Sunday, August 30, 2020

The Envelope Please: The Ostranders Must Go On

Posted By on Sun, Aug 30, 2020 at 8:00 PM

Crystal Brothers and Travis Bradley in the musical Cats at Theatre Memphis last year. Brothers won an Ostrander on Sunday for best featured performer and Bradley won along with Jordan Nichols for best choreography in a musical. - CARLA MCDONALD
  • Carla McDonald
  • Crystal Brothers and Travis Bradley in the musical Cats at Theatre Memphis last year. Brothers won an Ostrander on Sunday for best featured performer and Bradley won along with Jordan Nichols for best choreography in a musical.


The annual celebration of Memphis theater was Indecent several times, had lots of Cats, savored Jelly’s Last Jam, and though it had no direct Shakespeare, it made much ado over the Book of Will.

The 37th Ostrander Awards Sunday evening was like no other. That’s not hype, it’s just fact, thanks to 2020 being, well, 2020. The annual event was virtual, with attendees watching on Facebook or YouTube. Theater people were not crowding into the Orpheum Sunday evening, not thrilling to one energetic musical production number after another, not casting admiring/envious glances at gasp-worthy fashions and not participating in multiple toasts. Presumably some of that went on anyway, but with much diminished clusters and, one prays, appropriate social distancing.

Furthermore, there was not the usual quantity of productions to judge since the coronovirus shut down all stages mid-March, truncating seasons everywhere that would usually have run into the summer.

But the shows that did go on gave much to applaud, and the Ostrander Award judges gave particular love to Cats from Theatre Memphis (TM) with six awards, Indecent from Circuit Playhouse (CP) with five, and Jelly’s Last Jam from Hattiloo with four. Playhouse on the Square (POTS) earned three each for Book of Will and the musical Memphis.

Also winning were TM’s Next Stage (Next) with two awards for A Few Good Men, Germantown Community Theatre’s (GCT) double for Next to Normal, Hattiloo’s two for Eclipse, and single awards for Mamma Mia! at TM and On Golden Pond at POTS.

In the Collegiate Division, seven awards went to Hissifit at the McCoy Theatre at Rhodes College (Rhodes), four plaques to Inherit the Wind at the University of Memphis (U of M), and four awards to Raisin in the Sun at Southwest Tennessee Community College (SWTCC).

Dennis Whitehead Darling won for best direction the second year in a row. - JON W. SPARKS
  • Jon W. Sparks
  • Dennis Whitehead Darling won for best direction the second year in a row.

Dennis Whitehead Darling won the Ostrander for direction of a musical for 2019’s Jelly’s Last Jam, his third directing honor in two years. This time last year, he picked up two awards for directing, one in the community division, one in collegiate. 


Winning for best direction of a drama was Dave Landis for helming
Indecent. Supplementing that was a special award given this year for Seamless Integration of Direction, Choreography, and Music Direction. That went to the trio of Dave Landis, Daniel Stuart Nelson, and Tammy Holt for Indecent at Circuit Playhouse. 


Ann Marie Hall, winner of the 2020 Eugart Yerian Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Ann Marie Hall, winner of the 2020 Eugart Yerian Lifetime Achievement Award

Ann Marie Hall was this year’s recipient of the Eugart Yerian Lifetime Achievement Award. Hall got her start in theater in grade school when she was a frequent visitor to the principal’s office for talking too much and doing impressions from TV shows. The solution came when she got into a play in the eighth grade. “I realized I could be really silly and people would laugh at me and I wouldn't get in trouble,” she recently told Memphis magazine. Her devotion to the stage never stopped after that and she’s become, in her words, “the consummate community actor.”

Sunday’s event, despite being forced to be virtual, was pulled off with considerable energy as Elizabeth Perkins, Ostranders program director, determined several weeks ago that the show would go on, pandemic or no. Up until the end of June, the hope was to have it old style at the Orpheum, but when it became evident that was a no-go, it was decided to have it online and celebrate the truncated season with virtual gusto.


Here are the winners of the 2020 Ostrander Awards:

COMMUNITY DIVISION

  • Excellence in Set Design for a Drama: Tim McMath, On Golden Pond, POTS
  • Excellence in Set Design for a Musical: Jack Yates, Cats, TM
  • Excellence in Costume Design for a Drama: Lindsay Schmeling, Indecent, CP
  • Excellence in Costume Design for a Musical: Amie Eoff and André Bruce Ward, Cats, TM
  • Excellence in Hair, Wig, and Makeup Design for a Musical: Karen Reeves and Brooklyn Reeves, Cats, TM
  • Excellence in Props Design for a Drama: Eli Grant, Book of Will, POTS
  • Excellence in Props Design for a Musical: Eli Grant, Memphis, POTS
  • Excellence in Sound Design for a Drama: Carter McHann, Indecent, CP
  • Excellence in Sound Design for a Musical: Carter McHann, Memphis, POTS
  • Excellence in Lighting Design for a Drama: Mandy Kay Heath, A Few Good Men, Next
  • Excellence in Lighting Design for a Musical: Mandy Kay Heath, Mamma Mia!, TM
  • Excellence in Music Direction: Tammy Holt, Jelly’s Last Jam, Hattiloo
  • Excellence in Choreography for a Musical: Travis Bradley and Jordan Nichols, Cats, TM
  • Best Supporting Actress in a Drama: Raven Martin, Eclipsed, Hattiloo
  • Best Supporting Actress in a Musical: Katy Cotten, Next to Normal, GCT
  • Best Leading Actress in a Drama: Donita Johnson, Eclipsed, Hattiloo
  • Best Leading Actress in a Musical: Dawn Bradley, Memphis, POTS
  • Best Supporting Actor in a Drama: John Maness, Book of Will, POTS
  • Best Supporting Actor in a Musical: Willis Green, Jelly’s Last Jam, Hattiloo
  • Best Leading Actor in a Drama: Stephen Garrett, A Few Good Men, Next
  • Best Leading Actor in a Musical: Johann Robert Wood, Jelly’s Last Jam, Hattiloo
  • Best Featured Performer: Crystal Brothers, Cats, TM
  • Best Ensemble in a Drama: Indecent, CP
  • Best Ensemble in a Musical: Next to Normal, GCT
  • Best Production of a Drama: Book of Will, POTS
  • Best Production of a Musical: Cats, TM
  • Excellence in Direction of a Drama: Dave Landis, Indecent, CP
  • Excellence in Direction of a Musical: Dennis Whitehead Darling, Jelly’s Last Jam, Hattiloo
  • Best Original Script: When We Get Good Again, POTS@TheWorks
  • Special Award — Seamless Integration of Direction, Choreography, and Music Direction: Dave Landis, Daniel Stuart Nelson, and Tammy Holt, Indecent, CP
  • Best Original Script: When We Get Good Again, POTS@TheWorks

  • Otis Smith Legacy Dance Award: Jared Johnson
  • Larry Riley Rising Star Award: Jason Eschhofen
  • Behind the Scenes Award: Christina Hendricks
  • Eugart Yerian Lifetime Achievement Award: Ann Marie Hall


COLLEGIATE DIVISION


  • Excellence in Set Design: Brian Ruggaber, Inherit the Wind, U of M
  • Excellence in Costume Design: Bruce Bui, Hissifit, Rhodes
  • Excellence in Hair, Wig, and Makeup Design: Juliet Mace, Hissifit, Rhodes
  • Excellence in Sound Design: John Phillians, Inherit the Wind, U of M
  • Excellence in Lighting Design: Jameson Gresens, Inherit the Wind, U of M
  • Excellence in Music Direction: Eileen Kuo, Hissifit, Rhodes
  • Best Supporting Actress: Raina Williams, Hissifit, Rhodes
  • Best Leading Actress: Mary Ann Washington, A Raisin in the Sun, SWTCC
  • Best Supporting Actor: Joshua Payne, A Raisin in the Sun, SWTCC
  • Best Leading Actor: Toby Davis, Inherit the Wind, U of M
  • Best Featured Performer: Syndei Sutton, A Raisin in the Sun, SWTCC
  • Best Ensemble in a Musical: Hissifit, Rhodes
  • Best Ensemble in a Drama: A Raisin in the Sun, SWTCC
  • Best Production: Hissifit, Rhodes
  • Excellence in Direction: Joy Brooke Fairfield, Hissifit, Rhodes

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Friday, August 14, 2020

VIDEO: Mini-Golfing on the Orpheum Stage

Posted By on Fri, Aug 14, 2020 at 5:42 PM


Why mini golf on the Orpheum stage? Check out our original story here.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Orpheum Opens Stage for Mini-Golf (Yes, You Read That Right)

Posted By on Tue, Aug 11, 2020 at 3:16 PM

ORPHEUM THEATRE
  • Orpheum Theatre

When COVID-19 shuts a door, it opens the stage at the Orpheum Theatre for Broadway-themed mini-golf.

Theater officials announced Tuesday that they'll open a nine-hole course right on the now-empty stage beginning Saturday, August 15th. The course will be open Thursdays through Sundays through the fall of 2020. It will be the first public event the Orpheum has hosted since March 14th.
ORPHEUM THEATRE
  • Orpheum Theatre
“This may well be the wackiest idea I have ever had in my years in the theater business," said Orpheum president and CEO Brett Batterson. "But with our stage sitting empty for the time being, we had to get creative.

"The support of our patrons during this time has been vital. However, we still need help to ensure that the Orpheum survives this pandemic. Mini-golf on the Orpheum stage is an incredibly fun way to support us at this time.”
Guests will enter through the stage door on Beale Street to access the course. Each green represents a Broadway show that has played on the Orpheum stage, including Hamilton, Memphis, Wicked, The Color Purple, Disney’s The Lion King, The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, Chicago, and Fiddler on the Roof.
ORPHEUM THEATRE
  • Orpheum Theatre
Reservations are $10 per person with a limit of four people per party. Capacity is limited to 36 people per 90-minute slot. Play is unlimited in each time slot. Pre-registration is required at orpheum-memphis.com/minigolf. Reservations will open two weeks before each tee time. To buy out the course for a socially distanced private event, contact Joy Brown at brown@orpheum-memphis.com.

Face coverings are required at all times and social distancing will be enforced. 

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Thursday, July 30, 2020

Ostrander Award Nominees Announced

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2020 at 7:30 PM

Despite the havoc wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, there will still be Ostrander Awards this year. Of necessity, however, it will be virtual and, thus, without the usual hubbub of well-lubricated, fashion-conscious elbow rubbing of the area’s theater community in and around the Orpheum.

Not that participants won’t still enjoy their beverages and dress in high style — they’ll just have to do it remotely. It's what happens when there's a plague on all our houses.

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And on top of that, the Ossies will be honoring a shortened season. Elizabeth Perkins, Ostranders program director, says the last show to be considered closed around March 15th (the Ides of March, of course). The list of nominees, therefore, is slightly shorter than in usual years, but remains the best in Memphis theater.

The nominees were revealed this evening live on Facebook and YouTube. Already announced was that Ann Marie Hall would receive the Eugart Yerian Lifetime Achievement Award. You can plug into the awards ceremony scheduled for August 30th. More info is here.


The Ostranders are sponsored by
Memphis magazine and ArtsMemphis.

NOMINEES, COMMUNITY AND PROFESSIONAL DIVISION

Set Design - Drama

Jack Yates, A Few Good Men, Next Stage at Theatre Memphis

Megan Ward, When We Get Good Again, POTS@TheWorks

Phillip Hughen, Indecent, Circuit Playhouse

Tim McMath, On Golden Pond, Playhouse on the Square

Set Design - Musical

Brian Ruggaber, Jelly's Last Jam, Hattiloo Theatre

Daniel Mueller, Memphis, Playhouse on the Square

Jack Yates, Cats, Theatre Memphis

Jack Yates, Mamma Mia, Theatre Memphis

Props - Drama

Eli Grant, Book of Will, Playhouse on the Square

Eli Grant, On Golden Pond, Playhouse on the Square

Eli Grant, When We Get Good Again, POTS@TheWorks

Laurie Boller, The Pillowman, New Moon Theatre

Terry Dean, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), Harrell Theatre

Props - Musical

Eli Grant, Memphis, Playhouse on the Square

Jack Yates, Cats, Theatre Memphis

Jack Yates, Mamma Mia, Theatre Memphis

Jack Yates, Ruthless! The Musical, Next Stage at Theatre Memphis

Lighting Design - Drama

Justin Gibson, Book of Will, Playhouse on the Square

Mandy Kay Heath, A Few Good Men, Next Stage at Theatre Memphis

Trey Eikleberry, Indecent, POTS@TheWorks

Trey Eikleberry, On Golden Pond, Playhouse on the Square

Trey Eikleberry, The Humans, Playhouse on the Square

Lighting Design - Musical

Becky Caspersen, Matilda The Musical, Harrell Theatre

Justin Gibson, Memphis, Playhouse on the Square

Mandy Kay Heath, Cats, Theatre Memphis

Mandy Kay Heath, Mamma Mia, Theatre Memphis

Tao Wang, Jelly's Last Jam, Hattiloo Theatre

Sound Design - Drama

Carter McHann, Indecent, Circuit Playhouse

John Phillians, A Few Good Men, Next Stage at Theatre Memphis

Zach Bederrine, Detroit 67, Hattiloo Theatre

Sound Design - Musical

Carter McHann, Memphis, Playhouse on the Square

Joshua Crawford, Mamma Mia, Theatre Memphis

Reyn Leyman, Cats, Theatre Memphis

Costume Design - Drama

Amie Eoff, A Few Good Men, Next Stage at Theatre Memphis

Kathleen R. Kovarik, Book of Will, Playhouse on the Square

Lindsay Schmeling, Indecent, Circuit Playhouse

Costume Design - Musical

Amie Eoff & André Bruce Ward, Cats, Theatre Memphis

Amie Eoff, Mamma Mia, Theatre Memphis

Andrea Washington Brown, Jelly's Last Jam, Hattiloo Theatre

Kathleen R. Kovarik, Memphis, Playhouse on the Square

Hair/Wig/Makeup - Musical

Buddy Hart & Rence Phillips, Ruthless! The Musical, Next Stage at Theatre Memphis

Karen Reeves & Brooklyn Reeves, Cats, Theatre Memphis

Grace Wylie, Memphis, Playhouse on the Square

Music Direction

Angelo Rapan, Memphis, Playhouse on the Square

Gary Beard, Cats, Theatre Memphis

Jason Eschhofen, Next To Normal, Germantown Community Theatre

Jeff Brewer, Mamma Mia, Theatre Memphis

Tammy Holt, Jelly's Last Jam, Hattiloo Theatre

Choreography

Emma Crystal, Jelly's Last Jam, Hattiloo Theatre

Travis Bradley & Jordan Nichols,, Memphis, Playhouse on the Square

Travis Bradley & Jordan Nichols, Cats, Theatre Memphis

Whitney Branan, Head Over Heels, Circuit Playhouse

Whitney Branan, Mamma Mia, Theatre Memphis

Ensemble - Drama

A Few Good Men, Next Stage at Theatre Memphis

Eclipsed, Hattiloo Theatre

Indecent, Circuit Playhouse

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), Harrell Theatre

The Humans, Circuit Playhouse

Ensemble - Musical

Cats, Theatre Memphis

Jelly's Last Jam, Hattiloo Theatre

Next To Normal, Germantown Community Theatre

Supporting Actress - Drama

Caroline Simpson, When We Get Good Again, POTS@TheWorks

Jessica Jai Johnson, Detroit 67, Hattiloo Theatre

Raven Martin, Eclipsed, Hattiloo Theatre

Rebecca Johnson, Indecent, Playhouse on the Square

Rekeitha Morris, Women In The Pit, Hattiloo Theatre

Supporting Actress - Musical

Daneka Norfleet, Jelly's Last Jam, Hattiloo Theatre

Jenny Odle Madden, Memphis, Playhouse on the Square

Katy Cotten, Next To Normal, Germantown Community Theatre

Lindsey Roberts, Mamma Mia, Theatre Memphis

Nichol Pritchard, Ruthless! The Musical, Next Stage at Theatre Memphis

Supporting Actor - Drama

Gabe Beutel-Gunn, A Few Good Men, Next Stage at Theatre Memphis

Isaiah Rosales, Indecent, Playhouse on the Square

J.S. Tate, Detroit 67, Hattiloo Theatre

John Maness, Book of Will, Playhouse on the Square

Steven Burk, The Humans, Circuit Playhouse

Supporting Actor - Musical

Bruce Huffman, Next To Normal, Germantown Community Theatre

Jarrad Baker, Memphis, Playhouse on the Square

Kevar Maffitt, Kinky Boots, Playhouse on the Square

Oliver Jacob Pierce, Next To Normal, Germantown Community Theatre

Willis Green, Jelly's Last Jam, Hattiloo Theatre

Featured Performer

Crystal Brothers, Cats, Theatre Memphis

JoLynne Palmer, The Humans, Circuit Playhouse

Justin Allen Tate, Memphis,  Playhouse on the Square

Leading Actress - Drama

Bianca McMillan, Detroit 67, Hattiloo Theatre

Brooke Papritz, The Humans, Circuit Playhouse

Donita Johnson, Eclipsed, Hattiloo Theatre

Pamela Poletti, Women in the Pit, Hattiloo Theatre

Leading Actress - Musical

Amy P. Nabors, Cats, Theatre Memphis

Dawn Bradley, Memphis, Playhouse on the Square

Lorraine Cotten, Next To Normal, Germantown Community Theatre

Renee Davis Brame, Ruthless! The Musical, Next Stage at Theatre Memphis

Leading Actor - Drama

Dave Landis, Book of Will, Playhouse on the Square

Donald Sutton, Indecent, Circuit Playhouse

Emmanuel McKinney, Detroit 67, Hattiloo Theatre

Ryan Scott, Quills, New Moon Theatre Company

Stephen Garrett, A Few Good Men, Next Stage at Theatre Memphis

Leading Actor - Musical

Johann Robert Wood, Jelly's Last Jam, Hattiloo Theatre

Justin Allen Tate, Kinky Boots, Playhouse on the Square

Nathan McHenry, Memphis, Playhouse on the Square

Direction - Drama

Courtney Oliver, When We Get Good Again, POTS@TheWorks

Dave Landis, Indecent, Circuit Playhouse

Lawrence Blackwell, Detroit 67, Hattiloo Theatre

Maya Robinson, Eclipsed, Hattiloo Theatre

Tony Isbell, The Humans, Circuit Playhouse

Direction - Musical

Cecelia Wingate, Mamma Mia, Theatre Memphis

Dennis Whitehead-Darling, Jelly's Last Jam, Hattiloo Theatre

Olivia Gacka, Next To Normal, Germantown Community Theatre

Travis Bradley & Jordan Nichols, Memphis, the Musical, Playhouse on the Square

Travis Bradley & Jordan Nichols, Cats, Theatre Memphis

Best Production of a Drama

A Few Good Men, Next Stage at Theatre Memphis

Book of Will, Playhouse on the Square

Detroit 67, Hattiloo Theatre

Eclipsed, Hattiloo Theatre

Indecent, Circuit Playhouse

Best Production of a Musical

Cats, Theatre Memphis

Jelly's Last Jam, Hattiloo Theatre

Mamma Mia, Theatre Memphis

Memphis, Playhouse on the Square

NOMINEES, COLLEGIATE DIVISION

Set Design

Brian Ruggaber, Inherit the Wind, University of Memphis

Karen Arredondo, Hamlet: Fall of the Sparrow, University of Memphis

Lighting Design

Anthony Pellecchia, Hamlet: Fall of the Sparrow, University of Memphis

Jameson Gresens, Inherit the Wind, University of Memphis

Sound Design

James Baker, Hamlet: Fall of the Sparrow, University of Memphis

John Phillians, Inherit the Wind, University of Memphis

Costume Design

Alexandra Filipovich, Hamlet: Fall of the Sparrow, University of Memphis

Bruce Bui, Hissifit, McCoy Theatre at Rhodes College

Hair/Wig/Makeup Design

Alexandra Filipovich, Hamlet: Fall of the Sparrow, University of Memphis

Juliet Mace, Hissifit, McCoy Theatre at Rhodes College

Music Direction - one nominee

Supporting Actress

Azaria Henderson, A Raisin in the Sun, Southwest Tennessee Community College

Camille Long, Inherit the Wind, University of Memphis

Dinah Mitchell, Hissifit, McCoy Theatre at Rhodes College

Jordan Cardell, Hamlet: Fall of the Sparrow, University of Memphis

Raina Williams, Hissifit, McCoy Theatre at Rhodes College

Supporting Actor

Elijah Bienz, Inherit the Wind, University of Memphis

Joshua Payne, A Raisin in the Sun, Southwest Tennessee Community College

Lance Raikes, Hamlet: Fall of the Sparrow, University of Memphis

Featured Performer

Maya Bhutwala & Annabelle Babbitt, Hissifit, McCoy Theatre at Rhodes College

Sarah Guinee, Inherit the Wind, University of Memphis

Syndei Sutton, A Raisin in the Sun, Southwest Tennessee Community College

Leading Actress

Ariona Campbell, A Raisin in the Sun, Southwest Tennessee Community College

Mary Ann Washington, A Raisin in the Sun, Southwest Tennessee Community College

Chloe Violet Tibbett, Inherit the Wind, University of Memphis

Leading Actor

Toby Davis, Inherit the Wind, University of Memphis

Willis Green, A Raisin in the Sun, Southwest Tennessee Community College

Ensemble in a Drama - one nominee

Ensemble in a Musical - one nominee

Best Original Script

When We Get Good Again, POTS@TheWorks

St. Paulie’s Delight, Circuit Playhouse

Direction

Joy Brooke Fairfield, Hissifit, McCoy Theatre at Rhodes College

Sheila Darras, A Raisin in the Sun, Southwest Tennessee Community College

Best Production

A Raisin in the Sun, Southwest Tennessee Community College

Hissifit, McCoy Theatre at Rhodes College

Inherit the Wind, University of Memphis

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Thursday, July 23, 2020

Tennessee Shakespeare Announces 13th Season

Posted By on Thu, Jul 23, 2020 at 2:30 PM


tsc13.jpg


Tennessee Shakespeare Company’s (TSC) 13th season will get underway next month fully accepting the mandates of the ongoing pandemic while employing as much creativity as possible.

First off is the Dr. Greta McCormick Coger Literary Salon Series, which begins August 30th and will explore more than 40 writers and literary works against a backdrop of seasons, holidays, and events.

The Free Shakespeare Shout-Out Series will visit eight outdoor locations in October with a Romeo and Juliet production. TSC founder and producing artistic director Dan McCleary says it “embraces (and masks) the Elizabethan quarantine Shakespeare refers to in his text.”

Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night takes the Tabor Stage in February, followed by the Elizabethan Feast benefit party, which was cancelled this past season due to COVID-19 restrictions.


Salons and performances will take place on the Owen and Margaret Wellford Tabor Stage with online simulcasts for each performance, filmed by one camera.


TSC will enforce all state and local health safety criteria, including social distancing, family groupings of no more than six, reduced seating capacity to 33 percent, required distance from audience to performers, multiple entry/egress ways, hand-sanitizer stations, and mandatory face-coverings. The Tabor Stage will seat 54 patrons.


“As the world has shut down and our health has been endangered, we have learned how essential classical theatre and education is to our community,” says McCleary. “We thought they were very important.  But in fact, they are necessary. What William Shakespeare, great artists and philosophers, daring social protesters, and quarantined inventors have endured and produced before us should serve as lessons. We need each other, our creativity, and our compassion to live together.”


For more information, go here.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Circuit Playhouse, POTS Move Season Opening to November

Posted on Wed, Jul 22, 2020 at 2:09 PM

PHOTO COURTESY OF CIRCUIT PLAYHOUSE, INC.
  • Photo courtesy of Circuit Playhouse, Inc.
As COVID cases have continued to rise in Memphis and Shelby County, many local event venues have had to adjust 2020 plans. In a Tuesday press release, Circuit Playhouse, Inc. (CPI) — The Circuit Playhouse, Playhouse on the Square, and Theatreworks at the Square — announced the cancellation of its productions and programs through October. The organization plans to move its 52nd season opening to November.

The move was decided after “consultation with doctors, city leaders, and the theatre’s leadership and board,” the statement reads.

“Even though CPI’s reopening plans for public performances for Playhouse on the Square and The Circuit Playhouse were approved over the weekend, rising COVID-19 numbers, along with testing challenges … and a general sense of apprehension, I believe it is in the best interest and safety of the cast, crew, staff, volunteers, and patrons to postpone production,” executive producer Michael Detroit said in the statement.

This decision means rehearsals, casting, and pre-production of two season openers scheduled for August will cease. According to the release, Detroit and managing director Whitney Jo said “current talent contracts will be honored, despite the financial hardships facing the theatre. Furthermore, Playhouse on the Square staff will remain employed during the suspension.”

All previously scheduled fall shows, including Little Shop of Horrors, Ink, Junie B’s Essential Survival Guide to School, Murder on the Orient Express, Peter Pan, and the Theatre for Youth touring production of Freckleface Strawberry have been canceled, “with the hope of producing them in a future season.”

Digital content, including the Playhouse at Home Series, will continue to be available via playhouseonthesquare.org and CPI’s social media channels.

“CPI thanks its patrons, students, sponsors, donors, and subscribers for their support and encouragement during these uncertain times,” the statement reads. “Intermissions can’t last forever. We will return to welcome our community back to the theatre soon.”

See the updated production schedule below.
pots52_calendar_v2.jpeg

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Friday, May 29, 2020

Revised Orpheum Broadway Schedule Announced

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2020 at 4:32 PM

Orpheum Theatre Group President & CEO Brett Batterson has announced the venue's revised schedule for the 2020-2021 Broadway season. Performances have been moved out of Fall 2020 and extended until November, 2021. The changes pertain only to the Broadway series and not scheduled concerts and events for the fall.
Scene from "Hamilton" - THE ORPHEUM
  • The Orpheum
  • Scene from "Hamilton"
The revised lineup:
Jesus Christ Superstar: December 8-13, 2020
Cats: February 9-14, 2021
Mean Girls: March 9-14, 2021
Jimmy Buffett’s Escape to Margaritaville: April 13-18, 2021
Hadestown: May 4-9, 2021
Hamilton: July 13-25, 2021
The Band’s Visit: August 24-29, 2021
Disney’s The Lion King: Fall 2021
Come From Away, which had been scheduled as the final show in the 2019-2020 season is now scheduled for October 5-10, 2021.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Playhouse Cancels Performances and Youth Conservatory Until Fall

Posted By on Fri, May 1, 2020 at 5:04 PM

Citing the mandates of city government and health officials, Playhouse on the Square will cancel the performances of Little Shop of Horrors, Mississippi Goddamn, and St. Paulie’s Delight, which had been scheduled to close the 2019-2020 season.
playhouse_logo.jpg

Circuit Playhouse, meanwhile, is replacing its scheduled season opener Catch Me If You Can with Little Shop of Horrors, which will run August 7-30, 2020.

The Department of Theatre Education will no longer host Summer Youth Conservatory on the Playhouse campus. Plans for an alternate version of the camp are being formulated. Questions in regards to registration can be addressed to conservatory director Jason Gerhard at jason@playhouseonthesquare.org.

The company is urging patrons with tickets remaining in their subscription to donate the ticket value back to Playhouse or take an account credit toward the 52nd season opening in August.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Roving Singers Face Reality of Stay-Home Edict

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2020 at 2:24 PM

Late last week, Opera Memphis sent a message to the public that offered to send singers around town for drive-by serenades. It encouraged people to send an email and it would dispatch a van and flatbed trailer to wherever music lovers were (sparsely) gathered, and belt out some arias.

Taking opera to the streets. - OPERA MEMPHIS
  • Opera Memphis
  • Taking opera to the streets.


Ned Canty, general director of Opera Memphis, said at last count there were more than a hundred requests and they’d been busy taking music to the streets, rain or shine.

Until 6 p.m. today.

That’s when Mayor Jim Strickland’s edict to stay at home goes into effect. There’s a list of exceptions, but itinerant warblers don’t qualify.

“At 6 p.m., we're not going to do any more of these,” Canty says. But he is going to request permission from the mayor for an exemption. “We’re very rigorous in terms of social distancing. Only one person touches the equipment. Nobody’s in the same car.

Nobody is within six feet. We want to abide by the rules, so what we are going to ask for is his permission to sing for first responders, folks in hospitals, trying to find some places where people are essential employees and we will come and thank you by giving you this weird spread-out show.”

Canty intends to honor all the requests, but circumstances have changed things. It might be digital, or it might have to wait until the stay-home order is lifted. Maybe it’s only by Skype or FaceTime.

Today, the rain notwithstanding, the traveling troupe sang at condos on Parkway, at a recovery center, and for a retired couple living in a cul-de-sac. And at 6 p.m., it’s the final bow.

“But hopefully,” Canty says, “this will be the fuel that gets us through isolation.”

Tennessee Shakespeare Company


TSC is launching its Decameron Project Wednesday, March 25th, at 10:15 a.m. on its Facebook page.

decameron.jpg

Company actors will be performing online inspired by Boccaccio's fourteenth century book The Decameron. The author had fled Florence to survive the Black Death epidemic. The book's short stories are told by women and men who self-quarantined for two weeks during the outbreak, giving them an opportunity to tell a story every night.

TSC will present its project Monday through Friday with the actors announcing the theme, taking note of literary and artistic events on that date in history, reading one or more pieces, and giving a Shakespeare speech that joins the theme.

Ballet Memphis


Dance aficionados can visit Ballet Memphis' Facebook page that has the "Stay Inside" video by dancers Brandon Ramey and Virginia Pilgrim Ramey. The short meditation on the isolation we're all having to endure is a reminder that performers have to perform, and no pandemic can stop them.

Also, the Pilates program at Ballet Memphis is now offering digital fitness classes through the Zoom platform. More information is here.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Quark Theatre Provokes (Again) With New Production

Posted By on Thu, Mar 12, 2020 at 2:05 PM

Quark Theatre's new show opening Friday, March 13th, continues its mission of staging "small plays with big ideas."

The regional premiere of what happens to the hope at the end of the evening tells the tale of two friends who haven't seen each other for years. The two — "Andy" and "Friend" — share some history but have taken divergent paths over time. Their sometimes rocky reunion, which works on different levels, reveals ideas about friendship and identity while in its way, shows the power of theater (one character reads from the script and addresses the audience).
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British playwrights Tim Crouch and Andy Smith wrote the play that's directed by Tony Isbell and packs a lot into the hour or so production. The performers are local stage veterans Marques Brown (pictured at left) and Brian Helm.

The production runs March 13-29 at TheatreSouth in the First Congregational Church in the Cooper-Young neighborhood. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoons at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 at the door or in advance from quarktheatre.com. There is adult language. More info: 901-501-5921.

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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Alvin Ailey Fires Memphis Up at the Orpheum

Posted By on Wed, Feb 19, 2020 at 9:41 AM

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - PHOTO BY ANDREW ECCLES
  • Photo by Andrew Eccles
  • Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Last weekend's string of performances by The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Orpheum Theater revealed a lot about this city's enthusiasm for world-class modern dance. While the Orpheum regularly brings in high-caliber touring shows, it might be said that two hours of abstract movement could be a harder sell in cities away from the coasts. But that would be dead wrong. The chemistry between the audience and the dancers was palpable in these shows, lifting both to truly inspired heights.

From the beginning, the melding of music and pure movement revealed wide-reaching imaginations at work. As the strains of Bach's Trio Sonata No. 6 in G major played, a solitary dancer peppered her balletic movements with echoes of African dance, a tendency that only grew more pronounced as she was joined by others and the music morphed first to some swinging Mary Lou Williams and then on to the actual African sounds of Yao Ababio and Kofi Osei Williams.

A brief pause, and suddenly we were riding, with two virtuostic, acrobatic dancers, on the roller coaster of an Ella Fitzgerald scat. Only in a moment when Ella went down for some guttural growls did other dancers appear, a line of veritable Oompa-Loompas marching through in a line as if to emphasize the singer's stark melodic lines; and they never showed again: in that moment, the inspiration was pure, graphic whimsy.

That mood shifted yet again in the powerful “Ode,” which just debuted last October, and was described as “a flower on the graves of the innocent victims of gun violence and a meditation on the beauty and fragility of life.” To music (jazz great Don Pullen’s “Suite (Sweet) Malcolm (Part 1, Memories and Gunshots)”) alternately tortured and angular, then full of flowing chords reminiscent of Debussy, six men twisted through a painful journey, only to end as it began, with one of them lying prone, the others bent over him in a tableau.

Throughout, the sets were sparse, yet effective: a splash of light suggesting noirish Venetian blinds, a simple illuminated circle and subtle shades of color, a river suggested by two narrow sheets of fabric, stretched taut across the stage. Using the simplest effects, and uncomplicated costumes, a universe was suggested for each piece. Inevitably, the finales brought a roar of applause and appreciative hoots of enthusiasm from the nearly full house. “Yes!” Memphis seemed to be saying, “Yes to these meditations embodied by some of the world's strongest and most expressive dancers.”

The grand finale, of course, was the latest iteration of the Ailey classic, “Revelations.” First performed in 1960, the piece has lost none of its power, especially in a city like Memphis, so steeped in the ecstatic services of African-American churches. And though the piece has been centered on the same collection of African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs, and holy blues as ever, the versions used today create a perfect musical balance between pristine recordings of voices and drums alike, and the inherent grit and groove of songs created before recordings were even possible.

By the end, the dancers could barely rest from the audience's demand for encore bows, ultimately reprising a bit of the last piece in exultant joy. It was a passionate reminder of the aesthetic heights that can be reached by this most visionary and venturesome of American dance institutions.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Yule/Not Yule: Something to Bless Us Every One

Posted By on Tue, Dec 3, 2019 at 10:00 AM

The holidays are on stage, either ongoing or coming soon. We've got your long runs, your weekenders, your kiddie delights, your grown-up fare with snark, sweetness, and terror, along with traditional old tales and the contemporary angsty pursuit of joy. So come around the wassail bowl and let’s plan a way to see them all …
Here We Come A Caroling
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This weekend only is Cabaret Noel Five: Here We Come A Caroling, the annual cabaret by Emerald Theatre Company. The elven hosts Topsy and Turvey promise twists, laughs, and fabulousness. And ample quantities of live music. Three performances only at TheaterWorks. Go here for more.

The 12 Dates of Christmas

Kim Sanders
  • Kim Sanders
On now through December 22nd is The 12 Dates of Christmas, a one-woman comedy with the glorious Kim Sanders, a resident company member at Playhouse on the Square. Sanders performs in the Memphian Room at Circuit Playhouse as single Mary and her cast of family, friends, and suitors as she recovers from finding out that her fiancé is a cad. Can she survive a year of holidays being sour on love? Directed by the splendid Kell Christie, you can find out more here.
Urban Nativity
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Hattiloo Theatre
founder Ekundayo Bandele has written Urban Nativity, a contemporary take on the Biblical story of the birth of Jesus. It premiered at the theater six years ago and tells the tale of Mary and Joe, an expectant couple going to Chicago to participate in a census. There are breakdowns, criminals, and a murderous governor after them. And yet, there is, as there must be, hope. Showing through December 15th. Get tickets here.

Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley
Lydia Barnett-Mulligan
  • Lydia Barnett-Mulligan

Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley
is set two years after Jane Austen’s novel ends, telling the tale of bookish middle sister, Mary as Christmas 1815 approaches at the Darcy estate. Tennessee Shakespeare Company presents the regional premiere of the merry tale of a new tree, new hope, and maybe even a new love. Directed by Stephanie Shine. Opens this weekend. Secure your place at Pemberley here.
A Christmas Carol
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Theatre Memphis
is embarking on its 42nd annual production of A Christmas Carol starting Friday and going through December 23rd. Directed by the estimable Jason Spitzer, it maintains tradition while getting better each year. David Shipley is the redeemable Scrooge. Go see it, every one. Tickets and info here.

Two Rooms
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And if you just want to detach from the warmth of human kindness, if you're feeling more worldly and less spiritual, then consider the case of Michael Wells, an American held hostage in a windowless cell in the Middle East and his wife, Lainie, who can’t do a thing about it, not even get the government to act. With a strong cast, Two Rooms by Lee Blessing was heralded in the 1980s as a story of solitude and devotion in the middle of headlines. Just like today, here is love and loss, foreign policy and journalism, terrorism, and people caught up in the vortex. It's a Cloud9 production at TheatreWorks running from December 13th to 21st. Info and tickets here.

Junie B. Jones, The Musical
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Here’s something for the youngsters that's not holiday themed: Junie B. Jones, The Musical follows our heroine on her first day of first grade as she navigates friends, teachers, the blackboard, kickball, and life itself. The talent, so you know, is first-rate with Breyannah Tillman (Dreamgirls) — last year’s Rising Star Ostrander Award winner — warbling on stage. Runs at Circuit Playhouse through December 22nd. Go here for more.
Peter Pan
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Of course, there’s Peter Pan. The 28th annual moneymaker is at Playhouse on the Square through December 29th, directed by Warner Crocker, and with some tech improvements that will make you ooooh and ahhhh even more than usual at the flying delights. Here's the info.

The Nutcracker
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Ballet Memphis would hardly be doing its job without a sumptuous production of The Nutcracker at the Orpheum. It’s got the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, more than 100 dancers, a live choir, and a sugar plum fairy. Runs December 12th to 15th and info is here.

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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Openings and a Closing On Stages This Weekend

Posted By on Tue, Oct 8, 2019 at 4:44 PM

October is typically packed with stage delights and this weekend has terror, dance 'n' romance, felines, and social insights.
Aliza Moran and Greg Boller torment David Hammons in New Moon Theatre's production of The Pillowman. It opens October 11th at TheatreWorks. - CRAIG LAFFERTY
  • Craig Lafferty
  • Aliza Moran and Greg Boller torment David Hammons in New Moon Theatre's production of The Pillowman. It opens October 11th at TheatreWorks.
Opening Friday is New Moon Theatre's The Pillowman at TheatreWorks, a Kafkaesque and Halloween-appropriate look at a writer in a totalitarian state made to suffer for his art. New Moon always serves up something horrible for Halloween, and I mean that in a good way. Go, squirm, enjoy, and don't take the kids for cryin' out loud. Info is here.
Ballet Memphis opens its 33rd season in grand style with Romeo & Juliet as scored by Sergei Prokofiev and choreographed by the company's artistic director Steven McMahon who knows a thing or two about the production. He first choreographed R&J in 2011 and then revamped it for a 2015 production with a bigger cast. It's safe to say that you can't go wrong taking in this experience opening October 12th at Playhouse on the Square and running two weekends. More info here.
Crystal Brothers and Travis Bradley in feline form in the musical Cats opening October 11th at Theatre Memphis. - CARLA MCDONALD
  • Carla McDonald
  • Crystal Brothers and Travis Bradley in feline form in the musical Cats opening October 11th at Theatre Memphis.
If you're hankering for even more balletic beauty, then get on over to Theatre Memphis which is staging the popular musical Cats from October 11th through November 3rd. It's an all-out production directed and choreographed by Jordan Nichols and Travis Bradley. The catnip for lovers of ballet will be to see Bradley performing with Crystal Brothers, both of whom danced together for years at Ballet Memphis. It promises to be a remarkable memory. Here's ticket info.
Closing October 13th at Hattiloo Theatre is a powerful production of Between Riverside and Crazy, the 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winner for drama by playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis. Hattiloo founder Ekundayo Bandele directed a cast led by veteran actor T.C. Sharpe as a sly, stubborn NYPD ex-cop who is desperate to hold onto his rent-stabilized apartment. He's disabled, has a longtime lawsuit going on, feels the end is near, and is bitter. But he has family and friends that he loves even when they all get crosswise with his muleheadedness. It's serious, hilarious, unpredictable, thoughtful, and thoroughly entertaining. Grab your tickets here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

On Stage This Weekend

Posted By on Wed, Sep 25, 2019 at 4:23 PM

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Plenty to do and see this weekend, from openings to closings.

Opening Friday is Between Riverside and Crazy at Hattiloo Theatre. The 2015 Pulitzer Prize winning play throws the old against the new as a retired police officer is faced with eviction from his rent-controlled apartment in New York City. Directed by Ekundayo Bandele. For info, go here.

Lend us your ears: Tennessee Shakespeare is staging Julius Caesar. Directed by Dan McCleary, the classic about political dysfunction, pride, and consequences runs through October 6th. Grab your toga and go here for info.

Think you can handle the truth? This is the final week for Theatre Memphis' production of A Few Good Men, the powerful Aaron Sorkin play about a court martial and a coverup. Seating is limited this weekend, but a performance has been added tonight, September 25th. Go here for ticket information.

It's also the final weekend for Germantown Community Theatre's Barefoot in the Park, the Neil Simon love letter to young lovers. Get tickets here.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Quark Theatre Gets Daring (Again) With 'Wakey, Wakey,' GCT goes 'Barefoot,' 'Pond' at POTS

Posted By on Wed, Sep 18, 2019 at 11:03 AM

Adam Remsen and Sarah Solarez in Wakey, Wakey.
  • Adam Remsen and Sarah Solarez in Wakey, Wakey.

Quark Theatre's slogan is "small plays about big ideas," to which fans will readily concur.   If you go and are not provoked in some way, if you don't squirm, if you don't talk about it afterward with your companion, then you probably weren't there.

Quark's next show is Wakey, Wakey by Will Eno, an acclaimed playwright and Pulitzer Prize finalist. Tony Isbell, one of Quark's founders, directs Adam Remsen (another Quark founder) and Sarah Solarez. Sound design is by Eric Sefton, with original music by Eileen Kuo, and lighting design by Louisa Koeppel (also a Quark founder).

The play runs 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays through October 6th. It's at TheatreSouth, 1000 Cooper St., southwest corner of the building. Tickets are $20. Here's the website.

Isbell spoke to us about Quark's philosophy and the production:

Quark's plays aren't particularly traditional. I suppose that's true with Wakey, Wakey?

Sometimes I call it an experience because it's not really a typical play in some ways. It's kind of like an eccentric TED talk. It involves the use of quite a few projections and recorded sound while the protagonist talks directly to the audience. There is an aspect that's more a traditional play with another character, but there's a good bit of it that's a direct address to the audience.

You've had the rare experience of talking with the playwright as you were putting this together, right?

When we applied for the rights to this show last year, we got an email from the company that handles the rights. It said that Will likes to be involved in local productions of his plays and here's his email. So, when we started to work on it, we contacted him. I thought that was pretty cool since he'd been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for drama for a previous work. He replied within 20 minutes and we've emailed back and forth a few times and each time, he answered right back.

He seems to be as super nice human. We talked about our approach and our limitations because we have basically zero budget for our show. He was fine with that and much of our approach. Sometimes he'd suggest we try something instead, but never been anything less than enthusiastic and supportive and friendly.

So that must have given you confidence going in?

Yeah, because this is different. All of his plays might be described as eccentric. He's previously been described as the Samuel Beckett for the millennial generation or something like that. He's really not, that's really not quite accurate, but I can certainly see it in him and his writing. This play in particular is what you might call a miniature or a chamber piece.

There isn't a whole lot of plot. There are two characters, one a man named Guy and a young woman named Lisa. Guy spends part of the show talking directly to the audience. He talks about matters of life and death, and how to deal with life when you are facing extreme situations and it's very funny and kinda out of left field. But it's also very moving.

I've seen it dozens of times and I still tear up at certain places because it just captures the humor and the joy and the sorrow of being alive. And it reminds me, in some ways, of Our Town though it's not in any way similar to what's happened in Grover's Corners. You kind of get that we all just try to do the best we can and we're all here together and shouldn't we all be doing our best to make things easier for other people instead of more difficult? It's a play that I think has kind of a therapeutic or healing dimension to it. I think people will come out of this show feeling very uplifted and very centered. It ranges from goofy to profound.

How do you choose the scripts that you produce?

Adam and I have tried to produce things that haven't been done in Memphis, or that Memphis isn't going to produce because they don't really fit the mold of what other theaters might want to produce. We deliberately look for things that are challenging and thought provoking, whether that's the intent of the script or the manner in which it's produced. Secondary factors: that they are one-act shows that can be produced without big, detailed sets or costumes. This show is our biggest exception to that because it does require a great deal of video and still images and the sound and projection.

Barefoot in the Park at GCT

Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park is playing at Germantown Community Theatre (GCT) through September 29th. The rom-com has fun with newlyweds (he's uptight, she's a free spirit) in their 5th-floor walkup apartment as they deal with neighbors, relatives, stairs, and Manhattan. Get tickets here.

On Golden Pond at Playhouse on the Square
Opening Friday at Playhouse on the Square is On Golden Pond, which is kind of like a geriatric Barefoot in the Park: Couple in love working out their differences while family members and people from the neighborhood keep showing up. In this one, Norman and Ethel Thayer are at the family lake house instead of Manhattan. Through October 6th. (And there's one more connection: Jane Fonda was in both movie versions). Score your tickets here

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