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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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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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Flying V bases revue on Jonathan Coulton songs

Flying V Coulton RevueThe cast at Flying V Theatre rehearses for the revue based on singer/songwriter Jonathan Coulton's work called “It’s the Rest of the World that Looks So Small.”  COURTESY PHOTO  What makes a work or performer achieve the status of “cult”?

That may be hard to define, but Flying V Theatre's staff thinks it knows it when it sees it, in the person of Jonathan Coulton, singer/songwriter.

Coulton left the tech industry to create a podcast named “A Song a Week,” for which he wrote what Jason Schlafstein, the theater’s producing artistic director, called “quirky, humorous storytelling.”

“So many of Jonathan’s songs explore intimate struggles of people through highs and lows,” Schlafstein said.

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Special theater integrates talents of disabled and able-bodied performers

IMG 0204 2 copy Open Circle rehearsalCast members rehearse for the Open Circle Theatre Retrospective. COURTESY PHOTO  Rob McQuay’s formal theater experience began in junior high.

He acted through high school and college, then trained at Studio Theatre. He performed in area dinner theaters and several professional ones, including Montgomery County’s Olney Theatre Center, Round House Theatre, and Imagination Stage.

“It’s a full-time thing,” said McQuay.

Next, he is headlining “To Reach the Unreachable Star: an Open Circle Theatre Retrospective,” a 90-minute stage performance filled with song, dance, and humor to familiarize audiences with its work and raise funds to support it.

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Learning to overdose on the theater in a perfectly good way

greek tragedy and comedy masksIf you like “theater writ large,” the place to be over the Labor Day Weekend is the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which is hosting the 16th annual Page-to-Stage New Play Festival.

More than 60 theaters from the metropolitan area will present open rehearsals, concert readings, and workshops of new plays often still in the development phase.

Montgomery County is well represented, with at least eight of its theaters participating.

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On stage in Downtown Silver Spring with Black Box and Highwood Theatres

IMG 8458 copy highwoodThe cast of the Highwood Theatre production of “Into the Woods.” COURTESY PHOTO BY HIGHWOOD THEATRE   Downtown Silver Spring has become a hub of activity, featuring stores, restaurants, and various forms of entertainment, ranging from a skating rink to movie theaters to outdoor concerts.

It’s also the home of two live theatres.

The 140-seat Silver Spring Black Box Theatre, located at 8641 Colesville Road, is home to four theatre groups, which perform there regularly as part of the Theatre Consortium of Silver Spring. But the community-owned building also rents out space for one-night engagements and limited runs, giving the opportunity to new artists and arts organizations to put on fare as varied as plays, set lists, improv comedy, open-mic and dance concerts, said Jonathan Ezra Rubin, managing director of the Consortium. There’s even a pole-dance competition on August 12, produced by the Titans of Pole.

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