... but they sound interesting:
... looks like it'll include a Norman Allen play and something starring René Auberjonois. At least that's what Tboy's guessing, 'cause they're milling about the Lansburgh lobby. The announce happens shortly.
Also on hand: Ethan McSweeny, Franchelle Stewart Dorn, the Rorschach troops, Rebecca Bayla Taichman (sitting next to Avery Brooks), Keith Baxter, Gale Edwards, Patrick Page, and some dance folk. (They're announcing the first season in the Harman, remember? Mixed bill and all.)
More as it happens ... including, Tboy has heard rumors,* something to do with a Marlowe fest.
MK is up, prepping the crowd for what he says will be "maybe the most momentous day in 20 years of milestones." There's a new house to open Oct. 1 (tour to come in an hour or so), the 775-seat Sidney Harman Hall ... "a national destination theater and a classical theater serving Washington and ... the nation as a whole."
8 mainstage plays -- 2 series in rotating rep ... 20,000 $10 tickets
Harman, up to say a few words, talks not about next season but about the Titus that's forthcoming shortly from Gale Edwards, his seatmate at last night's Will Awards gala: "You will, I have every confidence, experience an expression of Titus that is stunningly relevant ... made possible by a director who understands the sociology of the theater... and the language."
And now the season, as they announce it:
Taichman will do the Shrew to open the season. Said she re-read the play last night, and now she remembers why people look at her suspiciously when she says she wants to direct "this incredibly cranky, incredibly funny play." Her strategy: to let it be "as erotic ... as eerie ... as it wants to be." And more along those lines. She says she's got an untamed beast inside her, too, which makes people chuckle, just the slightest bit uneasily.
To open the Harman Center, MK announces, two plays by Christopher Marlowe. Extraordinary writer, he says, "unjustly unproduced," and besides what better way to get a little attention for the opening of an expensive Shakespeare repertory house than to produce a couple of plays by the man's greatest contemporary rival. MK will direct Tamburlaine the Great, the two parts in one evening. No evidence, MK indicates, that Tamburlaine has ever been done in D.C. This of course is the Avery Brooks play -- the character never leaves the stage, and at one point he drives a chariot pulled by three kings of Asia, so who else? "Daunting," says Brooks. "Everything I've ever done with Michael is daunting." He's wearing the flashiest snakeskin cowboy boots. Python? Rattlesnake? Must ask. "The task is always challenging; the task is always filled with discovery and joy and ... questions. And so I'm thrilled to be back here again."
Fran Dorn cries a bit when MK introduces her; she'll be coming back to do the Tamburlaine. (What part? Tboy doesn't know the play...)
Gale Edwards will do Edward II, the other play in the Marlowe rep. (Dorn just cracked a minute ago that she played Mortimer in a grad-school production, and she'd be available if anybody wants.) Edwards goes on a bit about how much she likes working here, says she committed to do one of the Harman openers before MK told her which play. Then a little about Marlowe, including the queer bit, the spy bit, the maybe-he-faked-his-death-and-wrote-Shakespeare bit, all of which she sounds distinctly dubious about. Now a little about Edward, and it sounds like she'll be working hard to harmonize the play's politics and its homoerotics -- both of which she seems intensely interested in.
MK back-announces one bit Edwards left out: Wally Acton will be back to play Edward. (He was Edwards' Richard III, remember ... )
The Rorschach twosome -- Jenny McConnell Frederick and Randy Baker -- are up now to announce what they're doing here: The School of Night, which sounds like a kind of Beard of Avon-style backstage story with Marlowe instead of Shakespeare; also possibly Marlowe's Eye, a Naomi Iizuka play that somehow juliennes the Waco apocalypse, the death of an Italian filmmaker, and Marlowe's death together, "all in one language bonanza," Randy says.
Plus Marlowe's Dido, Queen of Carthage and The Jew of Malta in readings, and a Spy Museum whosiwhat on the spy legend. (Shades of a mini-"Shakespeare in Washington" festival: MK is clearly wanting to keep some buzz going.)
Oh, goody -- Mary Zimmerman is coming to town again. Argonautica, her Jason-and-the-Argonauts adaptation, in a four-city tour. (STC is signaling, remember, that it wants Harman Hall to be a booking house and a destination theater.) Zimmerman on video, talking about her attraction to the "latent theatricality" in epic tales, and noodling a bit about the Jason story as a prelude to Medea. Also: sea monsters and harpies and battles, oh my, which she likes the challenge of staging ... Talk talk talk... Loved being in Washington, walking her dog on the Mall and on Capitol Hill, encouraging it "to do its business on the lawn of the Senate." She's sweet, if a bit dithery, and genuinely seems to like the city.
Ethan McSweeny will do Major Barbara, the first proscenium show in the Harman space. (The Marlowes will be done in thrust or open-stage.) McS is a native, you'll remember, and got his start here. His moms is on hand, as usual, with the Honorable Dad. He riffs on Zimmerman's recently developed affection for Washington, and cracks on the way the neighborhood's changed: "She shoulda been here in the 80s -- you wouldn't have wanted to ride your bike on 7th Street. And you would've needed a really big dog." He goes on to be silly about how nice it is to live in a world where Major Barbara's polemics aren't necessary -- now that there's no worries about military-industrial complex, wealth of the many/poverty of the few, etc. -- and how much fun it's going to be "to dust off this old chestnut and see if it has anything left to say to us." Also: A Norman Allen commission for the STC's first-ever series of family programming, based on a Persian folk tale. Free Wednesday-lunchtime performance events in the Harman Hall lobby...
A David Muse Julius Caesar (his first project on the STC mainstage) ... paired with Kahn's Antony and Cleopatra, with Patrick Page as the Antony in both. (Antony's young in one, aging in the other, remember?)
Page, at the lectern, on the stage, is talking about how MK works, and he just said the name of the Scottish Play. Much jitteriness onstage. Tboy now feels less bad about having done it. As with McS and the Shaw, more talk about "present, tangible" expressions of urgent, contemporary political impulses.
More from Muse on Shakespeare's fascination with Rome (he wrote four Roman plays, of which Muse has directed two already) ... Julius Caesar "a play about the disillusionment of ideals, and about how malleable public opinion is in skilled hands ... and it's just full of opportunities for directorial fun. I get triumphal processions, a rioting mob, a night when fire is dropping from the sky..."
MK confessing, re Antony, that his Folger production, lo these many years ago, "I don't think I got it very right." (He's always saying this lately, which Tboy finds endearing. Said it about Hedda and Othello and the Scottish Play, too, if Tboy remembers correctly.) Anyway, re the Folger Antony, you remember: Wading pool, battle of Acteon, A & C kicking about in the water, interns with towels frantically mopping up the mess. "Most of the critics, after they got through talking about Fran Dorn's performance, talked about the towels."
The season wraps with The Imaginary Invalid, directed by Keith Baxter, who's confessing that 15 years ago he dodged MK's phone calls for weeks when MK was trying to rope him in for Measure for Measure. Now he's confessing (rather proudly) that he introduced Gale Edwards to MK.
Now he's going on about the first time he met the delightful young woman who starred in his Country Wife a couple of years back: "She looked like a hooker. She was wearing a skirt that went where no one should really go." She was Tessa Auberjonois, you'll recall, and Baxter says he finds her ravishing, which is how René Auberjonois got hooked up with Malade Imaginaire. As the Argan, of course.
Crankiness from Baxter now, about wretched translations/adaptations. "Cow poop. ... You bimbo of Beelzebub." He'll do the Molière in a serious translation and in the closest thing he can manage to la gloire, the dazzling excess of early 18th-century court theater. (There goes the STC budget.)
Auberjonois now, also in cowboy boots, hamming it up with a big sneeze and "I don't know if I can go on." But only for a minute, and now very serious and respectful. Tboy didn't know this: His first job out of college was at Arena Stage, and he was in the company for 3 years before going to San Francisco and ACT.
Reminiscing about being in on the founding of the Juilliard drama program with MK, about his work in various regional ensembles over the decades, the point of all of which turns out to be: He was envious, he said, to see Tessa working in D.C., "because what Michael has created here and what the audience has embraced is really the dream for any serious actor. And I thought it was gone."
And we're done now, off to do the hard-hat. (Amusing photos of which in a minute.)
* OK, possibly shoulda read the Post this morning, but who has time when you're trying to get to a 9:30 breakfast announcement?
Composer Andrew Gerle has been blogging the rewrites-and-rehearsal process for Meet John Doe, which gets a full-scale production this month at Ford's Theatre.
It's short on drama, but it's got a reasonable amount of blow-by-blow -- and it's refreshingly honest about the anxieties attendant on any creative process. Check it out.
Well, now. What with snowstorms and family crises, two openings got pushed last week -- so there's really just the one show to round up opinions about.
But ooh, lord, what a roundup: It's been a while since I've heard people disagree quite as pointedly about a production as we've been disagreeing about the Kennedy Center's Carnival!
Why such a fuss? Perhaps because, as one wag remarked: "They're channeling Amélie, and no one does whimsy as irritatingly as the French."
Peter Marks led the (circus) parade in Monday's WashPo: "No musical in recent years has looked or sounded better on a Kennedy Center stage .... [Carnival!] has been buffed to a ravishing sheen by director Robert Longbottom."
Ummm, sure, if you say so. I, on the other hand, say (and in print, too) that "I confess I don’t know what anyone associated with the Kennedy Center’s paralytically inert revival of Carnival! could have been drinking, I mean thinking." Not to put too fine a point on it. (I do put a slightly finer point on it in the review, of course, so please do go read. Wouldn't want anybody to think it was entirely about the cheap shot.)
Judy Rousuck makes the judicious frowny face in the Baltimore Sun: Carnival! offers strains of enchantment and menace, she writes, "but both feel watered down in the Kennedy Center's production."
Potomac Stages says Bob Merrill's "marvelously melodic" score (which Tboy believes, rather crankily, to be "an ill-unified collection of saccharine ballad and midway oom-pah and barroom wink-nudge") is being "splendidly sung and magnificently played." DC Theatre Reviews says it's "a wan musical" populated by "characters sketched with scarce more depth than the charming puppets."
The Examiner's Scott Fuller says it's "clichés on parade" at this circus. Or at least that's what his headline writers think he said; Tboy isn't sure he can find that bottom-line call in the review. Tboy does detect something of a crush on Marco the Magnificent, however. ("He is color; he is movement. He is throwing knives; he is vanishing roses. He is smoothness; he is confidence; he is passion.") But then Marco the Magnificent is Sebastian La Cause, and who wouldn't have a little warm spot for an actor who includes a dedicated "Beefcake Gallery" on his website? And who posts his workout routine online?
Also: Like Tboy, Fuller thinks Natascia Diaz rocks.
Actually, all the reviews have nice things to say about most, if not all, of the cast. We just differ about how the whole thing hangs together--and whether Carnival! itself is much of a show.
The published critics aren't the only ones arguing, just so's you know. Bob Mondello informed a party of theatergoers in the Kreeger lobby last night that Tboy had clearly been smoking rock. BMon and his man Carlos (who's a much tougher critic) both liked it -- though only reasonably, not rhapsodically. Wee Jane, who confesses that she imprinted on the show when she was wee-er, reports that Longbottom's production did nothing to harden her soft spot for little lost Lili and her grumpy puppetteer.
Another noted critic who saw the show but didn't write, though, e-mailed Tboy earlier this week: "The truncated reaction? OMG how dreary. Such an eccentric choice -- I wonder who in charge saw that at age 11 and hasn't gotten over it yet?" (Wait: We know the answer to that question. It's in the 6th paragraph.)
And speaking of the youth market: That last reviewer's 13-year-old seatmate "liked the show, hated Lili, thought "she should go die in a toilet ... I don't know where she gets her critical tone."
Finally, if the youth have spoken, so have the eminences. A certain esteemed D.C.-based director rolled his eyes at Tboy on the way out of the Eisenhower on opening night and summed up the evening thusly: "That's gotta be the most unnecessary revival since the second Bush Administration."
Your own opinions, as always, are most welcome in the comments.
Photo credits: Ereni Sevasti, top; Johnathan Lee Iverson and Natascia Diaz in Carnival! Puppets by Ed Christie. Photos by Joan Marcus, courtesy the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to "places":
Bob Mondello had a pass this week at Shakespeare's Rape of Lucrece, by the playwright occasionally known as LuckySpinster, and he rather liked it. "You’d have to be a little nuts to go where Washington Shakespeare Company has traipsed so adventurously," he says right at the top. No fear, though: The story sells, and the Spinster's "skill at matching the Bard’s couplets with her own is impressive, as is her facility for delineating ancient politics -- but it’s her literary wit that sets Rape of Lucrece apart."
Celia Wren weighed in last week in the WashPo, saying much the same. Staging the standards, she writes, is "for wimps": "Kimball and director Sarah Denhardt cannily exploit the discomfort factor" inherent in the topic and the text, and WSC's production "unfurls on an unnervingly intimate scale." (Tboy, for his part, thought WSC did an amazing job with production values, considering that the show was basically an emergency reboot, and that the Spinster did a bang-up job making a lot of brand-new dialogue sound very much like Shakespeare.)
Our boy Glen Weldon, fearless man, confronted Forum Theatre's multimedia Kid-Simple: A Radio Play in the Flesh, and didn't exactly love it-- though he did make it sound cool enough to make Tboy want to catch up with it: "Director Jessica Burgess throws a lot of stuff against the (fourth) wall, but not much ends up sticking: The script’s wordplay gets lost amid the tumult, and once the proceedings become loaded down with portent and allegory, the show never recovers .... With some tightening, Kid-Simple will become faster, funnier, and less self-conscious. The ending, however, still won’t make any damn sense."
Celia says Jordan Harrison's "gleefully loopy, language-drunk script is an esoteric melding of spy caper and modern fantasy", complete with "a meta-theatrical spin ... an onstage part for a sound-effects maestro, the Foley Artist, who generates the story's audibles ... in view of the audience." (That would be Scott Burgess.) Sez Celia: "It's a coy gimmick but it defamiliarizes a routine element of theater -- sound -- thereby resuscitating its mystique."
Tboy took his own self out to Olney (on a cold and snowy night, too), for The Constant Wife, which he thought mostly charming: It's a "snappy entertainment" that "plays brisk and pretty and witty," even if "the archly modern attitudes and the brittle, Wilde-at-heart banter ultimately aren’t quite dazzling enough to blind audiences to the thinness of Maugham’s characterizations." The sets and costumes rock, though.
Nelson Pressley seems to have been in the same drawing room: He reviewed the set for two paragraphs (which always strikes Tboy as a sign that a critic's treading carefully around the question of whether he liked the show or not), then went on to not quite weigh in on the rest of the production until toward the end: "Elliott ... couldn't be breezier. The supporting cast pitches their performances accordingly... They manage the affair as Constance would: with a muted but impeccable sense of style."
Oh, and Peter Marks braved the streets of New York, reporting back that Journey's End is gripping and that in the last third of The Coast of Utopia, "the lengthy preliminaries finally have given way to a story of historical suppleness and sweep."
Bonus non-review thingy: PeterM also talks to the puppet guy from the Kennedy Center's Carnival!, which Tboy's gonna catch tomorrow.
... the cast of The Distance from Here, the teenagers-amok play from Neil LaBute, currently running at Woolly-UM.
Well, I will -- but this is where you get to ask them. Tboy will be heading up to the Clarice Smith Center tomorrow evening to see the play -- and to do a short interview with director Mitchell Hébert and his cast afterward.
So what would you want to ask a bunch of college students who've been working on a play about teenage brutality and suburban disaffection? Read more about the play here, then submit your questions in the comments on this post -- and I'll pick one or two of the best to ask in the interview.
Which will be part of the next Show That Goes Like This, coming soon to an iPod near you. That's right, Tboy got a new microphone for Christmas, and he's ready to get back to podcasting.
... at Olney Theatre, but it'll go on this weekend, at least, without actor James Slaughter, who's been hospitalized after a car accident.
Details from the Olney office are sketchy (no word on whether the crash was weather-related or what) aside from the fact that Slaughter's on the mend and could be back in the show -- Somerset Maugham's comedy The Constant Wife -- as early as Tuesday.
Meanwhile a stand-in will play the part on book at today's performances.
... as too much Zarf ...
... and because we know that some of you are pining for news (don't worry, Kate, your secret is safe with us) ...
... we bring you this belated update:
Apparently Jeffrey Carlson's All My Children groupies are planning a road trip. To see the Hamlet. And many of them will be dressed up like Zarf.
Liza, dear, this is Tboy's official request: Can I get two on the aisle for June 22nd? I'll pay. I'll stand in the back. Hell, I'll hang out in the lobby with the house-management folk. But this I gotta see.
Or maybe those meanies at Best Week Ever are just mocking poor Mr. Carlson. But Tboy hopes not.
Because Tboy wants to be able to recount, in his old age, to his disbelieving nephews, the tale of the night Michael Kahn's Hamlet turned into a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
But that will have to wait. For now, because you have eaten all your supper and been good little children, the story of How Zarf Got his Name: