In Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information, 15 actors star in 57 shorts
The lights rise on a wall of grass and two suspended actors, arms resting behind their heads as if they’re stargazing. One of the actors (Noah Galvin) hangs from his feet, upside down, and chats with his co-star about the speed of light.
Then the lights dim, a sound effect blares in the darkness, and we’re suddenly in a toy-strewn living room with two new characters. An entirely different scene begins.
Asked about negotiating that sudden transition—in ten seconds and in pitch darkness, no less— Galvin smiles, saying, “Our job is to get changed very quickly and move furniture. I’ve been instructed by my stage manager to not give too many details.”
Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information, now playing in a New York Theatre Workshop production at Minetta Lane, is a mosaic of 57 such transitions, as magical as they are jarring. The audience must process completely unrelated scenes ranging from five seconds to several minutes long, and this deluge is Churchill’s theatrical reckoning of our downloadable, ADD-driven world. Under the direction of James Macdonald, 15 actors play hundreds of roles arranged haphazardly into bite-sized—or perhaps more accurately, byte-sized—vignettes.
Galvin, who plays eight characters, likens the play to Twitter: “You have little snippets of people’s lives that you can scroll through. This play is perfect for younger generations who have no attention spans whatsoever.”
Throughout these kaleidoscopic glimpses of life, it proves impossible to do what we as audiences normally do: invest in an overarching story’s exposition, rising action, and conclusion. But those who have trained their brains to flip through emails or Instagram feeds might find themselves better equipped when assigning emotional meaning to Churchill’s bombardment. [Read more →]
March 7, 2014 No Comments
In Tarell Alvin McCraney’s take on Antony and Cleopatra, Chivas Michael plays an odd, rich role
Welcome to Building Character, our ongoing look at actors and how they create their roles
Playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney has relocated Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra to late 18th-century Haiti, when the country was on the brink of its slave-led revolution. For classically trained African-American actor Chivas Michael, who plays a variety of supporting roles in the production at the Public Theater, that’s a relief.
“Every time I step on stage to do a classical piece, I always feel I have to wiggle my way into a part because of how we see black bodies in America,” Michael says. “In this setting, I found a commonality with these characters. I know these people: They are oppressed and they are afraid and they are fighting for country and land and honor. I know what that feels like.”
Hailing from the South and an alumnus of New York University’s graduate acting program, Michael originally met McCraney—who recently won a MacArthur “genius” grant—while still in school. “Back in 2008, we were housemates in Florence, Italy while I was there doing a production of Romeo and Juliet with some of my classmates,” he recalls. “We sat up drinking wine all night in the Tuscan countryside and became fast friends.”
When McCraney, who’s also directing this production, began working on his stripped-down and recontextualized Antony and Cleopatra, he immediately reached out to Michael. “He sent me a message about a year ago that said, ‘There’s this eunuch character that I think you’d be great for,’” Michael laughs. “I did the reading at New Dramatists and have been with the show ever since.”
The show is a unique collaboration among three theatres: England’s Royal Shakespeare Company, where it premiered last fall; Miami’s GableStage, where it played in January; and the Public, where it will run through March 23. The international cast has been the same throughout, and although many of the actors play multiple parts, McCraney instructed Michael to portray his three roles—Cleopatra’s singing eunuch Mardian, Antony’s aide Eros, and a soothsayer—as if they were one person. [Read more →]
March 5, 2014 No Comments
Inside the 35th Anniversary Gala for TDF Accessibility Programs (TAP)
On Monday night, the Edison Ballroom became a celebration of inclusion. That’s when Theatre Development Fund held its gala celebrating the 35th anniversary of TDF Accessibility Programs (TAP), which make live performances available to a wide variety of patron with disabilities and special needs.
(Keep reading for exclusive photos)
March 4, 2014 No Comments
From time to time, TDF Stages will highlight exciting Off and Off-Off Broadway theatre companies with exclusive “getting to know you” videos. Today, we’re featuring Axis Company, where a story can immerse you in a brand new world. This video features company members Randy Sharp, Brian Barnhart, and Marc Palmieri.
Axis Company is currently presenting Nothing on Earth, a reality-bending work about the life and magic of Harry Houdini.
This video was directed by Mark Blankenship, TDF’s online content editor, and shot and edited by Nicholas Guldner.
March 3, 2014 No Comments
Francis Jue guards the soul of David Henry Hwang’s new play
Want to know how to approach a David Henry Hwang play? Ask Francis Jue. He’s been starring in Hwang’s shows since the late 80s, from the Tony Award-winning production of M. Butterfly to the world premiere of Kung Fu, currently at Signature Theatre.
“Whether I’m playing a large part or a small part in David’s work, I feel like he pays attention to the humanity and the context for that character,” Jue says. “He challenges us to look at the world in a way that’s really exciting. It’s all about surface and what’s beneath that surface.”
Take Kung Fu, about the life of Bruce Lee (Cole Horibe). On the most superficial level, it’s a martial arts spectacular, delivering tightly choreographed routines as Lee uses kung fu to become a renowned teacher and an internationally famous actor.
However, there’s more to the show than flying kicks. Even at his peak, Lee grapples with Hollywood executives who don’t think America’s ready for an Asian celebrity, and perhaps more importantly, he clashes with his father Hoi-Chuen, a star of the Chinese opera who loathes his son’s choices and essentially banishes him from the family.
Jue, who plays Hoi-Chuen, wants audiences to feel the weight of that conflict. “I think that David sometimes isn’t taken as seriously as he should be because he’s so entertaining,” he says. “The challenge for me as a performer, for Leigh [Silverman] as a director, for Sonya [Tayeh] as a choreographer, is to look at this and say, ‘Without proselytizing, without hitting anyone over the head, how can we say what we want to say and entertain people at the same time?’” [Read more →]
February 28, 2014 No Comments