Friday, April 30, 2010

Profile: Preparing Shakespeare "Original Practices" in the Hidden Room

The hidden room of the Hidden Room Theatre is a long, wide hall, very much like the court spaces used by Shakespeare's company when they performed for royalty. Two or three ranks of padded chairs run the length of the hall and a platform with ornate armchairs stands at one end. That space resembles the Rollins Theatre configuration used recently by Austin Shakespeare for Shiller’s Mary Stuart.

The “original practices” version of The Taming of the Shrew that opens this coming weekend will have a touch of the conspiratorial and mysterious to it, for you’ll receive a password and a rendez-vous point in downtown Austin, rather than a theatre address. If you’re there at the right time and the right place, a company member will meet you and guide you to a candle lit trail to the hidden room.

Why the mystery? For fun, in part, and probably also to reinforce the message that you will be stepping back to the theatre practices of another time. “Original practices” means a vigorous player-centered approach to Shakespeare’s text, with a minimum of decoration and scenery, and no women in the cast.

Ryan Crowder Shrew Hidden RoomThe fact that all female roles will be played by male actors brings a challenge and a mystery for our acutely gender-conscious society. For example, how will Ryan Crowder as Kate handle being romanced by Judd Ferris as Petruccio?

We can expect the audience to laugh even more explosively at the war of the sexes when it’s highlighted by cross-dressing and cross-gender mimicry – remember, for example, the drolleries of Austin Shakespeare’s all-women staged reading of the same play last month. An additional, unseen delicious touch is that this project is directed by the very womanly Beth Burns, assisted by Stephanie Delk.

I visited the hidden room early in the rehearsal process, welcomed by Burns for an afternoon session of work that began with Act IV, Scene 2, a scene featuring Benjamin Summers playing Lucentio, the wealthy student disguising himself as a tutor, and Ryan Hamilton as Bianca, Kate’s younger sister and the object of his ardent affections. In ironic celebration of his transformation, Hamilton had made a video for YouTube of his shaving – sacrificing? – a beard of soldierly aspect, far superior to any I’ve ever worn on my chin.

Read more at . . . .

Reviews from Elsewhere: Mike Daisey's How Theatre Failed America, Victory Gardens, Chicago

Found at The Chicago Theatre Blog, Catey Sullivan's review of Mike Daisey's blast at the soft and fuzzies of the theatre world.

Victory Gardens Theatre presents

How Theater Failed America

Written and performed by Mike Daisey
Directed by Jean-Michele Gregory
At Richard Christiansen Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln (map)
Through May 2nd | Tickets: $25 | more info

reviewed by Catey Sullivan

“You should not have come here,” begins Mike Daisey in his one-man tour de force of nature, How Theater Failed America. For one thing, he continues, the title of the show sucks – ( “What is this, a fucking film strip?”) For another, Daisey’s simultaneously bleak and brilliant autobiographical walk down the memory lane of his career will outrage the politically correct. It will also send those who view theater as a sacred, noble art spiraling and screaming down a wild rabbit hole of profane realty. (Spoiler alert: Those who want to cling to the myth of “community” in theater should stay home and stick to their Twitter confabs.) It’s fair to ask why anyone other than out-of-work actors (which is to say – more or less – actors) should give a whit about the death of theater or about Daisey’s scathing monologue. Will the grid go dark if all of the world’s liberal arts grads collectively decide never to mount another revival of A View from the Bridge? Does the world’s well-being rest on an endless cycle of revisionist Ibsen? Of course not. Yet this is where Daisey’s explosive and formidable talent becomes so gloriously apparent. Directed by Jean-Michele Gregory, How Theater Failed America will be powerfully entertaining even to those who could not care less about whether Becket and Brecht vanish from the face of the earth, washed away by the likes of “The Little Mermaid”. As for those with a vested interest in the arts, they will find themselves repeatedly shocked and undeniably entertained by the galvanizing candor of Daisey’s observations. The man articulates truths that just aren’t spoken aloud and in doing so, breaks what often feels like a conspiracy of silence among artists. (Question the existence of “community” in local theatrical circles, and you’ll all but be accused of heresy.)

Weaving deeply personal stories into the context of the arts in the 21st century, Daisey hits the audience with a barrage of blazing immediacy and devastating honesty. While it’s autobiographical, Gregory’s direction excises the piece of all self-indulgence and paces it so well the two-hour run time feels like 15 minutes, This is a story about MIke Daisey’s life in the theater, but it is also a story about life in general in all its dazzling, manic absurdity and free-falling despair.

Read more at Chicago Theatre Blog. . . .

Images by Ed Kelley: Postmortem by Ken Ludwig, Way Off Broadway Community Players, Leander, April 23-May 8

Received directly, images made by Ed Kelley at dress rehearsal of Ken Ludwig's Postmortem, a comedy-mystery directed by Tracy Cathey for the Way Off Broadway Community Players, Leander, April 23 - May 8:

Click to view additional images by Ed Kelley of Postmortem at . . . .

Ongoing: Social Security, Gaslight Baker Theatre, Lockhart, April 23 - May 9

Received directly:

The Gaslight Baker Theatre, Lockhart presents

Social Security

A comedy by Andrew Bergman
April 23 - May 8, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 p.m.

matinees on Sunday, May 2 and Saturday, May 8 at 2 p.m.

$12 general admission, $10 for seniors and students

The domestic tranquility of married art dealers is shattered upon the arrival of the wife's goody goody nerd of a sister, her uptight CPA husband and her Archetypal Jewish Mother. They leave Mother behind and take off to try and save their college student daughter from the horrors of living only for sex. The comic sparks really begin to fly when Mother hits it off with an elderly minimalist artist who also happens to be the art dealer's best client!

Read more and view image at . . . .

Upcoming: Sexual Perversity in Chicago, Paladin Theatre at the Off Center, May 6 -

Click for ALT review, May 20

UPDATE: Comments by webmaster, TheatreAustin, Yahoo Groups, May 14

Received directly:

Sexual Perversity in Chicago

a comedy by David Mamet
will be performed by the Paladin Theatre Company
at the Off Center, 2211 Hidalgo St.

May 6 - 30

Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 5:30
Tickets : $10.00 on Thursdays and $15.00 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays
For Tickets and Information: AusTIX at 474-TIXS (8497) Or online at

Sexual Perversity in Chicago will feature the talents of B. Iden Payne winners and Austin theatre favorites...
Breanna Stogner (Psycho Beach Party) Briana McKeague (Crimes of the Heart)
Charles P. Stites (Glengarry Glen Ross) Mason Stewart (I Heart Wal-Mart)

“In an era of easy sex, a beautiful young couple learns that the hardest thing to find is true love.”

“How do you ask a girl out on a first date after you’ve already had sex with her? Can new love survive the meddling of nosy friends and the era of bed-hopping?" These are some of the questions that arise when a hot young couple finds each other in this racy comedy set in Chicago, 1976. A play that is equal parts raucous comedy and tender love story, David Mamet’s first masterpiece Sexual Perversity in Chicago depicts a story of intimacy’s elusive nature that is both timeless and universal.”

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Upcoming: Who's Got Your Back?, VSA Arts, April 30 - May 2

Found on-line:

VSA arts of Texas & Actual Lives Austin present

Who’s Got Your Back?

An all new show by Actual Lives Austin.

Friday, April 30 and Saturday, May 1 at 8 p.m.

Sunday, May 2 at 3 p.m.

ASL Interpreted, real time captioning, audio description

Dougherty Arts Center, 1110 Barton Springs Road

Tickets: Friday - $15 and $10 (Good Cripples Discount)

Saturday - $15 and $10 (Good Cripples Discount)

Sunday - Pay What You Wish

Whether you’re falling down, working, flirting, charting your spiritual journey or just plain trying to live your life, everybody needs someone who’ll be there. Don’t miss Actual Lives Austin’s latest creative collaboration between local guest director Paula Gilbert, script developer Chris Strickling, producer Celia Hughes, and a cast of 11 ordinary folks as they work hard to make you laugh and shake up worn out conceptions of disability without being inspirational.

Produced by Co-founder, Celia Hughes, VSA arts of Texas Executive Director.

Dr. Chris Strickling, Actual Lives Austin co-founder, joins guest director Paula Gilbert and a motley crew of adults with disability to give you a quick trip through the raw material of everyday life as we know it.

Actual Lives Austin: Creating theater from the raw material of everyday life.

Actual Lives Austin, as a flexible tool for developing autobiographical performance in a community theatre context, was the brainstorm of deaf performance artist Terry Galloway, who had used the page-to-stage format in various contexts since 1993. The Austin version of Actual Lives, which focused Galloway's model on disabled performers who created work about their lives, came to life through a tight collaboration between Galloway, writer and disability scholar Chris Strickling, and Celia Hughes, executive director of Access Arts Austin, a local non-profit organization dedicated to making arts accessible to people with disability (which later affiliated with VSA to become VSA arts of Texas).

Read more at . . . .

Friday, April 23, 2010

Upcoming: The Dream, Austin Shakespeare in Zilker Park, April 28 - May 30

Click for ALT review

Received directly:

Austin Shakespeare presents

free Shakespeare in Zilker Park

The Dream

a 1960s-style musical version of A Midsummer Night's Dream

directed by Ann Ciccolella

April 29 - May 30

Experience Shakespeare's classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream with a 1960s rock ‘n roll edge as Austin Shakespeare presents the 25th incarnation of free Shakespeare in Zilker Park. The show, featuring a four piece rock band live on stage, will enliven and entertain the audience at Zilker Hillside Theatre for five weeks starting Thursday, April 29 at 8 p.m., running through the end of May. Sponsored by Jamail & Smith Construction

(photo:  Kimberley Mead) Austin Shakespeare) Michael McKelvey and Cesar Osorio have composed original music inspired by 1960s groups like The Animals and a pop singers like Petula Clark. Audiences will picnic, sit, sway, and toe-tap along to the harmony of six songs and two dance sequences. The production features Actors Equity members Gwendolyn Kelso, Joseph Banks as the lovers; and acclaimed Austin Actors Kara Bliss as the beautiful Queen Titania and Salvage Vanguard Artistic leader Jenny Larson, and new to town, young Brian Hensley, and William Moses as rocking King Oberon.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a magical story of young lovers who flee the conservative world to the forest, where they are enchanted by the Fairies. Simultaneously, a group of comic workmen, including a mailman, a plumber and a waitress on roller skates, are also beset by the Fairies in the forest. Audience members are encouraged to dress in 60s-era clothes to join in the spirit of the show.

[Images by Kimberley Mead]

Read more and view additional images at . . .

Images by J. Elissa Marshall: The Difficulty of Crossing A Field, University of Texas, April 23 - May 2

Images by J. Elissa Marshall of The Difficulty of Crossing A Field, received via director Luke Leonard, MFA candidate at the University of Texas, along with the following e-note:

Dear Friends,

Please come see the culmination of my three years at UT-Austin as I direct Mac Wellman and David Lang's opera, The Difficulty of Crossing a Field. I have had the luxury of researching and collaborating with the most fabulous design and dramaturgy team for over 18 months, we have been rehearsing since February, and the support that the department has provided has been unprecedented. This is an amazing opportunity to experience a seldom produced work, one that challenges expectations and resists easy categorization. The Difficulty is a contemporary opera that pushes the boundaries of music-theatre. The amount of hard work and artistry that has gone into mounting this production has been extraordinary. Please join us for a performance if you can. Below are a few links for tickets, show times, and more information. For those of you still in NY...see you soon! Be back this summer.

Link for tickets to The Difficulty of Crossing A Field

View more images at . . . .

Our Town, Zach Theatre, April 15 - May 23

Our Town is both their town -- Thornton Wilder's Grovers Corners, New Hampshire, 1904 - 1913 -- and our town, Austin in 2010.

Dave Steakley and the large, talented cast at the Zach have a good time with the clever palimpsest of modern Austin that they use to reinvigorate a text that many of us first read in high school. It works, too, at least most of the time. This styling reminds us gently, insistently and with a smile, much like Wilder's Stage Manager narrator and chorus, that the although the play refers to a specific time, place and culture, it's really about the eternally repeating experience of mankind. Those ancients and ancestors, of the Sumerians and other vanished cultures including our immediate forefathers and foremothers, went through these experiences or something very much like them. Family, growing up, courtship and marriage, the end of life and the passage to something eternal.

Wilder's innovation, in a time of earnest realism in the theatre, box sets and meticulously furnished onstage drawing rooms, was to sweep the stage bare. He was unapologetic about that. The Stage Manager describes for us the layout of the town -- the churches, the shops, the livery stable, the Cartwrights' mansion on the hill, the Gibbs house and that of the Webbs. All are invisible. "And here," says he, "is a tree, for those who must have some scenery." He allowed characters and stagehands to carry on some chairs and a table, but the rest of Grover's Corners existed in the mind's eye.

Dave Steakley mostly respects that approach and enjoys the liberty it gives him as a director. Jason Amato's subtle, lustrous and haunting lighting dresses this stage, more than anything else, and every moment at the Kleberg stage is visually memorable.

Read more and view images at . . . .

Images by Tom Brown: Virtual Devotion, Wimberly Players, 4/16 - 5/09

Received directly from the Wimberley Players, press photos by Tom Brown:

The Wimberley Players present

Virtual Devotion

a satiric comedy by Eric Coble

April 16 – May 9, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2:30

Tickets are $18, available online at or by calling (512) 847-0575.

Armegeddon is coming to the Hill Country, in the shape of a satirical comedy Virtual Devotion, opening at the Wimberley Playhouse on April 16. Written by Eric Coble, it depicts a day in the life of three members of a shattered family trying to navigate a world of pollution, terrorism and disease to make some connection through – and in spite of – their faith.

See additional image at . . . .

Upcoming: subUrbia by Eric Bogosian, Transit Theatre Group, St. Edward's University, April 28 - May 2

Received directly:

Transit Theatre Troupe presents


by Eric Bogosian

Wednesday, April 28, to Sunday, May 2 at St. Edward's University, at the loading dock of the Fondren Hall Campus Store on Moody Drive. All performances will start at 10:00pm.

From playwright and bestselling author of Notes from the Underground comes a story of growing despair. Five high school friends loiter their lives away in the suffocating monotony of their suburban hometown, Burnfield. High school graduates, each struggles with the uncertainty of their futures and the arrival of an old friend, now an upcoming big time guitarist and singer. While some see their hometown of Burnfield as the suburban ideal of quiet comfort, their inescapably safe world only feeds their frustrations, and a night of drinking and partying careens recklessly toward violence, tragedy and death.

Read more at . . . .

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Picasso at the Lapin Agile, Austin Playhouse, March 27 - May 2

Kimberly Barrow as the enamored Suzanne comes to the "Lapin Agile" -- the "Nimble Rabbit" -- bar-bistro, looking for Pablo Picasso, the man who enraptured her by drawing a dove on the back of her hand and then having his way with her. She learns, eventually, that maybe the second time is not as good as the first.

I can share that feeling. I reviewed Steve Martin's Picasso at the Lapin Agile last year as done by the Sam Bass Community Theatre in Round Rock. Theirs was, I reported, "a charming production of a quirky play by America's quirky funnyman Steve Martin." My review tracked through the plot and had a tone of satisfied amusement.

On viewing this Austin Playhouse staging, the thrill was gone, It seemed to me that Steve Martin, like his character Picasso, was seeking too hard to amaze.

Martin sets us in a Paris bistro in 1904, when the young Albert Einstein worked as a clerk in the patent office and the young Pablo Picasso, hungry and unknown, was seeking artistic expression, money, fame and women. His premise is that their encounter at the "Nimble Rabbit" bistro-bar was a defining moment for the twentieth century.

Read more at . . . .

You Can't Take It with You, Trinity Street Players, First Baptist Church, April 15 - 25

Director Rev. Ann Pittman and the Trinity Street Players have put together an accomplished, warm and funny production of Kaufman & Hart's You Can't Take It With You at the 4th floor black box theatre of Austin's First Baptist Church, 901 Trinity Street, downtown.

This affectionate study of a family of distracted amateur would-be artists and entrepreneurs bears the title You Can't . . . but the message is clearly You Can. You can be an artist, a writer, a dancer, a fireworks maker, a master printer -- even if you don't really have much talent for it. One major pleasure of art is the pleasure of creation, without much thought for commercial success or even for an audience, other than for family and friends. That theme fits a lot of Austin's theatre scene, even though the level of talent here is a lot higher than that in the Vanderhof family.

The Trinity Street Players themselves are proof of the theme, as well, for these players, many of them self-confessed neophytes, do a fine job of bringing the Vanderhof clan to life. With Rev. Pittman's assured directing and perceptive casting, they spin the fleece into gold.

Read more at . . . .

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Upcoming: God's Ear by Jenny Schwartz, Biophiliac Productions at the Blue Theatre, April 22 - May 2

UPDATE: Review by Virginia Heckenlaible for the Daily Texan, April 28

UPDATE: Second NowPlayingAustin podcast about God's Ear, April 26

UPDATE: Creative Alliance podcast interviewing Shannon Grounds about God's Ear, April 19 (6 min.)

Received directly:
The recently transplanted Biophiliac Productions

God's Ear
the Off-Broadway play by Jenny Schwartz
directed by Amelia Turner in its regional premiere
at the
Blue Theatre, 916 Springdale Road
April 22 – May 2, Thursdays - Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 5 p.m.
with a matinee performance on Saturday, May 1 at 2 p.m.
General admission $15, $12 for seniors, military, and students with ID, available through, at, or fromSmartTIX at (212) 868-4444. Group discounts for 6 or more available through Biophiliac Productions. Cash only at the door.

God's Ear Golden Spiral Jenny Schwartz Biophiliac AustinGod's Ear introduces us to Ted and Mel, a devastated young couple trying to come to terms with their son’s accidental death as their marriage and lives begin to disintegrate. Lost in their bizarre labyrinth of grief, Ted seems continually to run into parents with dead children. Everything Mel touches turns to stone. Their daughter Lanie starts receiving counseling from a G.I. Joe doll and from the Tooth Fairy. Central to God’s Ear is the concept of language, inventively explored as the characters rely on repeated expressions and clich├ęs in an attempt to navigate their grief.

The cast features Shannon Grounds (Austin Critic’s Table Award Winner and seven-time B. Iden Payne Nominee) and Phil Aulie (Austin Slam Poetry Finalist), Senait Fessehaye, Lindsley Howard, Felix Rivas, Greg Spencer, and Amelia Turner.

Read more at . . . .

Arts Reporting: Protests at City Theatre's Upcoming Production of The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told

UPDATE from Andy Berkovsky, May 12: "The latest is we are now receiving hundreds of the form protest email sent as postcards - crazy to see those on our doorstep yesterday. Our research pointed us to a website called American Need Fatima where these seem to be coming from. Yesterday, we received a call from a gentleman - Carl - who works for a Los Angeles online magazine called LA Progressive - He is doing an article on how this organization requests donations for "protest" and then make tons of money off of it. He is reporting how they made over 7 million over the past few years. And this group is very vocal in there opinion of helping to shut down shows mentioning the play Corpus Christi recently reconsidered from opening at Tarleton State and others. Why are we singled out? Not sure. Possibly, because we are a mainstream theatre group catering to the entire community rather than a specific group of people. Again, this campaign is not coming locally, all of the emails and postcards are from out of state."

UPDATE: Lisa Schepps of KOOP-FM interviews Andy Berkovsky, Producing Artistic Director of the City Theatre, concerning the protest letters, in the opening section of "Off Stage and On The Air," May 3

From Fox 7:

Local Theatre Threatened Over Play

Tuesday, 20 Apr

Austin, TX - An Austin theatre company says it's received numerous phone and e-mail threats over its upcoming production of The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, according to

The show's artistic director, Andy Berkovsky, told the Website that the threats appear to be coming from a "religious source outside the Austin community." He also said the letters appear to be form emails with different names signed to each. says one message claims that Catholics will oppose the show with "one of the largest and loudest peaceful and legal protest ever seen." Another said the play is abhorrent -- even though it's fiction.

The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told is a farce written by playwright Paul Rudnick. It's a retelling of the Bible with Adam and Steve, Jane and Mabel. The story starts at the beginning in the Garden of Eden and goes up to present day New York City.

Berkovsky issued a statement on behalf of the theatre:

The City Theatre Company respects the rights of individuals to voice dissent on any live theatre performance that we are producing. Whether that dissent is religious, social, or personal, we also value the right of any group in the arts community to express themselves freely, which allows us to produce works that we feel are appropriate for the theatre community. Good art sparks debate and The City Theatre will continue with the goal of quality presentations - entertaining, thought-provoking or otherwise. We urge everyone to see the play, any play. Then, after it is over, allow themselves the opportunity for opinion and discussion.

City Theatre Company will debut the show June 10.

Read more at Out of Town Protestors Make Threats Against Austin's City Theatre

Images by Kirk Tuck: Our Town, Zach Theatre, April 15 - May 23

Received directly:

Images by Kirk R. Tuck, courtesy of Zach Theatre, for Our Town by Thornton Wilder, directed by Dave Steakley and featuring Jaston Williams, Michael Amendola, Janelle Buchanan, Barbara Chisholm, Harvey Guion, Billy Harden,Gabriel Luna, Jordan McRae, Marco Perella, and others.

[Right: Jaston Williams: "So, people a thousand years from now: this is how we were."]

Our Town plays Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Tickets available by phone at 476-0541, ext. 1 or visit the Zach website to purchase on-line.

[Below: The choir, directed by troubled choirmaster Simon Stimson (Billy Hardin)]

Click to view additional images at . . . .

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Upcoming: The Duck Variations by David Mamet, Paradox Players, April 17-18

Found on-line:

in celebration of their 10th anniversary
Paradox Players present a staged reading of

The Duck Variations

by David Mamet
with Bob Brody and Ed Nichols
directed by Chris Jimmerson

Two performances only: Saturday, April 17 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 18, at 3 p.m. (sold out)
Howson Hall Theater, First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, 4700 Grover Avenue

RESERVATIONS NECESSARY, AS SPACE IS LIMITED. Reservations on-line or by telephoning (512) 744-1495.

Watching ducks and ruminating on their behavior, two elderly men compose a beautiful fugue on the human condition - on family and friendship, the possibility of happiness and, not incidentally, the mating habits of water fowl.

"A brilliant little play" --The Guardian

"A gorgeously written, wonderfully observant piece whose timing and atmosphere are close to flawless." --New York Magazine

Friday, April 16, 2010

Images by Rod Machen: You Can't Take It With You, Trinity St. Players, April 15 -

Click for ALT review, April 22

Received directly, production stills by Rod Machen of Trinity Street Players' current staging of You Can't Take It With You by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, directed by Ann Pittman:

Right: Grandpa Vanderhof (Roland Johnson) doubts the IRS agent (Hector DeLeon)

You Can't Take It with You is a delightful comedy in three acts set in the home of a quirky, but remarkable family. The plot still resonates today: The family may be crazy, but the world is even more crazy!

You Can't Take It With You plays April 15 - 25, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. at the 4th floor Black Box Theatre of the, First Baptist Church, 901 Trinity Street. Admission is free.Call 476-2625 to reserve your tickets. Free childcare is available the first Sunday, April 18 and the second Saturday, April 24. (Childcare reservations must be made when you reserve your tickets for the show.)

(fireworks by DePinna (Tommy Chiodo) and Sycamore (Doug Keenan)

See more images by Rod Machen at . . . .

Opinion: Theatre and the "Odd Man Out" syndrome, Charles Isherwood, NY Times, April 15

Found on-line, Isherwood's thoughts about reviewing theatre when your reactions differ from those of the audience:

New York  Times

Theater Talkback: Odd-Man-Out Syndrome

NYT Critic's Notebook“Am I missing something?”

If you attend the theater with any regularity, chances are good you’ve had the occasion to inwardly ponder that question at least once in the course of your culture-consuming adult life. You may also have found yourself asking it aloud, of a companion, as you hurtle toward the bar at intermission, or even hissed it, sotto voce, during the show itself. The query, usually arising with a prickly feeling of insecurity or mystification or angst, is a byproduct of a common but little-discussed cultural phenomenon: the odd-man-out syndrome.

This can roughly be described as the experience of attending an event at which much of the audience appears to be having a rollicking good time, while you sit in stony silence, either bored to stupefaction or itchy with irritation, miserably replaying the confluence of life circumstances that have brought you here. (“Curse that Isherwood!”)

The syndrome was perhaps most memorably dramatized on that classic episode of “Seinfeld” – and by the way, there are those who remained immune to that sitcom’s allure – in which Elaine is brought to the edge of nervous collapse by her distaste for the movie “The English Patient,” over which the Oscar voters and most of the rest of the world swooned. (For the record, I was right there with you, Elaine.)

The experience of seeing live performances – or movies — is both personal and collective. Everyone interprets entertainment through a distinct, idiosyncratic prism shaped by taste and experience, but we’re also exposed to the responses of the people around us, who are also interpreting the show through their own individual prisms.

Read more at the New York Times on-line. . . .

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Upcoming: Educating Rita, Sidetrack Productions at Austin Playhouse, April 23 - May 9

Click for ALT review, May 12

Received directly:

Austin Playhouse and Sidetrack Productions present

Educating Rita

by Willy Russell

featuring Michael Stuart and Molly Karrasch

April 23 - May 9, Thursdays - Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 5 p.m.

at the Austin Playhouse Larry L. King Theatre, 3601 S. Congress, Bldg. C
General admission $20, $10 for students
Tickets/ Information at (512) 476-0084

During the course of an academic year a young woman and a disillusioned professor have a profound effect on each other in Willy Russell’s bittersweet, award-winning comedy.

Susan, who initially calls herself Rita, is a young working class hairdresser. Unhappy with the routine of her life, she decides to attend an Open University course in English Literature. Dr Frank Bryant is the cynical career academic assigned as her tutor for the course. The two have an immediate effect on one another; Frank is moved by Susan's eagerness and vitality and is forced to re-examine his attitudes and position in life; Susan finds Frank's guidance opens doors to a new lifestyle and self-confidence. However, the changes are short-lived as Frank observes Susan beginning to adopt the pretensions of the University culture he despises. Susan also becomes disillusioned with her new social niche when she realizes it contains the same flaws as her old life. Eventually Frank and Susan must reconcile their new perspectives with their old lives in this touching comedy.

Willy Russell is the author of several popular plays including Shirley Valentine and the musical Blood Brothers. Educating Rita won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy in 1980.

Sidetrack Productions is a new theatre company in Austin founded by Onstage Theatre Company's artistic director, Michael Stuart, who directs Educating Rita.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Upcoming: Chanteuse, Cobalt Club at Cafe Caffeine, April 23 - May 9

Received directly:

The Cobalt Club proudly presents
the world premiere of a new musical --
Louise Richardson's


A (Modern Vintage) Musical about Fame, Friendship, and Folk Music

Directed by Reppy
April 23 - May 9, Friday and Saturday 9:30 p.m., Sundays 2:30 p.m.
No performance April 25
Cafe Caffeine, 909 West Mary Street
Tickets: AusTIX or call 512-894.3100
Pick your price: $20, $15, $10; Sundays: pay as you can
Seating extremely lLimited. Advance purchase recommended. PG-13 Parental Guidance Suggested.

Twenty-six years ago, playwright and native Texan Louise Richardson conceived a delightful and inspiring coming-of-age tale that has at last come to the stage in this dynamic new production. It is the story of Johanna and Darcy, two talented, passionate, and idealistic nineteen-year old folk singers from Houston, whose dream it is to come to New York City in 1959 to escape their difficult pasts and change the world with their music.

It is also the story of Sidney Feldman, a former blacklisted comic from the post-WW II generation and Greenwich Village coffee house owner who ends up getting more than he bargained for when he gives the girls their first break. Spanning over twenty years and set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement, the Cold War, the nuclear arms race, and the war in Vietnam, CHANTEUSE follows their evocative, musically-rich, volatile, poignant, and ultimately triumphant journey as they face success and fame, betrayal, heartbreak, and the truth about themselves, their relationships, and the nature of love.

Special Benefit Performance

Saturday May 1 at 7 p.m.
Tickets $30, 25, 20, 15, 10 and 100% of proceeds will be donated to the P.A.W.S. Shelter of Kyle, CARITAS of Austin, and Susan G. Komen for the Cure (of Breast Cancer)

Upcoming: The Difficulty of Crossing A Field, University of Texas, April 23 - May 1

UPDATE: Robert Faires' interview with composer David Lang, Austin Chronicle, April 29

UPDATE: Additional quote from Robert Faires' interview with composer David Lang, Austin Chronicle, April 29 -- "Mystery is where it's at."

UPDATE: Robert Faires' interview with composer David Lang, Austin Chronicle, April 29

UPDATE: Vimeo video of scene from The Difficulty of Crossing A Field, captured by John Clare for Texas Public Radio (click this link, then go to bottom of page at

UPDATE: Review by Jeanne Claire van Ryzin on Statesman's Austin360 "Seeing Things" blog, April 25

UPDATE from UT Theatre & Dance: A Conversation with Mac Wellman and David Lang All theatre patrons are invited to attend this intimate pre-performance talk with the creators of The Difficulty of Crossing a Field. Refreshments will be served.April 23 at 6:45 p.m. at Winship 2.112 -- Space is limited

Found on-line:

UT at Austin Department of Theatre and Dance presents

The Difficulty of Crossing a Field

April 23-May 1, 2010

Libretto by Mac Wellman, Composed by David Lang
Directed by
Luke Leonard, Music Directed by Lyn Koenning

April 23*, 24, 28, 29, 30 & May 1 at 8 p.m.
April 25 & May 1, 2 at 2 p.m.
B. Iden Payne Theatre

Tickets: $20 adults, $17 UT faculty & staff, $15 students available online at or by phone at 477-6060.

*Join us April 23rd for an Opening Night Reception immediately following the performance. Guests will be able to mingle with the cast, crew, and director of The Difficulty of Crossing a Field while enjoying an assortment of light snacks and desserts.

A slave-owning farmer in the pre-civil war American South walks across his field in Selma, Alabama and disappears in plain view of his neighbors, his family, and his slaves. Everyone has his or her view of what the disappearance means, but the more the witnesses try to recount the disappearance, the more elusive it becomes. Crossing the boundaries of musical theatre and opera in this inventive new play mixes spoken and sung text with a moving score and intense drama.

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