Monday, September 24, 2012

What will the new Hattiloo Theatre look like?

Posted By on Mon, Sep 24, 2012 at 2:38 PM

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The new Hattiloo Theatre’s versatile main stage will seat between 150 - 175. A smaller black box theater will seat 65. The theatre’s backstage will have dressing rooms, showers, office space, rehearsal space, and a green-room.

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The website also has a new look.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ordinary People: David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Good People” is good theater

Posted By on Wed, Sep 19, 2012 at 8:47 AM

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Good People may not be David Lindsay-Abaire’s most immediately appealing work but you may find yourself wanting to watch it more than once. This story about a down-on-her luck dollar store clerk from Boston’s isolated Southie neighborhood is abrasive and redundant but full of hardscrabble poetry, unexpected laughs, and tough revelations. More sensitive regional theatregoers may experience it as a devastatingly human response to Race, David Mamet’s odious legal procedural which received a better-than-deserved workout at TheatreWorks a few months back. Mamet’s incantatory play about a team of lawyers negotiating with a wealthy white man accused of raping a black woman is all artifice. Lindsay-Abaire follows his characters through the streets, and into their homes, workplaces, and favorite bingo bingo parlors on a quest for identity and meaning. Race makes Mamet sound like a tricky old crank with an ax to grind. Lindsay-Abaire emerges as the provocative artist with something useful to say about class, race, gender, prejudice, guilt, memory, the choices we make, and this American life.

“Good people,” is a double-edged compliment suggesting a hearty mix of realness and reliability. Culturally it also rhymes with “good old boys” and faintly echos “Good Germans,” the ordinary people of Germany who, being caught up in self-interest, failed to notice the Holocaust.

Don’t be mislead by my free association. Good People isn’t about Nazis. It’s not an “IT COULD HAPPEN AGAIN” play. It does, however, confront audiences with a mildly dystopian vision of an America where poverty is moral justice. BINGO is the big metaphor in this humane challenge to widely held notions that success equals virtue and people fail, primarily, as the result of their own bad choices.

Kim Justice isn’t physically imposing but she makes Margret shifty, and nearly threatening. Although she’s harmless it occasionally undermines any sympathy we might have for the mother of a severely handicapped daughter who can’t seem to keep any of her low-wage jobs. But Justis is a savvy comediene, able to find laughs tucked between her characters rocks and hard places.

In a moment of desperation Margret turns to an old boyfriend for help. Mike, solidly played by Michael Gravois, is a smart, lucky guy who got out of Southie and stayed out. He’s a successful doctor now, living in an upscale Boston community. He gives back through charities like the Boy’s Club and is known to be a good person, although he he’s unable and maybe even unwilling to help his old flame. Mike has secrets, and his marriage to Kate, a younger African-American intellectual and author (Lisa Lynch) is fractured and unstable.

Mike invites Margret to a party after she calls him “lace curtain” Irish challenging his Southie bona fides. The party is eventually called off but Margret shows up anyway, and the polite conversation that ensues is devastating.

Gravois and Justis have both done better work but are still very good here. As unlikely as it may sound their physical and emotional relationships bear more than a casual relationship to Gary Sinise and John Malkovich in the original production of Sam Shepard’s True West. This is clearly their show although they are supported by a fantastic quartet of character actors who occasionally threaten to steal it.

Dottie (Irene) Crist, Jean (Mary Buchignani Hemphill), and Stevie (Joshua Quinn) play Margret’s friends, neighbors and sometimes co-workers. They’re salt of the Earth, getting by the best they can while offering one another the few scraps of human kindness they can afford. It’s a sure bet that these three — or three people just like them— will be marking numbers off their Bingo cards when the world ends. They ground the play, giving it much of its poetry and many of its best laughs. As a wife trying very hard to understand her husband and keep their troubled marriage together Lisa Lynch, who usually works backstage as Playhouse on the Square’s director of communications, turns in a subtle, nearly cinematic performance that just barely launches itself past the footlights, but still lands with a real wallop. Hopefully this won’t be the last time she comes out to play.

Phillip Hughen’s folding set is cleverly engineered but a little flimsy and it never really captures the sturdy, crumbling beauty of old Southie or effectively contrasts that with Mike's more upscale comforts.

Good People won’t be the feel-good hit of this, or any season. With its stories of scratch-off cards, death in the streets, and endless disappointment, it’s a pretty bleak affair. It’s also one of the best plays you’re likely to see all season.

For more information, click.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Being Billy Elliot: What's it like to be a young dancer in a hit broadway tour

Posted By on Tue, Sep 18, 2012 at 3:06 PM

Noah Parets as Billy Elliot
  • Noah Parets as Billy Elliot

Billy Elliot's a tough-edged working class story about a young man who discovers he was born to dance. It can't be done without finding a tween who can move like a pro. Actually, because of child labor laws, it can't be done without finding at least three performers like Noah Parets, a precocious, extremely talented 13-year-old dancer from Massachusetts

Intermission Impossible: So, I was wondering...

Noah Parets: Yeah...

At Disney World they have those signs that say "You must be this tall to to ride this ride."

Yeah...

Is there some rule that you must be under a certain height to play Billy Elliot?

Oh, yeah there is. I can't grow too tall.

So you could have a growth spurt and lose your job.

Yeah, but I've got a while. I'm the shortest of them all.

How did you find yourself, so young, dancing this major role?

I saw the musical, and the movie. Did research and found an open audition in New York City.

Do you audition a lot? Was this normal?

I'd never acted before.

Did you take lessons or prepare in any way for the rehearsal?

I took some singing lessons but didn't prepare that much for the acting. I've been dancing since I was 7 and I'm 13 now.

Is there one kind of dance you like best? Tap? Ballet? Jazz?

I don't have a specialty, I love all of it. I'd always danced around the house and one day my mom signed me up for a Jazz class.

Are you like Billy in any way?

We both have a passion for dance.

Is there any part of the show you really look forward too?

I love the whole show, but especially "Electricity." It's really difficult but it's become one of my favorite numbers.

What are the ups and downs of life on the road?

The fun part is getting to perform and work with all the amazing people who are a part of this tour. The hard part is we're in a new city every week and living in a hotel.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Dark Side of "An Old Forest Fairy Tale": The never before seen postcard threatening activist Sunshine Snyder

Posted By on Fri, Sep 14, 2012 at 11:29 AM

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In this week's cover story for The Memphis Flyer I mentioned that activist Sunshine Snyder, one of the "old ladies in tennis shoes" celebrated in the children's musical An Old Forest Fairy Tale, had been threatened by a man who was afraid he'd lose his house if I-40 wasn't built through Overton Park. Today I received a scan of the orignal postcard and thought I'd share.

For those who might have trouble reading the handwritten text here's what it says:

Aug. 19, 1971

You hard headed S.B. you have had your last chance to hold up the X-way. I went to Chicago and had to go to Miami, FLA to get my T.N.T man but he will be here soon to blast your ass out of Memphis. So give your heart to God you stubbern [sic] bitch. I'm sparing W.W. Deupree's life.


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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Movement/Writing Workshop hosted by Project: Motion with Juliet Waller Pruzan

Posted By on Thu, Sep 6, 2012 at 1:01 PM

Project: Motion is hosting a unique movement and writing workshop. Here are the deets:


Go Together
The movement and writing will be discovered based on various prompts and initiations. We'll look for the ways we narrate ourselves and the stories we embody. It is suitable for all levels of movers and writers. Bring journals and pen/pencil. Reserve your space by emailing projectmotiondance@gmail.com.

Juliet Waller Pruzan is a dancer, choreographer and playwright who has been living in Seattle since 1992. She has performed her work and the work of others throughout the Northwest and in Europe, Ecuador and Indonesia. In Seattle, her work has been presented at On the Boards’ NWNW Festival, Bumbershoot, Ten Tiny Dances, Buttrock Suites, and Velocity. She danced with Amii LeGendre (1992-2002) and Mary Sheldon Scott (1997-2000). Her plays, most co-written with Bret Fetzer, have been presented at Annex Theater, The Chamber Theater, On the Boards and the Interart Theater (NYC). She has taught youth dance and drama for over 12 years. She has also choreographed and/or directed numerous youth and college theater productions.


Sat. 9/8 at 1pm. Theatreworks
Cost: $11

Saturday, September 1, 2012

David Lindsay-Abaire's play "Good People" opens at Circuit Playhouse

Posted By on Sat, Sep 1, 2012 at 1:11 AM

And here's a taste...

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