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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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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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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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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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