analyst, author and motivational speaker.

Urban Meyer, recently named the new Head Coach of THE Ohio State Buckeyes, is best known for coaching the Florida Gators to two BCS National Championship Game victories. He recently served as college football game and studio analyst for ESPN. Named Sporting News and Sports Illustrated “Coach of the Decade” in December of 2009, Meyer was the first coach ever to win two BCS National Championships and he is one of only two coaches in the history of the SEC to win two outright National Titles.

Colin Cowherd is the popular host of The Herd with Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio and SportsNation, a fast-paced, audience-driven sports show on ESPN2. Named Nevada's Sportscaster of the Year five times by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, as well as the 2005 Radio Personality of the Year by Sports Illustrated, Cowherd’s unique brand of acerbic wit and provocative attitude has earned him a dedicated radio and television audience.

Award-winning New York Times columnist William Rhoden is one of the nation’s most respected journalists. During a career that spans more than three decades, Rhoden has been a revered sports columnist, social commentator, author and documentary writer. He has been writing about sports for The New York Times since March 1983, tackling such weighty issues as the roles of race and gender in American sports and corruption in NCAA athletics.

The Connecticut Forum is a non-profit organization that serves Connecticut and beyond with live, unscripted panel discussions among renowned experts and celebrities, and community outreach programs including the Connecticut YOUTH Forum.

Our mission: to encourage the free and active exchange of ideas in Forums that inform, challenge, entertain, inspire and build bridges among all people and organizations in our community. 

Connecticut Arts News for week of Feb. 13 - 19, 2012

Quick Center
One of Russia’s leading classical music ensembles, Chamber Orchestra Kremlin, performs at 8 p.m., Saturday, February 18, 2012, at Fairfield University’s Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. The program includes Joseph Haydn’s “Cello Concerto No. 1 in C Major” (1761-65), featuring Maxim Kozlov on cello, Antonin Dvorak’s “Serenade for Strings, Op. 22” (1875), and several pieces by Eskender Bekmambetov, including the national premiere of “Phantom City” (2006). Tickets are $35. At 10 a.m. on Saturday, February 18, 2012, cellist Maxim Kozlov will give a Master Class on the stage of the Quick Center. Admission is free.

At the Ivoryton Playhouse
Always…Patsy Cline
By Ted Swindley
Date: March 14 –April 1, 2012
Theatre: Ivoryton Playhouse
103 Main Street
Ivoryton, Connecticut

Tickets: 860-767-7318 /on-line at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org. Prices: $40 adults/ $35 seniors/ $20 students/$15 children

Time: Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 pm; Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 7:30; Friday and Saturday evenings at 8.

CT Press Club
Tamar Mays of Harper Collins Children's Division
Marilyn Allen of Allen and O'Shea Literary Agency
Susan Schulman of Susan Schulman Literary Agency
Farley Chase of Chase Literary Agency (formerly at Waxman)
When: Thursday, March 8, 2012 from 6:00 - 8:30.
Where: The Norwalk Inn, 99 East Avenue, Norwalk, CT (I-95 to Exit 16)
Admission: $35.00 (includes dinner)
Reservations recommended, but walk-ins are always welcome. R.s.v.p. at 203-968-8600 or ctpressclub@gmail.com

CT Free Shakespeare
CT Free Shakespeareinvites Equity and Non Equity ADULTS and TEENS to audition for this summers production of Romeo and Juliet. Auditions are Tues. Feb. 21, Wed. Feb. 22 and Thur. Feb. 23 from 11 AM- 5 PM at Bridgeport City Hall Annex- First floor- CT Free Shakespeare Office-999 Broad Street, Bridgeport CT. Rehearsals begin on Tuesday June 26 in Bridgeport CT. All rehearsals are during the day. Romeo and Juliet opens on Friday night July 13 and runs through Sunday, August 5. Prepare a brief monologue from Romeo & Juliet No Appointments necessary. Equity Principals are paid. For information see www.ctfreeshakespeare.orgor email ellen@CTFreeShakespeare.org.

Hartford Symphony Orchestra

with Carolyn Kuan, music director & conductor; Sirena Huang, violin and HSO artist in residence
Thursday March 8, 2012 │ 7:30 p.m. 
Friday, March 9, 2012 │ 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 10, 2012 │ 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, March 11, 2012 │ 3:00 p.m.
Belding Theater │ The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts
Program: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D Major; Modest Mussorgsky: Night on Bald Mountain; Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No. 9, Op. 70
Ticket Information: Tickets range in price from $35.50-$70.50. Student tickets are $10. On Saturday, March 10, $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.

Shakespeare on Sound Will Present Romeo & Juliet

Shakespeare on the Sound will present a newly conceived production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, under the direction of Joanna Settle, this June and July for the company’s 17th season.

Shakespeare on the Sound productions are presented “in the park” in the towns of Greenwich and Rowayton, and admission is free of charge.

This year's production finds us at a dinner, with a Shakespearean twist.  Shakespeare on the Sound Artistic Director Settle explains: “We are conceiving Romeo and Juliet as a dinner party among eight friends who have an annual tradition of reading a Shakespeare play on a gorgeous summer’s night.  Over the course of reading the play, the story will take over and our guests both on-stage and off will find themselves completely consumed over by the momentum and poetry of the events in Shakespeare's classic romance.”

Stew and Heidi Rodewald again return to Shakespeare on the Sound to create all-new music and songs for this production. Lyrics will be provided by both Shakespeare and Stew. In addition, this year’s production will feature two newly commissioned scenes created for the dinner party which Stew will be writing and developing in process with the show’s acting company. Also, in a first for Shakespeare on the Sound, the production will premiere in Greenwich and then make its move to Rowayton, playing two beautiful locations on Long Island Sound:Baldwin Park in Greenwich (June 26 – July 8, 2012) and Pinkney Park in Rowayton (July 18 – July 29, 2012).

Set Design is by Andrew Lieberman, Costume Design is by Tilly Grimes, Lighting Design is by Keith Parham, Sound System Design is by Jessica Paz, Sound Design is by Obadiah Eaves, and Choreography is by David Neumann.

Casting and other news concerning this year’s offering will be forthcoming.

Now in its 17th season, Shakespeare on the Sound has established itself as one of the most popular summer theater companies on the East Coast, drawing large audiences to each performance in the unique under-the-stars settings of its waterfront venues – Pickney Park in Rowayton and Roger Sherman Baldwin Park in Greenwich. 

For more information on Shakespeare on the Sound, visit www.shakespeareonthesound.org.

Mark Twain House Hosts LA Comedy Shorts

For the first time ever, The L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival, the largest comedy film festival in the USA, is offering an encore event at an East Coast venue -- and that venue will be The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Conn., the home of one of America's finest funnymen.

The Festival Encore on Friday, February 24; Saturday, February 25; and Sunday, February 26 will be presented by the Connecticut Film Festival, which since 2005 has been offering edgy and innovative filmmaking in the state, including a major annual festival in Danbury.

The event will include the presentation of a "Commie" award for comedic writing and producing excellence to Mike Reiss,  who has won four Emmys and a Peabody Award during his twenty-one years writing for The Simpsons.
The Mark Twain House & Museum presentation of the L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival will kick off a monthly series of independent films at the museum on the fourth Friday of every month, also presented by the Connecticut Film Festival. The series will include the inaugural Viva Cinema Film Festival in July, an offering of films highlighting Latino arts, ideas and cultures

The L.A. Comedy Shorts East Coast Encore is dedicated to introducing the newest and hottest comedic talent in a non-stop smackdown of more than 80 comedic short films with screenings, industry panels, and lots of filmmaker networking.

When the Best of the 2009 and 2010 L.A. Comedy Shorts were shown locally, they left Connecticut Film Festival audiences in stitches. The directors of L.A. Comedy Shorts and the Connecticut Film Festival decided to head East for an annual encore of the hilarious four-day event.

Participants will join celebrities, comedians, writers and other industry professionals at evening parties; hone their comedy writing chops at workshops and panels; and of course see over 80 comedy short films vetted by some of the funniest people in the industry. Major supporters include Will Ferrell and Judd Apatowís' website, FunnyorDie.com; Cartoon Network; Atom.com and Atom TV on Comedy Central; and Fremantleís Atomic Wedgie

The festival is edgy, provocative, can cause brief moments of hysterical laughter and can at times be downright offensive. Be prepared for those uncomfortable moments when you see your boss exiting the same provocative movie.

L.A. Comedy Shorts East Coast Encore will include receptions, parties, the "Commie" awards presentation, and other day  and evenuing  events on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 

The heart of the festival is the films themselves, shown in 90-minute "blocks" of 8-10 films each: the Opening Night Celebrity Shorts Block; As Seen on TV; Boys, Toys & Goys; Male Pattern Badness (featuring Atom.com); Best Of The 2009 L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival; East Vs West - Show Us Your Best Short; Better Than Birth Control; Shut Your Wormhole; Stone-Cold Busted; Best Of The 2010 L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival; Mo' Money, Mo' Ninjas; Fish & Chicks; Liars and Tigers and Bears; and Best Of The 2011 L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival. Panels include Paper to Pitch to Gettiní Rich; Let's Get Digital, Digital; Famous People Talking about S&*%;  and If You Want Something Done 'Write.'

For a full schedule and to purchase tickets, go to www.ctfilmfest.com.

Admission to individual screenings and workshops is $9 for adults and $7 for seniors and students. An All Access Pass, which gets you into all screenings, workshops, receptions Friday through Sunday, is $125. A VIP All Access Pass is $175.00.
A Day Pass for Friday or Saturday -- which includes all screenings, workshops and that evening's reception -- is $45. A Sunday Day Pass is $35.

An Evening Film & Party Pass is $25. It's is good Friday and Saturday nights and includes screening and pre- and post-film receptions catered by Executive Chef Michael Bick's Some Things Fishy Catering. Connecticut's very own independent brewery, Thomas Hooker, will provide the finest brews around. There will also be a fine selection of Cabernet, Merlot and Zinfandel and non-alcoholic beverages provided by Pink Monkey Water.

Seating for this weekend event is extremely limited and it is recommended that attendees purchase their tickets and passes ahead of time.

All special passes and tickets can be purchased online by visiting www.ctfilmfest.com and clicking on the "L.A. Comedy Shorts East Coast Encore" link. Tickets and passes will be available the week of the festival at The Mark Twain House & Museum box office.

Because of the adult nature of much of the material, the event is PG-13/R-Rated.

Movie snacks will be available in the Mark Twain Museum Store.

Along with his four Emmys and Peabody, Mike Reiss received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 from the Animation Writers Caucus.  He co-created the animated series The Critic and created Showtime's hit cartoon Queer Duck, named one of the 100 Greatest Cartoons of All Time by the BBC.  Queer Duck: the Movie was released in  2006, winning awards in New York, Chicago, San Diego, Sweden, Germany and Wales. My Life in Ruins, a film inspired by his travels to 71 countries, was released in 2009.  Reiss also co-wrote The Simpsons Movie and Ice Age 3.

The L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival, (www.lacomedyshorts.com), founded by Boston Legal's Gary Williams, is dedicated to introducing the newest and hottest comedic talent to the industry, and helping them make the connections they need to take their careers to the next level.
The Connecticut Film Festival, (www.ctfilmfest.com), an annual state-wide event screening national and international films in cities and towns throughout Connecticut, was founded in 2005 . Each year the festival produces and a monthly film series, 5-6 weekend festivals and a culminating 10-and-night film, digital media, emerging music and screenwriting festival and conference.

The Mark Twain House & Museum (www.marktwainhouse,org) 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 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 and Wednesday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and Sunday, noon-5:30 p.m. (Closed Tuesdays through March.) For more information, call 860-247-0998 or visit www.marktwainhouse.org.

Programs at The Mark Twain House & Museum are made possible in part by support from the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism and the Greater Hartford Arts Council.

New England Children's Writers, Illustrators Group Hosts All-Day Revision Workshop in Westport

The Southern Region of New England Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustraors is hosting an all -ay revision workshop featuring former editors Eileen Robinson and Harold Underdown at Write Yourself Free, 252 Post Road East, Westport, on Sunday, March 4, from 9:30 am to 5:30pm.

Workshop Details: Learn how to revise like an editor by working with two experienced editors, who have distilled the methods they've used in editing manuscripts with individual clients and in the online Kid's Book Revisions class.

To create a framework, they'll compare reader response theory and the lit. crit approach, and explore ways to gain objectivity and to focus on different aspects of manuscripts. You will learn and try out a variety of techniques for self-editing, from big picture revision down to copy-editing, working on your own or with a partner. You will also work together in a model critique group, critiquing one another's manuscripts, and learning how to manage the group dynamics to make the process more productive.

In the afternoon, you can put theory to work and both revise and plan further revisions to your manuscript while meeting with Eileen or Harold individually and, getting feedback in ad-hoc critique sessions, or digging in on your own.

This workshop is appropriate for all Children's Book writers, picture book through YA.

Registration: The event is $125. To register, send an email to Stacy Mozer at necritiquegroups@gmail.com
 with your name and phone number. Attach a document (formatted in .doc) with a synopsis and the first 15 pages of your manuscript. Once Stacy has confirmed receipt of your manuscript, she will send you the address to send your registration fee. This event is limited to the first 20 responders who correctly attach their manuscript.

Underdown is a freelance editorial consultant. He has worked at Macmillan, Orchard, and Charlesbridge, and has experience in trade and educational publishing. He enjoys teaching, and in that role wrote The Complete Idiot's Guide to Children's Book Publishing, now in its third edition. He founded and runs "The Purple Crayon," a respected web site with information about the children's publishing world at www.underdown.org. He speaks and gives workshops at conferences, including the Highlights Foundation's Chautauqua Retreat and SCBWI's national and regional conferences.

He runs the Kids Book Revisions online tutorial and workshop service with Robinson. Last year, they gave workshops at the Highlights Foundation and the LA SCBWI National conference.

A former executive editor at Scholastic, Robinson works with both published and unpublished authors and helps them to strengthen their writing, look at their work from a marketing perspective and learn the part of the business that isn?t writing so they have a better chance of getting published. She began F1rstPages.com in 2005 and joined up with Harold Underdown, author of the Idiot?s Guide to Publishing Children?s Books and owner of the Purple Crayon web site, in 2007 to create KidsBookRevisions.com and recently launched Move Books in the Fall of 2011.   

News from Long Wharf Theatre

Studio School Announces Spring Slate of Classes for Performers of All Ages
Classes begin on Sunday, March 19 and range in cost from $195 to $250.
The first class of the Studio School session allows high school students to learn how to engage William Shakespeare’s comedies in a kinetic manner that will make the text come alive. “Taking our Shakespeare Moves! class will be tremendously helpful to those interested in auditioning for Shake-It-Up Shakespeare’s teen production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream this coming summer,” said Director of Education Annie DiMartino. “The three parts of Shake-It-Up Shakespeare are the language, the music and heartbeat of the characters, and the physicality that allows that language and heartbeat to really come alive.”
Off the Cuff Improvisation, targeted for middle school students, allows kids to learn one of the fundamental precepts of good acting – listening and reacting truthfully under the given circumstances of a scene. “Learning to improvise allows actors to learn problem solving quickly and how to stay in touch with the story without having a full sense of where it all might go,” DiMartino said.
Finally, adults will have the chance to delve deeper into scene work and monologues, increasing their depth and range as an actors.
For more information, or to join a class contact Corey Morrison in the Education Department at 203-772-8262.
Spring Studio School Classes
Shakespeare Moves!
GRADE: High School
Mondays at 5:30pm-7:00pm
March 19 – April 16
COST: $195
Explore the fun and excitement of Shakespeare’s Comedies! Using a physical and active approach to text analysis and character exploration, we will make Shakespeare’s language both clear and entertaining. Focus will be given to comedic monologues as well as voice and body work. Shakespeare Moves! is a great opportunity for those interested in the Long Wharf’s Shake-It-Up Shakespeare to become comfortable with the Bard’s comedies in preparation for Midsummer Night’s Dream auditions!
Off the Cuff Improvisation
GRADE: Middle School
Saturdays at 12:30pm-2:00pm
March 24-April 21
COST: $195
Learn to listen, react and respond "off the cuff" using high energy, physical comedy and the simple art of telling a story. Through ensemble games in focus, listening, and problem solving will strengthen your student's ability to think creatively while building confidence.

Acting for Adults Level II
Saturdays at 10:00am-12:00pm
March 24-April 21
COST: $250
Take your craft to the next level in this advanced scene study acting class. Using the Meisner Technique participants will explore contemporary scenes and monologues. Learn to live truthfully in the moment of the scene by working spontaneously from your partners’ behavior as the catalyst into an honest response. Some acting experience is required.

Next Stage Productions for Yojng Audiences:
Long Wharf Theatre will present the family comedy The Mischief Makers, by Lowell Swortzell, directed by Kristianna Smith, as its annual Next Stage production for young audiences, slated for late March.

Performances for the general public will take place Saturday March 24th at 10:30am and 2pm, Sunday March 25th at 2pm, Saturday March 31st at 2pm. School performances will take place March 27th – Friday March 30th with performances at 9:30am and 11:30am. Admission is free for school performances and a suggested donation of $5 for the public performances. The play is suitable for first through eighth graders.

The cast is comprised of Jenn Mello (New York City), Kenneth Murray (West Haven), Tim Stabers (Norwalk), and Aleta Staton (New Haven). In addition to Smith, a Bristol native, the creative team is comprised of Marissa Friedman (Assistant Director/Dramaturg, New Haven), Luke Reinwald (Set Design, Branford), Jason Pratt (Lighting Design, Atkinson, NH), Abbey Steere (Costume Design, Manchester, NH), Darlene Richardson (Sound Design, Baltimore, MD), Craig Harlow (Props, East Haven). The stage manager is Maria DiFabbio of Guilford. The technical director is Gordon Granger of Mamaroneck, NY.

Stuck forever together on their totem pole in a beautiful part of the woods, Anansi the Spider, Reynard the Fox, and the Raven can’t decide who among them is the most clever – in short, the trickiest of them all. With tricksters’ pride, the trio argues, reenacting their most fanciful and amazing exploits, learning in the meantime that laughter can indeed change the world. African, Native American and European folklore comes together to create a fun and fantastical evening of theatre for the whole family. “Kids will enjoy the elements of surprise. Just when they think they know what’s coming, when they think they know the characters, some different and exciting thing happens. The characters are larger than life,” said Director of Education Annie DiMartino.

Smith sees storytelling – a fundamental theme of this play – as a universal human activity, crossing all ethnic boundaries. “Telling stories is something that connects all of us. I hope that this play will show children the magic and the importance of passing down certain tales from generation to generation,” she said.

In addition, in an effort to improve accessibility, Long Wharf Theatre will be offering sign-language performance of this production on Saturday March 31st at 2pm.

The Next Stage program is a program for early career theatre professionals. 

For more information about Long Wharf Theatre’s Education Department, visit www.longwharf.org or 203-787-4282.
Also in the news:
'I Am' project

Long Wharf Theatre’s Education Department is calling for submissions of student self portraits to be displayed in our Mainstage Lobby during the run of My Name is Asher Lev.  The guidelines for artwork are as follows: 
  • Students, age kindergarten to 12th grade are eligible to submit.
  • Students can choose any medium they like to create a self portrait that best captures one of the following:  Who they are now; who the world says they are supposed to be; what they secretly aspire to be; a triptych of their personal, public and dream self; a combination of any of the aforementioned.
  • Art Work needs to have the words “I am” at the top of the page and their name clearly visible at the bottom.
  • Portraits should be no larger than 11 x 17, and no smaller than 8 x 10. 
  • Submission deadline is April 30th, 2012 at 3:00PM
  • Submissions can be mailed or delivered to Long Wharf Theatre, Attention Annie DiMartino, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven, CT 06511
All questions should be emailed to Director of Education, Annie DiMartino at annie.dimartino@longwharf.org.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Theater Review: Good Goods -- Yale Rep

Angela Lewis and Clifton Duncan
© Joan Marcus, 2012
Play Possessed by Too Many Ideas Not Exorcised, Realized
By Lauren Yarger
"What was that about?" seemed to be the main question theatergoers were asking after experiencing Christina Anderson's play Good Goods receiving its world premiere at Yale Repertory, Well, it's about a family dry goods store, a mysterious factory town, finding love, finding sexual identity, and oh, yeah, possession and excorcism. It's almost enough to make your head spin (pun intended).

Anderson starts off with an intriguing premise: Comedy entertainer Stacey Good (Clifton Duncan) returns to his roots in "a small town/village that doesn't appear on any map" to run the dry goods store "Good Goods" left to him by his father. Attached to the store, through a legal clause in the documents tranferring the property, is Truth (Marc Damon Johnson) who has worked there since he was a young boy. Stacey reconnects with Wire (Kyle Beltran), the twin brother of his comedy partner and romantic interest, Patricia (De'Adre Aziza), with whom he has been performing for 10 years. Truth, who feels cheated out of the store, isn't happy about the turn of events until Patricia shows up bringing along Sunny (Angela Lewis),  a vivacious young traveler she met on the bus. For Truth it is love at first sight and he asks Patricia for her help in wooing the young girl.

Romantic pursuits and a birthday party planned for the twins are put on hold, however, when a tragedy occurs at the pencil factory, which looms over the town since an unanamed "invasion" took place. (James Schuettte meticulously designs the dry goods store topped by a pair of smoke stacks representing the factory).The death of a factory worker, one of the mysterious Evans clan which lives on the other side of tracks and strikes terror in the hearts of residents, sets into motion unexpected events.

Those happenings, including a possession of Sunny's soul by the dead pencil factory worker, constitute one of the biggest implosions of a play during the second act ever witnessed on stage. While Lewis is stunning in her head-spinning switches between joy-bursting Sunny and foul-mouthed factory worker, the story loses credibility and even a director with as much talent as Tina Landau, can't provide the holy water needed to rid it of its demons. (We wonder how Landau didn't suggest, upon reading the script, that it is in some serious needs of development before a stage version will work).

The possession storyline seems more "Saturday Night Live" meets "The Exorcist" than serious drama. After restraining a screaming, violent Sunny, characters sit around catching up,  having petty arguments and trying to figure out how hey will pay for an excorcist.

They hire Waymon (Oberon K.A. Adjepong), but you have to wonder if he is the best choice -- he tells the possessed creature to "shh" and is himself housing the spirit of Evans' ancestor Hunter Priestess. Highlights here are the lighting and sound effects designed by Scott Zielinski and Junghoon Pi.

Meanwhile, both Patricia and Stacey discover they are gay and hook up with Sunny and Wire. Heads definitely were spinning during this disjointed second act which seemed to have very little connection with the first. A quick read of the program, which features an interview between Landau and Anderson, might provide some incite into what the playwright hoped to accomplish. Apparently Anderson's inspiration for the play came while she was a student at Yale when she read reports of a real-life possession. She also wanted to incorporate some feelings about musicians, explore "queer relationships" and present the Black American culture through time.

Let's just say that Anderson might have understood all of that, but none of it translates on the stage. The time, for example, during which the play is set, is listed in the program as "1961 and 1994. And everything in between. Time is layered, stacked, mixed, and matched." Never once do we feel we are in 1961 (a date significant because the song Wang Dand Doodle came out that year?), however, or in 1994  (the date of the real-life possession). Costumes (Toni-Leslie James, design) are generic (and many of the cast end up changing into a simple white collared shirt borrowed from Stacey's collection of them under his bed...). We also don't feel that time is anything but linear or that we are exploring any of the broader themes mentioned. In this case, time and meaning are in a quark known only in the playwright's mind.

Good Goods runs through Feb. 25 at Yale Rep, 1120 Chapel St., New Haven. Tickets are $20 to $88 available in person, by calling 203-432-1234 or by visiting www.yalerep.org.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Quick Hit Theater Review: Macbeth 1969 -- Long Wharf

Jackie Chung, Barret O'Brien, McKinley Belcher III, Socorro Santiago and Shirine Babb. Photo: Joan Marcus
Macbeth 1969
World Premiere of Eric Ting's adaptation of the Skakespeare Classic
Directed by Eric Ting
Long Wharf Theatre

It's Christmas time, 1969 in a small town in middle America, where soldiers returning from the Viet Nam war deal with post-traumatic stress and are tended to by three nurses. The play is arranged into 13 scenes, all played out in a hospital room with three beds (Mimi Lien, set design) in front of a nurse's station that doubles as a place where memories haunt (made possible by excellent sound and music design by Ryan Rumery and lighting design by Tyler Micoleau. Macbeth (McKinley Belcher III), an injured soldier, soon finds himself involved in a plot to kill Duncan (George Kulp), a politician and hero from an earlier war. Urging him on is his wife (Shrine Babb). More murders follow, including draft dodger Macduff (Barret O'Brien) and his pregnant wife (Jackie Chung) and the blood on their hands (lots of it) throws Macbeth and his wife into madness and downfall. Other main characters include the head nurse (and fellow witch with the other two actresses) played by Socorro Santiago and Banquo, also played by O'Brien.

The idea is good -- one of the few modernizations of a Shakespeare Play where the setting doesn't seem contrived. The flashback scenes are nicely staged and a hospital curtain used to section off part of the stage is very clever. A scene where the three nurses, who also play wives/witches, recite the "double, double toil and trouble" lines is enhanced by electronic verb. Ting's subtle touches, like McDuff's wife not being able to get him on the phone, make us smile. A scene where Macbeth and his wife have sex in the hospital bed gives new insight to a old passage of dialogue.

If you aren't familiar with the story of Macbeth, you might have trouble following this tale, particularly with actors assuming various roles without and real costume changes (Toni-Leslie James, design). It isn't very clear why Lady Macbeth suddenly feels guilty, for example, and for some, it wasn't clear that she was Lady Macbeth at that point.... The program includes a synopsis with a scene breakdown (usually this is a clue that you are going to have trouble following along).

A number of people were catching a few Zzzs the night I attended -- until the hospital fire alarm sounded when Duncan's corpse was found -- and I have to admit that I found it quite amusing to watch them lurch to a fully awake state. There's a whole lot of blood and we have to wonder why these hospital workers never use plastic gloves before sticking their hands in it (one problem with updating a classic to modern times is that current thought encroaches stealthily, sort of like Birnam Wood). One nurse mopped up some of the blood on the floor, but left an alarming amount on one section of the stage bringing to mind "out, out damn spot" long before she uttered the line.

Other information:
The show runs through Feb. 12 at Long Wharf Theatre's Stage I, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven.
Tickets are $40 to $70 and can be purchased by calling 203-787-4282 or by visiting www.longwharf.org.

See a video of the production by Jacob Bricca here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjKSoepxynk.

Quick Hit Theater Review: Almost Maine -- Music Theatre of Connecticut

Clockwise from upper left: Cynthia Hannah, Tim Reilly, Katie Sparer and Jim Schilling . Photo: Regina Madwed/Capitol Photointeractive
Almost Maine
By John Cariani
Directed by Kevin Connors
Music Theatre of Connecticut, Westport

Eight short plays with a prologue and epilogue depict folks falling in and out of love in a town called Almost, ME. The action takes place on a Friday evening in front of a rustic cabin-like backdrop (Scott Holdredge, design) when there is a chance of seeing the Nrothern Lights (similated by designer Joshua Scherr). The plays, featuring different characters played by Cynthia Hannah, Tim Reilly, Jim Schilling and Katie Sparer, are separate from each other, but contain some mentions of common people or places to tie them together.

The actors seem to be having fun and deserve awards for fast their lightning-quick costume changes (Diane Vanderkroef, design) that keep the pace between the plays brisk. Reilly shows off some impressive facial-expression skills and Sparer delights with a wide range of characters. The publicity materials suggest this is perfect for Valentine's Day and we agree. A fun date night of escapism.

Cariani's predictable script, which takes a few too many liberties with reality and has you saying, "What the heck?" just a few too many times, was a big hit when it premiered in Portland. ME, but flopped Off-Broadway. That sort of says it all.

More information:
The show runs through Feb. 19. Performances: Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4 and 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm at MTC's studio theater. 246 Post Road East (Lower Level) in Westport.  Tickets range from $25 to $45 with a discount for seniors and students. Call 203-454-3883 or visit http://www.musictheatreofct.com.

MTC's final production of its 25th anniversary season will by I Left My Heart. . . A Salute to the Music of Tony Bennett April 20-May 6.
--Lauren Yarger

Friday, February 3, 2012

Shakespeare on the Sound Gets New Executive Director

Shakespeare on the Sound annuncd that Steven Yuhasz has joined the organization as its new executive director.  Yuhasz replaces Emily Bryan, who is now the organization’s director of education.  This is the first Executive Director in the organization’s 17 year history.
Yuhasz has worked extensively in both the non-profit and commercial theatre.  He has produced Streakin’ and Pterodactyl Island (Off Broadway) and The Visit, The Normal Heart, and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas for The Actor’s Fund of America.  He is a founding producer of the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF) and has acted as associate general manager for Papermill Playhouse.  He has directed Off Broadway, and worked at numerous regional theatres around the country including Goodspeed, Ogunquit Playhouse, and The McCarter Theatre.

Now in its seventeenth season, Shakespeare on the Sound presents summer theater at its waterfront venues – Pickney Park in Rowayton and Roger Sherman Baldwin Park in Greenwich. 

For more information on Shakespeare on the Sound, visit www.shakespeareonthesound.org.

Theater Review: The Sty of the Blind Pig -- TheaterWorks

Eden Marryshow, Krystel Lucas
and Brenda Thomas. Photo: Lanny Nagler
TheaterWorks Revives Rarely Seen Slice-of-Life Play
By Lauren Yarger
A mother and daughter struggle with transitions in their life and with living with each other in Philip Hayes Dean’s play The Sty of the Blind Pig, getting a rare run on stage at TheaterWorks, Hartford.

Set on the brink of the civil rights movement on the south side of Chicago, Sty won the Drama Desk and numerous other awards in 1971, bthen slipped somewhat into oblivion. Director Tazewell Thompson shakes out the dust with a strong ensemble cast. The play is at times a study of human relationships and at others a playwright’s exercise in cramming tons of exposition in dialogue, but overall, it’s a slice-of-life piece without much plot, but which nevertheless, makes us feel as though we have experienced something profound.

Characters develop and thanks to humor- infused and argument-driven dialogue, we discover a long-standing conflict between churchgoing matriarch Weedy (Brenda Thomas) and stifled Alberta (Krystel Lucas), the daughter she seems to enjoy belittling. Weedy’s brother, Doc (a terrific Jonathan Earl Peck), a gambler who is down on his luck after having enjoyed better days as a bigwig in Memphis, visits their apartment in search of money and whiskey. There, his easy-going personality is put to the test when he finds himself serving as referee in conflicts between the women, or deflecting  criticism from Weedy, who apparently is oblivious to the hurt her comments cause. Similar tirades apparently drove her husband away years ago and threaten her relationship with her daughter.

Alberta, who has a gift for delivering spirited eulogies, hasn’t been feeling well since the funeral of a friend – a man she admired from afar. This loss, combined with the steady diet of guilt trips and put downs from her mother drive her toward a spiritual and mental breaking point when an itinerant, blind musician enters her life.  Jordan (Eden Marryshow) offers songs and guitar music (performed by Sound Designer J. Hagenbuckle) in exchange for a meal as he goes door-to-door in the neighborhood of condemned buildings searching for a woman from his past. Alberta offers food, assistance in the search and then, much more.
Bible-thumping Weedy doesn’t trust Jordan, the product of a blind pig – a sort of lower-class house of ill repute where booze, drugs and prostitutes abound – and disapproves when he becomes romantically involved with Alberta.

While the situations are interesting to explore, there are too many questions unanswered. What's behind Alberta's illness? Who is the woman from Jordan’s past? Why does everyone choose stay in such a stifling situation? In addition, too much exposition and two lengthy intermissions interrupt the three-act play and confuse a sense of time frame (run time is two hours and 30 minutes).  Long stretches of watching a character unpack groceries, for example, or listening to dialogue yelled at characters who have moved off stage to an unseen room in the apartment (Donald Eastman designs the set) also detract from the drama.
Sty of the Blind Pig runs through Feb. 26 at TheaterWorks, City Arts on Pearl, 233 Pearl St., Hartford. For tickets call 860-527-7838 or visit www.theaterworkshartford.org.

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