Category — Regional Theatre
Ayub Khan Din’s strange journey with his new musical at The New Group
It sounds like something out of an old Hollywood screwball comedy: A madcap new musical is about to bow on the boards, but after just a few preview performances, the lead injures himself and is forced to quit. The creative team frantically convenes. They have two choices: Cancel the show, or get the writer to go on.
That’s exactly what happened last month when doctors ordered actor Erick Avari to withdraw from the New Group’s Bunty Berman Presents. Left with no other options, book writer/lyricist/co-composer Ayub Khan Din stepped into the title role.
Unlike most playwrights, however, Din is no stranger to acting. Best known for his autobiographical dramedy East is East, about culture clashes within a Pakistani-British family, Din first came to prominence as a performer. After studying drama at the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, he starred in the controversial 1987 indie Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, as well as a number of British television series. But he traded acting for writing in the late ’90s and hasn’t appeared on stage in more than two decades.
May 2, 2013 No Comments
Tina Packer navigates “Women of Will”
Shakespeare’s had a grip on Tina Packer for her entire career. Decades ago, when she auditioned for England’s Royal Shakespeare Company, she used one of Queen Margaret’s speeches from Henry IV, Part III. Now she’s performing that speech again in Women of Will, her comprehensive look at the women in Shakespeare’s canon.
“I love doing [that speech] because of the range of emotion,” explains the 74-year-old actress/playwright/director/Shakespeare scholar. “Even though she’s taunting [the Duke of York] and being vicious, the truth of it is [that] that man should have been her husband, and she knows it.”
Women of Will, which plays through May 26 at the Gym at Judson, is equal parts lecture, Shakespeare revue, and master class. There are two version of the show: a two and a half-hour “overview” and an eight-hour, five-part marathon. During the overview, Packer plays 10 women, and on alternate weekends, she undertakes the marathon, playing 25 women and four men.
April 30, 2013 No Comments
Inside the Autism-Friendly performance of How the Grinch Stole Christmas at San Diego’s Old Globe
One of the most emotional experiences I’ve had while working at TDF happened right after our first autism-friendly performance of The Lion King. After the show, all of the TDF staffers were wearing identifying name tags. While standing in the lobby, as the audience was leaving the Minskoff Theatre, I was overwhelmed as parent after parent came up to me and my colleagues, many in tears, thanking us for producing this event. Until that day they couldn’t imagine being able to take their children with autism to see a Broadway show. Several had tried in the past, but felt uncomfortable if their child had an outburst or fidgeted in their chair, feeling all eyes were on them. At this autism-friendly performance, they all felt like they were in ‘the same boat’ and shared in the feeling of universal love and acceptance. It took me some time to begin to process those feelings. A few days later, I spoke to a colleague from the New York Times who covered the show for an Artsbeat blog post, and he shared the same feelings I had—compassion, powerlessness, empathy.
December 29, 2012 5 Comments
How composers Pasek and Paul set the classic film to music
As they were becoming rising stars of the musical theatre, composing team Benj Pasek and Justin Paul were told that to learn about dramatic structure, they should adapt shows from source material. So far, that’s worked out well.
Pasek and Paul made their New York debut over the summer with Dogfight, based on a 1991 film, and now they’re making their Broadway bow with A Christmas Story: The Musical, which is drawn from the classic 1983 film.
A Christmas Story, which like the movie is also inspired by the writings of humorist Jean Shepard, marks the ninth year of Pasek and Paul’s partnership. (They met on the first day of college at the University of Michigan.) Though Paul writes the music and Pasek writes the lyrics, they are both credited with both parts of the score.
“Our theory is that ultimately, the song is the thing that you know. You can’t really separate the music and the lyrics. They become a unified thing,” says Pasek. “So we try to mess with each other’s work when we have issues with it or contribute or add or pipe up when we have opinions, and try to work as collaboratively as we can.”
Their work on A Christmas Story—which played in Chicago last year after a mini-tour—has also required them to respect the beloved elements of their source. Anyone who watches cable television at Christmastime is familiar with Ralphie, a little boy in 1940s Indiana who wants a Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun for Christmas, and a stage version would feel thin without classic references to shooting your eye out or a lamp that looks like a woman’s leg.
November 19, 2012 No Comments
After Sandy, “A Twist of Water” has new resonance
For the next few weeks, almost everything that happens in New York will be refracted through Hurricane Sandy’s lens. A ride on the R train might be your first subway trip since the storm or the first one that feels “normal” again. A re-opened grocery store might have more food than you anticipated or less. And in the theatre, plays might resonate with unexpected parallels to the disaster.
That’s certainly happening with Caitlin Parrish’s A Twist of Water, which Chicago’s Route 66 Theatre Company has brought to 59E59.
Literally speaking, the play’s story hasn’t changed: In the wake of his partner Richard’s death, a high school teacher named Noah (Stef Tovar) sparks a relationship with a fellow teacher while trying to connect with Jira (Falashay Pearson), his grieving adopted daughter. In between scenes, he relates the history of Chicago, tracking its rebirth after fires and other disasters.
November 7, 2012 No Comments