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Intersection of art and religion in a complex passion play

Sophia Varnai, Jay Griffith, and Sophie Falvey in Lumina’s “Passion Play.” COURTESY PHOTOSophia Varnai, Jay Griffith, and Sophie Falvey in Lumina Studio Theatre’s “Passion Play.” COURTESY PHOTO  David Minton grew up a fervent Southern Baptist.

“I’ve gone through a lot of changes since then,” admitted the artistic director of Lumina Studio Theatre. “But I have a great respect for people of faith.”

Religious belief is a strong component of “Passion Play,” the theater company’s next offering.

Playwright Sarah Ruhl dramatizes a community of players rehearing their annual staging of the Easter Passion in three different periods: 1575 England, just before Queen Elizabeth outlaws the ritual; 1934 Oberammergua, Bavaria, when Hitler is rising to power and using the ritual toward his own ends; and the Vietnam era through Reagan’s presidency in Spearfish, South Dakota.

We never get to see the actual Passion Play.

“It’s a piece of theater about theater,” said Minton, who is directing. “Ruhl is intrigued by the intersection of faith and art – with politics not far in the background.”

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Living life according to a Bronx Bomber at Best Medicine Rep

Liz Galuardi, Paul Reisman, and Rebecca A. Herron performed "Derek Jeter Makes the Play" in a October 2017 reading at Best Medicine Rep.  COURTESY PHOTOLiz Galuardi, Paul Reisman, and Rebecca A. Herron performed "Derek Jeter Makes the Play" in a October 2017 reading at Best Medicine Rep. COURTESY PHOTO  Who wouldn’t want to be Derek Jeter?

The retired player for the New York Yankees was a five-time World Series champion, noted for his hitting, base-running, fielding, and leadership.

He’s also a business owner, philanthropist – and good-looking.

Constantly asking what the famed shortstop would do is another matter. But that’s the conceit of “Derek Jeter Makes the Play” by Robin Rothstein. After first featuring the comedy in a reading last October, Best Medicine Rep is now showcasing the play in a full stage production later this month, directed by Linda Lombardi.

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Recluse embraces life at world’s end in Highwood Theatre’s ‘Soon’

Cast of student actors – in rep with adult pro production – of ‘Soon’ at Highwood Theatre.  COURTESY PHOTO Cast of student actors – in repertory with adult professional production – of "Soon" at Highwood Theatre. COURTESY PHOTO  It was a dream come true. When Nick Blaemire and his half-brother, James Gardiner, were only 22, they opened a play on the Great White Way.

“We wrote a show called ‘Glory Days,’ which Eric Schaeffer was kind enough to produce at Signature Theatre,” said Blaemire. “The next year the show went to Broadway.”

Although “Glory Days” closed on opening night, he called the experience “one hell of a ride.”

Since then, the theatrical jack-of-all-trades has appeared in a few Broadway shows, and in the off-Broadway revival of the musical “Tick Tock Boom!”

When Signature presented his musical “Soon” – for which Blaemire had written the book, lyrics, and music – It “was among the most joyous times of my life,” he said. “Signature has been my home away from home.”

“Soon” is now coming to The Highwood Theatre, reflecting the season’s theme of “Off Your Rocker.” The play also constitutes Highwood’s fifth annual Open Source Festival – redefining the conception of traditional nights at the theater, said Matthew Nicola, artistic director.

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AFI retrospective revives interest in the works of Michael Curtiz

  • Published in Film

Paul Henreid, Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart star in “Casablanca,” one of the films in the “Directed by Michael Curtiz” retrospective at the AFI Silver. COURTESY PHOTOPaul Henreid, Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart star in “Casablanca,” one of the films in the “Directed by Michael Curtiz” retrospective at the AFI Silver. COURTESY PHOTO  You must remember this.

Any classic-movie fan recalls the opening words of the theme song of “Casablanca” – and probably everything else about it. Even those who’s never seen the 1943 film about emigres struggling to get visas to America against the backdrop of Nazism and a doomed romance probably have of heard of the song (“As Time Goes By”) and most likely the film.

But members of both categories may not know the film’s director – Michael Curtiz. They can find out more in the retrospective featuring some of his works, entitled “Directed by Michael Curtiz,” on view at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center through March 25.

In addition to “Casablanca,” the films of the prolific Hungarian-born director include “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” “Mildred Pierce,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “Sea Wolf,” and “Angels with Dirty Faces.”

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Once he was just flamenco and now Cigala is a whole lot more

  • Published in Music

Diego el Cigala sings various genres of music at The Music Center of Strathmore. COURTESY PHOTODiego el Cigala sings various genres of music at The Music Center of Strathmore.  COURTESY PHOTO  Ask people the key component in flamenco, and they’ll likely say, dance. Experts will reply that dance is only one of five elements – and singing is another.

One who illustrates the centrality of singing in flamenco is Diego el Cigala, who will appear at The Music Center of Strathmore, under the co-sponsorship of Strathmore and Washington Performing Arts.

Becoming a flamenco singer was a foregone conclusion.

“It was never a conscious decision,” el Cigala said. “I am a flamenco singer since I can remember. I won my first contest at 11 or 12 years old and started to work really early, so there was never a moment where I said: ‘Now I am going to be a singer.’”

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Finding adventure by traveling down the perfect Rabbit Hole

Alice in WonderlandBeloved characters come to life in Metropolitan Ballet Theatre’s production of “Alice in Wonderland.” COURTESY PHOTOAlthough dancers learn to smile onstage – other than during tragic moments in the plot of a ballet – Genevieve Pelletier was concerned she had perhaps overdone it in her last role. She was the lead in the Marzipan dance in Metropolitan Ballet Theatre and Academy’s production of “The Nutcracker.”

Then along came a role in which an oversize smile fits perfectly.

The 17-year-old Quince Orchard High School senior will be playing the Cheshire Cat.

“I love the Cheshire Cat, who smiles all the time,” she said. “It fits in with my personality.”

Every year Metropolitan Ballet Theatre presents a different full-length ballet during the spring. This year it’s “Alice in Wonderland.”

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Morality argued against the backdrop of slavery in “Nat Turner”

Cast members Jon Hudson Odom and Joseph Carlson (in front) relax with playwright Nathan Alan Davis and director Jose Carrasquillo (standing behind) during rehearsal of The Forum Theatre production of “Nat Turner in Jerusalem.”  COURTESY PHOTOCast members Jon Hudson Odom and Joseph Carlson (in front) relax with playwright Nathan Alan Davis and director Jose Carrasquillo during rehearsal of The Forum Theatre production of “Nat Turner in Jerusalem.” COURTESY PHOTO  When is behavior so egregious that violence is a justifiable response?  

That’s one of the pressing questions in “Nat Turner in Jerusalem,” a new play by Nathan Alan Davis that workshopped at the New Theatre Workshop in New York City and is about to have its second production at The Forum Theatre.

The charismatic leader of an insurrection of slaves and free blacks in 1831 Virginia, Turner was highly intelligent and educated, with a strong sense of conviction in the rightness of his cause and the belief God spoke to him in visions.

Some 55 whites died during the revolt, which he viewed as just, because of the evils of slavery.  

In the play Turner sits in jail, 12 hours before his execution. He debates his actions and their repercussions with Thomas Gray, the local attorney who had earlier published Turner’s recollections.

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Theater troupe with British flair offers play about retired opera singers

Duke Madalenna 4 copy QuartetAngela Cannon (left) and Peter Harrold (right) rehearse opera in British Players’ “Quartet.” COURTESY PHOTO  It’s probably not often a foreign embassy launches and, for a time, houses a theatrical group. But such were the origins of The British Players, a community theater that started at the British Embassy.

“There are a large number of British ex-pats here who were looking for a niche,” said Matthew Ratz, director of “Quartet,” the Players’ upcoming production. “But after 9/11, security considerations made it impossible to have open-attendance events.”

After moving to a few locations, The British Players settled at Kensington Town Hall.

The troupe stages several productions a year – a pantomime around Christmastime; a music-hall show; and a traditional play that could be a farce, comedy, drama, or murder mystery.

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Olney Theatre shows life is worth living with “Every Brilliant Thing”

Alexander Strait (left) takes direction from Jason Loewith in Olney Theatre rehearsal of “Every Brilliant Thing.” COURTESY PHOTO BY TIMOTHY HUTHAlexander Strait (left) takes direction from Jason Loewith in Olney Theatre rehearsal of “Every Brilliant Thing.”   COURTESY PHOTO BY TIMOTHY HUTH  There are bucket lists everywhere, even in the popular song “My Favorite Things” from “The Sound of Music.”

Then there’s “Every Brilliant Thing,” an ever-changing list of objects and experiences that make life worth living. In a play of the same name, a young boy compiles such a list, in an effort to persuade his mother, who had attempted suicide, not to do it again.

“Every Brilliant Thing” is the next production at Olney Theatre Center, opening Feb. 28. It marks the premiere of the one-person play, which Duncan Macmillan wrote with the cooperation of Jonny Donahoe, the original performer.

Jason Loewith, Olney’s artistic director, is staging the production.

It was serendipitous that “Every Brilliant Thing” came to Olney. Loewith happened to see the script in a London bookstore, bought it, and read it on the plane ride back.

“I burst into tears on the second page, and then into laughter,” he said. “The play is poignant and wonderful.”

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Six gems of witty wordplay inhabit Silver Spring in “All in the Timing”

Rebecca Shoer, David Dieudonne, and Matthew Bannister in one segment of "All in the Timing."  COURTESY PHOTO BY HARVEY LEVINE Rebecca Shoer, David Dieudonne, and Matthew Bannister in one segment of "All in the Timing." COURTESY PHOTO BY HARVEY LEVINE  What’s better than one funny, witty, clever play?

Six at a time.  

David Ives’s award-winning “All in the Timing,” now playing at Silver Spring Stage, brings together six short plays that focus on language, relationships, music, and more.

The number used to go as high as 14, and the composition of the plays under the “All in the Timing” rubric varied with a director’s wishes.

“Now Ives has basically an official script, which we’re using, consisting of six specific plays,” he said.

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