Friday, October 28, 2011

Wherefore Art Thou: Theatre Memphis hosts an art sale fundraiser

Posted By on Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 4:32 PM

So the name of the event is a little awkward but the Wherefore Art Thou? fine arts trunk show still sounds like an excellent opportunity to pick up a nice piece of modern while slipping some cash to Theatre Memphis.

Walter Edelman of Edelman Fine Arts, LTD, New York will be holding a private portfolio exhibition and original art show with some of the proceeds to benefit Theatre Memphis. The events will be held from Noon to 5pm on October 29 and 30, 2011. The events are open to the public and will include historical commentary given by Mr. Edelman who is one of the leading art appraisers, critics and locators of fine art in the United States. Some artists handled in the past by Edelman Fine Arts have included Renoir, Joan Miro, Alexander Calder, Leroy Neiman, Norman Rockwell, Salvador Dali, Marc Chagall, Rembrandt, Peter Max and Picasso. The event is being called Wherefore Art Thou? and is a fundraiser to support the artistic excellence at Theatre Memphis.

Prices start at $250

I recently dropped in on Theatre Memphis's overstock sale and picked up a vintage hardback copy of The Great White Hope, a teak and glass serving tray, and some Threepenny Opera swag. Set me back $5.

  • Awesomeness

Perpetual Motion: Project: Motion celebrates 25-years of dance

Posted By on Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 10:53 AM

I thought it would be nice to post some vintage pictures of Project: Motion

Promenade  1990 - dancers:  Wayne M. Smith, Laura Marsh, Laura Prentice Blow
  • "Promenade" 1990 - dancers: Wayne M. Smith, Laura Marsh, Laura Prentice Blow

P: M is celebrating 25 Years of creating original modern dance works in Memphis. The stats are impressive: 75 choreographers, 95 dance concerts, more than two hundred original works.

Moonbeams and Rivers  1988 - dancers:  Judy Wombwell, Katie Guinn, Ann Halligan Donahue
  • "Moonbeams and Rivers" 1988 - dancers: Judy Wombwell, Katie Guinn, Ann Halligan Donahue

The company has been reflective, of late but the 25th Anniversary Concert, which continues at the Evergreen Theatre this weekend, looks both forward and backward. Founder and original co-director, Ann Halligan Donahue returned to choreograph two new works that will appear alongside revivals of pieces by Rebecca Cochran, Emily Hefley and Ursula Payne.

Trappings by Susan Chritzberg,  1990 - dancers:   Wayne M. Smith, Laura Prentice Blow, Ann Halligan Donahue, Jay Rapp, Katie Guinn
  • "Trappings" by Susan Chritzberg, 1990 - dancers: Wayne M. Smith, Laura Prentice Blow, Ann Halligan Donahue, Jay Rapp, Katie Guinn

Time: 8pm (2pm Matinee)
Location: Evergreen Theatre
Price: $15-$20
Click here for additional information.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Posted By on Thu, Oct 27, 2011 at 11:57 AM

So now everybody's a theater blogger. At Memphis: The Magazine's 901 blog Marilyn Sadler reports that nearly 27,000 patrons saw Memphis: The Musical during its 13-show run at The Orpheum Theatre. And here's something else from the Flyer's opinion pages.

Glad somebody's watching while I've been out on sick leave.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

He'll Be Back: Three Questions with Terminator the Second Actor Randal Cooper

Posted By on Wed, Oct 19, 2011 at 8:56 AM

I'm not going to lie: Terminator the Second—a live stage version of the film Terminator-2 with all new dialogue taken from Shakespeare's greatest plays— sounds like it could be either the best thing ever imagined by humans or a disaster so epic it would still make a great Arnold Schwarzenegger film. So it's win/win, right?

Former Memphis actor (and one time Memphis Flyer HOTTIE) Randal Cooper took part in this unusual Nashville-based experiment which, most likely, will be back. In DVD form at the very least. Here's what he had to say about the project.

Intermission Impossible: You seem to have left Memphis and slipped right into the Nashville theater scene without missing a beat. Can you compare and contrast the two scenes?

Randal Cooper: When you're a stranger in town, it's nice to know that you can walk into any audition and instantly be among kindred spirits. Everyone here's been amazingly welcoming. At the same time, you can't swing a dead cat in this city without hitting someone who wants to be a star, so the competition can be pretty fierce. What Nashville doesn't have is facilities—there's nothing comparable to Theatre Memphis or Playhouse on the Square in town, and every company is making the best use of multipurpose or repurposed space that they can, which places certain limits on theatrical ambitions—folks seem loath to do shows that require a fly system, for instance.

Intermission Impossible: Tell me all about the strange thing you've been working on. And share a little of what you do in the show. Especially the licking part.

Randal Cooper: Terminator the Second is the brainchild of Cody de Vos and Marshall Weber (and James Cameron and William Shakespeare, I GUESS), who came up with the idea over a year ago when thinking of doing a production of Macbeth in a dive bar. The plot, characters, and situations are all from Terminator 2Judgement Day, and the language is purloined from various other Shakespeare plays, with only verb tenses, proper names, and pronouns changed, so that when Sarah Conner gets fed up with her psychiatrist not believing her visions of the future, she can rant that "there are more things in heaven and earth, Doctor, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." The marriage of high-camp science fiction and Shakespeare is irresistible—to borrow from Shakespeare myself, a consummation devoutly to be wished, or as a friend put it at the premiere last night, "when nerds collide."

The project struck a nerve on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter back in April, when the creators raised over three times the $3,000 budget they were requesting for the show. People from all over the world contributed as little or as much as they could to make this thing happen.

I'm playing assorted roles in the show, the most notorious of which is the orderly at Pescadero State Mental Hospital who licks Sarah Conner while she's strapped to her bed and pretending to be catatonic, later receiving his much-deserved comeuppance. I don't think the scene would be quite as creepy if I'd been a cocker spaniel puppy, but I guess licking folks isn't as widely accepted in humans. I found out just the other day that the orderly's name in the film is Dougie, so apparently I go on to create a dance later in life.

Intermission Impossible: Is there an audience for Terminator Shakespeare? How are people responding?

Randal Cooper: Based on the audience response from opening night, this is a project that fills a need that people didn't know they had. The story of Terminator 2 is bringing folks into the show who might not otherwise come out to the theatre, and reaction so far has been ecstatic. Our first (and possibly only, given that we only run one weekend) was glowing, and what I've caught of audience response on social media sites has all been extremely positive, as well. I think the cast and crew are thrilled that folks are loving it as much as they do.

This production of T-The Second has passed but curiosity seekers can see some backstage video here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Occupy Theater Class: Would you like some improv with your non-violence training?

Posted By on Tue, Oct 18, 2011 at 2:30 PM

The non-violence workshops held this weekend for Occupy Memphis protesters looked a lot like a very large theater class. This exercise is called the "Hassle Line." It's designed to give protesters some idea of what it feels like to have terrible things screamed at them by people who disagree.

MEMPHIS vs. Memphis: The real Bluff City comes out to welcome (or maybe upstage) its Broadway counterpart

Posted By on Tue, Oct 18, 2011 at 1:05 PM

When Memphis the musical launched its world tour in Memphis the place on Sunday, October 16, a family gospel group sat up at the corner of Beale and Main to give audiences a taste of the real thing before they went into the Orpheum see the show.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Everything You Need to Know About MEMPHIS: The Musical

Posted By on Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 11:29 AM


I wrote a feature about Memphis the musical for Memphis the magazine. With help from the show's creators Joe DiPietro and David Bryan, it covers a lot of ground. You can read it all online here.

Memphis is launching its first national tour at The Orpheum this week.

On the Avenue: AVENUE Q tickles and teaches

Posted By on Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 11:03 AM

Cast of Avenue Q
  • Cast of Avenue Q

Have you seen Avenue Q at Circuit Playhouse yet? If you haven't I hope it's because you've tried and tried to get a ticket and the show was sold out every time. Avenue Q is Sesame Street for adults who still have a lot of growing up to do. It's occasionally raunchy, always real and a helluva lot of fun top to bottom.

Director Jordan Nichols has done a great job in bringing the politically sly puppet and minstrel show to life. It doesn't hurt that he has an amazing cast.

What can you expect to see from Avenue Q other than red hot puppet action and Gary Coleman? You will see a closeted gay republican banker puppet realize that things get better. You will thrill to the Bad Idea Bears and their Long Island iced teas. You will believe that a monster can masturbate.

Avenue Q's songs are more than slightly irreverent. "The Internet was Made for Porn," is still a funny song even though the joke's gone stale from overuse. "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist," taps into hard and hilarious truths that turn our worst instincts into a bonding experience. "It Sucks to Be Me," needs no explanation.

I have to admit seeing Gary Coleman as a character on stage is weird now that he's dead, his sadness and anger preserved forever thanks to reality television. And that makes me wonder a little about Avenue Q's shelf life. It's certainly held up well enough so far.

For more information, here's a link.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bee Closing: A very funny musical ends its run at the U of M this weekend

Posted By on Thu, Oct 13, 2011 at 4:26 PM

Many readers know, though some do not, that I've been splitting time between Memphis and Nashville lately taking care of some family business. As a result I've been missing a LOT of good stuff. The U of M's production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is one of my favorite musicals ever and it's killing me that I'm probably going to miss it too.

So who's made it out to see this one? What did you think?

Whatever Floats Your Boat: Gem of the Ocean closes at Playhouse on the Square

Posted By on Thu, Oct 13, 2011 at 12:02 AM

Citizen and Aunt Ester in August Wilsons Gem of the Ocean
  • Citizen and Aunt Ester in August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean
Gem of the Ocean, which closes at Playhouse on the Square this weekend is a muddled incantation of a play full gorgeous, aria-like passages and cryptic symbolism.

Let's play with numbers. Gem is set in 1904. Aunt Ester, a wise old history-keeper who resides at 1839 Wylie Avenue in Pittsburgh's Hill district is 285 years old. That means she was born in 1619, the year a Dutch slaver bartered African slaves for essential goods in New England, effectively beginning the North American slave trade. 1839 is an important number because it's the year the Slave ship Amistad was overtaken by slaves who would eventually win their freedom. You don't need to know this to follow Wilson's narratively-challenged play. But for maximum enjoyment it helps to know that games are afoot.

1839 Wylie Street is a "peaceful house," a sanctuary for troubled souls, and a stand-in for the Amistad, where seekers like Citizen and Black Mary can shake off the chains of the past and become masters of their own fate. Or something like that.

August Wilson's problem play is many things including a meditation on the meaning of family in the ever-evolving diaspora. The people living in Aunt Ester's house aren't family, but they function like one. The only blood relatives on stage are Black Mary and her brother Caesar who wears a badge and has become an enforcer for white interests. They don't get along for obvious reasons.

"Some of these niggers were better off in slavery," Caesar growls, raging against mill workers who walked off the job after a fellow laborer drown in the river where he took refuge after being falsely accused of stealing a bucket of nails. Caeser, who values blood obligations but is selfish and can't identify with his own race refuses to understand why his sister would rather be a washwoman in a poor community than work with him in comfortable isolation as a part of the exploitative system.

Gem has problems. As other critics have pointed out there's a fine line between the language of spirituality and complete nonsense. The play's pivotal scene, in which Aunt Ester leads young Citizen on a spiritual cruise to a mythical City of Bones, sounds like it could have been plagiarized from a self-hypnosis lecture aimed at helping people lose weight: "Imagine yourself on a boat...".

Playhouse's production is inviting enough but it's also shapeless and too sanitary. The characters may wear rags, gather crap, work in mills, ride horses, peddle cookware in the dirty streets, brawl, and bleed but there's no real evidence that Ester's spacious home has ever been lived in. The labor and class disputes raging just off stage—a powerful image in these uneasy times— never feel especially real even in the play's chaotic closing scenes.

Tony Horne, a detail-oriented director who took home an Ostrander Award last season for his work on The Wiz, gets some fantastic performances from a strong cast that includes Lazora Jones as Aunt Ester, Rozelle Henderson as Caesar, Morgan Malone as Black Mary, and Emmanuel McKinney as Citizen, a young man with a secret that weighs heavily on his soul. Stage vet Jamie Mann gives one of his better performances as Solly Two-Kings, a former Union scout and hero of the underground railroad who makes his living collecting dog excrement for fertilizer. But Wilson's script makes it easy for individual performances and pieces of the story to stand out in a play that wants to be too many things at once.

Problems aside it's not likely that Gem of the Ocean will be revived soon and Wilson fans will want to see it before it goes away.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Hattiloo Theatre is moving to Overton Square

Posted By on Wed, Oct 12, 2011 at 5:13 PM

Loeb properties is developing Overton Square as theater/dining district and The Hattiloo Theatre is moving in. Executive Director Ekundayo Bandele says he has no comment as to what might happen in the Hattiloo's current location when the theater moves. "That's going to be part of our feasibility study," Bandele says.

Details to come.

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