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Archive for the ‘Theater’ Category

Jon Robin Baitz was already a successful playwright when he went to Hollywood to create ABC’s Brother’s and Sisters. The show was a hit for Baitz, but turns out, the city was anything but: “It was a nightmare.  Just the fact that I came from New York and wrote sort of serious-ish plays, before I opened my mouth, there was a kind of trope going around the network already: ‘We can’t have any of the Baitzian angst.'”

After a lot of angst, Baitz got a one-way ticket back to New York where he wrote his new play “Other Desert Cities” (now playing at New York City’s Lincoln Center to great praise). It’s the story of Brooke, a writer who comes home for Christmas and reveals to her family that she’s publishing a tell-all memoir — about them.

But Baitz admitted to Kurt that breaking up with TV was messy:

You can hear more of Kurt’s conversation with Jon Robin Baitz on this weekend’s show.

– Dory Carr-Harris

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Nikolai Khalezin in his semi-autobiographical play “Generation Jeans.”

Belarus is called the last dictatorship in Europe.  The government censors the arts, so performance troupe Free Theatre Belarus performs secretly, in converted houses, to avoid arrest.  Back in 2008, New York-based playwright and performer Aaron Landsman visited the group in Minsk.  He was astonished by how the group remained prolific under such difficult circumstances – artistic director Natalia Kolyada told him that even though they enjoyed performing at festivals abroad, they would not defect. Listen to the story here:

Today The New York Times is reporting that Kolyada and her husband Nikolai Khalezin have been forced into hiding following an incident at a protest rally.

Free Theatre Belarus is due to start performances of “Being Harold Pinter” in New York City early next month.  The work, which already played in London to praise, is based on transcripts from Belarussian political prisoners and incorporates writings by Harold Pinter.  Meanwhile, Tom Stoppard, Ian McKellan and others protested the Belarussian Embassy in London.

– Jenny Lawton



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Ah, Christmas. Time to sit around the fire with eggnog and tell stories of… extraterrestrial spies?

This holiday week, Studio 360 presents a new kind of holiday tale.  “Human Intelligence” is by none other than Kurt Andersen, and was published this year in Stories: All-New Tales, edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio.  Studio 360’s Jonathan Mitchell created this audio cinema adaptation.

Ed Herbstman (narrator) is a co-founder of the Magnet Theater in New York City.  John Ottavino (Nicholas) has performed in 36 states and 7 countries, including a role in the Tony Award-winning production of “A Doll’s House” on Broadway.  Melanie Hoopes (Nancy) is a writer, actress, and the host of “Laurie Stanton’s Sound Diet.”

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(photo by Michael Lamont)

About a year ago, Carrie Fisher (script doctor, memoirist, recovering Princess) took to Broadway a one-woman show called “Wishful Drinking” – an account of her struggles with alcoholism, failed romances, and brushes with death that proved Fisher had a knack for stand-up.  A filmed version of her stage show airs this weekend on HBO.

Fisher has long been outspoken about her problems, but seeing is believing.  When she came to Studio 360 to talk with Kurt late in the afternoon, a couple hours before showtime, she arrived in dark glasses, and yawning.  “To me there’s Carrie and there’s Carrie Fisher,” she explained, “and Carrie has to make sure Carrie Fisher gets enough sleep so Carrie Fisher can do her show, [because] Carrie wants to go shopping.”

You can hear their full conversation here:

– Jenny Lawton

About a year ago, Carrie Fisher (script doctor, memoirist, recovering Princess) took to Broadway a one-woman show called “Wishful Drinking” – an account of her struggles with alcoholism, failed romances, and brushes with death that proved Fisher had a knack for stand-up.  A filmed version of her stage show airs this weekend on HBO.

Fisher has long been outspoken about her problems, but seeing is believing.  When she came to Studio 360 to talk with Kurt late in the afternoon, a couple hours before showtime, she arrived in dark glasses, and yawning.  “To me there’s Carrie and there’s Carrie Fisher,” she explained, “and Carrie has to make sure Carrie Fisher gets enough sleep so Carrie Fisher can do her show, [because] Carrie wants to go shopping.”

– JL

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Broadway audiences were probably not familiar with the term “choreopoem” when “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf” arrived at the Booth Theatre 1976.  But Ntozake Shange’s dynamic and revealing series of poems (set to music and movement) was a giant hit, winning a Tony and a Drama Desk Award.  “All sorts of people who might never have set foot in a Broadway house—black nationalists, feminist separatists—came to experience Shange’s firebomb of a poem,” remembers Hilton Als, now the theater critic for The New Yorker.

The play went on to be adapted into a TV movie and interpreted in countless regional and amateur productions.  Now it’s a major motion picture, with direction and a screenplay by comedy mogul Tyler Perry.

This weekend, the 13th annual African American Women In Cinema Film Festival concludes with an event honoring Shange.  “for colored girls” launched a generation of spoken-word and performance artists – and Shange has proved prolific since then, publishing dozens of plays, poetry collections, and other books.  She’ll receive the African American Women In Cinema Pioneer Award.  The 1982 PBS version of the work, starring Shange, will be shown.  I’m particularly curious to hear Shange’s conversation with Felicia Lee of the New York Times: I hope to hear how Shange feels her choreopoem fared in the hands of a filmmaker perhaps most famous for wearing a fat suit and playing “the gun-toting, insult-hurling grandmother” Madea.

RELATED: Our colleague, WQXR host Terrance McKnight, recently talked with Ntozake Shange and vocalist M. Nahadr (who wrote a song for the new film) about whether “For Colored Girls” is still relevant for the modern African-American woman:

– Georgette Pierre

TITLE: The Steady Rise of “For Colored Girls”

Broadway audiences were probably not familiar with the term “choreopoem” when “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf,” hit Broadway 1976.  But Ntozake Shange’s dynamic and revealing series of monologue poems (set to music and movement) was a giant hit, winning a Tony and a Drama Desk Award.  “All sorts of people who might never have set foot in a Broadway house—black nationalists, feminist separatists—came to experience Shange’s firebomb of a poem,” remembers Hilton Als, now the theater critic for The New Yorker.

The play went on to be adapted into a TV movie and countless regional and amateur productions.  Now the work has entered a new phase of life as a major motion picture, starring Whoopi Goldberg, Phylicia Rashad, Janet Jackson (among many other greats), and produced by entertainment mogul Tyler Perry.

So it strikes me that this is a particularly fitting time to revisit the source of it all. This weekend, the 13th Annual African American Women In Cinema Film Festival concludes with an event honoring Shange.  “for colored girls” launched generation of spoken-word and performance artists – and Shange has proved prolific since then, publishing dozens of plays, poetry collections, and other books.  She’ll receive the African American Women In Cinema Pioneer Award – and the 1982 PBS version of the work, starring Shange, will be shown.

But the part of the event I’m most interested to see is the “Conversation with Ntozake” (moderated by Felicia Lee of the New York Times).  I hope she’ll share her thoughts of Perry’s adaptation of her work and whether a man can really tell a woman’s story.

Related: Our colleague, WQXR host Terrance McKnight, recently talked with Ntozake Shange and vocalist M. Nahadr (who wrote a song for the new film) about whether For Colored Girls is still relevant for the modern African-American woman.

– Georgette Pierre

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/notebook/2007/03/05/070305gonb_GOAT_notebook_als

http://www.forcoloredgirlsmovie.com/

http://aawic.org/Home_Page.html

http://culture.wnyc.org/articles/features/2010/nov/19/mcknight-interviews-ntozake-shange-and-m-nahadr-about-colored-girls/

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Benjamin Walker in the title role of "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" (Photos by Joan Marcus)

Part history lesson, part satire, part blood bath — a lovely night at the theater, no? “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” (now up at New York’s Public Theater) is a singing, dancing, punk-rocking rollick through the 7th presidency by Les Freres Corbusier, a company that delights in re-imagining well-known historical figures. They’re known for turning said figures on their heads and, in this case, winning some of the highest praise of the season doing so.

This Andrew Jackson is the opposite of what you learned in high school. He’s bold, haughty, fearless, and damn cool. One moment he’s conquering the West. The next he’s mouthing off to the stuffy clowns running Washington. Sure, his politics are complicated: we see Jackson battle, befriend, buy-out, and ultimately displace Native Americans (all in cartoony slapstick). We also see him strain under the weight of popular rule — the ideology on which he rose to power.

Not to be underrated is the pleasure of sitting in a theater transformed into a hipster, steam punk hunting lodge: chandeliers and baubles hang from the ceiling, taxidermy litters the walls — including an entire horse at the end of an aisle!

After passing 100 performances, the show has to close this weekend. There’s buzz that it could move to Broadway — which would be great, of course, I’m all for inventive and timely musical theater getting a big audience. But there’s something about this larger-than-life world that reads so well when it’s bursting at its own seams. Just like the upstart for which it is named, the show rings truest when it’s resisting The Man — we can’t help but be cynical when Jackson becomes just that.

UPDATE (7/15): “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” will, indeed, rock Broadway beginning September 21, 2010.

– Jenny Lawton

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Alfred Molina as Mark Rothko in the Donmar Warehouse's Broadway production of "Red" (photo by Johan Persson)

Last week, Alfred Molina stopped by Studio 360 to chat with Kurt about his Tony-nominated performance as Mark Rothko in the play “Red.” Bet you didn’t know that he grew up in London as Alfredo Molina, the son of Spanish and Italian immigrants.  In this sneak preview of their conversation, Molina explains that he was determined to be English through and through:

The full interview will air in a couple of weeks.  Stay tuned…

– Michael Guerriero

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UPDATE: Kurt’s interview with Alfred Molina aired the weekend of May 29th – listen to it here:

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