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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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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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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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“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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Going for the classics - in play and staged reading - at Lumina

Barnaby Rudge Lumina Studio Theatre copyLumina Studio Theatre’s spring 2017 production of Dickens's “Barnaby Rudge.” This season, Lumina will present productions of “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Great Expectations.” COURTESY PHOTO  Shakespeare aficionados know he wrote a comedy called “Love's Labor Lost.” What they may not know of is that the Bard apparently wrote a sequel entitled “Love's Labor Won.”

“The play itself was probably lost, sitting on a dusty shelf somewhere,” said David Minton, artistic director of the Lumina Studio Theatre. “But we do have his ‘Much Ado About Nothing,’ which is pretty much a sequel to ‘Love's Labor Lost.’”

Lumina is presenting “Much Ado About Nothing” in the first two weekends of December in a blended production. Part of the first act will be a play within a play, of “Love's Labor Lost.”

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Peace Mountain Theatre Company stages Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers”

20171002 201109 001 copy Lost in YonkersDavid Dieudonne directs Elyon Topolosky and Leah Mazade in Neil Simon's "Lost in Yonkers." COURTESY PHOTO Those who only know Neil Simon as the comic playwright of such works as “Barefoot in the Park,” and “The Odd Couple” may be underselling him.

“Lost in Yonkers,” for example, won both a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award, and many consider it his finest play.

That’s the prevalent attitude at Peace Mountain Theatre Company. The Potomac-based theater company is gearing up for a production of the play, after having previously produced such “heavier” fare as Edward Albee’s “A Delicate Balance” and Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons.”

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Passion for puppetry in Glen Echo company

Pinocchio Puppet Co. 1Blue Fairy helps Pinocchio in Puppet Co. production. COURTESY PHOTO  A puppeteer often must do it all.

That’s the case at the Puppet Co., a professional organization in Glen Echo that produces everything audiences see on stage.

“We make the puppets, write the scripts, design and make the costumes and sets, and sometimes compose the music when we’re not using that of classical composers,” said Christopher Piper, artistic director. “And we create the video animations used in some of our shows.”

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Chekhov-inspired comedy opens Highwood Theatre’s season

Vanya Pub 11 1 copyThe cast of Christopher Durang's comedy “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” now playing at Highwood Theatre. COURTESY PHOTO  Richard Fiske admits to being an adrenaline junkie.

He fulfilled that need in the past by serving as a U.S. Navy officer for 27 years, then as an engineer and diving and salvage engineer, also for the Navy.

Now he gets that fix onstage.

For over six years, he’s performed as an actor in the D.C. area. “I get to do fun stuff and be different people,” Fiske said.

His current role is Vanya in Christopher Durang’s comedy “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” the production launching Highwood Theatre’s 2017-2018 season. The play also stars Margaret Condon as Sonia, Rachel Varley as Masha, Thomas Shuman as Spike, Kecia Campbell as Cassandra, and Amber James as Nina.

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Rockville Little Theatre Celebrates 70 years

IMG 6627 copy other actorsNik Henly and Krisyn Lue rehearse a scene from Rockville Little Theatre's recent production of "Almost, Maine." COURTESY PHOTO  ROCKVILLE — Montgomery County experienced a radical change in the aftermath of World War II. The population of Rockville and surrounding areas swelled as thousands of people moved to take jobs with federal government contractors, the county schools and government and technology companies. And during that time, people from various occupations have come to Rockville Little Theatre to watch and participate in the production of a wide variety of plays.

The community theater company inaugurated its 70th season Sept. 22 through Oct. 1 with a production of the play "Almost, Maine," by John Cariani, which was featured in last week’s review by The Sentinel’s Barbara Trainin Blank. Set in a quasi-mythical Maine town, the frequently-produced play features a series of interrelated vignettes in which characters attempt, with varying degrees of success, to achieve romantic connections.

For the 70th anniversary, Anne Cary, an active member of Rockville Little Theatre, compiled a history of the company, which played an integral part in the development of Montgomery County's cultural scene.

"Sometime in 1947, six friends decided that Rockville needed its own little theater troupe," Cary said. "The founders were Miss Pamela Bairsto, Miss Betty Sherman, Miss Murray Hamilton, Mrs. Margaret Eddy, Mrs. Madeline Davis and Rev. Raymond Black of Christ Episcopal Parish, which was the site of the first production, Noel Coward’s ‘Hay Fever’ in the Parish Hall on Nov. 26, 1948. Rockville Little Theatre was launched."

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Love comes in many forms on Rockville stage

IMG 6470 copy guyker almost maineAlexandra Guyker rehearses one of her roles in the play "Almost, Maine" at Rockville Little Theatre. COURTESY PHOTO  Sabine is a woman at an exciting point in her current relationship when she bumps into her ex at a bar. The meeting provokes a juggling act between past feelings and guilt, and the ways people deal with moving on.

Gayle has been in an 11-year relationship that’s apparently going nowhere. She finally brings it all to her boyfriend’s door, literally.

After many years away from her high-school sweetheart, Hope is looking to find her place in the world – with him.

These are some of the various characters in John Carian’s oft-performed play “Almost, Maine,” now on stage at Rockville Little Theatre. The play comprises nine two-character short plays that explore love and loss in the titular, mythical town.

Alexandra Guyker portrays Sabine, Gayle and Hope.

“All three characters have experiences I myself have dealt with, so it is easy to connect to each one when I look back on those times in my life,” Guyker said. “Because they’re different people, it’s important I take some time before each scene and really think about where I was before. But I rely on the author’s words to show the differences in their thought processes, pace, and emotions.”

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