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Loney's Show Notes
By Glenn Loney, March 2011.
About Glenn Loney
Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.
DENVER: THE COLORADO NEW PLAY SUMMIT!
LOOK WHERE IT COMES AGAIN!
INTRO: Flying out of Snow in Manhattan to Snow in Mile High Denver might seem an exercise in Futility. From Bad Weather to more Bad Weather?
Why not do what some well heeled New Yorkers & Oldsters do? Fly off to Sunny Florida!
But then you’d miss the Sixth Annual Colorado New Play Summit…
Also, you would miss the opportunity to chat with the Founder of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the urbane & thoughtful Donald Seawell.
Once a Major Broadway Producer, Donald Seawell came Out West to save the Denver Post from the clutches of Si Newhouse.
With his Show Biz Connections, Seawell was soon involved in developing a new & vital Performing Arts Life in Downtown Denver.
The nattily attired Seawell is fascinating to listen to as he talks about the Theatre Greats of the Past--his beloved late wife was the lovely actress, Eugenia Rawls--but he’s even more animated when he describes how the Performing Arts Complex came to be.
With his admiring adopted daughter, Judith Wolfe, looking on--she’s the President of the Center’s Foundation!--Seawell notes, several times, that he’s almost a hundred years old!
Well, if he didn’t tell you that, you’d never know, as he’s so vigorously involved in the On going Activities of the Center.
As for Broadway Connections, he points out that Disney’s Little Mermaid had its World Premiere right here in the Denver Center! The Lion King also was launched here.
Under a massive glass & steel Vaulting, Performing Arts Fans are Protected from the Elements when they attend shows at the Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre, the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, the Galleria Theatre, & the Boettcher Concert Hall.
But that’s not all: there are the four theatres of the Denver Theatre Center: the Stage [778 seats, with a Thrust Stage Conformation], the Space [547 seats, with an In the Round Conformation], the Ricketson [250 seats, with a Proscenium Conformation], & the Glenn Jones [200 seats, with a Thrust Stage Conformation].
There is also a spacious Seawell Ballroom, used not only for Balls & Galas, but also for Arts Panels & Conferences, as well as for Awards & Special Events.
Across Arapahoe Street, there’s also the Newman Center for Theatre Education & the Denver Center’s remarkable Conservatory Theatre Training Program--now seriously in need of added funding to avert closure, which would be a disaster!
If there had not already been a full program for the New Play Summit, Your Arts Reporter could have seen Antonin Dvorak’s Rusalka at the Opera House.
Major Broadway touring shows were looming in the immediate future.
Our genial webmaster for GlennLoneyArtsArchive.com, Scott Bennett, made Videos of our talks with Don Seawell; the Denver Theatre Center’s Artistic Director Kent Thompson; one of its Commissioned Playwrights, Caridad Svitch, & Sylvie Drake, responsible for Center Publications & my former Drama Desk Editor, when I was a New York "Stringer" for the Los Angeles Times.
These Videos should, as they say: Speak for Themselves…
Here are the Videos Scott Bennett & I made with Donald Seawell, Sylvie Drake, Caridad Svitch, & David Thompson in Denver! [Click Here!]
For those New Play Lovers who were not able to attend the Colorado New Play Summit in February 2011, the Denver Theatre Center has just published a Three Play paperback containing Michelle Lowe’s Map of Heaven, Ken Weitzman’s The Catch, & Caridad Svitch’s The House of the Spirits, based on Isabel Allende’s powerful novel.
This may be a real Collectible, as the play texts were prepared while the plays were still in rehearsal, so they may not represent the Definitive Acting Editions. Nonetheless, you might want to order a copy from the Denver Center…
Michelle Lowe’s MAP OF HEAVEN [****]
Ken Weitzman’s THE CATCH [****]
Old Plays in Revival:
William Shakespeare’s A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM [*****]
NEW AMERICAN PLAYS:
[Staged Readings Only--Not for Review!]
Lloyd Suh’s GREAT WALL STORY
Octavio Solis’ CECILIA MARIE
Lisa Loomer’s TWO THINGS YOU DON’T TALK ABOUT AT DINNER
Samuel Hunter’s THE WHALE
MULTI MEDIA WORKSHOP:
Bunport Theatre’s AN EXTRAORDINARY DEMONSTRATION
OF NIKOLA TESLA’S MOST RECENT DISCOVERIES
SHOW NOTES OVERVIEW:
Kent & Bill’s Excellent Adventure: A Midsummer Night’s Dream To Remember!
Your Arts Reporter has a long, long list of plays attributed to William Shakespeare that he has vowed Never To See Again.
At the Top, of course, is Hamlet.
Just below this is A Midsummer Night’s Dream, followed by Twelfth Night…
The Problem for a Critic--who sees almost everything--is that run of the mill productions can wear out one’s deep appreciation of what the Playwright had originally created.
The Delight for a Critic, however, is a fascinating new staging of an old Bardic War Horse that reveals unsuspected Beauties & Surprises, new Visions of the Characters, new Nuances in the Plots, & novelties in performance that Shakespeare could never have imagined at the Globe Theatre.
Having documented a remarkable modern staging of The Dream--The Official Royal Shakespeare Company Production Book of Peter Brook’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream--I thought I’d never be able to sit through the play again, at least as staged by a less inventive & intuitive director.
The Denver Theatre Center’s Kent Thompson has--for me, at least--improved upon Peter Brook.
Seeing his Denver Dream this past February, I was struck by the Truth to Human Nature in Shakespeare’s text, brought to life so poignantly in Thompson’s staging, free of the Circus Gimmicks that temporarily made the Brook Dream so famous.
The two scenes with the Rude Mechanicals--Rehearsing & Presenting their Hilarious Travesty of Pyramus & Thisbe--can hardly ever fail, even with High School Drama Classes. Even Community Theatre efforts will have audiences falling out of their seats…
But Denver’s ill assorted Athenian Craftsmen were the Best Yet! Notably, Sam Gregory, as Quince; Chad Callahan, as Flute/Thisbe, & Lawrence Hecht, as the Donkey Eared Bottom.
What really amazed me, however, were the two sets of Young Lovers, lost in the Athenian Woods!
In almost every production I’ve seen, one is just marking time when they are mistaking each other, thanks to Puck’s Herbal Interventions.
Come on! Let’s get through this as fast as possible, so we can see the Rude Mechanicals again!
Not so in Denver! This is not only one of the funniest visions of Lovers Lost in a Wood that I’ve ever seen.
It is also one of the Truest to Human Nature--not only because of what Shakespeare tells & shows us has been true of Teen Age Lovers & Crush Prone Girls in school for at least 400 years--but also because the scene is brought to Vibrant, even Violent, Life by the most Athletic Quartet of Lovers yet seen in Shakespeare stagings!
Caitlin Wise, as Hermia & Allison Pistorius, as Helena, were so thoroughly Believable, so Animated, so Passionate, so Frustrated, that I thought they just be Major Members of the Denver Repertory Company.
Not so! They are Third Year Students in Denver’s National Conservatory Theatre School, chartered by Congress, the only one of its kind, but now threatened with Closure for lack of subsidy.
These two wonderful Talents, if not yet Stars, are at least the Stars of Tomorrow.
The same can be said of their Partners in Love & Confusion: Leigh Nichols Miller, as Lysander, & Drew Cortese as Demetrius.
The most Acrobatic & Ingenious Puck ever is the remarkable Michael Wartella, who links the scenes with rare relish & verve: What Fools These Mortals Be!
Oberon, the King of the Fairies, is John Hutton, with Kathleen McCall as his Ass Enamored Queen, Titania.
Just why it’s so important for Oberon to gain possession of that Indian Boy--whom Titania has been protecting--isn’t illuminated, even in this Revelatory Production… Child Porn?
Considering that the Central Event--or Excuse for Action--is the Joyous Marriage of Theseus & Hippolyta, it’s good that Kent Thompson has remembered the circumstances under which these almost enforced Nuptials have come about.
As embodied--beautifully so!--by Tamara Hoffman, the Queen of the Amazons has been defeated in battle by Theseus [Keith Hamilton Cobb]. Is Marriage to him a Punishment? Or a Consolation Prize?
So, initially, the still regal Hippolyta is rather reserved, withdrawn.
When she hears of the Harsh Athenian Law that permits Fathers to kill Daughters who refuse the Husbands they have chosen for their spawn, she is quietly raging.
But All’s Well That Ends Well, as they say…
What seems a shame is that this memorable staging played for only one month in Denver. Because it is a Repertory Staging, it cannot travel. There should be Video to be shown Nation Wide on Cable!
Then you would not only be able to see these brilliant performances, but also to admire the Sets & Costumes of John Iacovelli & Bill Black.
[The RSC/Peter Brook Dream Book is still in print, available from the Dramatic Publishing Company.]
Map of Heaven: Painting Imaginary Maps While Your Marriage Is Imploding…
In February 2010, I saw a staged reading of Michele Lowe’s Map of Heaven as part of the Colorado New Play Summit.
None of the Staged Readings was to be reviewed, but at least the Audience--including Drama Critics--could express some Opinions. Possibly helpful for Playwright Revisions?
Each of these Workshop Readings was accompanied by a Question Form for audiences.
Not: Did You Like the Play? But helpful to the playwright queries such as: Which characters stayed with you? Or What emotional connections do you make to characters & their journeys in the play?
For Michele Lowe’s Map of Heaven--in which a Woman Artist [if you are a Woman, apparently you cannot be known simply as a Poet, a Novelist, or a Painter] paints Maps, fanciful & otherwise--we were asked: Is there a lead character, and if so, who is it?
Obviously, if I was understandably not allowed to review the Reading, I could hardly suggest to the playwright that she had--or had not--succeeded in focusing on a one character in particular.
But if Conflict--as has often been taught--is the Heart of Drama, might there well be at least two central characters in contention?
Of course, with Hamlet, there’s no question about the Lead Character, even if Polonius presents the finest performance in the production… Nor did the Bard title this drama Ophelia…
Next Question: No, in an actual production, I wouldn’t want to actually see Lena’s paintings: Too Limiting!
I’d rather imagine what they might look like, rather than see some Prop Shop Mock Ups…
We were also asked why Ian lost Gail’s Mammogram. We were offered three choices: "He puts a note on it & files it," "He threw it away," & "I don’t know."
Out in Denver, audiences really have to Pay Attention! The Big C is nothing to dismiss lightly!
Or the Playwright has to make these actions clear, rather than vague. Unless Ian’s Motives are also ambiguously conflicted…
Fully staged--as directed by Evan Cabnet--Map actually covers a lot of conflicted Inter relational Territory.
The Show’s Promo notes that it’s "a contemporary story about the consequences of a single lapse in judgment."
So that would mean that Ian is the Lead–Character?
A Leading Cancer Specialist--with his own famed Free Mammography Clinic--he has carelessly/purposefully misfiled the X Rays of a woman whom he knows will die of Inoperable Cancer.
It’s not made clear in the play whether his sudden trip to Greece--deserting his Clinic & Patients, as well as his infatuation with Learning to Fly an Airplane have anything to do with his ruminations about a Cancer Fatality that he cannot avert.
Truly, even as played by Quentin Maré, it was difficult to know what was going on with him. He seemed mostly sulky & difficult.
On the other hand, his Artist Wife Lena [Stephanie Janssen]--she of the Imaginary Maps--is focused on her forthcoming Major Exhibition at the Gallery of her art admiring dealer, Rebecca Marks [Angela Reed].
It’s clear she will soon become a Major Talent. Even Ian seems to be counting on this: they may soon need the money, if something happens to his Clinic…
Unfortunately, the Mammogram of Doom belonged to Rebecca’s Sister, Gail [Vivia Font].
Well, would you want to open a show of Mappy Artworks by the wife of the Doctor Who Failed Your Sister?
The InsideOut Study Guide for audiences & schools includes sections on Mammography, Patient Doctor Communication, Second Opinions, Costs of Mammography & Medical Equipment, Physician Burnout, Medical Malpractice, & Getting a Private Pilot’s License.
So, yes, Ian must be the Lead Character…
But I found the Mapper of Heaven--both as the Painter of Navigation Charts of Imaginary Places & in her relationship with her Gallery Owner/Dealer--far more interesting.
There is also the issue of the doctor’s very bright younger sister [Jessica Love]--neglected by her brother--but up for a slot at the Kennedy School. What Will She Do With Her Life?
Forget about sullen old Ian! Let’s get a big Gallery Show for all those Maps, Heaven included!
The Catch: How Much Is a Baseball Really Worth?
Returning to the Question Sheets from last season’s staged readings…
As for The Catch, by Ken Weitzman, Candlestick Point in SF is pretty windy, so it’s amazing that Gary Zipnik caught that potentially Big Bucks Baseball at all, even if he later lost it in the surge of the Madding Crowd.
But we were all asked in the Post Play questionnaire: "What feeling were you left with at the end?"
As I could never hit the ball & thus find Baseball totally boring to watch, my "feeling" was how much I admired the actors who brought this drama of Blustery Dreams & Angry Failures to Frustrated Life.
Notably Ian Merrill Peakes, who the previous evening had been completely different as a NASA Space Cadet on the Soviet Space Station.
Tautly staged by Lou Jacob in the Space Theatre--called in the round, but somewhat Octagonal--the drama was much more engaging for me in the intriguing stage environment designed by Jim Kronzer.
The Leading Character is clearly Gary Zipnik, a clear cut Loser who is repeatedly inspired by Mottos even a Chinese Fortune Cookie would be ashamed to conceal.
His various Schemes have come to naught. His Wife [Makela Spielman] has left him. His Profane Polish Diabetic Dad [Mike Hartman] has come to live with him.
But he thinks he knows how to position himself at Candlewick to catch the Magic Baseball, hit by Darryl Love [Nikoye Banks] into the Stands. Catching this Ball will Solve All His Problems.
There’s a Barry Bonds somewhere in this tale…
Channeling Caridad Svich: La Casa de los Espíritus & En El Tiempo de las Mariposas
Here’s what I wrote last season, in response to the Staged Readings:
Two of the scripts seemed already fully formed, but that effect may have been owing more to what the actors did to develop their roles physically, emotionally, & spiritually than what was simply in the lines, as written…
But then even rehearsals for Play Readings--without the visually limiting sets & costumes of a full production--can be viewed as Voyages of Discovery.
I have no idea how many rehearsals each of the four scripts received, but most of the actors’ performances had the effect of fully realized characters.
With the added advantage that--without specific & defining settings or elaborate & defining costuming & lighting--viewers could concentrate on the Characters in Action!
Most of the performers--as also in the World Premiere Productions--seemed to INHABIT their Characters in their various Worlds.
Some elements of Costume & a few Props--awkward when actors were working with a script--were OK, but really unnecessary, thanks to what the totally energized actors brought to their roles.
I look forward to seeing these plays again in Full Production. Some still need work, as they say, but their present forms may well be exactly what the playwrights intended…
Having recently devoured Isabel Allende’s hypnotic evocation of an almost Dynastic Family Chronicle, The House of the Spirits, while in Skeletal Rehab at Mount Sinai’s Klingenstein Pavilion--the only Patient Abandoned Volume worth reading there--I was especially intrigued by the way Caridad Svich had compressed so much painful Quasi Allende Family History into a playable drama.
So I am looking forward to The House of the Spirits, fully fledged, ready for flights across America’s stages…
So here’s what I wrote when the play was produced in Manhattan, at Repertorio Español:
Sins of the Fathers: Generational Chilean Hauntings in Isabel Allende’s House of the Spirits…
Last February, at the Colorado New Play Summit, Your Reporter was struck by the power of a new drama by Caridad Svich, even though it was offered only in a Staged Reading. Not a full stage production…
Actually, Svich’s haunting dramatization of Isbel Allende’s La Casa de los Espiritus was commissioned by Repertorio Español. Denver was a kind of Curtain Raiser.
Now in the teeming repertory of Repertorio, House of the Spirits is also teeming with Spirits: the remarkable, unusual & often abused Women in the family of the wealthy, angry, needy, imperious Macho Chilean Land Owner, Esteban Garcia [Gabriel Gutiérrez].
An extremely complex, layered Family Chronology is revealed by Alba [Denise Quiñones], the grand daughter of this Haus Tyran. José Zayas has directed an outstanding cast.
Given the tiny stage at the former Gramercy Arts Theatre, designer Robert Weber Federico works his usual wonders, suggesting multiple locales & States of Mind & Spirit, with gauzy panels & projections.
What is even more amazing is that the ten marvelous members of this cast are also appearing in other Repertorio productions, the bill often changing nightly.
Each show seems like Opening Night, even if the scenery of some productions is wearing thin…
So, if you don’t want to miss this remarkable Encounter with Chilean Women--Ghostly & Living, you need to phone ahead to find out when La Casa de los Espiritus is to be played.
There are so many fine productions on tap, that the Allende/Svich drama has to take its turn on stage.
Phone: 212 225 9999. Or try www.repertorio.org… How about watching on some show segments on YouTube? Or Twittering?
Now known internationally as a Prize Winning Novelist, Chilean Author Isabel Allende was born in 1942, but not in Santiago de Chile. She first saw the Light of Day in Lima, Peru, where her father, Tomás Allende, was Chile’s Ambassador.
In 1970, her Uncle, Salvador Allende, was elected President of Chile, heading a Socialist Government, which infuriated wealthy Chilean Fascists & angered the US, which had long feared "Commies" in the Americas…
Backed by the Wealthy, the Chilean Army seized power. Allende was Assassinated: the Pinochet Terror began. Ordinary Citizens began to "disappear," as they had in neighboring Argentina, under Military Tyranny.
After the wanton killing of her courageous uncle, Isabel Allende removed her family to Venezuela.
In the meantime, she wrote some celebrated novels, beginning with La Casa de los Espiritus, in 1982.
Allende now lives in San Rafael, California, & has taught at UC/Berkeley. A long way off from Santiago de Chile…
Now Caridad Svich is back at Repertorio, with her new drama, En El Tiempo de las Mariposas--In The Time of the Butterflies. This, like La Casa, is based on a novel--or novella--but now by Julia Alvarez.
It deals with two Courageous Sisters in the time of the Murderous Trujillo Regime in the Dominican Republic. But our State Department supported--or tolerated--Trujillo because he Kept Things Stable. Rather like Mubarak in Egypt…
Just back from Mile High Denver--they have a Plethora of Medical Cannabis Clinics there!--I’ve not yet had the opportunity to see Las Mariposas at Repertorio. But a Report will be coming soon…
In the meantime, here’s a Video Scott Bennett & I made with Caridad in Denver! [Click Here!]
A Roster of Non Reviewable New Play Summit Staged Readings:
•Lisa Loomer tells us about Two Things You Don’t Talk About at Dinner. [You are going to be in real difficulties at an American Seder if you insist on talking about Israeli Oppression of Palestinian Arabs.]
•Samuel D. Hunter offers an Ahabian Meditation on Obesity & Obstinance in The Whale. [Even though you are 600 pounds, you can offer On Line Instruction in the Privacy of Your Own Home, interacting with your students by Video Chat!]
•Lloyd Suh demonstrates the Perils of Unethical Journalism in his Denver based Great Wall Story. [Imagine a Denver Demolition Team sent to China to dismantle the Great Wall? Well, this Big News really is Imaginary…]
•Octavio Solis opts for a kind of super surreal Magic Realism in Cecilia Marie.
•Buntport Theatre Team devises An Extraordinary Demonstration of Nikola Tesla’s Most Recent Discoveries. [Eighteen Fresh Towels every day for Count Tesla’s room in the Hotel New Yorker!]
Don’t Slam the Writers at the Playwrights’ Slam:
Unfortunately, the Press Office didn’t provide a list of the Denver Center’s Commissioned Playwrights, sharing their animated readings of New Work. Not necessarily Dramas: Poems permissible…
In some cases, the Performances of the Playwrights were more interesting than the works they read. Some Spalding Grays in the making?
PANEL DISCUSSION: THEATRE IN HD: Playwriting in a Digital Age.
It is certainly cheaper than Building Scenery to throw some Projections on a Rear Screen. They used to be called Lantern Slides, but now they can move, permute, transmute, evolve, develop…
But they should Not Up Stage the Drama itself, in performance.
Can Playwrights include suggestions for using Projections, Film Clips, Stunning Lighting Effects in their scripts? Or are these things Directors & Designers add during production?
This challenging panel was moderated by the Denver Center’s Charlie Miller, with Michael Mitnick, Terry Nolen, Caridad Svich, & Wendall K. Harrington, who is the Expert at the Yale School of Drama & whose ingenious inventions are seen at the Opera, the Ballet, & even in the Legitimate Theatre.
Harrington is a Dynamic Personality: full of Ideas & Possibilities. As a former Lighting Techie, I would have loved to have worked for her on some of her Major Projects!
The Discussants mentioned the innovations of Ron Chase.
This reminded me of the times I went down to Washington, DC, to study his use of projections in the Washington Opera’s productions of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt & Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw.
I was reporting for Theatre Crafts on Frank Corsaro’s Directorial Work with Ron Chase & Nananne Porcher, using imaginative projections for the Washington Opera & the New York City Opera.
Other Performance Events at the Denver Center:
•From 11 March through 14 May, the French Canadian Troupe known as Seven
Fingers will be showing its remarkable Traces. Cirque du Soleil, without the Narrative or the High Wire acts…
•Stories on Stage, in its tenth year, will offer Blindsided, a series of readings: Kathy Chalfant reading Beryl Markham’s He Was a Good Lion; Candy Brown reading Uwem Akpan’s What Language Is That?; Kirk Montgomery reading Brad Bellamy’s Dracula in Missouri, & Ian Merrill Peakes reading Anton
Chekhov’s The Lady with the Little Dog.
•The National Theatre Conservatory--currently threatened with termination--is offering Eugene O’Neill’s only comedy, Ah, Wilderness!, from 7to 23 April.
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