Saturday, May 31, 2008

FringeNYC Town Meeting

So, summer festival season has REALLY BEGUN -- today we went to the FringeNYC Town Meeting, which is the official kickoff event for NYC's biggest theatre festival. The New York International Fringe Festival will run from August 8-24 at about 20 venues in downtown Manhattan. The lineup is sounding fine: about 200 shows from all over the world, including lots of work by old favorites and lots more by FringeNYC first-timers.

We were able to capture some of the excitement by interviewing some of the participants for our annual FringeNYC Town Hall podcast, which will be on the air in a couple of weeks on nytheatrecast. This will give listeners their first peek at some of the shows coming to this year's festival.

Our special FringeNYC Previews will be online at http://www.nytheatre.com/ on July 1st.

Here are some photos taken just before and after the Town Meeting. From top to bottom: Susan Bernfield talks to Rochelle Denton about her FringeNYC show; Richard Mazda of the Queens Players does a quick interview; Radiotheatre's Dan Bianchi; and Rochelle with FringeNYC Producing Artistic Director Elena K. Holy and participant Mike Wills.






Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The OTTY Awards


Last night, I was at Commerce Bank in Midtown to receive one of Our Town newspaper's "OTTY" Awards (that stands for "Our Town Thanks You"). nytheatre.com was recognized for making a "significant contribution to the community." I am very gratified by this honor.

In the photo, I am holding the OTTY Award (which is a very lovely glass apple); with me are David Gibbs, Rochelle Denton (holding the OTTY plaque), and Michael Criscuolo.
I am particularly pleased that nytheatre.com is getting some public recognition, and I was happy to be able to thank the hundreds of volunteers who provide content to nytheatre.com and make it the grassroots success that it has become. I am also glad that the theatre we cover on nytheatre.com is getting its due via this award as well.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Memorable Highlights of the Theatre Season

So the season-end awards are almost all given out now (only the Tonys remain); I felt it was time for me to weigh in with some of the productions that I will cherish from the 2007-08 season.

I called our nonprofit company "The New York Theatre Experience" for a very specific reason -- namely, that every single audience member's experience of the theatre scene in NYC is necessarily different. There is so much to choose from, and so much diversity, that not only is it impossible for two observers to have the exact same experience...it's also downright silly to want them to. All of this award-giving is reductive, taking the thousands of wonderful artistic contributions of the year and distilling them to a few "Best" or "Outstanding" ones.

What I choose to do is celebrate the variety. I had many, many terrific theatre experiences this season, and I want to share them with as many people as I can in the list that follows. The idea is that if some of these folks do work next season (as I sincerely hope they will), perhaps people reading this list will be moved to check it out.

The only rule I am adhering to in assembling this list is to not include anybody who won one of the theatre awards recently given out.

So herewith, a random and almost certainly incomplete list of the stuff to cherish from the past theatre season:
  1. Jeremy Shamos giving the finest performance yet of his career in Kate Fodor's very smart play 100 Saints You Should Know.
  2. Mia Katigbak giving another of her astonishing performances as the short-sided mother in Jorge Ignacio Cortinas's play Blind Mouth Singing.
  3. Teddy Bergman as an editor who falls in love with a mysterious poet in Paul Cohen's delightful comedy Cherubina, which had a great production directed by Alexis Poledouris for Performance Lab 115.
  4. Joel Jeske's hilarious performances in Princess Sunshine's Bitter Pill of Truth Funhouse at FringeNYC and Parallel Exit's Cut to the Chase at 59E59.
  5. Arthur French's brilliant turn as the old Firs-like servant in Horton Foote's Dividing the Estate--this performance got lost in the shuffle this spring.
  6. NAATCO's revival of Falsettoland was the highlight of the very exciting National Asian American Theatre Festival for me last summer, particularly the affecting performances of Manu Narayan as Whizzer and Ann Sanders as Trina.
  7. Jessica Lanius's amazing physical theater piece Firecracker, from Chekhov, was definitely one of the best new shows I saw this year.
  8. The Pearl Theatre's revival of Ibsen's Ghosts featured two revelatory leading performances: Joanne Camp as Mrs. Alving and Tom Galantich as Pastor Manders. And speaking of the Pearl: Sean McNall won a well-deserved Obie for his masterful Hamlet (among other work)--but where is the Obie or other award for Pearl artistic director Shep Sobel?
  9. The Talking Band's new show Imminence, at LaMaMa, was one of the most beautiful and heartfelt musicals I saw all year.
  10. Ditto the revival of Al Carmines & Gertrude Stein's In Circles, from Kaliyuga Arts. It was directed by John Sowle and music directed by Paul Boesing.
  11. Richard Crawford's remarkable portrayal of author Louis-Ferdinand Celine in The Flying Machine's brilliant Journey to the End of the Night was among the finest solo performances I saw all season.
  12. Stolen Chair Theatre Company mounted two fascinating, ambitious, and entirely different new plays this year, both written by Kiran Rikhye and directed by Jon Stancato: The Accidental Patriot and Kinderspiel.
  13. I said in my review that Kirk Bromley's new play Me is probably the most important new play of the season, and I still think so.
  14. Joe Hutcheson's charming one-man comedy Miss Magnolia Beaumont Goes to Provincetown was one of the nicest surprises of the year for me.
  15. Nowhere on the Border, which played last fall at Repertorio Espanol, was one of the most powerful works I saw this year. It's by Carlos Lacamara and was directed by Jose Zayas; the leads--both outstanding--were Ed Trucco as Gary and Ernest De Villa-Bejjani.
  16. Another very exciting one-person show was Naomi Emmerson's American debut in Piaf: Love Conquers All, first at the FringeNYC and then at Soho Playhouse.
  17. Victor Bumbalo's wise new play Questa had its NYC debut at Wings Theatre, and sadly went under almost everybody's radar.
  18. David Rhodes's solo show Rites of Privacy, at Urban Stages last fall, offered virtuoso acting and writing.
  19. I thought Uke Jackson's activist musical Sex! Drugs! & Ukuleles! was one of the most charming and provocative works of the season...and I felt privileged to hear his collaborator Terry Waldo, a great ragtime scholar, at the piano.
  20. The Devil & Tom Walker--created by director Yvonne Conybeare, playwright Anthony Pennino, and composer Rob Kendt for Metropolitan Playhouse--was a timely and very entertaining "morality musical."
  21. Terry Schreiber's production of The Night of the Iguana by Tennessee Williams was spectacularly good, with a standout set by George Allison and a standout performance (as Nono) by long-time indie actor Peter Judd.
  22. The Mint Theatre's production of Tolstoy's The Power of Darkness was a great contribution to the season; and Randy Danson's portrayal of a Mother Courage-esque survivor was one of the best characterizations of the season.
  23. The Culture Project presented Dan Hoyle's one-man play Tings Dey Happen, a riveting and grueling look at how the West has destroyed Nigeria. This was not just important, socially conscious playwriting, but also virtuousic acting.
  24. And here's one more memorable solo show: Tom Crean, Antartic Explorer, written and performed by Aidan Dooley at Irish Rep.
  25. And finally, something from Broadway: how is it that every award-giving body ignored what was, for me, the funniest performance of the Broadway season--Rosie Perez as Googie Gomez in The Ritz?

Let's make my very personal and very inadequate list even bigger! Send a comment with the stuff you cherished from your last 12 months of theatre-going. The only rule, once again, is that whatever/whoever you cite can't have received an award from anybody.

There is so much excellence in NYC theatre to celebrate. So let's celebrate it together. (And looking back on this wonderful work is a lot of fun, too.)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

More New Reviewers on nytheatre.com

Now that spring/summer theatre festival season is upon us, our squad of reviewers at nytheatre.com is expanding once again to handle to workload. I'm happy to welcome a total of 16 new reviewers to our staff this year:
  1. Kelly Aliano
  2. Andrew Bielski
  3. Micah Bucey
  4. Nat Cassidy
  5. Amber Gallery
  6. Joshua Chase Gold
  7. David Gordon
  8. Jason S. Grossman
  9. Kristin Skye Hoffmann
  10. Megin Jimenez
  11. Russell Kaplan
  12. Nathaniel Kressen
  13. Ryan Nicholoff
  14. Heather Lee Rogers
  15. Peter Schuyler
  16. Lucile Scott

You can learn more about them here. Like all of our volunteer reviewers, they're all practicing artists within the NYC indie theater community: playwrights, actors, directors, dramaturgs, composers, etc. -- with many of them wearing multiple hats. They will bring fresh perspective and talent to nytheatre.com, and I hope you'll enjoy reading their commentary.

All of our reviewers are either invited by me to join the squad or recommended by existing reviewers. They undergo a fairly rigorous orientation, which this year (for the first time) is done completely online using a wiki-based learning resource. Using Web 2.0 technology in this way has enabled us to add the new reviewers to our team in a much more convenient fashion than ever before.

And what will they all be reviewing? At nytheatre.com, we're committed to reviewing as much of the NYC theatre scene as possible, including (especially) theatre festivals, where too often shows are overlooked. Our roster of theatre festivals for 2008 includes: GayfestNYC, Brits Off Broadway, the Brick's Film Festival: A Theater Festival, soloNOVA Festival, East to Edinburgh, UndergroundZERO Festival, Midtown International Theatre Festival, New York Musical Theatre Festival, New York Clown Theatre Festival, and of course, in August, the New York International Fringe Festival. Watch for complete and comprehensive coverage of these (and possibly more!) as the summer progresses.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

On the Tony Nominations

Just a few observations about this year's slate for the Tony Awards.
  1. How did Cry Baby get nominated for Best Musical while A Catered Affair did not?
  2. How is it that James Earl Jones and Phylicia Rashad are nowhere on the list for their sterling work in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof?
  3. How did The 39 Steps get nominated for Best Play while The Farnsworth Invention and Is He Dead? and even November and Mauritius did not -- particularly considering that The 39 Steps' script can hardly be considered an original work (it's a parody)?
  4. How is it that the stunning design work of David Korins and Kevin Adams for Passing Strange has been ignored?
  5. From Young Frankenstein, Christopher Fitzgerald but not Shuler Hensley?
  6. From Xanadu, Kerry Butler but not Cheyenne Jackson, Mary Testa, or Jackie Hoffman?
  7. And where's Rosie Perez, who gave the season's funniest performance (hands down) in The Ritz?

Please comment and/or add your beefs here...

Friday, May 9, 2008

Martin Denton, Tony Awards Expert

I have been asked (for the third year in a row) by my friend Tom O'Neil of Gold Derby to be a Tony Award Pundit. This time around, Tom has asked us to guess not only the winners (which we'll do in a few weeks) but also the nominees in the major categories.

So I put my prognosticating cap on and took a stab. The results (for me and the other four Experts) are on Tom's Gold Derby site, here:

http://goldderby.latimes.com/awards_goldderby/2008/05/experts-predict.html

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Playing with Canons Alumni are Rockin' NYC Stages

One of the missions of the play anthologies that I edit and that NYTE publishes--indeed, the MAIN mission--is to call attention to notable but not-yet-well-known playwrights, so that people in the theatre community can get a first look at the work that will define American drama in years to come.

In October 2006 we published Playing with Canons, which contains 18 plays, and the contributors to this volume have not let us down, not one bit.

This week, there are excellent new plays on the boards in NYC by no fewer than four of the authors featured in Playing with Canons:
  • Kirk Wood Bromley's new play Me, at the Ohio Theater, is an extraordinary work about personhood, social responsibility, and autobiography
  • Kiran Rikhye's The Accidental Patriot combines the swashbuckler genre with an unlikely counterpart, Greek tragedy
  • Matt Freeman's When is a Clock is a journey into the worlds of noir and surrealism for this versatile young playwright
  • Anthony P. Pennino's The Devil and Tom Walker is a musical (score by Rob Kendt) based on a Washington Irving story about greed

I highly recommend that you check out one or all four this weekend to discover voices that are exciting and singular in contempoary indie theater.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

nytheatrecast Goes Bilingual

Today we are releasing our podcast about TeatroStageFest, the Latino-themed theatre festival that will be playing all over NYC during the first two weeks of June. I got a chance to sit down with the festival's founder/artistic director, Susana Tubert, and she tells us ALL about how TeatroStageFest came to be and what this year (the 2nd annual edition) will bring.

As we were planning the podcast, Susana came up with the truly wonderful suggestion that we record a version in Spanish. The festival is entirely bilingual...so the nytheatrecast about the festival, should be bilingual, too--right?

So, with the assistance of TeatroStageFest marketing director Javier Gomez (who did the Spanish language interview with Susana), we have made nytheatrecast into the cosmopolitan program that we always knew it should be. I am very proud that we're now bilingual, and look forward to more opportunities to do this again in the future.

The English language version of the podcast may be downloaded here. The Spanish version is here.

Now I'm Free on Friday Night...

That's the good news; the bad news -- at least for the producers of Glory Days -- is that the reason I'm free is that I won't be reviewing their show. It closed last night -- the same night it opened.

I had actually been curious about this little musical that was so successful at DC's Signature Theatre. But now I'll never know.

From what I do know about it, it does strike me as pretty far-fetched for producers to have imagined that a show like this belongs on Broadway. I wonder if Glory Days might have found a more welcoming home at a small space off-Broadway.

At any rate, as far I can tell, Glory Days is the first Broadway show to run only 1 performance since The Apple Doesn't Fall... by Trish Vradenburg, which opened and closed on April 14, 1996. So it's place in the history books is, ironically, secure.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Return of Proud Uncle

My nieces are so busy making theatre that they're filling up this blog all by themselves, it seems...

Elder niece Julie, who many of my readers have met (she was on nytheatre.com's reviewing squad last summer, for one thing), is co-directing a production of the musical Bat Boy in Saratoga Springs, New York. Here's the press release:

Channel Z Presents

Bat Boy: The Musical

Directed By Ryan Emmons and Julie Congress

BAT BOY: The Musical is a comedy/horror show about a half boy/half bat creature who is discovered in a cave near Hope Falls, West Virginia. For lack of a better solution, the local sheriff brings Bat Boy to the home of the town veterinarian, Dr. Parker, where he is eventually accepted as a member of the family and taught to act like a "normal" boy by the veterinarian's wife, Meredith, and teenage daughter, Shelley. Bat Boy is happy with his new life, but when he naively tries to fit in with the narrow-minded people of Hope falls they turn on him, prodded by the machinations of Dr. Parker, who secretly despises Bat Boy. Shelley and Bat Boy, who have fallen in love, run away together from the ignorant townsfolk, but their happiness is shattered when Meredith arrives and reveals a secret. Soon the entire town arrives and hears the shocking story of Bat Boy's unholy origin.

The Cast
In alphabetical order: Lydia Aimone, Sydney Boles, Dave Burns, Lexie Coon, Ryan Crotty, Will Federiconi, Jake Glover, Harris Gold, Steve Goodwin, Delia Halpern-Graser, Melissa Hill, Zac MacKrell, Leah Moore, Luke Padovani, Ben Smith, and Jana Volkel

When: May 3, 4, 10,11, 18 at 1:30 PM; May 5, 6, 12, 13, 19 at 7
PM
Admission: $10.00 Students$12.00 General Admission
Location: Caffe Lena
47 Phila St. Saratoga Springs, NY
Reservations: Call 583-0022 Ext. 94


What the release doesn't tell you is that this Bat Boy is being staged in German Expressionist style. If you're in that part of the world, check it out!

Monday, May 5, 2008

I'm on Facebook

So last night, I finally followed the advice of many friends and colleagues and joined Facebook.

I'm extremely interested in how social networking via Facebook can impact the Internet presence of nytheatre.com, indietheater.org, and this blog. It seems to me that there are many, many possibilities.

To those who are active Facebookers (is that the right term?): What are the applications that you are using that you think are helping you either progress in your theatre career or enhance your theatre-going? I really hope my friends will point me to the valuable theatre-related content/goodies on Facebook so that I can quickly start to learn what's available...and what may be a good fit to add on.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Times Giveth, The Times Taketh Away

The lack of respect for indie/off-off-Broadway theatre from The New York Times in general and Charles Isherwood in particular continues unabated in today's paper, where an article about the collaborations between off-Broadway companies like the Vineyard and New York Theatre Workshop with off-off companies like New Georges and Elevator Repair Service begins, gratuitously and mean-spiritedly, with this helpful "primer" by Isherwood about how to tell the difference between two species of NYC theatre:


If you are paying $65 or $75 for a full-price ticket, you are seeing an Off Broadway show. If you are fanning yourself with your program and wondering about fire-code violations, it’s definitely a double-Off experience.

Actor you recognize from television: Off. Actor you recognize because he’s your son’s second-grade teacher and he invited you (well, actually implored you) to see the show: Off Off.

Engulfed by the sound of uncrinkling candy wrappers: Off. Surrounded by tattoos and Obama buttons: Off Off.



Isherwood goes on to say "The cultural and financial divide between these two classes of theater often seems to outstrip the gap between Broadway and Off Broadway."

Gee, I wonder where that cultural divide comes from, and how it gets perpetuated?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Frank Anthony Polito at Barnes & Noble

nytheatre.com contributor Frank Anthony Polito is having his first novel published this year, and he'll be at the Barnes & Noble on 6th Avenue in Greenwich Village doing a book signing event on June 3rd. Here are the details:

Tuesday, June 3th, 7:30 PM
Greenwich Village Barnes & Noble
396 Ave of the Americas at 8th Street
New York, NY 10011
212-674-8780

The name of Frank's book is Band Fags, and I actually read a play he wrote many years ago which was the basis for this novel. I am very excited to see the final book.

I should add that Frank is not only a member of nytheatre.com's Reviewing Squad, but also a very fine actor and playwright. (His play Another Day on Willow Street got a very positive review on nytheatre.com at last summer's FringeNYC fesitival.)

So show your support for Frank and check out his first book signing!

Friday, May 2, 2008

How His Bride Came to Abraham Reading

I received this from my friend, playwright Karen Sunde...

If you're eager for an end to hate, here's a project that's DOING
SOMETHING...

Abraham Film Project presents…

HOW HIS BRIDE CAME TO ABRAHAM

A boy and girl with every reason to hate... find they can't help loving one another

Celebrated Israeli & Palestinian actors - Amir Babayoff & Maya Serhan with actor/director Richard Levine will do a Reading of Karen Sunde’s play as they
prepare to film it.

Seeking financial supporters - all donations tax-deductible.

THURSDAY MAY 15 at 4:00
ST JAMES CHAPELTHE CATHEDRAL OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE
1047 Amsterdam Ave (112th St)
212-316-7490

http://www.karensunde.com/
http://www.abrahamfilm.org/


I saw How His Bride Came to Abraham in its NYC premiere (by Praxis Theatre, at the Looking Glass space; you can read my review here). I think the world of this piece and of Karen Sunde, and hope that anyone reading this who can help make the film of this happen will step forward!