Monday, April 24, 2017

Quote from "Come Back, Little Sheba"

Doc in William Inge's Come Back, Little Sheba:, Baby. We should never feel bad about what's past. What's in the past can't be helped. You... you've got to forget it and live for the present. If you can't forget the past, you stay in it and never get out. I might be a big M.D. today, instead of a chiropractor; we might have had a family to raise and be with us now; I might still have a lot of money if I'd used by head and invested it carefully, instead of gettin' drunk every night. We might have a nice house, and comforts, and friends. But we don't have any of those things. So what! We gotta keep on living, don't we? I can't stop just 'cause I made a few mistakes. I gotta keep goin'... somehow. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

One Day Intensives Are Coming to Juilliard This Summer Y'all

Juilliard Evening Division is offering a new series of intensive one-day history and appreciation courses this summer, and I've just got to find a way to work either the Swan Lake or Fences session into my summer fun...

Swan Lake
Henning Rübsam
Why is Swan Lake the most enduring and beloved example of classical ballet? In this day
of immersion, we explore the history and music of this treasured masterpiece. A famous
Swan Queen visits the class to illuminate the legendary dual role of good and evil, Odette/
Odile—including the challenge of transforming from white to black swan. A production
history of the ballet and an examination of its masterful score by Tchaikovsky will prepare
students for a matinee by American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera House. A
discussion about the performance concludes the day. 

August Wilson’s Fences: Masterpiece of Theater and Film
Shana Komitee
August Wilson’s play Fences, the sixth installation of his 10-play “American Century Cycle,”
won both a Pulitzer and Tony when it appeared on Broadway in 1983. This year, it hit the big
screen, also to great acclaim. Helmed by Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, the film was
widely distributed throughout the U.S., as well as in Brazil, New Zealand, South Africa, and
numerous European countries. Why has the story of Fences—about a garbage collector
named Troy Maxson and his family in Pittsburgh’s working class Hill District in 1957—riveted such diverse audiences? In this class, we read excerpts from the play; analyze its stage-to screen adaptation; and discuss the artistic lives of Wilson and the film’s stars (most of them worked with him). Student and alumni performers deepen our understanding of this majestic work and its place in the American theatrical, and now cinematic, canon.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Congratulations Lynn Nottage - You Two Time Pulitzer Winner You!

Lynn Nottage on being the first female playwright to win two Pulitzers:
It feels very daunting but it also feels quite wonderful. I feel like I am representing for women. I am representing for artists of color.
Poof! (1993)
Crumbs from the Table of Joy (1995)
Por'Knockers (1995)
Mud, River, Stone (1997)
Las Meninas (2002)
Intimate Apparel (2003)
Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine (2004)
Ruined (2008) -- Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2009
By the Way, Meet Vera Stark (2011)
Our War (2014)
In Your Arms (2015)
Sweat (2015) --  Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2017

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

My Spring Road Trip - Final Stop: Laurel Highlands

Statue of Rose McClendon at FLW's Fallingwater
The final stop on my Spring road trip - the Laurel Highlands - has nothing to do with theater. But sometimes, even when you are not looking for the theater, it still has a way of finding you. 

After leaving Louisville and cutting through Trump-supporting West Virginia, I finally got a chance to witness the genius of Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater and tour the grounds. Even before the guide had a chance to point out Rose McClendon, the 42" cast stone statue created by Richmond Barthé in 1932 grabbed my attention and admiration. Then when the guide noted that Rose McClendon was a Broadway actress from long ago, my interest was piqued. 

When I returned to New York, I consulted Wikipedia, the Broadway database and an Amsterdam News article, and sure enough, Rose McClendon (1884-1936) was an African American leading actress, who appeared in several Broadway productions throughout the '20s and '30s. The Amsterdam News article even refers to her as the First lady of the Black stage. Rose McClendon - a historical figure in American theater. Now, I know...

Rose McClendon's Broadway Cred (Source: IBDB)

  • Deep River (Oct 04, 1926 - Oct 30, 1926)
  • In Abraham's Bosom (Original Prod:Dec 30, 1926 - Jun 1927; Revival: Sep 06, 1927 - Nov 1927 )
  • Porgy (Original Prod: Oct 10, 1927 - Aug 1928; Revival:Sep 13, 1929 - Oct 1929 )
  • The House of Connelly (Sep 28, 1931 - Dec 1931)
  • Never No More (Jan 07, 1932 - Jan 1932)
  • Black Souls (Mar 30, 1932 - Apr 09, 1932)
  • Brain Sweat (Apr 04, 1934 - Apr 1934)
  • Roll, Sweet Chariot (Oct 02, 1934 - Oct ? 1934)
  • Panic (Mar 14, 1935 - Mar 15, 1935)
  • Mulatto (Oct 24, 1935 - Sep 1936)

Monday, April 10, 2017

My Spring Road Trip - Second Stop: Humana Festival in Louisville

After spending the night in Pittsburgh after a delightful walking tour through August Wilson's Hill District, I headed to Louisville Kentucky to take in a few plays at the 41st Humana Festival of New American Plays (an adventure that I can cross off my theater bucket list). 

After checking in at the must see and must stay 21c Museum Hotel in Downtown Louisville and dining at Proof on Main, I headed to the Actors Theatre to begin my humor-filled lineup of new American plays as well as an artist talk by Taylor Mac.   

First Play: We're Gonna Be Okay by Basil Kreimendahl
During the Cuban Missile Crisis, two average American families build a slapdash bomb shelter on their shared property line. With nuclear warfare looming, they wonder: is it the end? The end of baseball…and table manners…and macramé? But as they fret about the fall of civilization, they start to worry that something more personal is at stake. A slyly hilarious, compassionate look at anxiety in America, We’re Gonna Be Okay is about finding the courage to face who we are—and who we want to be.

Second Play: Cry It Out by Molly Smith Metzler 
Cooped up on maternity leave and starved for conversation, Jessie invites her funny and forthright neighbor Lina, also a new mom, for coffee on the patio between their duplexes. Despite their vastly different finances, they become fast friends during naptimes—while someone watches from the mansion on the cliff overlooking Jessie’s yard. This comedy with dark edges takes an honest look at the absurdities of being home with a baby, the dilemma of returning to work, and how class impacts parenthood and friendship.

Third Play: I Now Pronounce by Tasha Gordon-Solmon
After Adam and Nicole’s wedding culminates in an awkwardly timed fatality, the reception spins into an increasingly strange evening that leaves the bride and groom questioning just what it is they’re celebrating. But there’s no stopping the festivities: the flower girls are running amuck, the bridal party members are more preoccupied with their own flailing relationships, and everyone needs to stop ordering the blue drinks. Comedies end in marriage. Tragedies end in death. This play begins with both.

Artist Insight: Taylor Mac - Talk

Overall, the festival was worthwhile and I wish that I could make it an annual trip. I liked the variety I saw in my three play lineup and was surprise how many actors I recognized from the New York City stage. Not surprisingly,the play Cry It Out and its themes around womanhood, class, and motherhood resonated most with me. Surprisingly, Taylor Mac's talk was one of the highlights for me. It made me regret that I did not see his A 24-Decade History of Popular Music at St. Ann's Warehouse, but now, I have another artist to keep my eyes on. That's how these things are...

Saturday, April 8, 2017

My Spring Road Trip - First Stop: August Wilson's Pittsburgh

Portion of Kyle Holbrook's August Wilson Mural in Pittsburgh
Some time back, as I lingered in the cafe at Signature awaiting the house to open for the critical acclaimed production of August Wilson's The Piano Wilson, I chitchatted with a woman from the Pittsburgh area. She had seen productions of all 10 plays in Wilson's Pittsburgh cycle. Moreover, she was familiar with Pittsburgh's Hill District and the locations mentioned throughout Wilson's plays. After chatting with the woman, I decided I would read the cycle and crossed my fingers and hoped that I would some day experience productions of the 10 plays.

Thanks to the Evening Division at Juilliard (yeah - see shout out here), last fall, I finally read the cycle and got to discuss Wilson and his plays in depth with a group of like minded enthusiasts (facilitated by dramaturg Shana Komitee). I was a pig in mud! 
EVDOL 016 — August Wilson's Pittsburgh Cycle
Shana Komitee
Few American playwrights, living or dead, have had as great an impact on American theater as August Wilson. He is best known for his collection of 10 plays — collectively known as the Pittsburgh Cycle — that consider African-American life in each decade of the 20th century. The cycle won countless awards, including Pulitzers and Tonys, and created an unparalleled document of an American community's life over a 100-year period. In this course, we read, discuss, and view footage of each installment of the cycle, beginning with Gem of the Ocean (set in 1904) and concluding with Radio Golf (set in 1997). Students gain a deeper appreciation of Wilson's life and work, his place within the American theater canon, and the contemporary actors and directors working to sustain his legacy.
Then, when this was all said and done, I ended the year by going to the cinema to see Denzel Washington's master class and Viola Davis' Oscar winning performances on the big screen. Oh my -- Let's look at one of the trailers again.   

Denzel Washington has committed to producing all of Wilson's plays for the screen. I can't wait to see them.

Recently, I went on a road trip. When I saw that there was an opportunity to pass by Pittsburgh, I knew I had to continue my August Wilson journey and stop in the Hill District. 

My first stop: August Wilson's Final Resting Place - Greenwood Cemetery in O'Hara - 321 Kittanning Pike, Pittsburgh, PA - Section 7 - Row 25 - Grave 10.

My second stop: August Wilson's birth home (now under restoration) at 1727 Bedford Avenue.

My third stop: Fictional site of Aunt Esther's house at 1839 Wylie Avenue.

My fourth stop: The rich and dense August Wilson mural by artist Kyle Holbrook at 2037 Centre Avenue.

My fifth stop: August Wilson Room at Carnegie Library, Hill District Branch - 2177 Centre Avenue.

My final stop: House used during filming of the movie Fences - 809 Anaheim Street. You can't miss that wooden fence surrounding the house! Just watch out for the dogs on the neighboring property when you are trying to peer over the fence in the back. I learned the hard way!

The house was the final August Wilson stop on my self guided tour on a rainy Spring afternoon in Pittsburgh but definitely not the final stop on my August Wilson journey. I still have to see productions for 5 of the plays in the cycle, and I am truly looking forward to seeing what Denzel Washington does with the rest of the cycle.  

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Quote from Suzan-Lori Parks "Elements of Style"

Don't ask playwrights what their plays mean; rather, tell them what you think and have an exchange of ideas.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Shout Out to Juilliard's Evening Division

For years, I've walked by The Juilliard School on the Lincoln Center campus. Some time back, I looked up whether the prestigious conservatory provided classes to the general public and was elated to see that they did indeed provide a series of classes through their Evening Division. Course offerings include dance, drama, and music history, music theory, ear training, composition, and conducting, as well as performance classes in voice and piano.

Being a theater enthusiast, I was most interested in their drama classes, more specifically theater history and appreciation. Every so often I skimmed the catalog for the upcoming semester but could never work a course into my schedule. Then miraculously a few terms ago, I was able to do so and immediately registered for my first 10 week course - Race, Gender, and Sexuality in American Theater. This offering was right up my alley!

After attending a few classes, when family and friends asked whether I was enjoying the class. My reply was always something like...

I read a great play each week! 
I discuss the play with a small group of like minded adults!
All the while the discussion is facilitated and play contextualized by an expert and dramaturg!
I absolutely love it!!

I highly recommend the Evening Division at The Juilliard School. If you love reading plays (like me) and delving into them, the Evening Division may be for you.  

Recent Theater Related Classes Offered Through Juilliard's Evening Division

Exploring American Theater
Shana Komitee
In this course, we delve into some of the greatest American plays of the last 75 years, including those by Tennessee Williams, Lillian Hellman, Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, and Suzan-Lori Parks, among others. What are the human questions at the heart of these plays? Why do we consider them works that changed the course of theater history? And why did these writers decide that theater was best medium for exploring their deepest concerns? In addition to examining the texts on the page, we view videos from stage productions or filmed versions of the plays (both in class and online). Students gain a deeper knowledge of these American theatrical pioneers, and understand how they became the giants on whose shoulders today’s playwrights stand.

Race, Gender, and American Theater
Shana Komitee
Over the last hundred years, radical changes have occurred in the subject material tackled on American stages. For instance, Lorraine Hansberry's 1959 Raisin in the Sun was the first Broadway show to portray black Americans' lives, but in the nearly 60 years since, stories of African-Americans and other racial minorities have proliferated in our dramatic canon. Likewise, the number and scope of plays about women's lives and concerns (and female actors hired to perform them) has dramatically increased since the gender revolutions of the 1960s. And while the issue of homosexuality was so taboo in 1947 that Tennessee Williams was forced to censor allusions to it in A Streetcar Named Desire, in the decades since the impact of plays exploring sexuality has grown considerably. In this course, we study some of these game-changing plays to see how the American stage has both mirrored and advanced American conversations about race, gender, and sexuality. Works to be considered include The Normal Heart (Larry Kramer), Clybourne Park (Bruce Norris), Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda), Hedwig and the Angry Inch (John Cameron Mitchell), and Ruined (Lynn Nottage), among others.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

I've Started a Theater Bucket List

I have many lists - a list of restaurants to dine at, a list of places to visit, a list of things to do before I die, etc. 

And now, I have started a Theater Bucket ListIn no particular order, here it is:

  1. Bing on theater in London for a few days
  2. Check out the Humana Festival
  3. Attend the Tony Awards
  4. Volunteer for one day as a theater usher
  5. Read a playwright's body of work
  6. Observe the rehearsal process
  7. Do a August Wilson walking tour of the Hill District in Pittsburg