Category Archives: Events

STEPHEN SONDHEIM & JOHN WEIDMAN’S ‘ASSASSINS’ GATHERS A KILLER ROSTER OF PERFORMERS ·

(Charles McNulty’s article appeared in the LA Times, 4/16; via Pam Green.)

Members of three “Assassins” casts perform “Everybody’s Got the Right” during the Classic Stage Company’s filmed benefit.

(Classic Stage Company)

“Assassins” is a hard musical to love, but maybe even a harder one to forget.

This show by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman is built around a rogue’s gallery of infamous Americans who tried, in some cases successfully, to kill the president of the United States. As a description, “audacious” seems far too tame for a musical that searches for the pep in pathological and even makes treason tuneful.

Cognitive dissonance is built into a work that saves some of its prettiest melodies for the most murderous maniacs. Frank Rich, in his review of the 1991 off-Broadway premiere at Playwrights Horizons, called it “an antimusical about antiheroes.” The show was a hit off-Broadway, but it took 13 years for this disturbing vaudeville to make it to Broadway.

A planned 2001 Broadway production, directed by Joe Mantello, was postponed because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. With the country still smoldering, how could audiences be expected to turn out for a musical that includes one attempted assassin who wanted to hijack a plane and crash it into the White House?

If history always seems to be bumping into “Assassins,” it’s probably because the dark cultural currents that give rise to John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald and their copycat kind are continually being replenished in a nation that enjoys dividing its citizens into winners and losers.

The tumultuous history of “Assassins” is recalled in “Tell the Story: Celebrating Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s ‘Assassins,’” a vibrant recorded benefit for New York’s Classic Stage Company, conceived and directed by artistic director John Doyle, one of Sondheim’s most inventive contemporary interpreters.

Doyle was in rehearsal with “Assassins” last year when New York performance venues were forced to close because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The show will reopen the off-Broadway theater later this year, and this documentary (available till Monday) is both a salute to the musical and to the scrappy brilliance of theater artists, whose survival is being tested like never before.

How will the show play after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol? Possibly no longer as an exhibition of deranged, fame-seeking extremists but as a window into widespread American grievance. “Everybody’s Got the Right,” the musical’s opening (and closing) number, looks at what can happen when the government is blamed for standing in the way of a disaffected citizen’s pursuit of happiness.

In her preface to the documentary, Hillary Clinton calls attention to the dire situation of theaters, like CSC, which are struggling to resuscitate themselves after being dark for so long. If anyone has the right to be unsettled by “Assassins,” it’s the former secretary of State, senator and first lady, who, despite all the obstacles thrown in her path, came within a hair’s breadth of becoming our first woman president. But with the authority of someone who knows the dark underbelly of American politics, she makes the case for a musical that “dares its audience to see our country and assess our national myths through the eyes of our villains instead of our heroes.”

(Read more)

MOLIERE IN THE PARK’S PEN/MAN/SHIP LIVE VIRTUAL PERFORMANCES ·

(Via David Gibbs, DARR Publicity)

Molière in the Park to present 7 live virtual performances of Christina
Anderson’s pen/man/ship, the company’s first contemporary American play, directed by MIP’s Founding Artistic Director Lucie Tiberghien Previews begin April 16, Opens April 18, Runs through April 24

Brooklyn, NY – Molière in the Park, in partnership with the Prospect Park Alliance and LeFrak Center at Lakeside, will present a full virtual production of Christina Anderson’s pen/man/ship, directed by Molière in the Park’s Founding Artistic Director Lucie Tiberghien, running April 16 – 24, 2021. Previews begin April 16 for an April 18 opening.

Molière in the Park is thrilled to be returning to the screen with Christina Anderson’s riveting maritime drama. Beloved by their audience when it premiered last winter this is the last chance to catch it performed live for seven shows only. Elisabeth Vincentelli of The New York Times wrote, “Moliere in the Park’s virtual productions make imaginative use of video filters and effects, and this new one does not disappoint. The impressive cast includes Crystal Lucas-Perry and Kevin Mambo.” Don’t miss this immersive visual and audio experience that will transport you to the heart of a stirring, turn of the twentieth century tale.

1896. When Ruby, a young Black woman fleeing the American South, boards a ship bound for Liberia, she finds herself at odds with her companion’s domineering, God-fearing father and his mysterious expedition. Unwilling to sit passively below deck, she befriends the crew, becoming entangled in a mutinous uprising that threatens them all. Performed live with breakthrough technology and expansive visuals that put the audience aboard the troubled vessel, pen/man/ship is a heart-pounding story of truth-seeking at all cost and a powerful reminder of the dangerous limits of self-righteousness. 

The returning cast features Lucille Lortel Award winner Crystal Lucas-Perry (JQA with San Diego Rep, A Bright Room Called Day & Ain’t No Mo’ at the Public Theater), Kevin Mambo (“Marvel’s Luke Cage” on Netflix, Fela in Broadway’s Fela!, Mlima’s Tale at the Public Theater), Jared McNeill (HBO’s “We Are Who We Are,” Battlefield at BAM, The Valley of Astonishment at Theatre for a New Audience) and Postell Pringle (Broadway’s A Free Man of Color, FX’s “Rescue Me,” The Urban Retreat at the Public Theater).

The production team includes Garth Belcon (MIP Co-Founding Executive Producer), Thyra Hartshorn (Production Manager), Rocco DiSanti (Video Design/Engineer), Lina Younes (Production Design), Ari Fulton (Costume Design), Marie Yokoyama (Lighting Design), Victoria Deiorio (Original Music & Sound Design), Ursula Echeverria (Head Animator), Daniel Williams (Sound Engineer), Madison Lane (Production Stage Manager), Kaliswa Brewster (Community Liaison) and Lisa Lewis (Advertising & Marketing).

Performances (all ET) are Friday, April 16 at 2pm, Saturday, April 17 at 7pm, Sunday, April 18 at 7pm, Wednesday, April 21 at 2pm, Thursday, April 22 at 7pm, Friday, April 23 at 7pm, and Saturday, April 24 at 7pm. The running time is approximately 2 hours including a 5-minute intermission. Tickets are free. Reserve at www.moliereinthepark.org.

To appeal to its French speaking audience and language learners, MIP is offering closed captions in French, translated by Chloe Noble and Lucie Tiberghien. Molière in the Park is an inclusive and antiracist theater organization. Their mission is to bring high-caliber English language productions of Molière’s timely masterpieces, as well as carefully chosen contemporary plays that focus on language and question today’s world through the lens of history, to Brooklyn’s Prospect Park annually, and the online theatergoing community, free of charge. For info visit www.moliereinthepark.org, like MIP on Facebook at
www.facebook.com/MoliereInThePark, follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MoliereBKPark and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/moliereinthepark.

Christina Anderson is a playwright, tv writer, educator, and creative. Her plays have appeared at The Goodman Theatre, OSF, The Public Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, Kansas City Rep and other theaters in the United States and Canada. Her awards and honors include 2020 United States Artists Fellow, MacDowell Fellowship, Lily Awards Harper Lee Prize, Herb Alpert Award nomination, Barrymore Nomination and New Dramatists Residency. Her work has appeared multiple times on the annual Kilroy’s List, an industry survey of excellent new works by female playwrights. She is also the winner of the Lucille Lortel Fellowship. Christina’s plays include How To Catch Creation, The Ripple, The Wave That Carried Me Home, Man In Love, Pen/Man/Ship, The Ashes Under Gait City and Blacktop Sky. She taught playwriting at Wesleyan University, Rutgers University, SUNY Purchase College and served as the interim Head of Playwriting at Brown University. Christina recently worked as a television staff writer on the CBS drama “Tommy.” Her current projects include producing an album of instrumental hip hop music titled The Montage Flow and writing her first tv pilot “The Only Isaac.” A Franco-American Brooklynite, Lucie Tiberghien was raised in France and Switzerland and moved to New York in 1995. Specializing in the development of new plays, Lucie has directed world premieres at Second Stage, MCC, The Cherry Lane Theater, Hartford Stage, La Jolla Playhouse, Contemporary American Theater Festival, Rattlestick Theater Company, MaYi Theater Company, The Humana Festival, Labyrinth Theater Company, Pan Asian Rep, New York Theater Workshop Next Door, and Arena Stage. She has developed new plays at Playpenn, Sundance, Ojai, The O’Neill, MTC, The Roundabout, Primary Stages, among others. In the fall of 2018 she founded Molière in the Park to act on her desire to democratize access to theater and bring free productions to Brooklyn on a regular basis.

NEXT PROBLEM FOR THE ARTS IS GETTING AUDIENCES TO TRUST THE VACCINE ·

(Chris Jones’s article appeared in the Chicago Tribune, 4/15; Photo: The Chicago Tribune.)

On Monday, the Washington Post arts critic Peter Marks announced a grand slate of live 2021-22 attractions at the Kennedy Center: a dozen musicals like “The Prom” and “Hamilton,” Broadway plays like “To Kill a Mockingbird,” variety shows like “Riverdance” and Blue Man Group. All playing at full capacity, beginning in October.

We’re back after 18 months in the wilderness! Finally! Hurrah!

The reaction on Twitter was as bizarre as it was swift.

“How are they dealing with keeping the cast safe? That sounds like, potentially, a huge viral load facing you.”

“It’s irresponsible.”

“Dear God, no social distancing?”

“How can you build trust this way? Save the pretending for the stage.”

The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. is not doing anything any differently from other entertainment entities. Broadway is planning a fall return and some shows have begun selling tickets. Arts presenters in cities from Cleveland to San Francisco are planning to restart in the fall, too. And in the entertainment business, you have to sell tickets in advance, meaning the shows have to be announced now. Otherwise they cannot go ahead.

After all, October is still six months away. The supply of vaccines in many areas of the country already either matches or even exceeds demand and rapidly is catching up elsewhere; in New York and elsewhere, particular efforts are being made to vaccinate arts professionals. October will be long after President Joseph R. Biden has said vaccine supply will be sufficient to vaccinate every American who wants one and there is no hard evidence to suggest that won’t happen as planned.

(Read more)

 

OST/TODOROFF/HARCUM: THEATER RESOURCES UNLIMITED (TRU) ON ADVOCACY, OPPORTUNITY AND INSPIRATION DURING (AND AFTER) COVID ·

TRU community Gathering of Friday 4/9/21.

In the room with Bob Ost, TRU Executive Director, President, and
Co-founder: Aimee Todoroff, director, Managing Director of the League of Independent Theater and Chris Harcum, award-winning actor, producer, and playwright (and Director of a Bright Future for LIT). They are co-founders of Elephant Run District indie theater company. The power of advocacy and the founding and evolution of the League of Independent Theater, including initiatives to help theater venues, as well as theater artists, survive the shutdown. And the difference between Open Culture and NY Pop Ups, and their roles in bringing back live performance.

VisitTheater Resources Unlimited

ROBERT DWYER & AUSTIN WRIGHT’S ACE IN THE HOLE: “THE SHERIFF” FROM TWODOT BOOKS (INTERVIEW, Part 2) ·

Robert Dwyer & Austin Wright posse up with Bob Shuman–for the second part of their Stage Voices interview on The Sheriff–and talk about fact being stranger than fiction, human nature and the big questions of morality and will, as well as the greatest Western of all time.

Robert Dwyer is a history buff with an abiding interest in the West, which looms large in the American psyche–a canvas for big stories and big ideas. He lives with his wife and dog in Alexandria, Virginia.

Austin Wright started watching John Wayne movies with his dad before he was old enough to talk–and he’s been hooked on Westerns ever since. He lives with his wife, son, and daughter in Annandale, Virginia.

“Has a chance to be judged one of those rare modern Western–fiction classics.”—Jeff Guinn, New York Times best-selling author

(Photos, from top: Robert Dwyer and Austin Wright.)

Did you find you became more interested in American History by writing the book—what kind of research did you do?

Absolutely. The concept of frontier, of the West as this unbounded land of freedom and opportunity, is central to the American psyche, whether true or not. Such a world of exploration, of struggle, of creation, is inherently interesting, and in reading histories one finds that fact is often stranger than fiction. We felt we needed to be true to the genre and true—to a degree—to historical fact. Enough not to jar readers, at least, which required research. We also wanted to make sure we could represent our more diverse cast of characters with adequate empathy and understanding. That meant reading about African American experiences during that time, reading about the lives of prostitutes, about suffragists, about Native Americans. And then writing is always improved by the little details that come from reading accounts of everyday lives—of the cowboy, the hotelier, the soldier, the homesteader.

Tell how you approached making your novel relevant for today,  if you feel it becomes that.

Our goal was to apply a modern moral lens to the traditional Western. That meant bringing to the forefront characters and perspectives that would have blended into the background in Westerns past, if they were there at all. Does the archetypal Western hero, the lawman, still look like a hero through the eyes of those at the bottom of the power structure? We also believe our novel speaks to present-day politics, exploring the tension between populism and elitism, rural and urban, individualism and collectivism.

What person did the most to make you a writer—what did they give you?

Rob: My parents, who filled the house with books and always encouraged reading. I think it’s inevitable that reading turns into writing. I was also lucky to have wonderful English teachers along the way, who taught me invaluable lessons in good writing, particularly in high school. Although I have had to unlearn certain things—like putting two spaces after my periods.

Austin: My dad, a teacher, moonlights as a novelist and playwright. He wakes up early most mornings to put in a few hours of writing before work. As a child, I started getting up with him—and he’d slide a pen and paper my direction and encourage me to create my own stories. Since then, he’s always been my chief editor and sounding board. He gave me the knowledge that writing is not glamorous or flashy—it’s about sitting down at the keyboard and getting the work done.

What western movies do you remember as kids that you feel the same way about today—or ones that you have changed your minds about? Should the movie The Searchers be banned?

As kids, we preferred the moral clarity of John Wayne to the more ambiguous Clint Eastwood. But as adults, our appreciation for Clint Eastwood’s Westerns has grown tremendously, from A Fistful of Dollars to Unforgiven. We would now rank The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly as the greatest Western of all time. Breathtaking in scope—and with the most riveting score in film history—it features three men racing to find buried treasure as the Civil War rages all around them, portrayed mostly as an inconvenience to their search. Is there a better representation of the  human comedy—of our grand obsession with personal fortune even in the face of collective calamity?

As for The Searchers, which is a big exception to our John Wayne “moral clarity” comment…We tend to oppose the banning of books and movies, a principle instilled in us by our high school English teachers. But if you’re interested in the real-life story that inspired The Searchers, we’d recommend the book Empire of the Summer Moon, by S. C. Gwynne. It’s riveting, extraordinarily well-researched, and does much more to humanize the Comanche people than the movie.

Does a new form of Western need to evolve—and what would such works probably look like? What do you appreciate most about the conventions of writing Westerns?

Not necessarily. It all depends on what one means by Western. To us, the Western uses that particular historical and geographical setting to tell a story that probes human nature and big questions of morality and will. How do humans behave and organize in the absence of overwhelming, top-down social structures?

A good example is The Ox-Bow Incident, by Walter Van Tilburg Clark. This tight little novel asks deep questions of justice, xenophobia, mob mentality, and human nature, all arising organically in a Western setting where citizens are able to take justice into their own hands. You just can’t ask those questions as easily anywhere else. Ox-Bow manages to keep that element of Western setting, to tell a recognizably Western story, without glorifying its injustices—on the contrary, it grapples with them. And it was written in 1940.

Westerns, we think, go wrong when they glorify a past that was so clearly abominable for whole classes of people. But good stories can be—and are—told there. It requires grappling with and acknowledging the true history of the West. Now, there’s a whole genre of what we’ll call anti-Westerns, which are written exclusively to subvert or oppose the traditional Western. That’s great, but one shouldn’t expect lovers of traditional Westerns to necessarily appreciate them. We think there’s a middle ground—and we hope The Sheriff finds it—where the past is acknowledged, where the age isn’t naively glorified, but where the story is still recognizably Western. And fun.

What’s your next project?

We’re working on a contemporary mystery about a small town reporter and single father who gets laid off and takes to solving a murder—while also scrambling to figure out how to provide for his son. We’re on what feels like the thousandth draft. But we’re getting close to that magical point where the plot and character motivations feel right, and we can focus on the higher-level fun stuff like voice, themes, and foreshadowing. We hope to finish this year.

We’ve also outlined a successor novel to The Sheriff, called The Outlaw, which centers around the gender-bending Western gangster Jack Holloway. Our outline is modeled after The Godfather Part II in that it is both a sequel and an origin story. Whether or not this project becomes a reality will depend on the success of The Sheriff.

Thank you for much for talking with Stage Voices.

View  The Sheriff on Amazon.

(c) 2021 by Robert Dwyer & Austin Wright  (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.

Cover photo: TwoDot.

MILLIONS TO WATCH “COME TO EGYPT” MOVIE  ·

“Ancient Egyptians were a unique, powerful, and very advanced people.”–Khaled El-Nabawy

Correspondent Adam Sullivan wrote about Khaled El-Nabawy’s new venture in Egypt.  Filmed in a number of archaeological sites, as part of the country’s plan to promote Egyptian destinations–and raise awareness among citizens—the project introduces ancient Egyptian civilization to Egyptians and promotes Egypt on an Arab and international scale. The aim of the film is to showcase Egypt’s tourism offerings, especially cultural tourism, which is  very important for Egyptian tourism. 

The Egyptian cultural ministry chose internationally renowned actor Khaled El-Nabawy to star in the film because he had launched a campaign to promote Egypt’s tourist and archaeological sites, called “Come to Egypt,” to invite people from all over the world to visit his country.

Watch scenes from “Come to Egypt” here.

 

 

ACTORS’ EQUITY ISSUES NEW PROTOCOLS FOR ‘FULLY VACCINATED’ PRODUCTIONS ·

(Ryan McPhee’s article appeared in Playbill, 4/5; via Pam Green; Photo: 45th Street Playbill Staff.)  

As the U.S. approaches COVID-19 vaccine eligibility for all adults, the union has updated its guidelines for a slowly reopening theatrical landscape.

Actors’ Equity Association has released updated guidelines for theatres that intend to employ its members, which include performers and stage managers, as indoor productions begin to take the stage once again following the pandemic shutdown. The protocols are specifically for “fully vaccinated” companies, in which Equity members and all those who would be in contact with them are at least 14 days past receiving their final COVID-19 vaccination shots.

The newly issued guidelines arrive after Equity faced scrutiny by employers and members alike, who claimed that the union’s slow response compared to other similar guilds—as well as restrictive and costly measures like private transportation and extended breaks from rehearsal—were preventing work instead of protecting workers. In response to a petition that cited these concerns, Equity will hold a town hall on reopening-focused safety protocols April 8.

Among the union’s requirements is the implementation of COVID-19 safety officers. Productions would have to have one for every 20 people in the company (which includes actors, stage managers, and anyone who comes in contact with them). Officers would ensure compliance with health protocols, overseeing testing, symptom monitoring, cleaning, contact tracing, and more. The guidelines stipulate that actors and stage managers cannot act as safety officers for their production.

(Read more)

THEATER RESOURCES UNLIMITED (TRU) PRESENTS WRITER-PRODUCER VIRTUAL SPEED DATE: THE ART OF THE PITCH SUNDAY, APRIL 25, 2021 AT 2:30PM ·

(via Michelle Tabnick.)

Theater Resources Unlimited

presents

Writer-Producer Virtual Speed Date: The Art of the Pitch

Sunday, April 25, 2021 at 2:30pm

Submission Deadline: Thursday, April 15, 2021

 

Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU) presents a Writer-Producer Virtual Speed Date: The Art of the Pitch, on Sunday, April 25, 2021. The popular event is now reformatted for Zoom, with more tech and less noise: each writer will be in an individual breakout room with each of the eleven producers. The submission deadline is Thursday, April 15, 2021. To apply, fill out the application here and email to TRUStaff1@gmail.com. The application fee is $65 for TRU members and $75 for non-members or observers. When naming the application document, please include your full name first.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were forced to rethink all TRU programs for Zoom presentation. Turns out that what seemed at first to be a drastic inconvenience has paid off with surprising benefits,” said Bob Ost, executive director of TRU. “We now have extended our reach well beyond the New York area, throughout the US and as far away as England, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia. Now writers from all over the world can come meet and pitch to a lineup of New York producers.”

There will be two Zoom sessions:

Session 1

2:30pm ET: Coaching

One-hour break

4:30pm ET: Pitching

Session 2

3:30pm ET: Coaching

One-hour break

5:30pm ET: Pitching

You meet a producer at a party and have two minutes to interest them in your work. Do you have the skill to sell yourself? Here’s a chance to practice your pitching with real producers who are open to and interested in meeting you. Okay, they probably won’t option you on the spot, but they’ll give you valuable feedback about your work and your ability to talk about it. And you’ll have the opportunity to start developing a relationship. And that’s what this business is all about. Relationships.

The Speed Date is the only event I know of that gives writers the chance to meet high level producers one-on-one in a room. To me, that’s what makes the Speed Dates so valuable. And you do it with kindness, which I value in life. ~Vincent Amelio (How Alfo Learned to Love)

We’ll have eleven producers lined up, from both the commercial and not-for-profit worlds, all with an interest in new projects; we also may have eleven aspiring producers from our Producer Development program. So you’ll be pitching to as many as 22 producers in total! Come with a willingness to learn, because the real value is the chance to practice your pitching. And you’ll be getting invaluable coaching from experts, as well.

Confirmed producers include:

Margot Astrachan, producer (The Prom, A Gentleman’s Guide…, Ghost the musical, Around the World in 80 Days, Nice Work If You Can Get It, On a Clear Day…)

Patrick Blake, producer (The 39 Steps, Bedlam Theatre’s Hamlet/St. Joan, My Life Is a Musical, Play Dead, The Exonerated), founding artistic director of Rhymes Over Beats Hip Hop Theater Collective

Charlotte Cohn, producer (Church and State, Handle with Care, Rated P for Parenthood)

Sharon Fallon/Sharon Fallon Productions, general manager, theatrical consultant, producer (IndecentBeautiful Broadway, London & National Tour, Matilda The Musical, Lysistrata Jones)

William Franzblau, producer (Rocktopia, Tony Award-nominated Say Goodnight GracieAmerican Buffalo and Wonderland on Broadway; tour of Little House on the Prairie the Musical; off-Broadway Sistas, Jewtopia, Evil Dead the MusicalRespect, Illuminate)

Sue Gilad/In Fine Company, producer (Moulin Rouge, Angels in America, Jagged Little Pill, Company, Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812; M. Butterfly; Disaster! The Musical; Significant Other. Upcoming: The Outsiders. Off-Broadway: The Other Josh Cohen)

Jennifer Manocherian, producer (Meteor Shower, Dead Accounts, Nice Work If You Can Get It, The Mountaintop, War Horse, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, August: Osage County)

Tamra Pica, producer and casting director for WriteAct Repertory, and the new Park Performing Arts Center’s (PPAC) in Union City, NJ

Jonathan Pollard, producer (Broadway: All Shook Up; off-Broadway: Disenchanted!, Dai (enough), The Thing About Men, Over the River and Through the Woods, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change)

Markus Potter, theatre director, Artistic Director of Kansas Repertory Theatre, Founding Producing Artistic Director of NewYorkRep, Co-Producer of the Velocity of Autumn on Broadway

One more producer to be announced

Coaches: Emileena Pedigo, Samantha Saltzman, Joanne Zippel

I really am impressed with the info and support from TRU. I’ve done several of these with [another] group. I quit last year. With you guys it’s like you’re setting us up for success, what a concept. ~Kurt Johns

I just wanted to relay a huge thanks to you and everyone at TRU for this experience, it was awesome! We really felt supported the whole way through, and we feel so much better prepared to market our show after getting the chance to practice pitching. If there’s anywhere we can write a review or something for this experience, please let us know. And thank you and the rest of the team for all the tech effort behind this. ~Daniel Rosen & Alara Magritte

Just wanted to say “thanks” for your Herculean efforts in making the event so worthwhile…. Honestly, I much preferred pitching via Zoom than in person with everyone else within earshot. ~Sam Affoumado

My experience was one of the rare occasions where several producers expressed real interest in my work. Later, one attended my reading, and followed up with a coffee meeting to talk financing. We’re still in touch. Again, this is never promised, but it does happen for some of us. In my opinion, the price of $85 for all that value is a BARGAIN! ~Ed Zareh (Long Lost John)

I’ve had follow-up meetings with two people I met from the event and provided scripts to three others. If you have a project where you’d like to practice and receive feedback on your pitch; potentially make some connections that would be useful for script development or early production; and meet some other playwrights – this is an ideal opportunity. ~William Roetzheim

About the Coaches

Emileena Pedigo’s work focuses on building sustainable careers #AnotherWay, using entrepreneurial strategies that prioritize the artist over their art. Her company, The Show Goes On Productions provides coaching and artist management, as well as produces workshops, showcases, and events. Before that Emileena was managing producer of the Midtown International Theater Festival. She helped expand the annual festival into seven venues, presenting up to 60 shows in one month during her seven-year tenure. Emileena also general-managed for several nonprofits, assisted Stewart F. Lane on four Broadway shows, including the Off-Broadway transfer of The 39 Steps, and worked on various film and music festivals. She toured theaters, music arenas, and schools across the country, working with artists from all artistic disciplines. Emileena has served on the board of Conscious Capitalism NYC, and is currently helping to build Arts programming within the Chelsea Greenwich Village Chelsea Chamber of Commerce. She is a graduate of the Commercial Theatre Institute, SUNY/Kaufmann’s Fasttrac program for entrepreneurs, and a Purdue University alum. 

Samantha Saltzman’s credits include: Current Directing Projects: Drama League Gala Honoring Steve Martin, and Bryant Park Christmas Skatetacular. Resident Director: Matilda the Musical (1st National Tour). Assistant Resident Director: Matilda the Musical (Broadway).  Additional Associate/Assistant Directing credits: Southern Comfort (The Public), Sarah Brightman’s Dreamchaser World TourOn the Town (Barrington Stage), An Iliad (National Tour), Academia Nuts, and multiple shows at NYMF and FringeNYC. Select Directing credits include: The Arkadina ProjectUrinetown210 Amlent Ave, and Madam Fury’s Traveling Show. Drama League Directing Fellow. www.samanthasaltzman.com

 

Joanne Zippel is a collaborator and communicator who has an extensive network of relationships in both the creative and corporate worlds. She has over 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur, working in theatre and live event production, promotion, sponsorship, B2B and B2C sales and marketing, creative development, literary management and creative coaching in the entertainment business. Joanne ‘s creative coaching business evolved out of her work as a manager of playwrights and screenwriters – guiding their careers and helping them to pursue their passions in what is well known as an often difficult, changeable and sometimes arbitrary business. Through her company Zip Creative, she works with clients helping them to open themselves up to their creative capacity, build a solid foundation from which to make authentic work and life decisions and take practical action on them. For more information go to www.zipcreative.net. Joanne graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and did graduate work at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She is a graduate of the Hoffman Institute.

About the Producers

Margot Astrachan is a Tony Award winning commercial theatrical producer based in New York. Broadway: Tony Award winning A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and MurderThe Realistic JonesesNice Work If You Can Get It, the revival of On a Clear Day You Can See ForeverBonnie & ClydeBusker AlleyGhost the Musical National Tour, and the only staging of Stephen Sondheim’s Evening Primrose. She also recently produced The Sting starring Harry Connick Jr. at The Papermill Playhouse. Upcoming: Diana, A New Musical (La Jolla, February 2019). Margot wrote, produced and performed five one-woman cabaret shows. New York: Danny’s Skylight Room, Judy’s, The Plaza Hotel, The Oak Room of The Algonquin Hotel, the Triad, The National Arts Club, and Don’t Tell Mama’s, among others. With dancer/choreographer Carmen de Lavallade, she wrote the book of a new Jazz musical, which has been read at Lincoln Center and at The York Theater.Margot was the American Artistic Director of the Jermyn Street Theatre in London and The Kings Head Theatre in London, and has had over 30 years’ experience producing special events for Arts Organizations such as The York Theatre Company, The Theatre Museum, and Brit-Arts of The St. George’s Society, which with Jim Dale, featured British and American theatre professionals in readings and panels in New York. She is the Vice Chair of The New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF), a board member of The Alumni & Friends of The LaGuardia High School for the Arts, The League of Professional Theater Women, and The Theater Board of The Kaufman Cultural Center. She is a graduate of CTI (The Commercial Theatre Institute) and is a member of The Association of Performing Arts Presenters, The National Alliance For Musical Theatre, The Broadway League, The Dramatists Guild, the Advisory Board of TRU, British American Business, Inc. and BAFTA East Coast. She is the past chair and current board member of The American Friends of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Her latest project is Radio Galaxy by Michele Aldin Kushner (found in the TRU Voices series) and directed by Mark Waldrop, currently in development.

 

Patrick Blake is a writer/producer based in New York and San Francisco, and Founding Artistic Director of Rhymes Over Beats, a hip hop theater company. In New York theater, he is a producer of the off-Broadway revival of The 39 Steps, the off-Broadway transfer of Bedlam Theater Company’s dual productions of Hamlet and Saint Joan, and is currently producing My Life Is a Musical (from the TRU Voices series) which had a debut production at Bay Street Theatre. He was one of the producers of Play Dead! at The Players Theatre, he has produced In the Continuum at Perry Street Theatre, Noah’s ArchiveJoe FearlessThe Exonerated (Lucille Lortel, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Court TV’s Scales of Justice Award) and The Soap Myth at Southstreet Seaport. He also produced Dirty Works at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He was Executive Producer for the short film, The Igloo, and the feature film Mr. Smith Gets a Hustler. Patrick is a proud board member of TRU.

 

Charlotte Cohn was born in Denmark and raised in Israel where she served in the Israeli Army as a commanding officer. She was the lead producer of The NY Times critics’ pick Handle With Care and the critically acclaimed Church & State, both written by Jason Odell Williams. Directing highlights include Best Friends at JAZZ at Lincoln Center and Church & State at Berkshire Theatre Group. Acting highlights include La Boheme and Coram Boy on Broadway. Charlotte is an Ovation Award Winner and was nominated for the Bay Area Critics’ Circle Award for her performance as ‘Hallelujah Lil’ in Happy End at A.C.T. For more please visit:  www.charlottecohn.com

 

William Franzblau created and produced the recent Broadway Rocktopia, the Tony Nominated Best Play Say Goodnight Gracie, produced David Mamet’s American Buffalo on Broadway, and the tour of Little House on the Prairie the Musical starring Melissa Gilbert. He also served as the Executive and Lead Producer for Broadway’s Wonderland. He licensed and produced the off-Broadway shows, SISTAS the Musical (recently shot and broadcast on BET, now in its sixth year off Broadway), This One’s for the GirlsJewtopiaEvil Dead the Musicalthe male intellect: an oxymoronRespect and ILuminate (America’s Got Talent Finalist) while developing several Broadway shows including Paramount’s Crazy People and the new Rupert Holmes play, Kennedy/Reagan. He produced and Co-Directed Rocktopia for the 2016 PBS National Pledge Broadcast with a 2017 tour. As Chief Executive Officer of the high technology company, KATrix Inc. he created strategic alliances with the Walt Disney Company, Microsoft Corporation, MGM and the Intel Corporation. In the early nineties, Mr. Franzblau co-founded Interfilm Inc., a publicly traded company combining interactive technologies with cinematic art. He was the driving force in putting together an $18 million initial public offering underwritten by Smith Barney and subsequently facilitated the sale of the company via a reverse triangular merger with Palatin Technologies, Inc. From 1990 through 1992 Mr. Franzblau served as producer of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles touring show, a 21-month tour involving 500 appearances in 200 cities and 10 countries, for which he managed all aspects of the business development and operations. The tours grossed over $60 million in sponsorships, ticket sales and merchandising as well as spinning off a double platinum record and a national pay-per-view. Previous to the above Mr. Franzblau served as Executive Producer of three tours of the Moscow Circus on Broadway and North America and produced the touring productions of BEATLEMANIA.

Suzanne Gilad was the lead producer of the award-winning hit musical The Other Josh Cohen, at the Westside Theatre. Sue’s recent Broadway credits include Moulin Rouge!Jagged Little PillAngels in America (Tony Award winner for Best Revival of a Play), Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812M. ButterflyDisaster! and Significant Other. She is the co-founder of InFineCompany.com, BroadwayCustom.com, and CustomBroadway.com, which provides individualized, Broadway-level concerts and shows for theaters and Performing Arts centers around the world. Sue’s career started with voiceovers for TV, film, radio and Broadway. Sue is the Co-Chair on the Leadership Council of Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS. Her favorite gig is playing the Voice of God for the Broadway Cares’ annual Broadway Backwards benefit. Before entering the world of producing, she was an entrepreneur. Sue is the co-author of The Real Estate Millionaire (McGraw-Hill) and author of Copyediting and Proofreading for Dummies (Wiley). She is the creator of PaidToProofread.com, which sells books and video programs. Sue is a mom of three very active kids who promise not to become performers.

Jennifer Manocherian’s credits include Meteor ShowerNice Work If You Can Get ItBloody Bloody Andrew JacksonDead AccountsThe MountaintopA Little Night MusicLa Cage aux FollesThe Norman ConquestsThe 39 StepsAugust: Osage CountySpring AwakeningThe Little Dog LaughedCaroline, or ChangeMa Rainey’s Black BottomThoroughly Modern MillieThe CrucibleJane EyreStomp.

Tamra Pica is producer and casting director for WriteAct Repertory, and the new Park Performing Arts Center’s (PPAC) in Union City, NJ. Tamra’s theater and television work spans 33 years and over 250 productions as a prop designer, AEA Stage Manager, producer and casting director of plays, musicals, dance and ice shows. She produces both Off Broadway, as well as, managing the Los Angeles theater presence for Write Act.  Recent credits include the long-running FrankensteinWicked City Blues, and Swing. Other credits include: Lili MarleneCaldwell’s Bomb for the New York Venus/Adonis Theater Festival, RenewalYour Name on My Lips at Theater for the New City and the long running musical Fabulous! Queen of the New Musicals where she served as a casting director and producer. Alongside theater, Tamra’s work production, casting, and development television work can be seen for companies such as Disney, Sony, Cartoon Network, NBC Studios, TBS, CBS, MTV, ABC and FOX.  She currently works on the animated Disney series Mira, Royal Detective.

Markus Potter is a theatre director, Producer, and Professor of Theatre at the University of Kansas, where he also serves as Artistic Director of the Kansas Repertory Theatre. He is the Founding Producing Artistic Director of NewYorkRep, and previously served as Interim Artistic Director of Theatre Aspen. Key directing projects include Stalking the Bogeyman off-Broadway at New World Stages (Outer Critics Circle Award nomination, NYTimes critics pick), London’s Southwark Playhouse (Off West End Award nomination for best production and direction), Red Speedo by Lucas Hnath at Center Rep, Lost Boy Found In Whole Foods by Tammy Ryan at The Portland Stage Company, Why You Beasting? (Time Out NY critic’s pick), As an actor: Guthrie Theatre, Long Wharf, Berkeley Rep, ACT, Denver Center, tour of Death of a Salesman with Christopher Lloyd. As Producer: The Velocity of Autumn on Broadway (Estelle Parsons’s Tony Award nomination). SDC and AEA member. MFA Columbia University. MarkusPotter.com

Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU) is the leading network for developing theater professionals, a twenty-seven-year-old 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization created to help producers produce, emerging theater companies to emerge healthily and all theater professionals to understand and navigate the business of the arts. Membership includes self-producing artists as well as career producers and theater companies.

TRU publishes an email community newsletter of services, goods and productions; presents monthly panels as well as the new weekly Community Gatherings; offers a Producer Development & Mentorship Program taught by prominent producers and general managers in New York theater, and also presents Producer Boot Camp workshops to help aspirants develop business skills. TRU serves writers through the TRU Voices Play Reading Series, Writer-Producer Speed Date, a Practical Playwriting Workshop, How to Write a Musical That Works and a Director-Writer Communications Lab.

Programs of Theater Resources Unlimited are supported in part by the Montage Foundation and the Leibowitz Greenway Foundation.

For more information about TRU membership and programs, visit www.truonline.org.

 

 

ARTHUR KOPIT, WHOSE ‘OH DAD’ SHOOK UP THE THEATER, DIES AT 83 ·

(Anita Gates’s article appeared in The New York Times, 4/3; via Pam Green. Photo: The playwright Arthur Kopit with the cast of his play “Wings” in 1978. Constance Cummings, second from left, won Tony, Drama Desk and Obie awards for her performance as a woman who has had a stroke.Credit…Jack Mitchell/Getty Images. )

A three-time Tony nominee, he first became known for avant-garde works, many of them christened with rambling titles, that sparked spirited reactions.

Arthur Kopit, the avant-garde playwright who thrust Off Broadway into a new era with the absurdist satirical farce “Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad” and earned Tony Award nominations for two wildly different plays, “Indians” and “Wings,” and the musical “Nine,” died on Friday at his home in Manhattan. He was 83.

His death was announced by a spokesman, Rick Miramontez, who did not specify the cause.

In 1962, when “Oh Dad, Poor Dad” opened at the 300-seat Phoenix Theater on East 74th Street, American popular culture was shifting. Julie Andrews was between the idealistic “Camelot” and the wholesome “Mary Poppins”; Lenny Bruce, the hot comic of the moment, was known for what came to be called “sick humor.” Broadway was dominated by “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and “A Man for All Seasons.”

Along came a 24-year-old playwright with a script about an older woman who liked traveling with her virginal adult son and her husband’s preserved corpse. The New York Times critic, Howard Taubman, had reservations — he called it “funny” and “stageworthy” but “nonsensical” — but it won the Drama Desk Award (then the Vernon Rice Award) and even transferred to Broadway for a few months in 1963.

There was often vehement disagreement about Mr. Kopit’s work. Before “Indians” (1969) — a dreamlike production that positioned Buffalo Bill Cody as the first guilty white American liberal and prominently featured his 19th-century Wild West show — arrived on Broadway, there was a production in London, where critical reaction was decidedly mixed. The script included the rape of one Native American and the casual murder (for sport) of another.

Clive Barnes, writing in The Times, called the Broadway production, starring Stacy Keach, “a gentle triumph” and praised Mr. Kopit for “trying to do something virtually no one has done before: the multilinear epic.” But Walter Kerr, his Times colleague, compared it to “bad burlesque.”

John Lahr, writing in The Village Voice, summarized “Indians” as “never less than scintillating” and called it the “most probing and the most totally theatrical Broadway play of this decade.” “Indians” received three Tony nominations, including for best play.

Mr. Kopit professed a very specific social conscience. “I’m not concerned in the play with the terrible plight of the Indians now — they were finished from the moment the first white man arrived,” he told a London newspaper in 1968. “What I want to show is a series of confrontations between two alien systems.” Many saw parallels to the Vietnam War, then at its peak.

When Mr. Kopit returned to Broadway a decade later, his subject could not have been more different. “Wings,” which opened at the Public Theater in 1978 and moved to Broadway the next year, followed the journey of a 70-year-old woman (played by Constance Cummings) having a stroke and reacting to it with fear, determination and kaleidoscopic verbal confusion. As The Washington Post reported, when the main character is asked to repeat the sentence “We live across the street from the school,” she replies, “Malacats on the forturay are the kesterfacts of the romancers.”

Richard Eder of The Times called “Wings,” which had been inspired by the post-stroke rehabilitation experiences of Mr. Kopit’s stepfather, “a brilliant work” — “complex at first glance,” he wrote, “yet utterly lucid, written with great sensitivity and with the excitement of a voyage of discovery.”

(Read more)

ROBERT DWYER & AUSTIN WRIGHT’S ACE IN THE HOLE: “THE SHERIFF” FROM TWODOT BOOKS (INTERVIEW, Part 1) ·

Robert Dwyer & Austin Wright posse up with SV’s Bob Shuman to talk about big ideas, big landscapes, and tackling the biggest questions–like what it means to be human.

Robert Dwyer is a history buff with an abiding interest in the West, which looms large in the American psyche–a canvas for big stories and big ideas. He lives with his wife and dog in Alexandria, Virginia.

Austin Wright started watching John Wayne movies with his dad before he was old enough to talk–and he’s been hooked on Westerns ever since. He lives with his wife, son, and daughter in Annandale, Virginia.

“Has a chance to be judged one of those rare modern Western–fiction classics.”—Jeff Guinn, New York Times best-selling author

(Photos, from top: Austin Wright and Robert Dwyer.)

For both of you, name your favorite sheriff, besides your own character, from books or film (or both).  Why do you like him or her best?

Rob: Ed Tom Bell of No Country for Old Men, both the book and the movie. It’s one of my favorite stories—I’m a big fan of Cormac McCarthy and the Coen brothers—and I’m riveted by Bell’s pathos as he confronts this new violence in the modern west. He embodies that clash between an idealized western past and a modern western reality. Even though The Sheriff is set eight decades earlier, I think it still grapples with some of those same questions of change. Along with Bell we wonder: Has the modern age become worse, more violent? Or has it always been so?

Austin: My four-year-old son is obsessed with Toy Story, so lately my favorite has been Sheriff Woody. But every time I revisit the Lonesome Dove miniseries, I am deeply moved by Chris Cooper’s portrayal of Sheriff July Johnson. He’s a rather pathetic man who nonetheless wins me over for his plodding commitment to goodness even as his personal life implodes for reasons understood by the viewer but beyond his comprehension. I’m fascinated by Larry McMurtry’s decision to include Johnson as a major character—such a wonderful foil to the supremely competent Gus and Call, the buddies at the heart of the greatest buddy story ever told.

Why do you think people are drawn to read Westerns and does anything  about the genre need to be corrected for today?  What are the issues involved with writing a Western—and how did you approach and resolve them?

The Western is an ideal canvas for big stories. It shows mankind unfettered, inhabiting a land where the big machines of government and society are stripped away, and what’s left are those primordial struggles: man vs. nature, man vs. man, man vs. himself. Even the landscape itself is expressive of this—the barren desert, the endless plain. In a certain way the Western genre is like the fantasy genre in that the landscape becomes a character, expressive of mood. We also think the long relationship between Westerns and movies lends a cinematic feel to these stories, which only enhances the effect.

The biggest issue with the Western is popular perception—that the genre is archaic, and socially problematic. And, certainly, it can be. But there are great stories and storytellers in the Western’s past and present. We tried to tell a story that’s more inclusive, that presents a wide array of characters without making inclusion the only aim of the story. We think that’s the trick—modernizing the Western without making it about something else, without making it political.

What interested you about writing  a Western—why did you choose to write one?

As a kid, Austin’s favorite John Wayne movie was The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and when we revisited the film as adults, it made clear to us how effectively the small frontier town could function as a microcosm to deal with larger, societal themes. We wanted to do that, but with more modern themes that wouldn’t have been as apparent in the Westerns of the 1960s. Our goal was to write a novel that paid loving homage to the Westerns we cherished as kids, while also recognizing the failures of these stories and modernizing the genre for a new era.

Tell us about your novel.

Our first draft centered around one character, Sheriff John Donovan, clinging to power over the town he views as his, unwilling to pass the torch to a new generation, even as cancer consumes his body. Our idea was to take the quintessential Western hero, the lawman, and imbue him with moral ambiguity so the reader is constantly unsure whether he’s good or bad. (We felt it would be cowardly to raise this question in the reader’s mind without answering it ourselves—so we do, eventually, reveal the color of Donovan’s hat…)

At the time we started planning our second draft, we were both into the Game of Thrones books, with their sprawling cast of characters. We thought how cool it would be to fill out our own story with more point-of-view characters, each a subversive take on a stereotypical Western archetype. Kat is a prostitute with a heart of steel rather than gold. Jack is a fearsome, half-Comanche outlaw who seeks not riches but to right historical wrongs. Annabel is a schoolmarm who, rather than pine after our protagonist, rejects him to seize control over her own story. We try to give each of these characters their own inner lives and ambitions—and, for most of them, a gun at their hips. And then we nudge them toward a series of indomitable clashes of will, much like the duels at the end of a Sergio Leone spaghetti Western.

You have known each other for a good part of your lives—where did you meet and how long have you known each other?

We met in 2001 as high schoolers in the suburbs of Richmond, Virginia. That year, our school system launched a program to equip every student with a laptop. We both aspired to write novels, and we quickly put our slick new iBooks to work writing stories in class when we should have been taking notes. We would email our stories back and forth—and then, without really ever asking, we started expanding on each other’s work. It became clear almost immediately we brought complementary skills to the writing process, and a natural partnership formed.

In the intervening years, we’ve written several complete novels and screenplays—plus more than a dozen aborted projects—some of which are cringeworthy in retrospect, and none of which will ever see the light of day. It wasn’t until The Sheriff, which we started in 2013, that we felt we were writing something worthy of publication.

Discuss your working methods—do you find that you both write in the same way?  What tips might you give to other writers to help them with their own work?

Austin does more of the plotting and focuses on the big picture. Rob is more focused on making sure individual scenes are packed with tension and reveal something interesting about the characters. We’d like to believe this has led to a novel that works on both a micro and macro level—a series of memorable moments that add up to something larger than the sum of their parts.

As far as tips for writers, worry about process over payoff. Writer’s block creeps in when you start thinking about the finished house instead of how to lay the next brick. This is as much an admonition to ourselves as to anyone else.

What exactly can a Western give a reader besides escapism? 

Westerns are inherently allegorical. The horse is freedom of movement; the gun the right to exert one’s will, to self-actualize; the town a microcosm of society. The west means something different to everyone; it’s an idea, an idealized setting. It offers a means for writers to ask fundamental questions about morality, freedom, human nature, and purpose. We think fantasy and sci-fi are similar in this way. Sure, a story about space and future technology is inherently escapist, but it allows authors to tackle the biggest questions, like what it means to be human, in a way that would be harder in a more conventional setting.

Thank you, Rob & Austin.  We’ll look forward to more next week.

View  The Sheriff on Amazon.

The second part of this interview will be available 4/9.

(c) 2021 by Robert Dwyer & Austin Wright  (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.

Cover photo: TwoDot.