Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Actor Aweigh

I know it's old news around these parts, but the announcement of "Fully Committed" on the Barksdale line-up for the summer made Scotty news again. For a piece on Scotty's signing up for the Naval Reserves, check out this week's Style. Sometimes I love my little headlines...

Since I knew how to dream

In a recent story about her imminent starring turn as Spiderman’s love interest in the Broadway musical, Evan Rachel Wood says, “Being on Broadway has been my dream since I knew how to dream.” That’s a pretty deep statement. It’s only a little bit of a shame it was in reference to this stage adaptation of a movie adaptation of a comic book.

There’s all sorts of stage news coming out of NYC these days, including word that T.R. Knight (of “Grey’s Anatomy”) has a new gig lined up to star in a “Lend Me a Tenor” revival and the impression that Anne Hathaway is pretty darn wonderful in a stellar “Twelfth Night.” If you can’t make it up to the Big Apple before July 12th, you might consider celebrating Shakespeare with Richmond’s own little delightful production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” which begins a limited run this weekend. This show was a winner inside earlier this year; I’ve got no reason to believe it won’t be as good or better outside.

But don’t see that one if you haven’t seen “Summer of ‘42” yet, which as I noted in my review, is a wonderful celebration of the male preoccupation with female mammary glands (yes, you can thank me for that “Summer of Second Base” headline). The best part of this production for me was the great male-female pairs that director Chase Kniffen matched up, with each duo managing to be believably “high school” but in an on-the-edge of adulthood kind of way. Chris Stewart and Audra Honaker could have been in a show all to themselves, the kind where the distracted male character finally realizes that Ms. Right is sitting right next to him the whole time.

The Drew Seigla / Ellie Atwood pair reminded me of about half the people I knew in high school, the boys with their sights set like lasors on getting under a girl’s shirt or into her pants and the girls playing that psychological chess game revolving around their willingness to give in. I may have liked them best of the six young people just because they seemed like old friends. Jonathan Perez and Maggie Roop are delightful comic relief, my only regret being that they didn’t have more stage time together.

It’s a little weird but also entirely appropriate, I guess, that Robyn O’Neill’s Dorothy almost seems to be in a separate show. Her character actually lives in the real world with real world concerns and fears and, of course, tragedies. It’s a world removed from kids whose concerns revolve around minutes spent feeling up or being felt up. You could certainly make a case for Robyn being too old for this role. Somewhat jarring to me is the line in the show about her celebrating her first anniversary. Robyn and Fernando Rivadeneira could pass for a young married couple – particularly Fern looking so dashing in that uniform! – but newlyweds I had trouble buying.

But even if Dorothy is a character I would have pegged at being in her mid-to-late 20s, I think it works with Ms. O’Neill because she has always had the energy and a glow about her of someone many years younger. The key question for the show is: can you believe her being the object of a teenage boy’s crush? And the answer for me is unquestionably yes.

Speaking of glow, the predominant shade in the lighting for “Summer” is an amazing pale gold that is pretty enchanting. Great work by Kenny Mullens and, just to reiterate the statement in my review, excellent set by Mercedes Schaum. Almost every person I saw walking into the show was checking out the rocks and pebbles strewn all over the floor. It was a great way to introduce the audience to the show in a way that immediately grabbed their attention.

’42 has only two more weekends of shows and then it’s on to “Godspell” for Stage 1, which, now that I know who at least a significant subset of the cast is going to be, I am really looking forward to. Of course, if I’m being honest, there are few productions of “Godspell” that I don’t look forward to. It was the first musical I ever saw and, to borrow another sentiment from “Summer of ’42,” you never forget your first.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Late Henry

I know it is late to be doing so, but I’d like to wax a little poetic about Richmond Shakespeare’s “Henry V.” What a fine production! As I wrote in a recent Facebook status, the final scene between Phil Brown’s Henry and Sarah Johnson Cole’s Katherine features what may be the two best looking actors I’ve ever seen wooing each other on stage. And that’s a couple hours into a show featuring bracing fight choreography, stirring dramatics, and robust comedy.

Mr. Brown gave a firey performance with some nice attenuation around the burdens of leadership. But perhaps most impressive – and highly unusual, I would think – is the pay-off for those who have watched his Henry mature over the past three years. Being able to build a real familiarity with an actor in a role over three epic performances is a truly remarkable gift that Richmond Shakespeare gave us with their production of this history cycle. Brown’s Henry V could stand alone but his accomplishment is much more amazing considering the entirety of it.

Something I think I have said in this space before is that often the true indication of a quality of a production is how quickly the talent drops off when you get past the lead roles. Another great thing about this Henry V was that the quality was consistent, all the way down to the charming youngster playing the “boy,” Brian Walter. A high school kid handling a Shakespearian sililoquy in such a grand production – and doing it so well – is quite an accomplishment.

Other supporting stand-outs were Jamie Rees, who is quite amusing in the early scenes, and Brandon Crowder as the prancing Dauphin (though I liked him in Midsummer better where his fey shtick was balanced with other facets of his prodigious talent). Joseph Sultani has some smoldering good looks to go with fine acting chops that I’d like to see exploited more in the future. And even Bob Jones, who I kind of thought was going to be a brief distraction as Fluellen, actually gets quite a bit of stage time and shows great comedic ability.

I can’t say enough about the fight choreography by Vanessa Passini, which goes well beyond the usual “swing-and-duck” stuff that is not uncommon, even in fairly accomplished productions. The battle scenes conjured up much mayhem, a great counterpoint to all of the high-falutin’ language being tossed around.

Even with Phil Brown’s shirtless scene early on, I have to say that the scene I’ll remember most vividly from this production is the Ms. Cole and Jacquie O’Connor translating body parts from French into English. Katherine’s singular pronounciation of “de nails,” “de fingras,” and “delbow” managed to be both hilarious and totally realistic and just one of many facets that made this production a finely cut jewel. Many congrats to director James Bond and the whole cast and crew!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Woe is Wednesday

I know, I know: I suck. It’s one thing not to write anything on ye ole blog. It’s another thing altogether to say you are going to write something and then not to write anything. To use that old politically-incorrect phrase, it’s akin to being an Indian-giver.

Ah well, I can only apologize and move on. Sorry peeps. If it helps, I’ve been spending my few spare seconds to further the local theater cause in my own little way. Honest. We’ll see if it does any good.

Anyway, I’m putting out this little dispatch because I hadn’t linked to Ms. Lewis’s review of “Summer of ‘42” yet (done!). I also wanted to relate my own little theater-related woe which is that I was totally a free agent last night, hardly a responsibility in sight, and itching to go see a show and was confounded that I couldn’t. In particular, I wanted to get down to the Mill or head over to Agecroft and yet, there was no Wednesday show for either “Arsenic” or “Henry.” Phooey. I know it’s impossible for most companies to do Wednesday shows for most productions but, in this particular case, it’s probably going to mean the difference between me eventually seeing one of those shows and not. And that’s unfortunate.

There’s no criticism or judgment implied in this, just honest regret. I guess it also points to another challenge for theater in general: there are only so many nights in the week and weekends are prime social real estate. The combination of competing priorities and limited nights/times that shows are playing means some shows just get missed, even by those (like me) who are highly motivated to see them. Kinda sucks.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Calvalcade of Coverage

As is only fitting for the week after a bunch of shows opened, there have been a slew of reviews out there this week. Style’s got reviews of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Summer of ‘42” in this week’s issue; I’ve seen them on the newstand but don’t have links to stories on the website yet (UPDATE: here's the link!) The Times-Dispatch covered “Thoroughly Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Arsenic and Old Lace” on Monday. I expect (hope) we’ll see a “Summer of ‘42” review from the T-D soon.

And in case you read the lovely Ms. Steingold’s reference to my punk son in the comments for the previous post and are at all curious, here is a link to what I think she’s referring to. You can click on the photo to get a pretty ridiculously high-res version of the picture.

It’s tech week for “Oliver!” which explains at least a little of why I’ve been a lax blogger. I’ll be chiming in with thoughts on “Millie” tomorrow and hopefully more on “42” on Thurs. That's the plan, at least...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Aloha Means Hello

This weekend Richmond says 'hello' to three big shows: Barksdale and Stage 1 each putting up big cast musicals and the Mill doing a big cast comedy. It seems as though actors who might have been looking at a dry spell this summer are instead going to have their plates full. So that’s a good thing. And theater-lovers afraid of gaps in their social calendars are instead going to have to scramble to see everything that’s showing (particularly with RichShakes “H5” closing so soon and “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” having such a short run).

I’ll be at opening night for “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and am looking forward to seeing Maggie Marlin again; I’m a fan of hers since VCU’s “Chicago” this spring. And of course, I’m a fan of Ali Thibodeau’s at least since I first met her back in “Peter Pan,” but I think even before that going back to the SPARC production of "Cats" (I think she was in that; my memory is getting cloudy as I get old...) Patti D’Beck set the bar pretty high with “Guys and Dolls” last summer so I’m expecting / hoping for big things with TMM.

For folks who were planning on seeing “Summer of ‘42” tonight, you’ve probably heard that the preview is canceled. From what I hear, the child involved in the family emergency is fine; my best wishes go out to the family involved and I hope any scrapes and scratches heal up quickly.

I have enjoyed the artfully rendered photographs from “Millie” (running in a slide show) and “Summer of ’42” (a few examples are on Facebook...at least one is visible on the Stage 1 website) that the theater companies have put together. Theater is a visual medium, after all, and good pictures whet the appetite for the real deal. Recently, I was disappointed that Style wasn’t able to get ahold of a current picture from “From the Mississippi Delta,” a production with some great potential visuals. The picture that Night Light Collective has posted from “Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls” has also increased my level of interest in that production. Frankly, I don’t think anything sells a show about pretty girls better than a picture of, you know, pretty girls.

In other news, both Triangle Players and CAT have published their 2010-11 seasons and Stage 1 promised one last week. Maybe once I see the Stage 1 season, I’ll post my preliminary thoughts about all of these. In the meantime, feel free to lay out your own reactions. Anything you are particularly looking forward to? Anything you have no desire whatsoever to see? Anything you really want to audition for? Anything you saw and went, huh?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Combination Platter

I spent some time over my Cheerios this morning parsing out the new “Richmond Loves Broadway” package that Barksdale / Theatre IV is offering and, after a great deal of initial confusion, I’ve concluded it is a fair slice of genius.

My initial confusion stemmed from the somewhat weird amalgamation of productions from ostensibly 3 different companies. Furthermore, I have been imagining that the biggest threat to the primacy of Barksdale’s Broadway-quality production quality in Richmond would be the flashy shows that Jam Theatricals will be bringing in and here is Barksdale promoting “Wicked,” JT’s splashiest and clearly most popular (I know I’ve got my tickets reserved already…) Finally, this “one from column A, one from column B” kind of deal seems like it might dilute the traditional subscription seasons that the Barksdale and Theatre IV offer.

But, as with many things, this offer’s downside is also it’s upside and I’m thinking the up far outweighs the down. Taking the last first, from what I’ve read, traditional subscription sales have been essentially flat in the theater world for years so any cannibalism there would be minimal. And drawing from three production companies may be confusing to those of us who know and care about those things, but I expect most people won’t care and perhaps even consider it a “best of” kind of deal. If you’re a fan of musicals, it sure reads that way. (It also gives me a wacky idea about an even more general Richmond Theatre subscription where someone could buy 4 shows from any combination of theater companies in town – wouldn’t that be cool? Paging RAPT!)

And as far as promoting “Wicked,” well, there’s where the real genius comes in, in my opinion. There’s really no escaping this juggernaut coming to town so why not incorporate it, perhaps even ride its coattails a touch? The subscription may also inspire people who might have only been drawn to familiar titles like “Wicked” and “Sound of Music” to sample less-familiar shows in further-afield venues (i.e., “They’re Playing Our Song” at the Tavern).

That’s my somewhat analytical view of the enterprise but, stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, I also think it is a unique kind of draw for people who could care less about the deeply affecting dramas (a la “Driving Miss Daisy”) or innovative comedies (a la “Well”) that Barksdale offers and just want to see the big, bountiful, extravagant musicals. When it comes to theater, some people don’t want to be weighed down by heavy main courses like Shakespeare or even light but filling appetizers like Sarah Ruhl, they just want dessert. Shouldn’t they have a menu too?

One last curiosity though: “Is He Dead?” finished up a well-reviewed run on Broadway last year while “They’re Playing Our Song” was on Broadway when I was in high school (aka, ages ago). So this new package is really Richmond Loves Broadway…Musicals No Matter How Long Ago They Were on Broadway, right? I guess that wasn’t nearly as snappy a title for the package.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Some folks know that my son was up in NYC this past weekend, being called back for a shot at the role of Michael Banks in either the tour or the Broadway production of “Mary Poppins.” We found out Sunday night that he was out of the running for now. Seven boys were seen on Sunday. A couple were brought back on Monday and he was not one of them.

I don’t have to tell anyone who reads this that the past several weeks have been a rollercoaster of emotions. The excitement about the possibility of him actually being cast was set in lock-step with anxiety and bewilderment about how exactly we would make that work. Needless to say, the outcome then has its own set of conflicting emotions, with disappointment and relief battling it out (though, honestly, disappointment usually wins out).

Through it all, the boy has remained engaged but also relatively non-chalant about it. I guess in the final analysis, he got two pretty exciting trips to New York out of the deal, so he isn’t complaining.

The whole experience makes me marvel at the unique resilience an actor must have to handle this process successfully. I can’t think of many professions (sales, perhaps?) where you put yourself out there so openly and are judged so immediately…and in a way so easily construed as negative (the Olympics have Gold, Silver, Bronze, etc.; in theater, there is First Place…and everyone else…)

In terms of more general news and reviews, Ms. Tupponce’s take on “I Ought to be in Pictures” is up on the WCVE site and Style has a story on the former director of the Virginia Museum Theatre who was back in town recently.

Last but certainly not least, Ms. Burruss’s review of “Henry V” just showed up on Style’s site. Enjoy!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Re: Sunday

I spent a large chunk of Sunday morning luxiuriating over the Washington Post and the New York Times while at my lovely mother-in-law’s house. Nothing fills me with greater pangs of remorse over the death of print than thinking that those kinds of mornings may soon be a thing of the past. A lazy Sunday morning spent with Kindle in hand just doesn’t have the same allure. Call me a Luddite.

There was a great article in the Times about the development of Tony Kushner’s new play. (UPDATE: There's an article on CNN.com today as well.)

What peaked my interest – beyond just the curious variations on how a play comes into existence – was that the article is all about a festival in Minnesota. It made me refer to my list of metro areas in the country, which shows Minneapolis-St. Paul at around 16th. Richmond is down around 43, with a bit less than 40% of the population in comparison.

This gives me renewed pride in the recent Sarah Ruhl mini-fest that Richmond was able to pull off thanks to the Firehouse and the Barksdale pulling together. But it also makes me wonder if there is another playwright that a local company (or companies) could organize a festival around with an actual new play in development as part of it and the artist in residence here in town. Wouldn’t that be cool?

In the T-D somewhere over the past few days, I saw a little editorial comment that said that many people in the area would prefer that Richmond promote itself as a bastion of history, art and performing arts rather than working so hard to land a minor league baseball franchise. I was a bit taken aback and forced to consider that the T-D’s editorial board may actually have some clearheaded thinkers in its midst.

Last, but certainly not least, the T-D’s Ms. Haubenstock weighed in on “Henry V” at Agecroft. If there weren’t like 40 other shows opening this weekend (ok, 3), I’d rush right out and see it this week. Unfortunately, I may have to wait until the Richmond heat has drained a couple of dozen pounds from the Richmond Shakespeare company before I can make it out. Here’s hoping for continued cool breezes for them and a spectacular run!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hunka Hunka Burning Harry

So I made it through the first couple of hours of the Tonys last night on the ole DVR before having to call it quits. Since it is rare that I’ve seen many – if any – of the nominated shows these days, I usually look to the Tonys to set my priorities for which shows I will try to see in the future. “Billy Elliot” is of course a given at this point. But based on what I’ve seen so far, I found “Rock of Ages” surprisingly intriguing (I laughed out loud at the little Michigan hand gesture during their musical number). And I have even less interest in seeing “Shrek” than I did before. I just don’t see how this show offers much over the source material which I can enjoy at a minscule fraction of the price.

Other random impressions:

> Neil Patrick Harris is the kind of effortlessly funny and smart host that I wish the Oscars had.

> The Tonys have tried for years to impress with star power from other media. This year, I think they succeeded. At least, I was fairly impressed.

> Susan Sarandon. I think I would watch her in almost anything. Her, plus Lauren Ambrose, add in Geoffrey Rush’s victory (why do Brits generally give such superior acceptance speeches?) makes missing “Exit the King” my biggest regret of this season.

> I liked the designer who said he’d have to tell his folks he didn’t work for a bank. Apparently the “real job” connumdrum haunts even Broadway.

> The technical issues – the badly mised or inaudible sound, sloppy camerawork – were a little pathetic. The shame of it is that, even if it’s the TV technicians who were responsible, Broadway production quality is what comes off looking amatuerish.

> I liked the performances from the touring shows. Thought it was a good idea to reinforce the message that theater doesn’t just happen in New York. However, while many people may be familiar with the stars of the Broadway shows, the leads in the touring productions are less well-known. I wish they had identified some of the performers…oh, and done something (anything) else but “Mamma Mia!”

The Times-Dispatch today previewed “Henry V” at Richmond Shakespeare (interesting to see Ms. Ruggieri’s byline on a theater story – I guess she’s the only arts staffer left?) It’s too bad they didn’t have a bigger picture of Phil Brown, though, because I have to say that he’s one hot dude. I met him in person last summer (with my swooning daughter in tow) and he’s a right fine fellow as well. After the somewhat tepid “H4P2” last summer, I’m looking forward to him burning up the stage in H5!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Studio 360

I've only caught the radio show Studio 360 a few times, but it's always been interesting. Today, WRIR broadcast the June 5th show that was kind of a Tonys preview. The marquee stories are the piece on "Joe Turner's Come and Gone" and the interview with Geoffrey Rush. But my favorite part is when they take a real gang member to see "West Side Story" to do something like a "reality check." It's fascinating that the interviewer almost seems to be goading the guy (Bruce George) or skirting the edge of getting pedantic and Mr. George keeps pulling out some amazing insights, including a quote from Noam Chomsky! Really amazing listening.

To Two, Too.

If you need inspiration for heading over to Chamberlayne Actors Theatre to see "Chapter Two" before it closes this weekend, listen to John Porter's review online. John says it's "delightful" at least a couple of times, so I think you can believe him!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


OK, the official word is finally out. You can read the story of the abrupt retirement of Jennie and Larry Brown from SPARC in Style today.

Personally, I'm holding my tongue because whatever the real story is, I don't know what it is. I do know two of my children have had great experiences in SPARC classes and some of my favorite actors in town are on the staff there. I'm curious as to what's prompted this move, but mostly, I hope SPARC remains strong and healthy and continues to grow, regardless of the shake-up.

The Alpha Beta and Gamma on Delta

Over the past several months, I’ve been queried about my lack of critical response to several shows, including Sycamore Rouge’s "Translations," Richmond Shakespeare’s “Amadeus,” Barksdale’s “Driving Miss Daisy” and, most recently, “Chapter Two” which is currently at Chamberlayne Actors Theater. These queries have been delivered with attitudes ranging from simply inquisitive to sincerely disappointed to moderately enraged. All I can really do is apologize, though my apology comes with a hint of my own annoyance.

As I suggested when I first set up this blog – and have reiterated fairly regularly since – there is no freakin way I can see all of the shows that open in town, even if I didn’t have a real job, four kids, classes in graduate school, yadda yadda yadda… Style pays me to see some shows, others I see because I think I should or would enjoy them, and the rest just have to fall by the wayside. Its sad but true. Luckily, between the T-D, Style’s other critic, and WCVE, most every professional show in town gets some critical response, so it could be worse.

With that in mind, my review of AART’s “From the Mississippi Delta” is up on the Style website now (you can also check out my summer theater preview in this issue). As I hope I communicated in my review, I liked this production and was particularly impressed with Ms. Turnage’s performance, not just of Aint Baby but of some of the more incidental characters she portrayed. She has a natural authority on stage that is fun to watch and she made some of the characters who could have easily slipped into charicature seem real.

I had some troubles with Endesha Ida Mae Holland’s script, though. For one thing, as beautiful as the language was and as engaging as some of the stories were, there is something “book report”-like in a show that just tells a bunch of vignettes from a family’s history. I read somewhere that the theme was about the perseverance of African American women. Not to be flip or anything, but that is a story that has been told already, just like “love found / love lost / love found again” has been done a couple of thousand times. Sure, there were many thoroughly original moments in this script, but I didn’t pick up anything much original in the big picture themes being communicated.

The last scenes where Phelia talks about her college experience including listing some of her influences is the best example of how the script went awry. Are we supposed to know these people? Are we supposed to have any idea of the specific impact they had on Phelia? I didn’t and I didn’t, which ended the show on a bit of a frustrating note for me.

Having said that, there is not much I can find fault with in this production. The set and props were good and the lighting very nice. I was particularly impressed with the sound design, which is a production element that seems to vex some companies these days (and apparently, the Tonys as well). I’d maybe suggest that Mr. Cobb could’ve tightened up some of his scene transitions but, overall, it was some darn good work.

My biggest hope is that more people came out to see the rest of the run than was indicated by opening night. The T-D’s Ms. Lewis, her guest and I made up 3 of the 5 people in the audience. Everyone associated with the production really deserves better than that.

First things first

I have the Tonys on DVR but haven’t watched them yet. I was at a swim meet until 10-something o’clock on Sunday night and hanging out in Charlottesville last night so I haven’t had the chance. I’ve read about the bazillion “Billy Elliot” wins, which is great, though I was pulling for “Next to Normal” (perhaps I’m a little weary of young boys and their dreams at this particular time…) I was glad for Alice Shipley, though, and it sounds like there are many other reasons for me to watch the awards still (obnoxious rockers beaned by scenery? Awesome!) Feel free to chime in with your thoughts on the Tonys until I can formulate some.

I also expect there will soon be many other things for me to ramble about, with an announcement expected momentarily from the local theater company I mentioned last week, plus a summer preview coming out in Style this week, and hopefully my review of “Mississippi Delta” as well.

But first, I wanted to mention that I spent a chunk of this past Sunday at a wedding, a lovely ceremony with a beautiful bride, a charming groom and scads of theater people in attendance. The newlyweds were so happy and the event was touching, funny, and all the things you hope a wedding will be. I can only hope that the happy couple shares as many good times and fulfilling years together as I’ve been lucky to experience with my wonderful wife.

It’s a cliché that big ceremonies make you take stock of your life but its also fairly inescapable. There is something a little shocking to be talking to people about their grown children and thinking back to when you first met them before they were even married. The new beginning that a wedding represents can’t help but make you remember other beginnings in your life, the people that were there then, and the changes that time has wraught since.

With all of that going through my head, I left the wedding thinking about the friends and acquaintances I have in the theater world. When my wife was pregnant with our first child so many years ago, our theater friends threw us one of the sweetest and heart-warming baby showers ever. I was a total hanger-on in the theater world back then and I was still pretty wary of some of the big personalities that theater professionals wield. That shower was one of the first times that I truly appreciated the generous, genuine, devoted, sometimes insecure, usually very smart people that lie underneath those big personalities.

As with people I’ve meet who aren’t actors, I’ve discovered that some of them are jerks or troubled or more self-involved then the average human. But over the years, the bright shiny gems of the scene just get more dazzling and many of those precious people were in attendance Sunday. I feel lucky every time I get to spend time with them.

Monday, June 08, 2009


Between the Tony's, the opening of "Mississippi Delta," and a beautiful wedding this weekend, I'm a little overwhelmed with things to write about while at the same time being totally swamped with demands from my "real" job. So right now, the best I can offer are links to a double-shot of African American Rep from the T-D, Ms. Lewis's review and a nice piece about the company's step-up to CenterStage, as it were. If you aren't sated by those, you can check out Entertainment Weekly's recap of Tony highlights and lowlights.

I'll have a couple of hours to kill in Charlottesville tonight so I'll be back tomorrow with some serious blog-itude. Stay tuned!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Delta Blues

AART opens "From the Mississippi Delta" tonight and I'm excited to see it. But I'm also relatively exhausted thanks to a crazy week both at home and at work. I'd really like nothing better than to curl up on the couch, drink hot chocolate and Kahlua, and watch some trashy movie tonight. Therein lies one of the more significant challenges for all of the performing arts -- what kind of productions will entice tired, overworked people enough to pry their lazy butts off their comfortable couches and take that trip to the theater (or opera or symphony)?

Thursday, June 04, 2009


I’m going to be a bit of a gadabout today (and I’m not even an actor!) so don’t have much time to write. However, you might enjoy this Tony Awards preview from Entertainment Weekly. The predictions are interesting and all but mostly I like the embedded YouTube links. See the cast of "Hair" spread love in David Letterman's studio and a great "33 Variations" sketch with Jane Fonda that has bits of brilliance embedded.

I finally sat down to watch the Patti D’Beck piece that aired on PBS a few days ago, which was very well done. My favorite part was when she working with the individual actress in the musical theater class. Maybe those of you who have been in theater class found it tiresome but, for someone who hasn’t, it was pretty fascinating. I only wish they had identified the student who was doing the work because I thought she took direction really well. I could actually see Patti’s comments reflected in her performance.

Just as an aside, I took my first trip out to the Culbreth Theatre on the UVA campus on Tuesday, as part of a year in which I have explored at least two other semi-local venues I’d never visited before. It’s one of those cool theaters where off-stage left opens up into this huge shop area. And the fly-space – oh my! I’m really looking forward to actually seeing a show there later this month (road trip suggestion: come see “Oliver” at Heritage Rep end of June/beginning of July. I think it’ll be worth the trip.)

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Y’all are funny

The wacky thing about this blog thing is that I never know what is going to generate conversation. I thought my little pat-on-the-back yesterday was fairly generic, but you never know what is going to erupt. As always, I appreciate everyone chiming in.

My perspective on this comes from a slightly different tack, as a freelance writer with a desk job. My “real” job has many intellectual rewards and challenges, though it doesn’t require all of the qualities that Frank listed. But basically it does not feed my soul the way writing does. And for that reason, I feel grateful to have a creative outlet through writing. While there would be no way Team Tline could live on the money I make doing it, the benefit in terms of my sanity and quality of life are far from insignificant. Sure, I have dreams of being able to write for a living but that isn’t in the cards for me right now...and maybe ever.

I have great respect for the friends I have who have managed to find a professional writing niche that allows them to do it for a living. But I don’t begrudge them their success because I know it comes at a significant cost and has involved (or still involves) a good deal of scrambling to keep paying work in development.

That’s my two cents – take it for what you will. Some aspects of it are applicable to the acting situation, others are not.

As to the whole rumor thing, I expect an “official” announcement to be forthcoming soon. I’ve been told that the “i’s” have been dotted and the “t’s” crossed – or that the process is..um..in process, so clarification should be on its way.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Double Duty

There is an as-yet unsubstantiated rumor going around about a big shake-up at a local theater company. I’m curious…and concerned. If anyone wants to assuage my curiosity, feel free to drop me a line.

While hanging out at Shuffles Dance Center (which is also the home of Stage 1 Theater Company, for those who have not yet made the entirely worth-it trip just a couple of miles up 301) with my daughter last night, I hung out briefly with some cast members of “Summer of ’42.” Several people are doing double-duty to be in this show. This isn’t an uncommon practice in the local theater world but it was kind of amazing to see two of the leads of currently-running shows (Audra Honaker in “I Ought to be in Pictures” and Frank Creasy in “Chapter Two”) in rehearsals for another one. And Fernando Rivadeniera must have been doing some double-time too, as he just closed out “True West” last weekend.

I think somehow the perception persists that actors are gadabouts or lay-abouts or couldn’t hack it in a “real” job. It’s nights like last night that remind me that actors are often among the hardest-working folks around. And when you measure the pay versus the hours invested, they are often among the least remunerated as well.

Monday, June 01, 2009

A date and D’Beck

So how about our president taking his lovely wife out for a date and choosing “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” on Broadway? Personally, I’m kind of tickled, but as with any kind of executive action, there are all sorts of other viable reactions. There is the predictable “waste of taxpayer money” reaction. I also wonder if the DC-area theaters feel a little dissed. Couldn’t they just choose a local show? Apparently, the (Tony-award winning) Signature does some good work. Then there’s that cute little venue, the Kennedy Center.

I guess in the big picture, I like the thought that a special date night for the Obamas would include taking in a play. To me, there is all sorts of marketing potential in that for someone, somehow.

I have been told that there is going to be a 30 minute feature about VCU professor and director Patti D’Beck tonight on PBS. I didn't see it listed online so I can't verify this as being actually true but I'll definitely check the Comcast guide when I get home tonight. For those of you tingling in anticipation about the soon-to-open “Thoroughly Modern Millie” – or still fondly remembering “Chicago” at VCU – you might want to do the same!

UPDATE: Here's a link to the program on Ms. D'Beck. I DVRed it but haven't watched yet. A boy's gotta have a little anticipation in life...