I'm so happy to have watched Mary Hollis Inboden grow up on stage. I say "grow up" although, even as a teenager she was convincing in mature roles, and more than occasionally she was the shiniest star in a roomful of shiny stars. But a show she's bringing back to Memphis with fellow Playhouse on the Square alum Evan Linder, has made me try to imagine having not experienced her as the angry cowgirl in Talking With, or Chesty Prospects in Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens. And it's not easy. Mary Hollis Inboden is a survivor of the 1998 Westside Middle School shooting in Jonesboro, an unimaginable tragedy nearly eclipsed by recent, even more unimaginable tragedies .
Monday, February 4, Mary Hollis is coming home to Circuit Playhouse to take part in The Warriors for Newton, a staged reading of the original work she and her fellow players in the New Colony Theatre created in response to the Westside shooting.
Mary Hollis moved to Chicago in the summer of 2006. Almost immediately she landed two recurring TV roles on The Chicago Code, a short-lived series, and the more critically-acclaimed Boss with Kelsey Grammer. Two years later, Evan Linder, a fellow Playhouse alum, started bending her ear about The New Colony, a collaborative theatre company he was developing with a group of friends. She signed on.
Here's what Mary Hollis had to say about creating The Warriors:
"The Warriors came about in our third season. Evan and I as founding members were thinking up potential show ideas to pitch to the company. We came uncomfortably close to pitching an idea about silent Hollywood and the Fatty Arbuckle/Virgina Rappe scandal, and then I blurted out "I think I might want to do something about Westside." Evan being a close friend knew what I was referring to. He was a junior high school-er just across the river in the Memphis suburbs when the shooting on my middle school playground occured.
You can read about March 24, 1998 and the shooting on the Internet but only with some effort. The story of Jonesboro is buried now beneath so many other horrific stories of youth violence or school massacres.
At 26, I was ready to talk about the shooting at Westside Middle School and I knew I couldn't do it by myself - I needed the talent family of The New Colony and the blessing from my childhood friends from the playground that day. I began reaching out. It was terrifying. I gathered email addresses from approximately 35 survivors and was shocked when about 24 of them responded with not only their approval, but details from their daily lives now as adults most of them raising families. I hadn't given the people I will always think of as 12 enough credit. Through correspondence with my old friends and with the help of The New Colony ensemble we started writing The Warriors.
Evan and I had two rules we followed diligently: The Warriors would not sensationalize the shooting on my playground and it would not be a story of the actual shooting. In following these rules we created a gentle story of survival, what it means to experience childhood trauma and move forward."
THE WARRIORS FOR NEWTOWN: MEMPHIS BENEFIT
a special reading of The Warriors by Evan Linder, followed by a community conversation
February 4th, 2013 at 7PM, The Circuit Playhouse
for reserved tickets email: firstname.lastname@example.org
ALL PROCEEDS WILL BE DIVIDED EQUALLY FOR THE SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL VICTIMS RELIEF FUND AND THE MEMPHIS GUN-DOWN PLAN. http://memphisgundown.org/
Opera Memphis's general director Ned Canty explains the plot of Elixir of Love. Yes, with stick puppets.
Six Degrees of Separation, a play inspired by the notion that everyone in the world is connected by a chain of no more than six acquaintances and based on a true story about a confidence man passing himself off as the son of Sidney Poitier, opens at Theatre Memphis this weekend. To mark the occasion, I decided to test the theory by asking Tony Isbell if he could find six degrees of separation between his cast and either the original Broadway cast of Six Degrees, or the cast of the 1993 film.
"That was too easy," said Isbell, who appeared with Chris Ellis in several Memphis stage productions including True West at Theatre Memphis. Ellis guested on the West Wing episode "Requiem" with Stockard Channing which aired 4/16/06. Channing was in both the original New York production of Six Degrees and the movie. That's two degrees.
It seems like ages since I met Katori Hall in Hell's Kitchen for gourmet pie and good conversation. The Mountaintop had just won the Olivier for best new play, but the Broadway production hadn't yet been cast. Even then she understood the risks one takes making an iconic figure like Dr. Martin Luther King the central character in your play. And she knew American audiences might not show her play the same kind of love she'd gotten from the Brits.
As she predicted, The Mountaintop's Broadway premiere received mixed reviews. But, to borrow an idea from the show, there's life after the curtain goes down on Broadway, and in a recent communication Hall offered audiences this sound advice:
""Great drama is about human beings clashing onstage and not ideas or myths," Hall says. "The Mountaintop deals with the man and not the myth. It is about this man named King, excavating his internal demons, wrestling with his God, just like Jacob did in the Bible before he goes to Canaan. This is a spiritual trip for King and for the audience. The more people understand that's the kind of ride they are on, the more open they will be to this interpretation of King's last night on earth."
I just received a review copy of The Theatre of E.E. Cummings, a new anthology collecting the poet's four theatrical works.
Although he's best known for his poetry, and his unusual comedies are seldom performed, Cummings was a daring playwright with a highly developed sense of silliness and a style that takes its cues from August Strindberg and Alfred Jarry while predicting the rise of the European Absurdists.
I've often wondered if Futurama's bloodthirsty Robot Santa was inspired by Cummings' "Santa Claus," in which Death and Santa trade places.
Shakespeare Uncovered, with Ethan Hawke, Jeremy Irons, Derek Jacobi, Trevor Nunn, Joely Richardson, and David Tennant , launches January 25 at 8:00 p.m. on WKNO 2.
Speaking of TSC, they're also hosting a Valentine's Day gala on February 8th with Broadway stars Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley. Here's a clip of the real life husband and wife talking about Next to Normal.