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Steve Martin’s adaptation of 1910 farce both zany and literary

Cast members rehearse ‘The Underpants’ at Rockville Little Theatre.  COURTESY PHOTOCast members rehearse ‘The Underpants’ at Rockville Little Theatre. COURTESY PHOTO  Karen Fleming, who has taken on “almost every capacity in every theater in Montgomery County,” still acts on occasion. Recently she appeared, as one example, in “The Language Archive” at Silver Spring Stage.

But Fleming has also “dabbled” with directing since the 1980s – a role she is undertaking again for Rockville Little Theatre’s production of “The Underpants.”

Though it boasts a provocative title, “The Underpants” is in actuality a 1910 farce by Carl Sternheim, adapted for the stage by actor, comedian, and writer Steve Martin.

Among the other classic works adapted by Martin is “Cyrano de Bergerac,” which he turned into the screenplay for the 1987 romantic comedy film, “Roxanne.”

“I’m still acting, but I wanted to have more control over my vision of a play,” Fleming said. “Of course, directing is a lot more work.”

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When Chaplin defied the Nazis, as told by Best Medicine Rep

 

John Tweel recreates famous scene from Chaplin’s "The Great Dictator" in Best Medicine Rep's stage production of "The Consul, The Tramp and America's Sweetheart." COURTESY PHOTOJohn Tweel recreates famous scene from Chaplin’s "The Great Dictator" in Best Medicine Rep's "The Consul, The Tramp and America's Sweetheart." COURTESY PHOTO  It was 1939, and silent film sensation Charlie Chaplin – the highest-paid entertainer in the world – was trying to make his first talkie.

But “The Great Dictator,” a scathing spoof of Hitler, faced opposition from two directions. The more expected of the two was from the German Consul in Hollywood, whose job was to minimize the film industry's criticism of the Third Reich. But the second, ironically, came from United Artists, the studio Chaplin had co-founded with Mary Pickford (called “America’s Sweetheart”) and others. Though the two were friends, they disagreed about how to handle the pressure.

It was a time before the United States entered World War II, and anti-Semitism was rampant. Nazis showed up at Hollywood parties, and Chaplin, “accused” of being Jewish, made a statement that became famous: “I do not have that honor.”

Eventually, “The Great Dictator,” concerning a Jewish barber whose mustache gets him mistaken for Hitler, was released to great acclaim. And, after America entered the war, public opinion shifted considerably against Nazism.

John Monogiello, president and artistic director of the non-profit Gaithersburg-based theater group Best Medicine Rep, has fashioned these historical elements into the play and BMR’s next production, “The Consul, the Tramp, and America’s Sweetheart.”

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Polonius is a bit of Joy coming from this production of Hamlet

Joy Robert lo res copyRobert Joy stars as Polonius in the upcoming STC production of "Hamlet." COURTESY PHOTO William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” which many consider the greatest play in the English language, of course focuses on the title character. Hamlet returns from university after the sudden death of his father, the King of Denmark, to find his uncle now on the throne married to his mother – and encounters his father’s ghost who reveals he was murdered and urges Hamlet to take revenge.

But the play is rich in other complex characters, including Polonius. Adviser to the current king, as he was to the late monarch, Polonius is also the father of Ophelia, Hamlet’s erstwhile love interest, and Laertes, who was Hamlet’s friend.

Polonius gives us a famous speech, which appears fatuous on the surface, yet offers such wisdom as: “This above all: to thine own self be true.”

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Women’s Voices ring clear in upcoming Theater Festival

Saviana Stanescu Julia ChoSaviana Stanescu, photo credit: Jody Christopherson; Julia Cho, photo credit: Jennie WarrenMoira Buffini pits Margaret Thatcher against Queen Elizabeth in “Handbagged,” produced by Round House Theatre.

A former Romanian dictator and his wife reappear as vampires haunting a mail-order bride in “Waxing West,” produced by 4615 Theatre Company.

And in “Aubergine,” produced by Olney Theatre Center, a young French-trained Korean chef tries to find a common language with his father. 

These three Montgomery County theaters are among the 25 venues presenting works by female playwrights in January and February – as part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival.

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High school senior sees her dystopian play open at Highwood Theatre

IMG 2350 copy dog must die 1Cast of five rehearses Highwood’s ‘The Dog Must Die’ COURTESY PHOTOMadison Middleton began studying at The Highwood Theatre at age 11, and, in her words, “has never left.”

Now nearly 18, she is not only a senior at DC's Fusion Academy but also a budding playwright who is about to see her second production open at Highwood.

That production – “The Dog Must Die” – is a dystopian drama that questions what happens when concrete columns have been built above ground to house and save society because life on earth is no longer sustainable.

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Children’s tale celebrates similarities among people at Montgomery Playhouse

Reluctant Dragon at Montgomery PlayhouseCassandra Redding segued from acting in local and regional theater productions to a career in early childhood education in which she likes to introduce her students to the arts. 

She's made the same introductions to her own children, with whom she'll share the stage in the upcoming Montgomery Playhouse production of “The Reluctant Dragon.”

Kenneth Grahame wrote the children’s story which Walt Disney based a film on in 1941 – about forgoing prejudgment and promoting understanding, in 1898. 

Ed Monk has “very loosely adapted” the original story, said Loretto McNally, a board member of the Playhouse who is directing.

“I love this play,” said McNally. “The story, which has been around for a while, is, about a dragon who’s not interested in doing battle with knights or in breathing fire on anyone.”

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Round House asks what if Shakespeare’s works were lost?

BOW 72 copy Book of WillTodd Scofield (center) and cast members in Round House’s production of “The Book of Will.” COURTESY PHOTOIn the past, actor Todd Scofield has inhabited many roles in local and regional theater as well as on television, but these days he’s playing a character who shares one of his conflicts – how to balance the demands of family and a beloved profession.

A couple of differences between him and John Heminges – the character he portrays in the Round House Theatre’s current production “The Book of Will,” – are that Heminges lived in the 1600s and had 13 children, compared to Scofield’s paltry two.

Heminges was both an actor in the King’s Players (the acting company for which William Shakespeare wrote) and also with Henry Condell worked as an editor of the First Folio, the 1623 edition of The Bard’s collected works.

The play explores what might have happened had the two actors not been so proactive.

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It’s not the Grinch but 'The Grunch' Who Tries to Steal Hanukkah

AHCMC400x400 2 copy GrunchDeborah Sternberg sings frequently.

She’s the cantorial soloist at Congregation Or Chadash in Damascus, and performs with the Washington Chorus and the Washington Master Chorale.

“What I had never done until recently was to be in a show,” Sternberg said.

Or, more accurately, a reading with music.

That changed when Rachel Stroud-Goodrich, member and choir director of Or Chadash, approached Sternberg about lending a musical component to “The Grunch that Stole Hanukkah.”

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“School of Rock” gets local run while on Broadway

schoolofrockcast copy photoWill Valdes, lead in ‘School of Rock,’ surrounded by his students.   COURTESY PHOTO  Sometimes you get an offer you can't refuse.

When the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation approved The Highwood Theatre's request to license "The School of Rock," even though it is still playing on the Great White Way, moving forward was a no-brainer.

"It was a unique opportunity to do a Broadway show," said Kevin Kearney, the theater's executive director who is co-directing the show with Dylan Kaufman. "We're part of a select group of youth theaters and schools who received the licensing."

But aside from the opportunity, "School of Rock" is also "the perfect show for Highwood," said Kearney, who saw the musical four times on Broadway and "loved" it.

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“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” is now part of the Silver Spring Stage

20171108 204947 copy 2 Best ChristmasCast members rehearse for Silver Spring Stage’s “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” COURTESY PHOTOAndrea Spitz has staged such as plays “Proof” and “Rabbit hole,” with serious or even, in her words, “depressing” themes.

Now Spitz – a board member of Silver Spring Stage since 2007 – is directing much-lighter fare: the community theater's production of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”

The play derives from the bestselling children’s holiday classic by Barbara Robinson, and, like the book and the 1983 TV special based on it, concerns the shenanigans of the Herdman siblings. Robinson has described them as “the most awful kids in history.”

That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but they're probably not the most well-behaved kids either.

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