Category Archives: Events


(Via Jim Byk/Kelly Guiod, The Press Room; Sajous’s interview was recorded for “A Wonderful World.”)

Floyd Collins is the finest work of American musical theater, 
not excluding opera, to come along
since Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd.”
Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal

Out of the Box Theatrics
to present 
the first Off-Broadway revival of
Music and Lyrics by 
Adam Guettel
Book by 
Tina Landau
Directed by 
Christina Sajous
November 11-December 18 at Theatre 71
Opening Night November 28

Out of the Box Theatrics (Elizabeth Flemming, Founder and Producing Artistic Director; Ethan Paulini, Associate Artistic Director) is thrilled to announce that the company will produce the first Off-Broadway revival of the critically acclaimed musical, Floyd Collins. The production, to be directed by Christina Sajous (Broadway’s SpongeBob SquarePantsSpider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, American Idiot; Out of the Box Theatrics’ 2019 production of Baby), will play from November 11 through December 18, 2022 at Theatre 71 at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament (152 West 71st Street). Opening night is Monday, November 28. 

 Floyd Collins features music and lyrics by two-time Tony and Drama Desk Award winner Adam Guettel (The Light in the Piazza), with a book by Tony Award nominee and Drama Desk Award winner Tina Landau (member of Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Broadway’s SpongeBob SquarePantsSuperior Donuts). The musical was originally commissioned by The American Musical Theatre Festival in Philadelphia, which produced its world premiere in 1994. The Off-Broadway premiere, directed by Landau, was produced in 1996 by Playwrights Horizons. It won the 1996 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical and Guettel won a 1996 Obie Award for Music for the score’s unique mix of bluegrass and folk music with other contemporary musical forms and influences. The show has been viewed by many critics as a modern classic of musical theatre, with John Simon, New York Magazine, hailing it as “the original and daring musical of our day.” After its brief original New York run, it has since been produced throughout the United States, in London and elsewhere. 
Floyd Collins is based on the true-life incident of the “Cave Wars” that took place in Central Kentucky in the early 20th century, where explorers and landowners fought each other to exploit the system of interconnected caves for commercial profit. In 1925, while chasing a dream of fame and fortune by turning a Kentucky cave into a tourist attraction, Floyd Collins himself becomes the attraction when he gets trapped 200 feet underground. Alone but for sporadic contact with the outside world, Floyd fights for his sanity – and, ultimately, his life – as the rescue effort above explodes into the first genuine media circus. Reporters and gawkers from across the country descend on the property, fueling the hysteria and manipulating the nation into holding its collective breath.
Out of the Box Theatrics, an Off-Broadway company founded in 2015, stages inventive and site-specific productions of new and classic plays and musicals, while challenging audiences to experience work outside of their expectations. The company has earned recent attention for its critically acclaimed streaming co-production of Jason Robert Brown’s The Last 5 Years (New York Times’ Critic’s Pick, 2021 Drama League Nominee for Outstanding Digital Theater, 2022 Antonyo Award nominee for Best Digital Theater Production), and its new production of the 1983 Broadway musical Baby, originally staged in 2019 and revived in 2021 (2022 Drama Desk Award nominee for Outstanding Revival of a Musical). 
Out of the Box Theatrics’ production will explore the sensationalist news reporting in the show’s world, which almost 100 years later reflects our own era of ‘fake news’ and ‘click bait.’ The production will also examine the racial elements at play in the segregated Kentucky of the 1920s. 
Known for staging site-specific productions, Out of the Box Theatrics selected Theatre 71 in the basement of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament for the underground feeling the intimate space generates. The church was in danger of closing during the pandemic, and Out of the Box Theatrics is thrilled to perform at this hidden gem of the Upper West Side. 

The creative team for Floyd Collins will include Billy Bustamante as Associate Director and Choreographer, Adam Rothenberg as Music Director, Ant Ma as Scenic Designer, Brynne Oster-Bainnson as Costume Designer, Christopher Wong as Lighting Designer and Germán Martínez as Sound Designer. Tyler Danhaus is Stage Manager. Egypt Dixon is Assistant Stage Manager. 
Casting and additional production details will be announced in coming weeks. 
Adam Guettel (Music and Lyrics) is a composer/lyricist living in New York City. His musical The Light in the Piazza, with a book by Craig Lucas, premiered on Broadway at Lincoln Center Theater in April 2005, following a world premiere at the Intiman Theater in Summer 2003, and a second engagement at Chicago’s Goodman Theater in early 2004 (where it received three Joseph Jefferson Awards, including Best Musical). The Light in the Piazza received six Tony Awards, including two for Mr. Guettel. Piazza received its UK premiere at the Curve Theater in Leicester in April 2009. Mr. Guettel wrote music and lyrics for Floyd Collins (cast album on Nonesuch Records), which received the 1996 Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical and earned Mr. Guettel the Obie Award for Best Music. Floyd Collins has been presented at Playwrights Horizons, New York; Prince Theatre, Philadelphia; Goodman Theatre, Chicago; Old Globe, San Diego; Bridewell, London; and elsewhere. His other works include Love’s Fire, a collaboration with John Guare for The Acting Company, and Saturn Returns, a concert at Joseph Papp Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival. Saturn Returns was recorded by Nonesuch Records under the title Myths and Hymns. Four of Mr. Guettel’s songs were featured on Audra McDonald’s Nonesuch Records album Way Back to Paradise (1998). Two more appear on her 2000 album How Glory Goes (including the title track), and two more are on Build a Bridge (2007), including the title track. Mr. Guettel performed a concert evening of his works at New York’s Town Hall in 1999. He can be heard singing four duets with Meryl Streep in the short film The Music of Regret (2008). Film scores include Arguing the World, a feature documentary by Joe Dorman (1999), and the score for Jack, a two-hour documentary for CBS by Peter Davis (1994). Awards for Mr. Guettel include the Stephen Sondheim Award (1990), the ASCAP New Horizons Award (1997), and the American Composers Orchestra Award (2005).
Tina Landau (Book) is a writer and director whose work has been produced on Broadway and Off-, internationally and regionally, and most frequently at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, where she is an ensemble member. Known for her original, large-scale musical and ensemble work, Tina has been recognized by the Tony Awards, Drama Desks, Drama League, Outer Critics, Lucille Lortel and Obies, and is a recipient of a United States Artist Fellowship, the Princess Grace Statuette, a NEA/TCG Directing Fellowship and Rockefeller and Pew grants. On Broadway, Tina has directed SpongeBob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical (also conceiver; Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle winner for Best Direction and Best Musical, 12 Tony Award nominations), Tracy Letts’ Superior Donuts and the revival of Bells Are Ringing (Tony nomination). Her Off-Broadway productions include Bill Irwin/David Shiner’s Old Hats, Chuck Mee’s Big Love and Iphigenia 2.0, all at the Signature; Tarell McCraney’s Head of Passes (also Steppenwolf, Berkeley Rep, Mark Taper Forum, NAACP Best Director) and In the Red and Brown Water, both at the Public Theater; Paula Vogel’s A Civil War Christmas at NYTW; McCraney’s Wig Out! and her original musical Dream True written with Ricky Ian Gordon, both at the Vineyard; her musical Floyd Collins, written with Adam Guettel, at Playwrights Horizons, the Old Globe and the Goodman (Lucille Lortel Best Musical, Obie Award, Barrymore Best Direction, etc.); and En Garde Arts’ site specific productions of Orestes, The Trojan Women: A Love Story and Stonewall: Night Variations (also writer). Tina has created over 20 productions at Steppenwolf, which include Ms. Blakk for President (which she co-authored with Tarell McCraney), Matthew-Lee Erlbach’s The Doppelgänger, McCraney’s The Brother/Sister Plays, Zinnie Harris’ The Wheel, Mee’s Berlin Circle and Time to Burn, classics such as The Tempest, Time of Your Life, The Cherry Orchard and The Diary of Anne Frank, and her own plays Space (also Mark Taper and NYC Public Theater) and Theatrical Essays. Regionally, Tina has directed the musical Dave by Tom Kitt and Nell Benjamin (Arena Stage, Helen Hayes Award for Best Director); her own play Beauty (Old Globe, San Diego Critics’ Award for Best Play), and productions of A Midsummer Night’s DreamOf Thee I Sing, and many more. She teaches regularly in the U.S. and abroad, and is the co-author, with Anne Bogart, of The Viewpoints Book.
Christina Sajous (Director). Sajous’ Broadway acting credits include Spongebob SquarepantsSpider-Man: Turn Off the DarkAmerican IdiotBaby It’s You! and Tupac Shakur’s Holler If Ya Hear Me. Off-Broadway, she has been seen in Joe Iconis’ Broadway Bounty Hunter and Out of the Box Theatrics’ 2019 production of Baby. Regionally, she performed in Paradise Square (Berkeley Repertory Theatre), The Prince of Egypt (TheatreWorks), Carmen: An Afro Cuban Musical (Tectonic Theatre Project), directed by Moisés Kaufman, Romeo & Juliet (Baltimore Symphony Orchestra), and Disgraced (Denver Center of Performing Arts). She appeared in the Emmy Award-winning “Jesus Christ Superstar Live” (NBC) starring John Legend and Sara Bareilles and “The SpongeBob Musical: Live On Stage!” (Nickelodeon). Her other TV and film credits include “Run the World” (Starz), “Chicago Med” (NBC), “Blue Bloods” (CBS), “Alpha House” (Amazon), “One Life to Live” (ABC), Broadway Idiot (Netflix), and Brazzaville Teen-Ager directed by Michael Cera. Christina attended New York University: Tisch School of the Arts, and the International Theatre Wing in Amsterdam.
Out of the Box Theatrics (OOTB) is an Off-Broadway not-for-profit committed to lifting the voices of marginalized communities through the stories they tell. OOTB also produces site specific theatre to provide a more intimate and challenging experience to our audiences’ expectation of theater. Out of the Box Theatrics was founded in 2015 by Elizabeth Flemming. Recent nominations include 2020 Off Broadway Alliance Best Musical Revival and 2022 Drama Desk for Outstanding Revival of a Musical (Baby) and 2021 Drama League Outstanding Digital Theater, Individual Production and 2022 Antonyo Award, Best Digital Theater Production (The Last 5 Years).
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(Matt Wolf’s article appeared in The New York Times, 7/21/22; via Pam Green.)

In London, a new play about President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and a revival of “The Seagull” explore undercurrents of pain.

LONDON — There’s a chill in the air at the Almeida Theater, notwithstanding the record-breaking heat here. That drop in temperature comes from the coolly unnerving “Patriots,” a new drama whose look at power politics in Russia over the last quarter-century induces a shiver at despotism’s rise.

The gripping production, directed by Rupert Goold, runs through Aug. 20.

Written by Peter Morgan (“The Crown,” “Frost/Nixon”), “Patriots” surveys the sad, shortened life of Boris Berezovsky, the brainiac billionaire who died in 2013, age 67, in political exile in London. An inquest into Berezovsky’s mysterious death returned an unusual “open verdict,” but on this occasion, it is unequivocally presented as a suicide: The play ends with this balding man, bereft of authority, preparing to end his life.

An academic whiz-turned-oligarch who expedited the rise of the younger Vladimir V. Putin, Berezovsky later fell out with the onetime ally who enlarged his power base, according to the play, with promises of “liberalizing Russia,” yet proceeded to do anything but.

Morgan introduces Berezovsky, age 9, as a math prodigy whose mother hoped he might become a doctor. (A gleaming-eyed Tom Hollander plays the role throughout.) From there, we move forward 40 years to find Berezovsky an integral member of Russia’s moneyed elite welcoming to his office an obsequious Putin, then deputy mayor of St. Petersburg.

“Respected Mr. Berezovsky,” says an initially indrawn, ferret-like Putin, “one would have to live on another planet not to know you!” But it isn’t long before Putin has changed his tune, and his tone, as he rises from prime minister to president and consolidates power around himself. In one notably effective wordless scene, Putin tries out poses in front of a mirror to see which makes him look most impressive. His earlier hesitancy has given way to a man in love with his own heroism.

Berezovsky looks on at so dramatic a change in character appalled, urging the former K.G.B. operative to “know your place.” But Putin by this point simply won’t be sidelined. And besides, reasons Putin, why hold your enemies close when they can just as easily be destroyed?

(Read more)



(Miriam Gillinsons’article appeared in the Guardian, 7/24.)

 Leicester Curve
Nikolai Foster’s new version is more like a play with dance and songs, giving ideas around love and loss, community and isolation, passion and violence room to breathe

In director Nikolai Foster’s unforgettable new version of Billy Elliot the Musical, all the lines have been blurred. When the miners strike, they run through the aisles and scream their protests just over our heads. Billy’s bedroom sits atop a portable mining shaft, the personal and political packaged as one. When Billy dances, it doesn’t really feel like a dance under Lucy Hind’s beautifully empathic choreography. It is a boxing match. A street fight. An angry conversation. Art isn’t an add-on luxury in Billy’s world. It is his life.

Where Stephen Daldry’s original production, which ran for 11 years, felt like Billy Elliot the Musical – with a capital Musical – Foster’s new version is more like a play with dance and songs. Lee Hall’s script is given plenty of room to breathe and rings with ideas around love and loss, community and isolation, passion and violence. The result is a musical of unusual depth that distils Hall’s play to its essence but also feels nuanced and truthful.

(Read more)

‘Shut UP, Emily Dickinson’ AT ABRONS ARTS CENTER, JULY 28 – AUGUST 13 ·

(Via Andrea Alton/Alton PR; Photo: Tanya O’Debra and Gregg Bellón in Shut UP, Emily Dickinson. Photo by Molly Broxton.)

Tanya O’Debra’s award-winning play Shut UP, Emily Dickinson, will be performed at Abrons Arts Center as a part of the @Abrons Series – c

“I found myself admiring O’Debra’s wild balancing act that captures Dickinson’s odd soul… you’ll find yourself laughing guiltily.” – CityBeat

“Part comedy roast, and part celebration of Dickinson and her work.” – Daily Hampshire Gazette

Award-winning playwright Tanya O’Debra’s dark comedic play Shut Up, Emily Dickinson will be performed at Abrons Arts Center as part of the @Abrons Series. The limited run plays July 28 – August 13. This two-hander features O’Debra as the title character with Gregg Bellón playing additional characters such as Master, Cats and Pizza Delivery Guy. Sara Wolkowitz serves as director. O’Debra and Wolkowitz are longtime collaborators who first worked together at Dixon Place in 2012 on the play The Ultimate Stimulus.

Shut Up, Emily Dickinson won the 2018 Jill Cummins MacLean Prize and the Ada Comstock Magic Grant at Smith College. The play was previously produced at the Orlando Fringe and Cincinnati Fringe Festival. This production marks the play’s New York Premiere.
O’Debra discussed what drew her to write the play, “A friend gave me a book of Emily Dickinson’s poetry many years ago, and I had a sense that she would have been a deeply annoying person. I got to Googling and sure enough I found a quote from her editor, Thomas Wentworth Higginson: “Without touching her, she drew from me. I am glad not to live near her.” The character “Emily Dickinson” grew from there. I went on to study her work and life and ultimately came to adore her, but I was fascinated by the way people seemed to see whatever they wanted in her.”

Emily Dickinson: poet, recluse, a**hole. Loosely based on her Master Letters, Shut UP, Emily Dickinson is a pseudo-historical, quasi-biographical, hysterically existential, sadomasochistic psycho-romance about America’s most brilliant and annoying poetess. Holed up for all eternity in the bedroom of our minds, “the woman in white” stretches into a projection screen for truths, half-truths, truthiness, and truth-less-ness.

The creative team includes original music by Andrew Moreyellow, lighting design by Vadim Ledvin, and sound/projections design by Gregg Bellón.

Shut UP, Emily Dickinson runs July 28 – August 13; Wednesday – Saturday at 7:30pm at Abrons Arts Center, 466 Grand Street at Pitt Street, NYC, NY 10002. Running time: 75 minutes. Tickets are $20 (students), $30 (general) and are available at

Tanya O’Debra (Playwright, Emily Dickinson)
 is a New York City-based playwright, performer, and MFA candidate at NYU Tisch School of the Arts’ Department of Dramatic Writing. Off-Off Broadway: Fuck You (Excellence Award in Overall Production at Fringe NYC); Radio Star (published by Original Works, Best of the San Francisco Fringe, nominations from the Montreal Fringe & NYIT Awards); The Secrets of Avondale Falls, written by The O’Debra Twins (Cincy Fringe Festival). A graduate of Smith College, she won The Denis Johnston Playwriting Award, The Elizabeth Wanning Harries Prize, and The Elizabeth Drew Prize. Other theater credits include Patrice O’Debra in Straight Up Vampire (Joe’s Pub), The Evil Queen in Snow White (The New Acting Company), and Amanda McCloud in The Ultimate Stimulus (Dixon Place, The Brick), as well as being one half of the long-time comedic sister duo, The O’Debra Twins.

Sara Wolkowitz (Director) is an independent filmmaker and theater director. New York theater credits include Silent Sky (Hudson River Planetarium), The Ultimate Stimulus (FringeNYC 2014, Dixon Place, Under St Marks), Really Rosie (The Mint Theater), Eleanor Is Sibling Challenged (The Magnet Theater), War Crimes (Planet Connections Festivity), and Brooklyn Labyrinth (the BoCoCa Arts Festival). Her film/TV credits include Still On The Road (PBS, Lincoln Center), Lightning Bugs in a Jar (Short Corner at Cannes Film Festival), and Never After (starring Gillian Anderson). She has a BA in Film from Vassar College.

The @Abrons Series Program is a subsidized theater rental program that provides access to our spaces as well as production services at subsidized rates. While @Abrons is not curated, priority is given to shows and events that align with our mission and that are committed to anti-oppression. For shows, events or artistic projects working to build community projects that are socially or civically inclusive – yet have very small budgets – there is an application for an extra–subsidized rate.

@AbronsArtsCenter or #AbronsArtsCenter #shutupemilydickinson


The new two hander play Shut UP, Emily Dickinson opens on Thursday, July 28 at Abrons Arts. 

Performance dates:
Thursday, July 28 at 7:30pm (opening night)
Friday, July 29 at 7:30pm
Saturday, July 30 at 7:30pm
Wednesday, August 3 at 7:30pm
Thursday, August 4 at 7:30pm
Friday, August 5 at 7:30pm
Saturday, August 6 at 7:30pm
Wednesday, August 10 at 7:30pm
Thursday, August 11 at 7:30pm
Friday, August 12 at 7:30pm
Saturday. August 13 at 7:30pm 


(from Radio Free Europe, 7/20/22.)

Influential Russian playwright Mikhail Durnenkov fled Russia for Finland shortly after Moscow’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine. Durnenkov’s opposition to Russia’s war against Ukraine has had severe personal consequences. Theaters in Russia have stopped showing his plays, and there have been calls to prosecute him for his anti-war position.




Phyllis Wheeler’s novel The Long Shadow (Elk Lake Publishing), represented by Marit Literary Agency, has won a Purple Dragonfly Award!

These awards are judged by Story Monsters Ink Magazine, focused on children’s literature. Wheeler’s award is in the historical category. This is significant in the indie publishing world.


The Long Shadow is a time-travel adventure for upper middle grade, 13 and up. Click and see the new cover, too! Find out more.


by Phyllis Wheeler

View on Amazon

Winner of a Purple Dragonfly Award

Winner of a 2021 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award

Anti-prejudice, anti-racist middle grade Christian fiction: The Long Shadow by Phyllis Wheeler (ranked #1 new release Teen & Young Adult Christian Social Issue Fiction (6/8/21 ranked #1 new release Teen & Young Adult Christian Social Issue Fiction; #3 on Amazon, regarding Children’s books about Prejudice and Racism; #18 in Children’s Self-Esteem and Self-Respect books; #1  (6/4/2021)

Aunt Trudy never wanted kids. Now that she’s Richie’s guardian, she makes his life miserable. Richie just wants to escape, so he seeks refuge in the deep Missouri woods he loves so much.

Suddenly it’s not summer, but late fall. How did that happen? Did the trucker who just gave him a ride somehow whisk him back fifty years in time?

The woods aren’t for Richie the haven they used to be. After a freak storm, he finds himself at the mercy of Morris, a mysterious black man who also calls the woods home. Is Morris a savior? Or someone to fear?

“Five stars! A young teen finds himself propelled through time . . . –Susan K. Marlow, author of Andi Carter books

“Searching for a new favorite book? Look no further than The Long Shadow by Phyllis Wheeler. This is a great book for fans of To Kill a Mockingbird but with a time-travel twist. Richie grabs your attention and doesn’t let go until the very end.”—Elsie G, age 13. 

“Sometimes we need to escape our own time and place to walk a few miles in someone else’s shoes. Phyllis Wheeler’s The Long Shadow will open your eyes, rend your heart, and take you on an invaluable journey.” —Wayne Thomas Batson, bestselling author of The Door Within Trilogy.

“Heartwarming and heartbreaking, Richie’s story is a shining example of how taking a chance on unlikely friendships is the best way to break down the barriers we build.” —Jill Williamson, award-winning author of the Blood of Kings trilogy.

“A powerful message wrapped in a page-turner.” — Cherie Postill, author, speaker, and mentor for teens at the St. Louis Writers Guild. 

“I’ve read this book and enjoyed the characters in the story. I like the friendship that blossomed in the story and how the story came full circle in the end. It was a good history lesson without being offensive to anyone.”—LaShaunda Hoffman, sensitivity reader and author. 

“Part survival story, part exploration of racial justice in America, part journey of self-discovery, and wholly engaging and memorable.  A well done and powerful story.  It is certainly stuck in my head.”—Joe Corbett, school librarian, St. Louis.


(Sara Keating’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 7/16/22.)

For Methven, who stars as Prospero in Rough Magic’s The Tempest, the rehearsal room is the beating heart of a theatre production

It is late on a Friday afternoon, and Eleanor Methven is sitting in the production offices of Rough Magic Theatre Company in Dublin city centre, running her lines. It is the end of the first week of rehearsals for director Lynne Parker’s new production of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, in which Methven takes the lead role of Prospero, the sorcerer hero now recast as a woman. It is a massive role, involving “pages and pages of these amazing speeches”, and with a highlighter pen Methven marks out the dense body of text she must learn.

Methven has been practising at home for weeks, “just sitting in my house, acting away, using what Prospero would tell me to — my imagination — to din it in. The neighbours must think I am mad.” So she is delighted and exhilarated to be finally in the rehearsal room. “Really what [an actor needs] is to learn their lines on the floor,” she says, “because the lines tend to be attached to your muscle memory. The more you repeat it, the more it goes in, the more natural it becomes. At the end of the day, you’re an actor, and what you are trying to do is create human beings [on the stage].”

For Methven, the rehearsal room is the beating heart of a theatre production. When other actors of her vintage — she has been acting professionally for 45 years — are asked about their dream roles, they have a list of great parts they would love to play. Methven doesn’t. She wants to know “whose production are you talking about? Who else is in it? You can have the role you want, but what about the other parts? It could be a complete failure if you don’t have everyone you need around you. Theatre is about a total ensemble and that begins in the rehearsal room.”


Methven has been thinking a lot about this in relation to The Tempest. “A lot of the play is about how you order society and how you lead; what the character of your leadership is? The way Lynne runs an ensemble is very democratic; very much a case of ‘I have chosen these people because I think they are the best people to help me to do the play’. It is obvious of course that she is in charge. She works out all the production aspects with lighting, set designers, and it is up to her to keep a hold on all the skeins of silk she has and weave them together. But it is very much up to each individual to bring what they can to the rehearsal room every day, because that is your job, that is why she cast you.”

The actor and director have a long relationship, dating back to the 1980s, when Parker directed several productions for Charabanc, the theatre company that Methven set up in Belfast in 1983 with a group of like-minded female theatre artists. As she explains, the venture was born out of “unemployment, but not just unemployment. There weren’t many roles for [female actors] and when there were, they were ‘someone’s wife’ or ‘someone’s mother’, ‘someone’s daughter.’ We thought ‘we would like to be the someones for a change”.

(Read more)


(Oliver Salazar-Winspear’s, Natastacha Milleret’s, Magali Faure’s, and Marion Chaval’s report appeared on France 24, 7/14/22.)

Avignon may be France’s oldest arts festival, but it has a resolutely contemporary approach to the dramatic arts, with experimental performances that draw on dance, theatre and poetic traditions. We sit down with multidisciplinary artist Kubra Khademi, whose performance “From Armour to Jackets” kicks off the festival, to hear about the military detritus that became a poignant symbol of the American retreat from her native Afghanistan. Kubra talks about being forced to flee Kabul after a controversial artistic performance in 2015 and discusses how the Taliban have now left Afghans “trapped in their own country”..)

Festival director Olivier Py is handing over the reins to Tiago Rodrigues after nine years of administering this cultural marathon. He tells us how the war in Ukraine prompted him to stage a special cabaret show with Kyiv’s Dakh Daughters troupe and musician Angélique Kidjo.

We also check out Amir Reza Koohestani’s latest play “In Transit”, which asks important questions about identity and exile. And choreographer Adèle Duportal explores feminism and sorcery in an intimate, one-woman show.



(Andrew Gans’s article appeared on Playbill, 7/14.)  

This week Playbill catches up with two-time Tony nominee Alison Fraser, cast as Big Mama in Ruth Stage’s production of Tennessee Williams‘ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which begins previews July 15 prior to an official opening July 24 at The Theater at St. Clements. Directed by Joe Rosario, the production is the first mounting of the classic drama that the Williams estate has allowed to be produced Off-Broadway. The company also includes Sonoya Mizuno, Matt de Rogatis, Christian Jules Le Blanc, Spencer Scott, Tiffan Borelli, Jim Kempner, Milton Elliott, and Carly Gold.

Fraser was Tony-nominated for her performances in The Secret Garden and Romance/Romance, and her other Broadway credits include Tartuffe, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and Gypsy. Off-Broadway the multitalented artist created the roles of Sharon in Squeamish (Off-Broadway Alliance, Outer Critics Circle Awards nominations), Nancy Reagan and Betty Ford in First Daughter Suite (Lucille Lortel and Drama Desk nominations), Arsinoé in The School for Lies, Sister Walburga in The Divine Sister, Trina in March of the Falsettos and In Trousers, and the Matron in the world premiere of Williams’ In Masks Outrageous and Austere. Among Fraser’s numerous screen credits are It Cuts Deep, Impossible Monsters, The Sound of Silence, Gotham, Family Games, Happy!, Blowtorch, High Maintenance, Understudies, Happyish, It Could Be Worse, Jack in a Box, Commentary, In the Blood, The L Word, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Between the Lions.

What is your typical day like now?
I have a pretty structured schedule right now because I am deep in the thick of the Mississippi Delta these days, playing Big Mama in Ruth Stage’s Off-Broadway production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at St. Clement’s. Before I turn into Big Mama though, I have my Brooklyn duties—getting up at seven to have breakfast with my partner Steve, give him the lunch I pack for him every day, read the New York Times, watch a little Morning Joe, give the cats their breakfast, tidy up, do some paperwork, perhaps do a self tape or voiceover audition in my home studio, and go over music I will be singing in the future. Then I go over all my Big Mama lines with my bedraggled script sitting on my beautiful antique brass music stand, and hopefully I don’t have ever to refer to it. Then I take the subway (masked) to St. Clement’s and deep dive into this classic Tennessee Williams drama, which is directed by the visionary Joe Rosario.

I don’t think there has ever been a sexier Maggie/Brick coupling than the absolutely stunning Sonoya Mizuno and the brooding heartthrob Matt de Rogatis. Brace yourselves, this particular delta is mighty steamy! There might be teddies and tattoos involved…Then, Steve picks me up, we take the subway (masked) back to Brooklyn, and we talk and unwind, go to sleep, then it all starts over again. I like the limbo of an intense tech period—it requires absolute commitment and concentration, and moves forward so fast every day to the first public performance. It is a rush.

Is this a role you have wanted to play? How are you approaching your portrayal of Big Mama?
I never envisioned myself as a Big Mama, but I am certainly a big Tennessee Williams fan. I was introduced to him early on, choosing—unwisely, in retrospect—Blanche Du Bois’ “He was a boy, just a boy, and I was a very young girl…” speech from A Streetcar Named Desire for my dramatic interpretation performance in Natick High School’s Competitive Speech Club state finals. Needless to say, I did not go home with trophies, but I was hooked, and later got to be involved with very interesting Tennessee Williams projects. I did Dirty Shorts, a pair of erotic TW short stories with Michael Urie and directed by David Kaplan, the head of the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Festival. I had given David a copy of my first album, New York Romance, and he contacted me and said he needed a peculiarly versatile singer for a show he wanted to do. It turned out to be Tennessee WilliamsWords and Music, and he thought I would be a good fit. It’s a compilation of American Songbook songs TW always included in his various plays (Cat‘s “Show Me the Way to Go Home,” for example) and pieces of text from various plays that all meshed into an extraordinary theatrical journey. Once the jaw-droppingly talented Allison Leyton-Brown was on board as the musical director, arranger, and onstage pianist—backed by our great seven-piece band, “The Gentleman Callers”—the show became magical. We recorded it in New Orleans, and it’s available on Ghostlight Records. And, it’s great. Then I worked with Shirley  Knight, one of Tennessee Williams’  muses, in the world premiere of  TW’s last play, In Masks Outrageous and Austere, which was a wild Off-Broadway production that got better and better and wilder and wilder as the weeks went on. Dangerous, lyrical, thrilling theatre.

I was approached by Matt de Rogatis about Cat on a Hot Tin Roof about two years ago and met with him and Joe Rosario, who told me about his unique concept for the Pollitts. He wanted them to be attractive, sexually viable, very nouveau riche and entitled. As I recall,  one of the terms he used was “Kardashian.” And, that was something that really appealed to me. It’s right in the text that these two were sleeping with each other up to the time he started getting sick with terminal colon cancer. I lived with a man with colon cancer, my late husband Rusty Magee, and as I read the script, I felt I really understood the mercurial moods these two people in health trauma were experiencing due to physical reactions to treatment or emotional distress. I do believe there is real love and was real passion between them, and the fact that they stayed together over 40 years attests to this. But sickness, in addition to alcoholism in the family, foments major tension in a household. Once I met my Big Daddy, the glorious, utterly charming, smart as a whip New Orleans native Christian Le Blanc on Zoom, Big Mama fell utterly in love. And, when we finally got together? The more he rages against the storm, the more Big Mama loves him, and will fiercely protect him. Till death do they part.

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Plus CBS interview with Christian LeBlanc, also starring in this production of CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF: