In 2018, I was commissioned by Civic Ensemble of Ithaca, New York to help devise and write a new play based on their ReEntry Theatre Program — a free arts initiative for people who've experienced incarceration and/or drug rehabilitation. The program participants developed the raw material through theatre games and writing exercises, which I then took and transformed into a full-length script.
Streets Like This originally ran for 3 sold out performances in May 2018, featuring a cast of program participants, whose personal stories of addiction and incarceration inspired the script. The people involved in this show from the start have gone on to make some tremendous policy changes for social services and criminal justice reform in Tompkins County, New York, and decided to remount the show again this spring.
Then the COVID-19 outbreak happened.
But the cast and company got together one last time and filmed their production without an audience. It's streaming now for free between April 30 and May 17, 2020; and since they can't raise any money through ticket sales, they're hoping the video will bring in some donations so they can keep this program going.
Working on this play and getting to know these actors was an eye-opening and inspiring experience for me, and I know it's had a positive impact on their lives, too. I hope you'll check it out, and if you're feeling generous, throw some money their way so they can keep doing good work in changing the ways our society deals with addiction and incarceration. Read the rest
Cirque du Soleil just launched 'CirqueConnect,' where you can view shows -- it's especially great for kids stuck indoors during the pandemic shutdown.
All of the company's live shows are canceled due to the coronavirus crisis, and they are exploring financial options that include bankruptcy, reports Reuters.
Las Vegas casinos and resorts, including the one that hosts Cirque's shows, are all shut down. Read the rest
Four-time Tony Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally, who was known for plays including "Ragtime" and "Kiss of the Spider Woman," has died due to complications from coronavirus, his publicist said Tuesday. He was 81, and a lung cancer survivor who had chronic COPD. Read the rest
On Thursday, the Oxbow Prairie Horizons School in Saskatchewan, Canada staged their annual student Christmas concert. The show, "Santa Goes Green," pissed off parents in the town where oil is one of the major industries. Here's a description from the Santa Goes Green sheet music:
Melting ice caps, global warming, surfing reindeer! The North Pole is going green this year and everyone is excited – everyone, that is, except Santa who likes things just the way they are. Solar panels, LED light bulbs, new power sources? It all sounds a bit inconvenient to him. Mrs. Claus, the elves, toys and reindeer have their hands full!
(Mike Gunderman, whose daughter was in the show,) said the concerns raised were not directed at the children. He said they did a great job singing and performing, but he felt it was "the wrong message to send at the wrong time of the season.
"Especially when our industry is suffering right now," he said. "It's a tough time for everybody."
Audrey Trombley, chair of the South East Cornerstone Public School Division where Oxbow Prairie is located, apologized to anyone who was offended by the concert, saying there was never any intention to make the show political.
"There was no political agenda," said Audrey Trombley, chair of the division's Board of Trustees. "The teacher chose the song because of the rhythm and the beat, and thought the kids would like it."
Johnny Depp is producing a musical about Michael Jackson's sequined glove. Well, it's actually about Jackson's life but told from the perspective of the glove. Surprise, the Jackson estate has not authorized this production. Titled "For the Love of a Glove: An Unauthorized Musical Fable About the Life of Michael Jackson, As Told By His Glove," the musical opens in Los Angeles on January 25. From Broadway.com:
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The musical is described as a "look into the strange forces that shaped Michael and the scandals that bedeviled his reputation." (Playwright Julien) Nitzberg first collaborated with Depp's production group, Infinitum Nihil, on a biopic about 1960s singer Tiny Tim.
For the Love of a Glove will open in advance of Broadway's new Michael Jackson musical, MJ, which will feature a book by two-time Pulitzer winner Lynn Nottage (crafted with the blessing of Jackson's estate) and direction/choreography by Christopher Wheeldon (and starring Ephraim Sykes).
A few weeks ago at Appleton, Wisconsin's Lawrence University, a group of experimental musicians, dancers, and performance artists staged "Breathe," a "multidisicplinary water opera" in the college's swimming pool. (The video above is from a previous performance at Middlebury College's Natatorium). From Fox Cities Magazine:
Lawrence University’s Margaret Sunghe Paek, professor of dance and curator of Dance Series, will work with music director Loren Dempster and director/choreographer Gabriel Forestieri to bring (the performance) to life...
“I wanted to see if I could make sound underwater,” Dempster says. “I experimented with microphones underwater, I bought a hydrophone, I [even] played the cello underwater.”
Dempster will be the only underwater musician in the entire opera as he will be in the shallow end, playing his cello while underwater microphones transmit the sounds above the surface.
Forestieri choreographed the opera, combining the practice of dance and free diving, called dancing in apnea, to create the water visuals.
“[I’m] taking cues from the space and the people in the space and how they relate to each other,” Forestieri says. “The choreography is a mix of [dancing] on deck, sometimes in the pool, partner dancing in the shallow end, and dancers floating with float belt.”
(via Weird Universe)
Composer and Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and three of his collaborators on the massively successful musical have saved a famed 100-year-old specialty theater bookstore in New York City from going out of business. Facing unaffordable rent in Times Square, the Drama Book Shop was on death's door even as it sought a new location. According to the New York Times, the city has committed to help identify a new location in Midtown Manhattan. From the New York Times:
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The new owners of the store are Mr. Miranda; Thomas Kail, the director of “Hamilton”; Jeffrey Seller, the lead producer; and James L. Nederlander, the president of the Nederlander Organization, which operates the theater in which the show’s Broadway production is running. They purchased the store from Rozanne Seelen, whose husband, Arthur Seelen, had bought it in 1958. (He died in 2000.) Ms. Seelen said she sold it for the cost of the remaining inventory, some rent support in the store’s final weeks, and a pledge to retain her as a consultant.
“It’s the chronic problem — the rents were just too high, and I’m 84 years old — I just didn’t have the drive to find a new space and make another move,” she said. “Lin-Manuel and Tommy are my white knights...”
“When I was in high school I would go to the old location and sit on the floor and read plays — I didn’t have the money to buy them,” Mr. Miranda said...
Film director and journalist Cameron Crowe is adapting his fantastic 2000 film "Almost Famous" as a stage musical. Of course Crowe based the original film on his own life as a teen journalist for Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s. From Rolling Stone:
Crowe has been developing the musical for the past couple years and first teased the project on Twitter (below) with a video of composer Tom Kitt performing at the piano. Jeremy Herrin (People, Places and Things) will direct the show, with Crowe’s book, music by Tom Kitt (American Idiot, Next to Normal) and lyrics by Kitt and Crowe. No further information on when or where the musical will premiere has been announced at this time.
“It doesn’t even feel like work,” Crowe continues. “It feels like a new adventure, a natural progression but still true to the question that started it all. ‘What do you love about music?’. Can’t wait to bring it to you in the coming months.”
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In the late 1970s, experimental composer Bruce Haack released "Electric Lucifer," two strange and fantastical electronic psychedelic music albums that embody the high weirdness of the era. The two albums employ Moogs, guitar, voice, and a DIY vocoder to tell an epic story of the battle between heaven and hell. Now, theater director Jim Findlay is transforming Electric Lucifer into a rock opera for the stage. It will premiere at The Kitchen in New York City on January 9, 2018. Support its production via Kickstarter. The campaign has just a few days left!
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In the album liner notes, Bruce Haack writes that The Electric Lucifer is a redemption story about a power so strong it can redeem even Lucifer. I took that as gospel and this piece is about redemption right now-2017. How can we redeem even the worst of 'us'? When I look around the question is harder than it seems. Who is us? Whose suffering needs redeeming? And how do we find the power to rise above our "hate and pain and fear" and move toward a real redemption. Not just for others but for ourselves.
This project promises a fresh new vision of Bruce’s world and music by taking his Electric Lucifer concept albums and re-imagining them as a fully realized electronic rock opera with live musicians and performers. Seeing Haack’s previously un-staged vision as a gloriously wild live performance will be a treat for Haack fans and a revelation for those who were unfamiliar with his work and influence.
Remember the 1995 TV program Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction that we all wanted to believe was real? Of course, the ET autopsy turned out to be a hoax, or rather, according to producer Ray Santilli, a "reconstruction" of film shot in 1947 that he had seen. Now, one of the hoaxers, Spyros Melaris, has staged a one-man show in London's East End to tell the real (?) story behind the story of the autopsy that you can watch below. From Paul Seaburn's article at Mysterious Universe:
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(Melaris) claims he was the director of the film and the one responsible for creating the fake aliens and other special effects. Melaris says he met Ray Santilli, the producer and name most associated with the autopsy film, in 1995 at a music event in Cannes. Santilli later confided that he had the actual footage of an alien autopsy and wanted Melaris to make a documentary about it.
However, when Santilli showed him a copy of the alleged ‘real’ film, Melaris determined it was a fake shot on video. He says he instead agreed to make a fake version of the autopsy on film, release it as the real thing and them make another documentary on how they pulled off the fake. He hired John Humphreys, a special effects expert who has worked on Dr. Who, to make the alien’s body using his 10-year-old son as a model. Melaris bought 1940s surgical outfits, used cow, sheep, pig and lamb organs (the local butcher must have loved them) for the alien’s internal parts and spliced in footage from a 1947 newsreel.
Grand Guignol was a French theater from the late 19th century that specialized in hosting graphic horror performances. A typical show would involve insane or hysterical characters, gory special effects, and a very bloody ending.
This month Corey Helford Gallery in Downtown Los Angeles presented three plays of Theater du Grand Guignol and two adult entertainments inspired by Oh! Calcutta!. With barf-bag and playbill in hand, audience members enjoyed very intimate showings of the one-act plays "Final Kiss," "Laboratory of Hallucinations," and "The Old Women."
Schuyler Helford, the director, said that working with these translated French plays was a wonderful experience since they are relatively unknown and include a good amount of comedy, an element that made the horror even more chilling. Gasps and laughter were constant throughout "Laboratory of Hallucinations," a play about a mad doctor who performs a controversial operation on his wife’s lover. When the adulterer, now insane, awakens in an unfamiliar laboratory, he turns on the doctor and things get bloody.
The two adult entertainments, shown between the one-act horrors, were Suite for Five Letters and Jack and Jill, which are based on the sex-ridden revue of 1969, Oh! Calcutta! Again, the combination of horror and comedy intensified the mood of the night. The actors, props, special effects, and dialogue were all believable, and the intimacy of the gallery setting helped make these acts absorbing. The final act of the night, "The Old Women," focused on a group of women in an insane asylum who plotted, out of jealousy, to blind another, more attractive resident. Read the rest
In the New Yorker, Patti Smith wrote a lovely tribute to her friend, Sam Shepard, experimental theater pioneer, actor, and Pulitzer-winning playwright who died on Thursday. The two artists became close during the early 1970s as they both made the scene in New York City's avant-garde downtown. Read the rest
Next year, the American Repertory Theater in Massachusetts will premier a new musical based on Alanis Morissette's classic 1995 album Jagged Little Pill. Diablo Cody ("Juno" and "Ricki and the Flash") will write the book while Tony Award winner Diane Paulus ("Pippin) is directing.
Jagged Little Pill "had so much meaning in its time,” Paulus told the New York Times, and Morissette is an artist “with courage and power and vulnerability.”
This cute video is circulating which shows a group of people, led by a young woman, who want to throw a very brief birthday party for a friend on a subway car in New York City. The friend is unknowingly being guided into this situation by an accomplice. Banners and balloons, blow-ticklers, sashes, and whatnot, are all prepared in the space of a few minutes (two subway stops) before the birthday girl enters the car and suddenly it’s all surprises, hugs, kisses, music, dancing, and cupcakes.
Isn’t that heartwarming? Doesn’t it just make you feel great about New York.
It’s fake. Notice that none of the birthday partiers are older than, say, 25, and they’re all so incredibly attractive.
The so-called “friends” in the subway car are actors and actresses who work for a company called Improv Everywhere.
Improv Everywhere is a New York City-based comedy collective that stages unexpected performances in public places. Created in August of 2001 by Charlie Todd, Improv Everywhere aims to surprise and delight random strangers through positive pranks, or “missions.”
The director of “theater company,” Charlie Todd, writes on their website:
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For years the subway has been our favorite performance venue. We’ve had pizza parties, talk shows, wedding proposals, and even time traveling twins. For each of these projects we create a scene that gives random people the option to say yes and be part of something awesome. If you haven’t figured out by now, this was not a real a surprise birthday party. Jenny was an actor along with everyone else in our group.