Posted in Balanchine, Baldwin, based on a true story or event, based on an actual life, performance piece

“Stranger on Earth” at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse

Harlem Stage has a post-Valentine’s treat for us. Not the hearts and flowers kind of gift but a bouquet that honors the important American heritage of James Baldwin and Dinah Washington.

Marcelle Davies Lashley  interpreting the vocals of Dinah Washington in Carl Hancock Rux's "Stranger on Earth" at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse, Feb 19-20.
Marcelle Davies Lashley interpreting the vocals of Dinah Washington in Carl Hancock Rux’s “Stranger on Earth” at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse, Feb 19-20.

On February 19th and 20th at 7:30pm at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse, they present Stranger on Earth written and performed by Obie winning playwright Carl Hancock Rux. The production, commissioned by the company, is in celebration of Year of James Baldwin Centenary.

Stranger on Earth imagines a chance encounter at a Harlem jazz lounge between Dinah Washington and James Baldwin. The singer and the writer/philosopher/social commentator were the eras two most iconic African Americans. In this performance piece, Rux uses Baldwin’s landmark essays to create a work that addresses race, identity, and the future of a world which both Baldwin and Washington struggled to comprehend and inhabit. ASccompanying Rux is vocalist Marcelle Davies Lashley who interprets Washington’s songs. Rux draws from Baldwin’s “Notes of A Native Son,” “Nobody Knows My Name,” and “The Fire Next Time” for his original text, and from Washington’s final album (1964) for the title.

Carl Hancock Rux, performance artist, OBIE-winning playwright envisions a meeting between singer Dinah Washington and writer James Baldwin in "Stranger on Earth."
Carl Hancock Rux, performance artist, OBIE-winning playwright envisions a meeting between singer Dinah Washington and writer James Baldwin in “Stranger on Earth.”

Ted Cruz, composer and producer, is on piano, with Jason DiMatteo on bass. DiMatteo, who works internationally with hundreds of musicians, is a frequent collaborator on Rux performances. Lashley has also worked with Rux on the Rux Revue, and was the mistress of ceremonies at the Jazz Foundation of America’s Gala at the Apollo in 2012.

Stranger on Earth plays out under a video montage by conceptual artist Onome Ekeh. The video sets the historic background for the piece in the violent and socially disruptive year of 1963. Yen Moon directs. Another of Rux’s collaborators, Hamilton “Fitz” Kirby provides the sound design for Stranger on Earth.

Harlem Stage kicked off the Year of James Baldwin on April 26, 2014 with a workshop of Stranger on Earth. The Baldwin initiative is envisioned as a 14-month, city-wide celebration of one of America’s most important and trenchant thinkers. The Year will culminate in the world premiere presentation at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse on June 3rd through 7th with Stew’s Notes of a Native Son. In this new work, Stew, the Tony-winning composer, singer and storyteller, is inspired by Baldwin’s visionary way of airing uncomfortable truths and finding in them both beauty and poetry.

To learn more about Stranger on Earth, please visit www.harlemstage.org

Posted in discussions, film, politics, theater

Balkanization

As I am from that neck of the woods, this item caught my eye. Perhaps it will interest you as well– Origin Theatre Company presents “Re-Building the Balkans,” a two day mini festival on contemporary Balkan culture on February 7-9, in conjunction with the NYPL for the Performing Arts.

"AtlBalklang" by Spiridon MANOLIU - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:AtlBalklang.jpg#mediaviewer/File:AtlBalklang.jpg
“AtlBalklang” by Spiridon MANOLIU – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:AtlBalklang.jpg#mediaviewer/File:AtlBalklang.jpg

“Re-Building” represents a spectrum of works that address issues of reclaiming a country after war has ravaged it. Among the offerings is a reading of the play “Control,” by Croatian playwright Marjan Alcevki (Saturday February 7 at 1:30pm), about a psychological experiment gone awry at a Zagreb university. Alcevki’s play was a 2012 finalist for the BBC International Radio Award.

Also on the weekend’s program is a screening of “Mothers” by the Oscar-nominated director from Macedonia, Milcho Manchevski (Monday February 9 at 6pm), which captures the heartbreaking state of contemporary Macedonia through the eyes of several mothers. Manchevski’s “Before the Rain” won the Golden Lion at Venice as well as earning a best foreign film Oscar nomination. Manchevski takes part in a Q&A following the screening.

Origin Theatre Company, the only New York company devoted to bringing fresh perspectives and new theatre voices from across Europe to local audiences, has specially curated this program. The region’s history of strife and conflict has made, as Matthew Torney, Origin’s director of programming, sees it a “hugely fertile environment for artists.”

The panel discussion on Saturday February 7 at 3pm, examines the pressures of making art in the complex environment of Southeastern Europe.  Led by Professor Larry Wolff, the Silver Professor of History and the director of the Department of European and Mediterranean Studies at NYU, the panel includes Tea Alagic (a theater director and writer from Bosnia), and Aisling Reidy (the senior legal advisor for Human Rights Watch, and a former prosecuting attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia).

For more information on the events in “Re-Building the Balkans,” visit http://www.nypl.org/events/programs/2015/02/07/re-building-balkans-powder-keg

To learn more about Origin Theatre Company, please click here: http://www.origintheatre.org/

Posted in bio-musical, musical theater

Not so long ago, we were anticipating “Hamilton” and now it’s here

In fact, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical about one of America’s most influential Founding Fathers and Constitutionalists is in it’s third extension at the Public Theatre, running through May 3rd.

We were fortunate to get a preview of “Hamilton” at Lincoln Center’s 2012 American Songbook (see our write up on http://wp.me/p5jq0w-iK)

Here’s what we said way back last year in Our Theater Blog, when “Hamilton” was still just in the planning stage,  http://wp.me/p5jq0w-5e:

“Hamilton,” written by the Tony and Grammy Award-winning composer and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda, will have its world premiere next January as part of The Public’s 2014-15 season at Astor Place. Directed by his In The Heights collaborator Thomas Kail, this new musical features Miranda playing Alexander Hamilton, one of our country’s Founding Fathers and the first Secretary of the Treasury.

The brilliant musical “previewed” at an American Songbooks presentation in 2012. Performances begin at the Public on January 20, 2015.

“Lin-Manuel Miranda is a marvel, but nothing could have prepared us for the astonishing achievement of Hamilton,” said Artistic Director Oskar Eustis. “Alexander Hamilton was born in the West Indies, the only Founding Father who was an immigrant, and Lin’s genius is to tell the story of the birth of the United States as an immigrant’s story. The energy, the passion, joy, tragedy, and raw intelligence of this show are stunning.”

More information at http://www.publictheater.org/

Posted in comedy, comedy-drama, drama, performance works

Poetical theater and Frigid Fest: Coming soon….

Theater takes all sorts of license with reality. It reshapes what we know to give us a different perspective.  Plays give us new ways of seeing.

http://poetictheater.com/festival
http://poetictheater.com/festival

Carrying through on that trail, Poetic License 2015: subconscious is presented as an annual fesival by Poetic Theater Productions. This year, its fourth,  six readings of new poetic theatrical works and two full productions are being presented from February 5-22nd at the Wild Project.

Paradox of the Urban Cliché, a world premiere play  by Craig ‘muMs’ Grant, incorporates hip hop in telling a tale of a hustler struggling to get free of his environment.

Maurice Decaul has set Dijla Wal Furat: Between the Tigris and the Euphrates to the backdrop of the Iraqj war. Can the antagonists in this viscious and violent moment find their humanity?

http://www.horsetrade.info/frigid-festival
http://www.horsetrade.info/frigid-festival

9th Annual FRIGID New York Festival

Stay warm! This event runs from February 18-March 8th at The Kraine Theater and UNDER St. Marks. The Horse Trade Theater Group imports work from Manchester (England England, as they say in Hair), Canada, Ireland, Brooklyn for this winter fest of off-beat plays.

For instance there’s An Evening of Not-So-Quiet Despair with Satan in which the devil is in the details.  If you’ve ever left your pet at home with his friends, you can find out what they get up to in Dog Show, a French farce of the canine kind.  ERIK is a satiric version of “Phantom of the Opera,” written by John Patrick Bray. ERIK,  presented through the cage of a freak show, uses puppets and poetry to give new life to a familiar tale.

For those of you feeling football withdrawal, Richard the Third and Goal, or R3G is a mashup of Shakespeare and NFL star Ray Lewis in hiz own words. Richard the Third and Goal, or R3G, presented by New York’s own Bloody Shakespeare, is written and directed by Neal J. Freeman.

From March 12-28th, FRIGID extends its stay at the Kraine with Erica Lipiz’ The Tutors, a  Battalion Theatre production. In The Tutors, three friends with unsatisfying “day jobs” tutoring prep school princes and princesses battle the Social Media wars.

There is more FRIGID even as the weather warms in March. Check it out here: http://www.horsetrade.info/

FRIGID marches on, not part of the FRIGID FEST, but presented by the company that also presents the festival: “FRIGID New York @ Horse Trade will present March Forth Productions World Premiere of The Angels of Mons, a historical drama by Eric Webb, directed and conceived by Laura Archer. The production will run March 26-April 4 at UNDER St. Marks”

To learn more about the Poetic License: submission at the Wild Project, please visit
http://poetictheater.com/festival

For more information about the 9th Annual FRIGID Festival at the Kraine Theater and UNDER St. Marks, visit http://www.horsetrade.info/frigid-festival

For more information on The Angels of Mons, please visit www.horseTRADE.info.

Posted in dark drama

My (Trite) Old Kentucky Home

By guest reviewer Mari S. Gold

Middle front: Hayley Treider as Carolyn, Back middle: Chris Funke, Left: Rebecca Kuehl, Right: Ashleé Miller Photo by Sasha Karasev,karasevstudio.com
Middle front: Hayley Treider as Carolyn, Back middle: Chris Funke, Left: Rebecca Kuehl, Right: Ashleé Miller
Photo by Sasha Karasev,karasevstudio.com

Kentucky Cantata by Paul David Young is supposed to be about issues of important issues of our time including violence against women, race and immigration. However, it doesn’t rise to the importance of these.

The most unusual and attention-demanding detail in this multidisciplinary performance was the hair on the two wind musicians. Both women, accomplished musicians Ashleé Miller who plays the clarinet, and flautist Rebecca Kuehl, sport white- blonde pageboys. Unfortunately, the music, that includes Chris Funke on guitar, does little to enhance the work, in fact, it’s rather intrusive. The play’s story deals with a young woman who dreams of being an actress, encouraged by her teacher. She leaves her rural Kentucky home for New York City where she is raped and battered by an undocumented, disaffected Egyptian cab driver in a parking lot outside a Home Depot. The girl’s parents argue over her departure and relive their experiences of meeting and the subsequent sexual encounter that resulted in the girl’s birth.

Tony Naumovski as Kareem, Hayley Treider as Carolyn Photo by Sasha Karasev,karasevstudio.com
Tony Naumovski as Kareem, Hayley Treider as Carolyn
Photo by Sasha Karasev,karasevstudio.com

Hayley Treider, as Carolyn, the young, would-be actress and Marta Reiman, playing Dora, her mother, have been ill-served by director Kathy Gail MacGowan who hasn’t extracted much genuine emotion from either. MacGowan aims to use musicians and actors as “equal storytellers” but the story they relate is a one-note rag that lacks originality. There is little nuance and although Treider aims to project the menace she’s subjected to, it doesn’t come off nor is there any chemistry between Dora and her husband, Larry, played by Dan Patrick Brady. The best performance is by Tony Naumovski as Kareen, the taxi driver who manages a reasonable accent and conveys a sense of how grim his life is and continues to be.

Installation artist Franklin Evans has provided a set illustrated with words drawn from the text, photos of the actors and pictures the actors move around that don’t relate to the action. Overall, the production is fairly predictable in a college-level, artsy fashion. I wanted to like it but, sadly, that was a challenge.

Kentucky Cantata is at HERE Arts Center through February 8th. For more information about the production, please visit http://www.kentuckycantata.com/

About Mari S. Gold:

Mari S. Gold is a freelance writer who contributes to many magazines and websites. She writes on lifestyle, food, travel, health and is a regular contributor to New York Arts, www.newyorkarts.net

Her blog, But I Digress… , on travel, food  life experiences is at www.marigoldonline.net.