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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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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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Latest Dance Exchange project zeroes in on LGBTQ+ community

Andy Torres, pictured in the foreground, is a collaborator in the Dance Exchange project “Growing Our Own Gardens.”  COURTESY PHOTOAndy Torres, pictured in the foreground, is a collaborator in the Dance Exchange project “Growing Our Own Gardens.” COURTESY PHOTODance involves not only movement and music but community involvement.

That’s the viewpoint of Dance Exchange, a Takoma Park-based, non-profit arts organization devoted to dance-making and creative practices that engage individuals and communities of all ages to cultivate a deeper understanding of one’s world.

“Dance Exchange collaborates across generations, disciplines, and communities to channel the power for performance as a means for dialogue, a source of critical reflection, and a creative engine for thought and action,” said Matthew Cumbie, associate artistic director.

One of the communities Dance Exchange is now exploring is the D.C. area’s queer community.

With the collective title of “Growing Our Own Gardens,” the organization has created an ongoing project that promotes “dialogue and action about issues faced by LGBTQ+ communities and centers the stories, lives, and questions of LGBTQ+ throughout history,” Cumbie said. “We’re looking at the history of these communities but bringing the conversation into the modern day.”

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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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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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Widower fails at controlling daughters in ‘Hobson’s Choice” at Quotidian

Hobsons ChoiceStephanie Mumford costumes Rebecca Ellis and Matt Baughman for "Hobson’s Choice." COURTESY PHOTO BY BILL HURLBUT  What do you call a take-it-or-leave it proposition that really offers no choice at all?

A “Hobson’s Choice.”

That’s also the title of a play by Harold Brighouse (and several movie versions – one of which starred Charles Laughton) about an authoritarian English widower and his self-made success as a cobbler, who tries to pressure his three daughters to stay with him and under his thumb. A clash of wills ensues when his daughters, especially the eldest, Maggie, push back; they’re determined to leave home and get married.

“Hobson’s Choice” is a romantic comedy – with a bit of a less-ominous “King Lear” thrown in – in an upcoming production from Quotidian Theatre Company.

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Adventure Theatre’s “Alexander and the…Very Bad Day” boasts script by original author

Christian Montgomery as Alexander 21 copyChristian Montgomery has “terrible” day as Alexander in children’s classic at Adventure Theatre. COURTESY PHOTO BY SARAH STRAUB  A book published in 1972 with the unwieldly title – “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” – remains beloved to children and on school curricula.

Author Judith Viorst followed up with three sequels and wrote a play she based on the original “Alexander.”

With music by Shelly Markham and Viorst’s lyrics, “Alexander” is next on the agenda of Adventure Theatre MTC (Music Theatre Center).

Artistic director Michael Bobbitt met the author when he choreographed a musical of one of the Alexander stories the Kennedy Center developed.

“We stayed in touch,” Bobbitt said.

To Bobbitt, the Alexander books are popular because they look at the world from a child’s point of view.

“Kids’ problems may seem trivial to us, and the first Alexander book presents a series of them,” Bobbitt said. “You could write a full dramatic work about a kid trying to tie his shoelaces. When they do it, they want to share what they did, and adults often don’t have the time.”

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