Want more? Browse all the Theatre Dictionary videos. (There are over 65!)
Italian Run (with Clubbed Thumb)
Improv (with F*It Club and the PIT)
Upstaging (with New York Neo-Futurists)
January 30, 2015 No Comments
Danny Gardner learns from Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly
The most famous song and dance men—the Fred Astaires and Gene Kellys—are synonymous with debonair style, majestic movement, and a surplus of charm. And while the ranks of these elegant performers may have dwindled as tastes have changed, those nostalgic for swift-footed dancing and perfectly harmonized Gershwin tunes can enjoy the Encores! Presentation of Lady, Be Good at New York City Center from February 4 to 8.
The 1924 musical, originally starring Fred and Adele Astaire, follows a poor brother and sister who crash a party in the hopes of marrying for money. The current incarnation, which uses the Encores! model of presenting lightly staged readings of classic shows, offers not only well-known hits like “Fascinating Rhythm,” but also a performance by Tommy Tune.
And in the lead role there’s Danny Gardner, who’s staking his claim as an heir to the “song and dance man” crown.
He’s arguably been heading toward this title for his entire career. The Reading, PA, native started his tap dance training at age 5, studying a grounded hoofing style. However, his first job after graduating from Ithaca College was a tour of 42nd Street, a show that uses the lighter, pulled-up Broadway tap style. The experience helped solidify his appreciation for the genre, shedding light on his future path.
“I was always in love with Fred and Gene,” Gardner says. “Many times I’d watch movies of Fred, trying to learn his steps. I even got a mirror and tried to pull the choreography without it being backward. And on the tour, I found that that style of Broadway tap felt so right on my body. It was fun, in that I was on the toes and balls of my feet versus back in my heels as in hoofing. I felt exciting and light, like I could dance more with the music.” [Read more →]
January 29, 2015 No Comments
Welcome to Meet the Theatre, our film series about interesting theatre companies in New York City! Today we’re featuring Flux Theatre Ensemble, which works year-round to feel close to its audiences. (Sometimes, they even serve a feast before a performance.)
This video features seven members of Flux Theatre Ensemble, who discuss everything from why they love work with moral ambiguity to why they sometimes perform in bars.
This film was written and directed by Mark Blankenship, TDF’s online content editor. It was shot and edited by Nicholas Guldner.
January 28, 2015 No Comments
Inside Damon Chua’s sleek play Film Chinois
Move over, August Wilson. Damon Chua is halfway toward replicating your century-spanning theatre project.
True, Chua doesn’t focus on one specific geographic area, à la Wilson’s beloved Hill District of Pittsburgh. And the definition of “century” got a little fuzzy when he set one of his plays in the 2000s. “Also, I didn’t plan this, but I seem to be strongly drawn to the even-numbered decades,” says Chua, who is taking on the 1980s in a new work commissioned by the Public Theater.
Then again, August Wilson didn’t juggle an administrative role at an acclaimed off-Broadway theatre company, as Chua did when he spent two years as executive director at the Keen Company. “My career has been kind of strange,” he says. “There are periods in my life that are more business-focused and parts that are more creative.”
Film Chinois, Chua’s latest creative effort, fits both the every-other-decade template (it’s set in 1947) and the playwright’s taste for far-flung locales (Beijing, known at the time as Peking). It’s currently at Theatre Row in a production from Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, and it offers his latest refraction of cultural identity through time-honored genre tropes.
This time the Singapore-born Chua—who in the past has explored the complexities of the counterculture in the psychedelia-tinged, 1960s-set Dark Sides of the Moon—uses the shady assignations and murky motivations of film noir to cast light as well as shadows on his parable of U.S.-Chinese relations and codependence.
The lighting and costume requirements alone would have given Chua pause if Film Chinois had crossed his desk as an administrator. “Yeah, if I were the person making the decision, I would have said, ‘This is going to cost too much to produce.’ Luckily, Pan Asian Rep didn’t see it that way.” [Read more →]
January 26, 2015 No Comments
The surprising laughs in Parallel Exit’s New Show
If you’re watching a slapstick comedy and they wheel on a giant cake, then you’ve got to assume that somebody’s getting a face full of frosting. Or if there’s a smiley idiot who’s new to the big city and just dying to be a Broadway star, then you’re gonna prepare yourself for a hilarious song and dance.
Right? After all, decades of Marx Brothers and Muppets and Looney Tunes have laid down the rules for this sort of thing.
The fellows in Parallel Exit are certainly counting on us to know these standards for physical comedy. They’re assuming that living in the culture has taught us the classic structures for bits about comic characters trying to get what they want.
And then, in their new show Everybody Gets Cake!, they upend those structures every chance they get.
Now at 59E59, the show is a collection of sketches that utilize all sorts of physical comedy elements, from mime to clown to prop humor. And as the three performers bounce between characters and scenarios, you can feel their delight in surprising us. When the cake comes out, for instance, it launches a security crisis, not a food fight. And just when that hopeful performer thinks Broadway is calling, a mysterious figure knocks him out and drags him off stage.
Twists like that are partly what make the show so funny: We get a little bit of chaos and a little bit of wit, and we never know which is coming next.
This approach is a departure for Parallel Exit, which has made its name with straightforward shows that explore physical styles like tap dancing and silent film acting. “This feels like a bit of a danger zone for us,” says Mark Lonergan, the company’s artistic director (and the director of Everybody Gets Cake!). “We’re thinking, ‘If the expectation of the audience might be this, then how do we subvert that expectation and still embrace the audience?’” [Read more →]
January 23, 2015 No Comments