Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Theater Review: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum -- CT Repertory

Steven Hayes (Pseudolus, Center) with Bradford Scobie (Hysterium, laying down) and Colby Lewis (Miles Gloriosus). Photo: Gerry Goodstein.
A Funny Thing Happens: Good Performances Make a Tired Show Worth Watching
By Lauren Yarger
With its sexist plot, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is one of those shows that probably was a riot in 1962, but seems like something is lacking when presented a half century later – until the CT Repertory version running as part of the Nutmeg Summer Series. This one, thanks to some solid performances, is funny again.

Director Vincent J. Cardinal taps Steven Hayes (last year’s Modern Major General The Pirates of Penzance and the barber in Man of La Mancha at CRT) as Pseudolus, a Roman slave who tries to win his freedom by helping his young master, Hero (Adam Maggio), win the love of Philia (Amandina Altomare), a beautiful courtesan from the house of Lycus (Tim Murray), next door. That love is forbidden by Hero’s mother, Domina (Ariana Shore), and his father, Senex (Dirk Lumbard), when his domineering wife allows him to get a word in edgewise, that is.

Sounding like a mix of Zero Mostel (who originated the role of Pseudolus on Broadway) and the animated character Snagglepuss, Hayes leads the cast through mistaken identity, farcical slamming doors and the Stephen Sondheim score which gave us the classic “A Comedy Tonight,” which arguably, is the only memorable tune (lyrics and book are by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart). He enlists the aid of head slave Hysterium (an over-the-top, guffaw-inducing Bradford Scobie) in his scheme.

Hero promises to free Pseudolus if he can get Philia for him, so the slave tells Lycus that Philia has the plague. He offers to keep her next door so she doesn’t infect the other women in the house of ill repute: Vibrata (Briana Maia), Panacea (Annie Wallace), Tintinabua (Madelyn Shaffer), twins Geninae 1 and 2 (Claire and Alanna Saunders) and Gymnasia (played by male James Jelkin – are there no jacked women actresses?).

When Senex returns unexpectedly, however, Philia mistakes him for her new owner, Captain Miles Gloriosus (Colby Lewis), who paid Lycus good money for a virgin bride. She is willing to honor the contract and offers to give him her body, if not her heart, which belongs to Hero. Added to this is the story of another neighbor, Erronius (Brandon Beaver), who returns home after years of searching for his two babies stolen by pirates. Meanwhile, Domina also shows up unexpectedly, in disguise, to spy on her husband, whom she suspects of infidelity. The looks she gives are priceless.

The four Equity performers (Hayes, Lumbard, Shore and Scobie) anchor the performance and display good comic chops all around, adding a much needed boost to the show, which on its own, isn’t funny in 2013 when women’s rights and sex trafficking aren’t things to be laughed at (book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart).

A tip of the hate also goes to Costume Designer Lisa Loen who dresses the courtesans in appropriate, but not too revealing, get ups. Some productions add to the sexism by dressing the actresses in next to nothing in modern day selling of women’s bodies to increase ticket sales). Also shining here is third-year graduate actor Lewis, whose use of facial expression and intonation create a memorably pompous, egotistical and humorous Gloriosus.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum plays through June 30 in the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre, on the UConn Storrs Campus: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 pm; Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm; Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm. Tickets $10-$45: (860) 486-2113; www.crt.uconn.edu.

Get Hints for Household Problems from Heloise

Dog smell on the sofa? Dusty plasma screen on the smart phone? A strange growing blemish on the taffeta? (And what exactly is taffeta, anyway?)

Send in your questions, and Heloise, the maven of household hints, might be able to answer them when she appears at The Mark Twain House & Museum this Thursday, June 27.

Tickets are still available for "Hints from Heloise," presented by The Friends of The Mark Twain House & Museum. The event begins at 7 pm and will conclude with a dessert reception, book sale, and booksigning. Tickets are $40 for the general public and $35 for Mark Twain House & Museum members. Call 860-280-3130.

Following in the footsteps of her mother, the original "Hints" provider, Heloise has dished out sage advice ranging from how to remove stains to how to jump out of planes.  Her books include "Household Hints for Singles," "Heloise from A to Z" and "In the Kitchen with Heloise." Her new book, "Handy Household Hints from Heloise," will be released in trade paperback on Aug. 31.
Heloise will be introduced by Brini Maxwell, whose show on the Style Network makes kitsch feel classy through her personal flair for home design and entertaining.

Theater Review: Stuck Elevator -- New Haven Festival of Arts & Ideas

Photo: Kevin Berne
The American Dream, Immigration Woes, Super Heroes Converge in a Stuck Elevator
By Lauren Yarger
How many people can you fit comfortably in one elevator? If you have great musical and storytelling ability, like composer Byron Au Yong and librettist Aaron Jafferis, creators of Stuck Elevator, playing at Long Wharf Theatre as part of the New Haven Festival of Arts and Ideas, the answer is quite a few.

They tell the story (based on a true one) of Guang (Julius Ahn), an illegal immigrant who gets stuck in a Bronx elevator for 81 hours while making deliveries for the Happy Dragon Chinese Restaurant. 

Something goes wrong after Guang pushes the button in the elevator (designed by Daniel Ostling in open-frame fashion) on Friday at 6:55 pm. A series of noises and flashing lights leave the elevator disabled and Guang, too afraid to use the emergency call button which will summon police who might question his documentation, waits patiently for a repairman to come and let him go (sound and design by Mikhail Fiksel; Ted Boyce-Smith is credited as associate lighting designer). No one realizes he’s in the elevator, however, and he remains trapped until early Tuesday morning.

As minutes turn to hours, Guang finds ways to occupy the time and divert his thoughts from the fact that he only has a few packets of soy, duck and sweet-and-sour sauce and a fortune cookie to eat and that there is nowhere to relieve himself. The fortune’s cookie’s message comes true: “You will soon be aware of your growing awareness.”

He thinks about his wife, Ming (Marie-France Arcilla), and son (Raymond Lee) back home in China. It has been two years since he left them in search of a better life in America with his nephew (also Lee), hidden in a container aboard a ship. He still owes $80,000 to the criminal who smuggled them in, and every hour away from his takeout deliveries means money lost in tips. It also means lost revenue for the restaurant, and the Boss’s wife (played by male Francis Jue) can be less than sympathetic. She once required him to pay back $200 taken when he was mugged at knifepoint.

As hours turn to days, Guang keeps telling himself things could be worse. He remembers his loved ones and incidents from his life. He is “visited” by these folks, along with co-worker and fellow illegal immigrant Marco (Joel Perez), to whom Guang now regrets selling the cell phone which might have allowed him to call for help. His thoughts sustain him, but also reveal how he is consumed by the need for money to pay off his debts and an overwhelming sense that he is letting everyone down and losing face.

The story is compelling and richly directed by Chay Yew. Yong’s hybrid score is entertaining and melodic, sung by exceptional voices. Korean-American tenor Ahn reprises this role from Stuck Elevator’s world premiere at American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco (a workshop version was performed at Festival 2010 as part of the Yale Institute for Music Theatre). Music described as “comic-rap-scrap metal” might cause doubt, but opera and rap seem as natural here as soy sauce with fried rice.

New Haven native Jafferis’ book is seasoned with humor. At one point, as Guang begins to hallucinate, he imagines a contest between super-hero “Takeout Man” and “Otis, the Elevator,” a robotic, elevator monster (creatively costumed by designer Myung Hew Cho). There are some moments of confusion, however – why did Guang get into the elevator to make a takeout delivery without any food, for example, and at one point, from the action, I thought he already had been freed from the elevator only to discover that he was still in there.

The show also could use some trimming (it seemed a little long even at just 80 minutes with no intermission), but when we realize that for every minute on stage, the real takeout delivery man spent an hour trapped in that elevator, this is a minor complaint. This unique and absorbing presentation stays with you after you leave the theater. It will remind you to be grateful for the freedoms we have in this country the next time you call for Chinese takeout.

Stuck Elevator runs at Long Wharf Theatre Stage II, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven through June 29. Performances: 8 pm on June 25, 27, 28; 2pm and 8 pm on June 26, 29.. Tickets $35-$55: (203) 787-4282; http://artidea.org/.

Un-Stuck Theater
with Aaron Jafferis
Thursday, June 27
10 am
Southern Connecticut State University
Lyman Center Mainstage Auditorium
501 Crescent St.

Theatre of the Oppressed is an interactive, physical and playful tool developed by Brazilian theatre maker Augusto Boal to un-stick ourselves from situations in which we are stuck. Inspired by themes from the musical Stuck Elevator, participants will use Boal-inspired games and exercises to chew on immigration, labor, Orange Beef, and other pressing issues.

Casting Set for O'Neill's Playwrights Conference

The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center has announced full casting for the 2013 National Playwrights Conference July 3 -27.

Featured actors include Tony Award winner and television star Frank Wood; Johanna Day, who earned a Tony Award nomination in David Auburn's Proof; and American Theatre Hall of Fame member and multiple Tony Award nominee Brian Murray.

Conference selections include:

The Solid Sand Below by Martín Zimmerman, public staged readings July 3 and 4, will feature Scott Drummond, Ryan King, Brian Quijada, Terrell Donnell Sledge, and Felix Solis.

Samsara by Lauren Yee, public staged readings July 5 and 6, will feature Mike Doyle, Daiva Deupree, Bhavesh Patel, Lipica Shah, and Phillip Taratula.

A Great Wilderness by Samuel D. Hunter, public staged readings July 10 and 11, will feature Johanna Day, Jon DeVries, Christine Estabrook, Aaron Simon Gross, Tasha Lawrence, and Brian Murray.

Little Children Dream of God by Jeff Augustin, public staged readings July 12 and 13, will feature Damien Bailey, Tina Benko, Jeremy Bobb, Duane Boutté, Ashley Bryant, Mateo Gomez, Jordan Mahome, and Angela Robinson.

The Oregon Trail by Bekah Brunstetter, public staged readings July 17 and 18, will feature Ronete Levenson, Emily Louise Perkins, Laura Ramadei, James Lloyd Reynolds, Alec Shaw, and Shayna Small.

All the Roads Home by Jen Silverman, public staged readings July 19 and 20, will feature Hannah Cabell, Christy Pusz, Makela Spielman, and Joe Tippett.

Evanston: A Rare Comedy by Michael Yates Crowley, public staged readings July 24 and 25, will feature Anna Margaret Hollyman, Eva Kaminsky, Ronete Levenson, Crystal Lucas-Perry, Kate McCluggage, James Lloyd Reynolds, and Will Rogers.

Lost Lake by David Auburn, public staged readings July 26 and 27, will feature Eisa Davis and Frank Wood.

Cast full biographies are available online.

All performances take place at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, 305 Great Neck Road, Waterford, CT 06385. Schedule is subject to change. Tickets for the National Playwrights Conference performances may be purchased online at www.theoneill.org or through the box office at (860) 443-1238.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Connecticut Arts Connections

ArtZfest-all arts festival throughout various venues in Thomaston continues today and includes: music, dance, theatre, art, children's activities, an opening parade and Scratch Mold Workshops with an Iron Pour. Info and schedule: http://www.artzfest.org/.

Pantochino Productions Inc has announced its 2013-2104 season.
  • Porkenstein, based on the popular children’s book by author Kathryn Lasky. Oct. 19-27.
  • The Great Cinnamon Bear Christmas Radio Show, based on a 1937 radio broadcast. Dec. 6 –29
  • Pirate Schmirate March 21-30
  • The Divine Sister by Charles Busch May 16-24 
Performances are at the Milford Center for the Arts. More info: www.pantochino.com.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Quick Hit Theater Review: The Show-Off -- Westport Playhouse

Jayne Houdyshell and Karl Baker Olson. Photo: Carol Rosegg
The Show-Off
By George Kelly
Directed by Nicholas Martin
Westport Country Playhouse

What's It All About?
A comedy/drama, one of the first in that genre by George Kelly, Princess Grace Kelly's brother. In three acts, it follows the Fisher family of North Philadelphia and its dynamics when one of the daughters, Amy (Clea Alsip) gets involves with a boorish show-off, Aubrey Piper (Will Rogers) whose obnoxious laugh and tall tales are an annoyance to the other family members: plain-speaking mom (Jayne Houdyshell), sensible, reliable sister Clara (Mia Brown)  and inventor brother Joe (Karl Baker Olson). Piper's lack of a work ethic and schemes keep landing him in trouble and Clara's husband, Frank (Robert Eli). keeps bailing him out. Nat DeWolf rounds out the ensemble as a co-worker of the family's father (not seen)

What are the Highlights?
Jayne Houdyshell in anything on stage is a highlight. This gifted actress is a director's dream, totally imbuing her character with depth and richness while showing off terrific comedic chops. She's one of theater's gems.

What are the Lowlights?
This sleepy 1924 play is kind of slow-going without much really happening. There's what one might call a twist at the end, but  hardly anything gripping.

Rogers is miscast as the brass know-it-all with an annoying laugh. All of it appears contrived, like he's working too hard to convince us that this character is natural. The take is not funny, just annoying for two hours and 40 minutes (with two intermissions).

The set designed by Alexander Dodge is lovely, but confusing. There is supposed to be a parlor on what looks like the other side of the front entrance to the house. Dialogue says one of the characters is going to the dining room when she exits through an unstage right door, but the dining room table and chairs are set downstage right....

More Information:
The Show-Off runs through June 29 at Westport Countyr Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport. Performances are Tuesday at 8pm, Wednesday at 2 and 8 pm, Thursday and Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 3 and 8 pm and Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets start at $30: 203-227-4177; 1-888-927-7529; www.westportplayhouse.org.

O'Neill Theater Center Will Receive $3 Million for Construction

The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center has officially been granted $3 Million in bonding funds from the State of Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, allowing it to move forward with construction of housing and rehearsal facilities required to launch a new program in fall of 2014.

The National Music Theater Institute (NMTI) will serve as a new program of the existing National Theater Institute, which has been training undergraduates in a credit-bearing semester in dramatic theater since 1970. NMTI will offer a semester-away program in all areas of musical theater training for college undergraduates from the U.S. and abroad.

The expansion, the largest in the Center’s history, includes seven new dormitory cottages creating living spaces for 65 artists and faculty, a laundry building, a new rehearsal hall and the renovation of existing buildings into additional production and rehearsal space. The town of Waterford recently renewed the O’Neill’s lease for 60-years on its 305 Great Neck Road property, and has approved all construction permits clearing the way for a late summer ground breaking.

The National Music Theater Institute will be a unique program internationally, with comprehensive seven-day-a week-training in all areas of musical theater, including composition and playwriting, acting, voice, directing, choreography, music composition, and design.

For information about the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center or the National Music Theater Institute, please visit www.theoneill.org or call (860) 443.5378.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

TheaterReview: Billy Elliot -- The Bushnell

Noah Parets (Billy) and Rich Hebert (Dad) Photo by Amy Boyle
Dreaming Big with Some Literal Leaps of Faith
By Lauren Yarger
A little boy has big dreams and takes some literal leaps of faith to achieve them in Billy Elliot, stopping on tour this week at the Bushnell in Hartford.

With music by Elton John and a book and lyrics by Lee Hall (who wrote the screenplay for the film on which this musical is based), the show won 10 Tony Awards, including best musical in 2009.

Billy (the role is shared by three actors, Drew Minard, Mitchell Tobin and 14-year-old Massachusetts native Noah Parets, whom I saw I on press night) tries to cope with his lonely existence in County Duram, England, just before the 1984 strike of the British National Union of Mineworkers. His beloved Mum (Molly Gardner), with whom he has imagined conversations, has died and his father (Rich Hebert) is distant. His elder brother, Tony (Cullen R. Titmas), is preoccupied with the union’s fight against the government and Prime Minister “Maggie” Thatcher and his senile Grandma (a funny Patti Perkins) keeps losing her pasties…

Billy and his best friend, Michael (Cameron Clifford and Jake Kitchin share the role), just don’t fit in where rough-and-tough, working-class miners expect certain behavior from men: Billy discovers a love for the ballet and Michael, who has feelings for Billy, likes to dress in girl’s clothing.

Ballet teacher Mrs, Wilkerson (Janet Dickinson) recognizes that Billy has a genuine gift and starts coaching him when he’s supposed to be taking the boxing lessons his father arranged. And where he has failed so miserably, the coach tells him “You’re a disgrace to your father.” She offers him support and tells Billy he can get in to the Royal Ballet Academy with the right audition.

When Dad finds out, he’s furious and forbids Billy from continuing with his dancing. But at the strike goes on (for almost a year), he starts to reconsider some of positions like taking work as a scab and what his wife might have wanted for Billy. As Billy imagines himself as an adult dancer (in a beautiful duet number with adult ballet dancer Maximilien A, Baud, choreographed by Peter Darling), the boy soars and his father, seeing him, decides to give his son a chance at fulfilling his dream. The mining community rallies around Billy as he goes off for his audition.

The choreography is the draw for this show. From ballet to tap, Billy and a huge ensemble of coal miners and ballet student girls dance up a storm. Most satisfying is “Angry Dance” where Billy’s frustrations are expressed. He literally hits a wall (depicted by crowd shields held by policemen battling the striking workers) and finds himself in a box. This is rock star John at his best. The rest of the score doesn’t really sound like him if you’re thinking Aida.

Directed by Stephen Daltry, Dickenson (displaying a ribald belt), Perkins (a hoot), Garner and Hebert all give strong performances. Parets dances well with steps performed with precision and technical skill if not all the heart we expect. The same could be said of the special effects: fog and fly rigging are used precisely, but they fail to make our spirits soar the way they did on the Broadway stage. It’s also hard to understand several of the kids who are trying very hard to do northern English accents. Entire lines of dialogue are lost.

Be warned: there is a lot of swearing and dialogue involving sexual terms and the theater suggests that this show might be unsuitable for children under the age of 8.

Billy Elliot plays through June 23 at the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford. Performances: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays: 7:30 pm; Fridays and Saturdays: 8 pm; Saturdays at 2:30 pm; Sundays 1 and 6 pm Tickets $20-$95: (860) 987-5900; www.bushnell.org.

Theater Review: A Midsummer Night's Dream -- New Haven Festival of Arts & Ideas

Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo: Simon Annand
This Midsummer Night’s Dream Has Some Nightmarish Elements
By Lauren Yarger
You know that dream where you find yourself naked on a stage with everyone laughing at you? It’s an unfortunate reality for Miltos Yerolemou, the actor who plays Bottom in Bristol Old Vic’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as part of New Haven’s International Festival of Ideas.

Director Tom Morris and the Handspring Puppet Company (the creative team which brought Joey, the War Horse to life on stage) have partnered for this new interpretation of William Shakespeare’s tale of fairy magic which includes puppetry and a literal transformation of Bottom into a talking ass.

To accomplish the effect, the designers (led by Vicki Mortimer) have created a mechanical devise on which Yerolemou can lie on his stomach on an incline while propelling himself around with hand pedals. His naked bottom, up in the air, becomes the head of the donkey. He bends his knees and costuming transforms his extended ankles and feet into the creature’s eyes and ears (Katerina Hicken, design). It gives new and unpleasant meaning to this portion of dialogue, spoken by Titania (Saskia Portway), tricked by the gods into loving Bottom:

Come, sit thee down upon this flowery bed,
While I thy amiable cheeks do coy,
And stick musk-roses in thy sleek smooth head,
And kiss thy fair large ears, my gentle joy.

 It’s too bad, because before realizing they were going for a literal interpretation of the talking ass, I was thinking this might be a great production to which kids could be introduced to Shakespeare (and there were a lot of youngsters in attendance.) Previously, small puppets had been used to depict the love triangle between Hermia (Akiya Henry), her betrothed, Demetrius (Kyle Lima) and her true love, Lysander (Alex Felton). When Hermia’s father, Egeus (also played by Yerolemou) insists that his daughter wed a man she doesn’t love, the imagery of his pulling their strings is clear, even if the puppets themselves don’t have any. 

The actors, dressed in casual attire similar to their puppets, manipulate them by hand and voice their lines, but also interact with each other. In scenes that show Morris’ directing ability, fairies flutter (some of them demonic in nature), a number of wooden planks are used to depict various settings, puppets and humans become one and Puck is created by three actors manipulating an oil can, a saw and a basket. It’s sheer magic, when we can see -- the haze effect is used to overkill and Philip Gladwell’s lighting design leaves us in the dark sometimes. The first part is quite enchanting, however, until everything “bottoms” out.

The tale, often upstaged by the craft going on, seems to go downhill after that and even the puppets aren’t used to advantage when they could be. The scene where Hermia thinks Lysander’s affections have been transferred to Helena (Naomi Cranston) because she is taller would be so much funnier if his line, “Get you gone, you dwarf,” were delivered to the diminutive puppet instead of to the actress, for example.

The pace seems to slow way down in the second act as well and the final play within the play lacks humor and purpose. The final two, very large puppets, seem awkward and unfinished. I kept wishing I could wake up from this dream which runs two hours and 45 minutes.

A highlight, however, is music by David Price. One song has accompaniment by the actors tapping on those versatile wooden planks. Just the sort of thing one might expect to hear if one stumbled upon a bunch of fairies having prankish fun on a midsummer’s night.

A Midsummer Night's Fream runs through June 23 at University Theater, 222 York St., New Haven: Performances 8pm, June 18-22; 2 pm June 33 and 23. Tickets www.artidea.org.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Augesen, Manganiello Hop Aboard Yale's Streetcar

René Augesen will play Blanche DuBois and Joe Manganiello will play Stanley Kowalski in Yale Rep's first-ever production of Tennessee Williams' Pulitzer-Prize-winning A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Mark Rucker.

The production opens Yale Rep’s 2013-14 season Sept. 20-Oct. 12 at the University Theatre, 222 York St., New Haven.

Augesen previously appeared at Yale Rep in The Beaux’ Stratagem and A Woman of No Importance. She was a core acting company member at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco for 12 seasons. As a 2011 Ten Chimneys Foundation Lunt-Fontanne Fellow, she was recognized for her extraordinary contributions to her community and to the overall quality of the American theatre. She is a graduate of Yale School of Drama.

Manganiello plays Alcide Herveaux on HBO’s "True Blood" and will appear alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sam Worthington in David Ayer’s film "Sabotage" in January. His other film and television credits: "Magic Mike," Peter Parker’s nemesis Flash Thompson in the "Spider-Man" trilogy "How I Met Your Mother," "One Tree Hill," "Two and a Half Men," "White Collar"  and "ER."

Yale Repertory Theatre offers a variety of subscription packages, starting at $30 per ticket for the general public and $10 for students: www.yalerep.org; (203) 432-1234; Box Office (1120 Chapel St.).Individual and group tickets for the entire season will go on sale on Sept. 3.


Coming Up at the Mark Twain House: Storytelling, Persian Tea

Tom Lee
Tom Lee, Storyteller for Adults, Offers Five-Week Class 
A Good Tale WellTold, a five-week class taught by Mark Twain House Storyteller in Residence Tom Lee begins July 2.

Classes will be held on five successive Tuesdays, July 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30, from 6 to 8 pm. Participants will gain an understanding of the history of folktales from around the world and learn to tell stories in a compelling style with a unique voice.

On tap during the sessions:
  • considering how the structure of a story shapes its performance
  • Eploring improvisation in language and movement and discovering how the storyteller personally connects with the story and with listeners of all ages
  • Each participant will select a story to learn, develop, and perform
  • The final session will include a performance by participants in the museum's Lincoln Financial Auditorium for invited guests.
Lee is a professional storyteller with 20 years experience performing traditional stories, folktales and myths for adults and for children. Lee's repertoire is a rich trove of myths and stories from cultures around the world; some are centuries old, some originated thousands of years ago. He performs for adults in theaters and at festivals throughout the country. He is a frequent guest artist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he brings together his passion for research, art, story, and for connection with new audiences. In addition, he is a performing arts partner with the Yale Center for British Art.
The cost is $350 (5 weeks/10 hours total) Class size is 12. Call 860-280-3130 to register.
Book Launch/Presian Tea


The launch of "Harvest Of Gold," a new historical novel by Iranian-born novelist Tessa Afshar, will take place at The Mark Twain House and Museum on Monday, July 1, at 7 pm.

The free event will feature tea and Persian treats.

"Harvest of Gold" is set in biblical times: The scribe Sarah has married Darius and at times she feels as if she has married the Persian aristocracy, too. There is another point she did not count on in her marriage -- Sarah has grown to love her husband. Sarah has wealth, property, honor, and power, but her husband's love still seems unattainable.

Although his mother was an Israelite, Darius remains skeptical that his Jewish wife is the right choice for him, particularly when she conspires with her cousin Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Ordered to assist in the effort, the couple begins a journey to the homeland of his mother's people.

Will the road filled with danger, conflict, and surprising memories, help Darius to see the hand of God at work in his life and even in his marriage? A hidden message, treachery, opposition, and a God-given success, will lead to an unlikely bounty.

Afshar was voted "New Author of the Year" by the Family Fiction sponsored Reader's Choice Awards 2011 for her novel "Pearl in the Sand." Her book "Harvest of Rubies" was nominated for the 2013 ECPA Book Award (formerly known as the Gold Medallion) in the fiction category.

She was born in Iran to a nominally Muslim family, and lived there for the first 14 years of her life. She moved to England, where she survived boarding school for girls and fell in love with Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte before moving to the United States permanently.

Afshar holds an Masters of Divinity degree from Yale University where she served as co-chair of the Evangelical Fellowship at the Divinity School. She has spent the 14 years in full-time Christian service in New England.

A book sale and signing will follow the event. In addition, the museum will display its mosque lamp, which was damaged in a fall. The event will kick off a campaign to raise funds for its repair.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Gentleman's Guide, Marie Antoinette Head CT Critics Circle Award Winners

David Greenspan and Marin Ireland in Marie Antoinette. Photo © T. Charles Erickson, 2012
Winners of the 2013 CT Critics Circle Awards were presented Monday at a ceremony hosted by Long Wharf Theatre, whose associate artistic director Eric Ting acted as MC.
Broadway's Ashley Brown (Mary Poppins) sang some songs from the upcoming CT theater season accompanied by Don Pardo on piano.

All of the nominations are listed below. Winners are in red. For reviews, click on the title under 2012-2013 Reviews at right.

Outstanding Production of a Play

“Almost, Maine TheaterWorks

”American Night” Yale Rep

ClybournePark Long Wharf

“Marie Antoinette” Yale Rep

“The Dining Room” Westport Country Playhouse

“Twelfth Night” Hartford Stage

Outstanding Production of a Musical

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” Hartford Stage

“Carousel” Goodspeed

“Hairspray” Connecticut Repertory Theatre

”Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” Summer Theatre of New Canaan (STONC)

“Next to Normal Music Theatre of Connecticut (MTC)

“The Immigrant” Seven Angels

Outstanding Director of a Play

Shana Cooper, “American Night” Yale Rep

Gordon Edelstein, “Satchmo at the Waldorf” Long Wharf

Mark Lamos, “The Dining Room” Westport Country Playhouse

Rebecca Taichman, “Marie Antoinette” Yale Rep

Jenn Thompson, “Abundance” Hartford Stage

Eric Ting, “ClybournePark Long Wharf

Darko Tresnjak, “Twelfth Night” Hartford Stage

Outstanding Director of a Musical

Kevin Connors, “Next to Normal MTC

Semina DeLaurentis, “The Immigrant” Seven Angels

Melody Meitrott Libonati, “Joseph . . . ” STONC

Terrence Mann, “The Pirates of Penzance Connecticut Repertory

Rob Ruggiero, “Carousel” Goodspeed

Darko Tresnjak, “A Gentleman’s Guide…” Hartford Stage

Outstanding Leading Actress in a Play

Maureen Anderman,“The Year of Magical Thinking” Westport Country Playhouse

Mary Beth Fisher, “Dear Elizabeth Yale Rep

Roxanna Hope, “Hedda Gabler” Hartford Stage

Marin Ireland, “Marie Antoinette” Yale Rep

Liv Rooth, “Venus in Fur” TheaterWorks

Brenda Withers, “Abundance Hartford Stage

Outstanding Leading Actor in a Play

Mikhail Baryshnikov, “Man in a Case” Hartford Stage

Bill Camp, “In a Year With 13 Moons” Yale Rep

Paul Giamatti, “Hamlet” Yale Rep

Edward Kassar, “Other People’s Money” Ivoryton Playhouse

Jamil A. C. Mangan, “The Mountaintop” TheaterWorks

Rene Millan, “American Night” Yale Rep

John Douglas Thompson,“Satchmo at the Waldorf” Long Wharf

Outstanding Leading Actress in a Musical

Lena Mary Amato, “Hairspray” CT Rep
Corrine C. Broadbent, “Joseph” STONC

Juliet Lampert Pratt, “Next to Normal MTC Mainstage

Teal Wicks, “Carousel” Goodspeed

Outstanding Leading Actor in a Musical

Max Biantz, “The Immigrant” Seven Angels

Christopher DeRosa, “Joseph” STONC

Jefferson Mays, “A Gentleman’s Guide…” Hartford Stage

Kevin Meaney, “Hairspray” CT Rep

James Snyder, “Carousel” Goodspeed

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play

Monica Santana, “In a Year With 13 Moons” Yale Rep

Jeanine Serralles, “Tartuffe” Westport Country Playhouse

Sara Topham, “Hedda Gabler” Hartford Stage
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play

Jarlath Conroy, “Hamlet” Yale Rep

David Greenspan, “Marie Antoinette” Yale Rep

Adam Green, “Twelfth Night” Hartford Stage

Marc Kudisch, “Hamlet” Yale Rep

Jordan Lage, “Ride the Tiger” Long Wharf

Sam Redford, “Hedda Gabler” Hartford Stage

Kevin Tighe, “Curse of the Starving Class” Long Wharf

Bruce Turk, “Twelfth Night” Hartford Stage

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical

Tessa Faye, “Good News” Goodspeed

Jenn Gambatese, “Carousel” Goodspeed

Beth Glover, “Good News” Goodspeed

Lisa O’Hare, “A Gentleman’s Guide…” Hartford Stage

Hanna Kaplan, “Hairspray” CT Rep

Chilina Kennedy, “A Gentleman’s Guide…” Hartford Stage

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical

Ken Barnett, “A Gentleman’s Guide…” Hartford Stage

Alex Gibson, “Pirates of Penzance CT Rep

Jeff Kready, “Carousel” Goodspeed

Scott Ripley, “Hairspray” CRT

Barry Shafrin, “Good News” Goodspeed

Brett Stoelker, “Next to Normal Seven Angels

Outstanding Ensemble

Marty Bongfeldt, John Flaherty, John Little, Michael McGurk, Jo Anne Parady, “Ancestral Voices” MTC

Jimmy Davis, Daniel Jenkins, Leroy McClain, Alex Muggridge, Lucy Owen, Melle Powers, Alice Ripley, “Clybourne Park Long Wharf

Heidi Armbruster, Chris Henry Coffey, Keira Naughton, Jake Robards, Charles Socarides, Jennifer Van Dyck, “The Dining Room” Westport Country Playhouse

Eric Bryant, Laura Esposito, Lucas Hall, Jess Watkins , “Almost, Maine” Hartford TheaterWorks

Outstanding Debut

Alexis Molnar, “Harbor” Westport Country Playhouse

Nathan J. Russo, “Oliver” Ivoryton Playhouse

Jubilant Sykes, “Breath & Imagination” Hartford Stage

Outstanding Choreography

Parker Esse, “Carousel” Goodspeed

Gerry McIntyre, “Hairspray” CT Rep

Anne-B Parson, “Man in a Case” Hartford Stage

Peggy Hickey, “A Gentleman’s Guide…” Hartford Stage

Vince Pesce, “ Good News” Goodspeed

Doug Shankman, “Joseph” STONC

Outstanding Set Design

Wilson Chin, “Tartuffe” Westport Country Playhouse; “Abundance” Hartford Stage

Alexander Dodge, “A Gentleman’s Guide…” Hartford Stage; “Twelfth Night” Hartford Stage

Riccardo Hernandez, “Marie Antoinette” Yale Rep

Posey Knight, “His Girl Friday” CT Rep

Michael Schweikardt, "Carousel" Goodspeed; "Tryst" TheaterWorks

Michael Yeargan, “The Dining Room” Westport Country Playhouse

David Zinn, “In a Year With 13 Moons” Yale Rep

Outstanding Costume Design

Gabriel Barry, “Marie Antoinette” Yale Rep

Linda Cho, “A Gentleman’s Guide...” Hartford Stage; “Twelfth Night”Hartford Stage

Olivera Gajic, “Pirates of Penzance CT Rep

Ilona Somogyi, “Tartuffe” Westport Country Playhouse

Fabio Toblini, “Hedda Gabler” Hartford Stage

Outstanding Lighting Design

Christopher Akerlind, “Marie Antionette” Yale Rep

Mary Jo Dondlinger, “Almost, Maine” TheaterWorks

John Lasiter, “ Carousel” Goodspeed

Matthew Richards, “Tartuffe” Westport Country Playhouse

Philip Rosenberg, “The Year of Magical Thinking” Westport Country Playhouse; "A Gentleman’s Guide…” Hartford Stage

Jennifer Tipton “Man in a Case” Hartford Stage

Jennifer Tipton and Yi Zhao, “In a Year With 13 Moons” Yale Rep
Outstanding Sound Design

Michael Attias, “In a Year With 13 Moons” Yale Rep

Tei Blow, “Man in a Case” Hartford Stage

Leah Gelpe, “January Joiner” Long Wharf

Matt Hubbs, “Marie Antoinette” Yale Rep

Keri Klick. “Hamlet” Yale Rep 

Tom Killen Award

Aetna New Voices Fellowship program at Hartford Stage     

Monday, June 10, 2013

Theater Review: I'm Connecticut -- Ivoryton Playhouse

Jerry Adler Harris Doran. Photo: Anne Hudson

A Laugh-Out-Loud Look at Living in Connecticut
By Lauren Yarger
Bristol native son Mike Reiss, who has enjoyed success as a comedy writer for “The Simpsons” among other shows, turns his attention to the root of his humor, his home state in the riotously funny I’m Connecticut getting a slick production at Ivoryton Playhouse. 

The show had its world premiere last season at UConn’s CT Repertory Theatre Company and two of the original cast members, Harris Doran and Broadway veteran Jerry Adler, reprise their roles for the Ivoryton run.

Doran is Marc, a geeky native of Connecticut where he grew up one of the few Jews in Simsbury, where his teacher called upon him every year to share the Hanukah story during the Christmas celebrations….. Now a transplant in Manhattan, he works in brain research at Middlesex Hospital with pal Kyle (a funny Gino Costabile), motivated by a desire to help his Grandpa (Adler) who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. 

Marc is insecure about a lot of things, especially girls. This, Kyle assures, him, is because he comes from boring Connecticut, home of steady habits and towns that have names that sound like stodgy English butlers.. Nutmeg-ers aren’t as brash as New Yorkers like the manager (Bill Mootos) of a speed-dating service Marc tries or as interesting as Massachusetts natives like Kyle, who call their milkshakes “frappes.”

“It’s like crap with a ‘fa’,” Kyle quips.

We don’t even grow nutmeg here in the Nutmeg state, or grapes, like you might think given the leaves on our state seal, so what chance does Marc really have? 

The girls he meets at the dating service (Dené Hill, Elizabeth Talbot and others) aren’t good matches, but the receptionist, Diane (Gwen Hollander), a beauty from Georgia, attracts his attention. He invites her back to the apartment he shares with his grandfather (designed by Daniel Nischan). When Marc believes that telling some lies will improve his chances at winning Diane’s heart, he begins to spin a web of deception that soon ensnares him in a hilarious, sticky mess that threatens their relationship (and uproariously ends with a Broadway production number….). 

Meanwhile, Grandpa and Diane’s visiting mom, Polly (Rebecca Hoodwin), hit it off making the situation even more tenuous. Marc seeks advice from Kyle, but he’s not much help. He’s a master of deception himself, telling coworkers it is his birthday any time he has a craving for cake. He also points out Marc’s shortcomings in a guffaw-inducing scene where various states in the union show off their manly sizes and shapes to prove that a state that claims the boring distinction of being “The Insurance Capital of the World” definitely is lacking….

Director Jacqueline Hubbard ably helms the talented ensemble cast, enhancing the set design with projections designed by Allison McGrath and Greg Purnell and solidifying the relationship between Marc and the audience by bringing Doran out into the house to offer fruit cake, of all things.  

Doran once again achieves a balance between sarcasm and naiveté to create a totally likable character who has many audience members thinking, “I’m Marc” just as much as he thinks, “I’m Connecticut.” Costabile is a perfect foil for Doran and Adler and Hoodwin have terrific onstage chemistry that translates into an immediate natural camaraderie for Grandpa and Polly and Grandpa and his late wife Judith, also portrayed by Hoodwin. 
Ivoryton doesn’t escape Reiss’ barbs at a state that is somewhat lacking, either. “Where’s all the ivory?” the audience is asked. Reis himself was on hand for talkbacks with the audience after recent performances. A producer and writer with “The Simpsons” from its beginning, he received a Peabody Award in 2006 and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Animation Writers Caucus. He also co-wrote “The Simpsons Movie,” “The Lorax,” “Horton Hears A Who!” and “Ice Age, Dawn of the Dinosaurs.” 

His recent films include “In Her Shoes.” “Prime,” “Find Me Guilty” and the soon-to-be-released “Last Angry Man in Brooklyn” with Robin Williams. On TV, he was the Fire Chief on “Rescue Me” with Denis Leary and is presently Howard Lyman on “The Good Wife.” 

The native son has made us proud!
I'm Connecticut runs through June 23 at Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main St., Ivoryton. Performances are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 pm. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30, Friday and Saturday at 8. Tickets: $40 for adults, $35 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children. (860) 767-7318; www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.

Theater Review: Becoming Dr. Ruth -- TheaterWorks

Debra Jo Rupp. Photo:Lanny Nagler
Dr. Ruth: Getting to Know the Woman Behind the Microphone
By Lauren Yarger
Everyone knows Ruth Westheimer, the short, German-accented pioneering sex therapist who took America’s radio waves and TV by storm in the 1980s. Her tragic personal story and how she went about Becoming Dr. Ruth are less known, however, until now with this one-woman show starring Debra Jo Rupp (That 70ʼs Show) at TheaterWorks in Hartford.

Playwright Mark St. Germain (Freud’s Last Session) sets the story in Ruth’s New York apartment as she prepares to move following the death of her husband, Fred. She packs up her belongings – and memories – as she chats with the audience. Brian Prather designs the set, along with projections that help the audience see the photos she gazes at before packing them away.

There are photos of her parents, from whom the young Karola Ruth Siegel was separated during the rise of Hitler in Germany. When her father is taken to a work camp shortly after Kristallnacht, 10-year-old Karola’s mother and grandmother secure her a seat on the Kindertransport to get her out of Germany. In Switzerland, she is forced to work long days in domestic service under the supervision of a harsh matron at an orphanage where her only hope comes from Shirley Temple movies and occasional letters from her parents -- until they stop coming.

After the war (her parents apparently were murdered in the camps), Karola travels to Palestine where she becomes a scout and sniper with the Haganah, a precursor to the Israeli Defense Forces. Her feet are severely injured in an explosion during the war for Israel’s independence and she struggles to learn to walk again. She also fears no one will ever want to marry her.

She does marry. Three times, actually. The first two marriages end in divorce. Her two children (with whom she chats on the phone while packing up the Washington Heights apartment) think she might be rushing to make this this move so soon after Fred’s death.

She continues sharing her memories – she eventually had settled in New York where she taught herself English by reading True Confessions magazine and earned degrees in sociology and education.

In the 1960s, while she is working for Planned Parenthood, Ruth is asked to speak to a group of New York broadcasters about the need for sex education. One station offers her the opportunity to do a 15-minute broadcast each week called “Sexually Speaking” and suddenly the 50+ woman is a sensation. Speaking plainly about sex and answering questions from callers, “Dr. Ruth” becomes a celebrity and one of America’s foremost authorities on sexual behavior.

Rupp is a delight as the dynamic Ruth, whose effervescent love for life never is eclipsed by her harsh circumstances. Director Julianne Boyd, artistic director at Barrington Stage where the play received its world premiere as Dr. Ruth All the Way, uses some effective pauses to bring home the impact of Hitler’s rise to power and of Fred’s death. The triumph of Ruth’s spirit is visual.

Rupp’s power-house performance captures Ruth so effectively and in such detail, that we’re convinced the much shorter, German accented woman must really be on stage. (On opening night reality suspended the illusion, however, when at the curtain call, Rupp introduced the real Dr. Ruth who was seated in the audience.)

Rupp’s performance also is aided by having an interesting script to interpret. St. Germain keeps his monologue from becoming just a long history lesson by having Ruth speak directly with the audience and by interjecting some conversations between the sex therapist and her callers (sound design by Jessica Paz) toward the end of the play which runs about 90 minutes without intermission.

Becoming Dr. Ruth has been extended through July 14 at TheaterWorks, 233 Pear lSt., Hartford. Performances are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays: 7:30 pm; Fridays and Saturdays: 8 pm; Weekend Matinees at 2:30 pm. Tickets $17-$63: (860) 527-7838; www.theaterworkshartford.org.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Theater Review: The Drowsy Chaperone -- CT Repertory

Pat Sajak and Courtney Romano. Photo: Kim Bova.
Pat Sajak Spins a Tale of A Musical Lover’s Musical About a Musical Lover and the Musical He Loves
By Lauren Yarger
Pat Sajak puts his spinning talents to work here in Connecticut this month, but this time turning records instead of a “Wheel of Fortune” as he takes on the role of Man in Chair for CT Repertory’s Nutmeg Summer Series production of The Drowsy Chaperone.

Seated in a comfortable chair next to a phonograph, Man in Chair shares his love for old-fashioned musicals and shares his favorite, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” with the audience. It’s a tale full of mixups, mayhem and romance with a well-worn plot and two dimensional characters, he tells us, but he begs us to indulge him and visualize as he puts the needle to the 33 rpm vinyl and is transported from his boring life into the glamor of a Broadway musical.

Suddenly, the 1928 musical comes to life in the man’s living room, thanks to the versatile set designed by Michael Anania. Taking center stage, much to the delight of her biggest fan, is the era’s most famous Broadway actress, Beatrice Stockwell, playing the Drowsy Chaperone (Liz Larsen). She is tasked, Man in Chair tells us, with making sure a bride and groom don’t see each other on their wedding day (and that’s pretty much the entire plot….). They are Janet Van De Graaff (Courtney Romano), star of Feldzieg’s Follies, giving up fame to settle down with dashing Robert Martin (Kevin Jones).

Attending the wedding are society matron Mrs. Tottendale (Jan Neuberger) and her servant Underling (Jay Rogers), Janet’s Producer, Feldzieg (Adam Heller) and his girlfriend, Kitty (Gianna Yanelli), who dreams of taking Janet’s place as star of the show. Also on hand are ladies’ man Aldolpho (Scott Ripley) and best man George (Devin Johnson).

A “B Plot” involves two gangsters (Alex Gibson and Ian Saunders) masquerading as pastry chefs who are in cahoots with Feldzieg to stop the wedding because their mob boss has invested in the follies, which will flop without Janet. Their corny jokes and zany costumes (designed by Lisa Loen) bring many laughs.

The chaperone doesn’t do her job very well, thanks to being drunk and drowsy most of the time. When Robert and Janet meet up while Robert is roller skating blindfolded (don’t ask, just enjoy), he mistakes her for a French girl named Mimi and mayhem ensues, accompanied by tap-dancing, flapper-esque choreography by Cassie Abate (who co-directs with Vincent J. Cardinal) and commentary from Main in Chair as he stops and pauses the recording to enlighten us along the way about his favorite moments, flaws in the lyrics and some trivia about the performers. 

The show, with a book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar, is clever and a hoot for anyone who loves musical theater (I am Man in Chair, as some friends I have forced to listen to recordings will tell you). A line about stupid people making their living in TV is particularly funny when delivered by Sajak who is in his 30th season as one of TV’s most popular game show hosts.

Some performances stand out: Yanelli as the ditsy blonde showgirl, and Ripley as the self-confident, falsely accented Latin lover. Johnson is engaging as the best man who realizes he has forgotten to hire a minister for the wedding and Amani Dorn as Trix the Aviatrix, who flies in just in time to save the day (yes, look for the airplane in Man in Chair’s living room), lends a solid singing voice that carries the closing number.

Music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison are just the right combination of show tune, ballad and corny – exactly what we people in chairs love about old-fashioned musicals. “Bride’s Lament” with dancing monkeys is one of my favorites.

Some complaints: Sajak doesn’t really exude passionate obsession about the musical and it isn’t immediately clear that the action of the show is being controlled by his starting and stopping of the recording (this does sync later, however). Casting emphasis seems to have been on dancing ability, and while the choreography (especially the tap dancing) is executed well, vocals are weaker and there are some painful notes.

The pace is a bit drowsy at times, but overall the show is entertaining at about an hour and 45 minutes with no intermission.

The Drowsy Chaperone runs through June 15: Weeknight evening performances start at 7:30; Weekend evening performances start at 8; Matinee performances start at 2 pm. Tickets $10-$45 (860) 486-2113; www.crt.uconn.edu.

Grafton, Hoffman, Turow Will Be in Conversation with Baldacci for Mark Twain House

John Groo for The Mark Twain House & Museum

The Mark Twain House & Museum's Annual 'Mark My Words' event -- three wildly popular authors interviewed by a celebrity host -- will feature Sue Grafton, Alice Hoffman and Scott Turow 8 pm Wednesday, Oct. 9 at the Shubert Theater in New Haven.

Grafton's Kinsey Milhone alphabet mysteries (A is for Alibi was just the start); Hoffman's acclaimed novels, and her unexpected new guide to living; and Turow's tales of power and the legal life are so beloved and popular that these authors have a total of nearly 150 million books in print. All have produced numerous New York Times bestselling titles.

The on-stage conversation will be moderated by David Baldacc. Baldacci is a devotee of Mark Twain's work - and a member of The Mark Twain House & Museum's Board of Trustees.

To make this benefit event as affordable as possible, the museum is offering an array of ticket price options: Orchestra & Box Seats, $68.00; Mezzanine, $48.00; and Balcony, $28.00. Tickets can be purchased online at www.twainmarkmywords.com; by phone at 888-736-2663 (toll free) or 203-562-5666; or in person at the Shubert Theater Box Office, 247 College St., New Haven, Monday through Friday, 9:30 am to 5:30 pm and Saturdays 10 am to 2 pm.

Sue Grafton is published in 29 countries and 27 languages. Books in her Kinsey Milhone alphabet series which debuted in 1982 with "A is for Alibi," are international bestsellers with readership in the millions. Among Grafton's many honors and awards are induction into the American Academy of Achievement, a Lifetime Achievement Award from Private Eye Writers of America and the Ross Macdonald Literary Award . Learn more at http://suegrafton.com/

Alice Hoffman has published 21novels, three books of short fiction, and eight books for children and young adults. Her books - which include "Practical Magic," "Aquamarine" and "The River King," have been published in more than 20 translations and more than 100 foreign editions. Her novels have received mention as notable books of the year by the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, Library Journal, and People. Fifteen years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer - which changed everything about the life she'd been living - but she found no guidebook on how to deal with this change. Her new book, "Survival Lessons," coming out in October, is the book that she needed to read. "In many ways I wrote this book to remind myself of the beauty of life, something that's all too easy to overlook during the crisis of illness or loss," she says. Learn more at http://alicehoffman.com .

Scott Turow is a writer and attorney. He is the author of nine best-selling works of fiction, starting with "Presumed Innocent" (1987). His works of non-fiction include "One L" (1977) about his experience as a law student, and "Ultimate Punishment" (2003), a reflection on the death penalty. He frequently contributes essays and op-ed pieces to publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Playboy and The Atlantic. His books have won a number of literary awards, including the Heartland Prize, the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, and Time magazine's Best Work of Fiction. His books have been translated into more than 25 languages, sold more than 30 million copies world-wide and have been adapted into a full length film and two television miniseries. He continues to work as an attorney, and has been active in a number of charitable causes including organizations that promote literacy, education and legal rights. Additionally, he has performed with the Rock Bottom Remainders, a musical group of bestselling authors raising funds for various literacy charities. Learn more at http://scottturow.com/.


David Baldacci made a big splash on the literary scene with the publication of his first novel, "Absolute Power," in 1996. A major motion picture adaptation followed, with Clint Eastwood as its director and star. In total, he has published 25 novels, all of which have been national and international bestsellers. His novels have been translated into more than 45 languages and sold in more than 80 countries; over 110 million copies are in print worldwide. He has also published two children's books. He has received numerous accolades for his writing; most recently, he was inducted into the 2011 International Crime Writing Hall of Fame and received the 2012 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award. His greatest efforts are dedicated to the Wish You Well Foundation®, established by David and his wife, Michelle, which supports family and adult literacy. http://davidbaldacci.com/.

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