Sunday, May 31, 2009

Barack Hearts NY

Many of you have probably read about the President's visit to New York with Michelle to get dinner and see a Broadway show, so I'm sure it's not big news. Still, I just want to mention how happy I am that, for their first Broadway show as a couple, they chose a straight play: the Lincoln Center revival of August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone. The production opened in April to exceptional reviews, but the box office has been weak. There has been a glut of serious revivals of straight plays, and few people outside of critics seem to be excited by it. Hopefully, this will get more people excited about the show--and August Wilson--and make them more aware that there are straight plays on Broadway too.

Isn't it nice to have a president and first lady who support the arts?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

New Review Posted: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Centerstage has posted my review of Spelling Bee at the Marriott in Lincolnshire, which I saw on Wednesday night. You can read the review here, with all of the pretty pictures and information, or just read it below.

I really do recommend it strongly, by the way--it is one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time, and the acting is really exceptional. If you have a car and $45, it's very worth the trek to Lincolnshire. (And I bet discounts can be found.)

Anyhow, here is the review:

"I'm not that smart," confesses Leaf Coneybear (Derrick Trumbly). He's been home-schooled, undermined by his many siblings, wears bizarre clothes that he designed himself, and is socially awkward to the point of behavioral disorder.

Yet, as he finds, he is that smart — he's made it to the titular spelling bee and spells with the best of them. Similarly, one might dismiss The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee as nothing much — who wants to see pubescent kids struggle through a spelling bee and sing about it? Well, the doubters are wrong: the show is utterly hilarious, surprisingly warm, and almost criminally entertaining.

The play, with a brilliantly witty, Tony-winning book by Rachel Sheinkin and a zippy and tuneful score by William Finn, focuses on six misfit contestants at the regional spelling bee finals. All focused on the final prize, a trip to Washington DC for the national finals. Three clueless adults attempt to help them along, while often getting caught up in their own dramas. Each has their own bizarre set of quirks, from William Barfee (Eric Roediger), overweight, allergic to everything, and hostile to everyone, to Marcy Park (Katie Boren), chafing against her constant record of overachievement.

Director/choreographer Rachel Rockwell has shaped the cast into one of the best ensembles I've seen in a long time. Each of the nine actors has a razor-sharp take on his or her character, down to the tiny quirks and habits, yet none hogs the spotlight. It’s really extraordinary work.

The physical production is perfectly in line with the show's sensibility — Nancy Missimi's costumes are particularly spot-on — and the show is exceptionally well-sung and played. It's not for the easily offended, but it's one of the best combinations of hilarity and heart around, and more fun than I've had at the theatre in months.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Blog Exclusive Review: Owen Wingrave at Chicago Opera Theater

Mrs. Julian (Brenda Harris), General Sir Philip Wingrave (Robin Leggate), Miss Wingrave (Mary Jane Johnson), and Kate Julian (Jennifer Johnson) scold Owen Wingrave (Matthew Worth) in Chicago Opera Theater's Owen Wingrave. Photo by Liz Lauren.

An opera without its central character is in serious trouble. But don't cast stones at Matthew Worth, the capable singer portraying the title role in Owen Wingrave, Benjamin Britten's 1971 opera now onstage at Chicago Opera Theater. It would take a genius performer to create a compelling character from the cipher at the center of Myfawy Piper's libretto. 

Based on a Henry James short story, Owen Wingrave tells the story of the scion of a famous military family who announces, while at military school, that he has become a pacifist. Not only does he refuse to go to war, he believes that war itself is criminal. In his family and era (late Victorian) this is downright horrifying. Unfortunately, the audience never understands what led Owen to change his mind, or how he feels about going against his family. (He's also going against potential fiancee Kate, but the lack of chemistry between Worth and Jennifer Johnson indicates that he isn't too worried about that.) Owen's only sustained self-expression comes in an Act 2 aria that reaches the heights of cliche in its paean to the beauty of peace.

If the audience doesn't understand who Owen is or why he does what he does, they have precious little reason to care what happens to him. It doesn't help that Owen's arguments with his family are repetitive--the characters never seem to communicate or even change tactics, just shout the same things repeatedly. This may be true to how families argue, but it is mighty trying to watch.

But what of the music? What of the singing? I'll be the first to admit no expertise in operatic music, or any particular knowledge of Britten, but here goes: this work (written for television near the end of Britten's career) shows a clear atonal influence. This is not in itself a problem--Britten creates snatches of stunning music. The problem is that whenever something exciting starts to happen, it ends almost immediately. The pieces of interesting music seem to get lost, because they never develop into anything coherent. There may be an excellent reason for this fragmentation, but it gets in the way of the audience's emotional involvement, at least on first listen.

Conductor Steuart Bedford is a Britten expert--in fact, he conducted the original television production of Owen Wingrave--and he leads orchestra and singers through a confident performance of an exceptionally challenging score (though the orchestra drowned out the singers for the first 20 minutes or so). The cast were particularly impressive for their ensemble work--this is not an opera that allows for diva moments.

Ken Cazan's production doesn't solve the work's dramatic problems, and creates a few of its own. For instance, the set changes are performed by supernumeraries dressed in identical "old man" costumes, wigs, and makeup. The idea may be to represent the repressive conformity and weight of tradition in the Wingrave family home, but the costumes are so obviously fake that the overall effect is comic. The other production choices may not be so wrongheaded, but they are often uninspired. There are a few impressive stage pictures, but the production rarely leaps from the stage.

Chicago Opera Theater claims to produce operas that are compelling dramatically as well as musically, to present opera that is also theatre. It's the reason they invited a theatre critic such as myself to the show. They are admirable for reaching in to dark corners of the operatic repertory to produce works that might otherwise remain unseen. This approach often pays dividends, but this time they've ended up with exactly the musically impressive but emotionally remote evening that the company endeavors to avoid.

Owen Wingrave runs May 20, 22, 26 at 7:30 PM and May 24 at 3:00 PM at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park, 205 E Randolph St in Chicago. Tickets, $30-$120, can be purchased online at and by phone at 312-704-8414

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Three Interesting Tidbits

Three very interesting things have come to light recently, one with national implications, two others more Chicago-based.

1) According to The New York Times and many others, the nominee for the new head of the National Endowment for the Arts is Broadway producer Rocco Landesman. Landesman, the ehad of the Jujamcyn theatre chain, which owns five Broadway houses, is seen by many as a surprise choice. First off, he comes from the world of commercial theatre, not non-profit. I'm also not aware of his having done significant work as an activist beforehand. However, I'm very pleased by this news. First off, someone from the theatre world might end up giving theatre a bit of a leg up. Second of all, Landesman is known for being extremely strong-willed and combative. He gets things done. We need that a hell of a lot more than we need a bureaucrat who'll be polite to everyone. The arts doesn't need someone to beg and make deals, we need a very prominent, very fiery person who will stand up and demand that the nation start to support the arts in the same way that the arts support the nation. Plus, this is one piece of news that actually made Leonard Jacobs happy about something related to government arts funding. And that's a feat in and of itself. Perhaps the much-ballyhooed "new models" will finally start appearing? (L--I tease because I love.)

Also, Landesman got his PhD in criticism and dramatic literature. Who'd have imagined that a critic would get so far? I wonder if it will do anything for us tireless scribblers...

2) As reported by Chris Jones and others, Tracy Letts' Superior Donuts, which had its premiere last summer at Steppenwolf, is in talks for a Broadway move. I really enjoyed the show, but I have some doubts about its commercial possibilities: the critical response, while strong, was not unanimous raves (I was probably one of the strongest supporters), and it is very Chicago-centric--indeed, one of the reasons I loved it so much is that it takes place in my own neighborhood of Uptown, and I could recognize many of the references in the script and production. However, I'm still glad for the move, especially if they maintain the original cast. If it does make the transfer, Jon Hill is certain to get some attention--he's just exceptional. And it is, in fact, a wonderful play, and one that I think has a lot of universal appeal. We'll see if it works!

3) The Goodman's Desire Under The Elms is not doing well in its Broadway run. Reviews were decent, but they are currently filling only 35% of seats at the St James (a theatre usually reseved for big musicals--I still don't understand why they chose such a gigantic house for a revival of a somewhat obscure O'Neill play) and they came up empty at the Tony nominations, even for actress Carla Gugino and Walt Spangler's set. The Times pegs May 24th as the early closing date.

So, thoughts on the NEA and Broadway? Things are interesting, no?

Monday, May 11, 2009

First Night is TONIGHT!!! (That is, Tuesday, May 12)

Tonight, Tuesday May 12th, Stage Left Theatre is celebrating First Night for LeapFest 6! At 7:30 PM at T's Bar, 5025 North Clark Street in Chicago, come join the people of Stage Left for food drinks, games, and all kinds of merriment, along with scenes from all of this year's plays. It will be a fantastic time, and a portion of your food and drink orders will go to Stage Left! You can find more information at our website.

Also, here is the amazing video trailer for the show that I'm assisstant directing, M. E. H. Lewis'  Hungry Ghosts.  LeapFest has shows March 14-30, and Hungry Ghosts  performs Sunday, May 17 at 2:00 PM, Saturday, May 23 at 7:30 PM, and Friday, May 19 at 7:30 PM. Tickets and information by calling 773-883-8830 or visiting

See you at the theatre!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Not On Chicago Theatre

First off, I've been blogging a lot the past few days--in fact, my total number of posts for May has already passed the total for April. So please, check them out and give me some comments!

Now, on to our regularly scheduled post.

Those of you who feel like too much attention is given to Broadway would do well to skip this post. The Tony nominations were announced on Tuesday, and herewith are a few of my thoughts, plus a list of the nominations. You can also find this list at Playbill, the New York Times, and the official Tony site, as well as all sorts of chatter from all sorts of other blogs.

--First, and most importantly: I CALLED IT. What did I call? In September, when the Public Theatre announced the transfer of Hair to Broadway, I wrote that (if they moved to Broadway with it) we could expect Tony nominations for leads Jonathan Groff, Will Swenson, and Patina Renae Miller. Groff and Miller didn't move to Broadway (Groff is in Prayer For My Enemy Off-Broadway and is nursing a film career, while Miller is playing the Whoopi Goldberg part in the musical version of Sister Act that just started preview in London), but Swenson is right up there among the nominees! His Berger is absolutely scorching, and he seems to be an early front-runner for the award. Hair walked away with 8 nominations, also including musical revival, actor (Gavin Creel, in Groff's former role of Claude), director Diane Paulus, choreographer Karole Armitage, as well as the costumes, lighting and sound. West Side Story only got 4 nominations, so the showdown of the revivals might already have been decided. (Hair is, incidentally, the only nominated production I have seen.)

--This year provided a starker example than most that Tony nominators have incredibly short memories. The most shocking example of this is the inexplicable absence of the revival of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull from revival of a play, or star Kristin Scott Thomas from actress in a play. The production was hailed by many critics (and my parents, who saw it, the lucky bastards) as the best imaginable production of Chekhov. It was, reportedly, transcendent. It also closed in January, and apparently any transcendence was lost in the rash of openings in the month of April. Don't cry for the producers of The Seagull, though--they have their acclaim to keep them warm, not to mention the fact that they turned an honest to God profit doing Chekhov on Broadway. This may be even harder than doing a perfect production of a Chekhov play.

The bias towards late openings is most obvious in the play revival category. All four nominees--Joe Turner's Come and Gone, Mary Stuart, The Norman Conquests,  and Waiting For Godot--were extremely well-received, and doubtless belong in this category. However, all four also opened in the last two weeks of April. Plenty of other closed shows were virtually absent--such as the popular revivals of Equus and All My Sons. The only closed show that has received significant nominations is Horton Foote's Dividing The Estate, and I fear that Foote's recent death may have had something to do with breaking the trend.

Other interesting things:

--Billy Elliott got 15 nominations, tying The Producers' record, including a single best actor nomination for the three boys playing Billy. The show will be in competition with Next To Normal, the musical about bipolar disorder, which apparently improved greatly on the road from Off-Broadway to Arena Stage in DC to Broadway. Next to Normal is much smaller and darker than Billy Elliott, but it is also an American show. Should be interesting.

--In what has got to be some kind of record, all four cast members of The God of Carnage--Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini, and Marcia Gay Harden--were nominated in their respective lead categories. How many plays have four real leads?

--Jane Fonda got nominated for best actress for 33 Variations. Her performance got a strong response, but does anyone think she would have been nominated if she weren't Jane Fonda?

--Fonda possibly aside, most of the household names nominated got rave reviews, and plenty of celebrities who got raves weren't nominated: Nathan Lane, Bill Irwin, John Goodman, John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, Daniel Radcliffe, Richard Griffiths, Jeremy Piven (hmmmm, wonder why?), Susan Sarandon, and Rupert Everett, to name a few. Meanwhile, it's heartening to see so many stalwart theatre actors, who are anything but household names, among the nominees.

--I already have some predictions for who will win the awards, but I'll leave that for closer to the ceremony. One major one, though: I think this year will spread the wealth. Enough excellent shows open that I don't think any one can sweep. We'll see.

So, what are your thoughts? Seen any of the shows? Have any reactions? Let us know?

A full list of nominees is below:

Nominations for the 2009 American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards®
Presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing

Best Play

Dividing the Estate
Author: Horton Foote
God of Carnage
Author: Yasmina Reza
Reasons to Be Pretty
Author: Neil LaBute
33 Variations
Author: Moisés Kaufman

Best Musical

Billy Elliot, The Musical
Next to Normal
Rock of Ages
Shrek The Musical

Best Book of a Musical

Billy Elliot, The Musical Lee Hall
Next to Normal Brian Yorkey
Shrek The Musical David Lindsay-Abaire
[Title of Show] Hunter Bell

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre

Billy Elliot, The Musical
Music: Elton John
Lyrics: Lee Hall

Next to Normal
Music: Tom Kitt
Lyrics: Brian Yorkey

9 to 5: The Musical
Music & Lyrics: Dolly Parton

Shrek The Musical
Music: Jeanine Tesori
Lyrics: David Lindsay-Abaire

Best Revival of a Play

Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
Mary Stuart
The Norman Conquests
Waiting for Godot

Best Revival of a Musical

Guys and Dolls
Pal Joey
West Side Story

Best Special Theatrical Event

Liza’s at The Palace
Slava’s Snowshow
Soul of Shaolin
You’re Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play

Jeff Daniels, God of Carnage
Raúl Esparza, Speed-the-Plow
James Gandolfini, God of Carnage
Geoffrey Rush, Exit the King
Thomas Sadoski, Reasons to Be Pretty

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play

Hope Davis, God of Carnage
Jane Fonda, 33 Variations
Marcia Gay Harden, God of Carnage
Janet McTeer, Mary Stuart
Harriet Walter, Mary Stuart

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical

David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish – Billy Elliot, The Musical
Gavin Creel, Hair
Brian d’Arcy James, Shrek The Musical
Constantine Maroulis, Rock of Ages
J. Robert Spencer, Next to Normal

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical

Stockard Channing, Pal Joey
Sutton Foster, Shrek The Musical
Allison Janney, 9 to 5: The Musical
Alice Ripley, Next to Normal
Josefina Scaglione, West Side Story

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play

John Glover, Waiting for Godot
Zach Grenier, 33 Variations
Stephen Mangan, The Norman Conquests
Paul Ritter, The Norman Conquests
Roger Robinson, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play

Hallie Foote, Dividing the Estate
Jessica Hynes, The Norman Conquests
Marin Ireland, Reasons to Be Pretty
Angela Lansbury, Blithe Spirit
Amanda Root, The Norman Conquests

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical

David Bologna, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Gregory Jbara, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Marc Kudisch, 9 to 5: The Musical
Christopher Sieber, Shrek The Musical
Will Swenson, Hair

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical

Jennifer Damiano, Next to Normal
Haydn Gwynne, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Karen Olivo, West Side Story
Martha Plimpton, Pal Joey
Carole Shelley, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Best Scenic Design of a Play

Dale Ferguson, Exit the King
Rob Howell, The Norman Conquests
Derek McLane, 33 Variations
Michael Yeargan, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

Best Scenic Design of a Musical

Robert Brill, Guys and Dolls
Ian MacNeil, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Scott Pask, Pal Joey
Mark Wendland, Next to Normal

Best Costume Design of a Play

Dale Ferguson, Exit the King
Jane Greenwood, Waiting for Godot
Martin Pakledinaz, Blithe Spirit
Anthony Ward, Mary Stuart

Best Costume Design of a Musical

Gregory Gale, Rock of Ages
Nicky Gillibrand, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Tim Hatley, Shrek The Musical
Michael McDonald, Hair

Best Lighting Design of a Play

David Hersey, Equus
David Lander, 33 Variations
Brian MacDevitt, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
Hugh Vanstone, Mary Stuart

Best Lighting Design of a Musical

Kevin Adams, Hair
Kevin Adams, Next to Normal
Howell Binkley, West Side Story
Rick Fisher, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Best Sound Design of a Play

Paul Arditti, Mary Stuart
Gregory Clarke, Equus
Russell Goldsmith, Exit the King
Scott Lehrer and Leon Rothenberg, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

Best Sound Design of a Musical

Acme Sound Partners, Hair
Paul Arditti, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Peter Hylenski, Rock of Ages
Brian Ronan, Next to Normal

Best Direction of a Play

Phyllida Lloyd, Mary Stuart
Bartlett Sher, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
Matthew Warchus, God of Carnage
Matthew Warchus, The Norman Conquests

Best Direction of a Musical

Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Michael Greif, Next to Normal
Kristin Hanggi, Rock of Ages
Diane Paulus, Hair

Best Choreography

Karole Armitage, Hair
Andy Blankenbuehler, 9 to 5: The Musical
Peter Darling, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Randy Skinner, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas

Best Orchestrations

Larry Blank, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas
Martin Koch, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Michael Starobin and Tom Kitt, Next to Normal
Danny Troob and John Clancy, Shrek The Musical

* * *

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
Jerry Herman

Regional Theatre Tony Award
Signature Theatre, Arlington, Va.

Isabelle Stevenson Award
Phyllis Newman

Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre
Shirley Herz

* * *

Tony Nominations by Production

Billy Elliot, The Musical - 15
Next to Normal - 11
Hair - 8
Shrek The Musical - 8
Mary Stuart - 7
The Norman Conquests - 7
God of Carnage - 6
Joe Turner’s Come and Gone - 6
Rock of Ages - 5
33 Variations - 5
Exit the King - 4
9 to 5: The Musical - 4
Pal Joey - 4
West Side Story - 4
Reasons to Be Pretty - 3
Waiting for Godot - 3
Blithe Spirit - 2
Dividing the Estate - 2
Equus - 2
Guys and Dolls - 2
Irving Berlin’s White Christmas - 2
Liza’s at The Palace - 1
Slava’s Snowshow - 1
Soul of Shaolin - 1
Speed-the-Plow - 1
[Title of Show] - 1

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I'm The Guest Writer For Cliche Watch!

The excellent and rather brilliant Benno Nelson, in addition to his fantastic blog, writes a weekly "Cliché Watch" for the blog of The New Colony. He explores various theatrical cliches, and for the past few weeks, they've been formatted as debates rather than as monologues. He very graciously asked me to write this week, on a particular hated cliche of mine--dead relatives onstage. Yes, they've been around since Hamlet at least, but they've been inescapable since (the wildly overrated) Proof. And I've had about enough.

You can read my piece and Benno's response here. Please read and share your opinions on this particular cliche, and suggest topics for future installments!

Free Tickets For The Lieutenant of Inishmore!

Last night I got this announcement about free seats for The Lieutenant of Inishmore at Northlight. I assembled the research for this show, and it's going to be a total blast--dark, intensely violent, and hilarious. And if you act soon, you can see it tonight for free! Details below:

Free Tickets for Northlight Theatre’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore!
We’d like to PACK THE HOUSE for The Lieutenant of Inishmore on Wednesday, May 6 at 7:30pm.

For your FREE tickets, e-mail no later than 4pm on Wednesday with the # of tickets you’d like. Subject to availability – you will receive a confirmation e-mail if your request is fulfilled.

The Lieutenant of Inishmore is a gun-packing, fur-flying “killer” comedy from Martin McDonagh, author of A Skull in Connemara, The Cripple of Inishmaan and the Oscar-nominated film In Bruges. "Wee Thomas" the cat has been killed, and the folks back home dread breaking the news to Padraic, a ruthless Irish hitman who is none too happy about his beloved pet's demise. Visit for more about the show!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Blog Exclusive Review: La Tragedie De Carmen

La Tragédie de Carmen Fascinates, But Falls Short of Gripping

Sandra Piques Eddy and Noah Stewart as Carmen and Don José in La Tragédie De Carmen at Chicago Opera Theater

It is all too rare that performers in operas actually fit their descriptions. How many Mimis from La Boheme have actually been thin and consumptive? How likely is it to find an authentically Japanese Madame Butterfly? And when was the last time that Carmen was sexy? Chicago Opera Theater's production of La Tragédie de Carmen, adapted by Peter Brook and Marius Constant from Bizet's legendary opera, has an exceptionally sexy Carmen in Sandra Piques Eddy. With a dark and enticing voice and fearless physicality, she makes you believe that a man would destroy his life for her. The problems, however, start with the other end of the central relationship. Noah Stewart's Don José has a stunning voice, and is believable enough as a soldier, but only in isolated flashes do we see the man destroyed by passion, the mutual sexual combustibility that would lead two people off a cliff. And without that, this production, despite its many exceptional qualities, never grabs you by the throat.

Brook, the legendary theatre director, and avant-garde composer Constant performed some pretty radical surgery on the original opera in the early 1980's: There are only 6 actors playing seven characters--the chorus is gone. The show is radically cut, down to only 80 minutes, and there are only 15 players in the orchestra. The music is reordered, reassigned and in one case, a recording.

I'm not an expert on the original, but Brook and Constant have created an exciting and satisfying play. The story is told sparely, but it's always easy to follow, and the show really moves and excites.

The production, however, somehow fails to grab. The virtues are many: in addition to Stewart's voice and Eddy's everything, the cast boasts a delicious, non-singing performance from Steppenwolf stalwart Rick Snyder in two small roles, as well as strong work from Michael Todd Simpson's Escamillo. (Krenare Gashi's histrionic and amateurish Michaela falls firmly into the debit column, though.) The 15-piece orchestra, under Alexander Platt, sounds amazing--especially percussionist Michael Folker, whose tympani playing during the Habanera is stunning. Chuck Coyl's fights actually look like they could do serious damage, and Christine Binder's lighting is exceptionally dramatic and exciting.

So what keeps this engaging, admirable show from being gripping? The aforementioned spotty chemistry is a serious issue, certainly. The Harris Theatre, at 1500 seats, is way too big for this show--I kept imagining how much better it would work in Northlight's space. (By the way, whoever decided to paint the lobby of the Harris with whitewash and then place neon lights in various lurid shades all over it should be banned from ever designing another theatre.) In the end, though, this production doesn't go far enough. To make this borderline melodramatic story work, the production needs more--more sex, more violence, more excitement. The show is still well worth seeing, especially for lovers of Bizet and Brook, but it never quite closes the deal.

La Tragédie de Carmen plays May 10 at 3 PM and May 13 and 15 at 7:30 PM at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park. Tickets are $17.50-120, and can be purchased by visiting

Things I Have Yet To Comment On

I've been lax about writing, but a flurry of posts are coming in the next few days (hopefully). Here are a few things I have failed to mention recently:

The nominations for Chicago's Non-Equity Jeff Awards have been announced. You can see the full list of nominations here, but here are a few thoughts:

--Congratulations to Brian Plocharczyk, nominated for Lead Actor for his work in Stage Left's fall show, After Ashley. He was exceptional. I'm disappointed that The Day of Knowledge didn't get any nominations, but we knew that was coming when the committee failed to recommend us. Ah well, you can't please all of the people all of the time.

--David Cromer's hugely popular production of Our Town (which I never got to see) was nominated for Production and Director, but had no acting or design nominations. Given that the praise was spread pretty widely for that show, I find that pretty shocking. (Cromer now has a version of Our Town running Off-Broadway which opened to similarly rave reviews, and similarly sold-out houses, and just won the Lucille Lortel for Best Revival and Best Director.)

--An advance congratulations to Amanda Hartley of The Robber Bridegroom, the only nominee for Supporting Actress in a Musical. Work on that speech.

--Have The Hypocrites gone equity since Our Town? I'm shocked at no nominations for The Threepenny Opera, which was one of my favorites of last season.

--Congratulations to Joanie Schultz! She directed me in Saint Joan when I was an undergrad and she was getting her MFA at Northwestern, and her production of In Arabia We'd All Be Kings got nominations for Production, Director, Ensemble, Leading Actor, and Supporting Actress.

--I'm not sure what was going on in the "New Adaptation" category, but neither of the shows in that category that I saw were successful adaptations. The Picture of Dorian Gray at Lifeline was not terribly scary (though Supporting Actor nominee Paul S. Holmquist did do strong work) and generally confused. And Scoundrel Time at City Lit somehow managed to take all of the drama out of the story of Lillian Hellman and the blacklist--quite a feat, but not quite nomination-worthy.

--Overall, it reminded me of how much theatre I don't see. I don't think I made it to more than six or eight of the nominated shows. Need to get on that in the future.


There has been shockingly little mention in the press of the death of Augusto Boal on Saturday. Boal was the legendary Brazilian director and educator who pioneered the "Theatre of the Oppressed," which used performance to engage people with their lives and political situations. Anybody who works in theatre education and creative drama has made use of his work, even if they haven't read his works. He  has left an exceptional legacy.


The Tony nominations are tomorrow, and today the committee announced the special awards. The winners include composer Jerry Herman, who won a Lifetime Achievement Award, and Washington DC's Signature Theatre, which won the Outstanding Regional Theatre award. Full details on Playbill.