Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Congratulations to All the Ostrander Award Nominees, 2013-14

Posted By on Tue, Jul 29, 2014 at 10:31 AM

A scene from As You Like It at Theatre Memphis
  • A scene from "As You Like It " at Theatre Memphis

It's time once again for the Memphis theater world's biggest annual party. The 2013-14 Ostrander Awards will be handed out Sunday, August 24th, at 6 p.m. at the Orpheum Theatre. For ticket information visit this link.

COMMUNITY OSTRANDER AWARD NOMINEES AND WINNERS
2013-2014

SET DESIGN
Mark Guirguis Les Misérables Playhouse on the Square
Dan Kopera and Bill Short The Royal Family Theatre Memphis
Chris Sterling Haint New Moon Theatre Company
Jack Yates Harvey Theatre Memphis
Jack Yates Proof Next Stage @ Theatre Memphis

COSTUMES
Paul McCrae As You Like It Next Stage @ Theatre Memphis
Rebecca Y. Powell Hairspray Playhouse on the Square
Rebecca Y. Powell Les Misérables Playhouse on the Square
Andre´ Bruce Ward The Music Man Theatre Memphis
Andre´ Bruce Ward The Royal Family Theatre Memphis

Les Miserables at Playhouse on the Square
  • "Les Miserables" at Playhouse on the Square

LIGHTING
Jeremy Allen Fisher Jesus Christ Superstar Theatre Memphis
Jeremy Allen Fisher Proof Next Stage @ Theatre Memphis
Jeremy Allen Fisher Young Frankenstein Theatre Memphis
John Horan The Diary of Anne Frank Playhouse on the Square
John Horan Les Misérables Playhouse on the Square

PROPS
Betty Dilley The Miracle Worker Germantown Community Theatre
Ashley Palmer Red The Circuit Playhouse
Ashley Palmer and Katharine Stubblefield Spamalot Playhouse on the Square
Katharine Stubblefield Les Misérables Playhouse on the Square
Jack Yates Young Frankenstein Theatre Memphis

HAIR/WIGS/MAKE UP
Nicholas Bursoni Hairspray Playhouse on the Square
Andrew Chandler Frankenstein New Moon Theatre Company
Alexandria Gore, Ellen Inghram and Paul McCrae Young Frankenstein Theatre Memphis
Rebecca Y. Powell and Caleb Blackwell Spamalot Playhouse on the Square
Barbara Sanders The Royal Family Theatre Memphis

MUSIC DIRECTION
Gary Beard The Music Man Theatre Memphis
Jeffrey B. Brewer Young Frankenstein Theatre Memphis
Renée Kemper Gypsy Playhouse on the Square
Renée Kemper Hairspray Playhouse on the Square
Renée Kemper Les Misérables Playhouse on the Square


SOUND DESIGN
Zach Badreddine 4,000 Miles POTS@TheWorks
Zach Badreddine The Diary of Anne Frank Playhouse on the Square
Zach Badreddine Les Misérables Playhouse on the Square
Eric Sefton Haint New Moon Theatre Company
Eric Sefton Young Frankenstein Theatre Memphis

CHOREOGRAPHY
Leah Beth Bolton Young Frankenstein Theatre Memphis
Christi Hall The Music Man Theatre Memphis
Jordan Nichols and Travis Bradley Spamalot Playhouse on the Square
Courtney Oliver and Standrew Parker Reefer Madness The Circuit Playhouse
Shorey Walker, Jordan Nichols, and Travis Bradley Hairspray Playhouse on the Square

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Elisabeth Cross Hipp Les Misérables Playhouse on the Square
Morgan Howard Les Misérables Playhouse on the Square
Lynden Lewis Young Frankenstein Theatre Memphis
Caroline Simpson Hairspray Playhouse on the Square
Jaclyn Suffel Young Frankenstein Theatre Memphis

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Gregory Alexander Young Frankenstein Theatre Memphis
Jonathan Christian Spamalot Playhouse on the Square
Rob Hanford Young Frankenstein Theatre Memphis
Jordan Nichols Spamalot Playhouse on the Square
Kent Reynolds Spamalot Playhouse on the Square
Ken Zimmerman Hairspray Playhouse on the Square

Its a Miracle Worker at GCT
  • It's a "Miracle Worker" at GCT


LEADING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Leigh Eck Young Frankenstein Theatre Memphis
Carla McDonald The Great American Trailer Park Musical The Circuit Playhouse Carla McDonald Monty Python’s Spamalot Playhouse on the Square
Courtney Oliver Hairspray Playhouse on the Square

LEADING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Bill Andrews Spamalot Playhouse on the Square
Justin Asher Young Frankenstein Theatre Memphis

Marques W. Brown Young Frankenstein Theatre Memphis
Philip Andrew Himebook Les Misérables Playhouse on the Square
Jordan Nichols Hairspray Playhouse on the Square


DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL
Scott Ferguson Spamalot Playhouse on the Square
Dave Landis Hairspray Playhouse on the Square
Gary John La Rosa Les Misérables Playhouse on the Square
Cecelia Wingate Young Frankenstein Theatre Memphis

BEST MUSICAL PRODUCTION
Hairspray Playhouse on the Square
Les Misérables Playhouse on the Square
Monty Python’s Spamalot Playhouse on the Square
The Music Man Theatre Memphis
Young Frankenstein Theatre Memphis

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Jillian Barron As You Like It Next Stage @ Theatre Memphis
Mary Buchignani Clybourne Park Playhouse on the Square
Meredith Julian Clybourne Park Playhouse on the Square
Ellen Saba The Miracle Worker Germantown Community Theatre
Christina Wellford Scott The Diary of Anne Frank Playhouse on the Square

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Stephen Garrett Proof Next Stage @ Theatre Memphis
Michael Gravois Clybourne Park Playhouse on the Square
Stephen Huff As You Like It Next Stage @ Theatre Memphis
Kinon Keplinger The Submission Next Stage @ Theatre Memphis
John Maness Grace The Circuit Playhouse
The 2014 Ostrander Awards will be presented Sunday, August 24 at 6 p.m. at The Orpheum Theatre.


LEADING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Jillian Barron Proof Next Stage @ Theatre Memphis
Jessica Johnson The Submission Next Stage @ Theatre Memphis
Karen Mason Riss 4,000 Miles POTS@TheWorks
Christina Wellford Scott The Royal Family Theatre Memphis
Lena Wallace The Miracle Worker Germantown Community Theatre

LEADING ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Gabe Beutel-Gunn The Submission Next Stage @ Theatre Memphis
Jerry Chipman Other Desert Cities The Circuit Playhouse
Tony Isbell Red The Circuit Playhouse
Stuart Turner Boeing Boeing Germantown Community Theatre
S.A. Weakley Proof Next Stage @ Theatre Memphis

SMALL ENSEMBLE ACTING (Cast of 7 or fewer)
Clybourne Park Playhouse on the Square
Proof Next Stage @ Theatre Memphis
Red The Circuit Playhouse
The Submission Next Stage @ Theatre Memphis

LARGE ENSEMBLE ACTING (Cast of 8 or more)
As You Like It Next Stage @ Theatre Memphis
Hairspray Playhouse on the Square
Les Misérables Playhouse on the Square
Monty Python’s Spamalot Playhouse on the Square
Seven Guitars Hattiloo Theatre
Young Frankenstein Theatre Memphis

Haint at TheatreWorks
  • "Haint" at TheatreWorks


FEATURED/CAMEO ROLE
Jonathan Christian Hairspray Playhouse on the Square
Barry Fuller Young Frankenstein Theatre Memphis
James Dale Green Young Frankenstein Theatre Memphis
Jo Lynne Palmer Harvey Theatre Memphis
Kim Sanders Hairspray Playhouse on the Square


DIRECTION OF A DRAMATIC PRODUCTION
Jerry Chipman The Submission Next Stage @ Theatre Memphis
Stephen Hancock Clybourne Park Playhouse on the Square
Jo Lenhart As You Like It Next Stage @ Theatre Memphis

Young Frankenstein at Theatre Memphis
  • "Young Frankenstein" at Theatre Memphis

BEST DRAMATIC PRODUCTION
As You Like It Next Stage @ Theatre Memphis
Clybourne Park Playhouse on the Square
Proof Next Stage @ Theatre Memphis
The Submission Next Stage @ Theatre Memphis

BEHIND THE SCENES AWARD
Sameka Johnson Hattiloo Theatre
Cathy and Harold Richardson Theatre Memphis
Andy Saunders Germantown Community Theatre
Katharine Stubblefield Playhouse on the Square
Mystie-Elizabthe Michelle Watson New Moon Theatre Company


THE EUGART YERIAN LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
John Rone

John Rone (RIGHT) accepts an Ostrander Award with the cast of Pride & Prejudice
  • John Rone (RIGHT) accepts an Ostrander Award with the cast of "Pride & Prejudice"

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

"4000 Miles" Goes the Distance at TheatreWorks

Posted By on Thu, Jul 24, 2014 at 4:18 PM

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I know this is the same road
I took the day I left home
But it sure looks different now
Well I guess I look different too— Bobby Bare, "500 Miles"

Gentle. That's the word I hear over and over again in reference to 4000 Miles, Amy Herzog's funny, thorny play about geographical, emotional, temporal, and even political distance across generations. Director Tony Isbell dropped the word when we chatted online. It's popped up repeatedly in conversations with friends who've seen the play at TheatreWorks. Even New York Times critic Charles Isherwood called it a "gently comic drama,” in his review, so there must be something to the idea that it's a gentle play. But that isn’t how I experienced 4000 Miles at all. It was an uncomfortably real snapshot of a generational moment. It was a sound thrashing of lifestyle-lefties, and a similarly-bracing critique of our elders and their astonishing ability to idealize the past, and enshrine it in ways that remain fixed, even as people change and cultures evolve. 4000 Miles is a quiet play, mostly. There's no sustained shouting or violence to speak of, though death looks out from every corner of the room. Genuinely sweet moments are shared between a self-absorbed millennial and his grandmother, an old lefty at the tipping point of senility. But Over the River and Through the Woods it isn’t, nor is gentle a word I'd ever choose to describe this subtle, one-act reminder that the ultimate reward of a long life is outliving everyone who might attend your funeral.

Did I mention that the show is also funny. Because it is. What it's not is tightly-plotted. Nor is it full of the archetypal characters that tend to populate the classic American family drama. To that-end, 4000 Miles— a 2011 Pulitzer Prize finalist, is a chamber piece, more meditation than assault. But it's an uneasy meditation, almost never serene.

The play opens with a scruffy, baggage-laden Leo waking Vera, his elderly grandmother in her Greenwich Village apartment at 3 a.m. The last thing she expected was an early morning visit from her left-coast grandson, and she doesn’t seem all that happy to see him. Leo had been cycling across the country with a friend. When that friend died in a freak, horrible accident on the road, he broke off communication with his family in Minneapolis and went off the grid.

Leo's not intentionally malicious, but the young trustafarian is a natural manipulator: A wounded rugged outdoorsy-type quick to use his personal tragedy if it buys some sympathy or helps get the hot Chinese girl who looks like his adopted sister into bed. He takes up residence with his grandmother on a temporary basis, but makes her promise to not tell the family where he is. During that time he mooches, like some gigolo version of a grandson, trading human company and smiles for favor, making only a few real connections along the way. Leo doesn't mean to be mean, but he is, making fun of his grandmother for still using the Yellow Pages, and scolding her for buying bananas. "There's no such thing as a local banana," he calls after her disdainfully.

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Over the course of the play we watch Leo lose his girlfriend Bec, making one final douchey request to, "remember how our bodies were together." It doesn't work. We also witness an attempted hook-up with a rich girl named Amanda who flips out when she discovers she's in the huge, rent-controlled apartment of a card carrying communist "I don't know if I can have sex in a Communist's home," she says— or words to that effect. Her wild drunken anti-communist rant is one of the show's best set pieces. Replace the word Communist with any racial descriptor and the monologue would probably still work. And the audience would be left slack-jawed in its wake. Then again, Amanda is Chinese. Vera isn’t exactly a Maoist or a monster but Amanda has family history, and can’t even be won over by her ironic, rent-control envy. Leo attempts to assuage her concerns, suggesting that Communism was a fashionable thing when his grandmother was young. “It was like recycling,” he says, cutting right to the play's painfully frustrated heart.

4000 Miles took its first Off-Broadway bows about three months before the Occupy movement moved into Zuccotti Park. I mention that because, somehow that ultimately ineffective real-world occurrence seems more like the ending of Herzog’s play than its actual ending. She uses the outdoorsy Leo and the urban Vera to look at how far the easily-identified tropes of the American left had evolved. Class-conscious collective action, had become a lifestyle choice for people who can afford to protest GMOs and oil companies with their purchasing power. There is some suggestion that Leo is growing, by play’s end. It’s not hard to imagine him leaving for his new job out west only to get caught up in the massive street protest brewing in Manhattan. Nor is it hard to imagine him picking up camp on the second cold night.

Every character in 4000 Miles is a prisoner of perspective, but Leo most of all. He's loveably disheveled, despicably self-centered and difficult to like. His grandmother Vera can be abrasive, and muddled, but she clearly has the more sympathetic role, and Karen Mason Riss is spectacular in the part.

Riss is a veteran performer who’s earned her accolades. She seldom misses, and although Vera isn’t exactly a flashy role, it can be counted among her best performances.

Christopher Joel Onken is completely believable as Leo, although his more cloying antics come across as being downright sinister. Carly Crawford is also effective, if a little stilted as Leo’s girlfriend Bec. Then again, if the show has a thankless part, that’s it.

Ron Gordon’s scenic design gives the impression that Vera’s not-so-Manhattan Manhattan residence is infinitely large on the inside. That’s a quibble, not a deal-breaker.

4000 Miles is a talky play, and not very action packed. It has never sounded like a show I would like very much. And yet I can’t remember when I’ve been quite so unexpectedly swept off my feet by a script and an acting ensemble. Grace, which also showcased the talents of Mr. Onken came close, but it’s a cartoon rendition of modernity compared to the subtleties of 4000 Miles.

For ticket information, here you go.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Give Mike Bartlett's "Cock" a Fighting Chance

Posted By on Thu, Jul 17, 2014 at 11:18 AM

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The title gets your attention, but Mike Bartlett's dramatic comedy is more conventional than transgressive. Cock is the classic game of triangles, but with a twist. In this case a gay couple has taken a break from one another and during the separation one of the men has fallen in love with a woman.


Trailer from a Chapel Hill, NC prodiction of Cock

Bartlett populates his play about love, sex, and personal definition with characters who can instinctively sense the vulnerabilities of others. And when they smell blood they peck.

Cast of Cock in the Lab Theater
  • Cast of "Cock" in the Lab Theater

Cock opens in the University of Memphis' lab theater tonight. It is directed by James Kevin Cochran, with a cast that includes Evan McCarley, William Henry, Xanthe Mumm, and Stephen Huff. All performances are pay-what-you-can and tickets will be sold at the door on a first come, first served basis.

PERFORMANCES:
Thursday, July 17 at 8:00 PM
Friday, July 18 at 8:00 PM
Saturday, July 19 at 8:00 PM
Sunday, July 20 at 2:00 PM

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Good Time Was Had By All at "Casey Stampfield: The Musical"

Posted By on Tue, Jul 15, 2014 at 2:38 PM

The man, the myth, the musical...
  • The man, the myth, the musical...
I'm so happy to have made it to Nashville in time to catch the closing night performance of Casey Stampfield: The Musical, a supremely silly and satisfying lampoon of Tennessee's most embarrassing politician, Stacey Campfield.

Created by Michael McFaden, Mark Beall and Bradley Moore, and staged by Nashville's Music City Theatre Company, Casey Stampfield mixes elements of classic Vaudeville, living newspapers, and cabaret to create an evening of giddy entertainment reminiscent of performances by D.C.'s Capital Steps. Well, if the Capital Steps were actually funny, that is. The revue also gets a little Freudian as it essays the behavior of a man who seems to have spent his entire life getting kicked out of everything from parties to football games to restaurants. Everything but the Tennessee State House.

Let's face it, making fun of Stacey Campfield (who knew his name was so Dickensian?) is a little bit like like shooting sharks in a Mason jar. And the creators of CS:TM pluck only the lowest of the low hanging fruit. That's not necessarily a complaint by the way, since, in Campfield's case, that's really the only kind of fruit there is.

In a show where everything is over the top Chad Webb was over the Moon as the carrot-topped title character who is described as "the dumbest man of all," in a showstopping number built around the Dolly Parton/Whitney Houston chartbuster, "The Greatest Love of All." Webb was supported by a strong quartet of singers and jokesters including Steve Mogck, Sarah Shepherd, Memory Strong and Daniel Vincent who spoof every crappy idea Campfield has ever associated himself with from "Don't Say Gay," to "Starve the Children."

Based on the enthusiastic response from a packed closing night crowd, this extremely bare bones show could have had a longer run. And I'd be willing to bet that if an enterprising Memphis company wanted to bring the show to town for one-off, or to stage it themselves, something might be arranged. It's too giddy a portrait of a deservedly reviled legislator to just disappear after one little run.

Speaking of the local scene, I couldn't help but wonder if local indies couldn't learn a thing or two from CS:TM. Sure, it's great to see fully realized original work like Justin Asher's Haint. But in order to have more new work we need more companies, including groups who are more interested in entertainment and audience engagement than in creating masterpieces every time. Nashville is enjoying its moment in the sun as an "it" city, but when it comes to physical resources for live theatrical productions, Memphis' companies have a lot of advantages over the Tennessee Capital, where there are no resident performance troupes with permanent digs. Casey Stampfield was produced in the Vibe Entertainment Complex, a nightclub on Church St., in Midtown. And unlike bar-based productions I've seen locally, the club actually stopped admitting bar patrons during the performance, so the actors weren't competing against bar noise. It sure would be nice to see some ambitious locals cultivate this kind of partnership with one of Memphis' notoriously late night music venues.

Now We've Seen Everything: Katie Couric Gangsta Walking with Lil Buck

Posted By on Tue, Jul 15, 2014 at 2:36 PM

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Memphis dancer Lil Buck is everywhere these days. It seems like there's not a media outlet in America— or anywhere else for that matter— that doesn't want to showcase the Bluff City's "ambassador of Jookin'."

So here he is teaching Katie Couric about Memphis' Gangsta Walk.

She looks like she's having a good time.


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You can watch the full video here.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Peek at "4000 Miles" Now On Stage at TheatreWorks

Posted By on Sat, Jul 12, 2014 at 4:43 PM

Tony Isbell directs his Red co-star Christopher Joel Onken in the Pulitzer finalist 4000 Miles.

At TheatreWorks through August 3

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