Thursday, October 22, 2009

Back To The Swamp

Yesterday, Shrek confirmed what had been circulating the street all week: the ogre will be leaving Broadway and heading back to the swamp on January 3, 2010.

I know this is probably good news for some who felt Broadway was becoming too "Disney" and "kiddiefied". I'm saddened by the news.

I am so grateful that I was able to see the show back in May. It was a highly entertaining show, and I loved every minute of it. I especially enjoyed looking out at the audience and seeing kids, tweens, teenagers, families experiencing the same thrill. The future of Broadway was all around me.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Joke From Cade

Cade just came in the living room to tell me this joke.

Do you know why you should never tell a joke to an egg?

It might crack up!

Can't Wait To See This

Playing Rent
Mary Martin Niepold
SPECIAL TO THE JOURNAL
Putting one of America's most beloved musicals on stage is a good call for Theatre Alliance. The company that is known for edgy fare expands its horizons and lures MTV and Facebook generations to witness how a musical can speak to them and render stagecraft as relevant as tweeter blogs. Rent opens Friday night.

Rent has been impressively popular since its workshop production in 1994 and its Broadway debut in 1996. Winner of Tony, Drama Desk and Pulitzer prizes, Rent was unstoppable during its 12-year Broadway run, which was followed by a motion picture and tours in the U.S. and abroad.

The story is simple enough: A group of young people living in New York's East Village struggle to keep their art alive while battling menial jobs, crisscrossed romances, the devastation of AIDS and just about every bias that can exist. They used to live together in a loft in the East Village, and their lives have taken various turns. What has remained true for all of them is the idea that we only have today, make the most of it, and love is love, however it looks.

To underscore this message, playwright Jonathan Larson mixes a wide assortment of cultures, socio-economic classes, genders, sexual preferences and ethnic backgrounds in his rock opera. Among the group of friends are an exotic dancer, musician and bisexual performance artist who have HIV, and a drag queen percussionist and philosophy professor who have AIDS.

Some of the songs have graphic lyrics, but there is no frontal nudity in the show, which is recommended for audiences 16 and up.

Larson wrote some 40 songs in his work, which is based on Giacomo Puccini's opera, La Boheme. He spent seven years writing and refining Rent and died unexpectedly from a rare disease shortly before the play debuted on Broadway.

Like his characters, he was an artist determined to make a mark and not sell out, and he waited tables in a New York diner to support himself.

"It's a rock opera, not a rock musical," said Christy Johnson. Johnson, who lives in Greensboro, has a master's degree in Liberal Studies with a concentration in acting from UNC Greensboro. She plays Maureen, a character very similar to herself.

Johnson says she has always wanted to act. Her start was in the sixth grade when she earned the title role in Heidi for the Livestock Musical Theatre Company in Greensboro.

It's been nonstop stage time for her ever since -- and, yes, if she could, she says she would love to live in New York and be an actor there. Just like her character, Maureen.

Maureen is a Southern woman who has left a boyfriend for a relationship with another woman. The man she leaves, Mark, is played by Michael Hoch, a chemical engineer from Clemmons, who loves to act and has been listening to Rent ever since he found a bootleg version of it when he was a high-school kid in Detroit.

"The main theme is there is no day but today," Hoch said. "Live for today. Love for today, because we're not guaranteed tomorrow. Another major theme is that love is not bound by race, or gender or social status. Love is love."

Jamie Lawson, the director and artistic director of Theatre Alliance, appreciates the fine crafting of the play. "I was taught in theater and English writing classes, if it's extraneous, cut it. Rent is a well-oiled machine. It just grinds it out, and a lot of the songs are hummable."

Six live musicians will play from somewhere on the set that is ingeniously arranged on multiple levels to resemble the brick interiors of industrial buildings in New York's lower East side.

And through it all, Rent shows us that friends are also family. They love one another, pure and simple, and sing their hearts out along the way.
Theatre Alliance presents Rent at 8 p.m. Friday and Oct. 26, 28, 29 and 30; at 4 and 8 p.m. on Saturday and Oct. 31; and at 2 p.m. next Sunday and Nov. 1 at 1047 Northwest Blvd. Tickets are $16, $14 for students and seniors. Call 723-7777.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Book Report

I was in Barnes & Nobles in Greensboro, almost a year ago, killing some time before seeing a movie. I found a particular book I was looking for and then headed over to the discounted section. The Secret Sisters, a novel by Joni Rodgers, caught my eye. After reading the back and flipping through some of the pages, I decided to add it to my purchases.

I started reading it once before, and didn't make it through the first chapter. I picked it up again the other night, determined to read it.

As the three chairs indicate on the cover, there are three sisters. Pia is the oldest and has just lost her husband. Lily is the youngest and is in prison serving a 7-year sentence for killing her niece. Beth is their sister-in-law; it was her daughter Lily killed.

Each chapter is singularly devoted to each sister, with Pia's story receiving the most attention. While very slow to begin, Pia's journey is, by far, the most interesting. Her path is riddled with grief, second love, suicide, agoraphobia, sensuality and an ottoman. Mid way through the book I wanted to skip the Lily and Beth chapters and continue with Pia's trials.

Lily's chapters were written in first person and chronicled her days in prison. Books and 10 minutes phone calls from her sister, husband and eventually an ex-prison guard were her salvation.

Beth's story was, by far, the most boring. She was an unsympathetic character, made even more so after learning the details surrounding the death of her daughter (during Lily's final parole hearing, so it was very late in the book).

While reading the book wasn't a complete waste of time, The Secret Sisters will definitely be placed in the Edward McKay pile.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Kudos for The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later



**********
Thanks for having me at the theater. It was great and Mallorie did awesome.
~DR
**********
I wanted to tell you both that you did a wonderful job tonight. Cheryl Ann, your portrayal of Judy was beautiful. The night was amazing...

Brava!
~SL
**********
It was truly a remarkable experience...
~SB
**********
Mallorie did a great job.
~CD
**********
...I really admired your performance. Specifically, I liked the simplicity of it. It was sincere and drew the audience in. I completely understand that you were a proud mom that night (and should be!!), but don’t ever sell your work short; it was solid acting.
~AL



Thursday, October 15, 2009

Love and Support

Allan, Cade, Dusty, Mom, Clara, Dawson, Trena, Lynn, Tony, Rebecca, Michael, and Ben, thank you so very much for braving the crappy weather to support Mallorie and me in this personal endeavor.

Dad and Bill C. - thank you for being with us in spirit.

Extra special thank yous to Nathan, Kevin, Mary Ann, Mitchell, Brian, Jennifer, and Myla who helped spread the word.

Preliminary word was that we raised over $700 for the Matthew Shepard Foundation and close to $500 for the Adam Foundation. More importantly we told the story to a little over 250 audience members.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rehearsal, Daughters Of The Lone Star State

Rehearsal was again at the scene shop. I was prepared tonight, wearing my Pepsi sweatshirt and polar fleece jacket. Even still my toes were cold!

We have a new Clara Bell. Mimi felt it wasn't fair to us that she can't make rehearsals since she's in Rent, so she dropped out of the show earlier this week. Angela Hodges will replace Mimi. (I saw her in the Collaborative's Summer Showcase. I'm looking forward to working with her.)

Tonight we learned that Lysandra is moving to Asheville, and so she's dropping out! Becki West, who I worked with during WSTA's staged reading of Betty's Summer Vacation, will now play Ima Jean Gomez.

So, here's the current cast list:
Mildred Keifner - Karen Robertson
Liddy Bell Cartwright - Danya Bray
Clara Bell Ivey - Mimi Cunningham Angela Hodges
Darlene Parsons - Clara Yarbro
Lola Faye Barnes - Reba Birdsall
Lois Wheelis - Maggie Gallagher Betsey Pugh Charlene Watkins
Cookie Hawkins - Carol Roan
Ima Jean Gomez - Lysandra Sykes Becki West
Vergie Hopkins - Ally McCauley Cheryl Ann Roberts
Sharon Johnson - Natasha Gore
Doll Johnson - Kiki Fisher Lauranita
We were off book for the first time, and I did much better than I thought I would. I did call for lines a few times, but at least I knew it was my line!

Carol has graciously offered her apartment as rehearsal space. While I don't think it will be much bigger, at least it will be warmer!

From YES! Weekly

The legacy of Matthew Shepard
By Keith Barber

The Paper Lantern Theatre Company’s production of The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later, a cross between a stage play and a documentary about the aftermath of Matthew Shepard’s death, was performed Monday at the Arts Council Theatre in Winston-Salem. The performance represented one of more than 150 staged readings held around the world on Oct. 12 to commemorate the anniversary of Shepard’s death.

As the dramatic reading of The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later drew to a close Monday night at the Arts Council Theatre in Winston-Salem, a photo of Matthew Shepard was projected on a large screen above the stage. For two full hours, 15 actors played the roles of the townspeople of Laramie, Wy., and all the real-life characters involved in a murder that shook the conscience of a nation. Finally, the audience got to see the 21-year-old man whose tragic death inspired a national dialogue about gay rights.

Molly McGinn then strummed her electric guitar and belted out a stirring rendition of the song “Scarecrow” in honor of Shepard. “This was our brother/ this was our son,” McGinn sang.

As the lights came up and the players took their bows, the audience rose to its feet and expressed its heartfelt thanks for a spirited performance by cast members Sharon Andrews, Whit Andrews, Ken Ashford, Tim Austin, Miriam Davie, Linda Donnell, Sheila Duell, Mallorie Grady, Michael Huie, Ari Itkin, Hardy Koenig, Preston Lane, Heidi McIver, Mark Pirolo, Cheryl Ann Roberts, Andrew R. Rush and Jeffrey West. Director Amy da Luz deserves much credit for the phenomenal performances.

The Laramie Project, a hybrid between a documentary and a play, was written by Mois├ęs Kaufman, Leigh Fondakowski, Greg Pierotti, Andy Paris and Stephen Belber of New York’s Tectonic Theatre Project. Based on more than 200 interviews with the townspeople of Laramie, Shepard’s friends and relatives, the play also included transcripts of police interviews with convicted killers Aaron McKinney and Russell Thompson as well as trial transcripts.

Beth Ritson, one of the founding members of the Paper Lantern Theatre Company, opened the evening by sharing with the audience that more than 150 theatre companies around the nation and the globe would be performing a reading of The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later that very night to mark the anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death.

“We are gathering to understand, to dialogue and to heal,” Ritson said. “We are gathering most importantly to remember Matthew Shepard and to play our part in this larger vision.”

On Oct. 6, 1998, McKinney and Russell offered Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student, a ride home from the Fireside Lounge in downtown Laramie. Later, Shepard was robbed, tied to a split-rail fence, tortured and left to die. During his trial, it was revealed that Thompson and McKinney targeted Shepard because he was gay. The heinous crime drew national and international attention and eventually led to hate crimes legislation, which still languishes in the US Senate.

On Monday night, audiences around the world heard what has changed, and what hasn’t changed in the small prairie town of Laramie in the past 10 years.

“I just hope the community remembers just how ugly hate is,” Reggie Fluty, the police officer that first discovered an unconscious Shepard, said.

Deb, the editor of the Laramie Boomerang, takes a position that many of her neighbors agree with: The attack on Matthew Shepard was not a hate crime.

“It’s hard when you’re ashamed to stand up and say, ‘Yeah, we’ve screwed up,’” Fluty says.

A report by the TV show “20/20” about Shepard’s murder angers police investigator Dave O’Malley, who later discovers a memo from the show’s producer revealing a bias by the network to label the attack a robbery gone bad.

Beth, a university professor, refers to US Rep. Virginia Foxx’s (R-NC) statement that calling Shepard’s a hate crime is a hoax.

Henderson expresses remorse for his actions, but McKinney doesn’t feel anything.

“Matthew Shepard needed killing,” McKinney tells Greg Pierotti.

An actress performing the words of Cathy Connolly, the first openly gay Wyoming state representative, offers a hopeful story about the defeat of the Defense of Marriage Act, but states, “There is a lot more work to do.”

The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later is a profound epilogue and the continuation of that important dialogue. Paper Lantern Theatre, one of only two theatre companies in the state to stage readings of The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later, deserves great praise and admiration for doing so.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Mega Audition and a Rehearsal

There's only one other show in the remainder of Winston-Salem Theatre Alliance's season that I'm interested in doing. And I'm not just interested, I am dying to do one particular role.

As soon as I read Del Shore's The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife Willadean went on my "Roles I'm Dying To Do" list. I immediately gave the script to Mikey, who added JD to his list. Since Mikey would be touring during the scheduled auditions, he and I read together for the roles after striking for Sordid Lives. I must say, he was frightening as JD.

I attended this morning's Part 2 Mega Auditions. Sordid Lives castmate April was there for the role of Rayleen, as was a KLT friend, Beth. Another KLT actress, Linda, also read for Willadean. There were two men auditioning for JD; Mike who worked backstage for The Great American Trailer Park Musical and Don, my hilarious castmate in Moonlight and Magnolias. Don was also frightening.

Overall I was very pleased with my readings. We won't find out who got cast until Wednesday. Thank goodness I've got The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later to occupy my mind.

And speaking of The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later, we had a very good rehearsal tonight. There were still some changes to the script, but they were minor. We are all definitely ready to move into the theatre tomorrow night. We need to determine if the work lights will allow ample light to read.

If you haven't reserved your ticket(s) for the reading, you need to go to Paper Lantern Theatre Company and do so NOW. Really, you don't want to miss this very important production.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Another Evening At The Theatre

Tonight was opening night for Twin City Stage's The Shadow Box. I read the script back in the early 90's, so I was very interested in seeing it. I volunteered to work concessions so I could see the show for free.

I was aware of the trio of terminally ill patient "stories", so I was prepared for a heavier evening. But I was not prepared for some very lackluster performances.

I was most disappointed in the vignette with Brian (Gregg Vogelsmeier), his lover Mark (Mark March) and his floozy ex-wife Beverly (Gesche Metz). All three actors are seasoned players and yet each failed to bring their characters to believable life. March's attempt was honorable, but with nothing much given to him by the other two, all three were simply "acting" on stage.

Joe (Ken Ashford), his wife Maggie (Star Lee) and teenage son Steven (James Kuhn) featured in another vignette. These actors were a mix of seasoned and "green". The success of this story was carried by Ashford. Both Lee and Kuhn had to raise their game to keep up with Ashford's talent.

The most intriguing, and, in my opinion, the most heart wrenching vignette involved Agnes (Miriam Davie) and Felicity (Carole Midura). Felicity is hanging on, waiting for the arrival of her favorite daughter, Claire, who has been sending regular letters. Agnes explains to us that Claire has been dead for many years. We ultimately learn that Agnes has mistakenly created her own prison, as it is she who authors the letters. Midura's Felicity was barely likeable. Not recalling the specifics of the script I caught myself hoping Agnes would do in her mother! I've long admired Davie for her singing talent, and was pleasantly surprised by her acting ability. I know she has been taking acting classes, and her hard work is definitely paying off.

Michael Cristopher's play won a Tony and a Pulitzer. His movie adaptation won a Golden Globe and several Emmy nominations. Unfortunately, for me, Twin City Stage's production did not rise to award level.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

An Evening At The Theatre

While watching The Laramie Project over the weekend, Mallorie asked about Angels in America which was referenced several times in the movie. I didn't know much about the play, other than it was a two-part play, dealt with homosexuals and AIDS and had been made into a movie miniseries with Emma Thompson. Fortunately, Part One: Millennium Approaches was being produced by UNCG. Armed with a free ticket (thank you, Jody!) Mallorie and I caught the show last night.

We are introduced to Prior Walter (Matthew Delaney) and his boyfriend Louis Ironson (Matt Palmer). Prior is developing symptoms of a relatively new, and fatal, disease called AIDS. Louis is wracked with guilt; he cannot remain committed to Prior and watch him die. Harper Pitt (Shay Lydick) is the pill-popping, hallucinating wife of Joe Pitt (Joshua Yoder). Their marriage is falling apart; both suspect he is homosexual. Ray Cohen (Anthony Scarscella) discusses the politics of the time, and assures his doctor that he is not a faggot; he is merely a man who occasionally sleeps with other men. (He also doesn't have AIDS; he has cancer.)

I was most impressed with Anthony's performance. I met Anthony last year during SETC's Fall auditions. He was looking for a grad school. UNCG was very lucky to get him. His portrayal of Ray Cohen was spot-on. Matthew Delaney also turned in a realistic performance, as did Joshua Yoder. And while Shay Lydick's voice was grating at times, her performance was enjoyable.

As of right now, UNCG is not sure it will produce the second part next season. I hope they do. Just as things were getting started, the play was over.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Well Stated

A very well stated response to a recent "Letters To The Editor".
Buyer beware

While I was sorry to read that the writer of the letter "Increasingly common" (Sept. 25) and his wife did not enjoy the language they deem to be obscene in Twin City Stage's Moonlight and Magnolias, I do believe that some of the fault is their own. There is such a thing as "buyer beware."

Much as one should not buy a used car without checking under the hood to make sure that an engine is included, if one is easily offended by certain language at entertainment events, shouldn't one ask before investing in tickets whether such language is included? The couple needs to try to understand that not everyone agrees with their position, and certainly many people do not agree with censorship. The very best way to avoid hearing words one does not want to hear (without having to pass such value judgments as "such language … contaminates the person who is speaking") is to make sure none is included in the event one chooses to attend.

They certainly have the right to complain about such language if they wish. They also have the right to avoid it.

BILL CISSNA
Kernersville

Thursday, October 01, 2009

October skirt! Philosophy

MY DIY DIARY
Put air in tires...evidently full-service stations are not coming back. Gave the dog an emergency trim with craft scissors-I think his rickrack bangs are cute. Bought expensive yarn to make another scarf I won't finish. Found the bags of shells I've been saving to make a picture frame under the bags of broken china I've been saving to make a mirror. Going to turn those beads I bought last year into a necklace any day now.

How hard can it be

to match up paisley wallpaper panels?

I've collaged, decoupaged and Mod Podged everything that can't run away from me. NO LAMP SHADE IS SAFE.

NOTE TO SELF: Timing is everything when working with concrete...like labor, you can't stop in the middle. Plugged in a lamp I rewired. Nice of fire department to come so fast!

TIME FOR DIY DRINKS.