Friday, May 27, 2011

High School Musical Award Winners

Posted By on Fri, May 27, 2011 at 9:09 AM

The Orpheum's hosted its second annual High School Musical Awards ceremony last night. And the winners were...

Outstanding Small Ensemble—The Full Cast of Five Guys Named Moe — Millington

Outstanding Chorus
Collierville High School - Hello Dolly!

Outstanding Music Direction
Hutchison School - Thoroughly Modern Millie

Outstanding Student Orchestra
White Station High School - Grease

Outstanding Dance Execution
Millington Central High School - Five Guys Named Moe

Outstanding Featured Dancer
Justin Brown in Hairspray - Marion

Outstanding Hair and Makeup Design
Marion High School - Hairspray

Outstanding Costume Design Tier I
Wynne High School - The Phantom of the Opera

Outstanding Costume Design Tier II
DeSoto Central High School - My Fair Lady

Outstanding Scenic Design Tier I
Briarcrest Christian School - Les Miserables

Outstanding Scenic Design Tier II
Memphis University School - The Drowsy Chaperone

Outstanding Lighting Design
St. Mary's Episcopal School - 42nd Street

Outstanding Production Materials
St. Agnes Academy - Bye Bye Birdie

Outstanding Technical Achievement
Germantown High School - The Secret Garden

Student Technical Achievement Award
Joseph Levy — Memphis University School

Outstanding Featured Actress
Olivia Wingate as Muzzy in Thoroughly Modern Millie - Hutchison

Outstanding Featured Actor
Jonathan Matthews as Ching Ho in Thoroughly Modern Millie - Hutchison

Outstanding Comedic Duo
Alexis Cole & Michael Joiner as The Thenardiers in Les Miserables - Briarcrest

Outstanding Supporting Actress
Ryan Koski as Eponine in Les Miserables - Briarcrest

Outstanding Supporting Actor
William Harvell as Belling in Curtains - CBHS

Outstanding Direction by a Teacher
Ashleigh Williams - Briarcrest

Outstanding Achievement in Musical Theatre
Ridgeway High School - Aida

Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role
Breyannah Tillman as Aida in Aida - Ridgeway

Outstanding Actor in a Lead Role
Paul Powers as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables - Briarcrest

Outstanding Overall Production
Memphis University School - The Drowsy Chaperone

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Justin Timberlake in Die Fledermaus at Opera Memphis?

Posted By on Tue, May 24, 2011 at 5:39 PM

The folks at Opera Memphis think it would be super awesome if Justin Timberlake would perform in Die Fledermaus and have started a "Justin Timberlake: Perform in Die Fledermaus" recruitment page on Facebook. If you want to go "like" it now, I'll wait.

The attitude: "It worked for Betty White on SNL."

Works for me.

The Memphis Symphony Orchestra Pits Conductor Against Conductor

Posted By on Tue, May 24, 2011 at 3:04 PM

It seems like every day brings news that another symphony orchestra has folded. In the face of all the gloom the Memphis Symphony orchestra continues to innovate and thrive. Starting Thursday, May 26, ten finalists will gather at the Cannon Center in Downtown Memphis for a conductor off. Or whatever you call it when the people up front with the batons go to to toe. Simply said, rising conductorial talent from around the globe, will compete for bragging rights and cash prizes. This inaugural competition, the first of its kind in the U.S., will be judged by a jury that includes Robert Spano, Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Anthony Fogg, Artistic Administrator of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Aaron Jay Kernis, Pulitzer prize winning Composer and Professor at Yale School of Music.

Prizes include: First Place: The Joy Brown Wiener Excellence Award - $7500, Second Place - $3000, and Special Mention - $1000 in addition to the opportunity to conduct the MSO during the 2011-12.


Thursday, May 26
1st Round: 1:30pm-4:00pm - 10 Contestants
2nd Round: 7:30pm-10:00pm - 6 Contestants
Friday, May 27
3rd & Final Round: 10:00am-12:30pm - 3 Finalists

Admission is free, but a pass is required. Passes may be obtained in advance through our box office by calling (901) 537-2525 or at 585 S. Mendenhall Rd. in east Memphis.

Friday, May 20, 2011

New Ballet Ensemble presents Springloaded at the Buckman

Posted By on Fri, May 20, 2011 at 1:58 PM

Memphis' New Ballet Ensemble as always been about creating a fusion of classical and contemporary dance and the company has found a real poster child in Charles "L'il Buck" Riley, whose youtube videos have become viral sensations. Although Riley has moved on NBE's Springloaded will give dance fans a chance to see what comes next.

According to NBE founder Katie Smythe, professional trainee Gene Seals is Riley's successor apparent. He will be performing in three different pieces in Springloaded, two of which are his own. Springloaded will also showcase new work by the versatile, flamenco-inspired dancer Noelia Garcia Carmona.

Charles Riley dancing with Yo-Yo Ma.

Springloaded: Friday, May 20 · 7:00pm - 10:00pm at the Buckman center for performing arts.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Prison Stories

Posted By on Thu, May 19, 2011 at 10:46 AM

Voices of the South-affiliated Storyteller Elaine Blanchard has been working with women in prison, gathering their stories, and converting them into narrative theater. I dropped in on a recent staged reading/fundraiser and shot a bit of video. Sadly, my camera was failing. But here's a video clip of Blanchard introducing Prison Stories and a 10-minute audio sample. This is a fascinating project and it continues to evolve as Blanchard collects more and more stories.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Memphis actor Ralph Hatley dies

Posted By on Tue, May 17, 2011 at 9:16 AM

Ralph Hatley
  • Ralph Hatley
Sad news. Memphis actor Ralph Hatley, the father of actor/director Kyle Hatley died on Sunday, May 15. The Funeral Service will be held at 4pm on Thursday, May 19, 2011 at St. Anne Catholic Church 6529 Stage Road, Bartlett

My introduction to Hatley came by way of a phone call. I was scheduled to direct Tennessee Williams' lost prison drama Not About Nightingales for the McCoy Theater at Rhodes College in the fall of 2001, and he wanted permission to try out for a part. "Mr. Davis," he asked, in a gruff but gregarious voice. "I was calling to find out if you'd ever consider working with a non-actor." I told him what I'd tell anybody, "We're all performers of some kind or another. Come to auditions, let's see what you've got."

Ralph undersold himself. He'd taken some classes and had had appeared in a student production of David Mamet's Oleanna directed by his son. He may not have had much experience but the retired police officer and Rhodes College security chief was a born actor. What his resume lacked he made up in raw talent, commitment, energy, curiosity, and an eagerness to learn and try new things. He was a natural team player, but with a rare personal magnetism that made him stand out in any ensemble. I cast him in the role of Butch O'Fallen, a hardened criminal with a sentimental side who leads a justifiable revolt against a sadistic prison warden. Bald, bearded, and rugged as an old sea captain, with a stare that could cut through steel, and biceps like cannon balls, his Butch is still the most real, dangerous, and unpredictable character I've ever seen on any stage. The judges for the Ostranders—Memphis's answer to the Tonys— agreed and his first main stage appearance also netted his first award for "best supporting actor." The judges got it wrong though. Ralph may not have had the most lines, but in our production he was clearly the lead.

Ralph Hatley (far left in shadow) in NOT ABOUT NIGHTINGALES
  • Ralph Hatley (far left in shadow) in NOT ABOUT NIGHTINGALES

9/11 happened while we were rehearsing Not About Nightingales, an eerily prescient show about despotism, abuse of power, and torture. There had been some talk of canceling rehearsal that night, an idea that I resisted. That's the night I remember best, as Hatley—a neophyte even compared to many of the students in the cast—lead by example, showing everyone in the room how to channel their anger and confusion into something productive. It's not surprising that the revenge sequences in our production, although abstracted and bloodless, were so intense and shocking that the theater department asked for a signed artist's statement to share with any potential protesters. To my knowledge there were no complaints.

Ralph went on to appear in productions of Carousel, Our Town, It's a Wonderful Life, Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, and the 9/11 drama The Guys. He also tried his hand at acting for the camera, taking on roles in a variety of commercials and independent films like Rookie Bookie, and A Cowboy's Silver Lining which earned him a nomination for best actor in a drama at Oklahoma's Bare Bones Film Festival. Ralph is probably best known to Memphians as an especially happy gambler in ads for Horseshoe Casino.

When I think of Ralph Hatley the first word that springs to mind is generosity. He was as good a friend as a person could ask for. He approached everything he did onstage with an uncommon humbleness and gave so much of himself that he improved the performances of anybody fortunate enough to be in a scene with him.

Rest in peace Ralph. You came to the theater too late and left us way too early. I am incredibly honored that, while you were here, you shared a little of your talent with me.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Will Call: Tips and tidbits for the theatrically inclined

Posted By on Fri, May 13, 2011 at 11:09 AM

I'm going to keep this week's installment short and sweet.

The 39-Steps, a comic adaptation of the classic Hitchcock film opens at Circuit Playhouse this weekend, and I'm going to recommend it sight unseen. Four actors take on dozens of roles each in this fast-paced story of adventure and espionage. It sounds like too much fun.

Germantown Community Theatre has had a run of tough luck of late, but the tiny Playhouse has taken it all in stride, barely missing a beat. Part of me wants to go see Larry Shue's comedy The Foreigner just to show my support, but I'm skipping this one. It's a regional favorite, and GCT has done it several times. Here's what I wrote about the show the FOURTH time they produced it.

And then there's Crowns at the Hattiloo, which is a little too much like going to church for my taste. This clip isn't from the Hattiloo's production, but it should give you some idea of what I'm talking about, and why the show is really so much more than that.

Talking about Our Own Voice, the Wiseguys, and Jonathan Richman on "Local Color"

Posted By on Fri, May 13, 2011 at 9:37 AM

I should be fined every time I say "sort of."

Also, I should probably make sure we're clear before talking about athletic supporters.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Joshua Bell at the Cannon Center

Posted By on Thu, May 12, 2011 at 2:51 PM

Want to see Joshua Bell play this live with Mei Ann Chen conducting?

Tonight (May 12) only at the Cannon Center.

Details here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Get Real: Our Own Voices reinvents the reality show

Posted By on Tue, May 10, 2011 at 3:37 PM

What is reality? And what's real? These are questions people have been asking since people started asking questions. Although it is sometimes difficult to ask them out loud without running the risk of sounding like a neophyte stoner playing with a box of crayons. Fortunately Our Own Voice is a brave little theater company that doesn't worry too much about what people may think. For 20-years the troupe has created work that defies convention while asking questions that our more commercial playhouses can't begin to approach. With Reality Show—an evening of theater that has nothing to do with the reality TV show phenomenon— the company employs spoken word, dance, and theater games to ask what we're keeping when we're "keeping it real."

The scenes in Reality Show fall into one of two categories: Live acts, and confession. The former calls to mind the work of Chicago's Neo-Futurists whose longrunning Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind is built around the idea of putting only real actions and activities on stage. That latter has a 1980's retro vibe, as it resembles Reagan-era performance art.

"To be honest, I was not familiar with the neo-futurist movement in theatre but after reading a little about their aesthetic I can see a connection to the work of Our Own Voice," says Reality Show choreographer and co-creator (the program says "choreo*directed by") Kimberley Baker noting that Our Own Voice productions tend to be inspired by the work of Augusto Boal and Anna Halprin. "Both of these artists respect the everyday person's ability to make artistic contributions through the exploration of communal identity or personal narrative," she says.

The pieces in Reality Show were chosen to represent the community that formed during OOV's most recent series of workshops. "We started with a series of questions that everyone answered as a creative writing exercise," Baker says. "The placement of pieces, track selections of music, and order of performers in different sections were often randomized or decided through chance operations. I would roll dice, pull cards, tell the actors to line up according to height, or activate their movement in the order of their birth month. Being open to making order out of chaos and trusting that process is an act of faith.

OOV embraces the idea of experimental theater. But what, exactly, is the experiment? What's being tested? What are the anticipated outcomes? The initial goal, Baker says, was to explore reality through the lens of contemporary culture. "That was our starting point, but the real discovery was uncovering a slice of each person's individual reality: The ways they spend their days as mothers, fathers, students, teachers, daughters, sons, husbands, wives, lovers and friends."

From a spectator's perspective, some elements are more instantly engaging than others. It's interesting to watch Alexander Mooney—his voice a whispery rasp one must strain to hear— as he plays the drums and then bravely describes the automobile accident that caused his brain injury. It's inspiring to hear him describe his ongoing therapy and the value of persistence. It is similarly intriguing to watch other members of the company as they work to give personal information a dramatic shape, although some of the text might have been culled from high school journals with "Private: Do Not Read" scrawled on the cover.

"I feel so grateful that we created a community where people felt safe sharing elements of their personal lives," says Baker, who has an uncanny ability to find the inner dance major inside even the most awkward, untrained performers. "By exploring personal narratives in a open way you start to see commonalities and differences. That enables the performers to create meaningful dialogue both onstage and off, and it invites the audience to continue the conversation."

OOV's work always attempts to include the audience. In Reality Show, for example, audience and cast members text each other and communicate via cell phone, which is hilarious considering the elaborate, warnings to disable all electronics that serve as a prelude to the modern theatergoing experience. But it's not always clear how much, if any of Reality Show, was created for the audience, which seems to be necessary here only to complete a kind of circuit. That's not a criticism or a complaint as much as it is a suggestion to those who may be interested in this kind of work. OOV shows are always thought provoking and they can be entertaining. But watching one may not always be as fulfilling as building one.

Reality Show is at TheatreWorks through May 22.

Memphis Symphony Orchestra is a drop off point for flood donations

Posted By on Tue, May 10, 2011 at 9:24 AM

From the MSO:

The MSO offices (585 S. Mendenhall) will serve as a drop-off location for people to donate items for victims of the Memphis floods. All items will be taken to Hope Presbyterian Church. The MSO encourages people to donate at our offices through this Friday, May 13. Below is a list of items requested by Hope Church. Monetary donations are also being accepted. Checks can be made payable to Hope. In the memo line please write “flood victims.”

Continue reading »


Monday, May 9, 2011

I'm on TV

Posted By on Mon, May 9, 2011 at 12:18 PM

This announcement's late, there's no denying. I've been a regular guest on WKNO's Local Color for a while now. I haven't written about it because—well—I don't know why I haven't written about it. Maybe it's because I'm no good at self-promotion. Also, I've always been uncomfortable with broadcast and might have been secretly hoping nobody would notice. But people have noticed, and they seem to like it. So I suppose I should pull my head out of the sand and at least mention that I'm doing it.

This episode is dedicated to the Orpheum Theatre's 2011-2012 season.

It's a pretty good episode although I should note for the record that Olivier-winning playwright Katori Hall graduated from Craigmont.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Project: Speakeasy

Posted By on Fri, May 6, 2011 at 11:11 AM

I think I'm dropping in on Ragtime at Playhouse on the Square tonight. But if I wasn't I'd attend Project: Motion's 1920's-themed fundraiser. $25 at the door. Free featured drink every hour. $3-cocktails and nibbles. Location? Well, that's a secret. But it's somewhere between the Madison Hotel and Main. Look for the speakeasy sign out front. The password isn't swordfish. Or is it?

Get you flapper on!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Spring Awakenings: TSC's excellent Romeo & Juliet closes at the Dixon this weekend

Posted By on Thu, May 5, 2011 at 10:50 AM

Romeo (Wolfe Coleman) and Juliet (Carey Elise) during the outdoor Capulet tomb in the Dixon Gardens south woods; Tennessee Shakespeare Companys production of ROMEO AND JULIET directed by Stephanie Shine.  Photo: Joey Miller.
  • Romeo (Wolfe Coleman) and Juliet (Carey Elise) during the outdoor Capulet tomb in the Dixon Gardens' south woods; Tennessee Shakespeare Company's production of ROMEO AND JULIET directed by Stephanie Shine. Photo: Joey Miller.
Tennessee Shakespeare Company's environmental take on Romeo & Juliet in the Dixon Gardens is a bit gimmicky and funny hats abound. It's also gorgeous, one of the most consistently entertaining and genuinely moving interpretations of Shakespeare's well-loved, love story I've seen. And, at this point, I've seen a lot of them. I strongly recommend visiting the Dixon Gardens before the show closes on May 8. Take your kids. Tell a friend. Tell an enemy you want to flip. It's really the perfect way to celebrate the arrival of Spring.

I've had mixed emotions about some of TSC's previous shows, mostly related to a declamatory style of performance that always seemed too cold and too big for the room. But in the great outdoors oversized acting can seem less oversized, and the actors assembled for this R&J are loose, and speak the language like visitors from another time.

There's no right way to perform Shakespeare but there are many wrong ways to do it and Memphians have been treated to more than their fair share of wrongheaded R&Js in recent years. A few seasons back Germantown Community Theatre staged a brooding version so dark and somber with so much of the play's emphasis on the secondary characters, it became almost unrecognizable. Not to be outdone, Playhouse on the Square's subsequent, less interesting take on the tragedy, featured a wheelchair-bound Juliet(the actor was perfectly ambulatory). Loving a disabled person, we were told, was supposed to make the love even more taboo.


Romeo & Juliet isn't a riddle that needs to be solved, and although it offers many meditation-worthy truths, the story can accurately be summarized in a very few words: It's all fun and games until somebody gets hurt.

TSC's R&J is as unfussy as a piece of theater can be. The humor—and there is so much of it—isn't the result of some imposed cleverness, it's born of actors clearly having a great time with material they know very well. It's a comfort to see character actors in the title roles instead of pretty young things able to speak the words prettily. Not to say that Wolfe Coleman and Carey Elise don't make a handsome couple. But Elise's Juliet, with her syllogisms and curious, independent nature is more likely to be voted Verona High's class clown than prom queen. Coleman's tussle-haired Romeo is a clumsy goofball whose facility with a sonnet, and the sword, improves with practice.

When Romeo—playing the part of a peeping Tom, stalking his crush from below— calls out to Juliet on her balcony Elise shrieks and jumps like someone who's just been goosed. She's not so much frightened as startled. The audience roars with the recognition of something real, and TSC's R&J is heavily seasoned with these kinds of moments.

Matthew Cruse's drag take on the nurse is much more than a big-bottomed sight gag, Michael Khanlarian's Capulet is nuanced and in need of some anger management, Darius Wallace makes Friar Lawrence a complex clergyman and Slade Kyle's wisecracking Mercutio vibrates with life. This is truly an ensemble show, underscored by a relatively small cast's sharing of the play's narrative passages.

The dancing and swordplay might be best described as too much of a good thing. And something about the progressive nature of the play's final act—where the audience follows the actors through the gardens—is a little too much like visiting a haunted forest attraction. The payoff, however, is worth the gimmicky indulgence. Juliet's tomb scene, set in the shadow of Venus's fountain in the southeast part of the garden — is so visually satisfying I'm not even sure I heard what the actors were saying. Didn't have to.

Showtime is 7 p.m. For more information click here.

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