Second CTXLT review: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, Baron's Men at the Curtain Theatre, April 4 - 26, 2014
- Published on Sunday, 20 April 2014 14:54
by Michael Meigs
Romeo and Juliet is probably the first work of Shakespeare that most of us encounter, and sometimes it's the only one. That story of two star-crossed lovers is the most likely opportunity to interest distracted adolescents in the work of the 'Bard.' Pedagogically it's pretty effective: Two impetuous and self-centered teenagers flout convention and through a series of mishaps and misapprehensions end their lives in a creepy crypt, desperately disappointed. What's not to like, kids? Maybe the fact that none of the television production companies have dared to offer a series with a zombie R&J?
The idea's been tried, by the way, in a movie, in books and even in a PG drama script titled Zombeo and Juliet.
The linking of love and death is old stuff in Western culture (vide Swiss writer Denis de Rougemont's 1940 meditation Love in the Western World), and Shakespeare's crowd-pleaser cannily exploits the theme. This being Shakespeare, however, there's far more to Romeo and Juliet than just infatuation, frustration and suicide.
These kids inhabit a microcosm divided by ancient unexplained rancor, a small city-state ruled by an exasperated prince and counseled by a Church represented by a holy friar who's neither particularly ethnical nor particularly competent. The deck is stacked against them from the start.
It's in the depiction of the wider world of the play that the Baron's Men excel with their production at the Curtain Theatre. It winds down with final performances on Thursday, Shakespeare's birthday, April 23 and the following two evenings. This is your chance to witness the complexity both of Shakespeare's work and of the dramatic practice of Shakespeare's stage. Richard Garriott's Curtain Theatre, tucked away on the north bank of the Colorado only about 20-25 minutes from downtown, is a proper Renaissance-style outdoor thrust stage with a two-storied semicircle of roof-sheltered seating. Within that compact wooden half-O the Baron's Men costume the cast in gorgeous period-appropriate Elizabethan finery. The scope and sweep of the action across that wide stage reinforce the message that you've entered a full and complete world.
The company's performance of a text essentially unabridged assures that you'll stay there with them for a good three hours. That's an engagement some might find daunting in our age of soundbites, swiping and scanning, but it's a rewarding one.
A knowledgeable observer of Austin theatre commented to me in passing that the Baron's Men, once a sort of Ren-Fair exercise, have over recent years proved themselves to be a group seriously devoted to early modern drama. I concur and raise the ante: This company of dedicated volunteers is a further demonstration of the many-faceted sophistication of the theatre world of Central Texas. Austin has a branded reputation as a live musical capital and enjoys word-of-mouth renown as an incubator for new work and zany fringe productions. As is so often the case in labeling, those simple characterisations are clichéd and inadequate. There is so very much more in live theatre art to discuss.
But enough with the soapbox, already. Director Liegh Hegedus has orchestrated an intent and energetic staging of this familiar work. It departs from common practice and the canon by casting women in two key roles normally performed by male actors: Eva McQuade as the free-spirited Mercutio and Samantha Smith as Friar Laurence, the cleric whose schemes unwittingly set up the culminating disasters.
Casting McQuade is a clever stroke. She presents Mercutio unapologetically as a flamboyant woman, a 'roaring girl' dismissive of convention and derisive of romance, status and social division. This Mercutio is boisterous, smut-mouthed, and perfectly willing to exploit her femininity to taunt swaggerers and get the better of anyone. Even though we know it's inevitable, the fatal wound she receives from Tybalt at the lip of the stage is a shocker. Her curse on both houses as she staggers offstage is the moment when hope is extinguished.
The casting of Smith as the friar is less effective, principally because she is the only player to counterfeit a character's sex, counting upon our suspension of disbelief to make it whole. In a stage world where no other actors attempt that masquerade, she stands out and falls short each time she engages. Not because of her performance, which is carefully considered and crafted to give the friar a misguided simplicity, a dangerous combination of guiless incompetence and would-be cunning. Rather, the casting decision is a lingering indication that the Baron's Men is still a community theatre, a band where typically more women than men are keen to tread the boards. In that respect Smith is just as evident here as she was in Poor Shadows' Gallathea by John Lily, where she doubled as Phillida's father and the master alchemist, both unavoidably male roles.
Casey Jones as Romeo has the cheerful good will of a puppy, glad to be amused by friends Mercutio and Benvolio (Ameer Mobarek). At the Capulets' costume party as a thoughtless prank, he catches sight of Juliet and he's hopelessly lost (forgetting instantly about Rosaline, the unseen beauty for whom he'd been pining).
Juliet responds immediately, of course, and director Hegedus somewhat improbably situates their wooing and first kiss smack dab in the middle of the festive crowd. Lindsay M. Palinsky as Juliet is a good deal more focused than her beau; she's a girl with her own mind. In the balcony scene her emphatic 'wherefore art thou Romeo?' is focused directly at the problem -- the deep and unexplained enmnity between the two clans -- and has no touch of dreamy languish. After the disastrous duels rip apart the civil peace, Romeo groans and wails at his sentence of banishment, the picture of a self-pitying adolescent.
Palinsky's Juliet, in contrast, shows firm resolve and a will to take whatever measures may be required to get her way. She's strikingly attractive. Leanna Holmquist as her mother, Lady Capulet, is equally decisive when speaking to her daughter and has features much like those of Juliet; it's fun to wonder whether in other circumstances Romeo might have eventually turned out to be as full of himself as the ranting paternalistic Lord Capulet (Chris Casey). Juliet's ready to dupe her dad without a second thought. If it hadn't been for that confounded tardy friar and the uncoordinated elixirs, she probably could have managed Romeo just as well.
An unfortunate director's choice somewhat mars the final spectacle in the tomb, however. Juliet lies shrouded on a platform upstage center when Romeo breaks into the mausoleum. Unaccountably, Hegedus positions Romeo downstage of the feigned corpse, leaning over her or kneeling with his back to us throughout his anguished laments and his suicide. Rather than viewing his pain, we hear it only, offered no more than the spectacle of his back and hindquarters.
The cast has good diction, projection and mastery of the text. They entertain us with the intrigues and touch us with the spectacle of the wasted lives of these young lovers. After all the tragedies have befallen, Friar Laurence has confessed, and the prince has admonished both houses, the Baron's Men conclude the work with a Curtain call executed as a graceful dance, a modernized version of the jig with which Shakespeare's companies ended their entertainments. And they're happy to greet you outside the theatre to share their enthusiasm for the experience and for the play.
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NO MOVEMENT, NO SOUND by The Might Pressure Cooker (Bulgaria), Salvage Vanguard Theatre, April 23, 2014
- Published on Sunday, 20 April 2014 13:49
by The Mighty Mighty Pressure Cooker from Sofia, Bulgaria,
in the Salvage Vanguard Theater Studio space, 2803 Manor Rd.,
April 23rd at 7 pm and 9 pm
Performers: Marietta Petrova Murphy + Alexander Mitrev
Devised and Directed: Ida Daniel
Kinekt Programming + Lighting: Todor Styanvov
Costumes: Daniela Ivanova
Co-Presented by Fusebox Festival and Salvage Vanguard Theater. Supported by The Ministry of Culture of Bulgaria, America for Bulgaria Foundation, and Art in Motion programme of Art Office, Trust for Mutual Understanding.
In a space devoid of decoration and sets, two performers are concentrated on the thin line between movement and inability to move; between breathing and not breathing; between silence and sound; between darkness and light. Presence and being become palpable, making encounters possible on that thin line.
- Published on Wednesday, 02 April 2014 03:24
In 1966, when Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance had its Broadway premiere, just four years after his explosive hit Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, he had become the most discussed playwrights of his generation. It was no surprise that the play generated a storm of opinion. It was not 'flashy' like Virginia Woolf, but this social comedy (as Albee referred to it) was full of lacerating humor and heart-wrenching pathos. It weaves the uneasy existence of two suburbanites and their permanent houseguest, a witty alcoholic sister, whose lives are disrupted by the sudden appearance of lifelong friends who ask to stay and escape from an unnamed terror. They are followed soon by the couple’s bitter daughter, who returns home following the collapse of her fourth marriage. All of these elements together bring a firestorm of doubt, allegations, and betrayal, upsetting the "delicate balance" of the world they share. With his play, Albee holds up a funhouse mirror to the audience, reflecting his amusing and disturbing story about the fragile nature of marriages, families and friendships.
“Edward Albee, the leading American playwright of his generation, has been confounding, challenging, and stimulating theater audiences for almost half a century.” – The New York Times
Edward Albee burst onto the theatrical scene in the late 1950s with a variety of plays that detailed the agonies and disillusionment of the time. His early plays, The American Dream and The Zoo Story, effectively gave birth to American absurdist drama, a new theatrical movement, and he was labeled as the successor to Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams. But, with the surreal nature of his work never far from the surface, he became more related to absurdist playwrights Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter. Albee's plays, with their intensity, modern themes, and experiments in form, startled critics and audiences alike while changing the landscape of American drama. He is a three-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize with monumental works including Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, A Delicate Balance, Three Tall Women, Seascape, and The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?. His plays form a body of work that is recognized as unique, uncompromising, controversial, and provocative. Albee describes his work as "an examination of the American Scene, an attack on the substitution of artificial for real values in our society, a condemnation of complacency, cruelty, and emasculation , a stand against the fiction that everything in this slipping land of ours is peachy-keen."
The City Theatre Company is thrilled to have guest director Fritz Ketchum leading the May production. She has directed professionally for over 20 years for many theatres in Atlanta, Athens, and Savannah, Georgia, and in Dallas and Fort Worth. With an M.F.A. in Directing and Acting, Ms. Ketchum has served on the Theatre Department faculties of Texas Christian University, The University of Texas at Arlington, The University of Georgia, and she was a Guest Artist with the Kennedy Center in 2011. Since moving to Austin in late 2012, she has performed in ZACH Theatre’s production of Harvey. A Delicate Balance also features the talented cast of Scott Kelly Galbreath, Tracy Hurd, Suzanne Balling, Kristin Chiles, David Lee Hess, and Lynne Gellman.
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- Published on Saturday, 19 April 2014 14:10
Dream On . . . Dream Off. . .
Performance and silent auction
Choreography by Mariam Ribon (Dublin) and Toni Bravo (Austin)
Video by Russ Smith (Berlin)
3 Nights! April 24, 25 & 26 (Thu - Sat), 8:30 p.m.
Admission donation: $15+
In this performance, Diverse Space Dance Theatre explores the dream world of archetypes and stereotypes, and the eventualities of living with a promise.
It includes the work that will be performed at the Irish Youth Dance Festival 2014 and Listros, Berlin. Admission and silent auction proceeds will help the youth company get to Europe for these appearances.
Additional donations are welcome at http://diversespacedance.com./
- Published on Saturday, 19 April 2014 12:53
NOTE: CTXLT/ALT applauds this initiative but was NOT in any way involved in determining procedures, selecting nominees or choosing eventual winners. Announcement is reproduced as published, except for sentence edited with strikethrough in para 3.
Central Texas Excellence In Theatre Awards
Posted on April 18, 2014
After months of thought, debate and conversation, the staff and writers of Austin Entertainment Weekly with much assistance from Broadway World Austin’s Editor Jeff Davis, are pleased to announce a new award system for the Central Texas Theatre Community. The original plan was to create a new and all inclusive theatre award that recognizes both theatres inside of the Austin city limit, and in the thriving theatres in the outlying areas. We wanted to create an event with a large scale awards event featuring performances from the nominated productions and artist. However as usual life gets in the way, funding is hard, and time is running out. So to keep our dream alive, we are going to do an online award this year!
However, we have set up a Go Fund Me account to help raise funds for a fantastic event next season, where we can award physical awards and take a moment to join together as a community, to fellowship, and create a more united theatre world. Please consider logging on to http://www.gofundme.com/81x4u0 to donate today.
The guidelines and structure for this system consists or nominations (an winners for the inaugural year) selected by Austin’s well respected online theatre bloggers, critics, and journalist from sites such as Austin Entertainment Weekly [and] Broadway World Austin and Central Texas Live Theatre. The nominees are all from shows in the Austin and surrounding areas, and are representative of productions that took place between January 1 and December 31 of the previous year. So this year for our first set of awards, we looked at shows that took place in 2013. For our initial round of awards the critics involved selected nominees in a closed ballot, and then voted once again to determine the award recipient for this first round. The plan for the future is to have the nominations to be selected by the Austin Theatre Web Critics, and then to send a closed ballot to past nominees and winners to help in selecting the winners for future years.
With Out Further Ado…..
The Nominees for the 2013 Central Texas Excellence in Theatre Awards are…
Best Actor in a Play
Andrew Bosworth as Iago, “Othello,” City Theatre
Jaston Williams as Truman Capote, “Tru,” Zach Theatre
J. Ben Wolfe as Jackie, “Motherfucker with the Hat,” Capital T Theatre
Tim Brown as Stanley Kowalski, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” City Theatre
Craig Kanne as Marquis De Sade, “Quills,” Different Stages
Rick Felkins, as Juror Number 3, “Twelve Angry Men,” City Theatre
Martin Burke as Elwood, “Harvey,” Zach Theatre
Best Actress in a Play
Beth Broderick as Katherine Brandt, “33 Variations,” Zach Theatre
Helen Merino as Emily Dickinson, “The Belle of Amherst,” Austin Shakespeare
Suzanne Balling as Mary Elizabeth, “The Happy Couple,” Last Act Theatre Company
Rachel McGinnis Meissner as Blanche DuBois, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” City Theatre
Mary Kennelly as Mrs. Bramson, “Night Must Fall,” Different Stages
Babs George as The Mother “Blood Wedding,” St. Edwards Mary Moody Northen Theatre
Lauren Lane “Vera” Harvey, Zach Scott Theatre
Best Supporting Actor in a Play
John Smiley as Mr. Marks, “Intimate Apparel,” UT-Austin
Joe Hartman as Teddy Brewster, “Arsenic and Old Lace,” Different Stages
Dennis Bailey as Junior Turner, “Qualities of Starlight,” Vortex Rep
Joe Hartman as Abbe De Coulmier, “Quills,” Different Stages
David Stahl as Llyod Dallas, “Noises Off,” Austin Theatre Project
Robert Faires as Rev. Canon Chasuble, “Importance of Being Earnest” St. Edwards Mary Moody Northen Theatre
Best Supporting Actress in a Play
Bernadette Nason as Dotty Otley, “Noises Off,” Austin Playhouse
Barbara Chisholm as Lady Bracknell, “The Importance of Being Earnest,” St. Edwards Mary Moody Northen Theatre
Laura Artesi as Stella Kowalski, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” City Theatre
Gricelda Silva as Irina, “Three, or the Sound of the Great Existential Nothingness,” Breaking String Theatre
Irene White as Miss Prism, “The Importance of Being Earnest,” St. Edwards Mary Moody Northen Theatre
Marijane Vandiver as Mrs. Chauvenet, “Harvey,” Zach Theatre
Cindy Brown as Ethel “Moon Over Buffalo,” City Theatre
Best Direction of a Play
Karen Sneed, “12 Angry Men,” City Theatre
Ron Watson, “A Few Good Men,” Georgetown Palace Theatre
Norman Blumensaadt, “Arsenic and Old Lace,” Different Stages
Don Toner, “Noises Off,” Austin Playhouse
Jeff Hinkle Streetcar Named Desire, City Theatre
Don Toner Other Desert Cities, Austin Playhouse
Richard Robichaux, The Importance of Being Earnest, St. Edwards Mary Moody Northen Theatre
Best Production of a Play
“12 Angry Men,” City Theatre
“Noises Off,” Austin Playhouse
“Motherfucker with the Hat,” Capital T Theatre
“Qualities of Starlight,” Vortex Rep
“Harvey,” Zach Theatre
“Streetcar Named Desire,” City Theatre
Best Actor in a Musical
Andrew Cannata as Eugene Marchbanks, “A Minister’s Wife,” Penfold Theater
Andrew Bosworth as Marvin, “Falsettos,” Austin Theater Project
Vincent Hooper as Youth, “Passing Strange,” Half and Half Productions
Bob Beare as Emile de Becque, “South Pacific,” Georgetown Palace Theatre
R. Michael Clinkscales as Brian, “Avenue Q,” Austin Theatre Project.
Nicholas Rodriguez as Inspector Javert, “Les Miserables,” Zach Theatre
Cliff Butler as Will Rogers, “Will Rogers Follies,” Georgetown Palace Theatre
Best Actress in a Musical
Paige Bradbury as Mary Lennox, “The Secret Garden,” St. Edwards Mary Moody Northen Theatre
Christine Jean-Jacques as Nellie Forbush, “South Pacific,” Georgetown Palace Theatre
Marett Hanes as Kate Monster, “Avenue Q,” Austin Theatre Project
Sarah Burke as Millie, “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” Georgetown Palace Theatre
Jill Blackwood as Candida Morell, “A Minister’s Wife,” Penfold Theatre
Patty Rowel as Betty Rogers, “Will Rogers Follies,” Georgetown Palace Theatre
Taylor Moessinger “Edges,” Austin Theatre Project
Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
Nathan Jerkins as Lexy Mill, “A Minister’s Wife,” Penfold Theatre
Joshua Denning as Enjolras, “Les Miserables,” Zach Theatre
Josh Wechsler as Whizzer, “Falsettos,” Austin Theatre Project
Ismael Soto III as Lt. Joseph Cable, “South Pacific,” Georgetown Palace Theatre
Joey Banks, Edges, Austin Theatre Project
Andrew Canata as Marius, “Les Miserables,” Zach Theatre
William Wallingford as Colin Craven, “The Secret Garden,” St. Edwards Mary Moody Northen Theatre
Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Amy Downing as Prossy Garnett, “A Minister’s Wife,” Penfold Theatre
Jill Blackwood as Fantine, “Les Miserables,” Zach Theatre
Sophia Franzella as Martha, “The Secret Garden,” St. Edwards University
Lara Wright as Corine, “Triumph of Love,” Austin Playhouse
Traci Lee as Eponine, “Les Miserables,” Zach Theatre
Tiffany Mann as Blues Singer, “One Night With Janis,” Zach Theatre
June Julian as Christmas Eve, “Avenue Q,” Austin Theatre Project
Best Direction of a Musical
M. Scott Tatum and Julianna E. Wright, “Passing Strange,” Half & Half Productions
Jim Lindsay, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” Wimberley Players
Robert Westenberg, “The Secret Garden,” St. Edwards University
Michael McKelvey, “A Minister’s Wife,” Penfold Theatre
Barbara Schuller, “Edges” Austin Theatre Project
Matt Lenz, “Les Miserables” Zach Theatre
Marco Bazan, “Avenue Q,” Austin Theatre Project
Best Musical Direction
John Vander Ghenyst, “Passing Strange,” Half & Half Productions
Chelsea Manasseri and Jennifer Coy, “Sing Muse,” Vortex Rep
Michael McKelvey, “Swing!” Summerstock Austin
David Blackburn, “Edges,” Austin Theatre Project
Allen Robertson, “Les Miserables”, Zach Theatre
Michael McKelvey and Steve Suagey , “The Ministers Wife” Penfold Theatre
Susan Finnigan , “The Secret Garden” St. Edwards Mary Moody Northen Theatre
Best Production of a Musical
“A Minister’s Wife,” Penfold Theater
“The Secret Garden,” St. Edwards Mary Moody Northen Theatre
“Avenue Q,” Austin Theatre Project
“Swing!,” Summerstock Austin
“Les Miserables,” Zach Theatre
“Thoroughly Modern Millie,” Georgetown Palace Theatre
“Triumph of Love,” Austin Playhouse
Best Original Play
“Three, or the Sound of the Great Existential Nothingness,” Timothy Braun, Breaking String
“The Cruel Circus,” Connor Hopkins, Trouble Puppet
“Invisible Inc,”Paul Menzer, Hidden Room Theatre
“Sing Muse,” Vortex Rep. Music by Chelsea Manasseri, Rudy Ramirez, and Melissa Vogt-Patterson. Lyrics by Jennifer Coy, Krysta Gonzales, Jonathan Itchon, Chelsea Manasseri, Betsy McCann, Melissa Vogt-Patterson, Hayley Armstrong, Nickclette Izuegbu, Laura Ray, Karen Rodriguez, and Rudy Ramirez.
“Mad Beat Hip and Gone,” By Steven Dietz, Zach Theatre
Best Non-Traditional Theatre
(One man shows/puppetry/dance theatre etc.)
“The Cruel Circus,” Trouble Puppet
“Tru,” Zach Theatre
“Heaven-Earth-One,” Blue Lapis Light
“This Wonderful Life,” Zach Theatre
“The Belle of Amherst,” Austin Shakespeare
“It’s a Wonderful Life, a Radio Play” Penfold Theatre
Best Costume Design
Chin-Hua Yeh, “Intimate Apparel,” UT-Austin
Carl Booker, “Little Shop of Horrors,” Zilker Theatre Productions
Buffy Manners, “Measure for Measure,” St. Edwards University
Glenda Barnes, “Triumph of Love,” Austin Playhouse
Susan Branch Towne, “Museum” St. Edwards University
Veronica Dobel Prior, “National Pastime,” Austin Theatre Project
Tamar Madrigal, “Will Rogers Follies”, Georgetown Palace Theatre
Best Scenic Design
Michelle Ney, “Harvey,” Zach Theatre
Andy Berkovsky, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” City Theatre
Ann Marie Gordon, “Qualities of Starlight,” Vortex Rep
Carroll Dolezal, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” Wimberley Players
Leilah Stewart, “Museum”, St. Edwards University
Ia Estera, “The Importance of Being Earnest,” St. Edwards Mary Moody Northen Theatre
Cliff Simon, “Les Miserables” Zach Theatre
Best Lighting Design
Jason Amato, “Heaven-Earth-One,” Blue Lapis Light
Larry Lehew, “Dial ‘M’ for Murder,” UT-Austin
Matthew Webb, “Les Miserables,” Zach Theatre
Kathryn Eader, “The Secret Garden,” St. Edwards University
Kathryn Eader, “Museum,” St. Edward’s Mary Moody Northen Theatre
Michelle Habeck, “Mad Beat Hip & Gone”, Zach theatre
Patrick Anthony, “Night Must Fall,” Different Stages
Outstanding Theatre within Austin City Limits
Austin Theatre Project
Capital T Theatre
Hyde Park Theatre
Outstanding Theatre Outside Of Austin City Limits
Sam Bass Community Theatre (Round Rock)
Georgetown Palace Theatre (Georgetown)
Wimberley Players (Wimberly)
Penfold Theatre (Round Rock)
Emily Ann Theatre (Wimberly)
Baker Gaslight Theatre (Bastrop)
Outstanding Academic Theatre (Colleges or High Schools)
University of Texas at Austin, Department of Theatre and Dance
St. Edwards University Mary Moody Northen Theatre
McCallum High School
Southwestern University Sarofim School of Arts Department of Theatre and Dance
Eastview High School
Bowie High school
St, Andrew Episcopal High School
Outstanding Contribution to Central Texas Theatre
(Any format, as a critic, a producer, a patron, an actor, etc.)
Connor Hopkins – Writer and Puppet Designer
Vincent Hooper – Outstanding Youth Performer
Mary Ellen Butler – Theatre Director
Anne Cincoinella – Theatre Director
Dave Steakley – Theatre Director
Bridgett Farias – Actor, Director, Theatre Educator
Bonnie McCullum – Director, Theatre Pioneer
The Final Announcement of the Recipient for each category will be announced Friday May 2, 2014.
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- Published on Saturday, 19 April 2014 09:20
Short Stories-True Tall Tales from the American Edge
Sunday, May 4 @ 7:00 p.m. AND 8:30 p.m.
Austin Preview Performances for Edinburgh Fringe. Tickets $10 at the door. 2 SHOWS (7 and 8:30 pm). Save your seats by calling and making a reservation. 512-479-PLAY (7529) for reservations. Shows will be video taped. Tickets: $10. All ages.
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- Published on Friday, 18 April 2014 15:11
Written by Austin Dowling
Directed by Conner Palmore and Austin Dowling
Featuring Julia Bauer, Jerry Berger, Malori Carr, Quinton Johnson, Devin Medley, Kevin Poole, and Brad Rizzo.
Design: Lights/Media - Nolan Thomas, Set - Kay McGuire, Costume - Kelly Decker
Stage Manager: Joe Heike
Sunday, May 4th @ 8pm; Monday, May 5th @ 2pm; Tuesday, May 6th @ 8pm
Venue: Studio 2.180 Winship Drama Building, University of Texas, near 23rd and San Jacinto
IMPACT is a coming of age story about a classroom in Lloyd B. Jones High School and the difficulties that they all must face inside the school. Each member of this group is given the chance to share their story as they prepare to never walk these halls again. In doing so, they ask themselves what it means to change the world, and what mark each of them will leave on it. How big of an influence can one person from the small town of Kingston be?
*Disclaimer - This show contains mature content, and is not intended for all audiences.
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CTXLT review: COME BACK TO THE FIVE & DIME, JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN, Wimberley Players, April 11 - May 4, 2014
- Published on Thursday, 17 April 2014 13:35
by Michael Meigs
Reunions are some of the most exquisite torture to which we ordinary folk submit ourselves. They offer the chance to click the button on the stopwatch of time and to discover how lives have diverged -- or not. It's the shock of the transformed familiar, perhaps, or it's a moment to flaunt or at least assess ourselves. One of my classmates assiduously dieted away twenty pounds to present herself renewed at a high school reunion. And I acknowledge being taken aback by some mercifully long-forgotten adolescent attractions and rivalries.
That may be one reason for the enduring popularity for community theatres of Ed Graczyk's Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. It uses a twenty-year reunion gathering in the dying town of McCarthy, Texas, to lever out secrets, salve old wounds and create new ones.
Graczyk developed the playscript in Columbus, Ohio, drawing on earlier experiences out in Midland, Texas and around. The setting is an imaginary crossroads with a 5 & 10 cent store, two hours' bus ride away from Marfa, where the exteriors for the 1956 film Giant were filmed. James Dean starred in that film, a version of the Edna Ferber novel, and he played a fictionalized version of the extravagant Texas oil wildcatter Glen Herbert McCarthy (hence, Graczyk's name for the locality). We as audience are awaiting the arrival of various women who as teenagers enthusiastically named themselves the Disciples of James Dean when Dean came to West Texas.
As is characteristic of such gatherings, the fast friends have scattered and generally lost contact, except for three who wound up still in this slowly decaying town where fun is pretty much limited is counting the passing railway cars. Juanita, the proprietor of the five and dime, took over the management after the death of her husband Clarence, the owner; she's an almost stereotypical small-town Baptist teetotaler. Blond Sissy was the party girl and wound up back home after her husband left her behind to accept an oilfield job out in the Arab world. And Mona, president of the Disciples, is a stay-in-McCarthy single mom with an overprotected twenty-year-old boy named "Jimmy Dean."
The smalltown set-up and sharply outlined eccentric rural Texas characters are a now-familiar device on the American stage, immediately establishing expectations: surely these are simple folk, left behind by wider American society, objects of indulgent comedy. Horton Foote worked these fields and raised some durable, complex and iconic characters; the trio Jones, Hope and Wooten have made their conjoined career with the Futrell sisters and other laughables from Texas and from the South.
Graczyk's piece is both of this broader tradition and defiant of it. While there's plenty to smile at -- Sissy's boasting about sneaking into the graveyard to tangle with boyfriends on the overturned tombstones, Juanita's scandalized reaction to the beer brought in for the reunion party, Mona's reverence for the James Dean shrine in one corner of the store and her latest relic from the abandoned tumbled-down movie set -- the playwright also sets out to demolish dreams and remind us of his characters' frustrations and bad choices.
Memories good and bad, accurate or erroneous, haunt the play and the reunion as three additional Disciples make their way onstage. The scene slips unexpectedly between 1976 and 1956, maybe surprising you the first time because the tell-tale shift in Bill Peeler's lighting plot is too subtle.
Director David Bisett has nicely matched up actresses for three principal characters and their adolescent former selves. Kortnee McDowell is brassy Sissy, big-boobed and proud of it, and Laura Jean Tomerlin is her earlier self. Celeste Coburn's the worried long-haired and carelessly coiffed Mona, wrapped still in dreams of her all too brief moments as an extra in the film ("that's me, right behind Elizabeth Taylor's left ear") and a night of love making on the porch of the Reata mansion set, with Leigh Shelton of cute bangs and heart-shaped face as her counterpart. The women initially take reserved Joanne (Brandi Rose Achley) as an outsider but eventually connect her with their moody classmate Joe (Jarred Tomlinson). Linked characters share characteristics and appearance, reinforcing the credibility of the time shifts. One noticeable discrepancy, however, comes with the lovely Monas: young Mona has a pert, emphatic, thrusting way about her, while older Mona is generally static and staid. Granted, the years wear on us, but it would have been reassuring to recognize the persistence of that sort of lively moué.
Two of the returnees have no doubles, but since the principle of time shifts has already been established, as secondary figures they really don't need them. Graczyk has written their parts simply to shift focus of dialogue without appreciable change of character. Tracy Arnold is a wise-cracking delight as childless country club matron Stella Mae. Her direct opposite is Lindsey Burnett as the simple-minded mom Edna Louise, heavily pregnant with her seventh child. (Mind you, you might have to squint to imagine the two as strict contemporaries, but they're not intimidated by the task).
A word of appreciation, yet again, for the design and the subtlety of this set. A sand-colored back scrim establishes effortlessly the impression of vast sun-drenched desolation beyond the windows of the Five and Dime, and the interior set by Denice Calley is wide, authentic and entirely practicable. I greatly appreciated the counter and fountain stools at stage left and the table and chairs in red plastic and aluminum tubing at the center. Stagings of this work always feature a scrupulously constructed display of James Dean memorabilia, and the Players can be proud of theirs, at stage right. Costuming by Kathy Maldonado is comfortable and correct; I liked the saddle shoes from 1956, even though they'd probably have been in leather instead of canvas back then.
These women can be raucous and rough-talking, in either era. Come Back to the Five & Dime turns an ironic and often unfriendly eye upon sex, whether the luminous desires of the young or the bitter accommodations of their older avatars. All but one of these characters has a secret that gets revealed in the course of the evening, ranging from the scandalous (at least, for 1976) to the deluded to the bizarre to the disappointed. Only sweet simple pregnant Eda Mae has survived growing up sexually without being damaged. That may have been the lesson: embrace sexuality and apply it to the creation of family or else resign ourselves to the absurdities and desperate secrets of that basic human yearning.
New York critics didn't care much for the play, deriding it as formulaic and exploitative, but cinema genius Robert Altman purchased the rights and turned it into a 1982 film that has pretty much slipped from sight. But the play Come Back to the Five & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean still speaks to us, even those who haven't a clue about the brooding power of the doomed James Dean.
Popular culture moves on, and probably the most vivid images in American imagination of that West Texas region are now the empty landscapes of the film of Cormac McCarthy's novel No Country for Old Men. Academy award winner Javier Bardem, however powerful in portraying the psychotic killer in that story, is a poor substitute for the moody mythos of Dean. Especially here in Central Texas -- after all, Marfa's only 400 miles from the Wimberley/Austin region. And lots of us have migrated here from distant small towns that are dying in our imaginations.
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- Published on Friday, 18 April 2014 10:58
Lah's Foot in the Door Theater presents
DIRECTED BY IMOGEN SEALY (A Jefferson Center Junior Fellow)
ASSISTANT DIRECTED BY HALEY WILLIAMS
Gearing Courtyard, 24th St. & University, University of Texas
April 17 - 20, 2014
evenings at 7 p.m. (7:30 p.m. on Sunday) and
Saturday, April 19 at 2 p.m.
A PORTION OF THE PROFITS WILL BE DONATED TO VOICES AGAINST VIOLENCE
- Published on Friday, 18 April 2014 10:29
- Published on Friday, 18 April 2014 09:43
May 16 - June 1, 2014
Fridays - Sundays at 8 p.m.; Sunday matinees at 3 p.m.
Cellar Theater, Playhouse San Antonio
800 West Ashby at San Pedro Avenue, San Antonio - click for map
Sarah Ruhl’s brilliance at magic realism is brought to life (or afterlife) in this touching journey of one woman’s attempt to reconcile a dead stranger’s unfinished business with his family, friends, and coworkers without losing herself in someone else’s identity.
"The most exciting part of the rehearsal process thus far has been the people-- my talented, eclectic cast and the fantastic design team, all of whom have come to the table with such wonderful ideas, openness, and a good work ethic. These people understand the power of theater to change lives. They take this work seriously, and an artist at work is a beautiful thing," Thornton said. From the rehearsals we've seen, we already know this show is going to be a great one.
Cast: Sarah Fisch, Matthew Byron Cassi, Marisa Varela, Kathy Couser, E.J. Roberts, Meredith Alvarez
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- Auditions in Austin for Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare, Roving Shakespeare, May 2 and 3, 2014
- SHAKESPEARE IDOL, High School Shakespeare Competition at Long Center, April 26, 2014
- Auditions in Austin for BOB: A LIFE IN 5 ACTS by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb and A KID LIKE JAKE by Daniel Pearle, Half and Half Productions at McCallum Fine Arts Academy, April 26, 2014
- Steve Moore's COMPLEX SIMULATION OF THE OCEAN, profile by Eleanor Dearman in the Daily Texan, April 17, 2014
- Video Promo by Robert Moncrief: DULCEY AND ROXY AT CITY HALL, an Austin play by Maxsym Kurochkin, Breaking String Theatre Company at the Salvage Vanguard Theatre, May 2 - 17, 2014
- RUNNING WILD, Austin Children's Theatre at Baker Center, April 19 - 27, 2014
- CTXLT review: Marvin's Room by Scott McPherson, Trinity Street Players at First Austin, March 28 - April 13, 2014
- MUSICAL THEATRE PERFORMANCE SHOWCASE, University of Texas, May 1 and 2, 2014
- F*#%@d UP FAIRY TALES!!, Kings 'n' Things Birthday Show at The Elysium, Austin, April 26, 2014
- Job Posting: Assistant Prop Shop Supervisor, University of Texas Performing Arts